On… MCMC Fragrances

I like perfume. (We’ve discussed this in, oh, so many previous sessions.) I like reading books about it (like this and this). I like smelling old smells and new smells. If I have a morning to myself with no work or small children, I like to go to Barneys or Aedes de Venustus and smell everything. I like buying almost-empty perfume bottles from Etsy for $10 because I can tell from the font or the label size that it dates from before 1981 and contains ingredients now long-outlawed by the good old EU and, hell, I just want to smell them before I die. I like reading perfume blog posts from 17 years ago, you know, the kind written in Comic Sans, because the new perfume blogs are all #influencers and I don’t trust them. I find it all very soothing.

My favorite perfume of all time is Miller Harris L’Air de Rien. The perfumer, Lyn Harris, sold Miller Harris a few years ago and opened a little perfume boutique in London. It’s called Perfumer H. I’m *dying* to go. Read this, about their scent Rain Wood: “notes of galbanum+ elemi with a transparent heart of waterlily pepper, frankincense, myrrh resting on a base of wet + humid woods of juniper + cedar wood to make this an effortless fragrance for hot summer days.” What the hell does that smell like? I have NO IDEA and I WANT TO KNOW.

Fox once called me a Perfume Nerd, but I reject that appellation. I’m not an expert. I just like it. And have you noticed how people who call themselves ‘Nerds’ are actually just passive-aggressively boasting that they know more than you about the subject in question? Whenever I’m at a party and stuck next to someone who calls himself, for example, a Comedy Nerd, I stifle a tiny sigh, and don’t say ‘Wow, you must know everything about comedy and therefore have a truly superior sense of humor! You win.’ Instead, I smile and say ‘how fascinating’ and finish my drink as fast as I can so I can get away.

Anyway, darlings, where were we?

Yes. I like perfume.

For my birthday this year, Fox gave me a custom perfume workshop with Anne Serrano-McClain, at her MCMC Fragrances studio. She’s an incredible perfumer, she trained in Grasse, and is also a charming and interesting and easy person to hang out with. We talked for three hours straight and somewhere in there, made an absolutely gorgeous scent.

Here’s how it works: you turn up at her studio (ideally with a vague idea of the kind of smell you want – something light and floral, something sexy and musky, something fresh and lemony, something dark and spicy, whatever blows your skirt up). You smell dozens and dozens of smells. I wanted to make something that smelled a bit dirty and earthy and musky, but not too sharp or sweet.



Then Anne creates three versions of your perfume, each with slight variations.


You take them home and wear them for a few days to decide which is your favorite.


And then she bottles it up and sends it to you. The final result from my session is all warm skin musk and earthy oak moss and creamy tuberose, with a whisper of black pepper and coriander to rough it up a little. Oh you guys, it smells SO GOOD. I’m obsessed with it. Truly. If you see me on the street, come up and smell me. I won’t mind. Send this post to people who love you so they know that this is what you want for your next birthday. (I’m into subtle hints like that.) Email anne@mcmcfragrances.com.



Share Button

On… a pregnancy uniform

Mazel! You’re pregnant. Now, what are you going to wear?

One of the worst things about being pregnant – after the throwing up, the insomnia, and for me last time I was pregnant, the crippling fucking anxiety – is the fashion. Someone lovely messaged me recently saying ‘I’m four months pregnant WHAT DO I WEAR’. I was like, oh, I feel you sister.

I detest (detested? Should I use past tense, given my pregnancy days are over? No, let’s use present tense, more fun) 98% of maternity clothes. I hate tight things across my belly. I hate leggings. I hate stretchy wrap dresses that strangle my giant preggers boobs. I hate cheap tops that say ‘BUN IN THE OVEN’ or ‘BABY ON BOARD!’ I hate them all.

But you have to wear something. You can’t just walk around naked the whole time… though actually I do (did?), quite a lot, just around the apartment. Fun fact: being very pregnant and naked looks exactly like the Venus of Willendorf. To prove it, here I am, at about eight and a half months pregnant with my third baby. Not naked, but just about, and wearing an expression that truly shows what it feels like to be THAT pregnant in late summer. What a lovely big bump Arthur was. Lucky old me. I wish I hadn’t been so worried and sick all the time, I would have enjoyed it far more.


Where was I? Yes. You have to wear something. You don’t want to feel bad about how you look – pregnancy is hard enough without that. So, over the years, I slowly figured out a pregnant uniform. A knocked-up capsule wardrobe, if you’re feeling 90s about it. Something that isn’t an investment, that won’t put you in a bad mood, something that might actually make you feel – whisper it – chic.

So here is my totally un-expert guide to getting dressed when you’re knocked up.

First, some broad rules: no lace, no frills, no ruffles, no prints. Don’t wear animal print; you’ll look like the animal itself, or gingham; you’ll look like a picnic blanket, or florals; you’ll look like a sofa from the early 1980s. (At least, I do. Being tall with a big bump means I dominate the landscape quite enough without extra help.) Keep it simple. I try to stick to black, white, grey and blue, with pops of color.

And now, let’s go shopping. I have never been impressed by the pregnancy-specific designers – places like Pea In A Pod are lame. Seraphine and Isabelle Olivier are just too twee. Hatch is absolutely lovely but do I want to spend hundreds on clothes I’ll barely wear? Negatory. So it’s cheap fashion all the way, but different places are good for different things. (I always hand them on to other people when I’m done, to minimize the ‘destroying the planet with disposable fashion’ aspect.)

Let’s start with ASOS Maternity. Like everything from ASOS, the maternity line is 90% garbage, 10% genius. I bought this ASOS DESIGN Maternity Stripe Top in Baby Loop Back, liked it so much I bought another so I’d have one even when the first was in the wash, and loved them both so much that when the baby was out and I lost the baby weight, I bought a fresh one two sizes smaller. (Have I mentioned that I’m a little obsessive about things? Well, I am.) It’s the perfect thickness, the shoulders and arms hang just right. These tanks are pretty good to wear to bed or under jackets and blazers or for that one pregnancy yoga class you might go to like one time. If you’re pregs in cooler weather, stock up on plain long-sleeved t-shirts like this. Oh and how can I forget: Jeans shorts. I wore them everywhere. Goddamn, I still love my ASOS preggers jeans shorts. Sometimes you just need a forgiving tummy band.

Old Navy makes a lot of fairly mediocre preggers basics, but every now and again you’ll find something pretty good, like this t-shirt. The problem with pregs t-shirts is that the neck is often weird. I’m actually not sure I would have loved this one – the arm might be a little short, the combination of a tight shoulder plus giant tits and a belly that just won’t quit is… a LOT. But for wearing around the house or under a blazer, win. I also like wearing pregnancy button-down shirts like this one from the Gap - in fact, I still wear a pale blue one, I just really like the color and shoulders. I don’t hate this one, either.

Zara is your place for blazers. A good blazer (or two, or three, depending on your work/social life) and a good denim jacket will see you through the pregnancy. You might be able to wear your normal blazers or jackets undone – I can’t; I just get too damn big. My arms and back can’t fit in them. I’m not kidding. So I just buy something simple with rolled sleeves, not too boxy in the next size up. I also got a couple of plain long-sleeved Zara cotton midi dresses that I wore to death – something like this is perfectThis is good, too.

Uniqlo also KILLS it with the preggers-friendly dresses. Like a cotton shirt dress, a-line, with pockets for snacks. GENIUS. I’d get the pale blue and the stripe. (Damn, I wish these had been available this time last year.) Uniqlo is also making t-shirt dresses this year, and I have a feeling they might be rather marvelous, assuming they don’t become too short with the bump. (Bumps make dresses four to eight inches shorter, depending on how big your bump is. As you can see from the photo above, my bumps get BIG.) Veh nice for early to mid-pregnancy, anyway.

Also from Uniqlo: I’d buy a couple of these skinny-comfy sweatpants to wear under the bump when you just can’t fucking handle jeans rn. Order two sizes up from your normal size. You can wear them to a restaurant with high-top converses and a preggers tank and a sharp blazer and lipstick and look tres cool. (I think so, anyway. Then again, maybe I’m just the kind of dick who wears sweatpants to restaurants.)

For bras, I like the girls to be holstered front and center. I go from a 34B to a 36E when I’m pregnant – yup I’m totally serious. Nork city. This Chantelle Parisian bra is my favorite. (And Seamless Bravado nursing bra is the only one I’ll ever love, plus these for nighttime. And these are must-haves.)

For shoes, I like Clarks. This brand is famously ergonomic and comfortable and dorky, but once in a while, they’ll come out with a great sandal. I wear mine with socks sometimes because I’m CRAY. And solid boots. You need extra support for your feet when you’re pregs because you’re carrying around all that bump plus the extra weight, so if you still cringe at the idea of Clarks, you might want to slip these into your Converse or flats.

Urgh, jeans. I must have had 30 pairs of pregnancy jeans over the years. I inherited jeans from friends. I bought my own. They mostly suck tbqh. The best posh pregs jeans are Paige. (You can also usually find them on sale, btw. Check out Nordstrom Rack and Gilt.) Hot tip: for the first four months, just wear non-pregs jeans from Zara or whatever (you might be able to wear your normal favorite jeans, I have to buy a size or two up right away because I get knocked up and gain ten pounds before I roll off the bed) and fasten them with a hairband looped between the button thingy and the belt notch thingy. Like so. Oh, and Zara sometimes makes trousers with elastic waists that actually look good under a bump. I inherited a pair of Zara pinstripe flannel pants in XL from a friend and wore them a LOT. These are similar.

If you’re very pregnant in winter, you’ll need a coat. Borrow/steal your husband or brother’s coat if you can, or get a cheap superwarm one from Uniqlo in the biggest size. I also had a Hatch coat that I wore a LOT in my last pregnancy, and I loved it, but it was a hand-me-down. I’m not sure I’d spend $$$ on something I wouldn’t wear longer than a few months… Maybe I would, if I had a normal job and had to go into the office every day, or go to meetings. There is a certain freedom that comes with being a writer at home. I could literally write in the nude, eating chocolate-covered cashew nuts from a small bowl resting on my bare belly, and no one would know. And sometimes I did.

Cardigans are your winter pregs BFF. Get the waterfall-y ones and throw them around yourself dramatically. Bonus: great for a little privacy when nursing in public later on, if you are forced to nurse in a place where idiots are staring at your boobs. These look good, too. This is a great cosy hoodie – and it has lovely breastfeeding zips for after the bebe arrives! (Size UP at least twice. I had to return and get XXL.)

Lastly, lipstick. I wear bright lipstick when I’m pregnant, because it cheers me up every time I put it on, and because once the baby arrives, I can’t wear any lipstick at all for a while because I’m kissing him all the time. (I mean truly. I was basically frenching Arthur.) My favorite red lipstick right now is a delightfully inexpensive one from Milani called Best Red. I also love NARS Starwoman and Laura Mercier Rouge Muse.

Most of all, be kind to yourself. In my first pregnancy with Errol I was so freaked out by my changing body, and so weirdly self-conscious about it, all my pregnancy fashion memories are negative. With Arthur, I just tried to look relatively put-together, keep the food stains to a minimum and tell myself I was strong and clever and that everything would be fine. Time would pass, I would have my baby in my arms, I would be back in my normal clothes. And it came true.







Share Button

On… some upcoming movies

I saw Booksmart this morning and GODDAMN LOVED IT.  So funny and fast and emotionally wise. Just a brilliant fucking movie.

There were three trailers before the movie, and I cried in every single one:


Fresh out of prison, a Scottish woman juggles her job and two children while pursuing her dream of becoming a country music star. She soon gets her chance when she travels to Nashville, Tenn., on a life-changing journey to discover her true voice.


MAIDEN (Especially cannot wait to see this one. Have rewatched the trailer six times now, and every time I get goosebumps and burst into tears. Man, I’m an easy mark.)

In 1989 Tracy Edwards leads the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race, a grueling yachting competition that covers 33,000 miles and lasts nine months.




A Chinese family discover that their beloved grandmother has only a short time left to live, and instead of telling her, they whip up an impromptu wedding to gather the family together before she passes.

Share Button

On… sleep

I’m burning the candle at both ends and roasting it in the middle right now, my loves. A baby, two small children, and constant deadlines does not a happy sleeper Gemgem make. (The syntax on that is good, right?)

Particularly because I’m a worrywart.

I lie in bed, my brain hopping through all the things I did that day and all the things I have to do the next day and the cute thing the baby did and what I love about the current outline or script and what I think might need changing and oh that’s a good line I must write that down. All fine, easy thoughts, not even worries, really.

And then out of fucking nowhere I start thinking about scared refugee children in their little foster jails. And refugee babies crying for their mothers (probably right this second, my brain always reminds me). Then I worry about forced birth in the states that hate women (and why does everyone hate women like what the fuck did we do?). And then guns, guns, always guns.

Sometimes I wander over to Brexit, worry about that for a while.

And then to finish off I always worry about whether I will earn any money this year, because I’m in a ridiculous profession (that I absolutely love, of course) and there is no way of knowing. My projects this year are good, I think, and last year I sold everything I pitched and wrote some solid scripts, but nothing was picked up and why is that, is it perhaps because they’re not solid and I’m actually a bit shit, and is wondering if I’m shit the hallmark of someone who is in fact shit or is it a sign that I’m secretly truly balls-out brilliant because the only people who believe they are truly balls-out brilliant are sociopaths?

So. That’s what it’s like to be in my brain at 11pm. It’s like I forget how to sleep.

Sometimes I try a quarter of an Ambien, but it makes my eyes super dry the next day. Melatonin doesn’t work for me either. Valerian stinks. But this is what works:

Natural Vitality Calm Gummies The Anti-Stress Gummies, A Relaxing Magnesium Supplement, Raspberry Lemon, 120 Count

Firstly, magnesium gummies. I was drinking it in the dissolvable powder form on and off for years, but it’s kind of gross. Now I eat the gummies. I don’t know why magnesium helps sleep, but it really does, just sort of unscrews everything that’s bolted on v tightly in your brain. You don’t have to believe me, believe the New York Times. “Magnesium deficiency has been associated with higher levels of stress, anxiety and difficulty relaxing.” Pop two after dinner. Bonus: they’re yummy.


Second, Lazarus Naturals Relaxation Blend CBD Capsules. You already know about CBD, I don’t have to extol the many virtues here. (Again, the New York Times can tell you more, if you like.) I tried Lord Jones, the one everyone is obsessed with. I liked it fine, no big deal. Then my mother got this magical stuff from our local pharmacy when she was visiting and I HAVE TRULY NEVER SLEPT BETTER. It’s the most delicious easy sleep – it has L-tryphtophan and ashwagandha and chamomile, as well as CBD extract. You wake up feeling calm and clear and rested. I cannot recommend it highly enough. This one is good too. I tried it recently when the Relaxation Blend was out of stock.

PS Come over to Instagram, the water’s lovely.



Share Button

On… Clarks Botanicals

I first wrote this on my Instagram account, so if you already read it there, forgive me and be my friend anyway.

Last year, I heard about Clarks Botanicals on the divine @fatmascara podcast. I ordered a $10 tester set, like the thrifty little cougar that I am, to see if it would plump and soothe my crone-like post-baby visage. LO and behold, it did. I fell head over heels for the Deep Moisture Mask and Smoothing Marine Cream, promptly purchased the full size of each. I wrote about them in a post a few months ago.

Then quite out of the blue recently, Clarks contacted me asking if I’d like to host a giveaway. I said YES OF COURSE I WOULD ARE YOU INSANE WHY WOULD YOU EVER DOUBT THAT. I think their social media people saw the post. Anyway. To enter the competition, head on over to my IG account. If it’s too late – I think the comp ends May 3 – then don’t fret! You can use the code GemmaBurgess25 and get 25% off your purchase on the Clarks Botanicals website.



Share Button

On… a nightgown

So, recently I went to a party with an all-girls sleepunder theme. The premise: Like a sleepover, but we all have work and small children and/or babies and really need our fucking sleep. So we started at 4pm and went home at 10pm. We had chocolate and candy and Jell-O shots and cocktails and ice cream cake. We drank fast, talked fast, and then went home and crashed. It was THE BEST.

Anyway, the dress code was ‘athleisure’. I thought to myself, I’m not wearing athleisure, I detest work out gear. I don’t even wear it to work out anymore. (I wear baggy sweatpants and a Buffy The Vampire Slayer t-shirt, most days.) I’m going to wear the frilliest, dorkiest, most Victorian-virgin passion-killing nightgown I can find.Gemma Nightie

Nailed it.

(Apologies for messy sink.)

I was the happiest little party animal in the world that night. I felt comfortable and fun and pretty and kind of cool, in a non-cool way (which is, of course, the best kind of cool). I felt like an updated, yet also terribly regressive, version of Courtney Love and Amanda de Cadenet, when they got trashed in silky night slips that time in the 90s. In other words, I felt like me.

I’m wearing this nightie – and a couple of the others in the range – ALL SUMMER. And not just to bed. I’m wearing them to write. To meet friends. To the playground. To the beach. To bed. This nightie can do no wrong in my eyes. Anyway, you can find it here. Order a size or two down. They are gigantic.

612rvHMIZCL._UY445_71j5ARGde6L._UY445_ 61ObH11Ps+L._UY445_


Share Button

On… the perfect pink tshirt for $8

I like pink t-shirts. I wear them with dark red Ruby Woo lipstick, I wear them with no make-up except a little blush (or ROUGE as my grandmother used to say), I wear them with old pajama pants in bed and with very old jeans when I’m writing and with sequins skirts and fake fur coats when I’m going somewhere exciting. There is basically no situation or mood that a pink t-shirt can’t improve, imho. And after trying on like seventeen – okay, that’s a lie, but I did try like four – I found THE PERFECT PINK TSHIRT.

And it’s $8.

pink tshirt

Get it in medium for fitted, large if you want to roll the sleeves up and tuck it into high-waisted jeans and feel really 1989 about it. It’s just the right thickness, just the right shade of blushy-but-not-sickly-pink, the shoulders and neck are *perfect* . Enjoy. It’s SPRING!



Share Button

On… hair accessories

A couple of months ago, I put something on Instagram about a pearl hair barrette from Etsy and how happy it made me.


I never knew a hair accessory could be so polarizing. People either loved it, or thought that I was completely fracking insane. SO many OPINIONS. That’s cool. We can’t all like the same things at the same time, it would be so dull. So if you hate them, then I completely understand, just skip on to the next post, it’ll be a thoughtlette about something I’m reading or watching or thinking or putting on my face, I can’t remember.

Anyway! Back to the point. Right now I am very into hair accessories, for the first time since the 90s. Back then, I liked to sew tiny paper flowers onto Japanese bobby pins and create elaborate chignons. (Oh yes. Yes I did.) I also cut and glued flipflops together to make platforms like the Spice Girls. I made my own Chanel Vamp nail polish out of black and red nail polish that I purchased with my pocket money at a little Filipino shopping center called World Wide Plaza in Hong Kong, before having a tuna mayo sandwich and an Orangina at Delifrance. AH. MEMORIES.


So, this is the hair pearl barrette from Etsy. Warning: if you don’t have a lot of hair (I’m shedding like an old mutt, damn babies), it slides out pretty quickly, so you need to secure it with bobby pins.




And then we have this magnificent thing. I have worn it a gazillion times already. It’s DesignB from ASOS, has wonderful sturdy sticking power even if your hair has the emotional and physical strength of a spider’s web. It’s low in stock. If it’s sold out by the time you read this, just keep an eye on ASOS because I bet it comes back, the best things always do. In the meantime, I found you this perfect and almost identical Etsy alternative, below.



(By the way, those are not my nails.)

I’ve also been wearing my hair in a bun, tied with a scrunchie with a long thick black ribbon attached. Mine was from Urban Outfitters and sold out, alas, but I found this alternative for you. I would untie the bow right away and just leave the ribbons dangling down, like a ballet dancer on a walk of shame.









Share Button