B Lush. MMmmmm, Yes, Please Do.

What a strange few days I have had! The things which have given me such a fit before have started to become more comical and I think I feel a bit braver. Something has come over me that feels similar to armor, but with a sense of humor booster built in.

They must have flagged my account at the bank after all of the complaints I have made; now, every time I go in they are determined to get me “sorted out”. Unfortunately, though my faith in truth and fair play is strong, I may have lost the energy to play their game. I will dig deep in my pocket next week to see what is left for them.

In lighter and certainly more fragrant news, there is a beautiful rose on my desk and the office smells like warm porridge with maple syrup. (In case you aren’t sure, it’s a lovely, comforting smell.) Ah, the scent of a Friday exploration… But before we dive in to that I’ll catch you up.

On Thursday, my temporary neighbor knocked on my door; she and her husband are here from Italy to attend a wedding. She needed scissors to cut the wrapping paper for the wedding gift, then she came back for a pen and lastly for a plastic shopping bag to protect the gift from the rain. I was pleased to have all three! Before she left the last time she invited me for coffee the next (Friday) morning with herself and her husband. When Drew came home he insisted that I take the entire day Friday to do something for myself, like have a massage. I felt a bit strange by the waves in my routine. Human contact and day to myself?! At first I wasn’t sure how to act. And I felt a lot of pressure to do something really magnificent, but I couldn’t think of that quintessential experience that would provide the renewal for which Drew was hoping.

Breakfast with our neighbors turned out to be a lovely way to start my morning! I found out that the husband is an American ex-pat who was born in Italy. The couple still lives in Florence. They are interested in American politics and have a very familiar feel. Both intelligent, they entertained me with their general views on things and insight into what America looks like to someone from Europe. I hope that they have a lovely visit and enjoy the city.

After breakfast I walked a familiar route through Chancery Lane, Holborn, and Covent Garden stopping in the stores that I had passed so often wondering what was inside. My destination was ultimately the Lush store in Covent Garden. You may remember that I have mentioned it once before. I can’t remember if I was at first too busy or too intimidated to enter, but my curiosity had finally gotten the better of me.

Walking into a Lush store is nothing like walking into the cosmetics section at your local department store and it’s really not like going into a Bath and Body Works or Body Shop store either. I’d say it feels a bit more like walking into the best smelling earthy neighborhood deli you’ve ever seen. Huge soap cakes are marked (and sold by weight) like huge wheels of cheese. All of the ingredients are clearly listed, except for perfume ingredients, which are rumored to come later this year. Almost 90% of the products are vegan, handmade, and a great emphasis is placed on sustainable packaging. There is even a shampoo cake that is package free; you can use a tin to carry and keep it in, but you reuse it. Even their little yellow bags are meant to be thrown on your compost pile. It cautions customers to get permission before throwing it on their neighbor’s compost pile in the case that they don’t have their own…

I was lucky to meet three absolutely lovely and knowledgeable staff members. Lush staffers are trained very well to understand how the skin absorbs what we lather on it, the internal processes related to the absorption, and the skin conditions that commonly plague discerning cosmetic customers – in addition to having a great appreciation for the product. After several demonstrations I was pretty well sold on the products. I think the most fun area of the store, though, has to be what I call the salad bar. It’s where the preservative free products are kept on ice. The samples are in aluminum mixing bowls just like the tuna salad filling at the the deli, except they look more like chocolate ice cream and creamy avocado dip that you wouldn’t mind eating rather than smearing on your face!

I inquired about vegan make-up products in casual conversation only to find out the Lush’s sister store B carries a complete line. And there happens to “B” one right next door. With a few soap samples in my purse, I headed to B to explore and see what other interesting things I might learn and intriguing people I might meet.

B is almost the opposite of Lush in terms of in-store feel. It gives the impression of being back stage at a fashion shoot, not that I have ever experienced that scene… Although the make-up is a sustainable product, the store, its products, and the range of colors feel quite glamorous. In the store I met a host of colorful characters. I had a short conversation with a lovely young vegan who is currently blogging about the positive effects of modified diets on breast cancer. She has been personally affected by breast cancer in her family and has a genuine interest in the ways in which we may be able to naturally enhance medical treatment – and in some cases, prevent the onset of disease. I also had the pleasure of meeting a model from Amsterdam who has relocated to London to pursue a career in make-up artistry, not that modeling is completely out of the question forever… It was another fantastic conversation revolving around a view of life, the universe, and everything from someone having a vastly different perspective from my own – a rare gift that I have now been given twice in one day.

I wandered through the crowds along the busy Piccadilly and Oxford circuses, stopping as I pleased. Mainly I hunted for more comfortable shoes to wear to an interview and boots to keep my feet dry on wet weather days. Besides, it would be nice to have something a little nicer to wear to the theatre. Although I returned home with only eyeshadow and a few soap samples, I felt pretty accomplished.  When Drew came home with a gorgeous long stem rose, I was pretty sure I had accidentally travelled to  a parallel universe where being an unemployed stay-at-home wife is not a burden, but a luxury.  I will try to remember to take everyone’s advice and consider that point of view more often from now on.

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