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  • An Introduction: What's in my handbag?

    Hello, my name is Elizabeth, the director of Shophoppingmap.com.  This is my first post for the Shophoppingmap blog and by means of introduction, I would like to tell you about my handbag.  Like a person's shoes, I  believe a handbag is a good indicator of a person's style and interests so what better way to show you mine by emptying the contents of mine onto the dining room floor (minus old receipts/flyers/bits of paper!):

    1. The handbag itself was never an IT bag but I love it all the same.  It is by a wonderful London-based company called Franchetti Bond, who specialise in fine leather goods.  I believe my model is the Perla, a reversible tote in black and it is magical for so many reasons.  Firstly when I say it is an everyday bag, I mean EVERY day... I have had it for nearly three years and due to the high quality of craftmanship, it still looks great.   And this bag works hard...  It is not bulky but due to it's flexible shape, I treat it like a bottomless bucket.  It is the type of bag that serves as a shopper in the supermarket, an overnight bag, a toolbox, a briefcase or whatever the needs may be and it never buckles under the weight of whatever I throw into it.  Not once have I had to replace a strap or strengthen a stitch!  Another amazing thing about this bag is that being reversible, you have a suede bag and a leather bag in one!  Living in rainy London, I find it more practical to wear it leather side out and in a day when so many handbags skimp on lining, it is a luxury to have one of suede...  Also this bag can take on two shapes, depending on how you fasten the stainless steel crossbar toggles.  If you fasten the two crossbar chains, it takes on a compact boxy shape and if you fasten just the middle crossbar chain, it takes on a wider slouchy tote shape.  There is a practical chain purse attached on the inside for your valuables.  All in all, this bag is a very clever statement in design while maintaining a whisper of understated luxury.  It was not designed to be an ostentatious IT bag of the moment but rather as a bag for life.  I would tell you how much it cost but then again, my bag probably wouldn't like that.  That is far from its point.

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    2. I always carry a notebook with me for general ideas/musings/to do lists/sketches.  I particularly like this one because it's a decent size and the pages are blank.  Ruled pages are constrictive!  Also, for me, notebooks have to have a spiral bounding so you can tear pages out without the feeling that you are disrupting any sense of order!  I bought this notebook in the gift shop at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which is one of the most amazing places I have ever been to.  The mosaics are a feast for the eyes.

    3. Givenchy sunglasses.... I always like to have a pair of sunglasses handy, even in winter and these classic black ones are great because they go with everything.  A couple of weeks after I moved into an apartment in London a few years ago, my flatmate asked me, "why do you always wear sunglasses?" and I said "well it's a secret...but I'm famous."  Really, I'm not famous (but that's a secret!) but I think sunglasses are important for so many reasons... they protect your eyes from UV rays and ageing/fine lines therefore...  they give one a sense of protection - a shield from eye contact with strangers and an air of mystery and they just generally look cool.

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    4. My wallet is from The Designers Guild which is a fabulous interiors shop that does wonderful leather goods from time to time.  I didn't use to be a wallet person and bank cards and cash were thrown in pockets (and sometimes washing machines...) but I find life is more organised when you have a good wallet.

    5. This is an old Louis Vuitton agenda that an old friend gave me years ago.  She was finished with it and in fact I never renewed the refill but I often use it to keep travel documents safe and bulky (so I won't forget them!).  I particularly love the LV print on this pale canvas.

    6. My favourite pen in the world is this Parker pen which I try to keep permanently in my handbag.  Perhaps this is because my mother used to keep a special Parker pen in her handbag.  It was a silver push-pen with a deep blue end.  It was heavy and wrote beautifully and I was always fascinated by it but she wouldn't let me use it much.   It was a present given to her long before I was born and she used it as far back as I remember but she lost it somwhere along the way, not sure where.  Neither is she unfortunately.  I  actually found this Parker pen under the desk in my room in an old apartment.  It is a perfect weight and writes beautifully and now that I am grown up enough to use a good pen, I always take care to write neatly and something worthwhile when using it.  It is important to do a good pen justice.

    7. An Oyster card is what every girl about town needs to get about town in London.  Tubes and buses are nice for people watching.  Saying that, I prefer to walk.

    8. The essential Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat...  Shadows shadows go away come again another day!  This is a magic wand for the face.  It makes the signs of a late night disappear, it brightens eye areas, it makes you look awake when really you are not at all, it makes everything smoother and sends dark circles rolling...  It just makes everything BETTER!

    9. Another classic handbag essential is Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream Skin Protectant.  One tube is a lipbalm, a soother for dry cuticles/hands, it can make your cheekbones dewy and lipstick glossy...  It also fixes chapped leather shoes!  This miracle worker has been going since the 1930s and has withstood the test of time for VERY good reason.

    10. I prefer a good mint to chewing gum.  Chewing gum is one of my pet hates in fact...  Whether it's littering the pavement, stuck to the bottom of your shoe or being chewed by a person sitting on the bus, I really don't know why it had to be invented.  Smints are great - small and strong and I love the plastic dispenser, which keeps them fresh and not falling all around your bag, which is often the case with paper/foil-wrapped mints/sweets.

    11. An inhaler...(not very glamorous!)  I developed asthma only a couple of years ago...  Which was strange but apparently the late onset of asthma is becoming more and more common.  I carry this with me wherever I go and luckily I don't need it very often but when I do, I really do...  Shortness of breath is usually triggered by damp air or too much time on the dusty underground.  Now I'm no Reiki expert but also read that asthma is linked to the heart chakra and funnily enough, my asthma started around the same time as a broken heart.  And as my heart heart healed so did my breathing!  Would like to learn more about this sort of thing.  There's a lot to be said for looking for the root of the cause, not just the state of the branches!

    12. A miniature bottle of "Flower by Kenzo", which is one of my all-time favourite perfumes.  In fact I love all the Kenzo perfumes and bought the travel set in an airport some time ago.  My aunt, Liz gave me a large bottle of "Flower by Kenzo" for Christmas when I was 19.  I really loved the bottle and being precious about precious things I didn't start using the perfume itself until a few months after.  It was around that Spring when I started using it, just before my first trip to Paris and to this day, this scent still brings back the memories of those fresh sunny days in April when myself and Ruth, one of my best friends, diverted from the program of our educational college trip and educated ourselves with a course we were interested in: Rue du Faubourg Saint -Honoré (N.B. Colette!), Les Champs-Elysées (N.B. Charles Jourdan, hot guys working in D&G), the shoe department in Le Bon Marché, the boutiques of Montmartre and the Intercontinental Hotel on Avenue Marceau where we often went to make phonecalls home from the mahogany phonebooths (no better place to forget the harsh realities of a grey youth hostel!).  We also learnt that The Louvre is NOT open on a Tuesday but we did at least take in some culture at the beautiful Musée D'Orsay.  Well, my original point was that it is this very special trip of discovery that "Flower by Kenzo" brings me back to.  That and the nagging reminder that I have still not lived in Paris depite resolving to do so at the time...  "Flower by Kenzo" is one of those gentle fragrances that comes into its own as the day comes into play.  It blossoms, so to speak... but is never overpowering.  And then when it gets to the point (as most fragrances do), where it becomes a whisper so quiet you believe is only for you, somebody will suddenly ask you what your perfume is.  If you have the inclination to tell, here's a word of warning, whoever I've told has bought a bottle.  That's not such a bad thing because a fragrance like this will change its notes from person to person.  However, a whispered message is usually a secret message and should best be kept to yourself.

    13. This is a little Dior make-up compact I got as part of a free gift when I purchased a few other products at the counter in House of Fraser in Dublin.  It has a useful mirror and some neutral eyeshadows which are handy to have on the go.  In fact, thinking of that free gift package, there were also products from the Dior Capture range, which I gave to my grandmother at Sunday lunch.  She was about 88 at the time and although she has very good skin, of course being that age she has a deep smile groove by her mouth and she tried the cream (the "Capture Restoring Wrinkle Cream Rich Texture") at the dining table and everyone was AMAZED.  This deep wrinkle disappeared right before our eyes!  I will definitely remember this product in the future... Who needs botox...

    14. A dusty pink hair elastic band...  Hmmm not much to say here but always important to carry something like this with you for one of those "shall I wear my hair up or down? days" Down for now, decide later.

    15. This is a M.A.C. lipstick in "Costa Chic". It was launched in Summer 2009 as part of the Euristocrats II collection and I love it - it's a perfect sherbety sunset pink and really lifts a complexion.

    16. A long string of freshwater pearls.  I collect pearls like there's no tomorrow so there's usually a string lying at the bottom of my bag.  Useful when you need to dress up a t-shirt last minute.  These are quite grey on a very long string from Portobello Market.

    17. The BEST Mascara I have ever used! "Clinique High Impact Mascara".  This is a very recent discovery and only wish I had discovered it sooner.  Where did I discover it?  I was clearing out the bathroom cupboards at home in Ireland where my mother has stashed lots of unopened gift bags and I found two of these unused mascaras.  This find could not have come at a better time as I was very fed up with a clumpy non-effective mascara by another leading brand I had bought a few months before.  This mascara really does what every other mascara claims to do...It lengthens, it thickens, it doesn't clump, it separates, it fills out lashes.  High impact it certainly is; exactly what it says on the tin.

    18. My keys...on a floral keyring by Cath Kidston.  It is important to have keys on a keyring so they won't get lost.  I like this one in particular because it is flat enough not to take up too much space and yet it's curved shape is easy to distinguish when rummaging around for them in handbags or coat pockets.  Also it is light so it doesn't weigh you down either.  Perfect!

    19. Number nineteen by complete coincidence is a lipstick by Chanel.  This is an apt coincidence, not only in reference to the fashion house's iconic perfume but also because the shade itself is number 19! "Gabrielle" is part of the Rouge Coco range of hydrating creamy lipsticks by Chanel. For me, it is the perfect red lipstick.  Some girls say "oh red lipstick doesn't suit me..." but to that I go by the old adage "you just haven't found your perfect red".  I made it my mission this summer to find mine and it was in this lipstick that I found it.  Love love LOVE the classic packaging too.  And the thing about red lipstick is that when you wear it, you don't need to wear any other make-up.  The rest of your face just sort of picks up a rouge glow and fades out (see photo below taken at dusk under a skylight).

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    20. A handbag hairbrush by TRESemmé.  As I have fine hair, it gets tangled easily.  Picked up this little brush in Boots and it's great although I should brush my hair more often!

    21. My favourite black eyeliner ever is by Clarins.  Sometime last year,  a very rare occasion occured: I had time to kill in Dublin Airport.  I put it to good use by going to every make-up counter in Duty Free in search of the best black kohl liner and this is the best I found.  Why?  Well first of all, it has a waxy moist texture and draws a very smooth line which is, in my book, a top priority when looking for the perfect eyeliner.  What's more is the inbuilt smudger sponge, should you wish to do smokey.  And... last but not least... an inbuilt pencil sharperner!  Absolutely GENIUS. And from what I remember it was very fairly priced.  In fact cheaper than many of its rivals.  With this eyeliner you will always look sharp.  Cannot recommend enough!

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    22. Another handbag item from M.A.C. I often carry this cream blush with me because it doubles up as a subtle lipgloss.  The shade is called "Posey" and it's so natural.  I don't wear foundation every day and sometimes I just dab a little of this on my cheeks and my friends look at me like something's wrong but they don't know what and they say "wow you look really well today... really healthy!" or "There's something different about you today...you've got a glow or something!" and I just say "oh thanks...must have slept well last night".  Sometimes even amongst friends, mysteries are best left unanswered.

    23. My iphone is... my wingman... my guide when lost... my lifeline...  my life.  Oh well I am exaggerating I think.  But I am not so sure I could live without it...  It's a psychological thing I suppose as it's an immediate connection to everyone I know and all knowledge of the universe.  This model is not the latest or anything.  I've had it for nearly two years and the poor thing has taken a bashing off dancefloors and pavement many-a-time.  It is cracked in several places but I quite like the worn vintage iphone look... and it still works perfectly!  My favourite applications are Style.com and Moon Globe.

    24. Always important to carry a good book at the bottom of a handbag.  I am vastly under-read, especially for an English Literature graduate so I always, rather over-optimistically carry around a book in the hope that instead of reading one of those free newspapers when travelling, I will throw myself into a piece of literature.  Do I ever choose the more challenging of this ever-shadowing option?  Well sometimes... more often on planes than trains I must admit but even airplanes have glossy lifestyle magazines placed temptingly in front of your seat these days so it's difficult.  The piece of literature which has been at the bottom of my bag for over a month now (ashamedly unturned) is one of those should-have-read-a-long-time-ago titles, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I read one novella by him before, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, which was fantastic so I am looking forward to starting this book but when oh when I will I don't know...  In the meantime, it will rest quietly alongside all the other items in my handbag.   Another little piece of hope accompanying me wherever I go.

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