Month: June 2017

Year of the Console, June Review. Red Dead Redemption.

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. It’s the end of Month 6 and we are almost halfway through our specially extended year, which is actually 14 months long. Perhaps surprisingly, in light of continued romance, I’ve had a pretty good go at this month’s game: Red Dead Redemption. By the last weekend in June I’d logged almost 10 hours of gameplay and completed 21% of the main quest line.

As you know, we are following an historical trajectory throughout the year. June was the month in which we finally entered the 20th century. Set during the final years of the American Wild West, circa 1910, the action takes place in the southwestern United States and Mexico. There is plenty of horse riding and the scenery involves deserts, rough buildings made out of timber and those cacti that look like a person holding up their arms.

I’ve been playing on the Xbox 360 this month, marking the first game we’ve played on Xbox so far this year – there will be more over the summer and autumn. My Xbox is about 2.5 years old, so I have attempted to use it before. I have previously attempted to play various iterations of Grand Theft Auto and Dead Island, but got nowhere fast. My console-handling skills were non-existent and I now think that GTA was an awful place to begin console gaming, what with all the driving and high-speed chases. This time around, returning to the Xbox after five solid months of industrious console handling on the PlayStation, I took to the Xbox like a natural and played to a respectable standard on Red Dead almost from the beginning.

One thing that Xbox 360 lacks is built in screenshot and video capture software, so I bravely expanded my tech skills even further by hooking up the Xbox to my Republic of Gamers laptop via an Elgato HD60 video capture device. It is a joy to use and can even stream content, so I could, in theory, stream my gameplay to Twitch or YouTube. You don’t know how tempted I am to have my own live gaming channel and it is only a pity that I have to go to work.

Thanks to my experiments with the HD60, I not only have screenshots this month, I have real video of my own gameplay. The first one shows our hero John Marston learning to capture and tame wild horses and is a fun quest. It is outdoors in nice weather, fully makes the most of the open land, the horse handles beautifully, it’s active and quite exciting. These were some of the most enjoyable moments, chasing a herd of wild horses around.

The second video shows what playing RDR is actually like much of the time, if you are me, anyway. It does not depict a heroic tale of glory. John Marston needs to find and rescue this woman called Jenny. He rides all through the desert and when he eventually finds Jenny, he accidentally tramples all over her with his horse. She flees in terror and John fails the quest. I love the part at the end where John & I realise that he has failed and he just stands there, in the middle of nowhere, looking around despondently.

Screenshots

Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar (2010), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world, action-adventure game set in the western United States and Mexico in 1910. 

Plot and setting: Cowboy John Marston arrives in the frontier town of Armadillo to fight off bandits and horse rustlers and protect the local hookers from being murdered in broad daylight.

General remarks: An atmospheric game. Everything is very rich in story, even the side quests. NPCs are interesting and different from each other. Combat isn’t too hard, thanks to an effective auto lock on your gun. The artwork and the emotional tone of the characterisation and story are both quite warm, almost romantic. I really noticed this in contrast to last month’s game, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, which is rather crisp.

Thumbs up: Outdoor questing almost all the time, whether in farms, towns or the open land. Impressive scenery, nice weather with dramatic sunrises and sunsets. The horse handles beautifully and the animation is realistic. It’s very satisfying, riding your horse around.

Thumbs down: After a while, I seemed to lose track of the main quest line and wandered around uselessly for a while, collecting herbs and being savaged by mountain lions. The questing became a little monotonous, perhaps partly as a function of the vast, unchanging scenery. I was surprised that after only 10 hours of gameplay, I was looking around for some variety in the range of things to do.

Return to?  I might return and play the expansion pack Undead Nightmare, which I didn’t have time for this month. I felt like I was starting to run out of momentum with the main game and its quest line, but I enjoyed the scenery,  the mechanics of gameplay and my horse, so zombies might shake things up a bit. This was probably my 3rd favourite game so far this year, after Ark: Survival Evolved and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

ShimmerLuxe

I need to talk about beauty products again. As you may remember from my recent post concerning luxury soap, I’ve been working on commercial projects that involved gourmet soap and premium shower gel, body lotion, body butter and related categories such as shampoo. This has caused a lot of these products to cross my path. As a result of this, I have a new favourite brand. I am genuinely so excited about this brand, as you can tell by the fact that I hardly ever promote brands and products on The Life You Want. The fact that it’s making TLYW news lets you know it is something special.

ShimmerLuxe is a new British business based in Darlington, in the north of England. The woman behind the business is Victoria McKone and she makes products by hand and retails them via Etsy.

shimmerluxe 1

I tried Victoria’s Whipped Soap in two flavours: Clementine Jelly and Chocolate Truffle. It thoroughly delighted me and then I discovered the Body Butter in flavours Cafe Caramel and Sugared Almond.

When I opened these jars of product, three things made me fall in love immediately. Firstly, the smell is divine. This stuff smells like real, fresh food. The clementine and chocolate smell fresh and delicious, good enough to eat right out of the jar. The caramel is rich and satisfying. The sugared almond is a heavy scent while still in the jar but lasts on the skin with a subtle, light, powdery, sugary fragrance.

The second thing that appealed to me was the look of the product. Both soap and butter look like ready-to-eat desserts. This is neither a heavy, solid block of soap nor a bottle of runny lotion. The products look like whipped cream or butter, ready to eat.

shimmerluxe 4

The third thing was the texture, wow. These are very dense, rich products. You push your finger into the virgin swirls of creamy soap and scoop out a little to use. They are both firm, the body butter a little firmer than the soap. An incredibly satisfying consistency; heavy, slightly resistant, the butter is almost slightly crumbly under pressure and when kept cool. I love to keep body butters in the fridge, especially in hot summer weather. Cooling them to a firm consistency also makes them last longer, because I don’t scoop so much out of the jar. ShimmerLuxe butter seems to respond better to being cooled in the fridge than any other brand that I’ve tried. In a moment of unusual lucidity, I installed a fridge in the bedroom. A small one, a bar fridge. For San Pellegrino and body butter. That’s all it stocks. I am so impressed with myself sometimes.

bedroom fridge

I road-tested the ShimmerLuxe products. I’ve been using them anyway but I’ve just taken a shower with Chocolate Truffle soap and Cafe Caramel body butter for the purposes of this review.

Whipped Soap. The chocolate smell is gorgeous. The key thing with this product is the silky smooth way it is going to slide on to your skin, so don’t use one of those nylon shower puffs. Use your hands or smear a dollop on to a sponge and don’t let it absorb into the sponge too much before applying. Feels like silk. Silk and chocolate in the shower, what could be more indulgent.

Body Butter. My skin cannot get enough of this stuff. It comes out of the jar so heavy and rich, more solid than liquid, but my skin drinks it up. After use, my skin is moist, soft and smells like caramel.

Victoria, please make face masks and hair masks!

I was so excited about ShimmerLuxe that I contacted Victoria to ask her some questions about the products and brand.

Victoria, what inspired you to start your own brand of body care products?

I’ve always loved being in the water – bath times especially. Having dry skin and bouts of eczema however, meant that bath times were full of depressing prescription products. A few years ago I narrowed my problem dry skin down to SLS, a particularly harsh foaming agent, so it goes without saying it’s not in any of my products! As I got older I decided I was going to go into the beauty industry and run my own little business; with a passion for natural nails in particular. I’ve always enjoyed making a mess really – whether its baking, going a bit mad with the glitter on a client’s nails, or tinkering about making lotions and potions.
I already have one job that I love that’s pretty flexible, so being able to create and sell something else that I’m passionate about is fabulous.

Which are your best selling items and what do customers like about them?

So far customer favourites seem to be the Whipped Body Butters. A little goes a long way, they are super nourishing for the skin & they smell delicious! The body butters are closely followed by Bath products. My personal favourite products are the Buttercream Bath Truffles, which are a mildly fizzy nourishing bath bomb. They are intended to be chopped in half so you get 2 uses from them but sometimes I’m a bit greedy and pop a whole one in the bath when I’m in a bit of a rush, I don’t feel I need to moisturise afterwards that way.

What do you wish people knew about ShimmerLuxe products? What would you like to tell them?

All our products are handmade by me to strict EU regulations and assessed by a cosmetic chemist, Products are tested, tweaked and tested again by myself and some very willing victims. And (Most importantly to me) all our products are SLS free!

Do you have any new products in the pipeline that we should look forward to?

Definitely more bath products, they are my favourite to use and my favourite to make, it’s really messy and you get the chance to be a bit more creative with shapes and colours. I’m also going to be bringing out a couple of body oils – I have a beautiful tuberose fragrance that would be just perfect in something like that.

You’re a woman who is running her own business and actively making the life she wants – what would you say to other women who are wondering if they can start small businesses or make other positive changes in their lives?

On building a business I think it’s so important to have done the right research, in the products themselves, the legal requirements, etc. You don’t have to start big but I feel it’s so important for everything to be cohesive. I think you can build a better brand if everything matches to an extent; it’s all in the details!. Life is hectic and can carry you away sometimes, so I think its vital to take time to slow down and reconnect with yourself. Having a bath is a chance to peel off your old skin and start afresh. Very important for body and mind.

ShimmerLuxe is at Etsy.com. Bar fridge not included.

 

Days Gone: new gameplay video from Sony

Sony’s upcoming zombie game, Days Gone, promises to be utter mayhem and I cannot recall when I’ve awaited a game with more excitement. There is still no release date and I heard a rumour that it might be delayed until 2019, but I can wait patiently if it means they want to take time to get it right. A late game is only bad while it is late, until it is good enough for release; a game that is released in a bad condition stays bad for ever.

Anyway, Sony just published a new video to keep everyone’s excitement up. It shows actual gameplay, survival elements and story and I am surprised how involved it is. Someone said it was like the result of Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us getting into bed with each other. In that case, we are in for an unholy treat. Here it is, 7 minutes of gameplay.

Everything is going just beautifully with Harry and I am loving it. He takes all our dates very seriously, so we go out and do things around London. It’s such early days, we only had our first date a month ago, but it feels like something. It feels like dating in a way that is more than just a euphemism for casual sex.

I think we are officially dating.

Harry came to tea. He stayed for dinner. Then he stayed the night. It was our fourth date.

I think we have a relationship up and running. It is so nice and easy so far. No disconnects. N’est pas un problème.

He proved to be quite assertive over the course of the evening and I let him have the upper hand, within the mitigating and constraining circumstances of the upper hand actually being mine.

And now for a tune. Shut up.

Sin With Sebastian: Shut up And Sleep With Me (1995)

 

Clean as Christmas 

A rare photo of my house looking clean and tidy and it’s not even Xmas. Look at the shine on that floor.

Still to do:

  • clean the small bathroom, replace bath mat
  • wash dishes
  • clean kitchen floor (no time to repaint)
  • swish and swipe larger bathroom
  • clean the visible bits of the fridge
  • mop hall floor
  • remaining dusting as necessary
  • clean marks off walls and woodwork that I missed last night
  • hoover floors that haven’t been done yet
  • take rubbish out
  • put towels in bathrooms
  • go to supermarket and buy a Victoria sponge
  • shower, wash hair
  • nails
  • bleach teeth
  • allow plenty of time for make-up
  • try to find a dress that is flattering and doesn’t need ironing

I hope he doesn’t want to come over too early. I’d better get on.

Tea Set

I can’t believe I was foolhardy enough to invite Harry over when I was right in the middle of de-cluttering the spare room. I had already pulled all the junk out of that room and it was all over the floor in the living room and hall. It was well past the stage where I could just shove the junk back where it came from. The only way out was through. That’s why I’ve been doing housework for 24 hours now and yet I’ve only just arrived at the stage where I can vacuum the floors.

Anyway, he is coming to tea tomorrow and I am looking forward to it. My house will be as clean as it ever gets by then and we will be able to use my Portmeirion tea set, which I have been looking forward to. I do love a nice tea set. This one even has matching spoons. You can get yours here.

Portmeirion is a pottery and also a highly unusual village and resort in North Wales. I remember my grandparents taking me when I was a kid. I’d like to return. Maybe I’ll go with Harry if we keep seeing each other.

portmeirion aerialviewofvillage

(c) http://www.portmeirion-village.com