Marie Louise McConville: No thanks to the latest fad for unisex fragrances this Christmas
So, how's the Christmas shopping going then?
With just a month to go until the big day, the shops are certainly busier, the queues are noticeably longer and there's already a smell of desperation in the air.
Of course, if you're the organised type, you've probably compiled an orderly list of the gifts you're after. If so, you're flying.
That said, if you're more of a trend-setter and high fashion follower, then you're no doubt a bit fussier and you're on the look-out for the must-haves of Christmas 2017.
I'm told these include streaming sticks, fancy-dancy household appliances, virtual reality systems, home brewing kits, a wake-up light and robot vacuums.
And that's not all.
The powers that be in the beauty and fashion world have decided this year's absolutely-must-have Christmas gift is fragrance but not just any fragrance and forget about perfume for her and aftershave for him.
This year it's all about unisex scents as experts say a perfume that doesn't fit stereotypes can smell fresher - and just a little bit sexy.
I say - wise up.
Apparently, perfume companies have realised that making perfumes that unite the sexes rather than divide men and women is a fantastic sales strategy and that is why unisex scents have dominated autumn sales.
So in the coming few weeks prepare to be overwhelmed with unisex advertising, sales pitches and over-eager sprayers in department stores.
Personally, I'll be staying clear.
I mean come on, soon we won't be allowed to call ourselves men and women.
In recent weeks, we've heard how one top high street store has had to introduce unisex changing rooms because of a complaint from a London-based performance artist who was not allowed to use the female changing facilities.
Now the store has gender-neutral changing facilities..
And we're being told that unisex scent is the way to go this Christmas.
I don't know about anyone else but personally I like sweet, flowery scents and I have a number of perfumes I love and even when I say I'm going to change, I end up going back to the same ones because I just adore them.
And another thing, I'm not going to apologise for liking to smell `girly', why should I? There's nothing wrong with that.
Why on earth would I want to smell toasty with spicy top-notes?
Or why would I dab a fragrance on my wrist that smells of woodsmoke and leather?
Apparently, this Christmas, we can look forward to unisex scents which smell dry and earthy while tobacco, which is usually linked with men's aftershave, is now being used in fragrances worn by women too.
Come on, get real.
According to the experts there has been a general move away from floral scents for women.
Well, nobody told me.
Thierry Wasser, the in-house perfumer for Guerlain, said: "I do not believe in rules. And when you do know the rules, how exciting it is to bend them" while Tom Daxon, son of a Molton Brown creative director, added: "Telling 50 per cent of your potential market they shouldn't be wearing your fragrance doesn't make sense on any level to me".
Andrea Rickard, from The Perfume Shop, said sales of unisex scents were up 24 per cent compared with last year.
"We're seeing equal numbers of men and women buying some perfumes, such as Tom Ford Black Orchid, where the ingredients — dark chocolate, incense, amber, vanilla and vetiver — cross over between men's and women's fragrance".
Oh dear, I don't like what I'm hearing.
And besides, I can't imagine Darren and I ever wearing the same fragrance - I really think it would get quite sickening to be honest.
I like my hubby to smell like a man and don't think I'd be too happy to find him smelling sugary.
Then there's the likelihood of more bathroom fights in the morning because the man in your life has pinched your bottle of fragrance - which just sounds wrong.
To be honest, I really don't think this fad is for me.
Let this be a warning to anyone thinking of buying me a fragrance this Christmas - I'll be sticking to my sweet, floral scents.
Call me traditional or stuck behind the times, but I want to wear a women's perfume, not one made for men and women.
Therefore, I'll be sticking by my old faithfuls - you can keep your wasabi and wet cobblestones.
So, who fancies winning a thrilling page-turner, which has been described as “breathtakingly suspenseful”?
Written by a Finnish-Estonian novelist and playwright, Sofia Oksanen, `Norma' is said to be "addictive" and "powerful".
When Anita Naakka jumps in front of an oncoming train, her daughter Norma is left alone with the secret they have spent their lives hiding.
Norma has supernatural hair, sensitive to the slightest changes in her mood— and the moods of those around her— moving of its own accord, corkscrewing when danger is near.
And so it is her hair that alerts her, while she talks with a strange man at her mother's funeral, that her mother may not have taken her own life.
Setting out to reconstruct Anita's final months—sifting through puzzling cell phone records, bank statements, video files—Norma begins to realise that her mother knew more about her hair's powers than she let on: a sinister truth beyond her daughter's imagining.
I have five copies of `Norma' by Sofia Oksanen to give away to five lucky readers.
If you fancy winning a copy, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to email@example.com
Closing date for entries is Tuesday, November 28, 2017
(Q) What wrote Norma?
Normal Irish News Rules Apply
TV - It's been reported that comedy actress, Mindy Kaling is working on a new TV version of hit film Four Weddings and a Funeral. The TV version of the 1994 rom com, which starred Hugh Grant, will reportedly follow a group of friends through the five events of the title.
Christmas Caper - If you fancy a night out this festive season, check out ‘The Nightshift before Christmas' at the Theatre At The Mill. Starring Caroline ‘Maggie Muff' Curran and Julie Maxwell, the show promises to be a madcap medical caper full of colourful characters and seasonal twists and turns. Check out www.theatreatthemill.com
Comedy - Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg return to cinemas today in the sequel, Daddy's Home 2 and if it's as good as the first, it will be a fun night out. Mel Gibson and John Lithgow also star.
Bah-Humbug - I can't stand people being so mean about Christmas and so negative about festive music and Christmas adverts and gifts and trees. I'd prefer that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Take your Bah-Humbug somewhere else.
Music - I'm usually a fan of her music but I am turning the radio station over every time Rita Ora's Anywhere comes on. I can't believe it actually got to Number One. Come on Rita, you can do so much better.
Study - A new US study has found that teenagers who spend five hours a day on smartphones and electronic devices face a greater danger of depression. The research found that just five hours in front a screen raises the risk by 71 per cent.
The winners of the In Dust and Ashes competition are: Sheila Mallon, Belfast; Bronac O'Connell, Portglenone;
Siobhan McGurk, Castlewellan; Gretta McCambridge, Belfast; Margaret McStravick, Newtownabbey.
Easy Peasy Recipe
This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
You will need:
2/3 cup softened butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1.5 cups rolled oats
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn baking soda
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
2/3 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius/Gas Mark 5
In a bowl, mix the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy and then beat in the eggs one at a time.
In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, and baking soda and stir into the butter mixture.
Stir in the dried cranberries and white chocolate.
Use a tablespoon to dollop onto a lined baking tray.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Remove from oven
Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?
Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?
If so, then we want to hear from you.
You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:
Easy Peasy Recipes,
Marie Louise McConville,
113-117 Donegall Street,