Coping with long distance friendship.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

When most people discuss long distance relationships, it usually comes down to romantic relationships.  That can be hard, for obvious reasons, but what about long distance friendships? 

Those who know me reasonably well will know that my best friend doesn’t even live on the same continent as me, let alone in the same country or same town.  Kate and I met when we were studying abroad in Kyoto, and have been emotionally inseparable ever since.  We haven’t seen each other in person for what will be four years this January, and that can be tough to swallow sometimes.  During December I can get a little bit down about it, because as homesick as I felt when I was living in Japan during Christmas time, in retrospect the Christmas I spent with Kate going to the flea market on a frosty winter’s day was one of my favourite Christmasses to date.  Our New Year’s Eve spent dancing around her bedroom together getting drunk off chuuhai ('STRONG Lemon' flavour, of course) is also an amusing and cherished memory!  Who knows when we’ll be able to do something like that together again?  There are times when we’ll be going through the motions or experiencing something that we feel that only the other can really relate to, sympathise with or even just understand, but all we’re ever able to offer in the way of support is online message-based words of love and comfort thanks to the massive expanse of ocean between us.  The one person we want to be able to call up on the phone or drive over to see, we can’t.

Even in the age that we live in where almost everyone is online and connected, and national boundaries and geography are blurred, there are people that can’t really comprehend close but long-distance friendships.  How can you be best friends with someone you never see?  Well, easily.  Just because someone lives on the other side of the world doesn’t mean you can’t talk to the all the time – rarely does a day go by when Kate and I don’t at least exchange a few messages.  If we wake up upset in the middle of the night or early in the morning, we’ll still message each other to vent and the other just responds when they can.  That’s the beauty of the internet, even with distance and time differences, we can still communicate effectively on a daily basis.

For most people who talk or blog about long distance relationships – be they romantic or platonic – it’s all about counting down the days until you see each other next, but for us that’s uncertain and still barely a possibility.  When neither party can afford a £600+ per person trip to the US or UK, the outlook is bleak and you can’t just rely on crossing days off a calendar until you next get to meet up.  Instead, you have to make the most of what you have together and not get caught up in the idea that you need to see each other and the disappointment and hopelessness that comes when you don’t really know when you will.

I’m sure that we’re not the only people who are disappointedly stuck in a different country to our bestie, but even so, there are plenty of things that you can do to stay close to each other.  I already mentioned our daily chats, but this can be taken a step further if you both have smartphones or WhatsApp and the like.  I’m hopefully getting a used iPhone over the Christmas period, and once I do I’ll be able to chat and text or Skype call friends who live abroad when I’m out and about, as though they were just living down the street to me like anyone else.  Time differences can still be a pain depending on where your friends live, but knowing that they’re as much on the other end of your phone as your friends and family in your own city or country can make a world of difference.

Cards and gifts are also a fun way to brighten each other’s days – this year and last year, Kate and I agreed to do cruelty free makeup swaps since there are a few brands in our respective countries that are harder for the other to get a hold of.  We’ve sent each other little gifts and cards in the past too, and if you’re living in the UK like me and it costs an arm and a leg to post anything bigger than a letter to your friends abroad, then try just ordering gifts for them straight off websites from the country they live in!  You end up only paying a couple quid for delivery instead of the ridiculous amounts we get charged just posting something via the Post Office. 

As long as you’re talking as often as you can and offering one another support as often as you can, there’s no reason why you can’t stay close and love each other as much as you did when you were physically together.  Communication is key in long distance friendships as in any relationship – if something is bothering you, if you feel neglected, if you’re concerned for the other person and want to let them know you’re there for them then talk to them.  Even if you think you’ll sound stupid, just tell them because unless you talk to them, they’ll be living in the dark.  When you can’t let your actions speak for you instead as you might in a normal friendship, actually speaking to each other is all the more vital for maintaining your relationship.

I won’t lie and say it isn’t hard, because it is.  Not being able to go to your friend’s house with cookies or cocktails when they’re feeling down is tough, as is not having them around in person to lean on when you’re going through a difficult time, but it doesn’t mean that your friendship will be any less fulfilling and rewarding than one that’s face-to-face every day.  We’re as much a part of each other’s lives as any of our local friends; my mum and partner ask about how Kate and her husband are getting on, how their move up north went, what they’re doing for the holidays.  Acquaintances and other friends may not get it; they might be confused when they finally click that the best friend that you talk about all the time doesn’t even live anywhere near you.  The other important people in my life though, they know just how important Kate and her hubz are to me and to these folk and to me, it’s no different to any other friendship.

Mostly, you have to have faith in each other.  Seeing each other again might seem like an impossible pipe dream at times, but if you have confidence that your friendship is strong and unwavering, if you’ve survived the goodbyes and the distance and the hard times so far already, then you can have hope that you’ll meet again one day.  It might be next year, it might be in ten years, it might be when we’re sassy little old ladies with elaborate faux fur coats and brightly coloured hair swapping photos of our grandkids – whenever it may be, we know we can weather the storm of long distance and we’ll see each other again.  And if we don’t, sad as that may be, it doesn’t mean we don’t still love each other and that our friendship won’t have brought us immeasurable amounts of joy.

You don’t have to see someone every day – or even ever again – to always be in their heart.

Do you have a long distance friend?  Got any tips on how you keep in touch and try to feel closer to them?

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day in Photos

Monday, 28 December 2015

Apologies for the late post, but it's a busy time of year!  Our holidays are always a little bit jam-packed with travelling and seeing all kinds of different people.  My family is from Norwich, my other half's family is from Nottingham but with relatives spread out in a couple of other cities, and we live down in Surrey - you can imagine how much money we have to spend on petrol to get around and visit everyone!  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent with the other half's parents and sister though, and I thought I'd share some of the photos I took while we were there.

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year to practice indoor photography and that is 99.99% because I love all of the pretty lights and shiny objects.  This year I got back to playing around with manual mode (I got pretty good with it a couple of years ago but since then I've been extremely lazy and can't be bothered to use it) and taking photos of the ornaments in Chris's parents' tree.

They have so many different colours and textures in the tree and the whole hours is just decorated beautifully for the holidays!  Apparently it used to be even more festive when my other half and his sister were younger.  There are lots of fairy lights, lots of little decorations, and his mum even has little Christmas clothes for the demon birds in their dining room and the naughtily posed lady statue in their kitchen.

Much the same as most of the UK, it wasn't particularly Christmassy weather.  I can't believe that Christmas has been and gone and it's been hovering around 15°C the entire time!  Even so, it did manage to spit out a little bit of hail (much to our surprise) on Christmas Eve.  The weather tried... talk about an almost Christmas miracle.

As with most other households on Christmas, the main event is always food, food, food.  I was lucky enough to spend my first vegan Christmas with wonderful people who did everything they could to accommodate me - Chris's mum basically did a vegan alternative of everything for me from mince pies to potato salad, and she set aside bits and pieces of other items for me before she added cheese or meat etc. to them.  I was worried about having to slot myself in and eat what I could over the holidays, but I had no shortage of food and I feel so grateful that they went to all that trouble.

Christmas Eve food was a lovely chestnut and lentil soup (with a vegan cream swirl for me), followed by various bits and nibbles.  The others had cheeses, pork pies etc. and I had breads, salads, falafel, a butternut squash salad and more.  I also brought my own invention for Christmas - a cranberry and apple crumble pie!  I'll probably post a recipe of it at some point, but I was amazed by how well it turned out and how it basically tasted exactly like Christmas in pie form.  It went down a treat and I'm now very glad I made too much and have an extra pie ferreted away in our freezer at home.

Christmas Eve was nice and laidback, although we all agreed that we maybe would've benefited from going for a walk or out to the pub in the evening.  Spending many, many hours in the same warm room with a full belly and lots of booze doesn't do a whole lot for your energy.

The next morning was spent opening stocking presents, enjoying a nice breakfast (mine was figs, berries, vegan yoghurt and warm bread) and then opening more presents.  I spent last Christmas with my other half's family too, and it's so much more relaxed and enjoyable than the Christmasses I'm used to.  Usually my mum and I only get a couple of hours alone at home before we have to get ready and get shipped off to my aunt's house, so it felt amazing to just be able to go at my own pace, wear pjs and leggings for the whole day and just be laid back in a cosy, familiar home.

OH's sister prepared a wonderful table of candles and lights and some festive woodland leaves and nuts that photographed amazingly well - it was a nightmare trying to pick my favourites of the table.

We had a starter before we had the main event; everyone else had salmon and prawns and a little salad and rye bread, and I had my own spiced avocado on rye.  I caved in to temptation and had a slice of smoked salmon; seafood is my weakness and much as others often feel guilty about trying the odd non-vegan or non-vegetarian thing every now and again, the world isn't going to end if I taste something that everyone else has already paid for and started eating anyway.  And honestly, I'm really glad I did try it because although smoked salmon used to be one of my favourite foods, I didn't like it as much as I used to.  It was nice, but wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it, and now I can go about my vegan life without coveting seafood and wondering what I'm missing out on.  I enjoyed my avocado way more!

Christmas dinner was a whole host of vegan treats!  I had brussel sprouts with chestnuts, the usual veggies, a red cabbage slaw, vegan stuffing, roasted parsnips and potatoes, vegan sausages and the main event of a mushroom, chestnut and white truffle oil wellington.  If I hadn't been so full, I would've kept shovelling down that wellington because wow, it was amazing!  I've never really been a Christmas dinner person - I could never be bothered with turkey and the dinners always made me feel ill anyway - but if this is what I can expect from now on, I'm converted.  And as much as I ate and as full as I was, at least I can take comfort in knowing that most of what I ate was way healthier than what most people eat for the holidays.

The rest of Christmas was spent with drinks and more snacks and lots of games and amusement.  On Boxing Day we drove off to visit Chris's nanny and go for a meal with her and the rest of his family, and then from there we went to our second Christmas with my mum.  It's hard to believe that it's all over now, but I think it's been one of my favourite Christmasses to date and I don't feel like I missed out at all by being vegan.  Plus, I got a pretty amazing haul of gifts from everyone that I might share in a few days time - we'll see anyway, I'm not much of a haul blogger just because I worry that it's going to come across as bragging...

I hope you enjoyed the photos and that you had a wonderful holiday!

Review / The Vegan Kind Box TVK26

Sunday, 20 December 2015

I feel like I started subscribing to The Vegan Kind at such a good time, I've been so impressed by all of their boxes so far and after their last anniversary box I wasn't sure I'd be too impressed with anything after it, but luckily I was wrong.  Their December box is just as special and nice and festive to boot, and there's even an item that's exclusive to this month's box!

10p from every December box sold goes to the no-kill sanctuary F.R.I.E.N.D. Animal Rescue in Kent, and this month's recipe is for a chocolate orange ganache with coconut chantilly cream which sounds incredible.

The first item I have to share is the Sticky Mix Oat and Cranberry Cookie Mix (335g, RRP £6.00), which is a brand that I've seen in other peoples' boxes before I started subscribing.  All you need to do with these is add a bit of water and your preferred butter substitute and boom, 12 delicious cookies!  I made these this weekend and both the other half and I were really impressed by the taste and texture of them - they were just sweet enough, but not too sweet, and were wonderfully chewy.  That said, at a whopping £6.00 I would never buy these for myself.  I bake quite often and I enjoy doing it, so paying that much basically just for the convenience of not having to measure out all of the ingredients is so not worth it for me.

The next two things I was extremely excited about when I saw them because I've been drinking a fair bit of hot chocolate now that the weather is cooler (or, as cool as this abnormally warm winter has been).  The Sweet Freedom Choc Shot Orange Spice (320g, RRP £3.50) is an orange spiced version of the Choc Shots that I've seen are super popular and that I've been wanting to try since I became vegan.  It has sweet orange and cardomom, and can be stirred into hot non-dairy milk or can be drizzled over porridge, desserts and whatever you'd like.  It's also 95% fat free and only has 14 calories per teaspoon!

To go with the tasty hot chocolate, TVK have also included some marshmallows!  Every box had either miniature or large Freedom Mallows Marshmallows (75g, RRP £2.49) and I'm really glad that I got the mini ones because I've been craving vegan marshmallows for my hot drinks.  I've been using both of these products in hot chocolates, and they're delicious together but also tasty separately.  The ChocShot is basically a liquid chocolate orange, and the marshmallows are easily the best marshmallows I've ever eaten.  I usually don't really like the texture of them, but I'd happily eat these Freedom Mallows on their own because the texture is gorgeous.  £2.49 does seem like a lot of money for a little bag of marshmallows though, so I'm not sure I'd buy them again myself.

One of the other boxes I tried had some Cocoa Libre chocolate in it and I was interested to try more of their stuff, lucky for me this box also had Cocoa Libre Dark Mint Chocolate Owls (40g, RRP £1.89) in it too!  They look really cute and mint chocolate is one of my favourite flavours.  The other half and I enjoyed these as after dinner mints, and just as you'd expect, they're very dark, minty and luxurious.  Definitely more of a grown up chocolate!

I'm no stranger to Nakd bars and I knew there was a Christmas pudding flavoured one so it was a great touch for them to add one to the Christmas box.  The Nakd Christmas Pud Bar (35g, RRP £1.00) is made of just fruit, nuts and Christmas spices to recreate the classic pudding flavours.  I love Nakd bars but I was a little bit disappointed that this was included, just because they're pretty common and are all over supermarkets now so it didn't really feel like something new and special I got to try.  Even so, it was still pretty nice and it really did taste like Christmas pudding (the only difference being that I hate Christmas pud and I actually quite enjoyed the Nakd bar).

I was really happy to find the Harper's Bizarre Not Even a Mouse Candle (RRP £5.00) at the bottom of my box - I love candles, and I love Christmas smelling candles even more.  This one is a really lovely mixture of sweet, cake scents and fruity, festive spice and it smells really amazing when burned.  As far as the strength of the smell goes, it's strong but not quite as strong and with as much bang for your buck as more expensive brands I've tried in the past, but it still lasts quite a long time and let's face it, any candle that smells like Christmas is a win in my book.

Yet another awesome box from The Vegan Kind!  What's your favourite item from box #26?

Favourite Festive Things

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

I’ve been finding it hard these past few years to get into the Christmas spirit for a variety of reasons, the main ones being working full time and not having the lead up to the holidays off work, and the weather being so unseasonably warm.  I don’t know about people living in other countries or further up north in the UK, but it was 15°C today in the middle of bloody December and it’s hard to feel Christmassy when it’s like this.

I’ve seen a few other people do festive posts about things they like to do around the holidays, or their favourite things about Christmas, so I thought I’d join in and try to get myself into the festive spirit.  And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been struggling a bit with getting posts prepared this month because of the bad lighting and a general lack of ideas, so uh, I needed a bit of a quickie.  

So, here are some of my holiday highlights!

Watching cheesy Christmas movies.  Usually I’m not much of a fan of really cheesy or just objectively rubbish movies, but there’s something about Christmas films that’s just always enjoyable in some way, whether they’re a quality piece of cinema or utter trash!  This year we’ve been enjoying watching a few random ones we hadn’t heard of that we happened to find on Prime, and it’s been really nice getting into the spirit of the holidays with movies that are less well known and that we don’t know inside and out.

Getting cosy on cold nights by the Christmas tree lights.  This might be less of a thing at the moment given how mild it’s been, but there are few things that give a warmer, fuzzier feeling than cuddling up in a nice soft blanket under the glow of your tree’s fairy lights.  Bonus points if the blanket is faux fur.

Spiced treats, mulled wines and festive foods.  I’m pretty much obsessed with all things cinnamon, nutmeg and clove every month of the year, but it’s especially wonderful to indulge in all kinds of spiced foods and drinks when it’s chilly out and all of the decorations are up.  This year I’ve been loving my vegan gingerbread and mince pies, and I’ve also been really delighted to try the orange ChocShot I got in December’s The Vegan Kind box – so seasonally appropriate!

Snuggly jumpers and onesies.  I got my first onesie for Christmas last year (it’s a Stormtrooper one, in case you were wondering…) and since then I’ve been firmly converted and now think that onesies are the best thing to happen ever in winter.  I’m a snuggly jumper person all year round, but there’s something special about snuggly, obnoxious fluffy or patterned jumpers around Christmas time.

Blasting the Christmas music.  Wrapping up presents with some Christmas music on is one of my favourite ways to get in the festive mood.  My personal favourite album is a guilty pleasure from my childhood that my mum and I used to listen to every single year – the Hanson brothers Christmas album.  Yes, I’m serious.  It’s amazing.

Speaking of wrapping presents… Gift-wrapping is one of my favourite ‘jobs’ of the holidays!  Most people find it a chore, but I genuinely really enjoy doing it.  I do all of the wrapping in our house (except for my own presents, obvz) and I take way too much delight in making them look prettier than everyone else’s under the tree from picking out the prettiest paper to wrapping them in little bows.

Seeing my mum and Chris’s family.  Living where we do now and having limited time off work, I don’t see my mum nearly as much as I’d like too so Christmas is always special when I get to see her again.  We didn’t spend Christmas day together and we won’t this year either (we’ll be going to stay with her on Boxing Day instead) but it’s always so wonderful opening the door and seeing our house decked out like a grotto and my mum looking so happy and excited.  It’s also fun for me seeing my other half’s relatives – I’m really lucky to have such great in-laws who all love Christmas too!

It’s a good idea sometimes to take a step back and remember all of the little things that you love about the holiday season other than just the presents.  Although I do love the presents…

What are your favourite things about Christmas?  If you’re not a Christmas person, what are your favourite things about December or the winter holidays you celebrate?

Christmas Gift Ideas for Star Wars Fans

Sunday, 13 December 2015

With the fast approach of The Force Awakens release date and with Christmas on the horizon, it seemed like an appropriate time to do a gift guide of my own, with a dorkier twist.  I’m calling this a gift guide, but to be perfectly honest it’s as much of a wish list for myself as a gift guide for Star Wars fans.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for merch.  Of course, this is only a tiny fraction of some of the amazing finds out there at the moment - even your standard supermarkets are stocking some awesome Star Wars stuff right now in preparation for the new movie!

So, if you'd like a bit of inspiration for gifts to get the Star Wars lover in your life, or you're keeping an eye out for fun merch for yourself, read on!

1. The Vader Pleather Jacket ($65 from Her Universe) is on the more expensive side of things, but how beautiful is it?  The detailing is fantastic and it just looks so badass.  The Imperial logo on the back is killer.

2. I have a few little items of Star Wars origin in my kitchen and I would never say no to more.  The Death Star Worktop Saver (£12 from Debenhams) would look cute as hell, but the only thing that bugs me is that I hate glass chopping boards and worktop protectors.  For someone else though, this would make a great gift.  There are tons of other Star Wars kitchen utensils out there too for fellow geek cooks, from silicone moulds to glasses and kitchen timers.

3. Another ridiculously awesome thing from Debenhams (they're killing it with their Star Wars merchandise lately!) is this fantastic red Darth Vader Christmas jumper (£35 from Debenhams).  They have a green Rebel Alliance version featuring Yoda and some festive Tauntauns too, but my heart always lies with that villain aesthetic.

4.  You can never have too many mugs, and this Captain Phasma mug (£8 from Debenhams) is both really unique looking and a great gift for anyone who is as excited for the new movie as I am and who is psyched to see Gwendoline Christie kick ass in her new role.

5. Key covers are a great little stocking stuffer, and who could say no to the Millenium Falcon and BB-8?  (£5 from Debenhams)  I promise I don't have shares in Debenhams, I just really like all of their Star Wars stuff...

6.  Socks always get a really bad rap as a Christmas present, but honestly I love getting socks for Christmas because I'd usually never buy them for myself, even better if they're fun, printed ones!  You can't go wrong with TIE Fighter and Millenium Falcon socks (£7.50 from Marks & Spencer).

7.  I always love everything on Think Geek and Her Universe but I never order anything any more, because when I do I always end up saddled with customs charges that make just shipping it cost more than the items itself.  Still, I'd be tempted to break my rule to order this BB-8 Infinity Scarf ($24.99 from Think Geek) because BB-8 infinity scarf.

I hope this either gave you a few ideas or helped you find a few things you wanted to add to your wishlist!  I've left it a little late to order anything like this from abroad, but hey, if I get any gift cards or money for the holidays, I know what I might like to spend it on!

Do you have a Star Wars fan to shop for this year?  Have any of the new Star Wars items out there caught your eye?

I'm exactly like other girls.

Friday, 11 December 2015

We’ve all seen it, we’ve all thought it: I’m not like those other girls.  It’s an attitude I see less as I’ve grown up and matured myself, but back in the day it was like I couldn’t go a day without other women and girls proudly proclaiming how different they were from ‘other girls’, distancing themselves from them, myself included.  Teenage me would’ve been the first to shout from the rooftops that I’m not like other girls – “I’m not into makeup and iPhones and fashion magazines or staying out late drinking!  I like reading and staying in and writing and doing constructive things, not like them.  I’m one of the guys!”  It would’ve been said with a tinge of distaste in my voice and a desire to put up a wall between myself and the idea of ‘other girls’, lest I be packaged up into the same box as them.  Being grouped with ‘other girls’ is, after all, an insult because ‘other girls’ are inferior, with inferior interests and inferior intellect.

I may never have said as much and I sure as hell wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it was subconsciously what I was thinking.  I was one of many that chose to see other women – particularly outgoing, feminine women – as enemies who were an ugly caricature of party girls and vapid idiots who were more interested in lip gloss than politics and only pretended to like video games for the attention of men.  I wasn’t like that, of course.  I was more comfortable in the company of men, because I wasn’t like other girls.  I didn’t get along with other girls, because of all that drama, drama, drama.  Other girls are just so catty… save for the select few that I decided were also not like other girls, and were therefore worth befriending.  Just them though, not all the other girls.

It took me a long time to grow up and stop seeing myself as a unique and special snowflake and to start seeing other women as more than just competition or offensive, two dimensional ideas of women that I’d been fed while growing up, through interactions with friends and family and in the media.  Helped along by society’s notions that masculinity and masculine interests are seen as good and worthwhile, while femininity and feminine interests are inherently less valuable, we get these stereotypes of ‘girly’ girls – the ones who enjoy gossip and clothes and makeup – stuck in our heads, and many of us who decided that we aren’t like that aggressively try (or tried) to separate ourselves from those caricatures of feminine women.  The feminine women who couldn’t possibly actually be intelligent, who couldn’t possibly have any depth beyond their vanity or fashion magazines, who couldn’t possibly have nerdy interests for themselves instead of for male attention.  The feminine women who couldn’t possibly be just like us.

What we don’t realise growing up and what many of us still fail to realise well into adulthood though, is that these ‘other girls’ are just as three dimensional and multi-faceted as we are.

I’m more than just my interest in make-up and the fact that I take ages to get ready in the morning, or the fact that I enjoy a good Starbucks every now and again or the fact that I like shopping and fashion.  Meeting me for the first time, I’d probably be exactly like these much maligned ‘other girls’ that apparently run rampant anywhere and everywhere, but when you dig a little deeper and actually have a conversation with me, you might learn that I love Star Wars and have done since childhood, that my preferred aesthetic is urban witch, that if I had the time and money I’d love to retrain as an aerospace engineer or air accident investigator, that I’m a feminist and I keep up-to-date with politics and current events, and that I have a plan for the zombie apocalypse.  There are plenty of women who will never learn any of that about me though, even if we would’ve had loads in common, because they can’t get past that their initial perception that I’m ‘just like other girls’.

It goes without saying that I’m not dragging women who happen to just end up good friends with more men than women, or who genuinely have nothing in common with the other women in their lives – that’s cool, whatever spices your pumpkins.  The problem is when we refuse to even give other women the time of day because of our own perceived ideas of gender and femininity and what certain ‘types’ of women are like.  Not giving other women a chance based wholly on the fact that you’re ‘not like other girls’ and they are ‘like other girls’ and like girly things and look or act a certain way just closes doors to possible friendships that could be lasting and loving and fulfilling before you’ve even peeked inside.  It may be that you’re nothing alike and don't get on, and that’s fine, but other girls are more than just ‘other girls’ and shouldn’t be treated as a bizarre hive mind, where if you don’t get on with one or two of them, you can’t possibly like any of them. 

I am like other girls, and I’m proud of it.  Other girls are outgoing and introverted, strong-willed and cautious, anxious and confident.  They’re scientists, models, writers, stylists, designers, pilots, parents, entrepreneurs and anything and everything in between.  Leave your preconceived ideas of what other women are or aren’t at the door, and open yourself up to embracing your fellow ladies – we’re all ‘other girls’, we’re all in it together and I promise we don’t bite.  (Unless you’re into that.)

Review / Sleek Solstice Highlighting Palette

Monday, 7 December 2015

What with my new found love of highlighters, it was only right that I treated myself to one of Sleek's new palettes when I discovered that I had an absurd amount of points to spend in Boots that I'd forgotten about.  Did any others cruelty free folk just forget Boots existed after Superdrug became cruelty free?  Because I did; I hardly ever shop there any more except for when my local one has more choice or better offers on Barry M!

Anyway, Sleek have released a few different highlighting palettes, and the one I chose was, to be honest, more influenced by the name of the palette and the individual shades than anything else.  So, I picked Solstice, which has vaguely space-related colour names - I am a sucker for space and the word Solstice makes me think of my dream life living as a modern witch in the woods (with a good wifi connection) befriending animals with my best friend.

(Enjoying the awkward reflection of my bedspread?)  The packaging itself is very lovely to look at; most of Sleek's palettes are black and suitably 'sleek', so I wasn't expecting it to be a nice, shiny gold when I opened up the box.  It's a reasonably sturdy palette, however it doesn't seem to secure itself closed, nor does it have a magnetic seal, so I would worry about it staying shut if I had it knocking about in my bag. 

The packaging also comes with a handy mirror that's a decent size.  There two baked, one shimmer powder and one cream shade, and they come with a little brush that I imagine very few people who are really into highlighters and make-up would actually use as it's not particularly great, but I suppose it would do in an emergency!

From top left to right, the colours are:
Ecliptic - neutral, pale bronze (cream)
Hemisphere - cool-toned pink (baked)
Subsolar - champagne (powder)
Equinox - coppery gold (baked)

In retrospect, I probably wouldn't have picked this for myself based on the colours alone just as they aren't really ones I would think to reach for normally.  I don't really do baby pinks and the copper looks a bit much, although the other two are pretty appealing to at first glance.

(Top to bottom: Equinox, Subsolar, Hemisphere, Ecliptic) Despite my reservations though, they look fantastic swatched!

Ecliptic is probably my favourite in the pan, but it's taken a bit of practice to get it to work well on my skin just because I'm not really used to using a cream highlight.  Dabbing it gently onto my skin and building it up and blending with my finger has been my preferred method so far; I find the warmth from my finger blends this one much better than a brush or sponge.  It's also a darker shade than I'm used to, so while it isn't as striking as some of the lighter shades, it gives a lovely, natural radiance to my skin.  Although I'm very fair-skinned myself, I would avoid this one as a highlight if you're paler than me, as it might look a bit strange, but it'd look killer used as an eye shadow on anyone.  Plus, if you have darker, cool-toned skin, this would probably look amazing as a normal highlight on you.

Hemisphere is probably the one I'll get the least use out of just because, as I said, I'm not the biggest fan of pale or baby pinks.  That said, it looks beautiful lightly washed over a natural pink blush or dusted over the cheekbones for a luminous, youthful glow.  I'm not crazy about baked products either, but this one is lovely and soft to work with, easily blended and very pigmented, as you can see from the swatch photo.

Subsolar is the most versatile both in formula and in shade.  A soft, buttery powder, it's very easy to apply and to work with, and with it being a light, warm champagne shade, it will suit almost all skin tones and go with a number of different looks.  I think I actually prefer using this to my Mary Loumanizer, and it also makes a beautiful inner corner highlight.

Equinox I am still admittedly trying to figure out a good use for, but I bet it would look amazing for more bronzed, summery looks and for use as an eye shadow or patted onto a red or dark lip, and may also look great on people with darker, warmer complexions than me.

Although the colours may not have been quite what I'd normally buy for myself, Sleek have definitely lived up to their usual standards with this palette - much like the eye shadow palettes and blushes I've tried, there's a hell of a lot of pigmentation for your money and each shade will go a long way.  Although the packaging is gorgeous to look at, it looses points from me for not feeling as sturdy as some of the other palettes of theirs I've used that properly click into place to seal shut; we'll see if my worries are warranted or not after I take it away with me over Christmas!

If you're just dipping your toe into highlighting and want a palette to try out a few different colours and formulas, I'd definitely recommend giving one of these a go as I imagine they'd be a great starter product for beginners, and they're extremely affordable for the quality you get.  The Solstice Palette is cruelty free and vegan, and is available for £10 on their website and £9.99 on Boots and Superdrug online and in store.

Have you tried any of Sleek's highlighting palettes?

Month in Review / November 2015

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

November has been another iffy month for me; I don't know if it's seasonal affective disorder, the state of the world and our political climate or the fact that my luck has just been pretty low lately, but autumn has just been a huge let down.  After several breakdowns and feeling sorry for myself, I finally snapped, decided to look for a new job and wrote a couple of applications (one of which I now have an interview for).  I haven't really done a whole lot to report, besides that.  I went to visit my mum up in Norwich and we had a great time there - I enjoyed meals from the first dedicated vegan menu that I've ever been able to try at The Belgian Monk, and all the beers in the restaurant were vegan too!  I'm planning on writing about it when I get a chance, and it goes without saying that we're already planning a trip back.

The handful of positive experiences aside, I've spent most of the month just counting down the days until the end of November and start of December because that's when I knew good things would start to come my away again and I'd have something to look forward to, which is a shame since usually I love October and November.  This year though, I'm not sad to see it go and ring in December instead.

Post of the month: My review of Sleek Makeup's Barekissed Illuminator in the shade Monaco.

Films & TV...
  • The OH and I watched a few more episodes of the new The Muppets series (have you cottoned on to the fact that we really like the Muppets yet?).  If you haven't seen it I definitely recommend it, it's basically the Muppets meets the Office so it's hilarious.
  • We've started our countdown to The Force Awakens by watching one Star Wars movie every weekend until the new film comes out!  We've done The Phantom Menace through to The Empire Strikes Back so far.
  • I've been catching up on Nashville, which I would say is a guilty pleasure except that I don't even remotely feel guilty because it's a fucking great show.
  • I've also been trying to get back into The Walking Dead.  I do love shows where no one is safe but there's always the odd death in TWD that just makes me hold my hands up and say 'nope, I'm done'... at least for a while.  
Edible things...
  •  I made a pumpkin pie!  I'll be sharing the recipe some time in the next couple of months or so.  I'd never made a pumpkin pie before and it was incredible, so I was really impressed with myself.
  • I didn't make them this month, but I did finally post my recipe for pumpkin spice cinnamon buns.
  • Towards the end of this month I've been experimenting with vegan gingerbread cookies and I'm excited to share them in December.
Worth a read or watch...
I hope you've had a better November than I have, but at least things seem to be looking up for December - I'm already feeling pretty festive!  And let's be real, it's going to be 90% Star Wars month and 10% Christmas month for me.

Are you getting excited for December and the holidays yet?

Review / The Vegan Kind Box TVK25

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The latest The Vegan Kind box was a pretty special one - it was their 2nd birthday!  Naturally, the anniversary box was filled with extra special goodies and I think it's been the best one I've received so far (not that I've received that many yet).

The recipe card is for really tasty sounding 'Cheesy' Leek & Broccoli Tartlets by Coconut & Berries which I'm looking forward to trying when I finally get a hold of some nutritional yeast.  The charity of the month is the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which is a particularly important one to donate money to at this time of year because so many hedgehogs and small animals can end up hurt or killed because of bonfires and fireworks.

As for the treats in the box, there were eight different items this month!

Three of the products are from the same company - Quinola Mothergrain (150g each for £1.99).  These are little quinoa-based ready meals that only need 30 seconds in the microwave and come in a variety of different flavours.  The ones included in this box was Tex Mex, Mediterranean and Thai flavoured and I took all of mine to work with me for lunches.  The convenience of them is amazing - considering I'm super lazy and hate having to prepare meals for the next day at work, being able to just chuck one in my bag and go is great.  I tried the Thai one first and it was nice but nothing special, and didn't really taste particularly Thai-inspired to me.  The Tex Mex and Mediterranean ones were lovely though, and all of them filled me up until dinner time.  Being a cheapskate and these costing £1.99 each RRP I probably won't be buying any myself, but I'm glad I got to try them out.

The first thing I saw when I opened the box was this big bag of Ten Acre Hand 'The Story of When the Cheese met the Onion' Crisps (135g, £1.99) and damn I was excited!  Since going vegan, cheese and onion, sour cream and chive etc. crisps and pretzels and so on have been one of my most missed things, so these arrived at just the right time.  The crisps are very similar to Kettle Chips; they're a bit hard and very crispy, and very delicious, and although the flavouring wasn't quite as strong as some non-vegan brands you wouldn't have a clue that these didn't have any real dairy products in.  I will definitely be buying these again!

TVK25 included not one but two big bars of chocolate!  The first one I tried was the iChoc Choco Cookie Chocolate Bar (80g, £2.00) which is made of rice milk and crispy chocolate biscuits.  I was looking forward to trying it but I was a bit worried it was going to be too rich and too sweet, but luckily for me that wasn't the case at all.  It was sweet, obviously, but let's just say I managed to eat almost the whole bar without feeling sick afterwards...

The other bar was the Cocoa Libre Honeycomb Chocolate Slab (100g, £3.95) and I think this was probably my favourite out of the two.  This was again made with rich milk but had a darker chocolate flavour to it and had a bit of a honey kick to it (although it doesn't contain real honey or anything non-vegan).  All in all, both of these bars were absolutely delicious and probably the nicest vegan chocolate I've tried so far.

The last products in this month's box were a Hurraw! Black Cherry Tinted Lip Balm (£4.49) and one of The Vegan Kind's own 'Be Kind, Go Vegan' rubber wristbands (£1.99).  I was thrilled to find the Hurraw! balm - they're my favourite vegan lip brand so far and all of the flavours I've tried are incredible!  The tinted one isn't one I would've chosen myself as I don't tend to wear tinted lip balms, but it was at least one I haven't bought before and the smell is incredible.   The tint is also very subtle and just adds a bit of extra rosiness, so I've actually quite taken to it.  All of their balms are organic, vegan, cruelty free and made from raw, cold-pressed ingredients and they're very nourishing and great for the lips.

The bracelet is a lovely little bonus too, although I'm not much of a wristband person so I probably won't be wearing it very often.  For now though, I've found a nice little spot on my dressing table to show off my ethics instead.

I'm really happy with this month's box and by the sounds of it, so is pretty much everyone else.  Here's hoping TVK includes more tasty cheese and onion products in the future!

Once, twice, three months a vegan.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

It's been just over three months or so since I first started eating vegan (I began to switch over properly a while before I posted about it online and started actually calling myself a vegan), so I just thought I'd write a quick update and let everyone know how I'm getting on.

One of the things that omnivores always bring up whenever anyone mentions vegetarianism or veganism is 'but won't you miss bacon/cheese/dairy/etc.?!' and honestly, I haven't really noticed much of a difference.  Once you get used to eating a particular diet, it becomes normal and you don't find yourself gravitating towards your old favourites as much as you used to, in the same way that just switching over to a healthier diet means that you don't crave fatty or sugary foods as often.  I used to always want cheese and crackers, but now I always want chutneys or hummus, olives etc. for example.  When I cook bacon for my partner now, it seems I'm at the stage where even the smell and look of even bacon just doesn't even remotely appeal to me any more, and I used to love bacon.  I'm sure I'd still be okay with the taste, but I bet it won't be as nice as I remembered it and I don't really find it worth putting it into my body any more when it doesn't even feel all that great after I've eaten it.

One weird craving I have noticed though, is that I've been really lusting after fried chicken?!  I never even ate it that much when I was eating meat and never particularly wanted it when I was pescatarian and vegetarian either, so I don't know what that's all about.  I haven't really found a substitute for it either so that's probably part of why I find myself thinking about it quite often.  One thing I will say though, is that when I do think about or want meat or dairy or eggs, it's always in a junk food or comfort food or convenience scenario.  It's not that I really need it or that my body even wants it, it's that I just want to sit and shove something - anything - greasy and unhealthy down my throat.

I've been feeling pretty good health-wise; I certainly haven't noticed any ill-effects other than eating way too many baked goods because I've been experimenting in the kitchen so much!  I don't know for sure because I don't weigh myself, but I have a feeling that despite not going to the gym very much this past few months due to injury, I have still been losing a tiny bit of weight as well.  I'm less likely to bloat or feel sick from food, and I've been genuinely enjoying all of the healthy, nutritious meals I've been cooking.  I probably haven't eaten this well in my entire life and I regularly have my five portions of fruit or vegetables per day.  I am pretty tired at the moment but I don't think it's to do with my diet because I experienced the same long term fatigue last winter when I was still eating white meat and fish once every week or so, so I'm guessing it's the early mornings and change of weather and lighting instead.

I'm still making mistakes; at work I had some hot chocolate that was in the office without even thinking about it and then suddenly thought oh crap, I bet this has milk powder in it (it did).  I'm also not being super strict about it in restaurants and pubs and so on.  Having to ask for my meal to be changed or ask what's in things makes me extremely anxious (if everything was a self-checkout and I didn't have to speak to a human ever I would be over the moon) so instead I've just been opting for things that I'm 99% sure are vegan or that at least have no logical reason to not be vegan, without questioning exactly what's in it.  It could well be that the pizza doughs I've been enjoying have whey or egg in or that certain sauces are cooked with butter, but I'll cross that bridge when I feel ready.

In other circumstances, I just pick the vegetarian option or ask for things without cheese even if they may still contain butter or milk for example, because sadly plenty of places still don't even have one appetising vegan option on the menu, and there are just some situations where I can't be as vegan as I'd like.  At the end of last month when we went on a walk, we went back for some drinks and a meal at the pub we started the walk from, and every single item was non-vegan, but it being nearly 3pm and having not eaten anything since 10am and having been walking for two and a half hours, I wasn't really in the right mind or position to say no to food, so just had the next best thing.

I don't really feel guilty about not getting it right when I do screw up, it's more that I feel frustrated that it's even an issue in the first place.  It shouldn't be as difficult as it is to find just one decent item on a menu that doesn't have animal products in and I dread to think how difficult it is to eat out or buy ready made foods as it is for people who are horribly allergic to dairy, for example.  At least if I'm too much of an anxious weenie to ask for something to be made just for me, I can still eat something on the menu and not get sick.

People have been reacting reasonably well, although I do find myself getting annoyed by some comments.  There are those who seem to think that it's just a phase and like to keep reminding me that I don't have to stick to it and, well, I might not still be vegan in 1 or 5 or 10 years' time but you don't need to keep saying it and treating it like some trendy thing I decided to do on a whim.  I think some folks confuse veganism as an informed, ethical and environmental choice with just being on a fad diet or something that people need to be reminded that they don't have to follow.  My mum has been really sweet about it though, we're going to stay with her this weekend and she's already planning a vegan menu that we can all enjoy together and has been updating me on all of the vegan meals she's been cooking.

All in all, so far so good!  If you've gone veggie or vegan, how did you find your first few months of it?  Let me know!

Recipe / Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Buns

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Cinnamon buns have been one of my all time favourite sweet things since I was a little kid - I used to be obsessed with the ones you could get in a tube when I lived in the US, and that sticky sweet sauce you drizzle over the top.  I haven't really had proper cinnamon buns for years, since here usually the ones from supermarkets are made from flaky pastry instead of the nice, fluffy dough I'm more accustomed to.  So, with all of my forays into vegan baking, I decided that cinnamon buns were top of the list of things I should make, and what better thing to make at this time of year than pumpkin spiced ones?

This recipe is reasonably time-consuming because of both the dough and the pumpkin purée (if you choose to make it from scratch), so it's not something you can whip up in a hurry, but time it takes to let the dough rise or roast the pumpkin aside, it's otherwise simple enough and I bet most folks would find it pretty easy.  If you're not vegan, then you can obviously substitute the non-dairy ingredients with dairy ones.  So, if you're interested in seeing how I made these little (albeit slightly wonky) beauties, read on!

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Buns (v)
Makes 10 - 12 buns


For the dough:
1 pack of instant yeast
420g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp light brown sugar
3 tbsp non-dairy butter
225ml unsweetened non-dairy milk

For the filling:
3 tbsp puréed squash or pumpkin
45g dark brown sugar
2 - 3 tbsp melted non-dairy butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground or grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves


1. If you're making the pumpkin purée from scratch, start by skinning, de-seeding and chopping up either a pumpkin or a butternut squash depending on what's available to you.  Place the edible bits in a tray and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until softened and fully cooked through.  While you're doing this, you can start preparing the dough, or you can do it in advance.  Once it's cooked, leave it to cool, then add it to a food processor and blitz it until smooth.  A whole pumpkin or squash will make way more than you need for this recipe, but you can save it to use in other recipes, like making your own pumpkin spice coffee, or adding to to your morning oatmeal.

2. Heat the 3 tbsp of non-dairy butter (I use Pure Soya) with your non-dairy milk in a saucepan.  The milk can be whatever you prefer - soy, almond, oat - as long as it's unsweeted, although I would recommend not using coconut milk as the flavour may not match quite as well as the others.  Do not boil it - you just want it to be warm enough to melt and combine, then remove it from the heat and let it cool to about the temperature of bath water.  If you test it against your wrist and it still feels too hot, let it cool for a bit longer otherwise it'll kill the yeast.  Once cooled enough, pour it into a mixing bowl, add the yeast and let it sit for about 10 minutes while it activates.

3.  Add your sugar and salt to the mixture and stir.  Next, add the flour a couple of tablespoons at a time, gently stirring as you go.  It'll be pretty loose and sticky to start with, but as you add the flour it will thicken up into a dough that you then want to knead on a lightly floured surface until it forms into a less sticky ball.  Transfer it back to a clean mixing bowl greased with a little bit of oil (I use olive), cover it with clingfilm and a clean tea towel, and leave it somewhere warm to rise for about an hour or until it's doubled in size.

4.  Remove the dough for the mixing bowl, flour your surface again, and roll it out into a thin rectangle.  You want to get the dough maybe just under half a centimetre thick if you can, but any thinner and it might be a bit more fragile and difficult to deal with when you add the pumpkin spice mix in it later.

5.  Mix your 2 - 3 tablespoons of melted butter with your pumpkin purée and stir well until you have a buttery, pumpkin sauce.  Using a pastry brush, or gently spreading it with a spoon or knife, spread it over the dough from end to end, being careful not to layer it on too thick (you probably won't need to use all of your pumpkin mix, but you can save this to use in other recipes).  Mix the sugar and spices, and then dust all of it evenly over the dough.  I recommend dark brown or muscovado sugar for this as it has a more autumnal, treacley flavour but you don't have to if it's not your thing.

6.  Begin rolling your dough - I rolled mine length-ways so I had a longer roll and more buns, but you can roll it from shorter end and have fewer, fatter buns too if big buns are what spices your pumpkin.  You'll want to be careful rolling it, as you want it to be tightly rolled, but not so tight that it pushes the filling out as you're rolling.  (As you can see from the photos, mine are a little bit weirdly shaped because of issues with rolling it from I packing it too full!)  Once done, roll it over so the seam is underneath, and slice carefully with a serrated knife into even sections about 2 - 3cm thick.

7.  Place the rolls in either baking trays or glass, ovenproof dishes lined with baking paper.  It's okay if they're close enough to squidge together as they expand - it's better for keeping them moist and soft rather than going crispy all over.  Brush them with a bit more of your melted butter and pumpkin mixture, sprinkle with some extra cinnamon and cover them with clingfilm to rise for another 10 - 20 minutes while you preheat your oven to 180ºC.

8. Once the oven is hot enough and your rolls have risen a little bit more, whack them in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until a light, golden brown on top.  Leave them to cool, and then bon appetit.

9.  To make a quick frosting, mix 140g icing sugar with between 3 and 6 tablespoons of non-dairy milk until you get your desired consistency (the less milk, the thicker it will be).  For extra flavour, add a bit of vanilla essence, or more cinnamon or more pumpkin purée.

Hope you enjoyed this recipe, let me know if you give it a try!

Review / Sleek Barekissed Illuminator in Monaco

Sunday, 15 November 2015

I never used to be a highlighter or a shimmer kind of gal - give me matte as hell skin, blot every ounce of moisture out of my face and let me shrivel up into a glorious matte raisin and be one with the Atacama desert.  A while back though, I became much more open to the idea of dewier skin, and eventually I purchased highlighters and decided that, actually, I want people to be able to see my radiant cheekbones from the ISS.

I'd mostly been using powder highlighters until Sleek Makeup came out with their Barekissed Illuminator, and as soon as I saw that sweet liquid highlighter goodness I knew I had to try it!  Since my forays into dewier skin, I'd been wanting to compliment my liquid BB creams and foundation with a highlight to match, and Sleek's is the first affordable, cruelty free option I've seen around.  At £8.99 from Superdrug, it doesn't exactly break the bank and the bottle is a pretty decent size, too.  Sleek is cruelty free (but not Leaping Bunny certified) but unfortunately I didn't realise until after I purchased it that it's probably not vegan.

The brand website says:
"Achieve an envious glow with our collection of versatile liquid illuminators in four sunkissed shades.
  • Refresh and enhance your complexion with gorgeous light-reflecting pigments, perfect for all skin types and tones."

  • Can be mixed with foundation or applied directly to cheekbones, brow bones and the body."
There are four shades altogether; Cuba is more peach, Casablanca cool pink, Pompeii warm brown and Monaco is a sort of cool, champagne shade.  Monaco was the lightest and most neutral so both appeals to me the most and probably suits my skin tone the best, so that was the one I bought.  I find it a bit misleading that the brand says that these would suit any skin tone, because I honestly can't imagine any of the other three shades looking anything but awful on my vampire pale face, but I think they probably would look beautiful on darker skin tones.

The bottle is a nice quality glass bottle with a pump, and although I really like the pump, one complaint about the Illuminator is that even when I'm trying to barely push down on it, I still end up with way more product than I need.  To use a full pump just to highlight your cheekbones and high points of your face would be far too much in my opinion!  That said, I always prefer pumps or at the very least normal bottles as they're much more hygienic than doe foot applicators or brushes.

The actual highlighter is a sort of thickish liquid/loose gel consistency (for lack of a better word) that melts and blends easily into the skin, and as you can see, it's very pretty!  I'd personally call it a silvery champagne - it's not quite silver, but it isn't really champagne or gold coloured either.  I wouldn't really say this one makes you look sun-kissed as the website says, more... frost kissed?  But in a nice way that doesn't make you look cold and/or dead.  It doesn't have big bits of glitter in it (yay!) and it just settles very nicely onto the skin to give it a beautiful iridescence that's both eye catching and natural looking depending on how you apply it.

I've found that it lasts fairly well throughout the day, although worn on its own it looses a little bit of its lustre by the time I remove it in the evening.  If this is an issue though, I've discovered that it also works as a great liquid base for powder highlighters, as they both work together to give your glow some extra oopmh, and setting the Barekissed Illuminator with the powder gives it more than enough extra staying power.  It can also be mixed with your foundation to turn it into an illuminating foundation, but I haven't tried this yet so can't quite vouch for it personally, though I am planning on giving it a go.

As far as my sensitive skin goes, I haven't had any problems with it so far, but it does contain silicones so if you find your skin doesn't react well to these, you may want to avoid it.  If you're like me and mostly get clogged pores around your nose, chin and forehead though, there's a chance you'll still be able to get away with just using it on your cheeks instead of all over your face.

As I said earlier, I had just assumed it was vegan but on closer inspection I realised that the bottle and website seem to say two slightly different things.  The bottle plain states that it does contain carmine (which I totally missed thanks to my apparently crappy reading skills when I first picked it up) but confusingly, this also then conflicts with what's on the brand's page for it.  The website lists the exact same ingredients for all of the different shades, and says that they may contain carmine.  This isn't quite clear and I would've thought that the red-based shades would be more likely to have carmine in than Monaco so I plan on contacting Sleek for some clarification, but in the mean time I'm not planning on repurchasing it because of this.

If you're not vegan though, this is a really great high street liquid highlighter for the price and probably the closest you'll get to a cruelty free dupe of its high end cousins.  You can buy it from Superdrug and take advantage of the 3 for 2 across all cosmetics offer they have on at the moment, or from the brand website.

What are your thoughts on the highlighting craze?

Review / PHB Ethical Beauty Balancing Face Mask

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

I've had the PHB Ethical Beauty Balancing Face Mask with Tea Tree & Petitgrain for quite a while now, and it's regularly rotated into my skincare routine.  I believe I bought mine for a bit cheaper as it was last year before they came out with their new packaging and some new reformulated products, but it's currently £18.50 on their website - a little bit more on the high end price side of things!

The website explains that it's designed to draw out impurities from deep within the skin, and boost overall skin circulation for healthier looking skin.  It revitalises skin, balances oil production, hydrates, soothes blemishes, helps to fade scarring and is mild, natural and gentle on the skin.  Like all of PHB Ethical Beauty's products, it's cruelty free, vegan, halal and handmade in the UK.

The texture of this mask is quite unique, as it's not a drying or clay formula at all; instead, it's a sort of gel-like cream consistency that doesn't harden as it dries.  Most masks I've used in the past dry on the skin and begin to feel tight, which is sort of what I came to expect from all masks.  This one is different, and even says in the website description: "say 'no' to dry & tight feeling face masks".  Rather than dry out and start to tug on my skin, this one melts into it and starts to become translucent as it's absorbed and works its magic, and then after at least 15 minutes, you can gently rinse it away and you're left with a face that feels super soft and wonderfully hydrated.

The brand recommends using this twice weekly after cleansing, but I just tend to use it whenever I feel my skin is being a bit temperamental and could use a natural, gentle treat.  During summer when I'm at my oiliest, I also find it does help to regulate my skin's oil production, so I don't look like quite as much of a grease ball when I've been using this on a more regular basis.

It's not a magical miracle mask that immediately banishes all oil and spots and blemishes, but my skin always feels incredibly refreshed after using this and it does help to calm down some blemishes and even tone down my blackheads when they start to flare up particularly badly.  It's a very soothing face mask that makes my skin look that little bit more radiant and way softer to the touch, and while I do still like the odd clay or drying face mask, this one proves you can definitely get a good mask with loads of skin benefits without it making you look like an experiment in a weird sci-fi B movie gone wrong.

Have you tried any of PHB Ethical Beauty's face masks?  What did you think?

Autumn Walk

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The last day of October, the Other Half and I went on a walk in the nearby countryside.  It turned out to be perfect timing, since right up until then the weather had been awful, and then once the day was over it promptly started being gross again.  When we were out it was unseasonably warm, but the sky was clear and the sunshine and autumn leaves were lovely and a great way to end the month and see in November.

We weren't super confident of the route (thankful the OH is better with directions than I am) and altogether it ended up taking us about two and a half hours - and on an empty stomach too as we were too thick to have a bite to eat for lunch before setting out!  We were famished by the end but since the route started and ended at a pub with great food, it was worth it.

I didn't manage to tick many of my October goals off of my list that I made at the start of last month, but I'm happy to have at least got out of the house exploring the country and actually taking advantage of the fall foliage.

Hope you enjoyed the photos! Have you been on any nice, autumnal walks this year?

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