Month in Review / August 2015

Saturday, 29 August 2015

This month...
  • I won prizes in two different giveaways!  A review of the fabulous brushes I got from Lily Lolo is to come next month after I've tested them out a bit more.
  • I visited the Sensational Butterflies and Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibitions at the Natural History Museum and took lots of pretty butterfly photos.
  • Went on a nice date night with the other half.
  • We started moving all of our stuff over to our new flat, which we're moving into on the 31st.  Incidentally, we're not going to have internet for about a month because Sky is stupid.
Post of the month: Butterfly photos from Sensational Butterflies!

Films & TV...
  • Chris and I started watching Parks & Recreation again.  We got to the end of season two and then ran out of episodes on Amazon Prime, but they've since added season three!
  • We had a bad movie night and watched Troll and Troll 2.  The second one was hilariously bad and actually enjoyable, the first was just plain bad.
  • Finally got around to watching the second season of The 100 and I'm pretty glad I kept with it because it passed the awkward CW teen drama in a post-apocalypse scenario to become a really awesome sci-fi show.
  • Kate told me to watch Sense8 so I did and I'm still reeling from how awesome it was.
  • I watched the season premier of Fear the Walking Dead - super excited for the rest of this series.
Edible things...
  • Made an amazing veggie shepherd's pie.
  • We got takeout pizza and I ordered my first pizza without cheese.  Honestly, I didn't even really miss it! (Until the next day when I felt super low and was craving something greasy and bad for me...)
  • Baked my first vegan brownies - they were freaking delicious.
  • Tried my first shop bought vegan cupcakes from Lola's Cupcakes in London.
  • Had a nice meal out with an amazing dessert of poached pear in violet sauce, which basically tasted like a pear boiled in parma violets!
Worth a read...

Now that August is finally over, autumn should start slowly creeping in, although I seem to remember it still being hot as balls in October last year.  Still, can't wait!

How has your month been?

Butterflies, Wildlife Photography & Vegan Cupcakes in London

Sunday, 23 August 2015

With Chris and I living in Surrey and my mum still living back home in Norwich, the closest almost-half-way point for us is London.  We've met up there once before and decided to do it again since we hadn't seen each other for a while, and we decided to check out the Natural History Museum's Sensational Butterflies exhibit and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibition.  I'm glad we did too, because both of them close at the start of September!
I love butterflies and moths and I really enjoy photographing insects, so Sensational Butterflies was something I'd been excited about for a while.  Tickets are £6.50 including a donation to the museum, and you get to spend as much time in a big tent full of butterflies as you want.  A word of warning though, they're all tropical species so the tent is very hot and humid!  I was literally dripping with sweat the entire time, probably also because this was one of the hottest days of the month at a horrible 29°C in London today...

There were tons of different species to see and information about butterfly life cycles, and there were even some beautiful Atlas moths!  They're one of the largest lepidoptera in the world, and wow they are definitely huge and amazing to look at.  The butterflies are absolutely gorgeous as well, and one little critter even landed right on my top knot just as we were leaving!
After the butterflies, we went to see the photography exhibition (£14.00 entry) which my mum had mentioned to me and wanted to see for a while too.  Photos weren't allowed in it, but I would definitely recommend it to nature and photography lovers alike.  All of the photos were stunning, and the talent on display (especially in the youth categories, which had photographers as young as around 8!) was just incredible.  Seeing the beauty of the natural world like that is pretty emotional, all the more so because of a category they had focused on humans' relationships with and impact on wildlife.  The images were beautiful, but came with a lot of feelings - mostly disappointment in humanity and a fear for the plants, animals and landscapes we share the world with.  Maybe I'm just overly emotional, but that part in particular gave me a bit of a lump in my throat, especially having been investigating the environmental reasons to go vegan recently.

Later, we wandered down to Camden Town to try and find some food, which unfortunately didn't turn out quite as planned.  I'd spotted a few things online that we could try, but the combination of it being super busy and exhaustingly hot left us less than enthusiastic about grabbing street food and having to find a place to sit.  We also spent a while trying to track down Cookies and Scream, a vegan bakery that looks amazing, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out where it was and got a bit too frustrated with the hoards of slow-walking people to keep trying.  Oh well, we'll have to go stuff our faces with delicious street food and vegan baked goods another time.

We finished the day with a round of tea and coffee near the station before my mum caught her train back to Norwich, and me being determined to get some treats to take home, I stopped by Lola's Cupcakes on the way back.  I saw a while back that they do a few dairy, egg and gluten free cupcakes, and I wanted to give them a try; the flavours I chose were Passionfruit & Coconut and Strawberry & Coconut.

The icing on the passion fruit one wasn't quite to my taste, I think maybe passion fruit just isn't quite my thing.  The strawberry one though, was delicious and the icing in both even had bits of coconut flesh in it as well as probably being made from coconut cream.  They also both had a little fruity cream or sauce or something in the middle which was tasty as hell.  The texture of them was a bit more dense than I was expecting, but they were wonderfully moist and perfectly flavoured - not to sweet, but not too... unsweet?  I'm planning on trying another when I'm next in London, the chocolate one looked particularly tempting but I just wasn't in a chocolatey mood today!

It was a long day but in spite of how hot it was, it was really enjoyable and great to see my mum again.  I didn't take many photos outside of the butterfly tent - I'm still a little anxious about using my camera all the time in cities here.  I don't know what it is about using it in public in the UK that makes me feel awkward when I'm always fine carting it around and shooting everything in sight in cities in other countries, but I'm working on getting over it for the sake of blogging.  In the mean time, here are the rest of my butterfly snaps!

Healthy Living vs Body Positivity

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

At the start of the year, I started eating much healthier and finally pushed myself into going to the gym.   Since then, I've felt physically great and have pretty proud of myself for finally having the discipline to do something I'd been meaning to do for years, but never followed through with or stuck to (having a £9 gym membership at my work is a pretty big help in that respect).  Despite feeling physically great though, healthy living started to become like walking a tight-rope for me and lately I'd noticed that it's been difficult to maintain my body positivity and love and respect for my body as it is now and as it was before I even started all of this.

For those who aren't familiar with it, the body positivity movement is in a nutshell about loving all of yourself and going against the media rhetoric that our bodies are things that need to be improved and changed and that we should care or hide so-called flaws.  It's about coming to terms with your own insecurities, rejecting mainstream ideals of what our bodies 'should' look like and learning to love yourself whether you're super skinny, super fat, super healthy, super unhealthy and anything and everything in between.  No matter what your size, your looks, your diet, or the state of your health, you're beautiful and deserving of love and respect just the way you are.  I used to use Tumblr a lot, and it was through this that I learned about the movement, started to surround myself with body positive bloggers, images and inspiration and eventually started to feel comfortable and beautiful in my own skin, belly chub and thick thighs and all.

Since then though, not only have I stopped using Tumblr as regularly, but I've also been dipping into healthy living, which many people who are part of body positive circles online will probably know can be a bit of a minefield.  Pro-eating disorder ideas can sometimes subtly hide behind pro-fitness ones, pictures of skinny, toned bodies are everywhere and there is a huge emphasis on the types of foods and the number of calories you consume.  I thought I was doing a good job avoiding or ignoring all of these things (I've never even weighed myself, before or after), but then I started to realise that once I was seeing clear, physical results from my exercise and meals, my mindset became less about what I thought I was doing it for - getting stronger, fitter and healthier - and more along the lines of: hey, I've come this far and ended up changing my body this much, how much further can I go?  How much flatter can I get my stomach?  How much slimmer can I get my legs?  Could I drop a dress size if I pushed myself a little harder?  Ate a little less?

Once I realised this and started to look more critically at the way I was thinking about myself and other people, I noticed that I was slipping back into old habits I thought I'd long since kicked.  I was hyper-aware of my stomach and legs, self-concious in clothes I didn't use to be self-concious in and saw parts of my body as things that I didn't just want to change but needed to change again.  When I looked at other people, my thoughts didn't immediately shoot to the good in their appearances like I did before, instead I was back to thinking that they could use some exercise, or less food, or wow I'm glad I don't look like that.  If someone was attractive or slim, I was right back to square one of comparing myself to them and feeling bad for not looking like them.

Last time I checked, I was a body positive person who whole-heartedly rejected this kind of rubbish - this shit is not what I'm about and it needs to change.  I'm proud of myself for catching it, getting a handle on it and putting a stop to it, but at the same time I feel ashamed for letting myself get to that point in the first place.

I know now that body positivity, learning to love yourself and seeing the beauty in all shapes and sizes in spite of the body ideals shoved down our throats 24/7 isn't just a switch you flick on and live your life by from then until the day you die - it's an ongoing project.  For me, it's something that requires daily care and consideration for years to come, all the more so if you're exposing yourself to ideas and industries that actively promote changing your body and shame in looking, eating or feeling a certain way.

from @bodyposipanda
My body may be healthier now, but my heart, mind and confidence were starting to look a little worse for wear as a result.  I've continued with my work outs and my healthy eating, but I've also started to follow and subscribe to body positivity and self-love IGers, bloggers and Twitter feeds again.  It helps to see all of these different types of beauty on a daily basis again, to see the smiling faces and shining confidence of women whose bodies look like mine or bigger or smaller or anything and everything, instead of only the abs and flat bellies of tiny, toned and tanned gym girls and fitness gurus who eat chia seeds in two meals a day.  I need to learn to strike a balance and to appreciate myself as I am again, to not push myself for the sake of physical appearance and to not feel guilty for the gym time I miss or the extra calories I eat.

The real challenge though, is learning how to see the beauty and perfect imperfection you see in those other people in yourself.  Or in my case, re-learning.
from @nourishandeat
If you could use some body positive inspiration like I can, here are a few of my favourites to get you started.  Some are by or aimed at those recovering from EDs, some are general body positivity, some are fat acceptance, but all of them maintain that you're fine just the way and encourage self-love, self-care and acceptance of yourself:
Practice Self Love on Tumblr also has a list of other body posi tumblrs.

Stay beautiful and love yourself,

Review / theBalm Schwing Liquid Eyeliner

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Finding a good eyeliner has been one of the harder parts of going cruelty free, and I'm a sucker for a good eyeliner so I haven't been best pleased about it.  Just before I went cruelty free, I tried the Stila Stay-all-Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner pen and let's just say that it's pretty much ruined all other eyeliners for me because that sucker is amazing.  Sadly (or not so sadly, I guess), on point eyeliner that literally stays all day isn't worth animals being tested on as far as I'm concerned, and I've been on the hunt for a replacement ever since.

I picked up theBalm's Schwing Black Liquid Eyeliner for free from Superdrug's website when they were doing one of their 3-for-2 across all cosmetics offers, but it's usually £13.49.  You can also buy it from other online shops like CutECOsmetics and Feel Unique.  I'd read some pretty positive reviews of it, but I was still sceptical because I haven't used one of these styles of eyeliners for absolutely years!  I think I used the brush-in-ink-pot type ones for a while when I was first getting into makeup (and was absolutely rubbish at winged eyeliner) but I'd been using gels with brushes or felt tip pen ones ever since I realised they existed.

The website says: "Lining and defining eyes has never been easier. Built with a uniquely thin and tapered felt tip applicator, Schwing gives you careful control over subtle strokes and bold lines. Create winning looks with this rich matte-black finish that won't smudge, flake, or take forever to dry. Cool and compact, Schwing fits wherever you need it."

They aren't kidding about the thin, tapered applicator!  It's definitely the best I've tried of any liquid eyeliners of this type, and the bonus is that since the felt tip is actually stored in the eyeliner, it won't dry out like those pesky pens always do.  As much as I loved that Stila one and I still love my Soap & Glory SuperCat liner, both seemed to dry out very quickly even when I keep them upside down, which is a pain since they're not the cheapest things in the world.

The applicator is actually very easy to use and is very precise, resulting in neat, clean lines, and it's also very easy to get a sharp tip to your wings.  You can use this to create super thick, bold liner looks but with the tip being so fine, it's also easy to use to thinly line close to the lash line.  The actual colour is a matte black - I personally like the colour but I've seen some reviews that complain that it comes across as a bit blue-ish sometimes.  It dries quickly, but if you've piled on a lot of product in a short space of time you might need to wait a few seconds and be careful of it transferring or smudging while it dries.

I've been testing this out quite a bit for a few months now and it definitely lasts all day and it usually still looks great by the end of the day, but it does depend on how my eyes are behaving at the time.  If my eyes are particularly watery, I do find that it tends to bleed a little on the outer corner and fuzz up the underneath of my wing, so I wouldn't say that this is smudge-proof or waterproof.  It doesn't last long if you start sobbing or completely soak it, and it can also sometimes transfer to my upper lid if I'm super sweaty - although it has stood the test of a couple of gym sessions with very minimal smudging!  It doesn't flake though, and it's easy to re-apply product over the top if it if it needs a quick refresh.

All in all, this Schwing is a great little eyeliner and I'm pleased I finally decided to try it.  Despite my reservations about the applicator, I've actually found it really easy to use and I tend to get nicer shaped wings using this than I do with my gel liner or pen liners now, and I love the fine, flexible tip.  It's cruelty free and vegan, so if you're in the market for a new cruelty free eyeliner I would definitely recommend this one!  I'm already planning on repurchasing it whenever it runs out, and I don't feel like I really need to continue my search for a new liquid eyeliner any more.  At around £13 it's a little on the pricier side, but as it lasts longer than pen eyeliners and you might be able to snag it in a Superdrug offer, I'd say it's definitely worth the money.

Have you tried theBalm Schwing before? If you have any other cruelty free liquid liner suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Review / B. Revealed Glycolic Cleanser & B. Pure Micellar Water

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

It took me a while to get into the Micellar Water craze - I seem a little bit late to the party, really.  After hearing good reviews about the B. Pure Micellar Water available at Superdrug, I thought I'd give it a try since I was in the market for a new oil-free makeup remover.  I enjoy using natural oils to take off my makeup in the cooler months, but I find my face is greasy enough during summer and doesn't react as nicely to it, so a micellar water seemed like a good choice.  It's usually £4.99, but is currently £2.35 as a part of better than 1/2 off offer.

The bottle describes it as a 'quick and easy 3-in-1 cleanser that dissolves impurities in a single sweep, no water required' and says that it's suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.  As well as using it as makeup remover, I believe you can also use this product as a toner.  As far as consistency goes, as the name suggests is basically a 'water' and has a very mild cucumbery sccent.  I must say, I'm very impressed with it!  It removes even my waterproof eye makeup with very little difficulty, and leaves my skin feeling nice and refreshed afterwards.  I always use it to take off my makeup just before I shower and cleanse my face properly, so I'm not sure how it works as a toner, but for makeup removal purposes this and a cotton pad do the job brilliantly.  I've been having very troublesome skin this year too and this hasn't broken me out or caused dry patches or any other issues so I'm very happy with it.

The other B. product I thought I'd try out was the B. Revealed Glycolic Cleansing Peel.  As I said, my skin hasn't been great this year and I figured that a gentle, glycolic exfoliant like this might help.  This is normally £7.99 (currently £3.95 in the same better than 1/2 price offer) and it comes with a muslin cloth included.  All you do is squeeze out a little bit (it's a thick-ish, white gel-like consistency and I only use a pea-sized amount), massage it into the face and leave for 3 minutes for a deep clean, then gently rub it off using the muslin cloth and splash your face with cold water to close up your pores again.  You can use it for less than 3 minutes as a normal cleanser as part of a lighter, daily routine too.  I've been using this once or twice a week for a while now and I must say I do really think that this has been one of the star products helping to mend my problem skin.  Just as it says on the bottle, it's evened out my complexion and restored some of its natural radiance, and as a little product goes a long way and you get a free cloth with it, I think this little beauty is quite a bargain.

Both of these products are cruelty free and vegan, and I'm almost definitely going to repurchase them once I run out.  These have impressed me so much I'm pretty excited to try out some more of the B. skincare range!

Have you tried these or any other B. skincare products before?

Affordable High Street CF Makeup Starter Ideas

Sunday, 9 August 2015

I'm glad I went cruelty free, but it can be a bit more expensive and harder for me to find cheap, good products than it was before.  Particularly in the UK, we lack lots of affordable, good drugstore brands that are staples in places like the US, and some of our shops barely have anything to offer at all (hello Boots and your usually-only-2 stands of cruelty free make-up...).  If I'd tried to do this as a teenager, I wouldn't have known where to even look, let alone what products to buy, and I'd be out of pocket pretty quickly once I did find some of what were the only options back in my day!

Thankfully, with Superdrug now being Leaping Bunny approved and stocking brands like B., Sleek and GOSH, being cruelty free is much more accessible and affordable for the average person.  So, I thought I'd do a quick breakdown of some of the cheaper, high street options that I'd either recommend through personal experience or research for anyone looking to start their cruelty free collection.  Since this is a stepping stone for cruelty free beauty newbies, I'll only be talking about specifically 'drugstore' options - the kinds of things you can grab in Boots or Superdrug - rather than stuff you have to go hunting for online with an existing idea of where to look.

FOUNDATION:  As someone who is paper white, foundation is hard to find even when you don't shop cruelty free, so the task is only made harder once all of the major brands are crossed off your list of things you can purchase.  Sleek is well known for offering a good variety of shades of foundation, and all of them are under £10.  They also do CC and BB creams, and an affordable primer.  I can't vouch for these personally as I've never tried them, but they seem to have average or above reviews.  GOSH also do a few different foundations (I really want to try their new Foundation Drops!), as do B. Beauty (the latter of which seems to be friendlier to pale folks).  Barry M also has a Flawless Matte Finish Foundation that has good reviews for only £5.99, although their shades don't vary quite as much.

CONCEALER: The best budget cruelty free concealer I've tried so far is Barry M's Flawless Concealer.  Mine is in the shade Ivory, and while I usually prefer a concealer that's a wee bit lighter than my natural skin tone, this is otherwise a perfect match for my skin.  I was hoping it would be a nice dupe for the Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer which is incredible but sadly not cruelty free, and although it isn't quite that, it's still good in its own right.  It's super cheap at £4.49 and with a little bit of blending and layering, concealers dark circles and gives my skin a nice, dewy radiance.

BROWS:  Sleek does a range of good, affordable brow products.  Although I haven't tried them, their Brow Kits are very similar to the one I used to use by ELF which I absolutely loved.  GOSH also do some great brow gels for £4.99.  The one I use is Clear, but for some reason they don't have it on the Superdrug website!  They do also offer a Grey Brown shade though, which is pretty impressive since so many brands seem to not realise that not every brunette is warm-toned.

EYE SHADOW: When I think of cheap but quality eye shadows, I always think of Sleek.  Their i-Divine eye shadow palettes are only £7.99 and offer beautiful colours with great pigmentation for the price.  They aren't as buttery and as easily blended as high end brands, but it's hard to argue with a £7.99 price tag.  The Au Naturel palette is a great nude one with some subtle purples and pinks as well as neutral browns, and is a great natural-looking option for budget, cruelty free eye shadow and make-up beginners in general.

EYE LINER:  The Barry M Bold Waterproof Eyeliner in Black is £3.99 and a good, cheap alternative to some high end options.  For liquid eyeliner though, I love the Soap & Glory Supercat eye liner pen.  It's only £6.00 and is very precise and has a nice, dark matte black finish, but be warned because it can be prone to smudging and bleeding if you have very watery eyes or get really sweaty.  For a nice white pencil for the waterline, inner corners and brown highlight, I use the £2.99 Barry M Kohl Pencil in White.

MASCARA:  Other than my PHB Ethical Beauty mascara, my most-used mascara is the Soap & Glory Thick & Fast Super Volume Mascara, which is £10.00 from Boots.  Sadly, a cheap, cruelty free mascara has been like finding a needle in a haystack - most everything I've tried apart from the aforementioned two (which aren't even that cheap) I've found to be a bit rubbish, and everything I haven't tried has very mixed reviews.  Some products like Barry M's Showgirl Mascara or GOSH's Boombastic XXL Mascara either have great or terrible reviews, but I guess they're always worth trying!

BLUSH:  Once again, I point you to Sleek!  They have by far the most pigmented, easily blended, affordable cruelty free blushes out there in my opinion.  Their bright pink Flamingo single blush for £4.49 is a personal favourite, and their Blush by 3 palettes for £9.99 are also worth a look.  Although it's no longer available to buy due to it being limited edition, I also have their Candy Collection Blush by 3 which includes a cream blush shade and I still love it.

HIGHLIGHT/CONTOUR:  I just bought the new Barry M Radiant Rod and although I haven't properly tested it out and reviewed it yet, at £3.99 it's a great highlighter for anyone who's new to highlighting but wants to give it a go without a hefty price tag.  You could also use this to add a bit of shimmer to your eyelids or inner corners.  Sleek also does Contour Kits with a contour and highlight shade for £6.49 and Face Contour Kits with a contour, highlight and either a blush or bronzer for £9.99.

FINISHING POWDER:  GOSH does a variety of affordable pressed and mineral powders, including their £9.99 Velvet Touch Transparent Primer & Setting Powder.  I haven't tried it since I swear by my Lily Lolo finishing powder, but the fact that you can use it as both a primer and a mattifying setting powder is pretty cool!  For a cheaper option, you could try dusting one of Barry M's Flawless Matte Perfecting Powders for £5.99 over your foundation.

LIPS: My most-used lip product recently is Sleek's Matte Me Liquid Lipstick in Birthday Suit, which is £4.99, comfortable to wear, lasts for quite a while and is a great matte nude shade for everyday wear.  Sleek's True Colour lipsticks also come in a variety of shades and finishes and are only £4.99.  My favourite budget lip product range has to be GOSH's Velvet Touch lipsticks though, they're £6.99 and definitely the best cruelty free, UK drugstore formula I've tried.  I use the shade Nude quite often, and Lambada is a great, warm red lipstick.  They also just released some new matte lipsticks for A/W which I'm dying to try!

And there you have it!  Some cheaper and easier to find ideas to get you started on your cruelty free journey.

Do you have any affordable, CF drugstore recommendations?

Tips for Meatless Healthy Eating

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

At the start of this year, I finally took the plunge and decided to completely cut meat (but not yet fish) out of my diet.  I barely ate it any more anyway because of the various problems I've had with meat and my IBS - the only thing I'd maybe have once a month was chicken, and that was just because Chris wanted it.  Since then, I haven't missed it and I've also been eating much healthier and thinking a little bit more carefully about what I put into my body because I'm now lacking some of the usual, easier sources of essential nutrients.

Meat consumption has been in the news a little in the past few years, namely because the average Brit is eating too much of it, and eating too much of it isn't good for your health.  The easiest way to deal with that is to just not eat it as often and I've seen plenty of sources recommend having one day per week with a vegetarian main meal.  Apparently about one in eight people in the UK are now vegetarian, but in spite of this, the majority of people seem to think that vegetarian food is either horribly boring salads and boiled greens, or over-the-top indulgent dishes that are about 90% cheese.  Even the people who manage to see past this myth still struggle to think of healthy, meatless meals that they'll enjoy.  And, even when you can think of delicious, nutritious meatless meals, sometimes eating them regularly can increase your weekly grocery bills rather a lot; something that not everyone can afford to do.

So, I thought I'd share some ideas and tricks that have been useful for me!  We've been trying to scrimp and save so although some things we use may be a little more on the expensive side, the majority of meals we cook are pretty affordable, filling and good for you - all without any meat and often without any animal products at all.

Find a good protein substitute that you really enjoy, and use the hell out of it.  This is probably the tip that has helped me the most, especially as someone who eats no meat and so needs to keep an eye on her protein consumption.  There is a wide variety of food out there that is high in protein and is also filling and cheap; chickpeas, beans and lentils are all rich in protein so will keep you fuller for longer, and they're also incredibly versatile.  Find one that you enjoy, and experiment with using it in as many different dishes in place of meat as you can.  Make chilli with just beans, try a shepherd's pie with lentils, make a stew with chickpeas as well as veg.  Lentils are my new love affair and a little goes a long way with those babies.  The recommended portions are as little as 35g (uncooked) and even that seems rather a lot when mixed with other things.  And I'm someone who normally eats +50% to double the recommended portion size...  Anywho, once you find one or two key ingredients that you like, you'll have an enjoyable base to start using instead of meat that is cheaper and lower in fat but still high in protein.

Make use of 'fake' meat alternatives if your dietary and ethical requirements allow for it.  In addition to brands like Quorn and Linda McCartney, most major supermarkets also now offer their own affordable vegetarian substitute range.  Many of these are cheaper and healthier than actually buying meat - the 'bolognese' sauces I've made using Quorn and various supermarket own brand vegetarian minces have worked out much cheaper per portion than if I was using beef, and they're also much lower in saturated fats and although they're filling, they don't give you that 'heavy' feeling of fullness you can get from eating a red meat dish.  Among other things, there are also convincingly flavoured sausages, hot dogs and Southern Fried 'chicken' bites that you could swap into a meal every now and again, and there are faux-chicken pieces and other things you could sneak into pies.  The only downside to many of these is that not all of them are vegan, and most of them contain palm oil, so if you are avoiding palm oil for ethical reasons or if you don't eat any animal products, you'll have to check the ingredients lists on these carefully before you buy them.

One pot dishes are a cheapskate's best friend!  Long before I went pescatarian I was a lover of the humble one pot meal, and now is no different.  Tossing loads of different things into a big pot, leaving it to do its thing for a while and then freezing all your leftovers is a very economical both when it comes to money and time, and you can do plenty of interesting vegetarian one dish suppers.  Just this week, I threw a bunch of leftover vegetables that needed using up into a pot with a tin of plum tomatoes, chickpeas, a sprinkle of lentils and some oregano, basil, red wine vinegar and tomato purée and the result was an incredibly easy, tasty stew-like meal that lasted for a couple of dinners and lunches. All you need are vegetables, pulses and a few key seasonings and you can just whack everything in and let it do its thing with minimal intervention, and boom you've got a simple, healthy vegetarian meal.

Experiment with different cuisines for more interesting dishes.  Sometimes, our native cuisines aren't the most inspiring when it comes to meat-free meals.  The UK, for example, is a meat-and-two-veg nation and most of our historical and cultural meals feature meat as the focal point that the dish is built around, with vegetables and starch-y food as sides; vegetables don't generally take centre stage in our traditional dishes, they're usually just (sometimes much maligned) accompaniments.  So, check out some other country's dishes instead!  I'm really into vegetarian Indian cooking right now, for example.  Even if you can't find any other nations that have specifically vegetarian meals that spark your interest, you can still take flavours and ideas from other cuisines and use them to spice up your every day meals, like using Thai-inspired flavours such as lemon grass, peanuts and coriander to give life to an otherwise boring vegetable stir fry, or something like coconut milk, tamarind and turmeric to turn a plain chickpea stew or soup into a Keralan inspired curry.

So there you have it, a handful of simple tips to help you figure out a few meat-free meals you can nom every now and again.  I'm planning on blogging a little bit more about food, recipes and veg-/pescatarian healthy living in the future, so if this is something you're interested in then keep an eye out for more.

What are some of your favourite meat-free meals?

PHB Ethical Beauty Haul

Sunday, 2 August 2015

I fell in love with PHB Ethical Beauty's products the year before last and had made a couple of orders since then, but when we entered money-saving mode I kept holding off on buying anything else from them because it's not exactly the cheapest.  As luck would have it, after months of waiting and avoiding restocking long finished products, my birthday came and went and as soon as I received some birthday money, PHB Beauty started offering discounts and some of their old stock was heavily reduced - hell yeah!

For those who aren't familiar with the brand, PHB are a natural and ethical company that offer skincare, haircare and cosmetics that are all cruelty free, vegan, halal, paraben free and handmade in the UK.  I've been really impressed with all of the skincare items I've tried from them, and their mascara is hands down the best natural mascara I've used to date and is one of my staples.  They've recently released some new repackaged versions of their products (which are sadly slightly more expensive, wah!) and have been selling some of the old-style products at heavily discounted prices, which on top of the discount codes I got my hands on made for some major savings.

I won't go into a full review of all of these just yet, but I did want to share what I bought with you since I love the brand and others might want to take advantage of their sale!

The Gentle Facial Tonic with Organic Rose is one that I've used before and decided to repurchase.  The website explains that it's alcohol and oil free, helps to restore your skin's natural pH, calms redness and improves skin tone and purifies and refines skin.  The one I just bought is in their new packaging and is £12.95, but the old one I had lasted ages and assuming this one is still otherwise the same, it's great for sensitive or temperamental skin.  When I used it previously I used it both in the morning and evening and the results were great.

PHB's serums are what I adored the most when I first tried them out and they really turned me on to the idea of serums in general in my skincare routine.  The Brightening Gel Serum with Organic White Birch & Frankincense is one I haven't tried before, but I have used their eye serum in the same range and I really liked it.  This one is supposed to improve skin's radiance and overall complexion, encourages collagen and elastin for more youthful skin, and prevents and reduces dark spots and discolouration.  Having tried another serum from PHB before, I can say that they're very fast absorbing and feel weightless but very nourishing - back when I used one previously I usually didn't need to bother with moisturiser over the top of it, especially during warmer months.  This serum is one of their old versions and is still available and on sale for £9.95.

The next product is one from their cleanser range, which I haven't tried yet.  Pictured is the Brightening Facial Cleanser with Organic Mandarin & Papaya, but it looks like they've since sold out and stopped stocking this older version.  The new one seems to be a slightly different formula with Ylang Ylang & Papaya and costs £15.95.  I've tried their Brightening Face Wash before but it was during my skin's tumultuous months so I'm not sure if it didn't agree with my skin or if my skin was just going nuts, so I want to re-try it soon.  I'm also excited to try this cleanser though, which according to their website is packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins and should help promote brighter, more youthful skin.

I was lucky enough to get the Hydrating Facial Tonic with Ylang Ylang Floral Water as a freebie with my order for making my purchase when I did, which I'm really pleased with because I think it'll be great for my skin when the seasons start to change - my skin goes haywire and super dry when the weather transitions from warm to cool and vice versa!  This one is described as (as well as being alcohol and oil free and maintaining skin's pH balance) reducing the appearance of dryness and broken capillaries, soothing dry, tight skin and maintaining skin elasticity and hydration.  It can also be used throughout the day to give your skin a quick refresh.  This is one of their old products and is still available on sale for £7.50.

The Anti-Aging Gel Serum with Organic Rose & Seabuckthorn was the first face serum I tried and is what started my love of PHB's products.  It's so light-weight and feels gentle, nourishing and luxurious.  I'm only 24 so I can't quite vouch for its anti-aging properties just yet, but either way it definitely felt like a treat for my skin and I loved using it.  Pictured is the old packaging that I bought previously, and although this version is now sold out it's still available in a nice new box for £19.95.

Finally, after how impressed I was with their all-over anti-aging gel serum, I thought I'd give the Anti-Aging Eye Gel with Organic Argan & Rock Rose a try.  This is described as a firming eye treatment that's soothing, skin restoring and targets signs of aging to refresh and revitalise eyes, and costs £16.95.  Looking at the barely visible fine lines that are starting to form around my eyes, I'm hoping this does what it says on the tin!  I'm currently using another anti-aging eye gel by PHB, their Elixir of Youth Firming Eye Treatment with Organic Aloe & Strawberry that I really enjoy (particularly in summer, putting a nice, cooling gel on my eyes every morning is lovely!) but they don't seem to sell this product any more.

PHB are kind enough to include two free samples with all of their orders too, and the ones I received are little sachets of their Brightening and Anti-Aging Moisturisers.  I'm looking forward to testing these out too since I haven't tried any of their moisturisers yet.

And that's everything from my recent order!  As I write this, I'm tempted to make another order of some of their serums while they're still on sale...  In the mean time, I'll be sure to include full reviews of everything once I've tested them out.

Have you tried any of PHB Ethical Beauty's products?

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