Thursday, 31 July 2014

My psoriasis - an update after two weeks of light therapy

After almost two years of dealing with psoriasis (four if you include having it on my scalp), I finally got the OK to start phototherapy. You can read about my skin struggles here and here but today, I want to share the good news as it seems that phototherapy agrees with me.

I thought that other people who have psoriasis might appreciate before, during and
after photos so they can see the difference phototherapy is making to me. I've chosen
to photograph my legs as they're the most badly affected area for me and I don't think
that these images really show just how bad they were before treatment.

It's no quick fix; I have to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to spend just over a minute in a light chamber which gives me a calculated dose of UVB light, which increases by 20% at each appointment. There's all sorts of things I can't do beforehand - put anything other than E45 or coconut oil on my skin, not wear jewellery or make-up, avoid drinking alcohol the night before or chopping vegetables before I go - and of course it's impacted on my routine, both on work days and my one day at home with Ethan. Then there's the cost of the car park each time I go.

I arrive at the hospital, park my car, go up to the third floor, arrive at the phototherapy room, wash my hands, get undressed, put my googles on, walk into the chamber, get zapped by the tubes of light, then do everything in reverse, before getting on with my day.

It also won't work for everyone. It's a highly unpredictable condition to have, with doctors still confounded as to the causes and with a cure no-where in sight, and light treatment is rather unpredictable too. Even my consultant at the skin clinic can't seem to tell me what it is about UVB light that can make a difference to psoriasis sufferers or how it works. It just does. For some.

Any given person with the condition can have up to 200 treatments in a lifetime. No more. I am due to have an assessment with the doctor midway through this first course, which will be no longer than 30 sessions. Each week, I'm asked how my skin is doing and if I have noticed any changes. As long as any redness calms down after treatment within 24 hours, I am ok to continue to my next session and when the doctor sees that my skin has smoothed, they may then decide that this period of treatment can end.

As long as it doesn't return in a short space of time, they will consider my condition as in remission. And it may not come back. Or it may start in new places. Who knows? The doctors don't so all I can do is keep following their guidelines and hope that my psoriasis is under control and easier to live with.

So far, I have had seven sessions and I am seeing a difference. For me, it started to show after the second or third visit, which is quite early, and even my legs were looking much smoother and less white / crusty, which is unusual apparently as the skin is thicker here and can take longer to respond.

Not great but certainly not bad either!

The patches on my chest and arms are returning to normal almost and my legs do look quite dramatically different but the best thing is, my skin doesn't feel so bad. It was getting very dry, sore and itchy, particularly in the heat and now, this side of things is subsiding.

I will post another update in another couple of weeks, when I reach the halfway point of this block of treatment. I can only hope that things continue in the way they have been so far...


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Meet A Mum - Emily from Emily and Indiana

Better late than never... may I introduce you to Emily from the blog Emily and Indiana, a lovely mama I met through the wonder of Twitter and someone I think you'll enjoy meeting in this week's belated Meet A Mum post...

1. Hello, what's your name and where do you come from?
Hey I'm Emily. I'm almost 21 and I live in Kent with my other half Jack and our 8 month old little girl Indiana.

2. Tell us about your children.
Indiana was born on the 26th November 2013 at 2.12am after a gruelling 2 day labour! She's now 8 months old and the cheekiest little lady I know. She is sitting up, crawling, and with baby led weaning, practically eats as much as we do - haha!

3. When did you know you wanted to be a mum?
I've always been quite maternal. Playing with baby dolls and games such as 'mums and babies' was how I spent my childhood. I never thought I'd have a baby quite so early, but I wouldn't change it for the world!

4. What's you favourite moment as a mum so far?
This has to be one of the hardest questions to answer, as everyday, Indie does something new which becomes my favourite moment! Right now, I would have to pick just how loving she has become. When you pick her up first thing in the morning she actually snuggles in close and hugs you - it's so amazing.

5. What do you wish people had told you before you became a mum?
I think nearly everyone told me just how fast it all goes, but I really wish I believed them! It's only been 8 months but I honestly don't remember the squishy newborn stage any more, it's like I blinked and she became grown up.

6. If we were to look in your changing bag, what would we find?
Everything but the kitchen sink usually! Nappies, wipes, change of clothes, feeding bits and bobs, my purse, keys and phone... I emptied it out the other day for a 'What's in my changing bag' video and even found luggage tags from our holiday back in June!

7. What were the top three things you had for your baby that you would recommend to other mums?
1. Muslins, and a lot of them! They're multi-use and you can never have enough. For feeding, burping, cleaning up, shading the baby etc.
2. Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine for bottle feeding. Literally a lifesaver for the night-feeds and for when Indie demanded her bottle there and then. 
3. A travel system pram. We have an Oyster which was compatible with our Maxi Cosi carseat. SO much easier for the early days and when going out in the car. You can just transfer from the car/house to the frame without having to get baby out and most likely waking them up.

8. What three things could you have done without?
1. Swing. Indiana absolutely hated it and probably went in hers about 5 times. She much preferred her bouncer which vibrated.
2. Bumbo. Another thing that she hated to be sat in. Luckily we were given ours, but I wouldn't waste the money buying one.
3. White clothes! Whoever invented white baby clothes is an idiot basically! Babies, especially newborn ones, are sick a lot, poop a lot, and then with weaning make a HUGE mess! Yeah they make look cute, but you try getting a poop explosion stain out of that white sleepsuit!!!

9. What baby brands do you like and why?
I'm a huge supporter of cheaper nappies! Pampers for us were completely rubbish and leaked constantly. Asda's Little Angels were the best ones we found and so much cheaper. For wipes however, my favourites are Huggies Pure. Our house is pretty much a Tommee Tippee store as well!

10. Are you a working mum? If so, how do you find it?
I've been on maternity leave for nearly 9 months now. I'm back to work part-time on the 3rd August. If I'm honest I'm only looking forward to seeing colleagues. I'd much rather be a stay-at-home mum and watch Indiana grow, but I'm lucky I'm only working part-time.

11. What do you enjoy most about being mum?
I love watching Indiana grow and develop. It's amazing watching her hit milestones and knowing that Jack and I played a part in teaching her. It's also pretty special to know that I'm the one she's going to look up to and come to for many years to come... god that's a scary thought, ha!

12. How do you make time for being 'you'?
We're lucky Indie goes to bed at 7.30pm and sleeps through so we get every evening to have 'couple time'. I try to stick to a nap routine too, so when there's nothing else to do I love to catch up on TV, blog, edit and just relax.

13. Tell us about your blog / where we can find you online.
I blog at where I've been since the end of February 2014. I love to document Indie's life and the things we get up to. I'm also writing a baby led weaning diary at the moment! 

Before I began blogging however I was making videos for our YouTube channel 'EmilyJackandIndiana' where we have been uploading videos since I was pregnant! If you love baby spam I'm also on Twitter and Instagram.

14. What's the best thing about being a blogger?
I have met so many lovely people through blogging. The blogging community is amazing and if you need help/advice there is always someone out there to give you answers or just for support. 

15. Share a crazy fact about yourself.
My life is pretty boring for a crazy fact! Only thing close to crazy is that I'm one of 7 siblings. I have 5 sisters and then my poor brother who is stuck with us all. My mum's super woman and I will definitely not be having that many kids!

Thank you so much Emily - I couldn't agree more about white baby clothes, they just do not make any sense, and sending you lots of luck for your return to work this weekend. You will be fine!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Skincare 101

I've been doing a lot of reading and research recently about skincare as I know that I need to establish a good routine for my skin to give it a much needed boost and to keep young and beautiful - well, as much as I possibly can at least!

From my Aqua Sana Spa day to my visit to Destination Skin, I have had a lot of professional advice and this has helped me to overhaul my habits and to change my dressing table products for good.

Here's some of the things I have learned and the new products and techniques I have been trying - and trust me, I have seen a big difference in just a couple of weeks and a lot of the advice I have had just makes good sense:

CTM - it's the only way!
Cleanse, tone, moisturise. Twice a day. Every day. This is something we have all heard but for one reason or another, we don't always stick to. But, if you do, I promise you will see an improvement in your skin. 

Once is not enough 
So you've used your cleansing milk / micellar water / facial wash / cream cleanser and your skin is nice and clean, right? Well, maybe not. Some cleansers will melt away make up but only cleansing once may leave you with dirt and other daily grime still clinging on your skin. Cleanse your skin a second time to be sure.

I've been using the L'Oreal Micellar Water and my new Elemis Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser to double up on my cleaning and my skin looks and feels super clean afterwards.

Ban the wipes!
For too long, I have been lazy at nighttime and have relied on facial wipes to remove my make up and wipes alone. They're also a staple for when I'm staying away but this has all changed now. Wipes have a variety of chemicals in them, including alcohol and preservatives, and these can be very harsh on your skin, particularly with prolonged use. They can leave a film on your skin so if there's still dirt in your pores, it gets trapped underneath and can cause all kinds of problems like spots.

Check the ingredient list
Did you know that the first product listed on the back of your beauty bottle is the one which the product contains the most of whilst the last item is the one which appears in the smallest quantity? I didn't either but if you start looking at the products you use, you might start noticing a few things you don't want to see.

For example, sodium lauryl sulphate is a common foaming agent, but it’s also a harsh aggressor if you use it every day. Another example is fragrance, which is simply an unnecessary addition in skincare products such as cleansers. 

We need to rethink what we expect from skincare products - we expect a scent and for a cleanser or shampoo to foam, for instance, but this isn't an indicator of effectiveness, it actually usually means there's more chemicals in the product in question. 

Be savvy when you spend
It's easy to see why so many of us are reliant on brands that are available on the high street. Big marketing budgets mean that certain brands and their products are everywhere we look - on TV every day, on billboards on the way to work, in the magazines we read, in every shop we go in -  and usually with some celebrity telling us that this is THE product we need, because we're worth it. Such exposure means that certain products can be sold to us at an affordable price and how many mamas have lots of pennies spare now that we have little ones? Not many I'm guessing, so if you're like me, price has always been a deciding factor. And who can resist a good 3 for 2 offer or impulse till purchase?

The thing is, when we do treat ourselves to a spa experience, for example, we get to try higher end products and nearly every time, we're amazed or impressed at the results. We expect it, because of the price. Certain things are worth spending a little more on - moisturisers and serums in particular - and we'd all like to treat ourselves more if we had the money.

If you're like me, visiting a spa or department store is a pressured situation, where you feel compelled to buy something thanks to oh-so-smiley but still rather pushy sales assistants. 

Well, there's another way. Hallelujah! 

If you want to buy the best that the beauty world has to offer, you need to shop smart. I wanted to pick up some Elemis and Decleor products that I had tried at the spa to use at home and after shopping around, I soon discovered It's a fantastic online shop that stocks a wide range of high end beauty brands but with some really good product discounts. There's lots of great names to choose from and you're sure to be paying much less than the RRP.

The team at kindly sent me a couple of things to try from my two new favourite brands, so I could experience the kind of products they offer and the great prices they are available for. 

I've been using a luxurious Elemis shower cream which will now be my travel bag treat but the item I'm really loving is Decleor's Daily Defence 30SPF Fluid Sheild (pictured above, left). Applied after your moisturiser, it leaves your skin nice and matte whilst giving you a nice hint of colour to help your complexion. I love the extra protection this offers and it's a great skin treat, especially as we're enjoying the summer sun at the moment.

Just wearing the Daily Defence 30 SPF Fluid Shield, no filter

Exfoliate twice a week - and no more!
Your skin goes through a process of renewal and you need to exfoliate away dead skin cells to ensure your skin is looking as healthy as possible and that you're not just putting moisturiser on top of dead skin rather than letting it penetrate further where it actually be effective. Exfoliating twice a week is best, so your skin has time to renew itself.

I've just completed my first order and the Decleor Double Radiance Scrub (pictured above, middle) was at the top of my list following my spa day. It's a wonderful treatment which contains essential oils and natural exfoliating particles to gently remove dead skin cells to reveal radiant skin. Best thing of all. Thanks to, I got it for around £7 less than the RRP. Bonus!

Give your skin a treat
Whether you use a fancy serum or indulge in a hydrating mask twice a week, you must give your skin some goodness to help boost its health and appearance. My other new purchase from is the Decleor Hydra Floral Ultra-Moisturising and Plumping Expert Mask (pictured above, right). It starts off as a cream but melts into an oil as you massage it into your face and after 10 minutes, you simply wipe away any excess that remains - then enjoy stroking your baby soft face.

Get glowing
See this post from earlier this week about the wonder BB cream I'm loving - it's Decleor again but it's easily my most favourite product at the moment.

Facial exercises
Finally, I've been reading that we need to have a fitness routine for our faces. It sounds great in theory and there's some great tips from Cosmo if you do want to give your face a good workout.

What have you learned about skincare? I'd love to hear your top tips for tip top skin!

*Note: I was sent two products by to try out but I am a genuine customer and all other products mentioned are my own, as are my opinions.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Destination Skin, Birmingham

One stormy Saturday, I headed into Birmingham city centre for a new skin experience. Destination Skin, previously of the Pavilions but now newly located on Lower Temple Street, conveniently next door to Starbucks, offers a personal approach to skincare.

The doors to this new clinic opened last Thursday and since then, the new address has helped ensure a busy first week for this Birmingham branch, which is one of 23 registered clinics in this nationwide chain that has specialised in 'non-invasive, advanced technological treatments for anti ageing, permanent hair reduction and skin concerns' for the past 10 years.

I wasn't sure what to expect from my visit; I have been to spas and had various beauty treatments when I have been able to treat myself on these occasions (you can read about my recent experiences here and here) but Destination Skin is a different concept altogether. Rather than somewhere to go on an odd occasion for relaxation and a bit of pampering, Destination Skin is all about prescribing skin solutions for specific concerns. Whether it's unwanted hair, acne, scars or ageing, this clinic aims to help find the best treatment, or course of treatments, for you.

I've watched many TV programmes about how to look good and beauty treatments for body concerns and ageing, from How to Look Good Naked to How Not to Get Old (presented by Anna Richardson, who tried cosmetic procedures, and Louise Redknapp, who stuck to natural solutions) and as it stands, at the age of 30, whilst I'm not a fan of ageing, I don't think I will ever be a fan of the needle or the knife either.

For me, there are things that I have come to accept about my appearance and for me, make up and some good lotions and potions are my weapons of choice as I battle the effects of getting older. I know that there's things that could be altered or changed as I get older but I don't feel that anything really impacts on my self-confidence enough to warrant anything more drastic. However, I appreciate that other people may feel very self-conscious about their skin tags, facial hair or scars, or perhaps want to consider more medical procedures to help them feel better about who they are, and that's completely fine, it's just not for me.

That's why I was looking forward to my Destination Skin appointment. I wanted to know how 'good' my skin is at this moment in time and to find out how I can look after it better to have the best chance of staying as youthful as possible for as long as possible. The perfect place in between beauty treatments and cosmetic procedures; that's where you find Destination Skin.

The clinic is bright and inviting. I have no idea how they will keep the floor, walls and cabinets so white but it really does make an impact when you arrive!

I filled in a customer questionnaire form so they could find out more about my skin and my specific needs and then my therapist, or practitioner as they're called at Destination Skin, Jessica, took me downstairs to one of the treatments rooms.

I decided that as this was an introductory visit, I would opt for a prescription facial. Destination Skin offer a variety of these, and describe them as follows:

"Prescription facials are introductory level treatments which may consist of cleansing, exfoliating, toning and protecting the skin using a range of cosmeceutical products.  All of these steps help to hydrate, soothe, and correct any imperfections on the skin.  Prescription facials can provide ideal preparation for advanced skin treatments such as skin peels and laser skin rejuvenation.  Personalised Prescription Facial.  An introductory facial tailored to address your specific skin concerns from acneic to dehydrated skins."

After an initial chat about my skin and areas of concern, Jessica performed a cleanse of my skin so she could see how sensitive it was and how it reacted to the products. I then had a series of different lotions, scrubs and masks applied, specifically chosen for me, and Jessica talked me through each one in turn so I knew what was being used and what it would do for my skin.

My prescription facial included the following:

  • Glycolic wash and ultra mild cleanser
  • Vitamin C crystals and Activator (ex foliation) - this was my favourite part of the treatment as it felt really effective and I liked how the crystals were first applied before the activator cream, for a two-step effect
  • B5 Enriched firming mask - Jessica used a brush to paint this on and the mask really felt like it made a difference to how taut my face felt
  • Delicate soothing serum - this was super light and absorbed straight into my skin, which Jessica said was a key sign that a product was working as if it sits on the surface, it's not penetrating deep enough to do any real good
  • SPF - at least 80% of all ageing effects on the skin can be attributed to sun exposure so ladies, cover up and use SPF EVERY DAY!

At the start of my facial, I asked Jessica how old she thought I looked, in all honesty, and she said she thought I had a skin age of 24. Well, I'll take that thank you! Before applying the SPF, I asked Jessica if I could try the skin scanner. You may have seen these on 10 Years Younger and the like, but essentially they show what your skin really looks like underneath, highlighting how much sun damage you have. It's a pretty scary sight I can tell you - I looked about 80! It also highlighted a couple of white patches which indicated lack of hydration but overall, Jessica said I didn't have a lot to worried about and on a scale of one to 10, I was only a two in terms of sun damage. Phew! Best keep slapping on the SPF...

Destination Skin use Dermaquest products and they are also available to buy from the clinic, so I have a list of what was used during my facial for future reference. I was impressed by the products I tried and will certainly look at them in more detail when my current stock of beauty products runs low.

It was an enjoyable and educational experience and I certainly left feeling like I understood my skin better. The friendly clinic team really know their stuff and there's a wide variety of treatments available, which may seem expensive at first but many are recommended as courses, they use advanced technology, techniques and products and there's regular special offers or promotions to take advantage of too. Destination Skin isn't about having a treatment on a whim, it's more about achieving real results. For me, Jessica said I have really good collagen production so the main thing is to keep looking after my skin, staying hydrated and avoiding the sun at all costs - plus collagen boosting facials will help give my skin, well, a boost!

After my prescription facial at Destination Skin, no make-up, no filter

Combined with my newly learned skincare facts and daily routine (see tomorrow's post), the proof of my facial was in the comments I received afterwards, with one colleague saying how nice my skin looked having not seen me for a week. I can see and feel a difference since making changes to how I look after my skin which makes me feel great but even better if other people are noticing too.

If you have any skincare concerns or want to find out more about the skin you live in and how you can treat it to keep it in the best possible condition you can, I recommend you visit Destination Skin. If there's a problem, there may be a solution and these are the people to help.

*Note: I was invited along to the opening of the new Birmingham clinic and my facial was complimentary, but my comments and compliments I have received since are all genuine!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Escape from it all

A couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends and I headed off for a much needed day of R and R at the Aqua Sana Spa at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest. I was very fortunate enough to have the chance to spend the day enjoying everything the spa had to offer thanks to the Center Parcs and Tots100 Family Blog Club. We had both just turned 30 and a girlie day of pampering was the perfect way to celebrate together.

When we arrived, we were welcomed by Rosie who told us everything we would be treated to that day. As well as the 15 different experiences offered in the spa, from steam rooms to saunas and experience showers to an outdoor pool, we were to enjoy a welcome drink and snack, a back massage for myself and scalp massage for Lindsay and lunch too out on the patio. We couldn't wait to get started! 

I had visited the spa for an afternoon once before and was keen to see what Lindsay would think because like me, her main experience of spas has been from overnight stays at hotels where there are some spa facilities on site; usually consisting of a pool, a steam room and a gym, with therapists available for beauty treatment bookings.

Aqua Sana Spa is something else altogether. At Sherwood Forest, there's a open top pool at the centre of the spa, with all other experiences circulating this. The spa is designed to have a Roman bath feel to it whilst each of the experience rooms has a different theme, not just to the type of experience on offer but to the decor, so each one is a unique experience altogether. I loved all of the rooms, particularly the Turkish Hammam, Orange Blossom Steam Room and the Aqua Meditation Room, which is a real sensory experience. 

There's also cosy waterbeds on the first floor plus plenty of plush seating areas with lovely rattan style furniture and outside there's more lounge style seating in the zen garden plus a big garden building if you want some shade.

Our welcome glass of bubbly and Danish pastry went down very well and within minutes of arriving, we felt really relaxed. We then started to look around the spa before joining in a group spa session upstairs by one of the therapists, who introduced us to Elemis products and gave us the chance to give ourselves our own facial. This was an unexpected opportunity which we both thoroughly enjoyed - so much so we went back again at 4.30pm to try Decleor products out before we left!

We enjoyed various experiences - all of which have a plaque outside telling you what it is and how to go the most from the experience on offer - before heading to the other wing of the spa where the treatment rooms were. We sipped on fresh water with lemon, filled in our customer questionnaire forms and waited for our therapists to collect us. 

I had a back, shoulder and neck massage (duration of 25 minutes and costing around £45) and my therapist advised she would need to be quite firm with me as I had several problem areas that she would try to work on. Well, it wasn't relaxing and was a rather painful experience but I knew that I had a few knots that needed addressing. Apparently we carry our stresses in our weaker areas and I do suffer quite a lot with back pains and strains, so I let her do what she needed to.

It was a relief to meet Lindsay in the relaxation room afterwards though! She had enjoyed a sensual scalp massage and was nice and rated when I saw her - luckily she hadn't heard my yells! - and together we headed for lunch.

We had chosen to upgrade our lunch for £5 to include a selection of three mini salads, bread and oils plus an alcoholic drink of choice - so wine it was! Our lunch was made to order and was delicious; just what we needed but not too heavy either.

The staff at the spa were all very friendly and really added to the day as a whole. Pamela in the restaurant in particular went about and beyond and even sent us a birthday cupcake when we mentioned we had both just turned 30. It's the extra touches that really made the day for us and we couldn't have had a better day.

The afternoon was spent enjoying each of the experience rooms and each other's company; we hadn't seen each other in a long time and a good old natter was overdue.

We spent most of the day exclaiming over how fantastic the spa was and how we could get used to that kind of life. We keenly picked up brochures to find out what retreats are on offer and with prices starting from £69 per person for a day visit, including welcome drink and snack plus lunch, plus overnight stays available from around £139, we were both eager to come back again.

For me, Aqua Sana really is a wonderful retreat and I'd love to go again for an extended visit, including an overnight stay and complimentary bike hire to explore the Center Parcs village. There is so much you can enjoy but of course you want to relax and take things easy, so unless you make full use of your day (opening hours when partaking in a day visit to he spa are 9am to 6pm) you might find it hard to fit everything in whilst still trying to unwind and not keep to a schedule like you have to in your normal day life.

We had an amazing day and were very sad to leave. We agreed that it was the best spa experience either one of us had had and that the value you get from your day is just fantastic. I can't wait to have an excuse to go again! Better start saving my pennies...

Thank you again to Center Parcs for the opportunity.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A summertime glow

With my fair skin and new found understanding of the ageing effects of the sun, I'm not one to spends hours in the sun trying to get myself a tan. I haven't always been so anti sun worshipping but since having my skin scan at Destination Skin Birmingham (post coming later this week)and realising that achieving a 'healthy glow' through tanning is really just showing off dead skin cells, I'll be dodging sun exposure more than ever. At least, once my phototherapy programme ends.

Also, I can't get on with self-tanning. I really like having some colour to my skin, particularly my face as it helps to even out any marks or blemishes, but the faff and the smell of self-tanning is really off-putting. In the last I've used lots if different lotions and sprays, and I've exfoliated and moisturised and caked myself in tanning products. The results look ok the next day, although there's always somewhere you've missed or the tanner has taken too much, but a couple if days later, you start getting patchy and you have to go through the whole long-winded, smelly process again.

That's why this Summer, I'm trying other ways to give my face a healthy glow that really means my skin is healthy and aided to look its best.

My new-found, must-have product that I am head over heels for is Decleor's BB Cream. I recently discovered this brand during a spa day at Center Parcs Aqua Sana Spa and during a beauty session, everyone hit to try this wonder product and I watched as different women of different ages all applied the same cream, which adapted to their skin and left everyone with a really lovely, natural, healthy-looking glow. It was amazing and my friend and I were sold on the spot.

The main benefits this BB cream promises is 24 hour hydration and a nice glow that adapts to your skin tone as you blend. I use this every day, following moisturiser and before adding concealer and the rest of my make up. I find it makes me look radiant, not shiny, and my skin does look like my skin is hydrated and plump, all day long. Honestly, I love this cream and it's sure to be one item that will become a staple. The RRP is £29 but I've recently discovered and will be buying from there when I run out, as they have top name brands at much more attractive prices.

My other favourite beauty find this summer is No7's Pop and Glow Cream Blush Sticks. Available in three shades, these are chubby cream blush sticks which blend really smooth and give a great pop of colour. I have the Rose Blossom bright pink and Mango Sorbet peach shades and find the colour lasts well, can be built up for more of an impact and they don't feel heavy on your skin. 

I was over the moon to find out last week that they've added two highlighters to this range - called Instant Radiance Highlighters - and naturally, I had to snap one up. Priced at £9.95 each, with a current offer of buy one get another half price available on all No7 products (plus there's a £3 off voucher too if you spend £4 at Boots), these are brilliant value. I have one on me at all times to top up as needed throughout the day and they give me an added touch of colour that's just perfect for summer.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Simply lush

I'm on a bit of a beauty buzz at the moment and have a whole week of beautiful things to share with you, starting off with Lush...

I've never been into a Lush store before. There, I've said it. I know I may be very late to the Lush party but I thought I'd share with you the few bits I bought on my first trip as they are rather, well, lush.

I think the main reason I've never been in before is because the Birmingham branch is outside of the Bullring and when I do get to make a trip into town, I rarely have cause to venture out of the main shopping area. A poor excuse but my excuse nonetheless. 

I went in last week during a day out in Solihull, for a change of scenery and because I wanted to pop into Hobbycraft, and I'm really glad I did because it's such a fascinating store. At first, the smell is quite intense - a bit like The Body Shop but amplified and with a base note of talc. I soon got used to the store scent and had a browse around the shelves, reading the quirky names of the products and seeing what would take my fancy.

The sales assistant soon came over and said if I had never been to Lush before, I needed to try the hand scrub and conditioner mix as it was his favourite thing to get newbies such as me to try. He was right, it was a real treat for my hands. The experience felt really nice and my hands felt super soft in seconds.

I was keen to pick up a lip scrub as I've heard great things about these and after trying the bubblegum and popcorn flavours (the latter is both salty and sweet), I chose bubblegum. It's a sugar based scrub that literally is good enough to eat and leaves your lips lovely and smooth within seconds. A simple way to achieve a perfect pout!

Next, the shampoo soap bars caught my eye. Shampoo... in the form of a bar of soap? Sounds a bit bonkers but the assistant assured me that they were really effective, lasted ages and were great if you were going on holiday as you could use them all over. I decided to give one a go and chose the Seanik bar as it contains sea salt, seaweed and lemon oil, plus other essential oils, to give your hair a boost. 

I've since used this a few times in the shower and whilst it feels strange to use a bar of soap on your hair, this lathers really well, really quickly and leaves my hair feeling squeaky clean. As with all Lush products, it smells great too, and for products such as this, that's a real plus point (for facial skincare, you don't need or want fragrance in your products as it's pretty unnecessary and could be an aggravator for your skin).

My final stop in the store was to a counter that looked like it had a selection of multicoloured cheeses, all stacked in different sized blocks, on display. This was in fact a selection of different cleansers and shower soaps which you buy according to weight and one in particular caught my eye. It's called Porridge because it contains oats and it's well suited for cleaning and calming sensitive skins. With psoriasis patches over my body, some shower gels can sting a bit, so I thought this would be great for me to try and I have really enjoyed using it since. It's gentle, lathers nicely and most importantly, my skin seems to like it too.

A trip to Lush is like walking into the Willy Wonka shop of the beauty product world. Tantalising smells, unusual ingredients, brightly coloured products. There seems to be a soap, lotion or potion for everything, handmade, cruelty free and full of lovely natural ingredients, and I'm sure my first visit won't be my last.

Are you a lover of Lush? What products do you recommend?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Meet A Mum Monday - Beth from Twinderelmo

It's been a couple of weeks but I'm pleased to be bringing you a new Meet A Mum post today - meet Beth from Twinderelmo... she's a Mum to three lovely little ones, including identical twins!

1. Hello, what's your name and where do you come from?
I'm Beth, I'm 28 and married. I come from Shropshire near the midlands and am now a SAHM after taking voluntary redundancy after my maternity leave ended.

2. Tell us about your children.
I have a 5& a half year old son who has just finished reception class. I also have 13 month old identical twin girls who were conceived on our honeymoon!

3. When did you know you wanted to be a mum?
I was your stereotypical girl - obsessed with dolls and babies. From as young as I can remember I fawned over babies and had Charlie when I was 23 and fell totally and utterly in love as life as a Mom.

4. What's your favourite moment as a mum so far?
I really enjoyed our first holiday together - we went when the girls were just 2 months old and it felt such an achievement as the prospect of twins plus a then 4 year old was frightening but it was a moment where it felt like - yes we really can do this!

5. What do you wish people had told you before you became a mum?
Do not get embroiled into competing - too many want to make every milestone into a competition. Enjoy each step as cliche as it sounds it goes so quickly. Just relax, embrace and trust your instinct. 

6. If we were to look in your changing bag, what would we find?
Stashes of nappies, wipes, nappy bags, toys, stray raisins and my phone.

7. What were the top three things you had for your baby that you would recommend to other mums?
1. For twin s- my car seat bases were an absolute god send. How I would have done the school run with seatbelt car seats I'll never know. 
2. Also Aldi nappies - such bargains and excellent quality. 
3. And finally I found a pushchair which you can put the car seats on. Again it made the school run so much simpler and made the early crazy days that bit easier 

8. What three things could you have done without?
1. A baby bath. We used it about twice and is now used as a washing basket! 
2. Anti colic bottles. Complete waste of time and money - the milk just leaked everywhere. 
3. A top and tail bowl. Why do these even exist?! A normal bowl is perfectly adequate. And far cheaper. 

9. What baby brands do you like and why?
I love the Weleda range - it leaves my girls skin smelling amazing and feeling so soft. I also love Aldi own brand nappies and wipes and I'm a sucker for a Pink Lining bag.

10. Are you a working mum? If so, how do you find it?
I was after having my son. But now SAH with the girls. There is guilt for both - guilt when working as you are kissing so much yet the same at home as I worry I may smother them and make them clingy. Moms put so much pressure on ourselves and I don't think there will ever be a healthy balance where you feel happy about your choices.

11. What do you enjoy most about being mum?
Getting to know their individual personalities. Even with identical twins, genetically they are the same however I could never imagine two more different children. As Charlie is now at school seeing him develop into his own person amazes me everyday and makes me feel so proud.

12. How do you make time for being 'you'?
I'm quite lucky that come 7pm, all the kids will be in bed. Me & my husband manage to sneak out for a meal every few months and we really look forward to having couple time

13. Tell us about your blog / where we can find you online.
I blog at I opened my blog last October but only really started to write the past couple of months. I'm enjoying having a hobby and it's keeping me occupied after losing someone incredibly  important to me.

14. What's the best thing about being a blogger?
How supportive other bloggers are. I'm amazed how welcoming people are. I also love having a release to write your feelings and knowing it's there as a keepsake.

15. Share a crazy fact about yourself.
When I was at school I was a national girls football champion and played all across the UK.

Thanks Beth! I don't know how you do it with three children to look after, just amazing! And please tell us your secret of 7pm bedtimes in your house!!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Lovely lollies

Anyone feel like they're melting? We wouldn't be British if we didn't complain about the weather but it has been rather warm of late and I've certainly been looking for ways to cool down.

One way I've been keeping cool is by enjoying a tradition I took part in every summer when I was at school. Ah, those were the days! Stopping by the corner shop on the way home to buy a sickly sweet ice tube to enjoy, with the challenge being to eat it all before it turned into syrup slush. Or do you remember making your own frozen drinks? It was all the rage at our school to take an empty water bottle, fill it with squash and water, pop it in the freezer overnight and then take to school the next day for a cool way to cool down during the lunch break.

Well, you're never too old to make ice lollies in my book and this week, enough was enough - I needed something to help me get through the warm evenings.

I bought an ice lolly set from Asda for just £1.50, with space to make eight lollies, and quickly got to work. You may have seen from my picnic post yesterday that my new favourite light summer drink is the new Ribena Plus No Added Sugar Orange and Mandarin squash - it has a really nice flavour and worked great in my ice lollies too.

This month's Center Parcs and Tots100 blogger challenge is all about ice lollies and I followed their top tip to use a little more squash to make my lolly than I would to make a drink to get the best flavour.

The end result was a super summery ice lolly that I loved and even Ethan had some too (don't worry, this drink has just 0.7g of sugar per 100ml and is packed with vitamin A and C goodness), although he did seem quite shocked at how cold it was!

I also thought it would be fun to make a couple of adult versions too so I took a look in our drinks cabinet and made a JD and coke lolly for the hubs plus G&T and Pimms Blackcurrant and Elderflower versions for me - who said that ice lollies were just for kids?! Mmm!

I'm a proud member of the Center Parcs Family Blog Club 2013/14 and you could be too if you take part in this month's challenge - find out more here!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Planning the perfect picnic

I love picnics. The great outdoors. A selection of nibbles and sandwiches to feast on. No rushing, just the chance to enjoy some nice food, outside with your special people.

This month is officially National Picnic Month - hurray! - and whilst last weekend was spent mostly working, I did manage to take a short break at lunchtime to go out with my two boys, one tall and one small, to visit our local park for a picnic. I was determined to enjoy some sun and the park close to us is the perfect spot for a picnic, with lots of different open areas, lakes and trees to provide shade.

When packing all the things we would need to take, I realised that picnics aren't as easy or care-free as they first seem to be - at least not with a toddler in tow! So, I thought I'd put together my check-list for perfect picnics. Trust me, with these bits and pieces with you, you're sure to have a great time:

Blanket - you need to take a nice big blanket with you, in case the grass is damp or just to have something soft to sit / lay down on. On this occasion, we took our Heat Holders Snuggle Ups Luxury Fleece Blanket. It's 1.4 tog so it will be great to use in the winter when all I want to do is snuggle up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate but we took it along with us as it's nice and big and super, super soft.

Cool box / hamper - if you need to keep things chilled, perhaps if you are going further afield for your picnic, then a cool box is the best way to pack up all your food and drinks so that stay cool. We have one that's just the right size for the three of us plus we have a backpack picnic hamper which contains four sets of plates, cups and cutlery - it's brilliant for days out and all the food stores neatly in the back. 

Food - well, it wouldn't be much of a picnic without it, would it?! Sandwiches are a must so fillings such as cheese, ham or tuna suit most tastes and you'll need lots of snacks to nibble on while you enjoy your outdoor dining. 

For little ones, mini sausages, sausage rolls, mini cheeses, carrot sticks, grapes and other finger foods are a simple idea and easy to prepare and for big ones, I personally love all the deli items from M&S. Last weekend we treated ourselves to some olives, homous and pitta, chicken skewers and sushi for a bit of a pick and mix style picnic feast.

Drink - another obvious one I know! I like to pack plenty of water if we are going to spend some time out in the sun (dare I say it!) and squash is a great way to add some flavour. My new favourite flavour is Ribena's new Orange and Mandarin squash. It's no-added sugar with just 0.7g per 100ml, which is a huge plus point for me and if Ethan wants a sip I don't need to worry, plus it has added vitamins A and C for extra goodness. I like water but sometimes I want something with taste and this is really refreshing and tastes like summer. I've even made ice lollies with it (look out for tomorrow's post...)

Of course, if you're making it a long lunch or can enjoy a cheeky tipple, then I can't argue a nice glass of vino, Pimms or a G&T would also go down very well indeed too.

Plates, cups and napkins - whether you choose paper for ease or plastic to be less wasteful, these are picnic must-haves.

Plastic bag - simple but essential, have one of these to hand and you can pop all your rubbish in it to throw away or take back home with you, without worrying about crumbs or smell leftovers.

Hand sanitiser and wet wipes - to be on the safe side, I always take hand sanitiser out with us as after all, if you're eating with your hands and have been out and about, you may not have had the chance to wash first and you don't want to pick up any nasties. And when can any mum do without wet wipes?! Sticky fingers, be gone!

Entertainment - make sure you take a few things to keep your toddler happy, such as their favourite book, a ball and any other toys they can play with and if you can get a couple of moments to yourself, a couple of magazines, your Kindle or iPod are great to pack to help you relax and make the most of the picnic.

Back up - you can never be sure what the British weather has in store so it's best to be prepared on your picnic. You'll need suncream for you and your mini me, even if it doesn't look that sunny, as you will still be exposed and need to look after yourselves so you don't burn. 

Being as hyper-organised as I am, I also like to be prepared in case it's colder than I thought it would be or if the weather takes a turn for the worst. I always have an umbrella in the car and for our picnic, I took along my new Heat Holder thermal socks - a pair for Ste and a pair for me. Now you may laugh seeing as we are currently in the midst of a heatwave, but with the chance of rain and the sudden onset of cloud, I think it can't hurt to have all bases covered. I like to make the most of summer and plan on having picnics into September at least, so I may just need these 2.3 tog rating socks by then! If not, they will be brilliant for walks in the park when it does get colder, as they're a great partner for wellies, and for keeping my toes toasty warm in winter, as they hold more air close to the skin to keep you warmer for longer. They're really soft and sure to be a staple when the temperature drops.

Do you love picnics as much as me? What are your picnic must-pack essentials?

* Note: I'm a picnic fan and Heat Holders got in touch to offer me their thermal socks (RRP £6 for ladies socks) and luxury fleece blanket (RRP £24.99) to make sure we could enjoy the great outdoors whatever the weather. The nice people at Ribena also sent me a 850ml bottle of their Orange and Mandarin flavour (RRP £2.89) to try out so we decided to take this along with us, but as always, my opinions are my own. You can count on that!
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