Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What I want: natural skin care

*Warning: this is a wordy post!*

As I've documented on my blog previously, I've had my fair share of skin problems throughout my twenties and I'm always on the look out for products that will get my skin clear and keep it clear.

Over the years I've tried a lot of the drug store products from the UK and the US but none of them have helped much. I was drawn in by marketing that promised clear skin, I pounded my skin with chemicals to try and clear my skin but in reality I stripped it of its natural oils which resulted in my skin becoming greasy, which in turn did not help the spots.

Recently I've been on the hunt for natural (and where possible, organic) skin care products. A few weeks ago I popped into Holland Barrett on my lunch break and picked up the Dr Organic Organic Manuka Honey Face Mask as a colleague had been raving about manuka honey and how amazing it is. I was thinking of buying a pot of manuka honey to use directly on my skin, however I found the price prohibitive. Instead I went for the manuka honey mask as it's a mix of the honey and Kaolin (China Clay), I figures that putting both of these things on my affected area (I've only been using it on my chin) would be good.

So far I've been impressed with the results, immediately after using the mask my skin has been smoother and any redness has been soothed, I've taken to using it in the morning twice a week prior to applying my make up. On a few occasions when I've used it in the night, the following morning I've woken up with a small breakout. This hasn't worried me as it's the clay drawing out the impurities in my skin, which is good!

I've also been using the REN Hydra-Calm Cleansing Milk and quite frankly it's been a revelation. In the space of two weeks I've seen a vast improvement in my skin, I'm now down to one breakout (more of a cyst really) on my chin. Areas that were dry and flaky before I used it are now calm and smooth. I'm really, really shocked by the turn around in my skin since I started using it, in fact after only using it once I noticed an immediate difference.

Thanks to my success with REN I've been spurred on to find natural skin care products. I toddled off to town on Saturday and headed straight for John Lewis in order to track down the REN counter. Sadly when I arrived in the beauty department I discovered that the Cardiff store only stocks a few REN items and there was no one around to speak to and to get a sample of the Hydra-Calm Day Cream that I really wanted to try. Thankfully they have a super friendly twitter account and I've now had an email from their customer care service to say that they're sending me some samples to try.

Whilst I was in John Lewis I picked up samples from Clarins after their Gentle Day Cream was recommended to me, the Mega-Mushroom serum and day cream, Liz Earle's day cream and the Keihl's Hydrating Moisture Emulsion.

After doing a bit of research I've also found a couple of natural or organic skin care companies that I may order some samples from: Aromawakening, Earthbound Organics, Akamuti and Conscious Skincare. I'm very glad it's pay day!

Hopefully in the coming weeks I'll be able to find the perfect regime for my skin, until then I'm tester pot central.

Do you know of a natural or organic skin care companies that I should look into on my quest for healthy skin?


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Weekly roundup

On Monday I finally got my hands on REN Hydra Calm Cleansing Milk and Elemis Fresh Skin treatment gel. So far the results are impressive. In fact I've been so impressed by the REN cleanser that I'm thinking about buying one of their masks and a moisturiser, especially as I have about a week left of my current moisturiser.

Our garden is really starting to take shape, I'm trying to plan some planting at the back of the garden. So far I've planted a small tree, two roses and two plants that I've already forgotten the name of, not to mention lots of bulbs. I'm trying to achieve a country cottage look.

Friday consisted of the RHS Show Cardiff.

In the evening we ate dinner at Fire Island. Huge amounts of meat were had.

We've all been doing a lot of this during the past week, it's nice to see the garden coming together.

Had a good sort out of my clothes this afternoon, my spring/summer clothes are out and winter clothes are packed away.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Fire Island

Last night I visited Fire Island for dinner with Matt and three friends, we were having a mini celebration for Matt who has recently got a new job as well as his visa. It seemed like an American BBQ joint would be an apt place to eat so off we trotted to Westgate Street.

Our table was booked for 7.30 pm but I don't think we got seated until about 7.40 pm due to some confusion on our part as to where we were meant to be seated. When I booked the table I was told that we would be sat in the restaurant area as it was our first visit, however, on arrival we couldn't work out where the restaurant was. We went upstairs to the small cocktail lounge only to be confronted by a large and rowdy (think boys on tour) private party. Off we went back downstairs to the bar to try and find someone to help. In the end the manager (I'm guessing) took us back through the private party - take that snooty party goer who was less than polite to us the first time we went up there - and into an oasis of calm.

The restaurant area is small but looked good, think New York City loft and you'd be pretty spot on with how it looks. Stupidly I didn't take any photos of the room as by that point I was hungry and just wanted to look at the menu.

Earlier in the day I had tweeted that we were visiting Fire Island that night to celebrate Matt's achievements, when we sat down this was waiting for us on the table.

It was a nice touch and something I really appreciated.

Onto the food!

I had thought that I'd go for something small. Ha! What a fool I was. I soon found myself ordering a combo plate of a half rack of ribs and brisket. Three of our party went for the ribs and pulled pork combo and the other went for just the ribs. Soon our table was groaning under the weight of plates of meat. My god, the meat.

Everything looked amazing. A few people ordered sides including mac n cheese, corn relish and onion rings. On trying an onion ring Matt uttered the words I never thought I'd hear him say: "These are better than Sonic!" Score one for Fire Island.

Each combo came with fries, salad and coleslaw. I dived straight into the brisket, which was amazing. Tender and so so tasty, perfect brisket really.

I'm going to be craving the brisket for some time to come. Eventually I tore myself away from the brisket and onto the ribs. The ribs are described by Fire Island as being their speciality, they're smoked and roasted with BBQ sauce on top. The BBQ sauce was fantastic, it was a great mixture of smoky, slightly sweet and full on BBQ. The meat on the ribs was plentiful and tender. Soon our plates were piling up with meatless ribs and we were all beginning to huff and puff thanks to full stomachs.

Despite full stomachs and the risk of falling into a meat induced coma right there in the restaurant a couple of us steeled ourselves and ordered dessert. Unfortunately the pumpkin pie had run out, which was a shame as that's what Matt and I wanted to try but I consoled myself with the chocolate and pecan brownie and I wasn't disappointed. Another score for Fire Island, that place knows how to do a good brownie. Gooey and warm in the middle with a slight crunch on the outside, not too many pecans inside (I normally avoid brownies with nuts in like the plague but I'd been told in advance to try it) and with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Even with Emma's help I couldn't finish it all and left about two mouth fulls.

One member of our party ordered the ice cream, this was probably the only disappointing aspect of our meal as all they had on offer was strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. Three small scoops of vanilla ice cream cost £4.05. Maybe I'm being stingy but it didn't sit quite right, maybe if there were some exciting flavours on offer it would have gone down well.

Our bill came to just shy of £100, this included five mains, four sides, three desserts, two rounds of cokes for the drivers, one vodka and coke and a glass of wine. Not too shabby.

We left Fire Island happy, in the knowledge that a return visit is definitely in order.


Friday, 19 April 2013

2013 RHS Show Cardiff

The RHS Show Cardiff is in town this weekend in Bute Park behind Cardiff Castle. Matt and I went on the Saturday last year and vowed to go back this year when we had a garden and could buy the plants we wanted. This year we both booked the day off work and headed off to Bute Park, arriving just after the show opened. The show was much quieter than last year when we went on a Saturday, the main reason why we decided to go on the opening day.

For those who don't know much about the flower show, it brings together the world of horticulture along with regional food and craft. You can expect to go away from the show full of ideas and inspiration for your garden as well as information on how to get involved in gardening and gardening projects. There are talks and demonstrations that allow you to learn new skills or perhaps just get advice.

The two floral marquees are where the large cut flower displays are as well as stands that sell the plants you see on display.

The bonsai trees were there last year, the one in the middle of the upper row dates from 1910, which is incredible.

 How sweet is this bird bath?!

Matt and I don't really have a big enough garden for space for a bird bath and bird house but we're planning on getting the biggest garden we can when we move house in a few years and I would love something like this in it to try and attract plenty of birds to our garden.

There were plenty of stunning displays like this, the fuchsia display by Roualyn Fuchsias really caught my eye as I'd read that fuchsia plants are suited for the type of soil we have in our garden. I ended up buying two plants, Patti Sue and Dollar Princess.

Really wish I had taken note of the name of this one, it's so pretty!

As well as large floral displays there were also displays from florists that showcased flowers in unusual ways. Despite my utter hatred of dragonflies I really liked this one.

As well as the marquee displays there is plenty to see in the show ground.

Summer house display

Love love love this! They had a smaller fountain for sale but we don't have the room in our garden for it.
Really impressed with this display which shows a before and after garden. Look how neat the right side is!
I like the idea of using tree trunks in this way but this would scare me if I looked out of my window and saw it.
In addition to garden displays there are lots of food stalls (I had the most amazing pork roll ever, literally the best pork I've ever eaten), craft stalls and a bandstand. When we arrived Laurence Made Me Cry was playing, she was great. Definitely someone to watch out for if you're in and around Cardiff.

All in all we had a good morning at the show, we came away with our hands full of plants and plenty of ideas of how to make our garden look good. The show is open tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday, it's something I'd recommend for all ages whether you have a large or small garden or even no garden - there are plenty of indoor planting ideas.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Skincare eight months on

Since I wrote back in August about what was happening with my skin (I have an ongoing battle with my skin which you can read about here, here and here should you wish) things have gone a little awry and my chin has been somewhat of a war zone since February. I know that my problem is hormone related but I really thought things would have settled down by now. I'm currently finding it weirdly amusing to cover my chin with my hand when I look in the mirror, the rest of my skin is pretty much perfect.

I find myself obsessing over chins. Odd, right?! When reading blogs or magazines and when watching TV I end up zoning in on people's chins wondering why their skin is so nice there when my chin is marked and scarred even when not covered in spots and cysts. It's not a healthy obsession to have. I am jealous of other people's chins and skin in general. Jeeze. I can't believe I'm even admitting that to be honest.

So what have I been using during this time?

Clinique 3 Step Regime
I stuck with this for a while before dropping down to two steps, I ditched the toner as I found it too harsh. It was making problem areas on my chin red and raw. Not a great look. After a while I dropped down to just using the moisturiser as the cleanser became too strong for my skin. It's a shame as it had worked for me for so long.

I'm almost out of the moisturiser and on the hunt for something to replace it, but I have no idea where to even start. I need something that will sooth my skin but also make a good base for my make up.

Soap and Glory Peaches and Clean
I'd heard so many good things about this cleanser and their website states that "it's the best cleansing milk on the market". It's more of a cleansing cream in my opinion, it's far too thick to be considered a milk. I found that this soothed my skin and made my skin softer but it did nothing to reduce the cysts (oh yes, they're back) on my chin.

Perhaps I didn't use it long enough, but when you're in pain (so much so that it's painful to talk and eat) and you're taking 400mg of ibuprofen twice a day just to numb the pain from your skin it's all too easy to jump from product to product to try and find the wonder product.

Soap and Glory The Fab Pore Hot Cloth Cleanser
To be honest, I've been using this for quite a while - maybe two years. It's amazing at taking off all of my makeup, including really stubborn mascara. Although it hasn't done anything for my skin I do feel that it is a great start to my evening cleansing routine as I know that after I've used it all my makeup is gone.

No 7 Total Renewal Micro-dermabrasion Face Exfoliator
I bought this before my skin went crazy and found it delivered great results, my skin is so smooth after using it. After my skin broke out I stopped using it as I was afraid that as it is an exfoliator it may spread any bacteria on my face around, which in turn would spread the spots. In the last two weeks I've started using it again as my skin is a little better, I've used it very sparingly just on my chin and it has helped to remove the dry, flaky skin that the Duac cream has caused. I'm hoping that if/when my skin clears I'll be able to go back to using it properly as it really is good.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
As well as using the hot cloth cleanser from Soap and Glory I've been using this to take my make up off prior to cleansing, just to mix things up a little. It's more expensive than the hot cloth cleanser and I don't feel that it's as good, I don't feel completely make up free after using it. Maybe it's because I only use warm water to take it off, I think taking it off with a cloth would yield a better result.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser and Moisturizing Lotion
I only found out about Cetaphil by chance, I was browsing the web looking for skincare recommendations from people also suffering the same problem as me and I came across it. It's super, super gentle. The cleanser has definitely helped calm my skin but I don't feel that it's preventing new occurences or made current problems better. I'm really not a fan of the lotion, it's far too greasy for my liking and the pump dispenses far too much product for my liking. I'm going to persist with the cleanser twice a day until I can see my GP later this month.

Yesterday I ordered REN Hydra-Calm Cleansing Milk and Elemis FreshSkin Clear Treatment Gel. Both products are next in the line of products I'm hoping will help me. I've wanted to try REN for a number of years after my mum started using their products, this cleanser is made for sensitive/delicate skin, which mine definitely is at the moment. I'm hoping to use the Elemis gel as a replacement for my Duac cream as I just don't feel like I can carry on using it. What I like about the Elemis gel is that it can be used in the morning and the evening, at present I can only use the Duac at night so fighting spots during the day will be a perk.

As for face masks, that's a whole other post altogether.

Have you suffered with problem skin? What helped you? Any tips on which moisturiser I should use next?

You can find me here over on Bloglovin


Monday, 8 April 2013

April so far through Instagram

1. I put my DIY hat on and painted the side of one of our kitchen units in blackboard paint. I had been using a small heart shaped chalkboard but it seemed like such a waste of space. I love it! 2. The Easter card Matt and I received from my parents, geeky chick! 3. These flowers have lasted for about two weeks. They're still going strong. 4. Easter present from my parents. 5. Our haul from various farm shops. 6. Field Fare pastries. SO GOOD. 7. Finally got my red chucks out. 8. So Matt got his out too. 9. We took a walk yesterday, it was so so cold but much needed. 10. Random valleys town, maybe Bedwas and towards Machen...maybe. 11. There was a fairly large fire on the mountain on Saturday, this is what we found on our walk. 12. I made these for Matt. They sucked.

Coming up...mini reviews of some products I bought on the weekend.

One of those I already love after only two days using it. I'll leave you to guess which...


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Top ten wants

Our holiday to Orlando is just over two months away *insert crazy happy dance here* and because of this my thoughts have turned to holiday shopping!

I've recently donated a heck of a lot of my summer clothes to George Thomas Hospice, either because they don't fit me anymore or because they just aren't my style. Because of this I'm really lacking in holiday clothes. The list below could easily be 30 items long, I've tried to restrain myself and keep it to ten.

So far I'm thinking of keeping things basic for Orlando, we're going in June so it's going to be hot. Maxi skirts, dresses and shorts are going to be my staples.

1. Pink flapover crossbody bag. Dorothy Perkins. £45.00
2. Embellished plait bangle. Dorothy Perkins. £10.00
3. Re Gen Cream. Amazon. Ebay. Home Bargains. Price varies. 
4. Racer back oversize vest. New Look. £4.99
5. Maxi skirt. New Look. £16.99
7. Leather sandles. Zara. £39.99
8. High heel shoes. Zara. £29.99
9. Liz Earle hot cloth cleanser. Liz Earle. Price varies. 
10. Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush in peach satin. America! $8.13


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Farm Shopping

Matt and I decided this week to try and buy our meat and vegetables from farm shops as well as butchers and greengrocers. We're trying to cut down on cost (where possible) and get better quality produce.

After putting out a plea for advice on local farm shops I was directed to Moody Sow at Cefn Mably Farm Park and Thornhill Farm Shop. We currently live about a 5-10 minute drive from Thornhill Farm Shop and it's a place we've visited before - they have reindeer people, reindeer. Oh, and cute little lambs bouncing around the fields. As we've been their before we decided to try a new place so off we set this morning through the fields surrounding Rudry and out towards Cefn Mably, it's an area of the world that I love. You'd never know that you're just outside Cardiff, it's wonderful.

On arrival at Moody Cow my first impression was that it was packed! It had only been open for an hour but the car park was bursting with parents taking their kids to the Farm Park. When we actually got into the farm shop it was only us and another couple in there.

The shop was far more contemporary than I was expecting having been in other farm shops in the past, all of the produce was displayed well in what was some what of an Aladdin's cave of food I'd never even thought of trying before. Pop-a-cobs were something I'd never seen before and despite not really being a fan of popcorn they seemed pretty cool, they'd make a great stocking filler for Matt who is more of a popcorn fan. Quai Sud rice pudding in a jar really excited me, I wish I would have bought one to try as the concept is great. They'd make a lovely stocking filler too.

I was slightly disappointed in the selection of fruit and vegetables but I understand seasons and the fact that the lovely British weather hasn't been great for farmers lately. However, they did have the largest red onions I've ever seen and judging by their website they normally have a better selection.

Another thing I had been looking forward to buying was fresh bread but there was no bread at all, despite their website stating that they bake bread seven days a week. Maybe we just went on an off day, and the lack of bread certainly wouldn't put me off going back.

The butchers counter more than made up for the lack of fruit, vegetables and bread. They had a great selection ranging from whole chickens (that looked so much better than the poor things you get at the supermarket), pig hearts, pork ribs, minced beef, home made sausages and a whole lot more.

In the end we came away with minced beef, chicken breasts, sausages, pretzels, Field Fare croissants, pain au chocolat and two Gordon Rhodes sauce mixes all for just over £15.00.

From there we went onto Bedwas where Matt said there was a great butchers who also does carvery sandwiches. Sadly when we got there it turned out that the carvery was only available mid week, I guess it gets too busy for them to do that on the weekend.

I really liked Buckland's, the staff were very friendly and the selection of meats, cooked meats as well as pies, sausage rolls and all manner of lovely looking foods.

Such amazing selection!

We came away with ham (which I've already tried and its insanely good), a sausage roll, steak and ale pie and a Cornish pasty.

Apparently this wasn't enough shopping for us so off we went to Thornhill Farm Shop. The owners of the farm are currently extending the shop and coffee shop but it was still busy. We picked up some Thai marinade, dipping crackers, Field Fare mixed fruit and a loaf of fresh bread.

All in all it's been a great day, we've come home with lots of great produce that I can't wait to use.

I'm looking forward to more visits to farm shops in the future.
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