22-01-2015

January Skincare

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I’m not going to profess to be an expert on beauty or skincare. I only know what works for MY skin.

I like good quality products, I like to try new things and keep my skincare line up in rotation – I blame working part time in a pharmacy from the ages of 14 – 21 and having unlimited access to the Clarins, Elizabeth Arden, and Guerlain counters and an abundance of samples.

Through a dutiful process of trial, error, and boredom when I’d run out of shelves to restock, I learnt a lot about which were the standout products from each brand, and which ones were not all that. Above all, I developed a penchant for high end products and realised the importance of a good skincare routine.

Here’s what I have been putting on my face recently:

(I should note that in between taking the photo and publishing this post, I’ve already swapped out a couple of items, so not everything I mentioned is pictured. Just to be confusing.)

Clarins Blue Orchid face treatment oil - I am all about the oils in winter. There’s nothing that makes my skin feel more protected and nourished throughout harsh winter conditions. And they smell great, too. My go-to is the classic Clarins Blue Orchid for dehydrated skin.

Korres Magnolia Bark Night Cream – I’m either using a facial oil at night, or I’m using Korres Magnolia Bark night cream. This cream glides on like an oil and takes its time to absorb, so it’s a great overnight moisturiser. It’s designed for ‘first wrinkles’, which I don’t yet have, but if the grey hairs are anything to go by, it’s only a matter of time.

Indeed Labs – The Indeed Labs Moisture Boosting Facial Serum followed by the Hydraluron Moisture jelly is my favourite morning moisturising combo. The moisture boost does what it says on the tin and sits underneath your everyday moisturiser, working with it to give your skin one big thirst-quenching boost. Both products contain hyaluronic acid, which everyone in the skincare world is currently banging on about as THE BEST ingredient for moisturisation. My favourite thing about these products is that they absorb super quickly so I can apply make-up straight away – a VITAL time-saving part of my morning routine. I tend to buy in bulk when Boots do a 3 for 2 offer on Indeed products.

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My face. With make-up and an Instagram filter. 

A’kin Rose and Geranium Cleanser – I chose this because I am a sucker for a rose scent, I was intrigued by the brand having never tried it before, and the reviews were all very positive. It ticks all the boxes as a natural, effective, great smelling cleanser. And I really love the flip top lid – it makes this cleanser super convenient to use in the shower, which is where my bottle now resides.

ESPA Hydrating cleansing milk – I’m currently this to cleanse and remove make-up in the evenings. I originally had a sample given to me at a John Lewis event. I liked it so much, I replenished with a full sized bottle as soon as it ran out.

Pixi Glow Tonic – it took me a long while to get hold of this, because it’s been raved about so much it was constantly sold out last year. I’ve been using it daily for around six months. It has all the usual toning qualities, plus it works as an exfoliator to strip away dead skin cells and promote a brighter, more even complexion. Although I can’t say that I’ve noticed any ‘AMAZING’ hype-worthy results, it does feel like it’s doing a little bit more work than any other toner I’ve used, it’s a good value buy, and connected or not, I’ve had hardly any breakouts.

Body Shop Vitamin E range – On the more affordable end of the scale, I really enjoy this range from Body Shop. I find the cleanser a little heavy and leaves some residue, but the toner and the creams are good. Using these from time to time in replacement of the more expensive skincare products in my favourites saves me a bit of money.

Origins - I have tried a LOT of the Origins range over the years, they are a brand that works very well with my skin, and so I keep coming back. One of my favourite products of theirs is Modern Friction. This exfoliant makes my skin feel smoother and look brighter. I use it twice a week and I always notice instant results. Be warned, it contains lemon oil which might not be the best if you have sensitive skin, and definitely avoid the eye area.

One thing I feel is missing from my current skincare collection is a good serum to use an the evenings. I’ve always seen serum as an extra, a non-vital step in my routine, and just used samples as and when I received them. But now that I’m 30 and my skin has officially moved up an age category, I think it might be a good time to start paying attention to the benefits of a decent serum. If you have any recommendations, let me know.

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Discalimer: As stated, some products have originally been giving to me as PR samples, and the A’Kin cleanser was a PR sample that I selected from Big Green Smile. 

17-01-2015

Meh

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I didn’t blog about Christmas.

Actual christmas (Christmas Eve – Boxing Day) was lovely. And these days I just always feel grateful for my boys, and I always find myself taking time to take stock of everything that I am fortunate to have.

But not having Sam around for the rest of it, whilst all the world seemed to have until the 5th of work, hit me with a sadness that I hadn’t expected.

We haven’t been taking any holidays (until this year). So Sam always took a chunk of annual leave at Christmas and it was always our main family time. I hadn’t really realised how much of a nice tradition it was until this year when things felt distinctly different.

November and December were spent largely separate. One of us with the kids, the other away doing something work or play-related. We had one weekend all together, and as I remember, Sam and I spent most of that embroiled in insignificant squabbles. Which, of course, was a massive waste that only served to fuel our frustration further.

I think Arlo is definitely noticing (and reacting to) the lack of standard family time at the weekends. This is something to rectify in February and March when things die down a bit. I’m actually apprehensive about booking out too many weekends this year with photography sessions for this very reason – I have already scaled down massively from this time a year ago, but even then, I just can’t be pulled in this many directions all of the time. I can’t have the kids pulled in this many directions. I’m also trying to remember that it’s a big year (everyone is turning 30 and everyone is getting married), and maybe they won’t all feel so hectic.

I usually like to record Christmas, even if just for the nice photo memories. But somewhere in all of this, I just could not muster up the motivation to blog.

I feel like I’ve lost my enthusiasm for a lot of things, and I’ve definitely lost my focus. The smallest of items on my to-do list have seemed like vast challenges, and an uncharacteristic forgetful fog has been impossible to shift.

I think I might be, slash have been, exhausted.

Rory still spends most of the night (not) sleeping in bed next to me. I am pulling most of the weight at home, with the kids, finding myself making important family decisions solo whilst Sam is busy with work. I think this is the same for most couples with young families – we barely have a minute to have a proper conversation. Add time zone differences and text-only conversations to the mix and it’s impossible to pin any decisions down.

We tick one important life decision or event off the list and then we move straight onto the next one with what seems like no downtime. I crave to rescue time for the simple things. But it’s like a rollercoaster – once it’s starts moving it doesn’t stop. As families grow, decisions get bigger, life gets busier.

I never wanted to be at home with the kids all the time. I am not a natural homemaker. I crave creative time, and I crave space. I always wanted distinction between family time and work/solo time. If I could make it work financially, I’d definitely be one of those people saying “Going to work makes me a better mother”. But I feel like I’ve been working to get to that position ever since I became pregnant with Arlo. I’m still not there yet. For the moment, I find an increasing need to be at home, not working. Being the constant for the boys and making day-to-day life tick over, whilst Sam focuses on work and travels as much as he needs to. Just like it was for my mum. But it’s not my natural state, and it feels like it’s just snuck up on me without asking.

I can’t be bothered to do a lot of things, and blogging falls under that category.

(This isn’t an apology for not blogging. I’m happy with the irregularity of my posts. My blogging history has always been in waves).

I’ve just returned from New York (Sam surprised me with a trip for my 30th birthday), and again, I’ve been a bit meh about wanting to blog about it, and a bit flummoxed about what to write.

It’s a big cliche, but stepping out of my everyday life for six days (SIX days. Which is the most time I’ve ever been granted to just be me, without children, since I had Arlo), has given me time to see things a little bit more objectively.

I haven’t traveled out of the country for four years. Being in a different place, with time to myself, and proper sleep, took me so far away from my tunnel-visioned life as a mum of young children, attempting to cling onto London living, despite all the challenges, and all the things I’ve been focused/fixated on as part of that ‘plan’.

I like my life. But it’s all-consuming, and it’s easy to dwell on the things that aren’t going so well. Strip it all away, plonk me somewhere else for a few days, and I’m just me again, in the simplest form. And I found that quite a powerful thing.

That’s really what I wanted to say about New York.

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23-12-2014

Things I learned during my first post-children weekend away with friends

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Imagine if I got up, left the house unannounced and just checked into a hotel?

I have this fantasy that runs through my head in the middle of the night when things get particularly fraught with the kids’ sleep. Imagine knowing exactly how much sleep I was going to get. Imagine being in control of when I wake up. Imagine, FOR ONCE, me not being the end of the line between the kids and sleep.

There is nothing quite like the unspoken laws of Sam being able to remove himself to the sofa to get an undisturbed sleep, and a child rather reliant on breastfeeding at night to say without saying anything that the responsibility always ends with me.

It’s tough, having children that wake frequently. It’s tough, sharing a double bed between three. It’s tough, never having enough space in bed, being forced into sleeping positions at the will of my toddler, night on night. It’s tough, dealing with this alone whilst Sam is away. Having no respite in the day or at night.

And so, whilst Sam was away at the beginning of the month, I kept focussing on my upcoming weekend away. My first ever time away on my own, without Sam, and the first time I would be away from the children for not one, but TWO nights.

I get to escape. I actually get to live out my fantasy.

I can choose to focus on the daunting aspects of this. (Will Sam be OK? He’s never done a whole night with the kids by himself, let lone two. What if they get ill? What if I feel lost? What if I can’t keep up with the drinking and the late nights?)

Or I can choose to be excited and focus on all the things I used to take for granted pre-kids, embrace a one-off two days of only being responsible for myself.

I almost cracked when Rory was very poorly in they days leading up (Is this the right thing to do??), but the spirit of my Year of Me is pretty far ingrained now, and I knew there was only one way to play this.

I decided there was no room for responsibility, worry, and guilt in my suitcase. I needed to leave all of that behind. Because this weekend was for me.

(Well, actually it was for my friend’s 30th birthday, but let’s just bring the focus back round to me again.)

Things I learned during my first post-children weekend away with friends:

I am pretty well-equipped to keep up with late nights. A solid sleep between 5am-10.30am two nights in a row is not dissimilar sleep to my average night at home. I am well-trained at sleep deprivation.

I just can’t muster up the same level of enthusiasm for farm animals and zoos. I see this shit all the time. ALL THE TIME.

Lazy mornings and lounging around for the half a day will never NOT feel weird.

19 month Rory must be gradually taking less milk, even though his habits seem little different to half a year ago when he was 13 months. 6 months ago when we were away for one night I was needing to pump in the evening before bed and straight away again in the morning. This time, I made it to half way through Day 2 before needing to pump, and even then I got by OK for another day after a pump/voltage incompatibility.

Having a bed to myself will never NOT be AMAZING.

Nothing screams “30 YEAR OLDS” more than a room full of people dancing to the entire Spice Girls album.

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22-12-2014

Next Year

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I don’t usually think about goals or resolutions at this time of year. But following on from a valuable year where I really did take the time to think about myself and what I needed, I’m repeating the same process this year and will see where it takes me.

I guess the word that could most sum up everything that I want and hope to achieve next year is space.

We would desperately like a literal space upgrade. Whether that comes in the form of a new house (that would be the ultimate goal but whether we will get there next year or not is still an unknown), a huge de-clutter of this house, or maybe just simply some more space in the double bed that is currently inhabited by three people.

I also crave emotional space. I can feel the little tug of the desire for a third child starting. But I’m not quite there yet. First, I want some time. A little break from the non-sleeping (I went straight from non-sleeping Arlo to non-sleeping Rory). Potentially a break from breastfeeding before starting all over again.

I need things to get a little easier and I need time to appreciate and register that things have become easier. I want to experience that time where Rory starts preschool and Arlo is at school and I have a bit of time to myself each day. I need time to focus on my creative projects before I wind up moaning that I have no time for anything again.

I need to give myself space to be ready to do this all over again.

Then there are the things that I keep putting off until we have more space. “I’ll have an ordered house when we move and have more room”. “I’ll take more pride in our home decor once we’ve moved to our proper house.” It’s just excuses really.

I keep telling myself that I will do more craft activities with the kids once we have a big enough table and the space to store things neatly away. But I’ve been telling myself that for a few years now. Soon I’ll blink and Arlo will be at an age where he doesn’t find this stuff fun any more.

We’ve already made a start on this in the last couple of weeks:

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Washi Tape Christmas Cards as seen on Mum in the Madhouse

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Designing Christmas t-shirts from BuytshirtsOnline

So, I’m going to make a small, organised craft box that isn’t buried in an inaccessible space in the cupboard under the stairs, and I am going to research some ten minute activities that don’t require a lot of space or mess.

Because it shouldn’t be “one day”. It should be now.

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Our t-shirt making packs were sent to us – the boys had a great time being totally in control of the design, and having this activity planned out definitely helped ease us into the Christmas holidays! 

22-12-2014

Car Safety at Christmas Time

I have been partnering with Britax as a brand ambassador for the past year and a half. I also like to talk about car safety, and the little things we can do to make our cars immediately that bit safer for our children. Today I am sharing with you a guide on car safety at Christmas time that Britax have put together – in the event of a crash or a breakdown, it definitely pays to keep reminding ourselves of these safeguarding measures that can so easily slip our minds otherwise.  

With the winter holidays firmly on the horizon, millions of families all over the UK are planning the big drive home for Christmas. With the prospect of celebrating with friends and family and dining out on festive feasts, it can be easy to forget the dangers that go hand-in-hand with travelling in winter conditions. No parent wants to take chances when it comes to their children’s safety, which is why leading mobility brand, Britax has teamed up with Good Egg Safety to provide parents with some useful winter travel tips to ensure the nation’s families reach their destinations safely this Christmas.

Britax safety expert, Mark Bennett, said, “Christmas is an exciting time of year for families. Each year is another milestone for children and it’s a time to celebrate with loved ones. But amid all the excitement, it’s really important to consider some simple car safety checks to ensure you and your most precious cargo arrive safely. Making sure you have the right car seat installed for your child is the first step to providing that reassurance, so if you’re unsure if your little one has outgrown their seat, be sure to visit your local car seat retailer as they will be able to advise you on what’s right for your family.”

Jan James, CEO at Good Egg Safety said: “We welcome this important initiative from Britax. Of course child car seat safety is a priority at any time of the year, however it is especially important in the winter when driving conditions can be much more hazardous and the chances of a collision increased due to poor visibility, glare from the winter sun, slippery roads and darker mornings and evenings. We are driving in conditions we are less used to, and often at a later time, for example after visiting family and friends, or returning from a Christmas trip. Good Egg Safety supports Britax in encouraging parents to double check their child’s car seat this Christmas.”

To support Britax’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ initiative, Good Egg Safety has provided 12 simple tips  and checks for families to consider before setting off for the holidays:

  1. Check your child’s car seat is properly fitted before every journey – particularly if you’ve removed your seat or had others in the car next to the child seat
  2. Check your child’s harness is at the correct height and tension – always adjust the harness to your child when they go in the seat to accommodate their clothing
  3. Remove thick, puffy jackets or winter coats – these can prevent the harness from fitting your child properly, and your child may overheat once the car warms up. As a driver it is worth keeping a spare pair of suitable driving shoes in the car.  Footwear such as winter boots have thick soles that can catch on pedals
  4. Remove any non-soft toys or gifts your child may receive and store them in the boot until you get home – a toy will become a projectile in a collision and can injure occupants in the car. Put presents for friends and family in the boot of your car, rather than next to you or on the back seat
  5. Set the recline of your child’s car seat to semi-reclined rather than upright after trips out, so that they can fall asleep without you worrying about their positioning
  6. Don’t drink and drive!  If you are going to have a drink, avoid driving the next morning – you can easily still be over the limit the next day
  7. Always keep a breakdown kit in your boot.  This should include:

Warning Triangle

Tow Rope

Torch

Hi-Vis jacket/Waistcoat

Tyre Inflator

Blankets/Emergency foil blanket

Spare hats, scarves and gloves

Sunglasses for winter sun glare

Umbrella

  1. If you are going on a long journey, also take/check the following:

A flask of hot water/tea/coffee

Fresh, bottled water

Food/Chocolate

Ensure your phone battery is fully charged

  1. Check the tyres and stock up on antifreeze and screen wash
  2. Take into account weather conditions for your journey and allow extra time and breaks
  3. Early evening failing light is particularly hazardous for spotting cyclists and pedestrians in dark clothes, so with the added distraction of travelling with children please take extra caution
  4. Don’t rush! It is tempting to rush home from work for the holidays, but take the extra time to drive safely and considerately