Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Spread The Love This Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day means different things to different people. For some, it is a time to shower your other half in love. You spend the weeks leading up to it painstakingly organising every detail of that big romantic gesture you have planned. Your house has more flowers in it than a florist shop and there is probably an excessively large cuddly toy sat somewhere in the house that will later relocate to the loft. For some, it is an excuse to crack open the Malibu and get your Beyoncé on with the girls. Others, like myself, simply spend the day in their PJs watching all the soppy films on TV eating chocolates (that we bought ourselves) and generally not making much of an effort. Probably a takeaway pizza will emerge at some point during the course of the evening.

Whichever category you fall into, it has to be said that February is all about one thing - luuurve. Mainly romantic love but I think we should expand this holiday and make it about all types of love. The type of love I want to focus on this year is love for your fellow man. So, I have put together a list of things that you and I could do to celebrate this season and to show a little love to one another.

Donate to a food bank
Being someone who has actually used a food bank before, I can affirm that food banks are so necessary in our society and I feel that they are really testament to the generosity and goodness of the general public. You can usually donate at your local supermarket. Make sure you donate long life foods such as UHT milk - nothing fresh that will go off quickly. Great things to donate, alongside the general pasta and rice, is tinned fruit as often people on low income are unable to get enough fruit and veg into their diets. Also little treats like chocolate are great as these are the things that people on low incomes often have to forgo so it is nice to receive a treat like that.

Put together hygiene kits for homeless women
If you can barely afford to feed yourself, buying sanitary products is often not an option. A great way to spread love in your community this Valentine's is by putting together hygiene kits and donating them to homeless charities to be distributed amongst the women there. The kits could include a variety of sanitary products, wipes, hand sanitiser, tissues, and a few mini toiletries.

Donate to charity shops
People on low incomes often rely on charity shops to buy clothes - both for themselves and their children. Donating to charity shops not only gives these people products to buy but also gives money to the charity itself. Donating things like baby clothes, bibs, blankets, and other baby things after you have finished with them allows other parents to provide their baby with these items which they may have not been able to otherwise.

Donate breastmilk to a milk bank
This is a scheme that I only recently heard about but would have loved to be involved in - if my milk supply had been enough. The donated milk goes mostly to hospitals to help feed premature or ill babies. You just sign up online and they will send you out a starter pack. Every donor is required to have a blood test before donating to ensure that they are free from any disease that could be passed through the milk. You can find out more here.

Sign up to be an organ donor
This is an easy way to do a great amount of good. You might even save a life. If you're in the UK, you can sign up here or talk to your GP.

Offer to babysit
Being a new mum, I can really tell you how much this one means. If someone in your family or a close friend of yours has just had a kid or just hasn't had a break in a while, offer to babysit. It is lovely just to have some time out either with your partner or just by yourself.

Check in on elderly neighbours
Loneliness amongst the elderly is a huge problem in the UK especially those who have mobility issues which stop them from being able to get out of the house as often as they'd like. If you have an elderly neighbour, why not pop over - maybe even under the guise of asking if a parcel has been dropped off there - and introduce yourself. If you already talk with them sometimes, stop over and ask if they need anything from the shop or if they'd like to come over for a cup of tea.

Donate blood
This one may seem a little scary - I never liked having my blood taken but, after giving birth, I have no fear left. Donating blood is another way to make a great deal of difference to someone's life - especially if you fall into a rarer blood group.

How are you spending Valentine's Day? What tips have you got for brightening up someone's day?

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Indulge Beauty Event

Last week I made the trek down to London for an event at Indulge Beauty in Westfield Statford shopping centre. This was a big deal for me as, not only was I travelling into London alone and spending the whole day away from Ava, this was my first ever event. I had been invited to events before but I had always felt too shy to attend them. But I decided that, since this year I am bringing my A game, I had to push myself to go. So, through some sheer miracle, I actually managed to get up, dress in something that wasn't jersey and possibly maternity, put on a full face of makeup, organise Ava (well, instruct my husband to do so anyway), and be out of the house on time to catch the bus to the train station. My mum met me at the station and took Ava home in her pushchair - in all honesty, I felt kinda sad to see her go and, in all honesty, I spent a lot of the day on the phone asking my mum to put the phone to Ava's ears so I could talk to her and hear her cooing away. Once I arrived in London, I realised that I was very hungry so I made a quick pitstop at Soboro Bakery and got a delicious orange cake and a large coffee before jumping onto the tube. After two tubes, and a lot of panicking as I thought we had come off the tracks but actually it was only another tube train passing us, I was finally at Westfield Stratford.

After arriving at Westfield, my next task was to track down the location of the event. This was definitely more difficult than you'd imagine. Westfield Stratford has 4 levels of shops and each level is huge. Also I got tempted into a lot of shops before I made it to the event (two hours after arriving at the shopping centre). It was a blessing that I didn't want to carry lots of shopping bags into the event else I could have easily spent hundreds of pounds on cute sleepsuits for Ava in fancy baby clothing shops and hundreds more on cute clothes for myself - especially in Monki and Missguided. After another pitstop at KFC to pick up a rice box (they are the best), I found the Indulge Beauty shop which was located on the lower ground floor. 

My first impressions of the store were that it is nicely designed and they seemed to have a lot of different products. I was greeted by the friendly members of staff and they explained a bit about the company and their campaign entitled 'What's Your Indulgence?' wherein they focus on everyone's guilty pleasures be it your secret crush on Ed Sheeran or that chocolate stash you have in the bottom of your sock drawer. I was impressed by the concept of the brand in that it aimed to make beauty accessible everyone and they wanted everyone to feel welcome in their store. They told me that they want people of all genders to feel comfortable walking into their shop and I think this is a mindset that more beauty retailers should adopt.

The drinks were flowing and the music was pumping. People were having their hair styled by professionals and getting their makeup done. There were team members walking around telling us about the products they have on offer and they had a lot of knowledge about the products they were selling. They recommended aloe vera gel to me to reduce the redness of my cheeks which is definitely some advice I am going to follow.

At the end of the event, I left with a bag of goodies from some well-known brands and some I had never heard of. I am excited to try these new products and I am giving some away on my Twitter - you can enter by clicking here and simply following me and retweeting.

Have you ever heard of Indulge Beauty?

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Our First Three Months

As I sit here writing this, Never Been Kissed is on the TV and Ava is watching it with me in her bouncy chair. It is strange to think that Ava has only been with us for three months. I can barely remember what life was like before her - or what I did with all my spare time. But it also feels like those weeks have flown by. She has already changed so much in this short amount of time.

In the place of a tiny, sleepy baby, I now have a slightly larger baby that smiles, tries to talk to us, and can even roll over from her front to her back when she is feeling strong. As much as I loved having a newborn, I am excited to see how Ava is developing - especially now that she is trying to communicate. Her personality is really starting to shine through. She's a mischievous little thing but also she is really loving. Around 10pm every evening, she starts watching the front door as if she is waiting for Isaac to get home and whenever she is sat with anyone else, her eyes follow me around the room.

When it comes to sleeping, we're not quite there yet. The last two nights, she has slept through the night in her moses basket but usually she will sleep in her moses basket for half the night then demand to come in the bed with us for the rest of it. Secretly, I am happy to have her in the bed as I enjoy the cuddles. I think I will miss having her in the bed when she gets used to sleeping in her moses basket all night but it also means that we will be able to sleep better as we sleep lighter when she is in the bed as we are both very cautious of her.

Despite the fact that Ava was born at a low birth weight, she has grown really well and is steadily increasing which is all down to the fact that this girl does not stop feeding. We have been combination feeding from the start but her intake has increased so much that my milk supply can barely keep up. Now we are mostly just giving her formula with only a couple of feeds on the breast each day. Although I would have loved to exclusively breastfeed her, it just hasn't really worked out for us for a range of reasons so I have decided that the most important thing is that she gets fed - be it by breast or by bottle.

Overall, the last three months have been crazy. They have been the most incredible and fulfilling months of my life. I have changed in so many ways and I feel like Ava and I have developed such a special bond during this time. Our family of three is now closer than ever and it is perfect. That's not to say that we don't argue and I don't get stressed because we definitely do, but this is my kind of perfect. When I see Isaac holding Ava in his arms as they lie together in the bed, I feel like my whole world is complete.

These three months have been so special and they make me excited for all the adventures that lie ahead.

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Cruelty Free Makeup Brushes You Need In Your Life Right Now

The first makeup brush I ever owned was a Real Techniques brush. From the first use, I was hooked. I had previously been applying foundation (and powder somehow!) with my fingers. I was amazed by the coverage I could get with a brush and how evenly it went on.

Soon after that, the brush section decided to fully detach itself from the handle and this led me to discover Eco Tools as I tried to replace it. Despite how much I loved Real Techniques, the fact that it broke so easily - and so soon after I had bought it - put me off repurchasing and I was keen to try a brush that was better for the environment. I absolutely loved the powder brush by Eco Tools but that is the only brush in their collection that I was fully sold on.

So, desperate to find a decent application tool, I branched out into beauty blenders. And I was impressed. I felt airbrushed and my base was completely streak free. The only slight issue I had was with my eyes. I couldn't manage to get even coverage around my eyes and the bridge of my nose.

That is when I was saved. And this hero comes in the form of a vegan, cruelty free brush collection from a brand called Nanshy. Their brushes applied my base just as evenly as the Real Techniques brush had but they are definitely more sturdy. But the best part of the collection was definitely the concealer brush*. The density of the brush is perfect and it is just the right size and shape to get into all the nooks and crannies around my eyes that the beauty blender just couldn't reach.

I am absolutely sold on these brushes. Although I still use a beauty blender for my foundation and the Eco Tools brush for the powder, I have incorporated these brushes into my daily routine for everything else. I use the foundation brush* to apply my primer as it helps to spread it evenly across every area of my face. I use the concealer brush* for - you guessed it - my concealer and I love how it is able to reach into the places the beauty blender wouldn't be able to. I also use that brush to touch up my foundation around those areas too. I also love the contouring brush* as the angle helps you to get a really sharp edge on your contour.

The only brush in the collection I am not completely sold on is the stippling brush. I find the brush density a little sparse - I like a thick brush - and it doesn't leave my base as even as I would like. But I can absolutely rave about the concealer brush which is incredible and I will never part with it.

You can shop the full collection here

Have you tried anything by Nanshy?

Thursday, 25 January 2018

My Must-See Destinations of 2018*

When I was growing up, the destinations we used to travel to as a family were always quite local. I have amazing memories of caravan holidays in Cornwall or camping in North Devon. But I also vowed that when I was older, I would travel the world. I wanted to see Turkey and Egypt and all of the other countries that my classmates would tell me about. I wanted to be the girl who came back from the West Indies with a tan and a single bright pink braid in her fringe.

Now I am older  - and I have a passport - but I still haven't made it out of the country more than a handful of times. This is the year I want to change that. My main resolution for 2018 is that I want to travel more. Over the next 12 months, I want to board as many planes as humanly possible.

So, I decided to draw up a little bucket list of the main destinations I would absolutely love to make it to this year.

This may seem like an unusual destination to aspire to visit but the sheer fact that Eastern Europe is often left off of people's travel bucket lists makes me interested in what it has to offer. I have seen countless pictures of places like Australia but Eastern European countries still remain quite mysterious to me. I wouldn't know what to expect and that is what makes it so exciting. I would love to visit Warsaw and explore all the historical buildings and immerse myself in a culture very different to that of the UK.

A little while ago, I made friends online with someone living in Antigua and, based on everything they would tell me about the island, it seemed like an absolute idyll. I have never visited a hot country so I would love a week in the sun just kicking back, sipping on cocktails, tasting local cuisine, and dancing the night away.

Anyone who follows the lovely Amy on Instagram will understand why Iceland is on my bucket list. Her feed is full of beautiful pictures of the Artic and it has inspired me to want to see the Northern Lights for myself. Despite the fact that I am not the best in cold weather (and neither is my husband - and especially not my baby girl), it is a location that would be unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Koh Samui
Whilst browsing the Destination 2 website, I came across a page entitled Holidays in Koh Samui. I had never heard of Koh Samui so I was interested to find out more about it. What I discovered is that it is Thailand's third largest island, it has a strong sense of cultural identity and spirituality, and that I wanted to visit there. As someone who would class themselves as religious, I am always interested in learning more about other religious and the ways in which spirituality is a part of other cultures. There are many religious monuments and temples on the island which I would be interested in visiting as well as other exciting opportunities such as snorkelling with sea turtles. I mean, who doesn't want to snorkel with sea turtles?!

It was my good friend, and fellow blogger, Miriam who inspired this next choice. She recently went on a round-the-world trip which included a visit to Japan. Japan looks like such a culturally and historically rich country as well as having beautiful landscapes. I would be really interested in learning more about its history as well as trying some exciting new foods.

Where would your ideal holiday destination be?

Friday, 19 January 2018

I'm Not Bothered About My Baby Weight

Admittedly, the title of this post is a lie. But it is a statement that I want to be true. I don't want how much baby weight I gained to be something that I focus on. I mean, I have a new baby - I have far more important things to worry about than the circumference of my thighs or how many weeks it takes for me to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans (they were a size 8 so weeks probably isn't the best measure of judgement - years or even decades may be more realistic).

I feel like there is so much pressure piled onto new mums. Everyone has an opinion on everything. I know this especially well because I am committing three of the worst mothering sins (apparently). I top my kid up with formula (surprise, breast isn't always best if it can't satisfy your baby's needs), I settle her with a dummy, and we co-sleep. I know, I am like a modern day supervillain. But baby weight - and how long it takes you to lose it - is a whole other level of pressure. And I hate it. Even though I try not to, I find myself comparing my body to that of other mothers. I look at the pics of Kate Middleton leaving the hospital looking radiant. When I left hospital, my hair was so knotted that it had just tangled itself into one solid mass that stuck up on my head. Not so radiant. I lap up the headlines about how long it took so-and-so to lose their baby weight. I find myself trawling through mothering websites reading other women's experiences with weight loss. I try not to think of the calories. I tell myself that I need extra for breastfeeding. I avoid old pictures of myself at all costs else I fall down the 'look how flat my stomach used to be' rabbit hole of self-doubt.

But I need to cut myself some slack. We all do. I'll never get this time again and I don't want to waste it by spending it looking in the mirror and squidging my wobbly bits critically. Who cares if I have a jelly belly anyway? Ava doesn't. She likes to dig her little toes into it when I'm holding her. As a new mum, it shouldn't matter if I have a bit of baby puke on my top or if my hair looks like a sparrow has dropped its nest on my head.

Sometimes it is nice to dress up fancy and put on a bit of eyeliner. I find that it makes me feel a bit more like myself again. And maybe returning to the gym is what makes you feel more like yourself. If so, good on you. Go out and do it. But women shouldn't feel pressured into trying to meet everyone else's expectations. Looking after a newborn is tiring enough without adding a strict count of 10,000 steps into the mix as well. If you don't feel like putting on makeup then don't bother. Go cuddle with bubba instead. You are a 'yummy mummy' with or without the concealer on your eyebags.

At the end of the day, motherhood is hard enough without putting extra pressure on yourself. I am learning to accept how my body has changed and embrace all of it.

Boots - Primark (similar)
Skirt - Topshop (here)
Jacket - Topshop (similar)
Scarf - Primark (similar)
Top - Primark (similar)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Looking Back On 2017

I would describe 2017 as 'the year I had to grow up'. It is the year I graduated from university, moved in with my husband, fell pregnant, and gave birth to my first born child. I know, I really managed to pack a lot of big life things into 12 months. I feel like I am leaving this year very different to the person I was back in January and I am excited for what 2018 has to offer.

The year started with me living in Ambleside, Lake District with my husband. This was during the Christmas holidays which stretched from the start of December to the end of January. We both worked at the same restaurant and spent most of our spare time going on long walks in the mountains together and drinking lots of hot chocolate in cafes. This was a beautiful start to the year. We also took a trip up to Edinburgh to celebrate our two year anniversary.

This month I returned to Cardiff for university and I struggled being apart from Isaac but I pushed myself to continue and finish the course. I went back to Ambleside for a week towards the end of the month to visit Isaac and to have a belated Valentine's Day.
The month started with Isaac's birthday and he came to Cardiff to celebrate it - and to move in! Soon after we discovered that I was pregnant. I didn't believe it at first (even after taking multiple pregnancy tests) but after a few weeks, I realised that the test definitely were correct.

This was a month of orange juice cravings and food aversions. I lived off of toast, salty chips, and fizzy gummy sweets. I continued to work at my job in a fried chicken shop which was working nights so that mixed with university in the day and pregnancy made me one tired girl.

This was my birthday month and finals month. I handed in my last ever uni assignments and we went on a family holiday with my parents and siblings to North Devon. Despite the fact that I still hadn't told my family that I was pregnant and I spent most of the time trying to hide it, it was a lovely time and the perfect celebration of turning 21.

This month we found out that we were expecting a girl. I also got my exam results back and attended my graduation ceremony. I felt really proud of myself for completing my course and for overcoming everything I had been through in those three years although I didn't quite get the grade I was hoping for. This was also the month we moved back to my parents' house in Devon.

This month was a relaxed one. We remained in Devon together at my parents' and went on lots of walks in the countryside. I craved McDonald's a lot and everything banana flavoured.

I spent most of this month in the bath - and we were still at my parents' house. We went to the beach a lot and explored the local area. We were also viewing house after house trying to find somewhere to move to.

This month, we decided to move to London. We wanted to experience something new and exciting - which it definitely would be after these months in the village. I also put a lot more work into my blog and Instagram. I wrote one post that I was especially proud of. And I got an infection and felt like I was about to die.

We made the move to Blackheath, London and I spent most of the time exploring Greenwich as well as Covent Garden where Isaac was working. I had a uni friend visit me which was lovely and I enjoyed the variety that London had to offer - although I was so heavily pregnant that leaving the house was an accomplishment in itself. By this point, I was very much ready for the baby to be born.

This is the month that Ava was born and a subsequent 5 days spent in the luxury of Lewisham Hospital. This month was full of changes and challenges but also was amazing to finally have Ava with us.

We decided to move back to Devon and were able to find a flat to spend Christmas together as a family of three. I also got to meet Isaac's family who came over to see Ava and celebrate the holidays with us.

I ordered the prints in the first picture from Printiki*. They print off the pictures you send them and it is very cheap and easy to do so. I absolutely love having physical copies of photos to hang up on the wall or display on my desk. Definitely worth checking out and I will be ordering more from them as I get more pictures of Ava as she grows up. I may even go the whole hog and get a photo album to put them all in. You can get free shipping with this code: N7E4W2Z4.

What did your 2017 look like?
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