Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Summer Skincare Discoveries - Hydraluron Moisture Jelly Review

Why is it that all your skincare runs out at the same time? You would think that a cleanser would get used up at a different rate to a serum, but no. In the last month I have had to replenish my cream/balm cleanser, wash-off cleanser, daytime moisturiser, anti-ageing serum, and both kinds of toner. So no spreading the cost of beauty for me - it's been one big expensive month. And of course, being the fly-by-night, promiscuous, disloyal consumer I am that means an opportunity to try some lovely new products. Here is the rundown of my latest skincare discoveries.

Melvita Nectar Pur Purifying Cleansing jelly -£16 @ Feel Unique

First up is a new brand for me - Melvita, a French, natural, 'resolutely organic' cosmetic company- and their Purifying Cleansing Jelly. This is lovely. It's light and refreshing so ideal for a morning cleanse, and it feels ever so gentle. But your skin feels incredibly clean after using it - brighter and fresher and radiant without any tightness. This one is a keeper. Find more Melvita at Feel Unique - I'm currently coveting their Organic Rose Beauty Mist and Pulpe de Rose Plumping radiance Duo (a flower water spray & facial oil in one - you gotta love a multi-tasker!).

REN Rosa Centifolia Hot Cloth Cleanser - £16

I am becoming slightly addicted to skincare smelling of roses at the moment which is what led me to try my next newbie - Ren's Rosa Centifolia Hot Cloth Cleanser. Having become a convert to cleansing with a hot flannel every evening with balm cleansers I thought I'd give a traditional Liz Earle-style hot cloth cream cleanser another go. This smells DIVINE - hypnotically heady with the scent of rose which is delightful in a bedtime cleanser. The cleanser itself is perfectly good - it does seem to remove all traces of make-up and dirt when double-cleansing as I always do at the end of the day. I could never get on with the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish as I always felt it left a residue on my skin. This is better, much better and I will continue using it until it runs out. But there's something about the texture that will keep me from repurchasing it. I think I'm more of an oil/ balm cleanser kind of a girl and so next on my 'to try' list is Ren's rose balm cleanser. But if you love your Liz Earle or other cream cleansers - give it a go. It costs £16 and comes with a cleansing cloth - it's worth it for the smell alone!

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads - £20.50 @ Feel Unique; Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair - £43-£82 available nationwide; Murad Hydrating Toner - £20.70 @ Feel Unique

A quick whizz through the next three. I have given Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II (that name just trips off the tongue, doesn't it?) another go after it was recently reformulated. It's okay. Just okay. I mean it has a nice serum texture, sinks in quickly (with a little stickiness) and my skin feels nice and soft the next morning. But I'm not convinced that my skin wouldn't look just as soft and plump from wearing just my night cream. And for 40 to 80 quid a bottle I want to feel sure it's doing something. Personally, I think there are far better serums out there for the same or less money - Decleor's Aromessence range, Ole Henriksen, Perricone MD, Alpha H - all lesser known brands that take a little more hunting down but are well worth searching for. Sometimes your local beauty counter just doesn't cut it. I shall finish the bottle, but I shan't be repurchasing.

Onto the toners - Murad's Resurgence Hydrating Toner is lovely. It comes in a spray bottle, smells glorious and is lightly and refreshingly hydrating. And it lasts - I've had this for nearly a month, using it morning and evening and just look at that bottle - at this rate it's going to last well into the new year. Not earth-shattering or World-changing but really blooming lovely! The First Aid Beauty pads are great, too. Lightly exfoliating, they are the gentlest acid toner I've tried and leave the skin radiant and ready for better absorption of the rest of your skincare routine without leaving them ravaged like some of the stronger ones. A new staple I think.

Indeed Laboratories Hydraluron Moisture Jelly - £24.99 (currently £16.66) @ Boots

Finally comes my favourite - Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly (currently on offer in Boots for £16.66 down from £24.99). First of all, let's just talk about the packaging, shall we? My God that colour is incredible, it (very importantly) looks great on a bathroom shelf! And the clear pot is a fab idea as you can see exactly how much product you have left. The press top dispenser is an ingenious design, releasing the perfect amount for the whole face cleanly and easily. Incidentally, I have only ever seen this sort of pot used by top end £60 plus creams, so the fact that Indeed Labs have managed to manufacture this and keep the price below £25 is, indeed (sorry!), remarkable. This stuff is wonderful - packed full of hyaluronic acid (which encourages your skin to hold on to moisture) and filled with hydrators in a water-based gel. It sinks in immediately and leaves your skin smoothed and plumped without any residue or shine. Perfect for combination skin. Make-up glides over it. Love love love this moisturiser. Buy buy buy it!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Capital Time - London Loveliness

My gorgeous family spent last weekend in London. It was a fairly last minute plan - two weeks ago Mr Wren and I sat down in his office, looked at his calendar and realised that if we didn't go away that weekend we would end up not going anywhere at all this holiday. Now the Little Wrens and I are getting along fine but we all needed a change of scenery. So a hotel was found, train tickets were booked and we all had something to look forward to.

My soft spot for my old adoptive city is well documented - it is where I feel most at home. But the children too just LOVE London. We have always spent time with them there - my sister in law lives there, so that always makes things easier - but there is nothing quite like staying in a hotel in the centre of a city to really give you a taste of the metropolis. 

Master Wren would in all honesty be happy to ride around on the tube all day, but his choice of London landmark was a visit to The British Museum. Having studied the Egyptians at school last year he was very excited to see all of the ancient Egyptian relics. We saw actual mummies and tombs, the Rosetta Stone (which I was vaguely aware of but my encyclopaedic son explained "was the key to unlocking the meaning of hieroglyphics" - so there you go!) and even a preserved two thousand year old body (complete with hair and skin intact). It's a very special place, although I couldn't help wondering quite what all of those wonderful exhibits from around the World were doing in dear old Blighty. All of it presumably acquired during the grand days of the British Empire. Fabulous as it was to see it all, it does feel a bit like a very large and impressive exhibition of all that we have plundered from other nations. 

Our hotel was near St James' Park, so for dinner on Saturday night we wandered out past Scotland Yard through the grounds of Westminster Abbey, crossed the road in front of Big Ben and walked alongside the Houses Of Parliament, crossing the Thames at Westminster Bridge to reach the South Bank. So pretty unremarkable really! The South Bank itself had, as it does every Summer, given itself over to The Southbank Festival which this year took the theme of 'Love'. So after stuffing ourselves silly in Canteen, the children took a spin on the carousel and we all threw ourselves down the enormous family slides they had dotted around (see photo, top), before treating ourselves to an ice cream and taking a sundown stroll back to our hotel. 

Maxi Dress - American Vintage

Sunday began with breakfast with a view of Buckingham Palace in St James' Park followed by a quick tube ride (oh, happy boy!) to South Kensington and a wander around Miss Wren's museum of choice, the V&A. I love this place and spent many lazy hours as a student gazing longingly at the vintage Dior and Balmain dresses on display. So beautiful. Both children were fascinated by the fashion through the ages and were hypnotised by the jewellery exhibit. The dizzying display of diamonds left me feeling slightly giddy. They really are a girl's best friend. Or would be, if she could ever get her mitts on any!! Breathtaking!

We spent our last few hours in the capital in sunny Hyde Park, before heading to Paddington on our last legs to begin our journey home. We had a wonderful family weekend. 

In order to have as full a weekend as possible we caught the early train to London on Saturday morning. So we were all up at 7am and out the door before 8. Breakfast needed to be eaten on the train so on Friday evening I baked some healthy and sustaining muffins for our railway picnic. They were also very delicious. Here's the recipe....

30g unsalted butter
60g (two heaped tablespoons) honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsps crunchy peanut butter
2 large ripe bananas
150g light spelt flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Around 12 teaspoons raspberry jam.

12 hole muffin tin and cases

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C/ gas mark 5

Put the butter, honey and vanilla in a pan on a low heat to melt, then set aside. Mash the bananas.

In a large bowl, measure out the flour, bicarb, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix the peanut butter and bananas with the melted butter mixture and combine with the dry ingredients.

Line the muffin tin with the cases and fill them about half full. Dollop a scant teaspoon of jam in the centre of each, then top with the remaining batter (making sure that all jam is covered).

Put in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Eat warm ideally. Train optional.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Busy Doing Nothing

We're into week 3 of the Big School Holiday now and I am loving having my monkeys around every day. In holidays past we have had a pretty quiet time of it (and driven each other mad in the process!) But this year we are packing it in - meeting up with friends 2-3 days out of 5, working on little projects at home, day trips, visits to family, a camping trip and the odd weekend away. Plus many water fight-filled days in the garden with this incredible weather we've been having. We are BUSY! Which is wonderful - the little Wrens are having fun, I'm having fun and we're spending real quality time together. All this though, of course means that I am struggling to fit in more tawdry tasks - the ironing has piled up and the house has definitely seen cleaner, tidier days - poor Mr Wren is regularly returning home from a day at work to utter chaos! 

It also means that I am struggling to find time for my selfish little pleasures - visits to the gym have been rare (and that makes me slightly jittery) and my tiny little corner of the internet has been sadly neglected. But now the holiday is in full swing I am hoping to get into more of a routine (both writerly and housewifely!) and I will make sure my nests (both physical and digital) are much better cared for.

It's hard to put my finger on why, or what it is exactly, but since my last post (over a month ago - shame on me!) I have in all honesty lost a bit of oomph. I have been approaching everything at half speed, with minimum effort since it was all I could seem to muster and as a result I have been feeling really dissatisfied. That old 'put 100% in, get 100% out' adage would, I'm afraid, appear to be true. So consider a leaf turned, the rose-tinted spectacles are back on and I am going to try and approach life in my usual positive, upbeat manner. And if I'm not happy with something, well, I have the power to do something about it. And, actually when I look through my photographs from the last few weeks I can see that I have had a really lovely time and done and created some very special things. Most of them involving the two most special things of all - my babies. Seems I've been achieving a lot more than I thought. It's all about perspective. xx

Chocolate caramel birthday cake - mmmmmm!

The boy's Mad Science party - blog with details to come...

I finally got my Frame Denim dungas - I promise I'll stop now!

GP's fish tacos - incredible!

The Frozen cake - made three batches of my own candy for this. That's love.

Even Miss Wren had had enough cake by the time her birthday came around. Birthday rocky road it is then!

National Trust membership - the saviour of many a school holiday.

Perfecting my Dutch braid.

Playhouse renovation using child labour. They've had so much fun planning this.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Lazy Day Legs - The boyfriend short

I always hated shorts. I've always thought they were hideously unflattering. That they were for men and female hikers only. I always thought they made my waistline look podgy, my bum doughy and my knees thick. But in the last two Summers I've changed my mind. I started to turn when I bought my first

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Summer Fair - Name the Ted and Fresh Gingerbread

I've been AWOL again, I know. I'm sorry. But this post should help explain why. Last Saturday was the school Summer Fair and Sports Day that along with the rest of the PTA committee I was in charge of organising. It was a loooooonng day. Set-up began at 9am, stalls opened from 10.30 am and we weren't packed up until 5pm. But it was such a beautiful day too. Everything looked gorgeous - from the glistening tombola prizes, to the mountain of cake donations, from my hastily created Human Fruit Machine to the bunting that had been lovingly hand-sewn from old school summer dresses by a very talented friend of mine. The sun gazed down on us from morning 'til night and all day I was surrounded by the faces of smiling children. It was hard work, but absolutely worth it. Here are a few pics from the day. (Thanks to my friend, Alan for the beautiful photos)