Saturday, 7 November 2015

2.5% Retinol Serum - skincare just got simple

I was sent the InstaNatural 2.5% Retinol Serum to try out and write an honest review alongside the moisturiser that complements it - and I must say I am really impressed with this little bottle! Again 5 stars alongside the Retinol Moisturiser which I have also put to the test.

This serum smells heavenly - it smells like fresh oranges and transports you to sunnier climes just by using it. I've been using it every morning for the last month before my moisturiser and replacing my normal serum and the effect it has had on my skin is very good I must say. My skin definitely looks brighter and it does seem to tighten things up a bit too. It quickly works on my skin in terms of absorption but it does tingle a bit when you first apply it - though this quickly disappears.

The dropper means you deliver exactly the right amount to cover your face each day and there is a good month's worth in the bottle (which gives you 1 fluid oz). I simply drop the required amount into the palm of my hand then massage it all over my face with my (clean) fingertips. Because it seems to be absorbed so quickly I can immediately move on to applying moisturiser which is a bonus on busy mornings.

The ingredients are as follows -

2.5% Retinol
20% Vitamin C
10% Hyaluronic Acid

The last two ingredients really help stop your skin from drying out and I found really helped with going from cold damp atmospheres to central heating and the London Underground which all play havoc with my skin. You do need to be aware that Retinol can interfer with your skin's ability to defend itself against sunlight so they do recommend using a sunscreen alongside Retinol products if you go in the sun - not something that is particularly relevant at this time of year I must say!

All in all a great product at a great price which I will purchase again when I run out!

Amazon have InstaNatural 2.5% Retinol Serum on sale at the moment at £21.95 instead of £41.95 so at this very good price is worth a try.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Advanced Action Retinol Moisturizer Review - Vitamin C for your skin

I love this InstaNatural Retinol Moisturiser which I was sent to review. Okay so the packaging isn't beautiful to look at - if you like beautiful jars for your creams to sit in pride of place on your bathroom shelf then you may be disappointed - but I actually think it's the product that's of importance and this is a good product in packaging that, although sturdy, is very functional. It delivers the right amount due to it's pump action so you don't overuse and there is no waste.

It's a simple, white cream and I found it easily absorbed into my skin. I have been using it for the last month and we have had a wide variety of weather conditions - from balmy 20 degrees to nearly freezing and my skin is affected by the cold and damp so needs extra love at this time of year. I found this moisturiser had just enough barrier to keep my skin hydrated (even on the London Underground) without feeling 'sticky'. I can't say that my skin is any less lined (does it ever look less lined even with really expensive brands?) but it does look great - people say I look really well and my skin is glowing.

I also think this is breast cancer treatment friendly -  I am always on the lookout for brands that are gentle, not overly chemical, not overly fragranced and are simple, and this one fits the bill. I have been using it in conjunction with the InstaNatural Retinol Serum instead of my usual serum and my skin feels very fresh with using both products.

I haven't had a spot outbreak since using and my pores look fine too - it seems to have closed one deep pore I had on my forehead which is a real bonus as it was quite obvious. It contains no fragrance which I like - here are the ingredients for quick reference -

2.5% Retinol
Vitamin C
Hyaluronic Acid
Jojoba Oil
Shea Butter
Green Tea

Apparently Retinol can increase your sensitivity to sunlight so they do recommend you use a sunscreen in conjunction with this product on days of sunshine - I started using this at the beginning of October so it hasn't really been an issue.

Altogether a great moisturiser at a great price - the size of product is fantastic too, a 100ml bottle is rare and mine is still going strong after a month of almost constant use.

The InstaNatural Retinol Moisuriser is on sale on Amazon at the moment for £19.95 instead of £39.95 so pick up a bargain today!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Seacreme skincare to help aid the skin's natural healing process

I really love the sound of these products and will be ordering some when I run out of my usual moisturiser - and they have a great story too. Infused with sea mineral fragrance and sea salt, Seacreme products work with the skin's natural healing process.

The revolutionary new range of day and night creams has been developed by Seacreme founder Jane Healy, who drew her inspiration from the organic power of the ocean. Now an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Jane's journey to the launch of Seacreme has been a challenging one. At the age of nine, she suffered life-threatening third-degree burns following an accident with a methylated spirit stove, in which 75% of her body was burned.

During her long journey to recovery, Jane discovered the healing properties of the sea. Unable to find a cream that could replicate these rejuvenating powers, Jane has worked with her daughter Laura to create the Seacreme range, which offers the ultimate in hydration and refreshment for all skin types.

Perfect as a base for makeup, these easily absorbed creams will become an essential and simple part of your daily beauty routine. There are lots of different products to choose from and prices seem quite reasonable at £21 for a skincream.

You can buy Seacreme products at

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

It's been a while (again) - but we got in a trip to West Yorkshire!

So life took over again. Nothing bad just the normal stuff. Tag end of summer to enjoy some trips, delivering a child back to uni, a wedding - the usual stuff. Oh and work and housework and starting to think about Christmas....

When did life get to speed up like this? Like a roller-coaster with no brakes or a bull in the proverbial china shop (with associated damage) my life seems to just whizz along with no time to pause and think. Which is probably a good thing all in all.

So some highlights for you.

We took youngest girl for her fourth year at Sheffield Hallam and snuck in a cheeky weekend with friends in Yorkshire. We had discovered, earlier in the year, a fab B&B which was both affordable, in some great countryside and had all the little extras that made it more of a country hotel experience than a B&B. The Manor Cullingworth is in the middle of a fairly new estate of houses but is a wonderful old house with shed-loads of charm and character. The bedrooms are comfortably furnished with fine bedlinens and all have beautiful marble bathrooms.

 I can safely say that the breakfast was one of the best we have had anywhere - and that includes the Savoy! Everything that goes into making a great British cooked breakfast is on offer - eggs (done any way you like), tasty local sausages, lean flavoursome bacon, beans, toast, coffee - or even smoked salmon were on offer alongside fresh fruit (and not just boring apple or the tinned stuff either) and great coffee. All from £70 per night per couple - your money definitely goes further in Yorkshire!

This is also a brilliant base to explore the countryside and we decided to walk from Cullingworth into Haworth which is home to the Bronte museum and is where they filmed The Railway Children. You head off out of the estate and cross the viaduct and you're suddenly in the most beautiful countryside. Here is the viaduct to give you an idea.

Your walk takes you through woods, alongside rocky outcrops, across fields and you get to walk a bit of the moors before finally you are within striking distance of Howarth itself.

The parsonage where the Bronte sisters grew up with their brother and father is as far as you can go in the village and backs on to the moors. You can feel the atmosphere even on a sunny day - which it was on this visit. You can feel the isolation they must have felt, the small original village although now surrounded by modern houses, must have clung on in splendid isolation through the long dark winter's up there - no wonder their books are so bleak!

I simply love it here. You can forget your worries on the moors and of course there is always a local hostelry on hand that serves superb local beers to keep you going!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

So I was a plus one at a cheeky preview screening of The Man from U.N.C.L.E on Monday night. I wasn't a fan of the original series I must admit. I was aware of the premise and the characters but my parents weren't fans and I grew up in the age of one television per household and after about 8.30pm it was adults rule only.

Which is why I grew up with my head in a book but I digress - back to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Guy Ritchie movies are always stylish. Never thought provoking or heavy and this one is no exception. The styling is beautiful (apparently they used some original couture instead of theatrical designer interpretations) and the choice of music fun while keeping a cool edge.

It didn't really follow the characters of the TV series much - the names are the same but the characters completely different, but who cares when you have two such strong and charismatic actors in Henry Cavill  and Armie Hammer who play Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. They both bring humour and presence to the roles and play brilliantly opposite each other and their female accomplice Gaby played by Alicia Vikander. She is far smarter than both put together in both the brains and the technical ability department and she doesn't just get to play the girlie girl - though she does that too. Solo and Kuryakin are like an old married couple and even adopt pet names for one another - a nice touch.

The story was the usual shtick - Cold War times, ex-Nazi's developing warheads, ex-Nazi torturers avoiding justice - just what we were all expecting and they pulled it off in a film that is glam and nostalgic.  

How great it is to have whole film where no-one relies on technology to win the day - apart from corded desk-phones, wire cutters and walkie-talkies that is!

This is a must see if you like cars (Guy Ritchie has crammed as many beautiful vintage cars in as he can muster), Nazi's getting beaten, gorgeous sixties tailoring and a great soundtrack. Roll on the sequel.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E is out on general release from this Friday 14th August.

Here's the trailer

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Liquid Velvet Lipstick Lasts for Hours

Today I am wearing a Ciate London lipstick called Liquid Velvet and the reason why I am telling you this is because I am a bit obsessed with this deep pigment lipstick that comes in a gloss style holder but dries to a plush velvet. It's wand allows perfect application which you do need as it dries and stays a long (and I mean LONG) time.

To get the best effect you use the stick to create a defined lip line then fill in your lips and it really will stay all day. 

It's a matte colour which allows me to drink coffee, eat lunch and kiss without it disappearing but unlike a lot of 'stay-all-day' lipsticks this has moisturising properties so my lips don't get dried out by using it.

The killer ingredient is Hyaluronic Acid which adds lip-conditioning and makes lips look fuller too but what I particularly love is that it is Paraben, Sulfate and Phthalate free. Go Ciate!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Lunchtime Treat - Goat's Cheese on Toast

How delicious is this? I must admit that this was served to me in a fantastic tearoom by the marina at Ely, Cambridgeshire. It was called the Peacock Tearoom and boy do they have a wonderful menu including a simply vast selection of teas (plus a few cocktails for a treat in the sunshine). Anyway I was so enamoured by my lunch that I made it for myself recently and it really is a fantastic treat and so very easy to do.

All you need is some toasted wholemeal bread which you then cover with sliced, cooked beetroot. You then top with slices of goat's cheese and drizzle with honey and pop it under the grill until it starts to bubble. They then topped with walnuts and served with a delicious side-salad. Amazing!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Clinique PopStop launches in Piccadilly Circus Tube Station

I love a pop-up and I love make-up so Clinique opening the Clinique PopStop in Piccadilly Circus Underground Station today is big news for me! Commuters and locals will be able to whizz in and touch up on the go with Clinique’s Express Service Menu or browse and shop the newest additions to Clinique’s colour portfolio.

The Express Service Menu offers custom-fit, 3 minute pick me ups including; Pick Your Pout, In a Wink and Sweet Cheeks - the perfect pop stop for busy women on the go.

Clinique is also offering the chance to win a Clinique goody bag worth £100 just by simply sharing your Clinique Pop Lip selfie on social media with #CliniquePopStop. There will be a winner chosen every Monday, from 10th August, at 10am and announced on Twitter.

Clinique Pop Stop opening from 4th August until 25th September 2015
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-8pm.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Back In the Game

I didn't have the heart to carry on with my blog for a few months. It took all my energy to focus on doing my job, looking after my family and undergoing all the treatments that were necessary to give me the best chance of survival of breast cancer. Chemotherapy lost me my hair, radiotherapy knocked me for six in terms of energy levels and my feelings of positivity, and Tamoxifen (the wonder drug) has sent me shooting into menopause with hot flushes galore.

So writing about things I love here with any great conviction hasn't really been a thing I've wanted to do. But now, six weeks after my final radiotherapy and with my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows growing back, I am feeling much more normal and ready to get on with life.

I know I face years of tests and a reconstruction somewhere down the line, but for the moment I am happy to look in the mirror and to walk down the street without a headscarf. Little things have made me incredibly happy - the veggies growing in our vegetable patch, I could gaze at them for ages.

I am amazed and overwhelmed at the support I have had from everyone. Family, friends, work colleagues, clients - all have been absolutely amazing and one thing I really feel is that I am loved. We never really know this until something like this happens and I know everyone goes on about it giving you a huge sense of perspective (it does) but it's also about the small kindnesses from people you wouldn't imagine would be so supportive that make a difference. Even if it's just a message of support on an email it means a lot and has helped me enormously get through some really crap times.

Anyway it's time to move on. For the first time I have a wall calendar that doesn't say hospital/chemo/radio appointment anywhere on it. My next check up is the end of October so I have a bit of time to just 'be'. Here's to just being for the time being.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

So the BAFTA's had me riveted this evening. So glad The Grand Hotel of Budapest won 9 awards - one of my favourite films from last year by far. And Birdman which was fantastic too. I haven't seen Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything but I am sure he deserved his best actor - will have to catch it soon!

But it was the frocks which I really lovely this year - everyone looked fantastic. Stealing the show for me was Julianne Moore who not only won best actress for Still Alice, but makes older just chic and I so love a red head wearing red - so very stunning. She wore Tom Ford who knows how to dress a woman like a woman - sorry but a lot of designers just don't. I love this and she has a fab cleavage too.

I must also mention Keira Knightley who I think does pregnancy extremely well - what a gorgeous gown by Giambattista Valli.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A new haircut is not all bad

So my hair has started to come out with the effect of chemo for my breast cancer treatment. I could pull it gently and the whole lot just fell out - didn't need any pressure. So to try to take the weight off my obviously weakened hair follicles I decided to bite the bullet and get my husband to get out his clippers (he has a number 1) and take it all off. Well not entirely off but close to my head. I am so glad I didn't have to sit in a public hairdressers but did it in my kitchen with husband and one of my best friends to lighten the mood. And do you know what? Once again it's okay. I am shocked at how grey I actually am (years of colouring makes you delusional) and I have a great shaped head - am happy about that. So here you have it - my new look. Yes I look like an art teacher - but a damn fine one! And with sunglassed on I look quite menacing which will have it's useful moment's I'm sure. So here is the new me.

I have ordered a wig so I do have the option - with a wedding in a week I want to look as near to normal as possible - wedding photos have a habit of sticking around for years!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Soapwalla - a deodorant cream that really works Deodorant

So after surgery with scarring and nasty things happening I was on the lookout for a natural, organic deodorant that actually works and that is when I came across Soap Walla. This all natural, deodorant is a solid cream and you do have to use your fingertips to work it in. However you use a tiny amount and it is very, very effective. There is no getting around that when you get to a certain age, deodorants just don't work the same yet this one really does - so it's perfect for peri-menopausal and menopausal women. It isn't cheap at £14 but it goes a really really long way - I've been using it for a month and used about a quarter of the whole pot! It really is nothing like any other deodorant and has found it's way into beauty editor's shelves across the globe and Glamour UK voted it one of the best natural products on the market. It's from the US (where it is annoyingly $14) but I found it at A Beautiful World for £13. 

Soapwalla has all natural ingredients including superfine vegetable powders, peppermint, tea tree essential oil, clays and lavenders. All these absorb moisture and really do inhibit bacteria - there is no smell even at the end of the day. It also doesn't have aluminium salts or parabens which may mimic oestrogen - and it's oestrogen that I really need to avoid! So it won't do you any harm but a lot of good!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Hand Saving Beauty

The north wind does blow and snow is a regular feature which isn't helping my dry skin and my hands in particular, so a good hand-cream has become essential. My friends have all been sending me little get-well, keep safe gifts which is lovely and I have had no less than 3 hand-creams to choose from so I now have one in each bathroom and one by the kitchen sink downstairs. All three have fabulous ingredients, smell lovely and are really doing the trick - even my long suffering cuticles are healthy and smooth. 

This Along Came Betty Hands that do Wishes handcream with Peach and Apricot is actually one of my favourites. It is available in a Shea Butter version for £2 in Tesco which is amazing. 

Here's another one which has the most gorgeous fragrance - which is what you would expect from Rituals. This Happy Hands Mandarin and Mint is really fresh and is £8,50. It absorbs quickly and easily and my hands do feel very happy afterwards.

Last but certainly not least is the Lavender, Geranium and Jojoba Hand, Nail and Cuticle Cream from A'kin. This is simply lovely - the fragrance, the way it makes my hands feel - yummy! It's £12 so is expensive but it is lovely...

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Hemsley and Hemsley cookbook

Obviously I am becoming very aware of what I am eating - although I have been advised that a little of what I fancy is the way to go. Eating 'clean' means no take-aways, no salad have haven't washed myself, no soft cheeses or pates, no seafood - to keep the risk of infection down to a minimum really.

I was delighted when I was bought as a gift from a very kind friend, the new Hemsley & Hemsley cookbook from sisters who are as clever as they are beautiful. All round a bit sickening really but we will forgive them as they really do talk absolute sense in terms of eating and cooking that is actually easy to follow. First things are to use your beautiful vegetable oils like olive and rape seed for salad dressings and not for cooking. They are actually not doing you any good and really replacing with virgin coconut oil, butter or ghee (yes really) is a much much wiser option. They also look at replacing a lot of carbs with other alternatives like cauliflower that can be make into a 'rice' and courgette pasta.

 In the office we can all testify that their coconut balls with cacao are as delicious as any melting chocolate truffle - and if you roll them in chia seeds they are even better for you! Here is there guilt-free milk chocolate pave which is next on my list!

Chicken Soup is good for the soul and I will be adding this one to my repertoire soon...

The Art of Eating Well, Hemsley & Hemsley

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Another week goes by and it's okay

So Tuesday came and went. It was a little frustrating getting my chemo booked in as the NHS have been brilliant thus far in their processes but it does tend to go a bit tits up (if you'll pardon the pun given my breast problems) if you are being referred to a different hospital. Thanks once again is due to my brilliant breast cancer nurses who chased up the paperwork and reassured me that all would be fine and dandy.

I decided to get organised while I wait for my chemo to start, being proactive is a real help as I feel I am actually doing something positive. The law of sod has made it that my best friend since forever is getting married for the first time in three weeks. Just in time for my hair to come out by the handful. Oh joy! My oncologist doesn't believe in the cold cap which can save your hair, as he believes in treating the whole body and doesn't want to miss out even my scalp. I'm in agreement - can you imagine hanging onto your hair through vanity and cancer cells lurking in your hair follicles? It's unlikely but I'm with him on not taking the risk and a friend who did use the cold cap lost two thirds of her hair anyway and ended up with a buzz cut. In her words 'it just wasn't worth it'. So not wanting to look like a cat with mange or at best Sigourney Weaver in Alien, I have spoken to a lovely hairdresser in Highgate, North London who is on standby to cut and style a wig for me as soon as my hair falls out. As I cannot know when this is I have decided to borrow the old man's clippers in a couple of weeks (so the weekend before the wedding) and give myself a number 1 all over. Then I will be whisking myself off to her salon for a new head of hair - if Joan Collins can do it so can I.

I was also recommended (by a couple of friends) to check out Suburban Turban who are a fine outfit specialising in bespoke hats, scarves and turbans for those experiencing hair-loss. I ordered a beautifully soft and well fitting beret style hat which I am so pleased with - I can wear it indoors and out and because of the shape it covers up all the areas I will need. I'm so pleased with it I can't see it being my only purchase! It's called Jem and was £20 which is a bargain as it is beautifully made.

I actually look really cute in this - I will add pictures when I have them. I have also painted my nails a very dark colour - chemo can damage them when in contact with daylight and the nurses have advised me to keep them well polished the whole time - well that will be a first! I am grateful it's still winter and hats and dark nail polish is not out of place.

 Chemo starts tomorrow. Following the advise of my friend Claire I will power through.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A breast cancer diagnosis has certainly stopped me in my tracks!

I had to give up my blog for a couple of months. To say my heart wasn't in it was a bit of an understatement and I had way too many other things on my mind. Our trip to Cape Verde was lovely but it did have a shadow overlying the whole week. The week before leaving I found a lump. A small lump that was hard and not moving in my left breast. A lump that didn't hurt but no matter how much I felt for it, didn't shrink or go away. So I took myself off to the Doctor even though it had been a mere five months since a mammogram and she sent me swiftly off to my local hospital who took a scan, and did a biopsy and told me to enjoy my holiday. Which I did but on my return...

I found that the lump that didn't move and wasn't painful was breast cancer. They assured me it was small and could be removed and I wouldn't need chemo just radiotherapy and tamoxifen as it was highly resistant to oestrogen. But that's when things started to go a bit awry.

They sent me for an mri just to check there was nothing else and a week later I was informed that there were in fact two lumps, the second larger and hidden. How scary is that. If the other smaller lump hadn't made itself known I would probably still be walking around with a cancer growing unknown inside me. They were also worried about four more sites in my other breast which after further tests (which took another three weeks in total) thankfully were nothing to worry about.

I was advised to have a mastectomy as there were two lumps too far apart but as they thought my lymph nodes were clear they would do a further cut to remove the lymph node closest to each lump - but they really weren't expecting anything.

A mastectomy is a horrible, emotional shock. I am a pragmatist by nature but nothing really prepares you for waking up and looking down to a lop-sided chest with a large plaster where your breast once was. Oh and not to mention a tube with a bottle attached poking out from it. Thankfully they pack you so full of painkiller you feel nothing - apart from an overwhelming sense of shock and loss. Thankfully they removed the drain within 48 hours which was a relief - and the bandaging a week later. It was at least a week until I could shower with the light on and I just couldn't bring myself to look at my chest - this I finally did with one of my brilliantly supportive breast cancer nurses. These women keep you sane frankly. They are there for a hug and they TOTALLY get it. These are the women you can discuss your inner fears and anger with - and they give such wonderful advise and support back I cannot describe it. Not that I haven't had huge amounts of love and support from my family and friends - my Facebook is a testament to that - but these women although dealing with this every single day are so very practical and human about it all, it gives you massive amounts of reassurance.

Tuesdays have very quickly become the worst day of the week. They are appointment days so quickly became bad news days. So it was two weeks after my mastectomy and on a Tuesday that I was told that although my wounds were healing brilliantly they had a further fly in the ointment. 2mm of cancer had been found in my the sentinel node - this is the lymph node closest to the tumour. A tiny amount but not too tiny to count as a negative sadly. So exactly four weeks after my mastectomy I was wheeled down to theatre for a second time to have all my lymph nodes removed via an incision running the length of my armpit.

Now no-one really tells you that this is a far worse operation out of the two. No-one tells you in advance about the electric shock-like pain that is constant due to nerve damage in the underside of your arm. Or of the swelling and pain in the armpit. Which lasts weeks. I am writing this four weeks and two days later and am still in pain. Plus my movement is limited and I have to do physio to be able to get my arm above my head in terms of radiotherapy in five months or so time. I was lucky though - all the other lymph nodes were clear so it hasn't spread via that system - again catching it early so fingers crossed.

I am not writing this from a position of 'poor me' - that's not my style. But writing for me is therapy and I can't go on just writing my blog about nice things to try, see and do and pretending as if this absolutely huge thing just hasn't happened because if has. So forgive me if I swing on these pages from beauty launches to what chemo is really like for me - it's my blog after all!

Tuesday brings an oncology meeting and hopefully a plan for starting chemo which I have to have as there were two lumps. It's amazing how things can change from one week to the next - the nurse warned me it would be a roller-coaster and I really understand what she meant now!
But there are some positives. I have a nice new haircut in preparation which everyone tells me has taken years off me. I feel great apart from the pain and arm limitations - I can't drive yet which is not great but my shopping trolley and I are firmer friends than ever. People have come back into my life as if by magic, who I haven't seen for years, but to lend support and keep me going - amazing and really heartening!

I am still going out and living life as normal really - although I do still feel the dark clouds are gathering again and I am mustering up my strength and resilience for round-three of this bloody boxing match.

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