Archives for category: Lifestyle

2017-12-31 16.28.46A few months ago, I was! Someone from a Facebook group I joined – Feed Yourself for £1 a Day – shared a photo that took me back to my childhood. This lady had made what she called Wartime Jelly Creams which her gran had taught her, and it got me so nostalgic for jelly I was practically drooling!

It reminded me of the creamy Almond Agar-Agar desserts I used to eat as a kid (usually at parties), often with fruit cocktail, mangoes, or peaches. The Western version is sometimes also known as Milk Jellies, Jelly Fluff or Jello Whip (depending on whether the mixture is whisked before being left to set). I suppose it’s a little like blancmange, but without the cornflour, so it has a lighter and airier consistency. All versions include cream or milk in the recipe, with evaporated milk the more traditional of the two in the UK. I suspect the reason is down to cost, and the clue is in the name – Wartime Jelly.

Food was rationed in those dark times, and milk was scarce. However, it was possible to get tinned milk which is more economical, and lasts longer. Across the pond, it’s also been documented that gelatin was used in the US to “stretch rationed foods”, so perhaps it’s not surprising that jellies were as much a treat back then as they are now. Although here in this sceptred isle, I am not so sure about Colleen Moulding’s Carrot Fudge from “Frugal Recipes from Wartime Britain” which also contains gelatin. Then again, carrot cake is a lot yummier than it sounds! 😀

Most of the modern recipes I’ve come across do not list gelatin itself as one of the ingredients, but I really fancied a fusion of East and West, and had decided on layered mango jelly. Unfortunately, jelly crystals of that flavour are not easy to get hold of here; the ones I found online were instant set (at room temperature) which wouldn’t do at all because the jelly solution would need to boil, then cool before blending with milk (otherwise it would curdle)…And so it was that I ended up making my jelly from scratch.



The stars of the show:

Evaporated Milk (Loving the tin’s retro design!)
2 Sachets of Gelatin*
Mango Juice**
Water
Sugar

Also, basic arithmetic! LOL

2017-12-31 16.49.30Mix one packet of gelatin with freshly boiled water as per manufacturer’s instructions. Add mango juice in a quantity proportionate to amount of gelatin…again, related details can be found on the sachet/box/tub. Stir well, pour in mould, and refrigerate until set. This could take a couple of hours or more.

Reserve some of the evaporated milk and put it in a small pot.

Mix the next packet of gelatin with freshly boiled water, and add it to the rest of the evaporated milk and some mango juice (as before, milk and juice relative to amount of gelatin as per packet instructions). Stir well.

Quickly heat up the evaporated milk that’s in the pot and melt some sugar in it. It’s probably best to do this to taste as mango juice of different brands have varying sweetness. Add the sweetened milk to the rest of the mixture. Stir well, and pour over initial layer of jelly that’s set.

Pop the layered jelly in fridge to set for a few more hours, or better still, overnight.

*Can also be swopped with vegan gelatin, or agar-agar.

**Other types of fruit juice can be used, but nothing citrus as it may curdle the milk. My mango juice did have a bit of citric acid in it, but it must have been a small percentage as it didn’t affect the milk.

Here’s a tip – If any bubbles form, prick them with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Make sure the tips are dry each time.


2017-12-31 16.17.03With the two sachets of gelatin, I made enough jelly to fill four wine tumblers, probably just under a couple of pints. It can be served with any topping of your choice – whipped cream, diced mango etc. – but seeing as we’re ushering in a new year, I sprinkled mine (see top pic) with spangly gold sugar stars! Hope your celebrations also went off with a great big shower of sparkles…I can still hear fireworks going off everywhere! May 2018 be full of wonderful times! 🙂

2017-12-23 11.33.05…my Boxcitement!!! Yeap, that’s what it’s called, this new box subscription service I am trying out. As previously blogged, I used to receive monthly surprises from My Little Box. Sadly, that business has recently changed its focus and, for the foreseeable future, will no longer offer the same range of products in its boxes.

I can’t remember how I discovered Boxcitement, but it was most likely via an ad on Facebook. Similar to My Little Box, subscribers will be sent a wide selection of items. However, the emphasis is predominantly on accessories, homeware, stationery, simple crafts, and jewellery. This goes towards supporting UK artisans since all the aforementioned is designed and manufactured by them. From time to time, boxes may also contain beauty products (such as bath salts) or other treats. It costs £18 per month (including P&P), but newbies get a 10% discount with the code FIRSTBOX. What’s more, the second month will gain you an additional gift if you stay on.

I placed my order before the December cut-off date, and though I was delighted the delivery arrived in time for Christmas, setting eyes on it initially left me feeling a tad…underwhelmed. I guess I’ve been so accustomed to My Little Box that I was expecting a larger parcel. The contents of Boxcitement’s mystery bundle do not come in their own presentation box, hence the disparity in size. Below are a couple of photos I have taken for comparison – one against a standard-sized My Little Box (minus the external packaging), and another against a large bag of crisps.

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To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this. As gorgeous as My Little Box’s themed receptacles were, I can only re-use so many of these boxes before my home gets cluttered up with them. Besides, as clichéd as this may sound, size isn’t everything, and I was prepared to give Boxcitement a chance.

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A pretty little tote bag was sat right on top as soon as I unwrapped everything, and I will admit…it did make me squee. 😀 The rest of the stuff didn’t do to badly in getting a positive reaction out of me either…many of which were unique and well-crafted.

2017-12-31 17.46.38The jewellery from Boxcitement is certainly of much better quality than what I previously received from My Little Box, though I do miss the skincare products from the latter.

2017-12-31 17.24.31What I am least fussed about is the calendar poster since I already have a better one (complete with wall planner), so I will probably give the Boxcitement one away. The tree decoration comes a close second as we just have too many of those, but I suppose I could hang it somewhere in my (semi-new) loft space which could do with looking a bit more festive.

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As adorable as the acrylic (I think?) napkin rings are, a friend had gifted us some that she’d made not long ago, so these two frosted ones will have to wait their turn. It would be great if Boxcitement extends its service to allow orders of individual items (much in the same way as My Little Box and Birchbox) because there are usually more than two of us at the dinner table on Christmas day, thus a larger set of the napkin rings would be most welcome! 😀

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My top two favourite are the mini tote bag, and the coffee stencil. I bought myself a chocolate powder shaker only a few weeks ago, so acquiring the stencil right at this moment is a happy coincidence.

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As for the cards…well, I do have a large collection of such stationery, but I am a firm believer that you can never have too many of them! And don’t you think they look just fine?! 😀

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So far so awe-so-me! Boxcitement’s December offerings have passed muster despite my slight misgivings early on…

2017-12-31 17.43.42…and I am now looking forward to next month’s goodies. If the sneak peak is anything to go by, 2018 might be off to a good start!

2017-12-31 17.50.19PS – I can’t get over how cute this tote is…It may be tiny, but is actually still large enough to hold all my new stuff from Boxcitement! Just look at it! 😀

25037454_138865226896675_2036079854268448768_nMerry Christmas to you and all your loved ones! Hopefully, everyone has had as wonderful a time as I have, filled with joy (and treats). I realise this post is a little late, but maybe it could come in handy for next year…Not that advanced preparations have actually helped me in the past. Despite my best attempts (even taking time off work), there’s still always a lot of rushing around at the very last minute! I did, however, manage to get all the wrapping done by the morning of Christmas eve. Whew!

2017-12-21 22.11.31I try to come up with different gift ideas every festive season, and thought I’d have a go at something I’d been meaning to do for a very long time – personalised goody bags…or mini sacks/pouches in this case. The designs were created in Photoshop (remember to reverse them!), and then printed on transfer papers before being ironed onto the hessian pouches.

Unbeknownst to me then, my iron was actually damaged. It wasn’t distributing heat uniformly, so some of the fabric ended up with slight burn marks, and in other areas, it wasn’t hot enough for the design to transfer successfully. The result was a tad patchy, though some of my friends felt it contributed to the overall rustic appearance. I’m still getting a new iron though!

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These little bags are a good alternative if you have many friends you want to buy gifts for, but have a limited budget. I filled these with scented tealights (a bargain from any pound shop), homemade espresso truffles (recipe here), skincare/aftershave samples, poppers, and a few other party favours or stocking fillers.

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As for other presents specially for family, I made 3D Christmas Trees from origami paper, and glued them on gift tags made out of card, patterned ribbon, and gold raffia. If you haven’t got any pens with metallic ink, it’s probably best to use light coloured card instead of the burgundy ones like mine.

2017-12-18 21.51.07We normally send charity cards every Christmas, so I was very pleased to find out that Snapfish had partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support to offer bespoke merchandise, such as greeting cards. We have a gorgeous photo of our cat Magic playing with tree decorations when she was 16 weeks old, and I just knew it would be perfect for this occasion. My order did turn out a bit more expensive than previous years, but looking at the glossy outcome, you can see why I didn’t regret a penny of it!

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Speaking of tree decorations, look at these two adorable ones a friend and fellow crafter made for us! Needlework is one of those skills I never quite got to grips with, and how I wish I had…Perhaps a new goal for 2018? 😀

2017-12-15 00.49.20…to be giving! But what makes me equally joyous, is to be on the receiving end too!

A month or so ago, I blogged about how you can get your hands on free products, either through social media, or joining marketing campaigns. Since then, I have been sent many goodies that I didn’t have to pay for, and amassed quite a growing collection. It’s almost like Christmas come early!

2017-12-15 01.32.54There are basically enough items here to fill the average subscription box, except most of these did not cost me a penny. However, there were a couple of occasions when I had to pay a quid or two for postage. I always suspect the amount does cover the cost of production, and the reason brands give them away for so little money is because they need to get rid of overstock. Still, majority of products are in launch phase so all you may be asked to do is review the samples you receive. Personally, I think it’s a fair bargain.

A new range of freebies that I am particularly excited to try out is from Your Good Skin by Boots. The full-sized beauty products below were delivered entirely for free, and in return I have to commit myself to the 28-Day Challenge, plus share my results on social media. There is one catch – in order to be selected for this campaign, you do need to have over 1000 followers on Instagram.

2017-12-15 00.51.39The Balancing Skin Concentrate is the focal point of this challenge, but included in the package was the Pore Minimizing Tonic, Oil-Lifting Make-Up Remover Wipes, and the Instant Dryness Rescue balm.

I don’t wear make-up frequently, so would have preferred to receive a cleanser instead of the wipes. However, as luck would have it, my Boots card has loads of points because I haven’t spent any of them in ages. So, to treat myself, I used them to order the highly-recommended Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser (to counteract the toner) and ProVitamin Overnight Cream. Since I didn’t technically hand over any money, I guess I kind of got these for free too!

2017-12-15 00.54.26Your Good Skin also has a day moisturiser with high SPF, but I decided against buying that as I’ve already found my HG (Holy Grail) sunscreen and don’t want to replace it with anything else. I reviewed Bioré UV Perfect Milk for Face and Body not long ago, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for decent protection from photoaging. I figured that if the Balancing Skin Concentrate isn’t hydrating enough, I’d just apply a little of the ProVitamin Overnight Cream under the Perfect Milk sunscreen.

While my freebies were on their way to me, the support team from Your Good Skin emailed to suggest I post a ‘before’ picture of myself so I can share the progress of my transformation. I made up my mind to start the challenge after a late night out to a Christmas party. It’s one of the few occasions I would wear make-up, so I knew my skin would not be at its best the next day.

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And I was right…In the first photo, you can see some light foundation just about hiding a spot on my chin, but I swear it actually ballooned overnight because the next pic of me in the morning shows a definite flare-up. Two new tiny spots were also beginning to form under my nose. Boo!

Well, Your Good Skin aims to improve your skin so it becomes visibly healthier, or your money back. I don’t think I would qualify for the latter, but Boots skincare products are generally effective so I’ve got nothing to lose. Hopefully, at the end of four weeks, I will emerge with more “good skin days” as advertised.



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Here I am again, on day one of the challenge, face sans make-up, freshly washed (hence a little pink and blotchy), and with Your Good Skin products duly applied.

2017-12-19 14.21.34If you’re wondering why I have one eyebrow slightly raised, it is not a response to this new beauty routine. This expression is normal for me…I constantly go through life in a mildly bemused state. 😀

Where the new lotions and potions courtesy of Boots are concerned, everything’s so-far-so-good. It’s of course too early to tell if they are benefiting me in any way, but I don’t seem to be allergic to any of the ingredients and my skin is sensitive enough to react quite quickly. There is hardly any fragrance to all the products (though the toner smells a bit weird, almost sickly), and some of them don’t glide on my face as well as I’d hoped. The moisturiser in particular feels quite tacky and takes quite awhile to absorb. That said, it does appear matt after application, so I suppose it’s the end result that matters. Also, the spot on my chin does seem a little less red and angry, so perhaps the new stuff is doing something after all!

I’ll blog about this again at the end of the challenge, and in the meantime, I shall keep all my fingers (and toes!) crossed that this will be (as touted) a “journey to better skin for life”!

24274019_1970996123188841_2622979760808001536_nIt rarely snows where we live, so I’m not holding out any hopes for a white Christmas. Although the ground does eventually get mucky, there is something magical and oh-so-cosy about watching snowflakes fall outside your window while you’re sipping hot chocolate and listening to Christmas carols.

24178219_158566281426093_4703554647334322176_nInstead of waiting around only to (most likely) end up being disappointed, I thought I’d do something about it by creating my own snow globe! It might not be the real thing, but looks pretty all the same! Unlike traditional snow globes, these are dry ones since I’m not too sure how the materials used would fare long-term when submerged in liquid. I guess it would be more accurate to call them jar dioramas.

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I started off by painting the pine cones I collected way back in Spring with just plain old dark green acrylic paint, and tipped the edges with white paint and iridescent glitter. If you’d like to know how to clean and prep cones for craft, a tutorial can be found in my last blog post.

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Next step was to make the mini signposts, which involved a pair of scissors and some small ice-cream sticks. It would be more ideal to use proper wood-burning tools for the lettering, but because I have none, I borrowed David’s soldering iron (after he swopped the tip for an old one). If you are thinking of attempting pyrography the same way, I’d advise writing on with a pencil and then tracing it with the soldering iron. It took me a couple of tries, but I finally got it looking legible. After that, I brushed on some wood stain (samples can be purchased on eBay) to give it a weathered appearance.

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Assembling the snow globe took some doing, but I found air-drying clay to be the best option for the base, particularly in keeping the signpost upright. Take care to keep the clay away from the edges of the jar lid though. You need to leave a bit of room for the jar to screw on properly. After that, all you need is more glitter (I used a mix of large and small flakes), give the jar a bit of a shake, and there you go – a winter scene in miniature! 😀

24175157_385047045264235_7910478964865368064_nMeanwhile, other Christmas decorations have started going up in our house…Most importantly, the tree! This year, we have switched to an icy theme with snow animals, mainly because Zhouyi and David both insisted on having a penguin sat at the top instead of the usual star.

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Oh well, Pegwig (as christened by David) does seem quite happy up there despite having a tree stuck up his bottom!

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Everytime someone whinges “but it’s not even December”, an elf loses their sense of purpose, and gets turned out into the cold. Help save jobs in Santa’s Workshop by keeping the festive spirit alive! Forget S.P.E.W…that’s so 1994. Elves of today have a new campaign and slogan – Christmas should be forever, not just once a year. 😀

Yes, I know…I’ve gone a bit OTT, but people can bah-humbug me all they like. I’m still not going to change; I just love Christmas. I was making plans for this occasion even before Halloween had been and gone…Actually, I probably started as early as spring when I went looking for pine cones during our nature rambles.

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Early May saw us at Spring Wood in Walley which was practically covered in gorgeous bluebells. Quite by coincidence, it also had a lot of pine trees in the vicinity…The ground was full of pine cones, much to my delight. If you live in Lancashire, another great place to gather pine cones would of course be Beacon Fell.

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I wish I’d thought of bringing a bag or basket with me because I could only carry the cones in my coat pockets. They were very large and deep pockets though, so I did collect enough pine cones for craft purposes. The little branch that some of them were attached to could come in useful for another project, so I took that home with me as well.

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As it’s my first time working with pine cones, I had to do some research on how to prep them. According to various online sources, there are a number of methods. However, a vinegar bath seems to be the popular choice. Mostly because it not only cleans them, but also kills any bugs that may be hiding within. It will stink the room out as well, but that can’t be helped! 😛

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It’s advisable to grab a pair of tweezers so you can remove any visible debris before doing anything else. There’s probably all sorts of muckiness trapped in the scales. After that, put the pine cones in a bucket or large bowl. Mixing the solution is not an exact science, but it’s roughly two parts water and one part white vinegar.

Leave the cones to soak for about 20 minutes or so. You might want to weigh them down with a small dish as they tend to float to the top, and the cones need to be completely submerged in order to be cleansed thoroughly.

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As you can see, the pine cones close up when wet, but this is normal, so no need to panic. They open up again once dry. From here onwards, there are two ways you can proceed. Either lay them out on some old newspapers or a towel, and let them dry naturally, or use your oven.

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I am not certain if there’s a difference in the outcome if you opt to do it either way, but I have heard that airing cones can take a few days, whereas the oven gives a much quicker result. Plus, it has the added benefit of further bug-proofing your cones.

As I was impatient, I put them in the oven on the highest setting and took them out after about 45 minutes. It was probably a little too long as a few of the cones turned darker. I didn’t mind so much as some of them will get painted eventually, but for future reference, I’ll take the cones out after half an hour, or turn the heat down.

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When the pine cones are dry, it is recommended that you coat them with some sort of clear varnish in order to preserve them. The smaller cones were quite brittle, so the lacquer did help slightly in keeping the ends from flaking off. I am not keen on gloss, so it was a matt spray that I used. You can’t really tell from the photo above, but the pine cones that I sprayed have a smooth sheen as compared to the ones in the tin trough which have no varnish on them, since I will be painting those at a later date when making some of my Christmas ornaments.

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Pine cones fully sanitised and glazed, I could finally relax and enjoy a small batch of truffles I made earlier. What could be more Christmassy than chocolate? Truffles are a simple treat to make, whether for yourself, or friends and family.

The recipe is pretty forgiving as not a lot can go wrong…It’s basically ganache that has been allowed to set, rolled into little balls, and coated in ground nuts, cocoa, or any other ingredients you like. To make these, I used:

150gm Dark Chocolate – Chopped
150ml Double (or Whipping) Cream
25gm Unsalted Butter

Melt the butter in the cream until the mixture begins to simmer. Then pour it into a bowl with the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate melts and blends smoothly with the cream. If you want to add other flavours, such as coffee or Amaretto, now would be the time to do so.

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Let it the ganache set in the fridge for a few hours (it took four hours in my fridge). You’ll know it’s ready when the little balls keep their shape after you’ve rolled them in your hands. The first one I made sank into a sort of squishy blob, so back into the fridge the ganache went.

I used unsweetened cocoa and ground almonds to finish off my truffles, but you could also try dipping them in milk chocolate or desiccated coconut. After coating them, I left my truffles to chill in the fridge overnight so they could solidify further. I am not sure what the shelf life would be for homemade truffles, but that might not be much of a concern…If your family is anything like mine, it won’t be 24 hours before they’re all gone.



In other news…

Processed with MOLDIVI’m very happy to say that the relaunch of my Etsy shop is going well, and I have made quite a few sales since opening it a couple of weeks ago. As a gesture of appreciation, all customers will receive complimentary gifts of either sweets or scented tealights, along with a small discount for their next purchase. Thank you all for your support…It’s been awesome! 🙂

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At last!!! After an almost two-year hiatus, I have opened my Etsy shop again! As stated in a previous blog post, I did a mini trial run of my DIY Spa Kit for Foot Scrubs in 2015, and soon sold all of it, even gaining a couple of five-star reviews from happy customers. 🙂 Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, I then had to take a break from production.

I am now back, hopefully for good, with a couple of other products and possibly a few more in the pipeline (depending on how this takes off) for 2018. Please be patient and bear with me…I am still very new to running a business, and can only manage a small volume of stock. This really just started out as a hobby, so any helpful suggestions would be welcome!

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The main item I am selling now is the DIY Spa Kit which can be personalised with a gift tag. Not only can the Lavender and Peppermint Foot Scrub be customised to your (or the recipient’s) preference, you will also be learning about making your own natural beauty remedies in the process.

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The kit contains everything required to make two jars of foot scrub, along with a recipe and a detailed explanation of how each ingredient can contribute to your well-being. If you have bought one of these and require the instructions in large print, please contact me and I will send you a copy.

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Another product I have added to my shop is the Chalkboard Door Hanger Gift Set. I made one for my daughter awhile back and thought it’d make quite a unique present or stocking filler. This would probably appeal more to children, though teenagers might appreciate the novelty too.

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The set includes both white and coloured chalk, and sponge eraser in a selection of style and colours…Perfect for doodling a warning to potential intruders, or for those times when you just need a bit of peace and quiet!

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Since this new beginning ties in with the festive season, I am offering a discount to celebrate the occasion. Simply type in code XMAS10 when placing your order, and you will receive a 10% reduction on orders £10 or more. However, this Christmas deal won’t last long, so take advantage of it before the sleigh bells start ringing!

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…of Halloween!

I like to make the most of this occasion, because on no other day can you go around wearing a costume without anyone thinking you’ve gone a bit batty. I do sometimes wish the UK were a little less traditional (like the US) though. Americans are a lot more flexible when it comes to the characters they portray, but over here, most people don’t really deviate from horror themes.

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No Face isn’t exactly scary (unless you’re a toddler, like in the pic above!), but it’s still a supernatural entity and definitely meets Halloween criteria!

It wasn’t until last week that work confirmed we could dress up for this event, so I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Although I am a Studio Ghibli fan, and Spirited Away is one of my favourite animated films, the main reason I picked No Face was partly down to expedience.

All I needed was a black hooded poncho, a black headband, and white card to make the mask. The interweb is full of templates for No Face’s…erm…face, but I will save you the trouble of looking for one by posting mine here!

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The mask will print onto an A4 sheet, and is a little large, but you can easily size it down. If you need it even bigger, please feel free to DM me. 🙂

I had no intention of wearing the mask over my face all day, but wanted it to stay attached to me so I’d still be recognisable as No Face. A few other female cosplayers have been wearing it on the side of their heads, and I wondered if I could devise a way for the mask to also double up as hair accessory.

This is where adhesive velcro strips come in, and they were fangtastic for this little project. You can get them in craft or fabric stores, or if you prefer to shop online, I bet Amazon and eBay will have them too.

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As you can see here, my headpiece can also be turned into a visor-mask…and it is soooo easy to do. After printing and cutting out the mask, work out how you want it positioned when on face and side of head, then stick on bits of velcro respectively. And there you have it, a fully-adjustable disguise that can be worn in two ways!

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Some girls opt to paint their faces, but that’s optional. I did it as a test run when trying on my costume, but didn’t bother with it today as I’m really not a morning person. No force on earth can motivate me out of bed early enough to coat my skin in layers of slap.

I did, however, notice that with my hood up and facepaint on, I looked like I’d gone over to the dark side in full Sith mode!

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What a truly versatile costume this has turned out to be…Now all I need is a lightsaber, and this time next year, I will be a dark lord of the empire!

Update 01/11/17 – Much as I love snacks and chocolate, Halloween treats have never held great drawing power where I’m concerned. It’s not like I don’t already stuff my face the other 364 days of the year. That said, I was inordinately chuffed to receive this little package of goodies the next day.

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These were gifts for the few who dressed up for Halloween at work, so yay us! Eye can’t see why the treats pleased me so much…Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t expecting it, or perhaps some of the sweets were old school and I can be a bit of a retrophile at times. Either case, it made me happy enough to blog it. 😀

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At this point, you’re probably wondering: “What?! Who on earth wants that?”…Then again, I’m sure you’ve probably also heard of good bacteria, like in yoghurt, drinks, and other types of food. Well, it seems that the beauty industry isn’t immune to the benefits of these microbes either, because…enter PROBIOTIC SKINCARE!

Following on from my previous post regarding subscription boxes and freebie campaigns, I began to notice a change in my social media feeds, facebook in particular. Loads of ads like those below began to appear…

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I guess my interest in giveaways must have been noted by its algorithm, especially after I clicked through to order free samples from Angela Langford. (No, no, these aren’t the ones with the helpful bacteria. I’m just going off on a tangent!)

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Although I didn’t think what was sent to me made any immediate difference to my skin, I have to say the service from Angela Langford was very well personalised. As a result of a questionnaire I filled in when placing the order, a letter came with the specially selected skincare kit along with advice specific to my conditions. Sadly, as the samples were not very generous, I was unable to make any sort of judgement. However, don’t be put off trying it out as everybody’s skin is different. Plus, it doesn’t cost much more than the small postage fee.

I fared a little better with Aurelia’s 3-Step Probiotic Kit. As mentioned earlier, I’d recently been getting more than my fair share of facebook posts about free stuff. One of the latest was a call-out from Aurelia for Brand Ambassadors. After signing up, you’d be sent the Starter Set (worth £45) for free, and apart from the £3 delivery, the only thing you’ll have to do in return is review the items they send you. As an added bonus, you also become part of their VIP panel which entitles you to perks like discounts and more samples.

Well, the OCD side of me was initially a little apprehensive about slathering bacteria all over my face, but we’ve all read about how good these little ‘creepy crawlies’ can be for our internal organs, and what is the skin but another large organ. Besides…it’s free!

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I received the starter set a couple of weeks ago, along with an extra free sample, and finally got a chance to try them out. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for nice packaging, so if I had to rate Aurelia on that alone, I’d rank them pretty high up…maybe not right at the top, as I’m not a huge fan of jars (for hygiene reasons) even if they do look aesthetically pleasing. That’s not going to tell you if you’ll get your money’s worth though!

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If you need instructions and a list of ingredients, all of that can be found at Aurelia’s website, but here’s a card they provided to explain how each step in the routine is meant to bring out the best in your skin.

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MIRACLE CLEANSER

As I prefer to wash my face in the shower, I find it more convenient to use a cleanser that can be rinsed off with water. Anything wipe-off is normally a deal-breaker. That said, my night-time regime is a little more flexible, so I was willing to compromise a little, just to see if Aurelia’s oft-touted award-winner could make a difference.

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The Miracle Cleanser is perfect for anyone with dry or sensitive skin as it’s thick and creamy, and it came off easily using a damp Antibacterial Bamboo Muslin. As Aurelia only supplied one, I used my own flannel the next morning and can’t say I noticed any variation between the two. My skin did feel thoroughly cleansed without the tight feeling you can sometimes get. Having said that, it’s not a problem I have with my usual facewash either. I won’t say anything miraculous happened, but my skin did feel a bit softer after using Aurelia’s cleanser.



REVITALISE & GLOW SERUM

Next in line is a serum that purports to “transform dull, polluted and fatigued skin, for an instant luminous, dewy and radiant glow”.

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It was actually as lightweight as advertised, and very easy to apply. You don’t need much of it so a little will go a long way. I should say that at this stage, everything is smelling utterly divine. It’s a really fresh natural scent, almost medicinal, but in a citrusy-herby kind of way. This serum absorbed rather quickly so I was soon ready for the next step.



CELL REPAIR NIGHT OIL

This isn’t part of Aurelia’s main Anthology Set but you can add another free sample to your order, and I chose the Night Oil. According to the website, this has to be layered “over Aurelia Revitalise & Glow Serum” but “underneath Aurelia Cell Revitalise Night Moisturiser “.

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As you can see, the oil is pretty runny. I think I may have used a bit too much as my face became rather shiny after applying this. That isn’t a major concern as I’m not bothered about what I look like when I’m in bed and the lights are off! The only thing I care about is whether everything I’ve subjected my face to is worth the effort and expense. The latter isn’t an issue in this case, but Aurelia’s prices are not exactly High Street friendly.



CELL REVITALISE NIGHT MOISTURISER

And now we come to the final act of my bedtime beauty tableau. Amongst other virtues, the Night Moisturiser also claims it can help “wind down and prepare for a restful night’s sleep”. I was pretty tired anyway, so I didn’t need much assistance to nod off, but I could detect a hint of lavender in the fragrance, and that is known for its soporific quality.

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This cream is very rich as per Aurelia’s description, and that definitely contributed to my facial wattage. If my husband were still awake at this time, I’m certain he could read by the light of my countenance.



CELL REVITALISE DAY MOISTURISER

I diligently went through the same process again the next morning, but with the Day Moisturiser instead. Although it is supposed to have a “matte-finish”, I’m afraid it didn’t have that effect on me. In fact, you can see that the cream looks just as rich as the one for night-time.

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It could be a combination of all the products (obviously minus the Night Oil), but if you want something that controls shine whilst out and about, this moisturiser really isn’t for you. That said, my face didn’t feel like it had as much of an oil slick on it as the night before. Furthermore, it did seem to radiate less after I’d given the cream some time to sink into my skin.

Just to demonstrate, here are a couple of photos I took sans makeup – the first one almost immediately after application (with slightly damp hair!), and the next about an hour later.

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CONCLUSION

I am not able to comment on the long-term effects of Aurelia’s Probiotic Kit as I’ve only just started using it, and some of the samples will most likely run out in a couple of weeks. Although the products are suitable for all skin types, I’m not entirely sure as to how friendly bacteria would alleviate common problems like age spots, large pores, scars etc. As Aurelia’s signature ingredients are formulated to “calm the natural immune triggers in your skin which can be overstimulated by pollution and stress”, there is a possibility their 3-Step Routine will eventually lessen the impact of rosacea, acne, and even smooth out the effects of ageing.

My combination skin was going through a flaky patch, and from past experience, I knew it would take quite a number of days (sometimes more than a week) to balance itself out. However, this Starter Set managed to fix that within 24 hours. That’s actually a great result, so I highly recommend this if your skin frequently suffers from dehydration.

I must admit my skin did look healthy and nourished after its probiotic exposure, so it stands to reason that regular use of Aurelia’s probiotic line would only improve it further. My main point of contention is the cost of it all. There is no doubt that these are luxury products, so if money were no object, go ahead and take a punt on this.

I can no longer find the relevant facebook post for Aurelia Brand Ambassadors, so perhaps there was a cutoff date. However, a search online led me to a competition for Discovery Kits. Hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky 500, and get to put probiotic skincare to the test before spending a mini fortune.

Personally, I have come across natural skincare that can do almost as good a job without taking a huge chunk out of my wages. Aurelia might out-perform cheaper brands (and some homemade concoctions) slightly, but until I have an income that can match my growing wishlist, the hunt for something better-yet-affordable must go on. 😎

2017-10-11 23.03.51Summer might be over for us here in the UK, but the season of sunshiny days is just starting for those living Down Under, and that’s where a friend of mine is headed. Sarah will be spending a year or more in Australia, so we had a small leaving do to give the lucky young lady a proper send-off.

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As a fellow Disney fan with Princess Belle aspirations (yes, she even looks and sings like the character!), Sarah’s not a difficult person to buy presents for. Basically anything BatB-related will go down well, so when I saw this charming makeup and toiletry bag, I knew it had my friend’s name written all over it. Ok, I’m aware it actually says ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but in our reality, that’s synonymous with Sarah!

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Heh, if I’m honest, I liked the bag so much, I almost didn’t want to give it away…But I resisted temptation and filled it with a few bits and bobs which Sarah might find useful in her travels, such as a set of mini squeezable bottles, plus a few other beauty products and tealights that I packaged in clear cellophane. Also…chocolates! No largesse is complete without it! 😛

Such pretty things require fitting gift presentation, but with only a couple of nights to put everything together, I had to make do with whatever materials I had to hand. Luckily, I did already have a small collection of seashells, and since Sarah would soon be seeing a lot more sun, sand and sea, crafting something beach-themed was perfect for the occasion.

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This card and gift topper is very easy to do, and would only need the following:

  • White Card
  • Blue Card or Paper – Various shades
  • Brown Kraft Card or Paper – Various shades
  • Ribbon – Preferably white or cream
  • Seashells
  • Guillotine, or Scalpel and Ruler
  • Scissors
  • PVA Glue

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The ‘stamp’ was designed in Photoshop, then printed on thin creamy yellow card and cut down to size, but it’s ok to use white card instead. The reason I did not was due to the only white card I had left being too thick for my Epson Inkjet.

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Although the ‘stamp’ on Sarah’s present features Australia, please feel free to download the PDF of a more generic version (with pic of a suitcase) if you too have friends going away and fancy giving this idea a whirl…Bonus if your mates also love Disney as I’ve included a line from one of the songs in BatB. Perhaps when I have a bit more time on my hands, I’ll expand on this and create a range of similar stickers with quotes from other animated films. ❤

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Awhile back, I bought some little wooden tags from a craft store simply because they were cheap and I liked the look of them. Although I didn’t get them for any specific purpose, they did come in rather useful for this project…A bit of sanding, some chalkboard paint and twine, and I got myself a reusable gift tag! If you can’t get hold of wooden tags, and aren’t bothered about reusability, thick black card works just as well. Writing on such a small surface with sticks of chalk can be quite tricky, so unless you’ve a deft hand, you might be better off with a dressmaker or chalk pencil.

sq blog pic2This is possibly one of the more straightforward cards I’ve ever made. However. if you’re not feeling confident you can pull it off, I’d advise doing a test run on some scrap paper before ripping up the good stuff. The paper weight also needs to be within the Goldilocks zone – too thick and it won’t be pliable enough to tear, too thin and you won’t get the nicely frayed edges. My top tip: Don’t stick anything down until you’ve got all your baits and pieces lined up, and are happy with what you sea! 😀