2018-03-11 00.28.40This is what I like to call my budget basket! 😀 It’s perfect for those times when you are stuck for ideas, and have a bit of a cash flow problem. That’s how we found ourselves this Mother’s Day. Fortunately (piggybank-wise), my mum is in Singapore where this occasion isn’t celebrated until May, so for the time-being, we only had to take care of one present.

The gift you see in the photo above is actually for my mother-in-law. She’s the sort of person who likes a simple quiet life, with no particular hobbies or interests (apart from cats), which makes her a pretty tricky recipient. We often buy her feline-related paraphernalia, but wanted to get her something different this time.

Posh nosh is always a great fallback…There aren’t many of us who will say no to yummy treats! They don’t necessarily cost a lot either. The little hamper I put together actually came to less than £15 in total, and could have been cheaper had I not decided to shop in Booths. Well, I wanted it to be special, so it was worth the few extra quid. 🙂

2018-03-10 22.05.54The basket was a bargain from a pound shop, but if you can’t find one that’s suitable, you could cut up a cardboard box and stick some nice wrapping paper on the outside of it. Apart from the card (in colours to match), I didn’t buy anything else because I already owned most of the necessary materials to put this gift basket together. As you can see below, I’ll not be experiencing a shortage of patterned cellophane anytime soon!

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I also have a collection of artificial flowers I keep as props and decoration. However, you can embellish with something else if you haven’t any of those. Be inventive! I think shaped bath bombs or candles can look pretty as well, or possibly mini plush toys and beads. To cushion the items in the basket, I filled it with some leftover packaging from parcels I’d received, and paper from my shredder.

The whole endeavour was fairly quick and easy, but would have taken me a bit longer had hubby David not lent a hand when it came to taping the cellophane down. I’m really rubbish with dates and suck at time management, so this really isn’t bad for a last minute job (even if I do say so myself)! It’s a trait that must run in the family, because my daughter Zhouyi admitted she was similarly pushed for time and only got my present yesterday!

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She does know me well though…Her gifts are always the most adorablest! And that card did make me chuckle. 😀

I hope there’s much joy going round this Mothering Sunday, and that you’re having a lovely time with your mum whether or not you follow the UK tradition!

2018-02-17 23.24.52With all these parcels arriving for me every week, it really does seem like Christmas hasn’t already been and gone…It even snowed earlier today (not my video)! There was only a light smattering on the ground, but it’s not often we get winter flurries on the Fylde Coast so perhaps Navidad has stayed a little longer to sprinkle some joy before the spring showers arrive. 😀

As usual, I got a load of complimentary gifts through the post. February’s loot of freebies was a bit of a mixed bag – a combination of beauty products, food (not just for me, but for my fur baby as well), and even jewellery. Here’s a brief round-up of brands I received goodies from:

Some of them were samples, but a few were full-sized products sent to me in return for a review, or only the cost of delivery. In cases such as the latter, I would advise doing a bit of research to find out how the amount of postage compares to the retail value of the item.

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The Purina stuff took a little while to arrive, but I couldn’t help feeling a little excited to finally receive them, because…well…cats. 🙂 I am sure my fussy feline would agree! She’s a very picky eater, but loves most crunchy nibbles and Lick-e-Lix so these new additions to her menu will probably be most welcome…Fingers crossed!

I’m also quite excited about trying out the products from Skin Chemists as I’ve heard a lot of good things about how bee venom can benefit skin. Its effectiveness is (apparently) similar to snake venom (another popular ingredient at the moment) but I never got round to testing that because a lot of the well-recommended brands are pretty expensive. Actually, Skin Chemists isn’t cheap either, the bee venom moisturiser you see in the above pic costs over £40 in most stores (though you can get it much cheaper on eBay), so I wasn’t about to turn them down when they emailed to ask if I’d be interested in posting a review if I got it for free.

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Although I’m not generally too fussed about perfumes, Penhaligon’s fragrance profiling nearly changed my mind. I say “nearly” because all of this store’s aromatic merchandise comes with a hefty price tag, which is a bit of a disappointment to me as the chosen scents – Luna and Lothair – were exquisite, layered, and definitely to my taste.

The necklace was a lucky find as I’d been looking for something similar when I came across a facebook advert for it a few months back. I presume it was leftover stock Save Our Oceans needed to get rid of, because all I had to pay was shipping. All in all, a bargain!



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Just a quick mention of the next two Boxcitement deliveries I received – the January and February boxes. I would have blogged about them sooner, but so sorry I haven’t really had a chance to due to illness.

 

 

As I’ve started to amass quite a collection, I have set up a gallery with photos of each mystery item from every month. Feel free to browse through them on Google Photos if you’re interested in subscribing to Boxcitement’s service, and would like an idea of what you’d be signing up for.

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So far this year, I have loved everything they sent me, particularly the weekly planner pad, monthly goal checklist, and birdcage necklace. Some of the contents, though lovely and unique, aren’t really to my taste and are more my daughter Zhouyi’s style (like the wraparound bracelet above), so I gave them to her. Between the both of us, nothing in these boxes ever get the thumbs down.

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My only gripe is the chains supplied with the necklaces…they’d match the quaint look of the pendants far better if they were burnished brass rather than silver. I’ve got some of my own pseudo-antique chains and jump rings, so I swapped them as soon as I could, and look what a difference it’s made.

Icy storms and ill health notwithstanding, we’ve not had a terrible winter. What’s life without a hiccup or two? I’m certainly not complaining about all the treats that have come my way! Despite that, I wish spring would hurry up and get here, because it’s chilly up in my lofty lair, and I’ve had enough of filling up hot water bottles!

2017-12-15 00.51.39Apologies for this belated review as I actually started this trial more than a month ago. Sadly, being really ill took its toll and interrupted my new Your Good Skin routine. For weeks, I struggled to get out of bed, and sometimes couldn’t even stand up long enough to have a shower (let alone keep up with a beauty regime!). What’s more frustrating – I was only a few days away from completing the challenge! Be that as it may, I reckon I did do it long enough to find out if the above products work well on my skin. To be absolutely certain, I resumed use of them (for another week or so) as soon as I felt better.

You can read my first impressions of Your Good Skin here, but just to recap, I was sent the following full-sized freebies in return for a review:

• Balancing Skin Concentrate
• Pore Minimizing Tonic
• Oil-Lifting Make-Up Remover Wipes
• Instant Dryness Rescue Balm

As I wasn’t supplied with a cleanser or moisturiser to complete the set, I used some of the Boots points I had accumulated over the years to get the following two items:

• Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser
• ProVitamin Overnight Cream

2017-12-15 00.54.26This 28-Day Challenge puts the spotlight on the Balancing Skin Concentrate as it was launched only quite recently. However, it is best used in conjunction with other Your Good Skin products.



STEP 1 – NOURISHING HOT CLOTH CLEANSER

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I think I may have previously blogged that I’m not particularly keen on wipe-off cleansers, but I chose this to complement the other Your Good Skin items because I was worried the toner I received, in addition to a face wash, would be too drying. As expected, I did not get that tight feeling on my face after using this cleanser. The cream is quite thick and goes a bit paste-like when applied to dry skin (as per instructions) which means it does not glide on smoothly. As a cloth cleanser doesn’t usually foam up, I had to use more product than one that rinses off. There’s not much of a fragrance, and as far as I could tell, the cleansing was thorough as the toner-soaked cotton pad did not pick up any dirt or residue after this. It’s probably best to mention that my typical mode is makeup-free, so I am not sure how efficient this would be for someone who regularly uses cosmetics.



STEP 2 – PORE MINIMIZING TONIC

2017-12-15 01.20.33Again, not something I am in the habit of using as my regular face wash gets splashed off with cool water anyway. In spite of that, I do feel that this works brilliantly with the Hot Cloth Cleanser and Balancing Skin Concentrate. Although the shrinking effect on my pores was only temporary (this is true for all astringent toners no matter the spiel), they did seem less congested, and there was a light fresh sensation on my face after applying this. It can feel a little warm and tingly at first, but that’s most likely down to the ingredients getting to work, and the Pore Minimizing Tonic is otherwise quite gentle. The only criticism I have of this particular product is the smell…It is a little sickly, but fortunately, it doesn’t last and isn’t overpowering, so this is just a minor complaint.



STEP 3 – BALANCING SKIN CONCENTRATE

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This serum is the main feature of this challenge and is meant to restore natural balance and “improve the 5 key signs of visibly healthy skin”. The trouble is, I can’t actually figure out if the Balancing Skin Concentrate on its own would have made any difference as I did not use it in isolation. Yes, my skin did look a little less dull immediately after application, and felt softer as well, but those results could also be attributed to the cleanser and toner. (I will come to the moisturiser in a moment.) This is why I mentioned earlier that these three – cleanser, toner and serum – perform well in unison.

I found this concentrate easy to apply…A couple of pumps (as per recommendation) is enough to cover all my face, and it absorbs quickly into the skin. The fragrance is also quite pleasant. I am not really convinced that it regulates oil though. The parts of my face that tend to shine continue to radiate…less “like a diamond” and more like greasy pan after a fry-up. 😀 At first I thought it was the Overnight Cream doing it, so I experimented with a more lightweight moisturiser for a few days. Sadly, it did not produce a different result.



STEP 4 – PROVITAMIN OVERNIGHT CREAM

2017-12-15 00.56.16There is a day-time moisturiser available from Your Good Skin that comes with SPF 30, but because I prefer to use my own HG sunscreen, I got the night-time one instead. The consistency of the Overnight Cream is thick and rather rich (I assume the Anti-Oxidant Day Cream is less so). It doesn’t spread on skin very well, leaving a tacky film that takes quite awhile to absorb. To be fair, it is meant to be applied before bedtime, and has kept my combination skin fairly hydrated. The shine factor is (unsurprisingly) high, but I don’t mind that since my sunscreen has mattifying properties (for those times when I am out and about), and at night…well…I’m going to sleep anyway, so who cares what I look like, right?



OIL-LIFTING MAKE-UP REMOVER WIPES

2017-12-15 01.17.49Since I rarely wear makeup, I did not have much of an opportunity to use this apart from the one occasion when I tested the Marc Jacobs Beauty Matte Highliner from my first VoxBox. On that day, I had a full face on so I could take some nice photos to show off my new eye crayons. These wipes managed to rid my skin of most makeup except for what I had on my eyelids, but I suspect the problem lies in the Highliner which is heavily pigmented. I’d say these wipes are about average, and not much better or worse than others I’ve tried, including the really cheap ones from pound shops. Besides, I always follow up with a proper cleanser, and would never rely on makeup remover alone so that I can wake up the next day with pores as gunk-free as possible!



INSTANT DRYNESS RESCUE BALM

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Skin needs a bit of extra help during the winter months, so this came in handy a few times during the challenge. Nonetheless, claims that it provides instant relief and remains effective for 12 hours is a bit of an exaggeration. I often get scaly patches on my face when the weather turns cold, and dabbing this cream on affected areas did soothe it somewhat. It’s a good job the bottle is travel-sized, and doesn’t take up much room in my handbag, because I had to keep applying it quite a few times throughout the day. Whilst the Rescue Balm did keep some of the flakiness at bay, it never quite eliminated the problem. Eventually, I had to switch to the Aurelia moisturisers left over from a previous review, and that soon put my dry skin woes to an end.



OVERALL VERDICT

28 day challengeSo sorry for the slight blurriness of the final photo. I didn’t notice the low quality of it until a few hours later. The lighting was also poorer because it wasn’t as sunny that day, so this before-after comparison is probably not the most accurate! 😀

All images were taken within an hour after application. To demonstrate what I mean about how the Balancing Concentrate doesn’t do much to keep the shine under control, I took the last picture before putting on my mattifying sunscreen. It’s pretty obvious there is quite a contrast between that and the other two.

Contrary to what can be seen in the photos, my skin actually had the same colouring and tone (including blotchiness) on all days. I’m not sure why it had a pinker cast in the first two. I’m no expert, but according to my photographer hubby David, it might be to do with my phone’s white balance.

In all honesty, I was not completely wowed by my Your Good Skin experience because, to the eye, there didn’t appear to be any significant changes from start to finish. If I had to rate it out of five stars, I’d give it three…Not exactly holy grail material. Still, don’t let this put you off trying anything from this collection. I would recommend it for the following reasons:

These products are decent all-rounders. Granted, they do not perform miracles, but they were satisfactory in generally keeping my skin in good condition. Considering how ill I was during the challenge (and during the height of winter too!), I’d have expected my complexion to be far worse, but was pleasantly surprised that its health was maintained (as advertised).

Being more middle-aged than millennial, I am of course worried about the impact of ageing. However, I suffered from severe acne in my younger days, and though I did finally overcome it, I can never shake off the paranoia whenever a breakout occurs. I’ll admit I got the odd spot whilst using Your Good Skin. Nothing to lose sleep over…And it was probably down to hormones, what with it being my time of the month. I doubt any lotions and potions can put a stop to that! My skin is on the sensitive side, so not having to deal with any huge angry ‘eruptions’ on my face is a big plus!

If you’re looking for something to address specific issues (such as wrinkles, scars, age spots, etc), you’ll find more success in other products specially dedicated to those concerns, or possibly more invasive procedures (like laser, peeling, or derma-rolling, etc). That said, Your Good Skin does have a wide selection of skincare, so there’s a chance one or two items in the range could boost your existing treatments.

Would I buy any of them? The Pore Minimizing Tonic gets a definite “yes” from me, and it’s a “maybe” for the Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser and Balancing Skin Concentrate (mainly because I am currently using something else I like). Everything from the Your Good Skin range is very affordable, and that’s one of its biggest draws. Majority of the products are under ten pounds, and some even less than a fiver. With all of them being such good value for money, I think this brand is worth a punt at least.

Photo 28-01-2018, 20 43 28Most of January saw me in very ill health, and to make matters worse, what I had was contagious, and soon my entire household was poorly. However, I seemed to have been hit the hardest…Even when everyone else was getting better, I was still bedridden. Not being in a position to get anything done, my shop had to be closed temporarily. After (finally!) being prescribed two strong doses of antibiotics, the worst is now over. Though not quite fully recovered, I am starting to get my life back on track again.

First thing on the agenda has been to make sure our meals at home are healthy again. We were all feeling so sick we couldn’t keep food down, and if I’m honest, my appetite still isn’t what it used to be. Since none of us had been eating right, I decided we needed nourishment from some homemade ABC Soup.

Right now, you’re probably picturing Alphabet Soup in your mind, the one with letter-shaped pasta swimming around in a tomato broth…unless you’re from Singapore or Malaysia of course. Most Asians will probably know I am referring to a Nonya classic. However, the origin of this soup’s name isn’t as clear to us as its contents. The soup’s hearty and nutrient-rich ingredients have given rise to a popular conjecture: ABC refers to vitamins – A in the carrots and corn, B in meat and potatoes, and C in the tomatoes.

I personally prefer a simpler explanation – this soup is as easy to make as ABC, and indeed it is! You literally chuck all the meat and veg in a pot, boil, then leave to simmer. Search for a recipe and you will find many variations out there. You can modify this soup as you like, but the core components remain the same:

• Meat
• Onion
• Garlic Cloves
• Carrots
• Corn
• Tomatoes
• Potatoes
• Water

It doesn’t matter whether you use chicken or pork, but it is best to use meat on the bone as a lot of the flavour will come from that. I used pork ribs this time, but have previously made this soup with chicken drumsticks and thighs. This next step isn’t essential, but I usually like to marinade the meat in some rice wine, white pepper and light soy sauce.

Forgive me for not including exact quantities…I am more familiar with the agak-agak style of cooking, an approach which is quite common in Peranakan culture. Instead of painstakingly measuring out what is needed, we cook based on gut feeling that’s very much tied to an understanding of how each ingredient works with others. Granted there is a lot of trial-and-error involved, but there’s not much that can go wrong with this soup.

Once the meat (and marinade, if so desired) is in the pot, add the carrots and potatoes (peeled and chopped into chunks), followed by the corn (cut into smaller sections), onions (cut into wedges), tomatoes (cut into wedges), and garlic cloves (peeled and crushed). Pour in just enough water to cover everything (but don’t overfill the pot), boil and simmer for a few hours. The longer you cook it, the tastier it will be. A slow cooker would be best for this, though not strictly necessary. An hour before serving (another optional step), season to taste with salt and pepper.

My recent adaptation of ABC Soup that you can see in the photo above has had a few additional items thrown in – Turnips, Goji Berries, and Spring Onions. We normally polish this off with rice and fried egg (sunny side up), but this time, I made so much soup in our humongous slow cooker that we had enough leftover for lunch the next day…Great as a base for instant noodles!!! 😀

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Before my constitution failed me, I went through a phase of craving mussels, and if I had my way, we’d have had it every night for dinner! Well, seafood is good for you! 😀 Luckily for everyone else, I only had the opportunity to make two mussel-inspired dishes. One was a pasta dish with Grilled Asparagus and Mussels in Creamy White Wine Sauce, and the other was Spicy Steamed Mussels with Ginger and Garlic, which was paired with Spam and Onion Omelette. All turned out as nomalicious as I hoped they would be. 🙂

2018-01-07 21.08.06Just a few days ago, the thought of anything sweet would have made me reach for the vomit bucket, but not long after the Christmas break, I attempted a recipe for Coffee and Ricotta Shots with Chocolate Shavings and Biscuit Base. David and Zhouyi loved it, but I felt I could have done better…possibly because I was aware of the mistakes I’d made. The coffee wasn’t strong enough, and I used icing sugar instead of castor as I’d run out of the latter. When I have a little more time on my hands, I’ll have another go at perfecting it. In the meantime, I’ve got a home to put in order…I don’t know…out of action for a few weeks, and now everything’s in such a mess! 😛

27500985_10155903714310856_4956690107225114775_oLess than a month after my very first VoxBox was delivered, I also received a mystery box of free goodies from Triyit. As mentioned previously, this product discovery club is still in pre-launch phase, which means initial campaigns won’t be very big, so I was well-chuffed to be have been selected.

 

Unlike the VoxBox, I was not told of the contents beforehand, though I did have a suspicion it would be health-related, and I was proven right when a hefty box arrived at my house. As with most full-sized complimentary items, brands expect something in return. It’s not usually much…often just a review and/or exposure on social media.

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The Triyit box came with a campaign booklet that had a set of instructions for each product – little jobs which would lead to earning points towards another collection of freebies. Everything was very straightforward: snap a photo, then share it on any (or all) of the big platforms (Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter) using the relevant hashtags…All stuff I would have done anyway.



MOMA INSTANT PORRIDGE POT – PLAIN WITH NO SUGAR

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The first product I tried was a little pot of instant porridge from MOMA Foods. Oats are very kind to the tummy, and because of this, my favourite choice for breakfast. I prefer to cook my porridge (with lactose-free milk) in the microwave but, for the sake of convenience, have in the past tried Quaker’s Porridge Pots when out and about.

What makes MOMA’s gluten-free porridge different from most conventional instant porridge is the type of oats they use. They are wholegrain, with a generous helping of jumbo oats, therefore making them less processed and higher in fibre. MOMA’s blend of oats has a lower glycaemic index, and will keep you full for longer, making it a far healthier option than most brands.

The only other ingredient is low-fat milk powder, so all you need to do is add hot water and stir it thoroughly. Although MOMA does sell an interesting variety of flavours, the plain and sugar-free porridge leaves you free to improvise by mixing in fruit, nuts, or syrup (maple for me please). The texture of this porridge does take some getting used to as it’s quite gummy and chunky…definitely not as creamy as the porridge I normally have at home. That said, it would be pretty handy to have one of MOMA’s pots around when you’re on the go (or at work, like me in this instance). As you can see, it’s not very big, but it was certainly very filling and when lunchtime came round, I found I wasn’t hungry in the slightest!



LOVE CORN ROASTED SNACK – SMOKED BBQ

27878135_365661947235858_3985098939035549696_nMidnight snacks are a bad habit of mine. Actually, it doesn’t have to be midnight. I am often munching on something at bedtime. However, it is mostly junk food…sometimes chunks of cheese or salami, and even chicken drumsticks. It’s worse when on holiday in Singapore as my mum and I would drive around looking for food stalls (loads open late there), eventually consuming a heavy supper before slipping into a food coma at 2am!

The night (or should I say ‘morning’?!) I tried Love Corn‘s snack was probably the first time (in a long long while) I had something healthy past 9pm. It’s really yummy, moreish, and (being low-cal, high-fibre, vegan, gluten-free etc.) also completely guilt-free, making it great for those times when one is feeling peckish, even if it is at silly o’clock!



EAT REAL LENTIL CHIPS – SEA SALT

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I never buy ready-salted crisps, so I was a little sceptical when I opened the bag of Eat Real‘s Sea Salt Lentil Crisps Chips. Since it was Friday night (Netflix & Nom!), I made sure my more exotic-flavoured crisps (such as Wasabi Ginger, and Lobster Firecracker) and pork scratchings were on standby…just in case. I’m pleased to say I needn’t have bothered because the Lentil Chips were a treat and I soon scoffed the lot. Although they only had sea salt on them, the natural flavour of the lentils came through, making the chips quite tasty. I think I actually prefer them to the ordinary spud variety, and of course these will be much better for your body. They’ve even got a crunchier texture!

Other natural snacks by Eat Real are also available, and whilst I can’t list all the stores that stock them, I have previously spotted in Morrisons their Quinoa Chips which I will be adding to my next shopping list.



GET NOURISHED ICED COFFEE – HAZELNUT & CACAO MOCHA

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Although I often cannot do without my morning latte, I have to admit I predominantly get my caffeine fix from leaves rather than beans. However, when I do drink coffee, I like it extremely creamy and loaded with sugar. This Iced Coffee from Get Nourished only ticks the box for the former, but (for obvious reasons) not the latter. It does have a very strong taste, and (as expected) smells a lot like Nutella (not that I mind). To be honest, I wasn’t totally keen on this beverage. Yet, I was convinced that coffee-lovers would actually enjoy it, so I decided to get the opinion of a true connoisseur – my husband David…And guess what?! He gave it a thumbs-up! 😀

I suspect David’s conclusion was based mainly on flavour alone, but there are a lot of other benefits to drinks from Get Nourished. Like the brand name implies, their coffees are highly nutritious and ideal for those with a fitness regime that requires lots of energy and protein. Plus, they are also gluten-free and lactose-free. As an added bonus, Get Nourished will donate 1% of sales to The Kinetic Foundation, a charity that aims to improve Sport Education for kids.



THE BERRY COMPANY SUPERBERRIES – PURPLE JUICE DRINK

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I thought I’d save the best for last, because this drink is easily my favourite item in the Triyit box. If you love Ribena, but not so much a fan of the sugar that’s in it, and can’t quite stand drinking the ‘light’ version due to the saccharine taste of aspartame, this vegan drink from The Berry Company might convert you. Even my 17-year-old daughter Zhouyi, who drinks Ribena by the gallon, was impressed.

The Superberries Purple Juice is super refreshing, super light, and super delish. The Berry Company have got the fruity flavour and sweetness level just right, and it’s all down to the natural ingredients they use. There are no artificial additives in it, and as per the other products reviewed on this post, also free from gluten, fat, and GMOs.

Sadly, Purple Juice is not yet available in most supermarkets, and the one litre carton retails for over £2. This might change over time since it’s still a fairly new product. Until then, it’ll have to remain an occasional treat each time I visit my local Holland & Barrett.



Free gifts are always fun to review, and the Triyit box was particularly enjoyable…probably due to being filled with multiple goodies. It felt like it was Christmas all over again! Hopefully, this (and VoxBox) is only the beginning, with many more to follow. As they say, good things come in threes. Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t just stop there!

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Here be my cat Magic! My adorable little furbaby…indulging in her favourite pastime as a kitty of leisure (aren’t they all?). I’ve always envied her ability to nod off at will, regardless of time or place. If only I could switch off so easily!

Years ago, I went through a bad patch of insomnia. I could have got a prescription for sleeping tablets, but preferred natural remedies. For a time, Kalms and Nytol worked like…well…magic. I no longer have the same problem I once did, but drifting off can sometimes still be a toss-and-turn affair. Playing ambient sounds from SleepBot or Relax Melodies do help, but I have recently been exploring a more novel approach that is pretty effective in putting me in a relaxed, almost meditative and trance-like, state.

Important: Don’t watch these videos without headphones on.

You may or may not have heard about ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Some have described it as a phenomenon, but it’s not really a new discovery. Over the last decade (at the very least), a subculture has emerged from this sensation, and gained quite a following. According to Google, it is one of the top trends on YouTube. Safe to say it’s gradually moving into the mainstream, what with Ikea and Carphone Warehouse now producing ASMR adverts.

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I’m not going to go into too much detail about what ASMR is (because a quick Google will bring up loads of information), except to say it’s not for everyone. As a child, I often experienced these ‘tingles’ but up till now, could never put a name to it. Though not something I would ever bring up in conversation, I did always have a particular anticipation for haircuts that had nowt to do with vanity. However, everyone has different triggers; one person’s box-scratching might be another’s nails-on-a-blackboard. Some even seem immune to this sensory experience and have no idea what it’s all about, which must be frustrating when they come across unnecessarily long video tutorials with drawn-out repetitive movements!

They would hate my Tingles Playlist – a collection of videos guaranteed to induce a most-satisfactory auditory brain massage (for me anyway!). Some are, admittedly, not officially ASMR and would be better described as ‘accidental’. As I said…there is no one size (or sound!) fits all. Since my blog has of late been so preoccupied with subscription boxes and complimentary goodies, I thought I’d share my favourite unboxing video. I generally prefer the ones with no talking, but Emma Smith of WhispersRed seems so lovely, and has such a calm soothing voice that I don’t mind listening to it in the slightest.

If you have any videos of the ‘tingle’ variety to recommend, please feel free to share them in the comments. I’d love to add more to my playlist, and since recovering from a bout of ill health, I’ve been so stressed out trying to play catch-up that I’d welcome more ASMR time!

2018-01-30 02.57.06At last!!! In less than six months, I have managed to get my social impact score on Influenster up to a level which qualifies me for a VoxBox. Actually, I am not entirely sure if it’s down to that, or if it’s to do with the surveys and reviews I do on a regular basis. No matter, because…success!

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Once Influenster emails to confirm you’re due to receive a box, and updates your profile with the relevant badge, you will have a specific time-frame (usually a month or sometimes more) to complete a set of tasks as part of the product’s social marketing campaign in order to increase your chances of earning more full-sized FOC goodies. This typically involves sharing a tagged image on Instagram, and posting an unbiased review of your complimentary item (or in this case, items).

My Marc Jacobs Beauty Matte Highliner VoxBox actually arrived about a fortnight ago, but I was unable to take any action due to very ill health. Fortunately, I am now recovering (just about!) so this blog will soon be seeing a lot more activity as compared to the past few weeks.

2018-01-30 17.05.22To be honest, pink (of any hue) is not a colour I would have chosen for myself, but having thought about it, I am glad they didn’t send me black/brown (which is what I was initially hoping to find in the box). I am, at best, a novice when it comes to applying make-up, and the bright colours forced me to come out of my comfort zone to experiment.

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I had originally planned to test my new Marc Jacobs acquisitions as eyeliners, but because I prefer a more natural look, later decided to see how well they would perform as eyeshadow instead. As you can see, the Highliner is very strongly pigmented. The consistency is much like crayon (hence the name!) and goes on very smoothly. This, I think, is part of the reason it is so versatile.

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The Marc Jacobs Gel Crayon comes in a variety of shades, and can be used in a multitude of ways (and not just in the eye area). My VoxBox even came with a little booklet that contained a few tips and ideas.

Unlike most conventional eyeliner pencils, you don’t need a sharpener. To extend the crayon, simply twist the bottom end. After a brief moment puzzling over how to achieve a fine point (warning – it does get blunt real fast), I worked out that the easiest method is to gently pinch the tip (it’s quite delicate) with a piece of tissue whilst rotating it a few times.

What impressed me most about these Highliners is their superb staying power…Once applied, the colours did not fade or shift in the slightest. This is a huge change from most of the eyeshadows I’ve tried, none of which would last for more than a few hours due to my combination skin that tends to grease up easily.

The downside to this long-wearing trait is the difficulty I had with blending. As it sets so quickly, the trick is to work fast and build up the colour bit by bit. It does help a little if you have have primer on. Unfortunately, the application of so many layers also meant removing the Highliner required a bit more effort than what I am accustomed to.

Apart from the above criticisms, this product is overall of very high quality. Retailing at around £20 each, the Gel Crayon is way out of my acceptable price range, but for anyone who is a little more experienced and wears make-up frequently, I’d say this is a brilliant investment.

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Still wish I’d been sent blue or green though…There is a story behind this I may share one day, but I am sooo not into pink at all! 😀

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? 😀