Thursday, 17 August 2017

My five favourite pampering rituals

I'm not very good at making time to look after myself, and I'm trying really hard to change that.

I often run around saying 'I'm so busy, I haven't got time to do anything!' which means I tend to neglect the simplest of my favourite pampering rituals during a particularly difficult time. However, when I'm scrolling through Instagram on a Tuesday evening and realise that I'm absent-mindedly looking at photos of my friend's auntie's neighbour's daughter's hamster, I often regret not using my time more wisely.

As a result, I'm making a conscious effort to make more time to pamper myself. Self-care definitely enhances my mood, and I need these simple rituals to work their magic even more right now. Best of all, some of them only take five minutes and most of them require minimal effort.

Read on to find out what I'm trying to do more of...

1. Painting my nails 

It's amazing how much better I feel with freshly painted nails. I usually paint my nails around once every week but I'm going to aim to do it at least twice per week from now on. I feel so irritated when my nail varnish is all chipped and I've got a massive collection of nail polishes, so I've got no excuses here! 

2. Having a bath

I very often tell myself that I haven't got time for a bath so I'll have a shower instead, but I'm slowly learning that taking the time to have a bath is so worth it. I throw in a couple of Lush products and take my Kindle with me, and I genuinely try to relax! I might not always succeed, but at least it's healthier than sitting around stewing on my negative thoughts (or stalking strangers on Instagram). 

3. Moisturising and cleansing 

I own loads of lovely moisturising products but I'm very guilty of thinking 'I haven't got time for that tonight' and skipping the moisturising step altogether. However, I feel so much better when I spare five minutes to moisturise after my bath or shower so it's really worth pushing away that pesky 'I haven't got time' thought. I also make sure I cleanse my face every night before going to bed, which I blogged about here

4. Making an effort with my hair and make up

When I wake up feeling particularly down in the dumps, I'll make minimal effort with my hair and make up which then makes me feel even worse. I've learnt that it makes a positive difference to my mood in the long run, even if it's just by a tiny margin, if I take the time to straighten my hair properly and put on a bit more make up. By 'a bit more make up', I mostly mean mascara, blusher and eyebrow pencil... any more than that is approaching night out territory for me!

5. Going to the gym 

This might seem like a strange one if you're not a fan of exercising, but going to the gym honestly works wonders for me. I sometimes get into a vicious cycle of feeling rubbish about my appearance then skipping the gym (and comfort eating) because I feel so rubbish, which then makes me hate my appearance even more. On those days when I'm feeling awful but drag myself to the gym, the payback is so worth it.

I might start playing 'pamper bingo' to see how many of these activities I can fit into one day. 

What are your favourite pampering rituals? Let me know if you have any recommendations for me! 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month or even your year... I'll be there for you!

I had a really lovely weekend catching up with friends and family, which is why I felt this was an appropriate title for this post! Even though I currently feel as if the world has brought me down to my knees (yes, I've chosen to continue with the Friends theme tune references), a good chat makes such a difference.

My weekend started with a visit to Sophie's house for Pimm's, Haribo, crisps, French Fancies and a very long chat. Neil and I often meet with Sophie and her husband as a foursome, but Sophie had the excellent idea of having a girls' night in on this occasion. It was a lovely end to a difficult week, and it's important to note that Sophie makes the best Pimm's cocktail I've ever tasted. Also, why on earth hadn't I tried Strawberries and Cream French Fancies before last weekend?

The next morning, I said goodbye to Neil and Jessie and drove to Portishead to visit Amy, one of my best friends from my university days. This was my first visit to her new flat and I fell in love with it straight away. It's so beautifully organised and colour coordinated, and I particularly loved the colours in the spare bedroom where I had the pleasure of staying!

We drove to Portishead Marina after I arrived and had some lunch, then went for a wander around Clevedon's independent shops before going back to the flat where I was introduced to Stella for the first time (the TV programme, not an actual person called Stella). We then went out to Venga for dinner where we had the most amazing tapas. I chose an amazing sticky chicken dish along with what can only be described as a sausage and chorizo feast, and we shared a dish of patatas bravas. We also shared a hefty portion of Eton Mess for dessert! We spent the whole dinner reminiscing about our university days and sharing some hilarious recollections... that's definitely the most I've laughed for quite some time.

Our meal was on Portishead High Street which was full of beautiful hanging baskets in honour of the 'Portishead in Bloom' campaign. I wish my local high street was that instagrammable! On the Sunday morning, we visited the high street again for brunch in Impero Lounge where I ordered a very tasty breakfast muffin. 

After saying goodbye to Amy at midday, I drove back to Penarth ready for Jessie's first ever puppy training class on Sunday afternoon. I went to the class with her on my own as Neil had been unexpectedly called into work, and I was really proud of the way I handled it. If you'd have told me two years ago that I'd have to take my brand new puppy to a training class with 15 other boisterous puppies, and that I'd have to go on my own, I'd have been petrified! She's already learnt to 'sit', and we're working on 'stay' and 'heel'...

When I got back to the house with a very tired Jessie, my brother and his girlfriend (another Sophie) had arrived ready for a visit. We had a long chat as we hadn't seen either of them for quite some time, then we took Jessie for a walk together before we settled down for fish and chips from the local chippy. Jessie was very excited about having more adoring visitors, and I enjoyed their company too!

I was completely exhausted when I went to bed on Sunday night, but felt really grateful that I'd had so many great catch ups with lovely people.

So even though it definitely hasn't been my day, my week, my month or even my year, I'm really glad I've got plenty of people in my life who are always there for me, even when the rain starts to pour!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Face favourites

If you're a regular visitor to my blog, you'll know that I don't blog about beauty products very often. However, I thought it was about time I blogged about my favourite products for my face as these are the only beauty products I use every day without fail.

I never wear much make up, particularly during the week, but I always make sure I fully cleanse my face every night before going to bed.  I hate the thought of going to sleep without completing this nightly ritual! I've currently got five favourite products on rotation - read on to find out more about each one.

1. Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean
Peaches and Clean has been one of my favourite face products for years and it's always one I re-purchase when it runs out. It smells good enough to eat and it's lovely and soothing at the end of a long day. I've nearly come to the end of my current bottle but, thankfully, I've got a brand new one stored in my toiletry stash ready to be used as soon as this one finishes! 

2. Soap & Glory Face Soap and Clarity 
This face wash was one of the first Soap & Glory products I ever tried and it's another firm favourite. I like to use this particular product when I've worn more make up than usual; it gives a much deeper clean than Peaches and Clean due to its little pink scrub particles. I use this product once a week or so and you don't need to use a huge amount each time, so each bottle can easily last a year or more.

3. No7 Soft & Soothed Gentle Toner 
Soft & Soothed is the first product I tried from the No7 skincare range, and I now stock up on a bottle every time I have one of those £5 No7 skincare vouchers from Boots! This toner does exactly what it says on the tin. It glides onto my skin and makes my face feel really soft and refreshed after every use. On the rare occasions where I've worn a full face of make up, I use this product immediately after using one of my Soap & Glory face washes, just to mop up the last few remnants of foundation.

4. No7 Beautiful Skin Micellar Cleansing Water 
This is my first bottle of Beautiful Skin Micellar Cleansing Water and I'll definitely be re-purchasing. It has quite a similar effect to the Soft & Soothed Gentle Toner and leaves my face feeling bright and hydrated. However, I find that this product's scent is more striking and long-lasting. Also, it's worth noting that I love combining these No7 products with the Beautiful Skin Eye Make-up Remover which I blogged about here a few years ago.

5. Lush Cosmetics Ocean Salt Face and Body Scrub 
This is the first product I've tried from Lush's skincare range and I love love love it! It's packed with sea salt which does an excellent job of buffing my skin, and it also contains avocado butter and limes steeped in vodka which make it smell unique and rather spectacular. It smells as if I'm rubbing a salty cocktail all over my face and it has absolutely amazing results. I feel as if I've been given a brand new face every time I use it! Read about the other Lush products I've tried here.

What are your favourite face products? Do you have any recommendations for me? 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Meet Jessie the Corgi!

We're now the proud owners of a Pembroke Welsh Corgi! Jessie is sixteen weeks old and she's been in our lives for six days so far.

I've gone from never having a pet (apart from lots of goldfish) to not being able to imagine life without this energetic ball of fur. She makes me smile every day, however mischievous she's been, and I love that warm fuzzy feeling I get when she curls up on my lap to go to sleep. Even when I've frantically been shouting 'Jessie, no!' for the last hour and a half, it's all worth it when she settles down with me for a cwtch.

We obviously had to have a Disney name for our puppy, and we eventually decided on Jessie (Toy Story 2/3). They've both got red hair, after all. We bought an adorable Minnie Mouse collar when we were in Walt Disney World a couple of months ago, just to cement the Disney theme, and I'm completely in love with the way it looks on her.

I also bought some puppy milestone cards from Kessey Crafts ready for Jessie's arrival and I've managed to use a couple of them to document her journey so far. There's just one problem... I can't put the cards too close to her while she's awake because she tries to eat them!

Jessie loves to chew EVERYTHING and she's never happier than when she's galloping around outside, either in the garden or on a walk, and chewing an interesting leaf/flower/stick. She's such a friendly little thing and won't let anyone walk by without making a fuss of her, but she might try to chew their bag or their walking stick if they're not careful! Although she has her wild half hours, she actually sleeps a lot more than I expected. She's found some unexpected places to curl up, including on our fireplace and on the shelf underneath our coffee table.

We bought a few toys for Jessie before she arrived and she's also been lucky enough to receive lots of toys from our friends and family. She's very clever and quickly finds the squeaker in her toys, much to our delight!

I was determined that I wouldn't be one of those people who sets up a separate Instagram account for their dogs, but by her second day with us I'd done a U-turn on that because she was completely taking over my own account. You can follow Jessie on Instagram here - don't forget to watch her Instagram stories as well as checking out her photos.

Has anyone else blogged about their new puppies? Do you have any tips for me? Let me know! 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Restaurant Review: Moksh

If you've read my last blog post, you'll know that I had one of my three monthly check ups at the hospital last Friday. We always make an effort to go to a special restaurant in the evening after these check ups, and this time we decided to try somewhere brand new based on lots of positive recommendations from various friends - Moksh in Cardiff Bay.

We booked our table for 7pm and it was pretty quiet when we arrived. We'd already decided that we'd spoil ourselves and go for a three course meal as the starters and desserts sounded just as amazing as the main courses. I also treated myself to a glass of Prosecco as it was technically a celebratory meal, and it wasn't much more expensive than a soft drink!

I was torn between quite a few starters, but I finally decided on the Chicken James a la Indiana with CO2 Essence. What on earth is CO2 essence, I hear you ask? I wondered exactly the same thing... 

Don't ask me about the science behind it, but the waitress poured water into the container above and it erupted into an impressive steam show which smelt of cinnamon. I am quite easily impressed, but I thought this was a great spectacle. The food itself was really good, and was a deceptively large portion for a starter. There's half a naan bread hiding underneath all that chicken and sauce!

For my main meal, I decided to go for chicken again and ordered the A.D.I.D.A.S. (All Day I Dream About Spherification). It came with rice which meant I didn't have to worry about side orders, and it sounded very intriguing. 

It was completely different to what I was expecting, but it looked absolutely amazing. The spheres were visually impressive and full of fruity flavour, and the chicken was beautifully flavoured too. Oh, and there was LOADS of it. It also came with a chilli Cantonese inspired sauce which was a little spicy, but not overly so. The sauce meant that the meal wasn't too dry and 'samey' and was the perfect accompaniment. 

We also ordered a garlic and coriander buttered naan to share which was really tasty. It was quite thin which suited me fine as I didn't have room for a big wedge of naan bread on this occasion!  

Although we were very full after our main course, we heroically decided to go ahead with our original plan of ordering desserts as they sounded so unique and unlike anything we'd ever had elsewhere. I went for the Arabian Nights dessert which came with pistachio mousse, curry ice cream, dates meringue, gold dusted sweet hummus macaroon, edible sand and the magic lamp. 

There aren't many things I love more than an instagrammable dessert. The magic lamp was similar to CO2 essence I had with my starter, but even more aesthetically pleasing as the steam came out of the spout and tiny little holes on the lid to give a bit of a mystical effect, The pistachio mousse was probably my favourite element of this dessert, closely followed by the macaroon and the meringue. The curry ice cream didn't do it for me unfortunately as I didn't think the combination of flavours worked very well. However, I've heard others raving about it so it's just down to personal taste. 

The service was quite slow when the restaurant got busier towards the end of the evening, but the staff were all polite and we weren't in a rush so we didn't mind. The restaurant is quite small and doesn't feel overly crowded, and I loved it that everything was colour coordinated (orange, in case you were wondering). This was one of our more expensive meals in the UK at £78 but, considering the quality and quantity of the food and the special atmosphere, as well as the unique nature of the experience, we thought it was worth it.  

I also appreciated the opportunity to get dressed up and to put some make up on... I've been struggling lately and hadn't made an effort with my make up on for about a month, so it was nice to spend some time getting ready for a nice occasion! 

Have you ever been to Moksh? What did you think? 

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A year on, and it's not getting any easier

This was originally supposed to be a cheery blog post about my birthday. However, I found my birthday really difficult this year and I’ve been in a bit of a downward spiral ever since, so I thought I’d write an honest account of how I’m coping instead.

All the anniversaries are coming up for the horrors I went through last year. It’s been just over a year since my smear test, and on Saturday it’ll be a year since I received that terrifying letter. All those dates are etched in my mind and I can’t erase them. My mind keeps lurching back to this time twelve months ago and I can’t do a single thing to stop it.

My birthday was particularly difficult because I kept thinking back to my 30th birthday last year. I had no idea that there were cancerous cells multiplying inside me and I enjoyed a lovely few weeks of celebrating with family and friends. I was doing well in my job, I was looking forward to our holiday in September, we were making lots of exciting plans for the future, and it felt as if things were looking up. Then, out of nowhere, my whole life got turned upside down and everything fell apart.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that everything still feels just as bad (if not worse) and as raw as it did right at the beginning of this cruel journey. I’ve suffered a huge loss, and I’m grieving. Grieving that I’ll never carry my own child or experience any of the milestones that go along with that, grieving that cancer has taken something so precious and irreplaceable away from me, grieving about the impact this has had on my husband and other family members, and grieving that this had to happen to me.

I always feel as if I need to try to be positive, or try to be grateful that the cancer was caught early. But actually, right now, I don’t feel positive and I most certainly don’t feel grateful. I feel angry, sad, anxious and isolated. And, to top it all off, I feel guilty about not feeling positive or grateful.

Most people probably aren’t aware that I’m still going back to the hospital every three months for check-up appointments. Although it’s reassuring that I’m seen regularly, these appointments are hideous. The stress and anxiety beforehand, the drive to the same hospital where it all took place, sitting in the same waiting room where I sat for 45 minutes before hearing the worst news of my life, the discomfort of the appointment itself, that hollow feeling when the doctor tells you ‘it’s all fine, nothing to worry about’ but deep down you feel as if nothing will ever feel fine again… it’s all hideous. I’ve got one of these appointments tomorrow and my stomach is currently tied in knots and has been for weeks.

I live in constant fear of big gatherings where I don’t know many people just in case someone obliviously asks me ‘so, when are you having kids?’ I want to yell ‘are you crazy?!’ at people who ask me if I want to hold their newborn babies, but I just smile and politely decline. I feel sick when I’m within earshot of a conversation I feel uncomfortable with, and I still feel as if I’ve been punched in the gut whenever the tiniest of triggers pops up as I scroll through my social media feeds or turn on the TV. I sometimes lie awake for hours with thoughts tumbling around in my head, and it takes every fiber of strength I possess to get out of bed in the morning on a really bad day. And those niggling physical symptoms I mentioned in a previous post? They're all still there. My inner critical voice is constantly screaming that this was supposed to get easier with time, so why is it getting harder?

Possibly the biggest struggle of all is feeling as if I can’t talk to anyone about what’s going on in my own head. I’ve become steadily more skilful at hiding my feelings and pretending everything is fine, and it's become pretty commonplace for me to go a whole day on the brink of tears without letting them spill over. If they do threaten to spill over of their own accord when everything gets too much, I escape to the toilet for ten minutes then emerge with puffy eyes and carry on with whatever I was doing. I often wonder why people aren’t asking me if I’m okay and why they just don’t ‘get’ the enormity of it all, but in reality I’ve probably become so good at pretending that other people wholeheartedly believe the lie. I’m caught up in an endless cycle of feeling low, then feeling lower because I feel so isolated. I rage internally because I’d prefer it if people just said ‘I don’t know what to say’ rather than not saying anything, but perhaps people don’t even realise that I need them to say anything at all.

Even now, I still feel as if I should try to finish this post on some kind of positive note or with a 'things will get better and I need to stay strong' platitude. However, for today, I’m going to leave it on this more honest note instead.

Cancer may have left my body ten months ago, but it will never ever leave my life.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

My Walt Disney World shopping haul

I always have a major case of the holiday blues when I come back from Walt Disney World, and this year was no exception. In order to combat the inevitable post-Disney sadness, it was obviously essential that I bought plenty of goodies to help with the cheering up process once I got home. This was also our first holiday since my operation last September and the resulting all-clear, so we quite rightly thought we deserved to treat ourselves.

Along with our Disney Dining Plan deal which I've already explained in a previous post, we also received a $100 gift card with our booking to spend on Disney merchandise. Gift cards are just fantastic, aren't they? Guilt-free spending!

I put together a pre-holiday shopping wishlist before I went away, and this actually helped me to focus my mind and narrow down my choices when I was surrounded by all the Disney merchandise you could ever wish for.

So, what did we buy in Walt Disney World this year?

This beauty was a special present from Neil and my parents. It was partly an early birthday present and partly a gift to mark everything I've been through over the last year. I've wanted a Disney Dooney & Bourke bag since the first time I set foot in Florida five years ago and I absolutely adore it! 

I also bought a new charm for my ever-growing Disney Pandora bracelet. I decided on the firework charm on the left hand side as it'll always remind me of the last time I saw Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. I also bought these Disney pens which are proving to be excellent photo props... 

I bought three Disney teddies this year to add to my extensive collection - Minnie Mouse in her pink and white dress, a special edition ShellieMay from the 2017 Flower and Garden Festival, and Baymax! Oh, and there's those pens again. 

I love this Minnie Mouse tshirt. It was so difficult to choose just one from the vast array of choices available and I didn't manage to make the decision until our penultimate evening!

I'm now the proud owner of a Chip mug. I bought it in Florida because I couldn't get hold of it in the UK, and since I've come back there are hundreds of them in Cardiff's Disney Store. You live and learn. 

This mug was Neil's choice. As I said in my last blog post, how on earth can two circles and a line be so cute?! An excellent addition to our overflowing mug cupboard. 

My parents-in-law have these coasters in their house and I've always loved them, so I was delighted when I finally got my hands on a set for our own house. I love the little Mickey holder!

I can't possibly go to Walt Disney World without bringing back a fridge magnet. 

I did tell myself sternly that I wouldn't buy any costumes for Duffy and ShellieMay this year, but I couldn't leave this Lady costume behind! In my defence, I managed not to buy any Duffy costumes so I did keep to half my side of the bargain. 

My new Disney gym bag makes every exercise session a little more appealing (and my old gym bag was literally falling apart at the seams). 

We're getting a puppy in a few weeks so we took the opportunity to buy her some Disney treats in advance of her arrival. We bought two bowls, a Minnie Mouse collar for her first few months, and a purple collar and matching lead which she can wear when she's a little bigger. She'll almost definitely have a Disney dog name... watch this space. 

I also bought two pairs of Mickey earrings (one in silver and one in rose gold), but I couldn't get a decent photograph of them so you'll just have to imagine what they look like I'm afraid. 

I absolutely love all my Disney purchases and they do go some way towards helping with those pesky holiday blues. 

Have you blogged about your Walt Disney World shopping hauls recently? Send me your links! 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

My 2017 Disney character meets

Even though I love going to Walt Disney World with all my heart, I'm not very good at one of the main Disney trip staples - character meets.

As soon as I get to the front of the character interaction queue, I get all shy and awkward (even more so than usual) and never really know what I'm supposed to do. Do they want me to talk to them, even if they can't talk back? Should I go in for a hug? How long should I stand there with them? What should I do with my bag and should I take my sunglasses off? Will they think it's a weird that a woman in her 30s wants a photo with them on her own? Yes, I do overthink the simplest of things.

However, despite my reservations in this area, I always make sure I meet a few special characters for those all-important photo opportunities. I thought I'd share this year's character meets on my blog... all three of them!

First of all, I absolutely have to meet Pluto on every trip as he's my favourite Disney character of all time. This year, I'd even ordered a pair of custom-made Pluto ears from Closet Geek Site beforehand so I made sure I wore them to Epcot on our second full day in preparation for our reunion. He got adorably excited about the ears... I love him. 

Next up was a new character for this year - Baymax! Big Hero 6 is one of my favourite modern Disney films and I'm still amazed that the animators managed to make two circles and a line look so cute. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get my photo taken with my favourite healthcare companion, and I must admit that getting wrapped up in a squidgy Baymax hug was very comforting. Thankfully (mostly for his sake rather than mine), he was stationed in an air-conditioned room!

Lastly, I took the opportunity to meet one more new character for 2017. When I saw that Olaf was meeting guests in Hollywood Studios and the wait time wasn't ridiculous, I just had to join the queue. I needn't have worried about character interaction on this occasion as it was very much a 'get in, pose for one photo, get out' policy. As I'm sure you can imagine, Olaf is a very popular character attraction! I'd already exhausted all my character meet social skills by this point as I'd met Baymax on the same day, so I wasn't disappointed by the brevity of this visit. 

Although most die-hard fans probably meet more than three characters in an hour on their typical Disney trip, I'm pretty pleased with my total considering my slight phobia of character meets! Do you have any 'must meet' characters on your Disney trips?