How To Save Money + Reduce Plastic Waste In January

Monday, January 22, 2018
2018 is the year that I want to start to become more responsible and conscious of the items I'm buying and using; I also want it to be the year that I reduce most of the plastic I use. The world's plastic consumption and waste is shocking and the pollution as a result is something that needs to be tackled on a global scale but until then I'm making small changes in my own life to help minimise my input.

Steamer Trading recently sent me a couple of fantastic, high quality goodies that not only help to save money in the long term but also help to reduce plastic waste. In addition, they can help you to prep meals, stay hydrated and as a result, glow and feel healthier in 2018.

*Black + Blum Thermal Food Flask (£30, Olive)
Let's start with the food flask which is BPA free, perfect for work or school and it can keep food hot for 6 hours and cold for up to 8 hours! The spoon strap is made from vegan leather and it's perfect on for on the go. We have so many plastic containers which isn't the best idea so this food flask might be the answer for a durable food container and one way of reducing our plastic consumption.

I love the design of the food flask, the quality is amazing and I love the little ladle-like spoon that comes with it. I've only used it a couple of times so far for my vegan 'New England' chowder which is from the Isa Does It cookbook. It does keep food hot for hours and it looks great too! If you are looking for a re-usable non-plastic food container then check out this fantastic food flask from Black + Blum.

Making lunches at home can be so much cheaper and healthier than buying pre-made lunches each day! Also they are usually covered in plastic so why not reduce your plastic consumption, eat a little healthier and save money by meal prepping and making your lunches or snacks at home for work, school or days out!
*Black + Blum Eau Good Filter Water Bottle (£20, Blue)
For the past couple of years I have been drinking bottles of flavoured water which are made of plastic but I made the change from the beginning of this month to stop buying disposable plastic water bottles and to use a bottle that can be re-used over and over again.

This bottle isn't your regular water bottle as it's BPA free and it is composed of stainless steel and natural cork. I adore the unusual design of the water bottle as well as the cute cork stopper. It is large and fairly heavy when filled so it might not be the most ideal to travel with but if you are like me and struggle to drink enough water then this is great as it has a huge 800ml capacity and due to the natural charcoal stick which you secure within the water bottle, you get filtered, nicer tasting tap water. To get the full filtered benefit you should leave it filled for between one and eight hours but I drink it before then and throughout the day.

Since using this water bottle and a couple of others I was kindly sent over the past couple of weeks, I haven't bought or used any disposable plastic water bottles and I have been drinking so much more water than normal - even up to 2,400ml each day which is incredible for me!

I cannot recommend these two products enough as not only do they look amazing but they are super practical, environmentally friendly and they can help you to save a little money, eat healthier, drink more water, prep meals and help reduce the amount of plastic you buy.

To get 20% off the entire Black + Blum range, use the code: BEAUTY20 on steamer.co.uk!

Have you bought anything from Steamer Trading? Are you trying to reduce the amount of plastic products you buy? 

Self Care Saturday: Puffy Eyes + Headaches

Saturday, January 20, 2018
I know the term 'self care' is thrown around so much and sometimes it is viewed as just buying a Lush bath bomb but I think self care is so important and it's about so much more than just pampering. I think self care refers to all aspects of your body, life or mental health, from taking time out to destress, using pampering products, addressing certain health concerns, eating well and looking after yourself, especially areas or concerns that are usually ignored. Today's post is focusing on eye health particularly if you are a contact lens wearer as I am because I'm reviewing the *Thera Pearl Eye-ssential Mask (£7 - SALE) from feelgoodcontacts.com.

Contact Lens Problems 
I have been wearing contact lenses for around eight years and even though I couldn't recommend contact lenses enough, there are a few issues that I have experienced. The most irritating and consistent problem is dry eyes due to wearing contacts which is why I've had so many contact lens appointments over the past few weeks as the dryness is making my contact lenses fall out...while I'm driving!

Eye drops definitely help but I don't want to use them all of the time so this mask is a great temporary solution and it doubles up as a pampering product too. You can freeze the mask to have a cooling eye mask or you can warm it up in the microwave for soothing relief from dry, sore eyes. I have been using it a few times per day, just for a few minutes which has been helping over the past few days as I am at my iMac all day and it can take its toll on my eyes.
Eczema Flare-ups & Puffy Eyes 
Another problem I have related to my eyes is eczema which is something I've had for over ten years! My eczema started around my eyes and it has contained to spread but the worse flareups are over my eyelids. Besides steroid creams, the most soothing temporary remedy for me is ice cold cotton pads on my eyes but it's very awkward so I think this cold eye mask will be fantastic for the next flare-up.

Additionally, if you suffer from puffy eyes, especially in the morning then putting this eye mask in the freezer overnight or for a minimum of two hours could be a great start to your morning routine. I also think this cold eye mask will be ideal when the dreaded hay fever season comes around again because last year it was awful and this cold eye mask would have been so soothing on itchy pollen filled eyes.

Headaches 
Lastly, this mask can also be used to relieve headaches or to help clear your sinuses, the latter will be perfect as we've all been full of a cold recently. The mask is very comfortable to wear, it isn't very tight and the heat stays within the mask for an hour or so. When I feel a heartache coming on, I'm definitely going to be reaching for this warm, soothing eye mask. Feel Good Contacts have a few alternative eye masks on their site along with various contact lenses, coloured contacts, eye care products and designer sunglasses.

Use the code: FEELGOODTIME to get 10% off at feelgoodcontacts.com

Have you tried an eye mask? Do you have any solutions for dry, puffy eyes or headaches? 

*This is a sponsored post

My Weight Loss Journey + Tips

Thursday, January 18, 2018
December 2016 (9 stone 3lbs) - November 2017 (7 stone 9lbs)
One of my New Years goals every single year is to exercise consistently and to lose weight which I never did; however in July and August 2017, I started exercising almost every day even if it was only for five or ten minutes (because every little bit adds up) and tracking what I eat. I had a goal of losing around one stone, if I could but I'd never done anything like this before so I didn't know if I would be able to stick to it or how much I would lose but I lost even more than I thought I would so here are my tips for those looking to do the same!

Analysing What You Eat & Not Over Eating
My diet is fairly healthy as it is mostly vegan and it has been for a couple of years now but since I started using the Lifesum app, it has made me realise just how much I was overeating without even realising it! When I started to weigh out food and use the app to see how many calories I consumed each day, I was genuinely shocked as I thought that I was eating within the average range or just less but I was eating so much more than I should have been, hence the slow weight gain. I think most people, my previous self included, think that the amount they consume is fairly normal and within the normal calorie intake range but it might not be so. Even if you don't want to loose weight, I'd suggest downloading the app just to check as it also shows if you're not getting enough protein in your diet too which is another important point for me to keep in mind.

Reducing Calories & Carbs - Nutrition, Not Wasted Calories
One of the first things I did back in the summer was to dramatically reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates I was eating such as pasta and bread as they contain so many calories but not that much nutrition - sadly, pasta is one of the favourite foods! I switched from bread and pasta/rice to grains and pulses such as bulgar wheat, beans of various kinds, quinoa and more, all of which came in those easy microwaveable pouches that are so easy to add to salads or on their own with extra veggies and a delicious dressing. I think a fair amount of my weight loss is definitely due in part to my cutting back on carbs and also the reduction in calories from around 1,600 or more calories per day to between 700 to 1,000 calories each day (my average is now around 900 which works for me and my body/activity levels).
 Daily Exercise
If you asked any of my friends from school or my parents, you'll know that I never liked exercise or sports (unless you count trampolining or table tennis) and I would do anything to get out of it! However, I think I've found exercises now that work for me and my abilities such as yoga and using my cross trainer (it's almost a mix between an exercise bike and a treadmill). In the summer I exercised every single day but with the colder weather recently I have only been exercising a couple of times per week - I actually miss it so I need to start my daily exercise routine again! It's not only good for me as I sit at my desk all day but it also seems to help me feel motivated and good about myself!

Tracking Weight Loss & BMI
I think a lot of people who start the process of exercising or losing weight can become demotivated quickly, as I did but one thing that really helped was the weight and BMI tracking on the Lifesum app. You can see my weight loss progress via screenshots from the app above. As you can see I've lost almost 24lbs (which means that I'm almost 7 stone 5lbs now) and almost five points off my BMI which I'm so happy with as my BMI is now in the healthy range rather than the overweight range!

Tracking my weight and seeing the plots on the graph decrease is so motivating and it means that my hard work is paying off and I'm closer to my goal. I reached my initial goal of 8 stone a few weeks ago and now I've set my new goal of 7 stone 5lbs which I'm so so close to reaching. Another motivator is trying on old clothes and having to donate them as they are now too big when previously they were tight! I'm hopefully taking some outfit photos this weekend (if it isn't snowing) so you'll see my updated weight loss as I've lost more since November 2017.

Consistency...With Treats
Lastly, even though I am strict at keeping track of what I'm eating and not going over my calories, I do have treat days as I adore food and I sometimes want a treat or a few...Instead of having a treat every day or every couple of days, I'm having a treat once a week so I don't fall back into the habit of over eating or indulging for no reason. Additionally, I have to mention that I'm taking multivitamins everyday to keep my vitamin/mineral levels topped up and I'm using the LeanBean tablets every so often which have been helping (I think....), it's difficult to know if it's the tablets or just the changes to my diet and exercise that have been helping.

Overall, using the Lifesum app, exercising daily and reducing carbohydrates/calories, I've managed to lose 24lbs which is much more than I thought I would and for the first time in at least three years, I'm happy with the way I look and how my clothes fit me. I'm buying much smaller sizes, I feel so much better in myself and I'll definitely be sticking to this routine and lifestyle for the foreseeable future as after I've reached my new goal weight, I want to maintain that progress!

Do you have any exercise or weight loss tips? Do you use the Lifesum app (not sponsored, I wish this post was)? 

Pout Case: The World's First Mobile Beauty Case

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Today's post is a little different as it's my first makeup post for 2018 and it's also tech focused as I'm going to be reviewing the world's first mobile beauty case...yes, you read that correctly! I was kindly sent this item for review but obviously all of my opinions/photographs/views are my own.

*Pout Case (£15)
I chose the white/pink colour option although there are others to choose from and I have the option for iPhone 7 but again there are other sizes available (only for iPhones though). Let's explain what it is, first of all it is a sturdy plastic phone case but it is bulkier than the others I've tried as the back of the case has a hidden compartment that slides out to reveal three makeup pans which can be filled with a foundation, concealer, eyeshadow, powder, lipstick, lip balm or highlighter!

The case itself fits my iPhone 7 well, it's easy to attach and remove without scratching my phone and it is bulky/heavier than most cases but it's still practical and easy to use. I love the white and metallic pink colour option and it came really nicely presented/packaged.
There are instructions online as to how you remove the compartment and install the makeup pans as they don't come within the case, you have to add them. It was a little bit fiddly adding the makeup pans but once in the case, they are secure and the size of the pans are great (you get a decent amount of product for your money and for the limited space).

I chose three makeup options including a foundation, concealer and eyeshadow which I'll go into shortly but I wanted to mention that while the front facing camera on my iPhone 7 is ok, it isn't detailed enough for me to see if my makeup is fully blended so I think a small mirror within the hidden compartment would be really useful, even if it means that there are only two makeup pans in the case.
For the makeup, I chose the foundation (in the shade 'gentle ivory'), concealer (in the shade 'porcelain') and an eyeshadow (in the shade 'cafe au lait'). The makeup is all made in Germany and is cruelty free which is absolutely fantastic!

I've been using the case and makeup for almost two weeks now and I have a few opinions, some of which are positive and others are a little less so. I'll start with the makeup positives which include the foundation and concealer shades which are definitely pale enough for my ghostly skin and the foundation texture is quite creamy which suits my dry skin.

In terms of the shade range of foundations and concealers, it isn't great, although they are working on more shades and colours. However the range of lipstick shades and eyeshadow shades is just fantastic! I opted for a slightly boring but very practical, everyday eyeshadow shade and I've been using it so much as it's a slightly darker version of my skin tone so it helps to cover discolouration and provides a little definition.
Overall, I have been loving the case as well as the makeup, especially the foundation and eyeshadow (less so when it comes to the concealer as it can highlight dryness a little). I like the design of the case, the idea is fantastic and it would be great for festivals or travelling; however, it might be a little too bulky for some and if you dropped it, I don't want to think about how messy that would be. Additionally, my phone is new (I bought it new in August 2017) but as it heats up, the foundation and concealer starts to melt, maybe because of the waxes within the product? It does actually help the product become creamy and easier to blend but it doesn't look very nice and maybe the heat will compromise the products in the future.

What do you think about this phone case? I know that growing up in the 90's, this would have been a dream product! 

Veganuary: Cruelty-Free Cleanser Challenge

Monday, January 15, 2018
January is the month for veganuary and this is my third time taking part although it's not going 100% to plan, especially as I didn't stock up on vegan essentials beforehand but I'm back on track now with my diet. I love taking part in veganuary, even though my diet is almost completely vegan already and I'd definitely encourage you to take part or to switch to a vegetarian diet to try it out.

One aspect of becoming a vegetarian or vegan that I think most people overlook is their beauty collection as well as leather items they may buy. I don't personally buy leather and I'm pretty sure that I don't know anything that is fully made of leather either, thankfully. However my beauty collection still contains products that aren't cruelty free or 100% vegan but it's something I'm working on in 2018 - it will be a slow process as I want use up those products rather than wasting them by throwing them all away.

Green People have created the 'cruelty free cleanser' challenge to coincide with veganuary as they have lots of vegan products to choose from and all of their products are crudely free. I've used some of their products previously and I've loved them so I was excited to try this box of goodies when it arrived a couple of weeks ago!
*Green People Quinoa & Artichoke Hair Duo (£16.95, 100ml each)
Let's start with the products I've been using the most which include this gorgeous and very effective shampoo and conditioner duo. Both products contain spring water, artichoke, quinoa proteins, sweet orange peel oil, ginger root oil and many others. Their products are SLS free, fragrance, gluten, colourant, paraben and lanolin free which is amazing!

I've been using this duo on and off for the past couple of weeks and I've now used up both bottles (as my hair is SO long) and I've loved using them especially as the shampoo lathers so quickly and easily. Additionally, as my hair is so long, it can become a birds nest of tangles but this conditioner really helps to detangle and moisturise my hair.

*Green People Daily Aloe Shower Gel (£12.50, 200ml)
Another product from Green People that I've been loving this month is their Daily Aloe Shower Gel which is not only gently effective but it smells heavenly. It doesn't just contain aloe vera, it also contains spring water, olive fruit oil and lavender, the latter is a favourite of mine so I knew I'd love this shower gel! It's effective as well as being gentle on the skin and the scent is gorgeous.
*Green People Gentle Cleanse & Makeup Remover (£13, 50ml)
Last but not least is one of the most gentle, non-irritating cleansers I've ever used! I have tried the Neutral Scent Free Cleanser from Green People a few years ago which I loved but I definitely prefer this one. It contains sunflower seed oil, rosemary leaf extract, marigold flower extract and many more wonderful, natural ingredients that are perfect for my sensitive, eczema prone skin.

Admittedly it is a very basic, no frills cleanser but that's what I want! I need something that will remove even waterproof makeup easily without drying out my skin or irritating it and this product ticks all of the boxes! I also love the packaging of this cleanser!

Overall, Green People has been consistently one of my favourite natural brands and I've loved every item I've tried so far. If you are looking to add in some more natural cruelty free or vegan items into your beauty collection then look no further than Green People.

Have you tried anything from Green People? Are you taking part in Veganuary? 

Blog Tour + Q+A: Beautiful Star by Andrew Swanston

Saturday, January 13, 2018
One of my reading goals for 2017 was to read more diversely which sadly I didn't achieve but I hope to read a little mow diversely in terms of genre, characters and format in 2018. I do read historical fiction, it's one of my favourite genres but I haven't read a historical fiction short story collection, until now. I was very kindly sent an early copy of Beautiful Star & Other Stories from The Dome Press and I was also able to have a few of my questions answered by the author, Andrew Swanston.

*Beautiful Star & Other Stories by Andrew Swanston (256 pages - available now) ★★★ (3.5)
The blurb of this book features monks, kings, crime, battles and swashbuckling adventures instantly intrigued me as well as the gorgeous cover! Also it's historical fiction and it is relatively short at under 300 pages so I knew I'd enjoy it.

There are seven short stories within the collection, of varying lengths, topics and characters, all of which I liked but my favourites from the collection have to include: Beautiful Star, The Flying Monk, The Tree and A Witch and A Bitch, the latter focuses on witchcraft accusations which is one of the most interesting aspects of history, for me at least!

I loved the range of time periods, topics and focuses of the stories as it means that there's something new in each story as well as a new adventure and characters. I love the setting of the stories and it has just reinforced my love for historical fiction and history in general.

I've read The Incendium Plot by Andrew Swanston (which I rated 4/5 stars) last year and I loved it so I knew I'd love this collection. The authors writing is rich, detailed and paints a truly vivid image of the scene, characters and their emotions even within a very short story. If you are looking for an immersive read filled with historical events but you don't want to commit to a full length historical fiction novel then definitely check out this fantastic short story collection!
Q&A
1. Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring writers?

When I was a wee lad of thirteen my headmaster asked me what I wanted to do in life. I told him I wanted to be a writer. Fifty years later my first book (The King’s Spy) was published. So my advice to aspiring writers of any age is NEVER GIVE UP.

2. What are your top five books that you'd recommend to everyone?

A terribly difficult question but I will plump (in no particular order) for the following because I have either read them more than once or would like to read them again: The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho, Samuel Pepys - The Unequalled Self: Claire Tomalin, The Aeneid: Publius Virgilius Maro (Virgil), His Dark Materials Trilogy: Philip Pullman and The Jeeves Omnibus (2 vols): P G Wodehouse.

3. Who are your favourite authors? Any lesser know authors that you love?

In addition to the above: Rose Tremain, Robert Hughes, Jared Diamond, Ben Macintyre, Michael Lewis, Anthony Beevor, Tom Holland and John Boyne. All their books are ‘must reads’. I cannot offer any ‘lesser knowns’ but instead recommend two authors who set me to reading: Conan Doyle and C S Forester.  Sherlock Holmes and Horatio Hornblower are my two great fictional heros.

4. Are there any books that have inspired your work or influenced you as a writer?

P G Wodehouse for his dialogue and economy of words, Philip Pullman for his wonderful story telling skills, P D James for her elegant style and Anthony Beevor for making history come alive.

Are you a fan of historical fiction? Have you or will you be reading this book?