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My Anti-Aging Starter Kit

Death Becomes Her…

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Let’s call this, “I’m a month or so away from turning 34 and need to start doubling down”, because the truth is that I’ve been a little bit lazy when it comes to anti-aging products up until now.  Although, maybe “lazy” isn’t really the right word.  First of all, I’ve got sensitive skin that’s acne prone and so have pretty much stuck to the same old skin routine and the same products all the way through my twenties.  The thought of  suddenly introducing active serums, acids and retinols felt a little bit… reckless. I mean, if it ain’t broke (or covered in hives and zits) don’t fix it, right?  Secondly, I haven’t – until recently – felt like I was clued up enough on this sort of stuff to take the plunge.  Which brings me to my third point, I haven’t really been bothered enough about anti-aging beauty to get clued up.

Honestly, I’ve always been really skeptical about anti-aging beauty products.  The whole anti-aging game has always felt a little “Death Becomes Her” to me (Remember that movie?  One of my all time faves!).  Isn’t it all just really, really expensive snake oil, and in the end a bit… pointless?  I’m not afraid of wrinkles – aging is a privilege, after all – but I wouldn’t mind holding off the effects for just a little while longer.  And if those products can solve some of my other skin issues then that’s a plus!  So over the past six months or so I’ve been swotting up on the ingredients of various anti-aging products and learning a little bit about what they claim to do, and then picked some inexpensive but highly-rated products from the pool to slip into my daily skin routine. I’m still mostly clueless and a little bit baffled and suspicious of it all, it has to be said.  But hey, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned so far, what I’m using and then I’ll let you know how I’m getting on in a couple of months. 🙂

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A313 Vitamin A Pommade

If the Beauty Boffins are to be believed then we should all be slipping a Retinol/Vitamin A product into our routine and using it three times a week.  Retinol is naturally occurring in the human body; it works hard to balance things out – it regulates oil production, stimulates collagen and increases cell turnover.  Not only is it claimed to be great for treating acne and pigmentation, it’s also said to be the miracle ingredient that boosts hydration and smooths out fine lines and wrinkles.  However, it can be strong stuff; it can increase irritation for those who suffer from eczema and rosacea, and can even increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.  It also breaks down in sunlight.  So it’s important to ease yourself in slowly, never use it in conjunction with acids, only on bone dry skin (as Vitamin A reacts with water), use it only at night and always in conjunction with a day cream that’s high in SPF.

So, funny story, I actually picked up a double pack of the A313 Vitamin A Pommade for $5 while I was in the States.  I found it lurking at the bottom of a bucket at a Consignment Store of all places (basically leftover stock from Amazon sold on the cheap); no one had snagged it yet because it’s kind of difficult to tell what it actually is unless you’ve seen it before and read up about it – which is exactly what I’d done a couple of months earlier.  Previously known as Avibon, it’s one of those cult French Pharmacy Beauty Products that’s been raved about by celebrities and beauty bloggers alike – and honestly, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it.  I’ve started using it twice a week to ease my skin in, and no more than a pea-sized amount for the whole face.  It’s got a texture like vaseline, hasn’t really got a fragrance and isn’t honestly the most pleasant thing that I’ve put on my face at night – but tell you what, it’s a bulldozer when it comes to cystic acne.  As for pigmentation and wrinkles, I’ll let you know!

La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum

On the nights I don’t use the A313 Pommade, I stick to old faithful and drench my skin in the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate – but up until now, I’ve been yet to add an oil or serum to my morning routine.  Enter the La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum.  We all know the health benefits of swigging orange juice and loading up on Vitamin C this time of year, but how exactly does it help skin?  Well, Vitamin C is basically a strong anti-oxidant that combats “Free Radicals”.  Great.  What the hecky peck are Free Radicals?  Free Radicals are essentially unstable atoms created by things such as pollution, cigarette smoke and the sun.  They can damage the skin by causing pigmentation and can also break down collagen in the skin and therefore cause wrinkles.  Tada.  Vitamin C neutralises Free Radicals and helps skin cells regenerate.  Not only that, but it can boost collagen production (effectively smoothing over wrinkles) and also fights pigmentation.

I was interested in adding a Vitamin C Serum because I’ve got quite a bit of pigmentation on my cheeks left over from cystic acne, and anything that’s going to kick butt against Free Radicals sounds good to me.  So I’ve slipped in the La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum into my morning routine; one drop of the stuff goes a long way, and I massage it into my skin before adding my daily moisturiser (the Nivea Daily Essentials Rich Moisturing Cream).  I chose it because a serum is the suggested way of introducing Vitamin C into your routine, but also because this one claims to be pretty good for sensitive skin – and so far so good!  It’s a little tacky as it sinks in, so I was worried about how it was going to sit under my foundation – but actually it sits under it quite well and adds a little extra glow!  Too soon to tell whether it’s working, but I’ll let you know.

Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Eye Cream

So of all anti-aging products, I’ve always felt like eye creams are the biggest scam out there, and I promised myself that I’d never fork out a fortune on one of them.  However, I have introduced a couple into my morning routine, but not because they claim to prevent under-eye wrinkles.

I went to a beauty masterclass with Bobbi Brown not so long ago, and one of my burning questions to the makeup artist hosting the class was, “How do I stop the midday panda eye?”  I wear both a liquid and kohl eyeliner and use smudge-proof mascara, but no matter what I do or how I apply it all – I end up with dark smudges under my eyes by lunchtime.  The answer – I have on good authority – is eye cream.  Eye cream creates a base for your foundation, keeps it in place and therefore prevents things like mascara from sticking to it.  Tada.  And it works!  Who’d have thunk it?!  So, I go between the Elemis Peptide4 Eye Recovery Cream (which I was kindly gifted) and this little travel pot of the Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Eye Cream.  Make no bones about it, this shiz is expensive stuff and I doubt I’ll be repurchasing, but it claims to fight under eye puffiness, dark circles and crows feet – in case you’re interested.  I don’t know if it does those things honestly, my under-eye area isn’t a priority for me, but it smooths on beautifully, works well under makeup and you barely need any of it to cover the whole area.

Jade Roller

(Another Consignment Store bargain!) So you’ve probably seen every blogger on the planet sneak a Jade or Rose Quartz Roller into their latest flatlay, and yeah, they look pretty – but do they actually do anything other than decorate a nightstand?  Turns out, yeah, they do.  Traditional Chinese Derma Rollers made from gemstones are used for facial massage – which is recommended by the Beauty Boffins to aid lymphatic drainage and boost circulation.  Combined, this can reduce puffiness, tone and brighten the skin.

It definitely gives my husband a good chuckle when he crawls into bed and sees me paint-rollering my skin last thing at night, and whether it’s actually doing anything remains to be seen at this point – but I like it!  I use it on the nights when I’m not wearing the A313 Pommade and use it straight after popping on the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Oil.  It’s cooling, takes only a few minutes and feels really, really nice!

Lots of Water!

Lastly – and the cheapest thing in my new anti-wrinkle arsenal… Water, and lots of it!  I’ve always been really, really bad at hitting the recommended water intake – other than when I’m on holiday.  When I’m out in the sun, I’m always swigging from a bottle of the good stuff and whaddya know? My skin always looks so much better for it!  It’s hydrated, clear and bright – and that’s what I want on the daily.

What anti-aging products are in your beauty bag at the moment?  Or are you an anti-aging skeptic like me?  Any recommendations, let me know!  Have a great week! 🙂

 

Snapshots from Florida

A Hurricane, A Pelican and a Balcony Bathtub…
Snapshots from Florida

Oh, these are exactly the sort of pictures I want to look at just after getting in from the soggy morning dog walk.  Pictures of fizzy, tango sunsets and palm trees and clear water and blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos.  Ugh, I ache!  I get asked a lot, “Why Florida?”  Why do I go back year after year when I could be exploring somewhere new for my summer vaycay?  And I guess the answer is; I don’t want to go anywhere else.  Southwest Florida is home – in a way.  Not just for me, but for Sunny too.  We’ve both been going there since we were teenagers and know it so, so well by now, that we never experience that foreign feeling you get during the first week of a holiday where you’ve arrived somewhere you’ve never been before and need to spend a couple of days figuring out where everything is, where’s good to eat etc.  And yeah, some might say that’s all part of the adventure of going somewhere new, but I love the familiarity of Florida; there’s always a massive sigh of relief when I get off the plane at Miami Airport (and not just because, yay! I survived the flight!), but because the holiday starts immediately.  And boy, did we need it this year!

I also get asked a lot why I don’t go anywhere near Orlando.  The truth is that there’s so much more to Florida than just the parks.  The Gulf Coast and The Keys are where the real party’s at – and our favourite spot by far is Naples.  Not only has it got some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and plenty of things do when you’re not topping off your tan, but it’s so quiet – especially during the summer and early Autumn.  And honestly, I’m a little nervous about shouting too loudly about how much I love it there because it’s always felt like a bit of a secret – and I kind of want to keep it all to myself.  This year, we spent two lovely weeks there chilling out by the pool (all the while keeping our eye on Hurricane Dorian out in the Atlantic), eating a lot of Tacos and filling our suitcase with lots of bargains from the outlet malls scattered either side of I75. 🙂

Snapshots from Florida

I pretty much lived in this Hawaiian Shirt while I was out there.  One of the best things about taking a late August/early September holiday is that most of the summer fashion goes on sale just before you leave, and everything in this picture was a total steal.  I spotted the shirt trawling the sale section of ASOS and decided that not only was it the ugliest shirt I’d ever seen, but that I had to have it.  The heart-shaped sunglasses were £3 from H&M (I get so many compliments when I wear them, which drives my husband absolutely nuts because he HATES them), and the bag and denim skirt were bargains from F&F at Tesco for £8 and £7 respectively.  I was a little sad packing away these yellow tassel sliders from Zara the other day – I can’t wait to wear them again next year!

Snapshots from Florida
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Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida

For the final week of the holiday, we packed up the car and headed down to The Keys.  I used to stay on one of the middle islands called Islamorada with my parents and brother when I was teenager, and last year I took Sunny down there for a few days – knowing that he’d absolutely love the island vibe coupled with the incredible wildlife and fishing.  He did love it, and so this year we booked in for a week at my favourite hotel there, Cheeca Lodge, as a treat to finish the holiday with a bang.  It’s a beautiful hotel anyway – no matter what room you end up staying in – but lucky us – we got upgraded to one of the mini suites in the main lodge, which came with a balcony bathtub!  Over our five or so days there we went fishing, lounged around the pool, went snorkelling on the reef and ate Mahi Mahi Tacos pretty much every single night. 🙂

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Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida

We also ended up rescuing a pelican.  From day one there was a very friendly pelican hovering around at the bottom of the pier waiting to score a fish from anyone who happened to be fishing there – sometimes even when it was still on the hook!  I kind of grew a bit of a soft spot for her, and so it was heartbreaking to head down there one morning to find her hobbling around with a massive fishing lure stuck in her flipper.  Luckily, she was so tame that Sunny and a few other guests were able to wrangle her and then gently tease out the lure, and she flapped away to fish another day. 🙂

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Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from FloridaSnapshots from FloridaSnapshots from Florida

Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

Toffee Apple Cookies

Finally! Happy “Fall” Y’all
Toffee Apple Cookies

It’s officially the first day of Autumn, and officially – in my book anyway – the start of the best season of the year.  One of the best bits about coming home from holiday (aside from being reunited with my favourite fur-ball, obviously) was the thought of coming home to chunky knits, boots (ones that are perfect for stomping on perfectly crunchy leaves), cold air and lots and lots of baking involving apples.  I say that not because apple pies and crumbles and muffins are quintessentially autumnal (blimey, that’s a big phrase for a Monday afternoon…), but because I’ve actually got a tree full of the things for the very first time.

Back when Sunny and I moved into our house here in Cardiff three years ago, we bought a pair of apple trees (well, they were more like a couple of twigs really) for a couple of quid each.  And this year – almost as if by magic (because God knows what we did differently) – one of them is full of apples!  I’m going to be baking this Apple Pie Cake ten times over, I think! As well as these Toffee Apple Cookies.  I tried something similar whilst I was out in the States on holiday (controversial opinion, but America does “Fall” Baking so much better than we do) and had to come up with my own version, and here it is: a lovely soft cookie full of spiced apple pie filling and toffee chunks, and drizzled with a salted caramel sauce.  Once baked, warm them up in the microwave for thirty seconds for oozing toffee that won’t play havoc with your fillings! 😉 Just make sure you use a type of apple that doesn’t go too soggy and holds its shape when boiled – like pink lady or braeburn!

Toffee Apple Cookies
Toffee Apple Cookies
Toffee Apple Cookies
Ingredients
  • 150g of apples, diced into small pieces
  • 250ml water
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 50g of toffee, cut into small pieces
  • 125g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • salted caramel salt to serve (buy it in store, or try this recipe)
  • sea salt to serve
Toffee Apple Cookies
Method
  1. First things first, whip up the apple pie filling. Chop up your apples into small, cookie-sized chunks and pop them into a saucepan. Boil up in the water, along with the light brown sugar and cinnamon for about 20 minutes. The apples will be ready once they’ve softened, but still have a little bite to them.
  2. Set the oven to 180°C. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, cinnamon, caster sugar and dark muscovado sugar. Stir in the egg, then mix in the apple pie mix and toffee pieces. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough, then spoon small blobs onto a lined baking tray – making sure they’ve got plenty of room to spread.
  3. Bake the cookies for twenty minutes, then transfer them onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  4. To serve, warm them up in the microwave for thirty seconds and serve drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with sea salt. Yum! 🙂

Have a lovely week! 🙂

Tagliatelle Arrabiata

Mamma mia, itsa slightly spicy pasta…
Tagliatelle Arrabiata - The Cardiff Cwtch

I’ve said it before, but I tend to steer clear when it comes to cooking pasta at home (…and yet I’ve got a whole cupboard full of dried pasta…). Why? Because it’s TOO HARD, and I’m too fussy. Anyone who says that Italian Food is one of the easiest foods to make at home has never eaten great pasta. FACT. The truth is that I can never seem to replicate the simple perfection of really great pasta in my own kitchen. I’m convinced that it’s the culinary version of Natural Look Makeup; sure, it looks simple – but actually, it takes time and skill to pull off. So I don’t bother trying… much.

The problem is that I really love eating pasta (who the hell doesn’t? My husband, that’s who. Weirdo.); I really want to be able to eat it at home. So occasionally, I give it a go and sometimes – whaddya know – I get it right. Or as close to right as possible without having three generations of Italian passata pulsing through your veins. Slightly spicy, slightly sweet; the sneaky ingredient in this cupboard-ingredients friendly Tagliatelle Arrabiata is baby food. Not kidding. Turns out that puréed carrot does a really great job of balancing out the acidity of the chopped, tinned baby tomatoes. Clever huh? And so easy!

Tagliatelle Arrabiata - The Cardiff Cwtch
Tagliatelle Arrabiata (serves 2)
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic paste (no need to peel and chop garlic, yay!)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 100g roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • 3 chilli peppers, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 70g carrot purée
  • 250g chopped, tinned cherry tomatos
  • tagliatelle (fresh or dried, you decide)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly chopped basil to serve
Tagliatelle Arrabiata - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. Pour the olive oil into a deep frying pan, and gently heat up on a medium heat. Add the garlic paste and then fry the diced onion until soft and translucent. Stir in the tomato paste.
  2. Throw in the chopped chilli peppers and the roasted red peppers (I like to use the pre-roasted ones that you get in a jar because they’re usually preserved in a mix of water, grape musk and red wine vinegar that’ll slightly sweeten the sauce – cool tip).
  3. Pour in the chopped tomatos and puréed carrot and stir. Bring to the boil, then simmer on a low heat for twenty minutes to reduce a little.
  4. While you’re waiting, cook up your tagliatelle.
  5. Toss the tagliatelle in the sauce, season and serve with fresh basil leaves.
Tagliatelle Arrabiata - The Cardiff Cwtch

Have a lovely week! 🍝

What’s in My Beauty Bag? – The Holiday Edition

“It’s the Humidity!”

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Is it too late for a summery holiday beauty post? I mean, I’m well aware that we’re technically in Autumn now and that traditionally by now most of us have stashed away our suitcases for another year… but actually, I think more and more of us are jetting off in search of some sunshine all year around.  Case and point: right now, I’m in Florida for all the R&R that I missed out on over the summer while I was sick (check out my Instagram if you’re not sickened by that and fancy travelling along with me…).  These days we’re not as confined to using up our holiday time purely during the summer months, and so Summer Beauty is becoming a year-long thing. More and more of us have that dash-bag of travel-friendly miniatures ready to go. Me included, and I feel like I’ve got a really good mix this year of both tried, tested and true products that I wouldn’t leave the UK without, as well as a few new bits and bobs I’ve enjoyed trying out.

Now that I’ve justified talking about Summer in September (😉), here’s what I’m packing…

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Nuxe Moisturising Protective Milky Oil For Hair

My love for all things Nuxe is no secret, and this bottle never leaves my side when I’m pool-side! I’ve got very fine, easily damaged hair and a scalp with a tendancy to burn if I’m not careful. The Nuxe Moisturising Protective Milky Oil for Hair, packed with water hyacinth oleo-active, coconut oil and kau pe flowers (it smells good enough to swig like a pool-side cocktail – but don’t…) protects your tresses and scalp from UV, salt and chlorine. Good shiz.

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Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic Spritzer

This little bottle of magic comes with me on the plane, to the pool and bangs around in my basket bag until it’s time to head home. The Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic is a handy and gentle moisturising toner infused with lots of skin soothing goodies like aloe vera, calendula, cucumber and chamomile – perfect for calming dry, sun-burned skin.

Toni & Guy Split End Concealer

Here’s one from my pre-holiday Boots Shop of Shame (…we’ve all been there!). I needed to pick up my favourite heat protection spray and tripped into a Toni & Guy 3 for 2 situation. I didn’t have time to get my dead ends trimmed off before going away (that reminds me; I need to book an appointment pronto tonto once I’m back in Wales!), and this little tub was my quick fix solution. I LOVE IT; it’s a tiny tub (no bigger than your average handbag Vaseline tin) and you need very little to get the smooth, moisturised ends that look as if you’ve just stepped out of the salon, as opposed to the frazzled ones associated with split ends. Oh, and it also smells gorgeous.

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Nuxe Rêve de Miel Deliciously Nourishing Body Scrub

I’m pretty sure that Rêve de Miel means “Honey Dream” (pardon my rusty Year 9 French…) – which is precisely what this tiny, travel friendly tub oozes. Firstly, body scrubs tend to come in massive, great big tubs which aren’t exactly travel friendly – however, this beauty is the perfect, travel-sized tub. And secondly, you don’t need great big scoops of the stuff as just a small amount of this honey-textured, nourishing scrub goes a long, long way.

Sally Hansen Nail Polish Remover Pads

If you’re a DIY manicure kind of girl like me, then you’ll know that the neat nail polish you paint on during your pre-holiday pamper sesh isn’t going to last two or three weeks away. No way! I used to lug a whole bottle of nail polish remover with me (which is ridiculous when all you really need is a couple of drops of the stuff!) until I found these handy little sachets by Sally Hansen while I was out in America. Now all I need to do is pop a couple in my bag and I’m good to go. Sadly, I don’t think SH still sell these anymore, but there are plenty of dupes out there that are just as good.

Toni & Guy Get a Grip Prep Spray

The other item in my Toni & Guy 3 for 2; this travel-friendly spray is a bit of a Swiss Army Knife for your hair; it does a lot. It detangles, it smooths frizz, adds volume, injects shine and helps to hold your do in place all day – even when it’s humid. I was umming and ahhing whether to bring my favourite L’Oreal Mousse away with me – I love it, but it’s massive – and wondered whether this could be a good travel alternative for my limp texture-less locks. Well, I wasn’t quite brave enough to ditch my holy grail hair mousse (just in case!), but, turns out that this little spray works almost as well. A couple of spritzes are enough to add a little oomph and ensure it sticks around throughout the day, no matter how muggy the weather gets – a little like sea salt spray but without its drying properties. I love it for my summer holiday, but not for year round use as it can feel a little too sticky and cloying if you use too much.

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Sudocrem

I don’t go away anywhere without my dinky pot of Sudocrem. Sure it’s boring, but blimey is it brilliant stuff to break out during a skin disaster. I use it on spots, dry skin, mosquito bites, sun-burn… it’s a lifesaver.

Simple 5 Minute Reset Hydrogel Mask

I love Simple’s range of sheet masks, I’m always popping a few into my basket whenever I’m at the supermarket and spot them on offer because they’re gentle, soothing and nourishing (and cheap!). I’m a big fan of the charcoal mask, but this 5 Minute Reset Hydrogel Mask is so cooling and soothing after a day spent in the sun – plus it packs 40 days worth of moisture. Not too shabby.

Have a lovely week! ♥️

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