Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Balancing Act

St James's Park, London

What a week it's been. On several occasions I've either been told to cheer up or asked why I'm looking so down. Sure, I've felt a little tired and have been attempting to beat the post-holiday blues, but waking up to yet another divisive election result on Wednesday morning was a bitter pill to swallow. I live in the UK where we are currently in a state of limbo following the decision to Brexit. I also have friends in the US and have visited America a few times in recent years. Putting policies and personal opinions on the two candidates to one side, the division between US voters was clear and I can't help be saddened by America's decision not to elect its first female president.

It's easy to feel powerless and disillusioned when witnessing such big changes you did not want. Whilst I have neither the power nor the means to influence big change, I can continue to make choices to better my mindset. On a personal level, 2016 has been a positive year. I wanted to stop procrastinating and make better use of my time, strive for a healthier work-life balance and improve my fitness. I also wanted to reclaim 'me time' through blogging and yoga, making the most of what wonderful London has to offer and travelling as much as possible.

So how did I fare up? On the travel front, I visited Bruges, Copenhagen (including a day trip to Malmo which totally counts), Wilmington in North Carolina for a friend's wedding and Ocho Rios and Negril in Jamaica to soak up some sunshine and top up on Vitamin Sea. The escape from routine when travelling, even if just a few days at a time is such a luxury and at the risk of sounding like a new age hippie, I believe breathing in the sea air at least once a year is good for the body and soul.

In 2016 I also started to blog again and whilst I'm a teeny tiny fish in a huge sea of amazing talent,  I find the process of writing and creating content to be so rewarding, especially when somebody takes the time out of their day to write a lovely comment and encourage you to keep doing your thing.

My discipline can waiver but for the most part I'm working out 3 times a week, whether it's yoga, HIIT or running. I ran my first 10k in September, not a race and very much at my own pace, but being fit enough to run such a distance was a personal fitness milestone. If I've had a difficult day, I've realised it's so much healthier to work out and work through any negative thoughts and feelings, rather than comfort eating or drinking alcohol to take the edge off. Now reading that last line back makes me feel old! 

Yoga has also proved to be such an effective tool to de-stress and unwind, making evenings more relaxing and calm. I'm sure I'm not the first to praise Yoga with Adrienne or Madeleine Shaw's YouTube yoga videos. Both are calm, patient teachers and have a mix of routines for beginners and the more experienced.

Although small changes, I honestly believe my mindset has shifted in a positive way. Focusing on the positives and making better use of my time are two changes I want to take into the new year. And looking at the bigger picture, I do hope 2017 brings unity, resolution and clarity following this year's defining decisions.

Have a good week ahead x

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Not Another Autumn Post

I spent the day writing this post in between packing for my upcoming belated Summer holiday. The first few days will be spent in the US for a school friend's wedding before we fly to Jamaica for some sun, sea and sand. I've never booked a beach holiday so late in the year and whilst I'm so excited to chase a final bit of sunshine, October really is a lovely time of year which I don't want to wish away. So, in the spirit of the season, this post is ALL about Autumn and the Autumnal things and feels I love the most.

Hygge and home comforts

Totally stealing this wonderful philosophy from the Danish. Hygge is essentially the process of enjoying one's life and creating warm, inviting atmospheres to enjoy with those around you. As much as I love summer, I relish the thought of being able to channel my inner hermit and stay indoors snuggled up against the cold. Of course I'm all for spending crisp days outdoors but you can't beat the feeling of returning home and settling in for the evening. Wow, I'm such a grandma aren't I!

Another big part of Hygge is candles. The more the merrier as far as I understand. They help create an instantaneous warmth and relaxing atmosphere and with my favourite cinnamon bun scented candle at hand, there is nothing more heavenly.

The food

I'm all about comfort eating in the colder months and my ultimate Autumn/Winter meal is hot chicken pie and mashed or roasted potatoes. Salivating just thinking about it actually! And as basic as it is,  I love walking around armed with a hot takeaway drink to stay warm. Whether it's a pumpkin spiced latte, hot chocolate or mulled wine, they bring comfort from the very first sip.

The fashion

I'm all about layers so I'm in my style element over the Autumn months and scarves and jackets are my weakness. I blogged about a few new pieces I recently stocked up on including an oversized leopard print scarf (basically a blanket) which you can read here, but I have also been eyeing up this rust cropped jacket from ASOS. I have been not so patiently waiting for my size to come back in stock because the colour and lining is Autumn goals as far as I'm concerned.

So there you have it. For me, the fashion, home comforts, hearty food and warming drinks really do make Autumn a fabulous season. I've particularly enjoyed reading everyone's Autumn inspired posts and edits so please do leave links below which I will check out whilst wrapped in a blanket and drinking a hot beverage or two.

Elisha x

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Grease is the word: L'Oreal Extraordinary Clay Pre-shampoo Masque review

Having thick hair is a blessing and a curse. On one hand I have generally strong, healthy hair which can withstand heat and colour. But day to day it is actually very difficult to manage and takes time to wash, blowdry and straighten. I genuinely find myself scheduling workouts and evenings out around non-wash days - first world problems, eh!

This means I'm always on the lookout for products which help to tame and smoothen my hair so it's easier and quicker to style. Under the microscope today is the L'Oreal Elvive Extraordinary clay pre-shampoo masque which claims to purify the scalp and leave you with light lifted roots for 72 hours. The masque is part of a collection of clay based products which also includes a shampoo, conditioner and dry shampoo.

I turn to clay based skincare products for their clarifying oil-reducing properties so it made sense to try a clay hair mask to neutralise oily roots. The mask itself has a light minty scent and is thick in texture but still easy to scoop out and apply. One pot costs £5.99 and considering it took 2-3 handfuls of product to coat my scalp there should be enough for 4-5 uses depending on hair thickness.

I left the masque to soak for 5 minutes as instructed before rinsing and following with shampoo and conditioner. Similar to the Extraordinary clay shampoo which I've also been trying out, you have to be careful to rinse out all the product or the lengths of your hair can be left feeling slightly gritty and dry.

So, does it live up to its claims? For me, yes. The first difference was that my hair was less tangled and easier to brush through when wet. Once blow dried, the roots also felt noticeably lighter. The roots continued to feel light and oil-free in my day 2 hair which is nothing new. Towards the end of the day however, my scalp usually starts to feel oily so I was pleased to find it still feeling clean. By day 3 my hair is an oil slick but apart from feeling a little greasy in the roots I wasn't itching to reach the dry shampoo. The lengths of my hair did feel a little limp but given that it is naturally thick, this wasn't really a deal-breaker for me. I would guess that for those with finer hair, dry shampoo would be needed to re-add volume particularly at the roots.

All in all the clarifying properties did seem to keep my hair fresh for three days. I did notice that after 2 consecutive uses, my hair was feeling a little coarse and dry. So rather than adding it to every single hair wash, I think I will keep it handy for use before busy weekends or holidays where I want a deeper clean to extend washes.

Does anyone else struggle to manage thick and greasy hair? Let me know if there are any other products worth trying to help tame the grease!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Style diaries: New in for Autumn

Over the past few weeks both the leaves and temperature have started to drop and we've been left waiting for Autumn to arrive in full force. With this transitory period comes the tricky task of dressing for in-between weather. Still too warm for winter coats and boots but no longer suitable to continue living in sandals and bare legs.

It's the time of year where I truly struggle to dress appropriately. Last week I left the house wearing sandals on a deceptively sunny morning and was left feeling the chill all day. But October is here so it's time to store away the summer wardrobe and mix in some warmer pieces to layer up and take me through to winter.

Cardigans just don't sit right on my shoulders so I rely on long sleeved tops and jumpers to keep warm. My first pick was a lightweight black and white sweater from Primark. I haven't actually shopped here in a while but was instantly drawn to the shirt detail which adds a nice twist to an otherwise simple top. The shirt layer hangs at just the right length and I see it working well with jeans and denim skirts. I also picked up a fitted black top from New Look. The lace up V-neck front is a nice detail and makes it work as a great day to night option. I liked it so much, I also ordered it in grey.

I managed to find a new pair of ankle boots from London Rebel during a recent browse on ASOS. As I'm on the larger end of the shoe size scale, I struggle to find flat boots which look, dare I say it, feminine! But the almond toe and silver detailing ticks all the boxes and I'm actually looking forward to wearing this pair.

I also opted for some ASOS slip on trainers for warmer days where we're free of rain. On days like this, I'd get too hot wearing boots so the plimsoll style provides the comfort of trainers whilst the nude colour and pointed shape stops them from looking so casual.

Confession time, I bloody love a scarf. And whilst I certainly didn't need to buy a new one, this leopard print scarf from ASOS packs a punch. It's incredibly oversized and wraps around comfortably to keep the cold out. So oversized in fact it doubles up as a blanket when sprawled out on the sofa. Winner!

I'm always a little bit sad to have to say goodbye to summer but at least with my weather appropriate footwear and easy to layer tops and scarf, I'm ready to embrace those crisp autumn days - armed with a Starbucks festive drink, of course! 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Finding my holy grail moisturiser(s)

I dedicate this post to all the oily faces out there.

So often left disappointed, underwhelmed and hanging my head in despair, I've come to learn there is more to life for my oily skin than mattifying moisturisers.

I first began my skincare journey on a mission to ban shine. Oil-free sebum-regulating formulas were my weapon of choice. What I didn't understand was that the stripping nature of my oil-free friends left my skin out of balance and aggravated, resulting in even more breakouts. I wrongly jumped from one harsh product to the next, only worsening my already problematic skin.

Eyes-opened and defiant, I broke free from the oil-vigilantes and became enticed by the hydrating casanovas who charmed their way into my skincare routine through eye-catching packaging and claims of skin boosting properties. As whirlwind romances go, my time with the casanovas was short and their luxury offerings proved too much for my oilier areas.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all was the flakes. The flakes seemed to have it all, promising balance and hydration whilst still keeping the complexion mattified. With holy grail potential the flakes sadly failed to hang around long enough for me to sing their praises. The flakes would dry unevenly and clump on the skin making flawless makeup application an impossible feat. 

In the final leg of my search, I discovered the clingers which signalled a skincare turn for the better. Clinger formulas were most effective at keeping my complexion mattified for 4-5 hours, but would take longer than the flakes and the casanovas to fully sink in. Not an issue on weekends/no make up days, but when up against the clock, the clingers were not as time-efficient as desired.

Yes, dear readers, I wanted it all: the perfect blend of mattification, practicality and some skin improving properties. It's been a process of trial and error but I have slowly learnt that my holy grail moisturiser should bring me balance; mattify and hydrate without aggravating sensitive areas or existing blemishes. 

Thankfully I have since discovered two formulas from the French pharmacy which tick all the boxes and keep my skin feeling balanced and happy.

My first saviour was Bioderma Hydrabio light cream. Formulated for normal to combination skin, the lightweight silky texture is quick to absorb and leaves my skin feeling instantly hydrated and comfortable but never greasy. My skin definitely creeps on the oily side throughout the day but a midday blot remedies make up meltdown. I use it morning and evening, with the only drawback being the lack of SPF. However being office-bound for the majority of the day, I am happy to rely on SPF in my make up instead. 

Which brings us to my second recommendation. For holidays and sunnier weather where I want to up my sun protection game, say hello to Avene Hydrance Optimale Light. Similarly aimed at normal to combination (and sensitive) skin, this formula also provides SPF 20 protection. I find it sinks smoothly into the skin and better still, it keeps shine at bay in warmer weather. Avene also offer a non-SPF version which is more gel-like in texture. I've tried it but personally would favour Hydrabio light if both were in my skincare stash.

I continue to battle hormonal breakouts and sensitivity but I'm pleased to have found reliable moisturisers which soothe and brings balance to my skin day to day. After a gruelling process of trial and error, so ends my search for the holy grail (moisturiser).