Becoming a vegetarian

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Cottage pie – green lentils in place of minced beef. It’s DIVINE. 

For a couple of months now, I have been seeking out and preparing vegetarian recipes. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but hadn’t fully committed to; I’m now convinced it has been a great move for my health.

Why?
Mainly because I love animals and now struggle to eat meat without thinking of its source and of how the animal felt during its short life. Meat is also very expensive to buy and I have never enjoyed handling it when cooking.

My favourite recipes and some staple ingredients
Golden Veggie Shepherds Pie
Spinach, Sweet Potato and Lentil Dhal
Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry
Cauliflower Tikka Masala
Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole
Tuscan Bean and Barley Stew

The following items crop up regularly in my favourite recipes, so are good staple items:

Green and red lentils
Sweet potatoes
Red cabbage
Chillies
Peppers
Coconut milk
Ginger
Plenty of spices (garam masala, turmeric, cumin, etc)
Carrots
Celery
Tomato puree
Potatoes
Courgettes
Vegetable stock
Garlic
Cauliflower
Rice

The benefits
This will vary from person to person but I have noticed the following changes in myself:

  • weight loss
  • better digestion
  • healthy skin
  • increased energy

Practically, I have also noticed that food shopping bills are cheaper and I’m shopping less often, probably due to good meal planning.

Admittedly, cooking from scratch can be time consuming however, I have been making large batches of food from these recipes so I often have several portions left over to freeze. This week, I haven’t had to cook anything from scratch and have used up frozen meals – they are equally as delicious as when freshly cooked.

I’ve found this has really taught me how to cook and improved my quality of life. If you are vegetarian, what are your favourite meals to cook? I’m always looking for new recipes to try now!

Laura

A cruelty-free regime for long and healthy hair

I’ve been growing my hair for quite a few months now and am really happy with its condition. I have it trimmed every 10 weeks, give or take, but think it’s helpful to nourish long hair with the right products.

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My favourite shampoo and conditioner to use is the Faith in Nature Coconut duo (which I review here!). Faith in Nature are an ethical, cruelty free brand and I’ve been really impressed with their products.

Long hair will always benefit from deep conditioning treatments however, it’s easy to weigh it down if you don’t have thick hair. I have found that a dollop of Lush H’Suan Wen Hua hair treatment, applied on dry mid-lengths to ends, is perfect for my medium texture hair. It seems to work really well with the Faith in Nature duo and is easy to rinse out. One pot will last you for weeks, using this method, and leaves a warm, cinnamon scent.

I thought I would share this with you all, as an effective and cruelty free routine to care for long hair. What other Lush hair treatments would you recommend for me?

How to organise your beauty routine, save time and look fabulous

I’m always more inclined to follow a routine, if the tools and resources I need are both in good supply and top condition. A beauty routine is no exception.

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Here are some tips which I think will make your daily skincare and makeup routine much more fluid and enjoyable.

Weekly Tasks
1. Sharpen your eye and lip pencils.
2. Clean your makeup brushes and eyelash curler. Depending on the kind of makeup you use on a day to day basis, you may need to do this more often than once a week. I like Superdrug B. Makeup Brush Cleanser.
3. Wash your facial wipes (muslin, flannels, etc). I have a clean wipe for each day of the week, TK Maxx do great sets.
4. Polish all of the mirrors you use when applying makeup/skincare.

Monthly Tasks
1. Do a skincare audit! Check if you’re running out of anything (cotton pads, cleanser, etc) and arrange for replacements.
2. Wash your makeup bag.
3. Go through your makeup and throw out anything that looks remotely funky. Brow gel is notorious for spoiling quickly.
4. Check the condition of your tools (eyelash curlers, tweezers, nail clippers) to see if they need sharpening or changing.
5. Notice how your skin is feeling and treat accordingly – DIY facials on a Sunday evening are especially pleasurable.

I would love to hear any tips you might have for your own beauty regimes!

Thoughts on Charles Worthington Everyday Gentle Micellar Shampoo and Weightless Conditioner

Given that I’m nearing the end of my favourite shampoo and conditioner duo (Faith in Nature Coconut, which you can read about here), I thought I would try something new. These new products by Charles Worthington caught my eye, as I have something of an obsession with micellar water. It’s an absolute staple for my cleansing routine and perfect for sensitive skin, as it melts makeup with minimal effort and no irritation. Hair equivalent, you say? Yes, please.

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The shampoo is described as having a similar function to micellar cleanser; it claims to clarify and remove impurities, without drying out the hair. The omission of sulphates is a welcome one for anyone with overprocessed or flyaway hair, although it’s becoming easier to find sulphate-free shampoos in shops.

The conditioner claims to reduce breakage and leave you with “weightless roots”. With conditioner, this is important to me. I find applying it to the ends only still results in an unsatisfying slight heaviness at the roots. The holy grail of conditioner, for me, is one that I can apply from roots to ends and then rinse with ease, leaving no product residue. Just cleansed, healthy hair.

Having now tried both products, I feel the shampoo is a good cleanser and quite economical, as you only need a small amount to produce a good lather. It does, however, have quite a strong and not particularly modern scent (I found it a little soapy). This may be due to personal preference, as I have a liking for soft, nutty scents. After rinsing, my hair felt soft and clarified.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get on well with the conditioner. Despite a fairly scant application from roots to ends, it left my hair feeling lank and heavy once dry. I’m sure this wasn’t for lack of trying, as I always spend 2-3 minutes rinsing conditioner off in the shower. To see if the product was just too rich for my hair to be applied from the roots, I tried applying it to the mid-lengths and ends only. Upon drying, it felt exactly the same as the first time I used it.

In conclusion, I like the shampoo but do not feel the conditioner works for me. I’m disappointed that it seems to coat the hair, in spite of thorough rinsing, and would certainly not describe it as weightless.

Have you had a disappointing experience with shampoo and conditioner duos?

Three books to make your life better

I’ve read quite a lot of spirituality and self-awareness books. In times of personal strife, they can prove quite helpful; notwithstanding that some are utter tosh, rendering you even more cynical and pissed off than you were to begin with. It’s a minefield out there.

To save you from having to wade your way through these endless books, many of which are actually disappointingly similar to one another, I’m going to tell you about my favourite three. And maybe, you can let me have some recommendations of your own in the comments…

Angel in Disguise? – Victoria Mary Clarke

Victoria’s book is the one I always reach for when I’m feeling a bit unsettled or downright shitty. She is straightforward (a trait I admire in others) and I can completely relate to how dreadful she was feeling at the start of her book. Without wanting to give too much away, Victoria reached out for guidance and found that the answers came to her by channeling, using a pen and paper, or sometimes speaking aloud. The endlessly comforting, sage guidance came from some kind of divine source. Angels? Whatever the source may have been, the advice recorded by Victoria is like gold dust. The energy clearing exercises described work so well for me, I regularly return to them if I’m feeling a bit unbalanced. Victoria describes herself as “fucked up and flawed”, which is something I can certainly empathise with. It is a deeply thought-provoking, helpful book; a particularly valuable read for those of us who are a bit rudderless in life. Thank you endlessly, Victoria.

The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart’s book is definitely one to read in small doses; you will need some contemplation time afterwards to think about what you’ve read. He explores clock time as a man-invented and, frankly,  unhealthy concept. This is revolutionary stuff, in our world of nonsensical deadlines, distressing transport delays and even our adherence to routines such as bedtime. The idea of living in the present moment, explored thoroughly in ‘The Power of Now’ has really helped me to feel grounded and maintain a clear, focused mind. As someone who is prone to fretting about the future, I notice when my thoughts leap too far ahead and take a moment to pause, to acknowledge what is happening now. There is so much that humankind, as a whole, can learn from this book.

The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz

This is a book I finished reading just this week and I am completely bowled over. As a practising yogi, I have had it on my list to read for some time (it never fails to crop up on “books for yogis” lists) and have not been disappointed. The four agreements, as explained in the book, will help you to communicate with confidence, clarity and generally, not give a rat’s arse about the opinions or behaviour of others. The message is that everyone is immersed in their own personal reality. It’s time for you to take control of yours and make it pleasant for yourself. You can find the basic four agreements online but I would advise you to pick up a copy of the book, to truly understand how you can apply these in everyday life. I’m still learning, so we’re in it together. Namaste.

Sensitive skincare – finding a routine

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I started experiencing symptoms of sensitive skin last year; dry patches all over the shop, major irritation to the lips and infuriating itchiness – fun, right? Having never had to deal with this kind of malady before, I was confused. Products I had used before, were now an irritant. “Natural” beauty products were equally inflammatory, I now realise my skin was probably reacting against the strong essential oils often used in these products. I also no longer use lip balm, as I’m confident this is what initially caused the problems with my lips.

It has taken almost a year of cautious experimentation to find a routine that works. For some months, I simply stopped using skincare, save for cleansing and removing my makeup with micellar water. Spending £30+ on a product that was likely to do nothing but bring on an allergic reaction didn’t seem like a good idea.

I’ve referenced this article before and can’t recommend it enough; Tory Frost gives sound advice on choosing products for sensitive skin and the ingredients to watch out for. Earlier this year, I kept getting breakouts and had no idea what was causing them; they were more like sores than spots. After reading Tory’s article, I deduced that a foaming cleanser I was using could be the cause, as my breakouts didn’t improve with dietary changes. SLS (sodium laureth sulphate) is one of sensitive skin’s worst enemies and used to create the lather in foaming cleansers. After two weeks of removing my makeup with just micellar water and cotton pads, my skin was in excellent condition.

After hours of searching for the right products, I have now settled on a cleanser, moisturiser and eye cream, all of which work marvellously.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm

Not only is this cleanser probably one of the best I’ve ever used, it ticks all the boxes for sensitive skin; fragrance, alcohol and SLS free. The consistency feels a little like Vaseline but it melts onto the skin. I still remove my makeup with micellar water and then use a little of this all over the face, before removing with warm water.

La Roche Posay Toleraine

My current night cream is not only non-irritating, it’s beautifully light, soothing the skin without blocking pores. I use a small amount, mainly on my cheeks to avert dryness. I’m glad to have found this in time for winter!

La Roche Posay Toleraine Ultra Eye Contour

This is a gentle, cooling eye cream and seems to have improved the skin around my eyes, after a couple of weeks of using it. Although it’s lightweight, it works really well to hydrate the eye contour and give the wearer a wide-awake, healthy gaze. I love it.

These are the products which have worked well for my sensitive skin but I would love to hear any of your recommendations! Have you been able to pinpoint the triggers for your sensitive skin?

Laura xx

Things to start doing in Autumn/Fall

Autumn and spring may be my favourite seasons; they express gentle promise of the months ahead, without the extremities of winter or summer. Whereas spring inspires us to get outside, autumn can be a great time of year to get cosy and have fun indoors. This is what I’ll be getting up to:

Making Christmas cards 

I’ve made my own Christmas cards for the past couple of years and it’s become a tradition in itself! I love it. Blank cards are inexpensive and I’m looking forward to an afternoon spent creating, fueled with a pot of good coffee.

Infusing booze

I made some killer blackberry vodka last year and for 2016, my chosen infusion will be raspberry and mint gin (recipe from Pinterest here). It’s ideal to make your own liqueur round about now, so it can be ready to enjoy at Christmas.

Clearing out

One of my winter projects will be to sell on, or give away the majority of my books, CDs and DVDs. Logic has brought me here. I do not own a CD player. Books are a nightmare to move from house to house. I rarely watch DVDs these days. Ask yourself if all your possessions are necessary and if not, why not lighten your load in life?

Baking

Let’s face it, for most of us, it’s too bloody hot in Summer to bake. Cool, dark autumn evenings are a different kettle of fish altogether. I find baking therapeutic, whether I want to share food with my loved ones, or have a craving for (a massive pile of) scones. If you’re new, you can start with simple recipes and a small collection of baking equipment. I went through a phase a few years ago, of buying too much equipment; you really don’t need much to start baking!

Making a nest

Although I live in a rented flat with my boyfriend, there’s nothing to stop me making it snug and, yes, hygge. I find the easiest and most comforting fixes at this time of year are a heavy blanket on the sofa, plenty of candles and some soft loungewear.

What do you love about this time of year?

Laura xx