My Cruelty-Free Make Up Bag

Today I want to talk about something a bit different to usual. Recently I started looking into cruelty-free make up. For some reason, despite being an animal lover it is something that I was completely ignorant of; I suppose I assumed that in 2017 we weren’t still rubbing chemicals into bunnies eyes but I was really really wrong. Once I started investigating further it became quite obvious how many everyday brands still test on animals and I made it my mission to become a conscious shopper.

I began testing out some recommended brands and slowly but surely my make up bag is now almost completely cruelty-free. My two favourite brands appear to have become The Body Shop and Barry M as they are readily available on the high street and also very affordable. Only recently has The Body Shop detached itself from it’s parent company L’Oreal who still test on animals and I’m so glad they have as I have been pleasantly surprised by their make up selection.

Here is a little delve into my current make up bag which is handmade by Chloe of By The Lock Handmade and you can see her Etsy Shop here.

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I’ll list the contents in order of how I apply my make up. I use almost all these items every day whether I leave the house or not! I do not use a moisturiser or a cleanser, just warm water to wash and I have completely clear skin now after suffering with severe adult acne for a couple of years.

  1. Instablur, The Body Shop – It’s a bit hard to get used to but it does it’s job as a primer, it’s not as silky as my previous one from Benefit.
  2. Concealer All in One, The Body Shop – I use shade 00 as I am pale but will pink undertones and it provides good coverage for under my eyes without being cakey.
  3. Fresh Nude Foundation, The Body Shop – This is a light and silky foundation and again the shade 015 is a pink undertone. Last time I accidentally bought 012 which looked the same in the shop but didn’t look as natural as I wanted when on my face. I would say it is a medium coverage and I found it difficult to get used to at first as for years I had been using a very full coverage foundation. It does look very natural which I think is the most important attribute.
  4. Loose Face Powder, The Body Shop – I prefer the matt look so I use a loose powder and this is one is proving good so far.
  5. Shimmer Waves, The Body Shop – I wasn’t certain if this was supposed to be blusher or eyeshadow when I bought it as it is in both sections so I use it for both. It is not very pigmented so only just for a natural hint of warm colour.
  6. Illuminating Highlight Palette, Barry M – I like the idea of this but in reality it is a little on the powdery side. It is however cheap so I mainly use the lightest shade and pretend I know what contouring is.
  7. Thin Felt Eyeliner, The Body Shop – I’ll admit that up until a month ago I had never used eyeliner but I got this one free at an event and I’m starting to get the hang of it now and I like the effect. I only make the effort to use this if I actually leave the house though!
  8. Showgirl Mascara, Barry M – This is not too heavy, thick or clumpy, it is simply darkening and lengthening which I like. I already have quite long lashes so don’t need to go too crazy. I find the quality of this is pretty much the same as more expensive brands so I would recommend it if you want to save a few pennies.
  9. Matt Me Up, Barry M – This is a recent purchase but I love it! It is called 24 carat and I didn’t understand how it could be metallic and matt at the same time but it is and I love it because it is so unusual. It comes with a lip liner in the kit too.
  10. Brushes Various, The Body Shop – I used to use the Boot’s Organic make up brushes but they were looking a bit tired so I purchased these ones from The Body Shop and so far I’m quite impressed, especially with the stipling foundation one, it gives much more even coverage.

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Hopefully you enjoyed this look behind the scenes of my face and that is encourages you to think about buying cruelty-free if you don’t already. There are plenty more brands out there, you just have to look for the leaping bunny logo which you can find out more about here: http://www.leapingbunny.org/guide/brands

Is it time for a rest?

Last month I did something I’ve not done before. I closed my Etsy shop for a whole week! It was terrifying but also necessary.

Being self employed is tough especially when it comes to evenings, weekends and especially holidays; how do you switch off? I know that I find it impossible to completely ignore my emails etc. out of office hours but it is vital for your mental health.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I am a workaholic and I’m also not ashamed to say I enjoy my work (most of the time anyway!) I don’t have any major commitments and don’t really have any hobbies except enjoying a bit of cooking, reading, walking. This year I’ve been persuaded to go away more than usual and if you know me you will understand how anxious I am in the weeks leading up to the trips. I try and get through the stress by reminding myself that I will enjoy it once I am there.

Earlier this year we visited Iceland, which was certainly one ticked off the bucket list but I decided we needed to go somewhere warm to make up for how cold we got back in March. I’m very impatient when it comes to holiday hunting so we just booked on the first one I found online, turned out I was very lucky as we booked a very luxurious villa in Fuerteventura; the perfect place for switching off.

Fuerteventura is the second largest island in the Canaries but it is not as highly populated as most of the others. The weather is fairly consistently mid 20’s with a breeze so warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities without getting too hot and bothered.

As I mentioned earlier, the accommodation we had was quite spectacular, it was a few kilometres out of the most popular town Corralejo but as we had a hire car included we knew that wasn’t an issue. It was beautifully peaceful; we had our own private hot tub, swimming pool and terrace. Breakfast was included and it was very impressive, doughnuts for breakfast anyone?

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It was really easy to get about on the Island as there are not many roads and traffic is minimal. Public transport is notoriously bad so a hire care is really recommended! One day we took a trip down to the South to visit the Zoo and Botanical Gardens, it was a real highlight as love animals and I really love giant cactus.

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We also took a dune buggy tour one afternoon, 3 hours of whizzing about in the sand getting very dusty but also getting to visit some little places on the West coast. We loved the fishing village of El Cotillo so much that we went back for our last day. Our best meal of the holiday was there too in a fish restaurant overlooking the sea.

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So that is what I did whist I had full week of my shop in ‘Holiday mode’. I’ll be honest and say I did check my messages a couple of times but knowing that nobody could actually purchase anything gave me the few days off headspace that I needed to be able to come back full throttle. I really do recommend it, even if you are a self confessed workaholic or worried about the loss of earnings, your brain will thank you. I hope you liked my little snippet of my trip and if you have any questions about visiting Fuerteventura feel free to ask me in the comments but I’ll leave you with my tips for having an Etsy shop break.

5 TOP TIPS FOR TAKING A BREAK FROM YOUR ETSY SHOP

  1. Time your holiday for a relatively quiet time. A couple of years ago I went away in September; generally my busiest month of the year and it was so stressful. I will not make that mistake again. Everyone’s business will be different; if you sell wedding stuff then you will want to be around for late Spring, early Summer, if you sell woolly hats, you can probably spare a week or two in high summer.
  2. Give your customer’s plenty of warning that you will be unavailable between certain dates and by unavailable that means you wont be able to respond to queries etc. either. You could mention it on your social media channels, put up a banner on your shop and alter your announcement. Just remember to switch it back when you return.
  3. Use the automation features provided by Etsy. This might include the ‘Holiday Mode’ but also the automatic convo response. You can set it to magically send a reply to anyone who contacts you.
  4. Stick to your cut off deadlines. As I sell mainly custom items which require a couple of days to prepare I close my shop a few days in advance so that I have plenty of time to clear them before I go away. In the few days before that I message any customers to explain about the cut off point. You also don’t want to be working right up to the line as that leaves no time for packing that suitcase or for any urgent last minute jobs that you might have forgotten.
  5. If you really have to check your messages whilst away, be strict with yourself and set a time limit. For example only look once every other day. I found that deleting the apps from my phone and switching off notifications helped as I was less inclined to have a quick peek if I had to login through the browser every time.

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Brand Brilliance Book Launch

As a huge fan of Fiona Humberstone’s self published book ‘How To Style Your Brand‘ I was excitedly following her journey as she created and published her second book less than 18 months later.

The new book is called Brand Brilliance and my copy arrived last weekend but I resisted looking into it until I could read uninterrupted. I managed to make a good start on the train journey down to London and I can already see why it is a best seller!

I accepted an invitation to attend the launch party and despite it being a rather long round trip (over 6 hours) I thought it was worth it to get an opportunity to meet Fiona (The Brand Stylist) as well as a room of other creative entrepreneurs. I chatted to some interesting people, soaked in the atmosphere and got my copy of the book signed of course. There was even an opportunity to wrap it in some beautiful papers.

The event itself was held at the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn and it was such a fabulous setting. As I was there early I got to spend some time in the very busy bar and lobby area beforehand trying to calm my nerves with a Merlot! It gave me a a tiny shred of confidence to approach a lady I recognised who turned out to be Rona of Flowerona. It meant I didn’t have to go into the room on my own.

The book itself will likely get it’s own review post but so far I can confirm that I am already hooked. It is full of beautiful inspiring photography and the tone of the book is professional but informal at the same time. It reminds me of having a conversation with a mentor. For anyone who is involved in the creative industry or is keen to find ways to perfect their own brand look and values than I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Just the beautiful texture cover and metallic foiled lettering alone is enough to shout ‘take my money!’

In the Q&A session at the launch, Fiona hinted at a follow up so I will be awaiting news of that and I will look forward to following the journey again from start to finish.

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What I’m reading…

I recently joined an online book club, I liked the idea of it as there was no pressure to read a book I really didn’t want to and it was a very slow pace. I’m quite a speedy reader but finding time when my eyes are not too tired to read after a day looking at the screen can be quite tricky!  The book club suggestion for April was Just Kids by Patti Smith and I read it in about a week so it inspired me to get back into reading more….

…so I thought I would share a quite run down on what I am dipping in and out of at the moment.

I recently read Emily Ley’s Grace Not Perfection and enjoyed it’s uplifting messages so I immediately went online to track down something similar. I came across Elizabeth Gilbert- Big Magic and purchased it on impulse. Not realising at the time of ordering it is the same author as Eat, Pray, Love (which I havn’t read). The premise of the book is good but I’ll be honest and say I’m struggling with it a bit as it’s quite repetitive now I’m over half way, I’ll see how it goes.

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Next up is a charity shop find from last weekend Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. As a bit of a grammar stickler I have been meaning to read this for a few years and when I saw it for 50p I couldn’t say no. The cover was a bit grimy so I removed it to see the lovely black cover with gold writing on the spine. Only a little way in but so far it has caught my attention, it is only a short one so think I’ll whizz through this one.

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Reading doesn’t just have to be about novels, I recently discovered Flow Magazine and purchased the latest issue (17) as well as a tonne of back issues from their website! The articles are so beautifully written and the magazine itself is a work of art, it is quite pricy at over £10 but it is worth it when you consider what you get inside. I’m taking my time and enjoying mindfulness whilst reading these.

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Another non-book is this audio book I have on the go, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Dr Yuval Noah Harari. It is quite a beast of a book; so far I’m about 2/3rds and still have over 9 hours to go! I love social history and this fulfils my need to continue learning. I would recommend it but as it is such a long book, an audio book is a good option if time is limited as you can listen whilst commuting/ at work/ doing chores etc.

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As a treat I purchased a new release this week Cows by Dawn O’Porter. I havn’t started this yet and will wait until I finish one of the above but it has great reviews. Has anyone read it? Or have you read anything else you’d like to share? Leave me a comment and we can have our own mini book club!

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1 Minute Product Photography Trick

This trick really is super-easy and one you probably already have the supplies at home to use. I learnt about this trick from watching a vlog by Chloe (By The Lock) You can see her YouTube channel here. It is perfect for if you are wanting to photograph small objects using natural lighting only and is especially good for flatlays.

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All you need is a large piece of thick card (or a few sheets stuck together) and tinfoil. Simply fold the tinfoil around the card, you can stick it down if you want but I left it loose so I can unfold the excess to make it larger. Voila, you have created a LIGHT REFLECTOR.

To use the light reflector just hold it up at the opposite side to the light source and the light will bounce back reducing any harsh shadows on the edge. Here is an example showing with and without the reflector, I have not edited these photos, they are just shot with my iphone and the light through a North facing window.

I’ll admit that my photos are not amazing but this simple trick has really helped improve the shadow issues I was struggling with so why not give it a try and see what you think?

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Final photo post-editing. (basically I brightened it!)

Printmakers Circle – Sunny Bank Mills

I am very fortunate to live close to Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley, the former indoor studios for Emmerdale Farm! It is now host to a variety of businesses including artist’s workshops and a gallery so is a fantastic creative space that you should visit if you get a chance. The current exhibition; Printmakers circle piqued my interest as I am a fan of printmaking techniques. I don’t want to give too much away but here are a few pictures I took during my visit today:

Above: Gallery space

The highlight for me was the work of Ian Scott Massie, I also purchased a postcard of his Brighton Pier print as we recently visited Brighton and I loved the colours. My absolute favourite was the Salt’s Mill print on the right.

A visit to the gallery isn’t complete without a look round the shop, it is crammed full of work from local artists, you can get everything from jewellery to bath products to home furnishings. Don’t forget to sit and relax with a cuppa and a homemade cake whilst you are there too!

The exhibition is on until 14th May 2017 and you can find out more here. You can also keep up to date with the printmakers circle on their Facebook page.

 

Iceland is very cold

Intrepid explorer is not a phrase ever used to describe me, I prefer my home comforts but in an attempt to push myself and enhance my experiences I decided to pursue my dream to visit Iceland. I’ll be honest, we weren’t taking much of a risk as it was a package tour with Thomson’s and most of the trips were included! Here is a quick update of our short trip to this magnificent island.

Day 1: After a very early morning start, we arrived at our Hotel in Reykjavik, we opted for The Icelandair Marina as I have a thing for boats and we were weren’t disappointed as it was beautiful and so trendy (unlike me!) You can go and sit round the fire with this dude, he was a bit wooden though.

2017-03-20 16.15.14The afternoon was free time so we went for a walk to stretch our legs and see a bit of the town. Due to the cold so we had to keep nipping into (very) expensive shops to stand by their heaters and not buy anything. We walked all the way up to see the famous space rocket (edit: apparently it is a cathedral). The rest of the day was a bit of write off as I was worn out from the early start so we feasted on steak and lobster then slept.

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Day 2: This was our big adventuring day on the Golden Circle tour! Again it was another early start but after a comfortable night and a delicious breakfast we headed off in the coach. The first stop on the tour was the geysers, there was only one active one called Strokkur (I googled the name!) I was hoping it would be warmer near the thermal springs but alas it was still eyeball-freezingly cold. We still waited patiently for the geyser to do it’s thing. <<poof>>

After that it was just a short hop to the cafe for a lunch of traditional lamb stew and chocolate cake which was at the site of one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland. I’m not going to bore you with facts about it as I don’t remember any, just that it was really big, really pretty and really cold.

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A further hop on the coach and we reached Thingvellir National Park and the site of the first (outdoor!) Icelandic parliament. Again, I can’t tell you anything educational because it is really hard to take on information when you are trying to work out if you have frostbite or not.

After our full day coach trip we got back on the coach that evening because we hate ourselves. We were optimistically going in search of the Northern Lights but I decided sleep was preferable and knew that someone would wake me if they appeared (f.y.i. nobody saw anything).

Day 3: We got up late and ate enough breakfast so we didn’t have to buy lunch as food costs a small fortune in Iceland (and we are tight Northerners) Our day was spent mooching around the museums finding out some more about the history of the place; I discovered that there is not much they know so most of it was just really high tech gadgets to play with. I enjoyed our day exploring Reykavik, as I also got to search out some of the funky wall art (shown below).

That evening we decided to skip the coach trip to search for Northern Lights again and instead decided to warm up in the Blue Lagoon. You wouldn’t have thought it possible to be cold in a 40 degree thermal spring but there was an epic blizzard which equals epic brain freeze. I think it was supposed to be relaxing.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy my trip but I’m joking, it is a place everyone should visit in their life as it is unlike anything and I can now tick it off my bucket list! I do have a few travel tips though if you are planning to go:

  1. Pack many many thermals (yep even long johns!), even if the temperature doesn’t seem that low, it is just cold.
  2. Don’t bother taking any local currency. Use a credit card as everywhere (even public toilets) take and prefer card. You will generally get a better exchange rate too but double check there are no foreign charges.
  3. Take food with you, especially snack foods if you are going on coach trips as it is so expensive to buy anything and it will add up very quickly. Our hotel didn’t have a kettle and I missed a warm cuppa at the end of a long day so you might want to pack a travel kettle unless you want to spend £8 on a pot of tea in the hotel bar.

Charity begins at home…

As the saying goes “charity begins at home’ and for this reason I am choosing to support two local charities in 2017 and I’m not posting to get a pat on the back but to raise awareness of these organisations that do such great work. I’m very selective about the charities I believe in and prefer to help the smaller ones which generally have lower admin costs and more of the money goes directly to those in need. This is a tradition I intend to carry on each year and I plan to support at least two, ideally a people charity and an animal charity.

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First up is Simon on Streets, a Leeds based organisation focused on the homeless. I don’t think that anyone should be without a roof over their heads and think the work they do is vital in providing the emotion support as well as practical activities. I heard about this charity at last years Etsy Made Local fair run by Etsy Team Leeds as I offered to man the gift wrap station for a few hours and donations for this service went to Simon on the Streets. You can find more about them at: www.simononthestreets.co.uk

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The animal charity I chose is Yorkshire Cat Rescue, as a big animal lover I cannot understand how people can mistreat animals and I am fully in support of those that dedicate their time to caring for those that cannot fend for themselves. Read more about the rescue at: http://www.yorkshirecatrescue.org

Feel free to let me know in the comments the charities you support!

Recipe – Spanish Omelette

I love cooking and the over the last few months I have done so much research into nutrition and food sources. We have visited local farm shops, greengrocers, butchers and markets to find the best and freshest food. I now enjoy spending time preparing meals in advance and freezing them as it is a much better use of time.

This recipe is something I make a big batch of, I freeze into small portions and my partner eats it for breakfast. Just remember to take it out the freezer the night before and it can be heated in the microwave in a couple of minutes for a warm and filling breakfast in hardly any time. In the past my partner didn’t have anything for breakfast so this keeps him fuller and stops him reaching for the chocolate mid-morning!

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INGREDIENTS (4 Small portions)

Bacon (approx. 3 slices) or 1/3rd stick chorizo (or a bit of both!)

Potatoes (about 8 baby potatoes diced)

5 Eggs

Bell Pepper (diced)

Spinach (handful)

100g Hard Cheese

Salt, Pepper, Paprika

METHOD

1. Dice the baby potatoes with the skin on and boil for 10 minutes to soften.

2. Dice the bacon or chorizo and fry in a pan, you shouldn’t need any oil as they are quite fatty.

3. Add the chopped pepper and fry for a couple of minutes.

4. Drain the potatoes and add to the frying pan. Make sure all ingredients are well mixed.

5. In a jug whisk the five eggs and sprinkle in the cheese. Add in a handful of chopped up spinach and season with salt, pepper and paprika.

6. Turn the heat down on the stove and slowly pour over the egg mixture slowly. Cook on low for about 5-10 minutes but be careful not to burn the bottom.

7. Use a spatula to separate the omelette from the edge of the pan. Place a second frying pan the same size top and carefully flip the whole thing over to cook the other side for a further 5-10 minutes. Alternatively, if you have a suitable pan then you can put it directly under the grill for 5-10 minutes without flipping it to cook the egg on top.

If you prefer to oven cook it then you can add the cooked bacon, pepper and potatoes to a baking dish and pour over the egg mixture and then oven cook for 20 minutes.

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Let me know if you give it a go and what you think!

 

 

 

 

2017 Goals and Beyond

I’ll be the first to admit I am not really a fan of new year resolutions. It is almost like you are setting yourself up to fail. However, I think as a small business it is almost impossible to muddle through without setting goals, so far my ideas have been a mix of personal and business related and as yet I have not formally written them down so here goes.

Goal 1: You are what you eat.

I’ve always had a keen interest in nutrition and how it affects the body but last year I really slipped. As well as a number of food intolerances, I also have arthritis so I did research into the kind of healthy eating regime I should stick to and so far it is going well. I’ve cut out dairy, cut back on meat, refined sugar and processed foods. I’ve bumped up my fish intake, nuts and seeds as well as a wide variety of veg. It has really helped my overall wellbeing and I have discovered I am enjoying my food so much more. Here are a few sample lunches I’ve had recently, working from home really helps!

Goal 2: Experiences rather than ‘stuff’.

It is a bit of a cliche but reading the Marie Kondo book on decluttering has changed my life. I was never really a hoarder but it has helped me get rid of stuff that was filling my cupboards and my mind. It reminded me to focus on experiences rather than material items. Stuff rarely brings us joy. I’ve started to be much happier planning trips away with the OH for gifts to each other instead. Try it!

Goal 3: Consistent product photography

In the past I have occasionally taken a photo that I was pleased with but it was more by luck than judgement. My photos have generally got better over time but the massive difference has been in the last few weeks. I’m still taking photos with an iphone on my coffee table but the way I approach it has been different and assuming there is adequate lighting I am confident that I can take some good shots. I’ve been experimenting with photo editing apps too. This is one I took earlier today.

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Goal 4: Embrace new technologies.

Stepping out of the comfort zone I plan to utilise the latest technology available to connect with my social media following. This will likely involve video, maybe even boomerang and Facebook live. I also need to figure out Instagram stories! Please send help…

Goal 5: Take a step back and relax.

When you run a business by yourself and have to wear many hats it can be very difficult to switch off. I’m often checking notifications and responding to email laid in bed at night. That is not conducive to a restful night’s sleep. I’m trying my best to leave my phone in another room on an evening so I can sit and relax with dinner or do a bit of reading or cross stitch. Maybe I’ve lost out on some sales but I think my sanity is more important. Thinking longer term I also want to be able to switch off for longer periods without feeling guilty so I can have a few trips away with my partner. This year we are thinking of Iceland, Wales and Portugal! It is currently a work in progress though…

Please feel free to get in touch with any  comments, maybe you have set your own personal or business goals? Let me know how you are getting on with them!