My Thoughts on the Birchbox Beauty Subscription Boxes


Over the last few weeks I have noticed my skin becoming quite dull, bags appearing under my eyes and that my hair and general complexion haven't been glowing as much as they used to  due to the level of fatigue I have been experiencing due to my chronic health issues. With my health not quite on my side, I needed something to give me a little pick me up and make me feel better about my appearance. I have stopped spending much on makeup recently due to saving for a house, but last month I discovered an offer on Birchbox where you could get two boxes for the price of one and I decided to give it ago.

Birchbox is the UK's number one beauty subscription box and first came on the beauty scene almost seven years ago. It is adored by millions of subscribers and has been highly rated by hundreds of beauty bloggers. Boxes cost £12.95 monthly including postage and come with five to six different products based on your beauty profile. 


The first Birchbox I received was the Summer Daze beauty box towards the end of July. The box had a beautiful palm tree, pink design with pull out draws, filled with a mixture of skincare, bodycare and makeup items. I was really impressed with the overall design and couldn't wait to stack the boxes on my dressing table. They are the perfect size for keeping all your samples, as well as keeping track of all your monthly Birchbox goodies. My favourite products from this particular box was the Rituals - Ritual of Hammam shower gel, which is intensely foamy and leaves your skin feeling like silk after a nice hot bath and the English Laundry, Notting Hill Femme which is now my new favourite perfume. The fragrance has a floral, juicy musky scene with  notes of Bergamot, mandarin, cassis, jasmine, rose, vanilla warm wood and amber. Other products in the box included: Percy and Reed wonder overnight recovery which is a great nightly hair mask, the Balance Me micellar water and a pop beauty eyeshadow trio.


The 'All the details' box which came out in May, arrived at the same time as my Summer Daze box as part of the two for £10 offer that I used. I love the marble effect of this box and how feminine it looks, but admittedly I was a little bit more disappointed with the products in this one. My favourite product from this box was the Kueshi hair mask shine and volume, which has given my hair a new lease of life since I have been using it and it also has a wonderful vanilla frosting scent. I know the Kueshi hair mask is a product I will definitely reorder in future. However I found the Doucce mascara that came with in this months box a little bit clumpy and I wasn't a fan of the Whish body cream - it felt nice on my skin, but I wouldn't pay the £27 full price in future. The other two products that came with this box was the Marsk mineral eyeshadow in Vanilla frosting which i'm sure will come in handy and The Hero Project Double Blur that I haven't yet tried.


My third and most recent box is the August Mermaid Box that arrived last week. This box came with a full sized Spectrum brush in rose gold and pink that I love and also LOC eyeshadow stick in Rock Steady that I can't stop using. The LOC eyeshadow doesn't budge all day (in fact you need a pretty good makeup remover to take it off), it is highly pigmented and has a creamy, easy to apply texture. I'm not usually an eyeshadow wearer, but I can't wait to order more of these. Other products in my box included: Merci handy hand sanitiser (which is one my favourite hand sanitisers, but I have too many of them), High Performance sugar texturising hair spray and a Seba Med clear face mattifying cream. 

I love trying new cosmetic and skincare brands and I feel like Birchbox has opened me up to a few brands that I haven't yet tried and I thoroughly enjoyed receiving a surprise box of monthly treats, however  I'm not 100% sure whether some of the products I received were right for me and that is the gamble you do take with subscription boxes like these. Overall I do think Birchbox is quite good value for money and I love the monthly themed boxes so I'm going to try it for a few more months to see how I feel. Would I recommend the Birchbox? If you're looking for new products to try and don't mind surprises, then why not?

Are you subscribed to Birchbox?



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How to deal with post travel blues


For people who love exploring and get their thrills from visiting new places, there's nothing worse than having the feeling of not having your next adventure booked. Holidays are wonderful while you're there, but as soon as you get off the plane or disembark the train, you're hit with the post-holiday blues of not knowing where to go next and when your next break will happen. Travel can literally be an escape from reality for some people, especially those who have hectic careers and rely heavily on adventure to keep their wellbeing in tact. This year has been particularly difficult for me, as I've not been able to travel due to saving for a mortgage, but I'm getting through it knowing that once I have a house I can begin planning my next trips. If you're struggling with the post travel blues, here's a few tricks to tide you over before your next adventure.

Plan your next adventure

If you have enough funds and holiday to take, there's no better time to start planning your next adventure than when you step off the plane.  Planning your next adventure early will give you plenty time to prepare and also give you something to look forward to.


Start a travel fund

Saving can be difficult, but when you set your mind to putting away cash for something specific it is a lot easier than you think. Starting a travel fund is a great way to get yourself excited about your next adventure and it is rewarding watching the money total up. Set yourself a realistic time limit and don't be too hard on yourself, then you will be able to reap the benefits.


Become a hometown tourist

When we're dreaming of faraway lands and exotic beaches, it is very easy to overlook what is right in front of us, but sometimes some of the best adventures we can have are right on our doorsteps. Spend time looking at your local tourist office to see what you can do locally and I bet you will be surprised.

Daycation

Taking a day trip is a great way of travelling on a budget and in the UK we are lucky to have so many wonderful places on our doorstep.  You can discover some new cities, drive along the coastlines or take walks in many of the UK's national trust sites.

Take up a new hobby

Taking up a new hobby is a great way of learning new things and distracting your mind from thinking about travelling. Why not buy some cooking books and spend time learning about different world food? Or get artistic with some of your old holiday snaps.

Keep yourself busy

When we get bored we are more likely to get nostalgic about our holidays and start feeling down. Keeping yourself busy will keep your mind active and stop it from wandering on to things like holidays. Spend time with your friends or make the most of each weekend by going on long hikes near you.

How do you cope with post travel blues?

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Le Pain Quotidien Review, Leeds


Le Pain Quotidien in the Victoria Gate shopping centre, Leeds is a place that I really have grown to love since it opened last year. It is the perfect place for brunch with friends, meetups with colleagues or even a romantic first date. LPQ is somewhere I have frequently mentioned omy blog, but today I thought I would give LPQ their own special review to highlight how beautiful both the location and food can be.

The bakery first opened its doors in October 2016,  part of the new Victoria Gate shopping centre in Leeds city centre. It is the chain's first premises outside of London and is situated on the first floor, with a wonderful view of Victoria Gates beautiful architecture. Le Pain Quotidien specialises in Belgian food and inside it is like stepping into a traditional boulangerie with homely wooden furnishings, organic condiments laid out on the tables and bright yellow sunflowers to add a touch of warmth. It is casual, yet very chic and has the most inviting atmosphere, making it one of the cosiest, yet sophisticated places to visit for lunch.


Open from 9am to 9pm, the restaurant and bakery caters for their customers culinary needs at all times of day.  From all day brunches and traditional breakfasts consisting of avocado and toast through to popular Belgian tartines, to homemade hearty meals in the evening, such as slow cooked stews, stroganoffs and risottos. The restaurant and bakery also has gluten free and vegan options, making it widely accessible for those who have special dietary needs.


On this particular occasion that I had visited LPQ, I ordered their watermelon cooler and an avocado and feta tartine, which is a Belgian open top sandwich with a side order of olives. The items arrived beautifully presented and all the ingredients tasted incredibly fresh and satisfying. The portion sizes were also great substantial, which is great when you're busy and looking for a meal to fill you up.

Prices can be on the more expensive side, but when the service is with a smile and the surroundings are as beautiful as this place, it is worth paying that little bit extra and it is in a shopping centre where the stores are more upmarket. If you're looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and looking for somewhere to transport you to Europe, it is definitely worth the visit, even if it is just for a coffee (which is just as good as everything else on the menu I've tried).

Have you been to a Le Pain Quotidien restaurant before?
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Five Reasons to Visit Galway, Ireland


Galway is Irelands fourth biggest city and without a doubt is one of the most picturesque cities Ireland has to offer. It is full to the brim with history and culture and has everything a tourist could wish for - from live street music on every corner, traditional pubs, a plethora of high street and independent stores, five star and michelin star restaurants, as well as a charming harbour and shoreline, lined with colourful buildings. The city has captured the hearts of so many that Galway has been announced as the European Capital of Culture 2020.  Three weeks ago I was finally able to tick Galway off my European bucket list and here's five reasons why you should consider visiting too.


The History

Galway has a history dating back approximately 800 years and evidence of Galways complex history can be found all over the city. There's so much to see from the Spanish Arch dating back to 1584 to the St Nicholas' Collegiate Church which is Irelands largest Medieval Parish Church and much more exhibited in the free to enter Galway City museum.


The Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter is the heart of Galway, featuring an array of local eateries, bars and independent stores. It is Galway's equivalent of Dublin's Temple bar area - a place that seems very much set up for tourists to experience the Irish way of living, but unlike Temple Bar, the Latin Quarter to me still seems to maintain its authenticity. You can tell it is a place where tourists and locals alike love to visit and there's so much to discover in such a small area.


The Atlantic Coast and Galway Harbour

Walk only five minutes outside Galway city centre and you will be greeted by a picturesque harbour that eventually leads to the gateway to the Atlantic coast.  Galway's harbour dates back to the 10th Century and has a strong maritime history. The little beaches that pave the way to the Atlantic, making it's way outside the harbour provide a tranquil way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre and on a hot day, the water is perfect for a little paddle as the majority of it is sheltered by the land.


Claddagh rings

The traditional Irish Claddagh ring originates from Galway and is known as being the symbol of love. The name derives from a small fishing village in Galway named Claddagh and it was the birthplace of the Claddagh ring over 400 years ago. These days you will see Claddagh rings sold all over Ireland, but Galway is the best place to purchase one that is authentic and of high quality. Claddagh rings are so highly celebrated in Galway that they have their own Claddagh ring museum, showing the history of the rings over the decades.


Shopping and buildings

One of my favourite parts of visiting Galway was simply walking around the streets and admiring all the architecture and store fronts. Galway has a lot of olde world stores with beautiful signage like this store which sells a variety of antiques and vintage clothing. All the buildings in Galway have so much character that you cannot help, but stop and stare at them all and take lots of photographs. I can't wait to go back again and explore the city even more.


Have you been to Galway before?
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How Travelling Has influenced what I cook at home


One of my favourite aspects of travel is trying new food, whether it is from a street food vendor or browsing some of the best foodie markets in Europe. There's something about food that really brings people of all cultures together and when you're on holiday, food is one of the best ways to get to know the country you are visiting, by either sampling the local delicacies or speaking to the people who eat it.

Travel has enabled me to try a lot of food that I never thought I would be able to experience and has introduced me to a lot of new flavours. From eating stirfrys and curries in Thailand to eating sauerkraut in Germany, Paella in Spain and even feasting on all the different local delicacies that various parts of Britain has to offer, travelling has really played an influence on what I cook from home and for the better.

I've become more experimental

Since travelling to Thailand back in 2015 and even lesser known parts of Europe, I have become much more experimental with what I eat. When I was in Thailand I fell in love with 'morning glory' which is a stirfry of different vegetables and I love trying all the different curries. Most of my diet these days in now Thai orientated as I love the flavours.

It has made being vegetarian less boring

So many people ask me if I get bored of being vegetarian, but I really don't. The key to never getting bored of a vegetarian diet is learning different cooking methods of all your vegetables and learning how to inject flavour into your dishes - most of which can easily be picked up by trying many different types of cuisines.

I appreciate different cultures

One of my favourite food experiences was visiting the Klienmarkthalle in Frankfurt as it was full to the brim of shoppers sampling different food and market traders boasting about their wares. I was able to peer into peoples shopping baskets and see what people in Germany were picking up as their staple shopping ingredients and I browsed the stalls and discovered lots of different pastries unique to that area. It made me appreciate food that each country has to offer, so much so that it has now become a slight addiction. I try to make myself try lots of food from different countries every month so I can learn more about the culture and why they eat the things that they do.

You don't have to travel far to experience the plethora of cuisines that embraces our planet these days. Most towns have a variety of ethnic stores from Polish supermarkets to Asian superstores and even our own high street supermarkets are becoming much more savvy to world food, incorporating food from all seven different continents into one scrumptious food aisle. So many brands are now coining in on that fact that people want to try new food and have different food experiences.


One of the latest recipes I have cooked is from Thai Taste, a brand which specialises in authentic Thai ingredients and it is a Pumpkin (can be substituted for butternut squash), Galangal coconut curry, which is so aromatic that it reminds me of being back in Thailand.  The recipe has been designed by Thai restaurateur Seb Holmes to inspire customers to create restaurant-quality Thai food at home. The recipe is vegan, gluten free and incredibly easy to make, it's perfect for those who want to try new flavours or relive their own travel memories. 

Pumpkin, Galangal and Coconut Soup

Serves: 2 (GF/VE)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
1/4 small pumpkin, roughly 50-60kg, peeled and sliced into 2cm by 2 cm pieces (or squash can be used)
8 Thai Shallots, peeled and slightly bruised
1 head pak choy, tough stem removed and leaves sliced in half
2 green birds eye chillies
1 teaspoon Thai Taste chopped Kaffir lime leaves
2 sticks lemongrass 
10g Galangal peeled
2 coriander roots
2-3 teaspoons Thai Taste soy sauce
200ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of Thai Taste Tamarind Paste
300ml Thai Taste coconut milk
100g Thai Taste rice vermicelli noodles, left soaking for 10 minutes until soft and then refreshed under cold water
10g Thai sweet basil
1 lime, juiced

Method
Firstly, in a small sauce pain bring a little bit of water to the boil and then submerge pumpkin into it. Leave this to simmer and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until soft and then remove from heat.

Next place vegetable stock, 100ml of the coconut cream, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, tamarind, galangal, coriander roots, birds eye chillies, lemongrass, lime leaves, pumpkin, pak choy and Thai shallots into a medium saucepan and bring to simmer.

Once simmering continue to cook gently for 4-5 minutes until all vegetables have softened and flavours infused. Finish by adding rest of the coconut milk and sweet basil and serve into soup bowls lined with vermicelli noodles. The dish should be creamy, salty, a little bit spicy and aromatic with a fresh hint of lime.

Many of the ingredients for this dish can be purchased in jar form from Thai Taste, who gave me some of these products so I could test the recipe out for myself.

What is your favourite cuisine?










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