At this time of year I like to give my skincare routine a bit of a shake up. With all this warm air indoors and cold winds outside I find that my skin dries up completely and I tend to need a cream or serum that’s just a little more luxurious than my summer range. Of course, I love the freshness of my summer moisturizer (I wrote about my cruelty-free choice for summer skincare on my blog last year) but it doesn’t always clear up the flakiness of my skin when it’s dry over winter. No, I need a richer option – a hydrating and rejuvenating product. And I know where to find it…Even though Christmas is well and truly over, there’s no reason why I can’t smell frankincense every day, is there? I’m talking about the soothing scent of the Neal’s Yard anti-aging skincare collection. I’m always wary of trying out new skincare options as my skin is really sensitive but my first choice will always be the cruelty-free option and I’ve done a lot of research on the brand.Neal’s Yard skincare is certified by Cruelty-Free International and recognised by PETA, and the products are 100% vegetarian. Not only that; they use Fairtrade suppliers and are the first British health and beauty brand to be certified both For Life and Fair for Life by IMO. So far, so good!
The trouble with Instagram is that it makes you want to travel. I can barely open the app without spotting photos of my friends flying to far-flung destinations, skiing down a picturesque mountainside or swimming in a turquoise blue sea. And it can’t just be me that’s seeing daily updates like this, can it? Okay, Instagram isn’t exactly a holiday brochure, but it pretty-much has the same effect on me. A photo of a glittering nighttime cityscape? It’s my blogging buddy enjoying a week away in New York. A steaming hot lagoon? That’s my friend’s new year’s trip to Iceland. And the northern lights? My brother’s mate lives in Finland. So forgive me for wanting to research exotic trips every time I try to put another photo of my sewing projects on Instagram (@Cassiefairy if you’re interested!).
Budget aside I’d love to visit all of these destinations, but home-buying tends to be an expensive business and I’d like to prioritise that this year. However, I’m sure that there are some nearer-to-home trips that I can take that will be just as Instagram-worthy as my friends’ holidays. So I’ve already been on the CitizenM website this morning, daydreaming of a trip to Amsterdam for 2017.
As the capital of the Netherlands, it’s a city that I’ve always wanted to visit but have never found a reason to go. My husband has been there recently, and really I should have gone on that work trip with him but I was too busy to take a break at the time. When he returned home with photos of canals and giant waffles I realised that I’d made a mistake. I vowed to go with him ‘next time’ and I’m already drawing up a list of places I want to visit while I’m there.
I’ve been recently writing artist profiles so one of the first destinations on my ‘to do’ list is the Van Gogh Museum. I’ve read a lot about the artist and have recently been researching his work, but I’ve never seen his paintings ‘in real life’. When the Sunflowers exhibition was on at the National Gallery in London, the queue was a couple of hours long to see the exhibition, and tickets were rather expensive too. So hubby and I wandered around the gallery instead and, as we were passing a large door, it opened and we could see right into the Sunflowers exhibition. We weren’t more than a few feet away from the painting so technically I have seen it, but only for the few seconds that the door swung open and then closed again. Just that little taste of Van Gogh was enough to make me want to visit the museum in Amsterdam.
This Tuesday Shoesday I want to talk about one of my favourite new trends for A/W16 – textured shoes. I’m talking suede, velvet or even crushed velvet being used to decorate even the daintiest of sandals. It’s not just about chunky suede boots this year (although I did already invest in a lovely pair of suede boots that go with everything for Autumn), tiny pumps, classy court shoes, platforms and strappy sandals have all been given the textured treatment.
I think it’s the soft texture that makes them feel suitable for this time of year – its as though the texture makes them feel more cosy. Even though the shoes might be dainty or strappy and totally unsuitable for cold days, the soft texture gives the impression of warmth. Plus, it looks great with party dresses and wooly suits alike, so will fit in with your winter wardrobe seamlessly.
The textured fabric seems to lend a vintage feeling to most styles of shoes. The slightly muted colours created by a brushed suede or crushed velvet fabric resemble the faded hues in an old photograph. I really like this effect and, as a vintage girl at heart, it makes me want to invest in textured shoes even more to get that 70s vibe. I spotted these retro-inspired t-bar shoes below and fell in love.
A few weeks ago I investigated the concept of solar cooking during one of my Pieday Friday cooking blog posts and I discussed how the sun’s power can be harnessed to achieve a solar-powered oven to barbeque meat, cook a casserole or even bake a cake! There are lots of different types of solar devices for cooking outdoors and most work like a BBQ; directing heat towards a central cooking rack. The solar ovens look like something from outer space with futuristic fins and reflectors channelling the sun’s rays into the middle, which can reach conventional oven temperatures and safely cook a meal for the entire family.
As you probably already know I’m keen on anything that can save energy and therefore save me money but I was sceptical about these devices until I watched the many YouTube videos and saw a sponge cake being cooked on a solar BBQ! There are entry-level pop-up cookers available (which would be good for camping!) which would be a cheaper way to try out solar cooking at home, but I’m starting even smaller and trying out a solar lighter to see how I get on with that!
I got these B*Fly solar lighters and they are just like a mini-version of a solar cooker; they have two reflectors which direct sunlight into the centre point and anything in the middle of the lighter will be ignited by the heat. I tried out the lighter by stuffing the centre with some dry twigs and pointed it towards the evening sun. Even though the sun was already setting, the reflectors seemed to intensify the sun’s glare and it was easy to see where the hot point is – it was glowing! Within a few seconds the twigs were smouldering and caught on fire – pretty cool huh?! These lighters would be great for camping because you can use anything flammable that you have to hand; dry leaves, grass, newspaper, charcoal etc – they all burn well in one of these lighters. I watched a video online which shows all the types of materials being lit by the sun’s rays and it is pretty impressive – check it out here:
As you can see, it’s quite straight-forward to use one of these solar lighters and I’ve added one to my camping kit, one with the BBQ and one in the kitchen so I’ve always got one to hand for every eventuality! If you wish to see more cool videos have a look here too: http://www.youaresolar.com/
And the great news is that you can win a set of three solar lighters! I have three B*Fly lighters to give away to one lucky winner (colours may vary) so if you’d like to win 3 B*Fly solar lighters, simply RT my competition tweet here and follow @Cassiefairy and @IDCOOK. The winner will be picked at random from all the entries on Friday 28th March! Good luck!