Friday, 25 September 2015

Aurelia Probiotic Skincare

As we wave summer goodbye and side step into the Autumn season, show me any woman out there who doesn't want healthy, radiant and glowing skin to see them through the cold snap?

I often find that as the daylight shortens and things begin to chill down, my skin is left feeling dull, dry and a little lacklustre. I am constantly on the search for brands who really care about their ingredients and support the notion that we should be kind to our skin.

I mean, we ought to pay attention to what we are actually putting on our faces, right?

I was delighted to chat with the skincare angels over at Aurelia to get a better feel for their brand ethics, ethos, ingredients and principles that allow them to produce beauty products that are revered on-line within the blogging community and throughout the wider industry.

Let's be real for a second: when it comes to "hype" and "buzz" surrounding a launch, if Lily (Lily Pebbles), Anna (Vivianna Does Makeup) or Kate La Vie (formerly Gh0stparties) have it on their radar, you have my intrigue and full attention.

With this said I couldn't wait to get testing, so here is a fun trio that I selected to explore different aspects of a typical daily skincare regime to cleanse, hydrate and treat.

1. Miracle Cleanser*

I believe in miracles, especially when it comes to cleanser. The first thing that strikes me when using Aurelia products is the relaxing organic/herbal scent. For me, this type of aroma goes hand-in-hand with night cleansing.

Personally I would use this during a second cleanse once I have removed any make-up with a micellar water or oil/balm cleanser. Alternatively, feel free to pop it on top of a dry face of make-up to break it down. It is completely your own preference. With Eucalyptus, Chamomile, Rosemary and Bergamot as the main ingredients, I can tell you that this stuff smells dreamy.

Apply the cream cleanser to a dry face and massage the product into the skin. You can then remove it along with any dead skin cells with the muslin cloth provided (sorry, gross...I know) and this will reveal the shiny, happy, healthy, radiant skin that lies beneath.

2. Cell Repair Night Oil*

I took this little magic potion on a recent trip to Berlin as it was the perfect size for me to give it a true test run whilst I was away on a city break.

I am relatively new to face oils and serums, but these become all the more vital as winter hits and parched complexions need to drink up that moisture. There is something quite pleasing with the idea that my skin is repairing itself as I rest and I will do anything I can to help with that endeavour.

Apply a few drops to the palms, rub it in, inhale this blend oils fragranced by Neroli, Lavender, Rose and Mandarin, and then press it into the skin. The oil feels luxurious and is easily absorbed. With claims to firm, tone, regenerate and replenish skin with antioxidants, this is very enjoyable to use and probably the stand out product for me from what I have tried from the range. Super simple to incorporate into your routine...get ready to kiss dull, flat, tired skin goodbye.

3. Cell Revitalise Rose Mask*

Ideally we should use a mask once or twice a week and it is helpful to get into the habit during the chilly season. With rose as the chief ingredient, this mask will soothe most irritations. It is delicate enough to calm the surface of the skin and provide a gentle detox. It also works to inject some intense hydration back into the face.

All you need to do is grab a spare 5/10 minutes in your diary, apply a generous amount to dry skin and enjoy the relaxing fragrance as you kick back with a cup of tea or your favourite playlist. The perfect companion to your lazy Sunday. Remove the excess product with a damp, muslin cloth and you are good to go. Skin feels calm, plump and hydrated and should leave you ready to get back in the game.

Aurelia signify that happy blend between innovation and high end luxury. We can be confident that they are continually pushing boundaries to develop their product whilst remaining true to their core ethics and who they really are as a brand. Their packaging is recycled, their ingredient list is clean, their products are never animal tested and the results will keep their customers loyal and happy.

Another glowing example of a fresh company at its British best.

Where to find them?

Liberty London
Space NK
Instagram: @aurealiaskincare
Twitter: @AureliaSkincare

*I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes only. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Berlin: City Guide

Hard to believe that it is almost a month has passed since I was roaming the streets of Berlin, happy as a clam. Thought I would share a little of what I got up to on my trip and places you should check out if you find yourself in the Germany's edgy and wonderfully vibrant capital city. So I'll just jump right into it...

Here we go!

East side Gallery

A stretch of what remains of the Berlin wall now stands covered in spectacular street art. An ideal location to grab a drink/coffee and stretch your legs and snap a few shots on the way. The art has a distinctly striking and individualistic tone and contributes to what makes Berlin an edgy masterpiece. Make sure to capture a couple of colourful snaps and read some of the comments and messages people have written to leave their mark on quite a large chunk of history.

Boxhagener Platz/Friedrichshain

I was lucky enough to meet with a friend for a jaunt around his neighbourhood, Friedrichshain. Boxhagener Platz is a must-see, so pop it in the diary for a Sunday, when stall owners descend to sell their wares. Flea markets are great if you enjoy a good browse to secure that tricky find or are looking to bag yourself a bit of a bargain.

Sandemans Tours

From past experience I find that the best way to get to grips with a new city is to sign up for a walking tour within the first few days of your stay. This is the ideal way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, get the layout of the land and a feel for the area. Sandemann's offer a variety of tours within some of the main cities and top tourist destinations in Europe (Edinburgh included). They don't charge for their service but suggest that if you have an enjoyable time, laugh and learn you can offer a small donation for their time as staff are paid solely by tips. Dig deep into those pockets! If you find yourself in Berlin, I know a guy that knows a lot about a lot. So if you want to stretch your legs, have a history lesson and giggle along the way, Sam's your man. Imagine a 2015 John Lennon sporting tattoos and Wayfarers in a hipster sty-lee and you'll spot him, no problem. Be sure to tell him I said hello.

City Sightseeing bus tour

If your poor tootsies need a rest from all that walking, taking wrong turns and hopping on and off the S/U Bahn, snag yourself a spot on the city bus tour and take a load off. This is another option for you to sit back and relax as your capture those kodak moments of the main tourist attractions and delve deeper into your new cultural context as a city slicker. Plenty of pics to upload for every self-confessed Insta-addict or to dot around your apartment to almost fool your friends and family into thinking that you didn't spend the entire time on an extended coffee shop crawl.


The Mall of Berlin

If you haven't quite scratched that shopping itch, jump on the U-Bahn and nip off at Potsdamer Platz to quite literally lose yourself in The Mall of Berlin. With over 300 stores to tickle your fancy you are bound to find something you might like. It's also a great option if you need a break from sightseeing or if the pesky weather takes a turn for the worse. As a treat I also indulged in a quick pedicure as my poor tootsies were almost worn to the bone. I can't recommend it enough as I literally felt like a new woman and had fresh, sparkly red toes to show for it.


Ladies, this is certainly one for you. Imagine a strip of shops stretching out as far as the eye can see. Sounds good, right? If you have a few hours to spare make sure to amble down the Ku'damm (Kurfürstendamm) and you can shop to you drop. If, like me you only bring a small carry-on for a short jaunt, it will take phenomenal amounts of self control to restrict your spending spree. You will surely have room to sneak in a couple of souvenirs to remind you of your city adventure. Be sure to gaze at them fondly when the cold, wet nights begin to draw in in the UK. You will want some happy memories of your summer sun.

The Barn Coffee

I had heard some tales about The Barn before arriving in Berlin but had never sampled any of their delicious coffee for myself. They have a larger roastery further up town if you want to get down to the nuts and bolts of how to prepare your jitter-juice but if you just need a latte-to-go, rest stop or spot to flick through a magazine to pep up your travels they also have a small shop just a short wander from the Oranienburger Tor stop.

Café Anna Blaume

What could be more girly than a cute cafe beside a flower shop? *Squeal* I was sure to include a visit to Anna's on my route. A short walk from Prenzlauer Berg station lands you right at her door. The perfect pick for a breakfast, brunch or pot of tea. Their menu caters to all tastes, no matter which mood or meal time strikes. I opted for the Tranie der Paonie tea and the Crepe Valentin. So, to break it down, a delicately flavoured tea with peony petals and a thin crepe served with Bourbon ice-cream and oozing with hot bilberries.


Silo Coffee

When in Friedrichshain, stop by Silo. It ticks all the boxes with minimal interior, smooth coffee and you know how I am having a moment with filament lightbulbs. Their food is also delicious and hopefully this shot of their Avocado toast accompanied by a cool iced latte will convince you of that fact. My work here is done.

Father Carpenter

I know what you're thinking, she spent most of her time in coffee shops. I swear, this is only half true, but with a little list in my back pocket I had a few handy "go-tos" for each area. Truth to be told, in Berlin you are spoilt for choice. The 3rd wave caffeine movement has well and truly touched down in this city.

Nestled in a courtyard not far from Alexanderplatz is a hidden gem that is Father Carpenter. Colourful cups, tasty coffee, perfect sitch and smart snacks enjoying the afternoon sun in this secluded haven was my perfect recovery.

First dibs on a slab of their blondie. I may just have to fly back to get another piece.

Distrikt Coffee

I have to say that this was my favourite caffeine drip of the trip. If you didn't know to look for it chances are it may pass you by so keep your maps handy. Delicious coffee, naked lightbulbs and an industrial-chic vibe, the folk at Distrikt know their way around a flat white and serve up a mean pulled chicken sandwich and lemon/lavender cake along with a wide variety of other items to entice you on their mouth-watering menu.

Que Pasa

Burrito babes and Fajita fiends, take note. If you heart Mexican and want to feast on some delicious food and a cheeky cocktail with your evening meal, rock up and bag a table at Que Pasa.

Spoiler Alert: This is probably the most food I have seen together on one plate at one time.

Someone hand me some comfies... If you need me I will be rolling around on the floor.

Curry Wurst

Word to the wise, don't knock it 'til you've tried it. I swore I never would sample their infamous dish, but strolling past Charlie's Beach at Checkpoint Charlie, I caved. I definitely didn't think that it would be my jam, but I snaffled down every last bite. Sausage, sauce and a dash of curry powder with a little side of chips. Make sure not to skip out on the lashings of ketchup and mayo, it's the German way. Some people say that it is totally the wurst (get it?), but when it Rome.

Will you give it a try?

Mini Photo Booths

These are dotted all over the city and for 2 Euros a piece you can snap a little strip of photos with friends, better half or a selfie on your tod. Perfect to stick on the fridge or to decorate your bedroom with a few pieces of washi tape.

DM (Drogerie Markt)

I made a few stops by DM on this trip, either to pick up a much needed bottle of water (*GASP*) or to browse through the budget beauty items. Whilst I couldn't go crazy on my retail therapy, I could pick up a few items from unfamiliar brands to test how comparable they were or that simply leapt off the counter and into my basket.

Typical brands you will find are Catrice, Manhattan and Essence and you can be sure to spot a few cult products or dupes making their way around the beauty blogosphere (I'm looking at you Essence "In the Nude"/Charlotte Tilbury "Pillowtalk" dupe)...

Time to put everything to the test.

So, there we go. Well done for getting this far! This is by no means an exhaustive list of all that you can cover in Berlin, but just wanted to flag up a few personal highlights. I am positive there are Ger-many more.

Have you been to Berlin? What did you love? Tell me all about it!


Thursday, 3 September 2015

travel tips: solo trips

We're all goin' on a...summer holiday. But hang on a minute, what if we're not?

I don't know about you, but in negotiating the often unpredictable current of my late 20s/early 30s it became clear that an impossible task lay before me. Pinning down exactly the same annual leave and spare funds as friends and family quite rapidly became a puzzle I couldn't solve, so I created a new way.

Not wanting to relive every Spanish family holiday of days gone by on the Costa-del-So-and-So, I didn't want to end up missing out on taking a much needed break from the 9-to-5 or satisfying my inner wanderlust.

Keep talkin'.

It can be tricky when friends are flying off on jaunts with their better halves, or don't have a lil' cash floating around their piggy bank at the same time as you can afford to take a breather. Some have kiddies, commitments or other pressing things that demand their attention (and dollars.) This is just life, so instead of getting irritated, just roll with it.

But solo, Claire. Isn't that weird?

Of course not. I have always been quite an avid traveller, but it takes an extra layer of organisation and confidence to pack that bag and ride solo. I have racked up a few little trips here and there including Sardinia, New York, Oslo, London (many times), Copenhagen and most recently Berlin, so I wanted to jot down a few dos and don'ts for any of you who out there who have been thinking about doing the same and need a little push.

Disclaimer: This is by no means an expert guide or definitive list but rather some helpful pointers (*crosses fingers*) of things I do personally that I have now developed into something of a routine, so let me jump right into it.

1. Hand Luggage Only-In order to nail down that cheap deal be sure to take a cabin bag only. Most budget airlines will charge you for all the added extras these days, so if you are planning to jet off for a few days a standard cabin bag should be all you need. Keep it simple. Make sure that the case fits the dimension requirements, each airline has their own specifications and sometimes they can catch you out (I'm looking at you Flybe).

2. Pack Light-Choose a few key outfits or pieces that you can switch out and are easily interchangeable. This works for both seasons, but obviously it will be much easier to cram in many light layers in a summer case for warmer climes than it will stuffing in a snuggly jumper or two for a winter break. Squish and roll.

3. Timing is Everything-From experience I have found that 4-6 nights is the ideal length for a solo saunter. It provides you with a little bit more of a window than trying to pack the key sights into a weekend but it isn't as long as a whole week in your own company, which can feel a little much. Do what works for you and whatever you feel comfortable with. I feel like this time frame gives me the space to relax into my surroundings and place myself "in the map" rather than feeling like I have blinked and missed it.

4. Pamper Time-When you are taking a trip on your own you will be left with a lot of "down time" when you are not out exploring the sights or hitting up every coffee shop in town. With this is mind, it can help to take a few things with you to help you relax in the evenings when you are back at your apartment/Air BNB. Magazines/Books, face masks, music, skin care extras: there is a lot of value in taking a bit of extra time on yourself doing whatever you enjoy to relax and gives you that feel good feelin'. Losing yourself in a copy of cosmo? Taking a bath and slapping on a face mask? Prancing around your apartment to that embarrassing track you pretend in public that you don't love (ahem, Taylor Swift?) Do what you gotta do.

5. My Pad- An Ipad/tablet makes a happy travel companion if you are lucky enough to have one. Being solo and also a lay-dee, you won't be wondering the streets of your new city into the small hours of the morning so it helps to a have a "one stop shop" for your entertainment needs. You can use your down time to check out some more hot-spots, catch up on a few emails or settle down with a Netflix movie or episode of your favourite show.

6. I Got Plans-There is nothing like organised fun, right? It is definitely possible to plan out a few details of your trip without having a militant agenda. I always lay out the time I have to work with and jot down a few of the top things I want to take in and spread it over a few days and the rest of the time is yours to get creative. The beauty of this is that you have a loose structure without seeming like a crazy person. Hopefully. This is not about playing bingo with your own itinerary and you won't get into trouble if you don't tick off everything on the list. So don't sweat the small stuff.

7. Map it Out-Before you leave try to have a few maps stashed away as they will become your new best friend. Take a notebook. Print some city maps. Add apps to your phone that you can use offline. You may not be able to get on-line instantly especially if your phone is shut off for travel, so it is best to box clever. Plus, printed maps are pretty retro, right?

8. The List-I love lists. They help me organise my thoughts and get a handle on what I want to achieve. In the run up to your trip take a little time out on a weekend to sit down and read around where you travelling to and note anything that could be useful. The route from the airport to the city centre. The journey to your accommodation. Get a feel for the different areas/districts of your city and the things you can do there. What is it famous for? What floats your boat? If you are a foodie or coffee junkie then pick out some recommendations from other blogs/Trip Advisor that get a good rep and may be right up your street. It is a good idea to note the district of each place so that if you find yourself in a particular neighbourhood one afternoon you can quickly scan your list for somewhere you know is great, rather than standing on a street corner, hangry and bamboozled by choice. I've been there, and it ain't pretty.

9. Set a Curfew-This may take you back to the time of your teens but bear with me on this one. This will mostly be dependent on the area of the city you are staying in and also how quickly it gets dark. As a girl, you want to feel safe at all times especially on your route home each night. I'm talkin' about walking down the street, nipping off the tube etc. By having a set time in your mind that you want to return it ensures that you are safe but also gives you a little time to wind down before lights out. WIN.

10. GPS, don't Guess-Become very familiar with your route home and get to know it like the back of your hand. Don't take perceived short-cuts or be an alley cat if you are walking solo. Trust me, it really isn't worth it to shave 2 minutes off your journey. Stick to main roads that are well lit and surrounded by people. You may get the occasional cheeky comment/whistle if you pass a group, people can be annoying like that. Just ignore it, keep to your eyes ahead and skip home quickly. If it helps you can listen to music (one ear phone is plenty so traffic can't surprise you or no-one can sneak up on you.) If you are feeling a little uneasy you can also take a fake call. Whatever gives you peace or mind, no-one is there to judge, so do whatever works.

11. Planes, Trains and Automobiles-Chances are if you are headed for a city break you will have to weave you way between buses, trams and underground etc. A word to the wise, get to know your transport and tickets options. Most cities will offer special daily tickets/weekly tickets or city cards that will generally make your life a whole lot easier and your purse will thank you.

12. On Tour- I have found that this is the best way to cover the essential tourist attractions or must-sees and capture those kodak moments. It also helps you get a feel for the city and the layout of the land. Most main cities will offer free walking tours or City Sightseeing bus tours if you prefer to kick back and rest tired paws. Make sure to work this in within the first couple of days. You can then use the other time to go off the beaten track to find those side street surprises.

13. Table for One- Do me a favour and go for dinner, on your own. I know I know, it is slightly weird at first and takes a little practice. Some people buckle with feeling all kinds of self-conscious, but take a book if you are worried about the lack of chat. I can't deny it is a little trickier than having a coffee on your own but you will get the hang of it. Trust me, give it a go. If you have plans (be it now or in the future) to travel alone you will just need to get over it. It is something I don't even think twice about now and a good skill to get "down".

14. Wifi- Usually when I touch down at my destination I switch my phone network off so that I can use it solely for a camera, maps and to check my email on the move. Use free WIFI at cafes and other spots around the city to check your GPS, sreenshot that map or basically stay connected with life. You will usually find places dotted all over the city to do this and sneaking some WIFI when you get the chance will hopefully keep you sane and save you from selling a kidney to pay for your next phone bill.

15. Disconnect-There are times to stay connected with the globe, and there are times to shut the world off. I was reminded of this most recently when I treated myself to a spa day and had the opportunity to toss my phone in the locker and not give it a second thought. This is a foreign concept to those with FOMO and who crave connectivity. Very rarely in life do we get to switch our phones on silent or power down, so when you get the chance...DO IT.

If you have never travelled alone, you should definitely try it on for size. It is amazing experience that helps develop your confidence and sense of adventure. Whether you need to take a break, grab a little solace or escape your bubble, always remember that there is nothing wrong with taking some time to please yourself. You will gain vital life skills that you can apply in a variety of situations and it will also leave you with an incredible sense of fulfilment and accomplishment. Plus you will have lots of fun along the way (and maybe meet Spiderman).

I have heard so many stories from friends who would love to explore on their own but find themselves stuck in their tracks due to fear, stigma or social expectation.

It could be time to buck the trend, people.

Truth is, I already know you can do it.  Don't talk yourself down from a solo adventure. Europe is such a fantastic playground with so many beautiful cities itching to be discovered and the magic is that they are but a short plane ride away. There can be something quite fascinating about parachuting yourself into a space that is out with your usual circle and blending into a new culture. City buzz, incredible landscapes, photo opportunities, language, friendly people. What's not to like?

Situations change. Life changes. Sometimes you can't wait around for someone else to make the first move. The only thing left to decide now is where you want to go...

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