Wednesday, 27 April 2016

April Birchbox with Rifle Paper Co.

Regular readers of my blog probably already know that I love a good subscription box. I’ve tried a fair few in my time, from Graze to My Little Box and from Crown and Glory Glitterati to A Beautiful Mess Happy Mail. Recently I decided to end my Happy Mail subscription and try something different. After a bit of research, I selected Birchbox as my next monthly surprise and quickly signed myself up. I was actually just in time to receive the March box, but it wasn’t in the design that everyone else got so I decided not to put it on my blog, and instead start with my April box.

This month, Birchbox teamed up with US cult stationery and lifestyle brand, Rifle Paper Co. We were given the option of choosing one of two box designs beforehand, so I went for this beautiful floral design. There was also the option to pay a little more and receive two notebooks from the brand, but I was very restrained and reminded myself that my notebook collection is getting to be slightly ridiculous!

For anyone that hasn’t heard of Birchbox before, it’s a monthly beauty subscription service. Each box usually consists of five beauty treats from a range of both well-known and emerging brands, and occasionally there is a lifestyle item thrown in too. As well as the monthly beauty box, the website also consists of a shop where you can purchase all the brands that have been featured in their boxes. Every time you shop, you earn 10% of your final total back in Birchbox points, and when you have 100 points; you’ve got £10 to spend! Subscribers also get free delivery on orders over £35, or when you buy any of that month’s beauty treats in full-size.

When I first signed up to Birchbox, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but had heard great things about it so had high expectations. If I’m honest, I wasn’t bowled over by this month’s box. It was OK; don’t get me wrong I will definitely be trying out the products, but I just didn’t feel very wowed by the contents.

Kueshi Foot Care Cream – Full size RRP £12

First up in this box was a product from a brand I haven’t heard of before, Kueshi Foot Care Cream. This is a nourishing lotion enriched with sweet almond oil and royal jelly to soothe and soften your feet. It also contains tea tree oil to calm and relieve them, and sinks in quickly for instantly happy feet. I’ve never really used products specifically for my feet before and don’t tend to pay them much attention really. But with summer coming up (supposedly!) it’s probably a good idea for me to start showing them some TLC, so I will give this a try to see if it makes any difference to them.

Balance Me Tinted Wonder Eye Cream - Full size RRP £20

This cream has a dual-purpose formula that not only brightens and conceals dark circles, but gets to work beneath the surface too. It hydrates, plumps, firms and battles signs of ageing – a true multi-tasker! Ingredients include cucumber seed and rosehip oils, which brighten, soothe and hydrate the sensitive skin around our eyes, while arctic cloudberry seed extract packs an anti-ageing punch of antioxidants and vitamin E. It comes in a universal shade containing light-reflecting particles, which brighten and conceal dark circles no matter how many hours sleep you’ve had the night before. I’m actually quite looking forward to using this product, as I have so much trouble with dark circles and would love to find something that helps. I really like the Balance Me products that I’ve tried so far, so have high hopes for this one.

Beaver Professional Hydro Nutritive Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner – Full size RRP from £11.50

This was another new brand to me and I’m not normally particularly adventurous when it comes to hair care. These gentle formulas are set to be your best bet when it comes to reviving tired strands. Both products are packed with moisturising ingredients, like avocado oil and aloe vera, to cleanse your hair from root to tip without compromising on hydration. The shampoo repairs and rebuilds hair, leaving it smoother, softer and shinier, while the conditioner deeply nourishes and strengthens dry, frizzy, or damaged hair, leaving it softer, smoother and healthier looking. I’m definitely up for trying anything that says it will leave my hair looking healthy and shiny, but it’s a shame the conditioner came in such a small sachet, as there’s no way that will be enough for my long locks!

Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara – Full size RRP £17.50

Benefit BADgal Lash boasts a famously big, bodacious wand that has been specially designed to coat each and every lash. The ultra-black formula adds a super dark, sultry colour to eyes while ensuring that your lashes are as full, thick, and voluminous as possible. Now, I’m a big fan of Benefit mascaras (and Benefit in general!) but I was a little disappointed not to have ‘Dew the Hoola’ in my box. Sure, I will use this mascara and I do love the effect it gives me, but it would have been nice to try something new and different.

The last item in the box was this eyeliner, and again, this is a new brand for me. A creative force to be reckoned with in the fashion world, designer Cynthia Rowley has since turned her hand to beauty for her Birchbox-exclusive make-up line. This creamy pencil rivals the best of them thanks to its velvety-smooth finish, smudge-proof formula, and long-lasting results. They come in on-trend shades like rose gold and silver, as well as the classic black. I haven’t really been using eyeliner much recently, but perhaps this will encourage me to get back into it. I’m loving the idea of rose gold eyeliner, so might just have to put in a little order!

Overall I’m kind of split when it comes to this box. I absolutely love the box itself and am now very tempted to check out the Rifle Paper Co. website (not that I need any more stationery!) To be fair though, the box did come with an exclusive 25% off voucher code, so I feel I can justify doing a bit of shopping. It definitely brings the spring vibes with it and was a lovely parcel to receive on a gloomy April afternoon. There is a good range of skincare, make-up and hair care products from both big brands and some less well known, which gives you a bit of variety. It’s also nice that you get at least one full-sized product, although some of the sample sizes (I’m looking at you conditioner) are pretty useless for someone with long hair.

I’m not totally convinced by Birchbox yet, but there are parts of it that I really like so I’m sticking with it for the time being to see how things go. I’m looking forward to seeing what next month brings!

Are you a Birchbox subscriber, and if so what do you think of it? Or are there other subscription boxes that you’d recommend? I’m always interested to try new ones, beauty or otherwise.

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Monday, 25 April 2016

The S+ Sleep Tracker*

If you’re a good sleeper then you probably don’t really think much about your sleep – it just kind of happens! But for a lot of people, sleep doesn’t just happen and problems like insomnia, sleep deprivation and fatigue are part of day-to-day life. One in three people in the UK regularly suffer from poor sleep and therefore experience problems with daytime functioning as a result of this. Poor sleep is also associated with long-term mental and physical health problems, so getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important.

I’ve always struggled with my sleep, which I believe is partly down to my physical (and mental) health problems. Some of these issues can’t be changed, but I do believe there are things I, and others, can do to make improvements. When I was offered the chance to try out an exciting new sleep tracking system and write about it on my blog, I jumped at the chance! Ironically, before I received that e-mail, I had actually been trying to work on my sleep by going to bed earlier and monitoring my sleep with a free app. So it seemed like the perfect time to give The S+ by ResMed a try.

This device is the world’s first non-contact, fully comprehensive sleep tracking system, and is now available to buy here for £129.95. The S+ features patent-protected SleepSensor technology, which makes it possible for the first time to track, analyse and improve sleep at home without needing to wear a wristband or use electrodes or mattress strips. Unlike other sleep trackers it also has the capability to analyse each stage of sleep through the night.

It is designed to improve sleep from the very first night and results from the US, where the S+ is already available, show that below-average sleepers slept an extra 45 minutes each night after just one week’s use of the S+, which sounds fantastic!

I was a bit worried when I heard that I was going to have to put a device on my bedside table, as often these things can look quite ugly. But when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised by how sleek and stylish it was, and how well it fitted in with my room décor. It comprises a device that sits beside your bed, a cloud-hosted Sleep Mentor system, and a free mobile app, which can be downloaded on both Apple iOS and Android phones. The bedside device uses a highly calibrated respiratory and bio-motion sensor to measure and analyse sleep stages. It records the movement of your chest as you breathe, and overall body movements such as positional changes, arm twitches and shrugs.

Every morning, you can check the S+ app, which delivers a sleep score and sleep chart to your phone or tablet. The S+ Sleep Mentor also uses a software algorithm based on over two million nights of sleep data to deliver personalised feedback and suggestions to help you improve your sleep. The great thing about the S+ is that, unlike other smartphone apps and sleep trackers, it accurately tracks every stage of sleep and provides a complete breakdown of how the night unfolds. You can find out how long it takes you to fall asleep, and track cycles of light, deep and REM sleep to help build up a picture of the quality and quantity of sleep you are getting.

As well as tracking your sleep and getting a sleep score and chart, the S+ also has a range of additional features to help you improve your sleep:

·      Relax to Sleep provides a choice of soothing sounds that synchronise with your breathing pattern to help you relax and fall asleep at bedtime.
·      Mind Clear gives you the opportunity to record a voice message or type a text note to help clear your mind when you’re trying to go to sleep, which sounds brilliant as I’m terrible for overthinking at night!
·      Smart Alarm allows you to set a window of time for the device to naturally wake you when you are in light sleep, which means you wake up feeling more refreshed.

The S+ also has additional sensors that help to analyse your sleeping environment by measuring light, temperature and noise levels. It can then evaluate whether your sleep patterns are influenced by these factors. It also analyses how lifestyle factors such as exercise, stress levels, caffeine and alcohol consumption affect your sleep.

I am so excited to give this a try, and the rest of my family also seem to be rather interested in it as well! I’ve always been curious to know what my sleep patterns are like, as every day I wake up feeling exhausted and lethargic. I do have chronic fatigue as part of my illnesses, but I’m really hoping that by working on my sleep I can give myself the best chance possible to feel ready to face the day.

I will be testing the S+ out over the next month or so, and will come back to you soon with a follow-up post to let you know how I’m getting on. If you want to check out other people’s reviews and experiences, you can follow the hashtags #fixmysleep and #sleeptracker on Twitter or follow @fixmysleep for updates and news. I’m really looking forward to feeding back to you how I get on with this new gadget, but would also be interested to hear from anyone else that’s tried it out. Fingers crossed I can get myself into a healthier and more effective sleep routine!

Have you tried this sleep tracker or one by another company? What do you do to help you get a good night’s sleep?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Sunday Snippets - 24th April 2016

The last week has been super busy, which unfortunately means my health has been suffering more so than usual. I get really frustrated at times – I try to do something ‘normal’ and nice, but just end up unwell and in pain, which just seems to cloud the positivity of doing something happy. It can be very difficult to focus on the good times when they are outweighed by such difficult times, but I do try my best to separate the two, otherwise I would never push myself to do exciting things. Despite the fact I’ve been feeling pretty poorly, I have done some really lovely things this week and made some great memories, which is so important to me.

Last Sunday was fairly quiet, which was lovely after a busy week. I had a nice lie-in, and then had to do a bit of Hen party planning on my laptop. I spent the rest of the morning blogging and watching The Simpsons. I’m so desperate to go to Orlando and see everything in Universal Studios (and Disney of course!) My Grandma came over for lunch, so it was nice to have a chat with her. In the afternoon I decided to have some chill time, so caught up on some YouTube videos and replied to some of my Facebook messages. My brother sent me some adorable photos of the baby bunny he gave his fiancé, Lisa, for her birthday. They’ve named him Benjie and I can’t wait to have a cuddle! In the evening I had a Lush bubbly bath and did a face mask, which I haven’t done for ages.

Monday was a busy but exciting day, and totally worth the health nose-dive afterwards! My Mum and I went up to London for the birthday present I had given her back in February. Our first stop was One Aldwych Hotel for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired afternoon tea. I will do a proper blog post about it soon, but it was seriously amazing, very creative and the staff were so lovely. We started with savouries and then went onto the sweet treats. Thankfully we were able to take a doggy bag home with us, as my broken digestive system couldn’t eat all of it! A couple of hours of indulgence later, we waddled out of the hotel and had a wander (wheelchair push) round Covent Garden. It wasn’t particularly wheelchair friendly unfortunately, but we looked in a few shops including Paperchase, Kikki. K, Mac Cosmetics and Charlotte Tilbury. I may have made a few cheeky purchases, so keep your eyes peeled for a blog post/video soon! I was shattered, in pain and pretty unwell by the time we got home, but that was something I’d prepared myself for.

I felt pretty awful when I woke up on Tuesday, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get much rest. I had to be up early for an appointment with my physio, which went OK. He wants me to be seen by the orthopaedic team again because my hips/pelvis are getting worse and the pain is becoming unbearable. So I need to get that sorted when I see my GP. I came home and rested for a bit, then a family friend came round and I had a session of reflexology, which was much needed! I’m pretty sure I fell asleep towards the end of the session! In the afternoon my Mum took my youngest sister and I for our first bridesmaid dress fitting for David and Emma’s wedding. By the time we got home my body had well and truly had enough, so I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening laid out on the sofa. An ASOS parcel arrived in the evening though and made me smile.

Wednesday was a little bit quieter, although I still had to be up early for another hospital appointment. This time I saw the psychologist from the Pain Clinic. Unfortunately they won’t offer me any individual psychological help at the moment, which my GP believes I desperately need, so I came away feeling pretty low and alone. I came home and ended up having a nap because I felt so wiped out. I managed to get some planning and preparation done for a YouTube video when I woke up though, which was good. I spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos and catching up on my blog emails. I also popped out to Waitrose with my Mum and picked up a couple of jars so I can try making some overnight oats for breakfast. On this new diet I’m meant to be trying it says I shouldn’t eat grains, but then says I can eat raw oats, so if anyone knows any yummy recipes let me know!

On Thursday I had yet another early start, as I needed to ring the doctors to try and get an appointment for that day. Thankfully I got one, so my Mum took me down there and I saw my GP. I’ve been feeling more and more rubbish since starting Pregabalin and the weight gain is also really affecting my eating disorder, so she’s advised me to gradually come off it. I’ll have to discuss an alternative with my specialist when I see him in a few weeks, but I just want to be off this. I came home, rested and watched some nesting blue tits in our garden (from inside). I met a few of my old college friends for lunch and decided to try some blood orange Sanpellegrino, which was lovely. I had a really nice catch-up with the girls and we looked at a couple of shops too. Unfortunately, since getting home, I was in quite a lot of digestive pain and felt pretty unwell, which seems to be the norm at the moment. But I’m glad I got to see the girls nonetheless. Richard and Lisa popped over in the evening before heading out to dinner, and we gave Lisa her birthday presents.

I was able to stay in bed for a little longer on Friday morning, but had to get up at a fairly reasonable for my appointment at the hairdressers. I had a colour treatment (which I really find helps to brighten up my colour!) and then a hair cut, and decided to have a little bit more taken off the ends than usual. It’s still pretty long, but I feel like it’s so much shorter! My Mum and I then popped to Tesco to get some essentials – I also managed to pick up a pretty floral skirt and a couple of flowery bras. We then had a little look round Marks and Spencer, and I picked up this lightweight dressing gown covered in pink hearts. I’ve been looking for a lighter dressing gown for ages because my old one desperately needed replacing, so I was so glad to finally find one I like! By the time we got home I was exhausted, so just spent the rest of the day resting and watching a bit of TV.

Yesterday was a really special day – my Grandma turned 90! My Mum, Dad, two sisters and I made our way to my Aunt and Uncle’s in London, where we met up with the rest of my Dad’s side of the family for a birthday celebration. We actually managed to get every single member of the family, plus other halves, there, which is pretty good going considering how many of us there are! We spent the day enjoying lovely food, mingling, chatting and taking family photos. We got this adorable cake from Waitrose, and put a couple of number sparklers on it so we could sing Happy Birthday. Before we left to come home, I asked my Grandma if I could take a photo with her to remember the special day by. She responded by saying “Ooh, shall we take a selfie?!” If I manage to reach 90 one day, I really hope I’ll be as switched on and independent as she is!

If you haven’t read my blog before, I just wanted to let you know that I have a second blog, which mainly focuses on my health in more depth than I talk about it here. It’s largely for friends and family to follow and keep up with what’s going on, but if it’s something you would be interested in reading as well, you are more than welcome to follow me over there. I’ve actually changed the name from Unicorns and Floral Crowns to ‘Zebra Crossing’ and you can find it by clicking here. I’m trying to keep it updated fairly regularly, so hopefully there will be something there for you to read! I’m also trying to post on Snapchat a bit more, so if you fancy following me, my username is Jennycole44.

What have you been up to this week? I always enjoy hearing about your news and adventures!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Sunday Snippets - 17th April 2016

I’m not quite sure where the last week has gone! It’s been a pretty busy week, and looking at my calendar I don’t think it’s going to quieten down any time soon! So I’m going to have to really try and pace myself as much as I can, and grab rest breaks as much as possible. Although I’ve had a few medical appointments this week, there have been some nice things as well, which makes things a bit more balanced. In the earlier part of the week I actually felt like spring was finally here, and wore my first short-sleeved item of clothing outside! But the last few days it seems like winter hasn’t quite finished with us yet, and I’ve been snuggled up in warm jumpers and fluffy blankets, watching the rain pour down outside.

Last Sunday was another quiet one, which is generally quite typical for my routine. I always try to do some blogging on a Sunday (like writing these posts) but then try and have a bit of a ‘me time’ day if I can. After a nice lie-in, I spent the rest of my morning working on my blog and watching The Simpsons. I’ve decided to rename Sundays ‘Simpsons Sunday,’ as I tend to spend my Sunday mornings watching all the episodes I’ve recorded! I did some odd jobs once I’d finished my blogging, then decided to have some chill time. So I put some YouTube videos on and browsed through some of my favourite blogs.

On Monday I had quite a slow morning, which seems to be becoming a bit of a thing for me at the moment. I did manage to do a bit of sorting/tidying in my bedroom though, so tried to see that as a positive. My Mum then drove me over to the hospital for my appointment with my urology nurse. She was running nearly an hour late, which made me even more anxious, but she decided not to take my catheter out in the end. Instead, we made a morning appointment for a couple of weeks time so she can keep me there for a few hours and make sure I can self-catheterise again, otherwise she’ll put a catheter back in. My Mum and I then ran some errands on the way home. I received my magazine from Mind in the post, which really cheered me up.

My Tuesday morning was spent responding to blog e-mails and editing a video, which you can check out here. I then relaxed for a while watching TV and replying to Facebook comments. In the afternoon, my Dad took me to the local medical centre for my appointment with my psychiatrist. It didn’t really go as I’d expected and I’ve got some things to process, but I guess it went OK. I found these Nakd Nibbles in the cupboard, so nibbled on them when I got home. I’d forgotten how nice they are!

On Wednesday I had absolutely no plans, which is always a lovely feeling! I had a fairly quiet morning, which started with me backing up all the photos on my phone ready for getting a new phone. I spent the rest of the morning working on a blog post. After resting for a bit, I took some photos for future blog posts, which included this new sleep device that I’ve been sent to try out. I managed to get some e-mails replied to, then had to go out with my Dad to pick up (and pay for!) my car, which was at the garage for a service and MOT. Needless to say, my bank account was not happy!

On Thursday morning I went over to Reading with my Mum and Dad. The first store we went to was the Apple Store, as my phone has been getting progressively worse to the point of being unusable. So, I part-exchanged my old phone and treated myself to the rose gold iPhone SE. It’s so pretty! I just need to find a nice case for it now, so if anyone has any recommendations please let me know. We then went to John Lewis so my Mum could look for a dress for my brother’s wedding. I also had a look at the cameras and think I have decided on a new vlogging camera, which I hope to get soon. We had a bit of lunch before going to House of Fraser to continue the hunt for a wedding outfit (which my Mum managed to find!) I rested for a while when we got home, then popped to Waitrose with my Mum and was very happy to find some Rude Health Coconut Drink, as we’d been told they had stopped selling it (I feel like this is a rather sad thing to be excited about!)

I really struggled to get up on Friday morning and was feeling quite unwell, which was probably payback from going to Reading. So I just took it slowly and tried to allow myself rest throughout the day. I did manage to do a bit of tidying in my bedroom in the morning, although it doesn’t seem to look much different, which is always frustrating! I then snuggled up on the sofa to catch up on some YouTube videos, and did a bit of planning for my own videos in this cute Veronica Dearly notebook. The rest of my afternoon was just spent resting, watching YouTube and doing some bits and bobs that needed doing.

Yesterday I had planned to go to a local farm to see some baby animals with my brother’s fiancé, Emma. But when I woke up it was pouring with rain and freezing cold, so that idea went out the window! Emma came over and we had a think about what we could do. After lots of consideration, we decided to go into a local town with my Mum and sister for a spot of ‘lunch.’ We were going to go to Creams, but it was pretty busy, so instead we went to a smaller place called Frenchies. It’s a really cute American style diner, which specialises in desserts. Looking through the menu, we were quickly salivating at all the amazing dishes they had on offer and struggling to pick just one. When our desserts arrived they looked absolutely amazing, but mine was massive! Needless to say, I couldn’t eat it all, but it was really yummy and I’d love to go back and try some of the other things. Full, and in a sugar coma, from our lunch, we decided to have a look round some of the shops. First, we popped into Boots and Superdrug, and spent quite a while lusting over all the make-up. My wish list is rapidly growing! We also went into Accessorize, as my sisters and I need to look for bags for one of the weddings, but unfortunately we didn’t find anything (although I did see a bag I loved, but it wasn’t suitable for the wedding). We finished up in Primark, where Emma and Bekkah (my sister) had a lot of fun trying on different sunglasses! When we got home I rested on the sofa and did some Hen Party planning.

If you haven’t read my blog before, I just wanted to let you know that I have a second blog, which mainly focuses on my health in more depth than I talk about it here. It’s largely for friends and family to follow and keep up with what’s going on, but if it’s something you would be interested in reading as well, you are more than welcome to follow me over there. I’ve actually changed the name from Unicorns and Floral Crowns to ‘Zebra Crossing’ and you can find it by clicking here. I’m trying to keep it updated fairly regularly, so hopefully there will be something there for you to read! I’m also trying to post on Snapchat a bit more, so if you fancy following me, my username is Jennycole44.

What have you been up to this week? I always enjoy hearing about your news and adventures!

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