Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Don’t Be Jeal-y, Get Gel-y

Sensationail - Pink Chiffon

Are gel manicures worth a chunk of your paycheque?

I believe so.

The fact that you get to look down at the shiny result for more than just a few days before chipping - if it even does at all - makes it worth it for me.

Since becoming a mum, I simply don't have the luxury of time to make an appointment at a salon let alone frequent one.

For a good long while post-birth my nails were a plain old sight, much like the rest of me, but I'll never forget the day I managed to paint my nails for the first time whilst Ernie napped.

It gave me such a buzz!

The fear of knowing that he could screech out at any moment and all my efforts would be spoiled, and the primped and polished pride I felt after my success.

Seche Vite's fast dry topcoat was my secret weapon in those days, and now it's my Sensationail kit.

I get a full two weeks out of every application. I remove them and re-apply them with ease and with minimal damage to my nails. Even less so if I remember to rub oil onto my nails everyday.

I've already written about how finding even a minute to swipe on some makeup in the morning or simply getting out of your pyjamas can make a huge difference to how you feel, and more importantly keep you feeling like your old self, in a time of such huge change - transitioning into motherhood.

Dedicating a sliver of time out of your day, solely for something entirely superficial and devoted to yourself, is really important.

Now I know what you might be thinking - about giving yourself a manicure let alone a gel one - ain't nobody got time for that!

But honestly, with a little practice and patience, and either a napping child or a helpful husband, you can.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is, your time as a mummy is precious, so if you are going to use some of it to give yourself a manicure, it might as well be one that lasts!

To help you on your way here are my top gel tips...

When filing remember to look at the hands from every angle. Never ‘saw’ back and forth on the tip of the nail. Instead, gently run the file across the nail in one direction. Beginning at the outside edge, pull towards the centre and repeat.

Thoroughly cleansing your nails is the first step for a long lasting manicure. Use a cuticle remover - it will quickly soften the cuticles so you can use an orange wood stick or a cuticle pusher to push them back off the nail plate.

Lightly, ever so lightly, buff the surface shine off the nails. You don't want to damage the nails natural thickness, as over buffing will thin your nails drastically. When removing and re-applying, you only need to buff the re-growth.

Cleanse with the product supplied. Don’t touch any of the nails after cleaning as this will transfer natural oils from your fingertips and will result in the product not settling properly.

After applying each coat, if you get polish on your skin, use a thin angled eye liner brush dipped in remover. Or, dip an orange wood stick in remover without any cotton wrapped around the tip since the typical orange stick wrapped in cotton will leave fuzz.

Apply the polish as thinly as you can. Finish by gingerly brushing lacquer across the tip of the nail. This will seal the free edge, and go a long way to preventing chips and lifting. Leave a tiny margin around the sides and around the cuticle - it will increase the length of time that the product will stay looking perfect.

Don't wipe off the shiny, tacky residue from any of the layers as this is a very important part. You only need to remove it after you've cured the topcoat. When using a darker shade it's normal to see some colour come away with the cleanser on the lint-free pad.

With regular use of cuticle oil, you can prevent hang nails and dry cuticles, strengthen your nails and restore health and shine to the entire area. I use CND Solar Oil as part of my nightly regime. This way I know that there will be at least five hours (where I won’t be washing my hands) for the product to do its job.

Above all else DO NOT PICK. If you pick at gel nails you are going to cause a lot of damage. So don’t do it! Remove them properly, or go to the technician who applied them for you.

If you are not interested in home kits and would never dream of doing your own nails as it does take practice and you are in the Tunbridge Wells area email me at elliemaeconnoley@gmail.com and book an appointment with me!


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Wholemeal Pancakes


As far as I'm concerned if you can buy wholemeal, why buy the bleached alternative?

Once you ditch 'white' stuff it's hard to go back.

Thankfully Ernest doesn't know the difference - for now - so these wholemeal pancakes go down a real treat.

I LOVE making pancakes. You need a good non-stick pan, mine's so good I don't even need to use any oil to grease it. Which makes these even more wholesome, and easy to make.

All you need is...

1 Cup of Wholemeal plain flour - I like to use the one Allinson make
1 Cup of Unsweetened almond milk - or your preferred milk
1 Egg
1 Pinch of Bicarbonate of soda or baking powder

Just whisk it all together, add a ladleful of the batter to the pan, on a medium heat, and swirl it around until you get a nice even layer. You want to cook the pancake for about 40 seconds on each side. Repeat until all the batter is gone, and you have a beautiful golden brown stack of pancakes. Enjoy!

I've served mine with banana, greek yoghurt, and Sweet Freedom syrup.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

Hormonal Acne Help


Here we bloody go again! Although hopefully not for not much longer.

I really need to start taking my own advice more, the trouble is when faced with spots, it's really hard not to panic and go into overdrive on the skincare front - which is so often the main factor in my skin blowing up.

I've always been plagued with hormonally-related acne, the classic T-Zone of spots is not my problem, it's exclusively a U-Zone for me.

If you're dealing with hormonal acne, there are two main indicators: Your breakouts happen along the lower third of your face, and it gets worse during times of hormonal upheaval - like before your period, during pregnancy, and now for me since I've stopped breastfeeding.

I had huge success with diligent Benzoyl Peroxide application throughought my pregnancy (from about 3 months in - when my skin was at it's all time worse) and for all the time I was breastfeeding I experienced the clearest, calmest, skin of my life.

So whatever hormone was dominant then, suited me to a tee, and bearing in mind I was one of the lucky few who experienced a complete absence of fertility until 5 or 6 weeks after completely weaning my baby from the breast (at around 18 months).

To my horror within weeks of said weaning my chin and around my mouth blew up with horrible, painful cystic like spots - I panicked - went out and bought some of the awful astringent skincare junk cruelly targeted at acne sufferers - and got trapped in a damaging frenetic skincare hopping cycle.

Thankfully I woke up one morning and saw the light. I gathered all of the skincare in my possession, handed it over to my mum to take away from me so that I couldn't be tempted to use any of it, and armed myself with my trusty Dr Bronners, Cetaphil, and Obagi Benzoyl Peroxide.

It's taken a lot of strength to adjust my acne-fraught mindset, and to adopt a sensible, rational GENTLE skincare approach.

As Dr Sam Bunting (my new skincare hero) so rightly put it "I’ve heard so many times about the ritualistic way women will get home from work, remove make-up (‘because its bad for my skin’) and then spend the evening playing peekaboo with their magnifying mirror, squeezing everything in sight. Occasionally with tweezers. In fact, the disabling variant of acne known as acne excoriee is sometimes largely a consequence of human behaviour; the acne itself may not be so severe, but the fallout of self-help can be disastrous, leading to pot-hole scars and persistent pigmentation. I see this a lot in women with adult acne and the cycle can be extremely disabling – even though they know its harmful, they can’t help themselves."

Sound familiar?!

The most important thing I've learnt and want to share about treating acne is that, unfortunately there are no overnight cures. Gentle cleansing, Retinols, Benzoyl peroxide, and certain pills, should all work at clearing up most cases - BUT you won't see any major improvements for at LEAST six weeks.

Most people give up with a treatment after a couple of weeks if they don't feel that it is working - but in reality you need to wait out at least 2 skin cycles (roughly 3 months) before deciding whether or it's working for you.

During the first few months of my benzoyl peroxide journey I would read - and re-read - this petty accurate BP timeline. It helped me greatly in staying on track, and sticking with it.

Some other things I want to mention, as most people reading this may have found my blog because they are troubled with pregnancy and postpartum acne, and are particularly worried about what they can and can't use on there skin.

What I've learnt is that anything too strong would be prescription strength and any doc/derm would advise you of that at the time of your appointment.

Retinols aren't clear cut to be avoided - retinyl palmitate is one of the mildest forms and shouldn't cause you any problems. Retinoids that are again - prescription - or at a high percent would clearly state that on the label.

Only the stronger variants of retinoids are advised to be avoided - and in all honesty, unless it's in a prescription (which wouldn't be given) - the risk is minimal. Companies are terrified (understandably) of being sued. Look for retinyl palmitate. Exceedingly mild, does the job, just does it slowly and safely.

Take Bio oil for example. It's basically mineral oil. It does, however, have retinyl palmitate in it - Vitamin A - which disproves the whole 'can't use ANY retinol products whilst pregnant' as that range is very cleverly marketed almost entirely towards pregnant/post pregnant women!

You can use pretty much anything unless it is a really strong vitamin a product - which would always be written on the box.

Stay away from certain essential oils in body/bathing products - rosemary, clary sage, juniper etc - are contraindicated. Literally pretty much everything else is ok.

I feel/hope that I'm on the right path again, and wanted to share this information - as there's a lot of misinformation out there. If it can help anyone else I'll be thrilled - as the psychological effects of 'bad' skin should never be taken lightly.

So the key things to remember are...

* The general rule is 4 to 8 weeks although it can take as long as three months, and symptoms may get worse before they get better. It is easy to get disheartened and give up so it is important to persevere and keep any routines going, even if there is no immediate change for the better.

* In terms of cleansing, stick to the simplest varieties with no pokey active ingredients, I like Cetaphil, Dr Bronners Baby Mild, and La Roche Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel.

* Use lukewarm water, not hot or cold.

* NO SCRUBBING.

* Allow skin to dry completely before applying Benzoyl Peroxide.

* Leave spots to heal naturally – picking them only makes them worse.

* Only apply non-comedogenic moisturiser, and makeup.

* Stay hydrated and try to get enough sleep.

* Aim for a diet full of low-glycemic-index foods, and I also recommend probiotics and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help calm inflammation.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Postpartum Style tips for Nursing Mums


I thought that I'd better write this post before it becomes a distant memory - and mine's shockingly bad post pregnancy - does anyone have a clue when the whole 'nappy brain' thing is supposed to wear off?!

When I was pregnant, I spent months writing lists and curating all the 'must haves' I anticipated needing - I naively didn't consider that once Ernie arrived, anything I wore would need to have access to my chest at all hours of the day.

The last thing I wanted to wear were trousers or leggings (you've most likely spent your entire pregnancy in them), so for me, the shirtdress was a life-saver.

The loose fit of this style is great for post-natal tummy issues, and of course the button-down element is perfect for breastfeeding.

There are plenty of dedicated nursing wear brands - but I managed to survive 18 months of breastfeeding without the need for any specialised clothing, I don't even own a nursing bra - I preferred to wear bralettes with my ingenious LilyPadz, they are really worth checking out too.

So to avoid finding yourself in my predicament, and having to go out clothes shopping - at the worst possible moment - changing room mirrors are unforgiving at the best of times consider adding a couple of shirt dresses to your shopping list - the best bit is, if for whatever reason you don't have a long breastfeeding journey, nothing's gone to waste as either way they're a great addition to your post-pregnancy wardrobe.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Saying Goodbye to Breastfeeding


This is by far the hardest post I've had to write for this blog. Insert teary faced emoticon!

From the moment you find out that you're pregnant it all becomes about milestones - you track your baby's development from 'poppy seed' to 'watermelon', and it doesn't stop there.

Oh no, the angst continues - I doubt it ever goes away, but there is one significant milestone that's not discussed in the open so much... the day you stop breastfeeding.

And for obvious reasons, you'll most likely be suffering - not just from engorgement - but guilt, whether you lasted a week, months, or even years.

After I passed the one year mark, I became determined to let my son self wean, and I'm sad/glad/guilty to say that my breastfeeding journey has come to an almost natural end at 18 months.

It all started with me becoming a bit worn out and exasperated with our lack of 'bedtime routine' - sorry I hate that word too, but you know what I mean.

I'd marvel when friends would mention their kids happily going to sleep in the early evening.

I had no issue with my co-sleeping situation, nursing him down, or even the frequent night feeds - but by the end of the day Ernie would be overtired and by the time my husband got home from work it all seemed to descend into chaos, and I began to feel like I was failing.

I knew I hadn't come this far practicing attachment parenting techniques to suddenly subject us both to a lot of tears - the cry-it-out approach was not for me - I hoped, and felt in my heart that there was a better way.

So I did a bit of googling and stumbled on Elizabeth Pantley's the no-cry sleep solution.

Hallelujah! This woman gets it! She's a genius, and this book gave me back my sanity.

If any of my friends get pregnant, I'll be giving them this at their baby showers - along with the obligatory White Company rabbit.

I read it cover to cover, a good few times, and really took on board her advice, and when the time felt right for Ernie and I, I started to SLOWLY put it into action.

It's pretty simple stuff really, and before I knew it, Ernie was falling asleep on his own, without me having to nurse him down, and at a reasonable hour to boot.

Dropping that evening feed, led to him becoming easily distracted from day-time feeds, and before I knew it all we had left were a few early morning sessions.

They weren't causing us any real bother, but one night I found myself singing to him instead of feeding him at 4am, like we had been doing at bedtime, and it worked, he rolled over and fell back asleep - and I guess that was the beginning of the end.

I've summarised a lot here, this all took place over a good few months, but I believe it's all possible, and with minimal upset - when you're both emotionally ready.

I was prepared to breastfeed Ernie for as long as he wanted to (I secretly hoped that I wouldn't be breastfeeding a seven year old), and none of this would have even been conceivable a short while ago, he simply wasn't ready.

So I believe our success came down to the fact that he'd reached an appropriate level of maturity and understanding, necessary for a tear-free breakaway.

He's a joy to be around, happy and bright, and the absolute light of my life.

I'm really proud of my breastfeeding journey, and so happy to have gotten this far.

I'm tentatively entering new motherhood territory - I'm back to cursing my hormones - my milk's rapidly drying up, and I feel pretty damn rough!

FYI babyhood passes way too quickly!



Saturday, 24 January 2015

Wholemeal Banana Muffins


These make a perfect wholesome treat for when the cupboard is bare.

They're absolutely delicious - they never last long in our house!

Ingredients

Makes 12 small muffins

1 Medium organic free range egg
½ tsp Vanilla bean paste
55g Unrefined golden caster sugar
1 Large, ripe banana, well mashed
55ml Coconut oil, liquid consistency
85g Wholemeal flour
½ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Bicarbonate soda
¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
Pinch sea salt (omit for under one years)
A hand full of oats
12 Baking cases

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180c/160c fan. Line 1 muffin tin with small baking cases.

2. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick, stir in the banana and coconut oil.

3. Sift on the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt (if using). Then add the vanilla extract and bran left in the sieve, to the bowl too.

4. Stir together until just combined.

5. Spoon into cases (around 2/3 full) sprinkle some oats on top, and bake 12-14 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Remove and cool.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Wholemeal Honey and Vanilla Cake


This cake is quick, easy, relatively healthy, and a fun one to make with small children.

I think it's really important not to fall into the trap of giving your toddler sweets or processed snacks. Toddlers who get used to eating healthy snacks are more likely to continue the same habits later on in life.

However, it would also be wrong to make sweets the forbidden fruit, and risk your toddler craving them all the more, and gorging on them whenever he could.

I'm always surprised by how sophisticated Ernie's palate can be - we let him eat food from our plates - he finds it much more interesting than his own meal, and we find that we can entice him to eat more this way.

When baking with Ernie in mind I try to cut out undesirables as much as possible, but there's always going to be an occasion for sheer uncompromised treats.

This cake is a happy medium, it has a lovely flavour and a very moist texture - is perfect for a child's tea party, 1st birthday, or simply a fun baking activity.

Ingredients

Makes two cakes

For the Sponge:

125g Wholemeal plain flour
80g Golden unrefined caster sugar
40g Honey
125g Unsalted butter at room temperature
2 Organic free-range eggs at room temperature
3 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tsp Vanilla bean paste

For the Curd:

You can buy a jar, or make your own following my recipe here.

To Decorate:

75g Raspberries
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, line a 8x8 inch tin with baking paper.

2. Put all your ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth.

3. Pour into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

4. Leave the sponge to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and allow to cool to room temperature on a rack.

To assemble...

Cut out four circles of cake. I used a cookie cutter, but you can use a glass or do it by hand.

Spread half of the yoghurt on to the base sponge, and arrange some raspberries in a circle on top.

Spoon the curd over the layer of raspberries, and top with final layer of sponge.

Dollop the rest of yoghurt onto the middle of the cake and pop some more raspberries on it.

Repeat with the second cake or let your toddler have a go!




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