Beauty Review: Naked Care Sensitive Shampoo and Conditioner

I don't normally like to give skincare advice, but if I was going to, in the words of Baz Luhrmann, 'Wear sunscreen.'

No, seriously, do. Your skin will thank you in 20 years. I'm sure mine would if I'd put sunscreen on my parting/worn my hat every time I stepped outside when I was travelling and not frazzled the top of my head. Because of this, I ended up with quite a dry, flaky, itchy scalp after I came back, and so I've been looking for products that tackle that. I started off with a Kerastase exfoliating shampoo (think scrub for your hair) which was great apart from the price at £16 a bottle, so I decided to look for a cheaper alternative and settled on Naked Care Sensitive Shampoo and Conditioner. Mainly as it was 2 for £6 at the time.

The main selling point of Naked Bodycare, which also makes body washes and lotions as well as hair care, is that their products are designed for sensitive skin - meaning they don't contain parabens, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) or petrochemicals. As someone who's suffered from eczema since I was small, I'm always intrigued by a product that can help with that.

First impressions from the packaging: it's not the flashiest in the world. A slightly grey colour with a simple design of lilac text and pictures of plants, this is quite easy to bypass on the Boots shelves in favour of the brighter bottles. But that said, I like the see-through shampoo bottle and the flip lid, which is a lot easier to operate when you have wet hands and makes it easy to see when you need to repurchase.

The shampoo is made with oatmeal and neroli extracts, which work to soothe dry irritated skin, whilst the conditioner contains cotton seed oil which strengthens the hair. On first smell it's very fresh and floral with a slightly sweet edge, but not too overpowering which I like - it's never good when your shampoo clashes with your perfume, but you still want it to smell clean.

As I'd heard that SLS-free shampoos tend not to lather well, one of the surprising thing about this shampoo was that it lathered up pretty quickly when water was applied to it. However, it then seemed like all the effectiveness went out of the product once I'd lathered up as my hair never felt fully clean using this shampoo, no matter how much or little I used or how long I spent rinsing it out. So I have to admit that this isn't a product I'll be repurchasing for that reason. It also turned out to not be very economical as I felt like I was using loads of it at once to attempt to get my hair clean.

However, the conditioner was a different story. It had that same scent as the shampoo which I liked a lot - I keep wanting to smell the ends of my hair! However, despite my worries that it would be as disappointing as the shampoo, I was actually really impressed with it. It does need a light hand as it's quite a thick conditioner (I tend to use any excess as shaving cream on my legs) but rather than weighing my hair down or making it greasy it's actually left the ends much softer and shinier. So I'd definitely be repurchasing that one.

Overall: nice conditioner, shame about the shampoo. I have heard mixed reviews about other shampoos and conditioners in the range though, so I might not give up on Naked Bodycare as a brand just yet if I can find a shampoo that works for me. It did also have the advantage that the eczema on the tops of my arms, which can be exarcebated by harsh shampoos, has cleared up since I started using this, so that might be one to bear in mind if you're a fellow eczema sufferer.

If you fancy trying Naked Care shampoo and conditioner it's available at Boots and costs £4.39 for 250ml of product, though is also quite often on offer.

Have you tried any Naked Bodycare products? And have you ever bought two complementary products where one was good but the other was disappointing?

Book Review: Frenchman's Creek

Frenchman's Creek Daphne du Maurier novel Cornwall romance historical fiction
Image source
Whenever I go on holiday, I always like to take a book that's set in the same place that I'm visiting. For some reason I find it much easier to place myself in the action and picture the characters moving through the landscape. So, whenever I go to Cornwall, I tend to pick up a Daphne du Maurier novel. Last year it was Jamaica Inn, and this year I took Frenchman's Creek, which is set on the Helford River about ten miles from where we stayed this time.

The novel follows Lady Dona St Columb, who flees the tediousness of her life at court in London and her husband Harry to her family's estate in Cornwall. Whilst enjoying the peace and quiet of her new home, she stumbles upon a ship full of French pirates which is moored in the nearby creek, and meets their charismatic captain who shows her a life of danger, adventure and passion.

On the surface Frenchman's Creek is very much a typical romance: bored aristocratic lady meets handsome charming lower-class rogue who sweeps her off her feet and makes her realise that there's more to life than her dreary repetitive existence. But it goes a lot deeper than that - so much of it is about control, and in particular who controls Dona. She flits from trying to reclaim control of her life with Harry to actually taking that control when she moves to Cornwall, then losing it again when she falls in love. I found that idea of walking the line between abandoning your duties and embracing who you are really interesting, especially in the historical context of the novel.

The setting is also portrayed beautifully - you can practically smell the sea air and see the dappled sunlight on the side of the pirate ship as you read the book. We did actually go up to Helford this holiday and, although a lot of it had changed, I could really picture Dona and the pirates walking along the river bank. However, I felt that many of the characters didn't feel very rounded or like they had a lot of depth. I also struggled to feel sympathy for Dona a lot of the time, as she seemed to be lacking in motivation for why she ran away to Cornwall and didn't come across as very compassionate. I actually found myself siding more with her husband, who came across as boorish but well-meaning, and the daughter she overlooked in favour of her son.

Overall, whilst it was a beautifully evoked setting and explored some interesting themes, I failed to connect with the characters in Frenchman's Creek as I have with those in other Daphne du Maurier novels I've read. That said, it was a quick and easy read - so great for a holiday - and created a wonderful, completely immersive world, so I'd say it's worth a read if you're going to that part of Cornwall.

Have you read any Daphne du Maurier novels? And are there any books you've read when you've been to where they're set?

Beauty Review: April Birchbox

Like so many other blogging-related things, I came to beauty boxes quite late - mainly because I was aware I had waaay too many beauty products already and wasn't sure that I wanted to add to that. However, an offer for the March Birchbox on Sophia's blog Tattooed Tealady (plus the beautiful Lulu Guinness packaging) convinced me to give it a go. Unfortunately by the time I got my March box it was the end of the month and felt a bit late to write about it, so I'm starting what will hopefully be a regular series with the April box.

For those of you like me who've been living under a rock, Birchbox is a beauty subscription box where you enter details of your beauty likes and dislikes and then receive a box once a month containing five beauty samples (and occasionally some little extras too). It costs £10 a month plus P&P, or you can buy six-month or yearly subscriptions at a discount.

The theme of this month's Birchbox was 'Good enough to eat', and it was packed with food-themed beauty treats - from the brand and product names to the sweet scents and candy colours. So here's what was inside!

I haven't tried all the products properly yet but have swatched them all so am going to give you a little review based on my first impressions.

theBalm How 'Bout Them Apples? Cheek & Lip Cream in Pie (RRP £26 for palette of six - sample value £4.33)

I hadn't tried any of theBalm products but had seen lots of bloggers raving about them - especially the Lou Manizers, Frat Boy blusher and the Nude Tude eyeshadow palette - so I was really excited to get this in my box. Pie is a fairly bright pinky-red in the pan, but applies very sheer so you can build it up, and gives a dewy finish to both lips and cheeks - surprisingly rare for a multi-purpose product, as often they look good on lips but not cheeks or vice versa. I'll definitely be wearing this on weekends or to freshen up my look before going out after work this spring.

Lord & Berry Couture Kohl Kajal Eye Pencil 0.6g (RRP £10 for 4g full size - sample value £1.50)

Lord & Berry was another brand I'd heard plenty of good things about, and a black eyeliner pencil is something that I always have in my kit - mainly because I can't do liquid eyeliner to save my life and am weirdly paranoid about bacteria (eye pencils and mascara are virtually the only beauty products I ever throw away). This is a good-sized sample which creates quite a precise line but can also be blended very easily for a smoky look, and would be good to throw in your make-up bag if you're going on holiday.

Color Club Gala's Gems Nail Polish in Aquamarine Azulino (RRP £15 for set of four - sample value £3.75)
Birchbox has teamed up with London-based Spanish blogger, Gala Gonzalez, to create a set of four beautiful spring pastel shades. I'd had my eye on a blue polish so opted for this one (one of Birchbox's few downsides is that, unlike some beauty boxes, they don't let you pick what's included very often). I haven't tried this on yet but think it would look lovely with summer dresses in a few months' time.

Yes To Cucumbers Facial Wipes pack of 10 (RRP £4.99 for pack of 30 - sample value £1.66)
Yes To was another brand that I'd wanted to try for a while, especially since they recently relaunched in Boots. Whilst I don't tend to use facial wipes regularly as I find that my skin breaks out if I rely on them too much, these had a really nice cooling sensation and did a good job as a replacement for my micellar water in my evening routine. I'm going to keep hold of these for nights when I'm too tired to take my make-up off properly or for overnight trips.

Campos de Ibiza Almendra (Almond) Body Milk 38ml (RRP £16.55 for 200ml - sample value £3.14)

Campos de Ibiza is a brand I hadn't heard of before this Birchbox, but I was pleasantly surprised by this almond body lotion. It's a very light texture which sinks in really easily - a little of this goes a long way - and I like the slight sheen it gave my skin as an alternative to fake tan (am I the only one who doesn't do it?). The scent was lovely too; at first it's quite floral from the rosewater, then dries down to a lovely creamy smell from the almond that won't clash too much with perfume.

Propercorn Sweet Coconut & Vanilla 8g (RRP 90p for 20g - sample value 36p)
Whilst I love popcorn - it's always one of my favourite things to get in my Graze box - I have to admit I was a bit unsure about this sample as I'm a bit funny about eating coconut, especially if it's shredded. But it actually tasted really nice and went well with the vanilla, and made me feel all virtuous after several days of pigging out on chocolate after Easter. I'm not sure I'd buy this flavour but definitely want to try other Propercorn flavours soon.

Total Birchbox value: £14.74

Overall, whilst I preferred the products in last month's Birchbox, I felt like this one tied in really well with the theme and had lots of lovely products that I could see myself wearing in the spring and summer. It was definitely a box that speaks of lazy days and holidays and I'm really looking forward to using all of the items in here over the next few months.

Do you subscribe to Birchbox? What did you think of this month's products?

#2014BloggerChallenge: Spring Outfit of the Day

Regular visitors to the blog will know that I'm not much of a one for outfit posts. It's mainly due to a combination of not being able to afford lots of new clothes (though I suspect Nick would say differently) and having quite a set style - weekends, for example, are always jeans and jumper/T-shirt time unless I'm going somewhere a bit posh - and, if I'm brutally honest, being a bit boring style-wise. So when the latest #2014BloggerChallenge email dropped into my inbox and I found out it was a spring outfit of the day post, I have to admit I was a bit stumped for what to wear.

To me, spring style can be summed up by one thing: florals. But I don't own a huge amount of floral things - a couple of dresses and a skirt - and I was a bit stumped for how to style them in a way that didn't seem too boring or 'worky'. Then I spotted this adorable little daisy print dress in Primark and something suddenly clicked.

I decided to go for a super-girly look by adding a cardigan with bows on it, an Alice band, ballet pumps and a bag with a bow. I think it works really well with the monochrome and then just the little dash of pink lipstick. This is the sort of outfit that I might wear to work in the summer and then to go for drinks in a beer garden with friends afterwards, or perhaps for a wander round the shops and a nice lunch somewhere. I also think it could work really well with black tights and Mary Janes in the winter.

Here's the full list of what I wore:

Dress - Primark (still in stock!)
Cardigan - Joy (different colourways)
Shoes - Accessorise (similar)
Sunglasses - supermarket somewhere in Australia
Alice band - Topshop (old)
Bag - Primark
Necklace - Accessorise (old)
Lipstick - Topshop Brighton Rock

It was actually really fun to put the outfit together and then pose for the photos - I'll admit at first I felt a bit silly but by the end I was actually getting really into it and doing various silly poses, so it's definitely something I'd like to try again. Also a huge thank you to Nick for his willingness to play the photographer and to put up with me asking him to get me posing in all sorts of different ways!

And of course it wouldn't be complete without an outtake...

What do you think of my outfit? Is this the sort of thing you'd wear?

#2014Blogger Challenge: Photo Challenge

In keeping with my April goal to take more blog pictures, this time the #2014BloggerChallenge was a 'photo an hour' post. I love reading these posts on other blogs and it was the perfect way to encourage me to take more photos.

This post is a little bit late because I was going for afternoon tea at the Dorchester (very posh London hotel for those who may not have heard of it) for my friend B's birthday on Saturday, and I thought that would make for a good post as I hadn't been doing anything very exciting where I could take photos in recent weeks. So with apologies for the delay, here's what my Saturday looked like...

8 AM: Deciding what colour to paint my nails (plus the lovely flowers I got from work as a 'thank you'!)

9 AM: Walking into Blackheath to pick up a parcel...

10 AM: ...and here's what was in it!

11 AM: Coffee and magazines whilst waiting for my hair to dry.

12 PM: Deciding what to wear! (I went with the grey floral dress in the end.)

1 PM: Catching up on my (very neglected!) Bloglovin reading list whilst getting ready.

2 PM: Pretty new floral buttons on my spring coat.

3 PM: Outside the Dorchester!

4 PM: Mmmm, afternoon tea...

Annoyingly my phone ran out of battery after leaving the hotel, so I didn't manage to take any photos of our trek through the West End to a cocktail bar, but I really enjoyed doing this challenge - it gave me the opportunity to get a bit more confident with my photography and I liked the idea of sharing a day from my life. I'm definitely going to do this type of post again more in the future!

Have you ever done a 'photo an hour' post? If so leave me a link in the comments, I'd love to see it!

Book Review: PopCo

I think I once worked out that if I read all the books I had on my Kindle wishlist (last count: 2160) at the rate of one a week, it would take me 41 years. And that's not including new books that are published or any of my challenges. So it's kind of inevitable that certain books get pushed down the list and, on some level, forgotten about. One of the books that fell into this category was Scarlett Thomas' PopCo, which came onto my to-read list after I fell in love with her novel The End of Mr Y but over the years had slipped from my mind completely.... until I picked up a copy in a haul of books my friend C gave me when she was moving house.

PopCo is the story of Alice, who works for the titular PopCo, a multinational toy company, and ends up being selected to stay behind after a team-building weekend to work on developing a new product aimed at teenage girls. Meanwhile, she starts receiving mysterious coded messages, which she suspects are linked with her grandparents, her father's disappearance and the key she's worn around her neck since childhood. The novel then hops between present day and Alice's childhood and teenage years as she attempts to work out who is trying to get in touch with her and why.

I always like a book with a bit of a mystery and one where I can learn something, and PopCo definitely had both of those in spades. I fully admit to not having a mathematical brain at all but I found the scenes with Alice's grandparents telling her about things like Fermat's Last Thereom and the role of mathematics in codebreaking during the Second World War really interesting. I also got really swept up in the mystery of who was sending Alice the notes, and loved how the book took you through how she cracked the code. Thomas also did a brilliant job of making PopCo a completely believable unique world whilst still instantly recognisable to anyone who's worked in an office in the past twenty years, from the corporate buzzwords that pepper the executives' vocabulary to the job titles that sound almost too ridiculous to be real, and of evoking that feeling of being a teenage girl who doesn't fit it for whatever reason and feeling desperate to be liked by the popular kids.

However, as I got swept along by the book, I started to realise that it was getting very close to the end and not much had actually happened. As a consequence, it seemed like everything was resolved very quickly and neatly, and I would have liked a little more time spent on the ending. And, now I've been away from it for a little while, I feel a bit cheated that we never truly found out what happened with one big part of the mystery. I felt like Thomas kind of ran out of steam a little bit, and it left me feeling a little bit disappointed.

That said, up until the last few chapters it was a great ride and I loved feeling immersed in the world of the mystery and the mathematics involved in Alice creating and cracking codes throughout the novel. And there aren't many books out there that would tell you how to write a code alongside a recipe for apple pie. So if you like novels that teach you something new and don't mind all the loose ends being tied up, then I'd say PopCo is worth a read. If nothing else, it's certainly one of a kind.

What's the most unusual novel you've ever read?

2014 Resolutions: April Update

A little bit later than usual, but here's my update on my 2014 resolutions for April! It was a bit of a slow month to be honest, with good progress on some goals and not so much on others...
  1. Blog at least every other day. This month my blogging really took a serious hit, because work has been so busy with launching a report and organising one campaign's awards dinner on the same day, but I've started to pick up again a little this month so hopefully will be back on track soon.
  2. Run a 5K. I'm still training for my 5K in August and may kick it up a notch in a couple of weeks by running home from work now the evenings are lighter. I'm also looking for another event in London or within travelling distance in June to fill the gap - let me know if you've found anything good!
  3. Buy a flat with N. Again we're still saving with a view to buying once we're sorted with the wedding (though I would like to buy sooner as the good places seem to go so quickly, but you can't have everything I guess...).
  4. Perfect my skincare and everyday make-up routines. I'm definitely getting better at this - I think now I've cracked a routine that makes my skin look halfway decent, so the next thing is make-up. I've gone through a bit of a phase of buying foundation and powder that's too dark for me, especially in drugstore brands, so I'm going to get colour-matched after I've used up what I've got and start again.
  5. Use up a net balance of 30 beauty products. I'm at a net balance of -10 with 16 INs and 26 OUTs, which puts me pretty much bang on target. I've got quite a few things that are on their way out as well so hopefully will have made another dent in the numbers by the end of April.
  6. Read at least 50 books. Somewhere around the middle of the month I picked up a bit of speed on this and managed to blitz-read two and a bit books in the last ten days of March. I've now read 10 books this year, which isn't quite enough to keep me on target for my goal of 50 according to Goodreads, but I always read lots on holiday so hopefully I'll make up for lost time.
  7. Take more photographs that aren't just for blogging. I have got a little bit better at this, but still not as good as I'd like, so read on for a bit more about this one...
  8. Watch all the TV series I started but haven't finished. This got derailed a bit because I got a free download of the first episode of Nashville from Blinkbox and then binge-watched the whole season (if you haven't seen it then I highly recommend it by the way), but I'll try to get back on track this month.
  9. Wear the clothes I already own regularly and only buy new stuff when I need it. I did buy a couple of new dresses, a jumper, two skirts and a bag this month, but equally have managed to sell a couple of bits and pieces and give a few things to the charity shop so it's kind of evening out. With the summer coming I'm also putting the long-sleeved tops to the back of the wardrobe and embracing my short-sleeved tops, floaty dresses and flats, so hopefully that'll shake my wardrobe up a bit.
  10. Eat more healthily. I did manage to give up sugar to an extent this month and am definitely drinking more water, but I still need to work on eating more fruit and vegetables.
  11. Learn to drive. I'll admit that this one's been on hold this month, but once work's calmed down I'll book some lessons and try and find a slot to take my theory test as well.
  12. Finish writing my novel. Again this has fallen by the wayside a little - I've been trying to do about 500 words a day, which I know isn't much but at least it's something, and it's making progress. So onwards and upwards I suppose...
  13. Go to at least one blogging event. I've now chalked up two blogging events this year after meeting the wonderful Becky Bedbug at the Prince Charles Cinema's Pixar pyjama party, and hoping to go to more soon.
So, let's move on to my March goals: 
  1. Cut out processed sugar as much as possible. I will admit to a couple of lapses - mainly when N has baked - but for the most part I've managed to cut down on the amount of processed sugar I'm eating considerably, and am trying to keep going with that until I go down to Cornwall next week.
  2. Blog every day. OK, that didn't happen. To be honest, I think I picked a terrible time of year to do this because we were insanely busy at work, but I'm going to give this one another go in the summer when things quieten down a little bit.
  3. Run 5K in less than 40 minutes. I've done three parkruns this month, and am pleased to say I got personal bests at all of them - I ran 36:46, 34:46 and 34:33 - so I'm immensely pleased with that. If you'd told me at the beginning of the month I'd do under 35 minutes I would have been amazingly happy, so now I'm hoping I can do even better this month.
And now, goals for April:
  1. Take at least one photo every day and put it on Instagram. You can follow me there at @cherrysodablog to see how I get on!
  2. Cull my beauty product stash. I have quite a few beauty products I know I'll never use - mainly old nail polishes - so I'm going to have a serious decluttering session and send some things to Give And Make Up.
  3. Get my clothes ready for spring. I need to put new buttons on my spring coat and get it dry cleaned, plus rotate my wardrobe to bring my summer clothes to the fore, so I will try and spend a couple of days sorting that out this month.
Do you have any goals for April?

Wedding Update: March

One of my invitation ideas (with apologies for the horrible tablecloth!)
After a slow month for wedding planning in February, suddenly in March it seemed to jump forward a lot! Mainly as we made lots of the big decisions and got some of the major things out of the way. In a way this feels like the turning point when it stopped feeling like a long time away and actually got a whole lot closer! *gulp* But without wittering on too much, here's what we got done in March:
  • Met the caterers and sorted out our menu. We've gone for soup (not sure what yet but I'm thinking maybe butternut squash or pumpkin), roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and sticky toffee pudding - not exactly unconventional, but on the rationale that it's November, it will be cold and people will want a proper dinner, I think it's a pretty good selection.
  • Met the florists and finalised the flowers. Again we're keeping it fairly simple and sticking to our colours of red, white and black,
  • Decided on my wedding dress! Those who know me well will be aware I am ridiculously indecisive - I can spend a good 15 minutes choosing a sandwich for lunch in Tesco - so this is a huge deal for me. I did have three in mind but the one I've picked is very 'me' and a little bit different, so I'm really happy with it. You can read about my wedding dress shopping exploits here.
  • Made up some stationery ideas. My mum ordered a pack of stationery bits online and I spent a few hours this weekend working some of them up into mock invites. I still need to make decisions about the designs but I think they're getting there. We're hoping to send them out in May/June so 
So, things to do in April:
  • Arrange for someone to make the cake. I think I've decided what kind of cake I'd like - a red velvet cake to cut like this one Lorraine Pascale made for one of her TV programmes, and then smaller cupcakes on tiers underneath to go with the buffet - but need to find someone to make it. Originally I asked my cousin, but she's declined which is fair enough, and then the first cake lady I approached is going on maternity leave in August, so back to the drawing board (or should that be mixing bowl?) on that one for now...
  • Book transport. I originally wasn't planning on getting a car but now I'm thinking it's worth looking into, due to the wedding being in November and it potentially being too cold/wet to walk to the venue from the hotel. It's proving a bit of a headache though - I found a gorgeous white vintage Jaguar but sadly the chap is no longer doing weddings, and my dad's not keen on my second suggestion of a retro campervan,
  • Book hair and make-up. My friend B, who used to live in York (and is one of my bridesmaids) has recommended a hairdresser, and I won £50 off my make-up at a wedding fair I went to a few months back, so now it's just a case of phoning up and booking my trials.
Any other brides out there planning their weddings? If so, how's it going?