My favorite things

I think I did a favorites list once, and I’m pretty sure it had one thing; chocolate. Since everyone is doing favorites lists, I thought, why not? So here are my favorite things from the last year or so across any category.

Movie: The Martian


Matt Damon. What else is there to say? Seriously though, this is such a good movie. I could not convince the Husband to go to the theater with me when it came out (and I think it actually came in 2015) but as soon as it was available digitally, we owned it. I watched it countless times since, and last night at the Boy’s request, we watched it again for movie night. There’s just something wonderful about a man being left behind on a planet and trying to survive. Maybe it’s a metaphor for me trying to survive the epically martian land of England? Who knows.

Book: Impossible to just pick one given my love of all things BOOOK! but here are two four I’ve read that I keep revisiting: {if you need more check out my GoodReads page}

Philipa Gregory, I fell in love with Three Sisters, Three Queens (the first of hers I read), and then proceeded to speed through her Cousins War series. I’ve hit a slow down with the Tudor Series, but I think I just needed a break from the pace I was reading them.


Black Boy by Richard Wright, I have never been able to let this book from my mind. There’s just something sad, and moving, and wonderful in it. It is partly non-fiction and partly fiction (there’s academic debate about it being memoir and embellished). You decide.

Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser. I am a lover of all tings Scottish because of my family ancestry, and I’ve read a few books on Mary but this was my favorite.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. I loved her take on living for a year in the land of hygge. Especially how she refers to her husband as Lego Man.

The Rival Queens, Nancy Goldstone. This is about the trials of Catherine de Medici and her daughter Marguerite of Valois. Absolutely fascinating, and horrifying what things went on in the 15th century! I became fascinated by Catherine de Medici after watching Reign (yes that soapy not exactly historically correct teen drama), but her real life was very interesting. It also led me to be very interested in this Netflix original:

TV: Medici: Masters of Florence. You will pretty much find almost every character has been on a show you’ve either seen or heard of (Rob Stark from Game of Thrones AND Walter Frey as in laws??) It has a fabulous cast (Dustin Hoffman and et al), and the story is very worthy of binge watching. The drama, the backstabbing (literally), the time period. I can never get enough of these shows from another time. (It also led me to read The Medici by Paul Strathern – Loving It.)

Mini-Series: I couldn’t pick just one, so here are two:

The White Queen from Starz (based on 3 books from Philippa Gregory’s Cousins War series. Really, Really hoping that season two rumors are true, since this originally ran in 2013.)


Victoria from ITV. It tells the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign from when she was crowned at 18 to the birth of her first child. Highly entertaining and my 10 year old also loves watching it. I believe there will be a season two.

I fell in love with this beauty product so much that the Husband is even schlepping to Nordstrom today while he’s in Seattle for work to get me some more (he’s awesome!). I hate it when products I love aren’t available in the UK:

Kate Sommerville Age Arrest Serum. I’ve gone two months without it since I ran out, and yes, it definitely improves my skin and I love the silky texture and the way my skin feels when I use it. Even though it’s $95….If you know an alternative that is just as good, for cheaper, please tell me!

MV Organics Rose range: everything. The moisturizer, cleanser, and the rose boost oil. (I have the Skin Tonic as well, but the jury’s still out on that one). Let’s just not even talk about the price, please. The cleanser is reasonable comparative to other similar brands but the moisturizer, {heart attack} on the 70ml price –> £77. I finally paid for it after schlepping out repeatedly for the 15 ml size at £25 a jar. Normally, I’d say NUTS to pay that much (even though I’ve bought pricier things…Sunday Riley, Sisley and May Lindstrom spring to mind…) but this is the first product that might actually be toning back the rosacea. And I’ve been consistent in using it every day, twice a day for a few months. I think we might be getting somewhere. I’m sure it’s probably not available in the US because {story of my life}.

Speaking of not available, I have with this clothing company – Hackwith Design House. All ethically made, gorgeous things, that are pricey! but with the companies ethics, and sticking to being on sale, I can live with it. They DO ship to London, for $20, and then VAT and duties are paid on top of clothing cost + shipping. So one dress I love, the Desiree (among many others), would be $158 + 20% duties + £8 post office ‘fee’ = way too much money. It makes me VERY sad but that has been the luck. So many ethical outstanding clothing companies {Brass Clothing, Everlane, Jan-N-June, ArmedAngels, Uniform, Zady, Need Supply Co, Gather & See, esby, and on that will/won’t ship/or charge in Euros} but the price of buying something is astronomical by the time I pay to get it out of Duty Jail. 5 more months and The Husband will just have to deal with a little wallet pinching. For a fantastic list (and website in general!) see Anuschka Rees. She also has a book The Curated Closet which I am impatiently waiting to be available to the UK.

Dog items: Wagg Training Treats (there’s even a low-fat version which is hilarious) and Pill Pockets from Greenies. Both of these items have been lifesavers with Mocha for training/rewards, and for the unending medication rotation we seem to be on since we’ve been in London.

Those are some of the things I’ve fallen in love with this year. There are many other things  that I have loved this year, but if I listed all of them it would be more like a book than a list. What have you fallen in love with this year?

Ethical &/Or Fair Trade Brands List

This list can also be found under my Ethical Brands tab.

I’ve been poring over books and websites for the past few months, reading up on ethical/fair trade brands, and how we can promote social welfare and make smart choices and know #WhoMadeMyClothes

Links for good books on the subject:

Lucy Seigle: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?

Kate Black: Magnifeco

Eye opening documentary: True Cost Movie

Sources I’ve discovered from the books linked above or from my own internet research:

Organic/Natural Health and Beauty (makeup and skincare):

  • BeingContent  (makeup, body products and skin treatments and facials in store, London)
  • LoveLula (makeup, skincare, beauty)
  • Alima Pure
  • Ecco Bella
  • ILIA BEauty
  • Kjaer Weis
  • W3ll People
  • Zao Organic Makeup
  • Marie Veronique (rosacea is a specialty)
  • Beauty Counter
  • The Body Shop (Nutriganics is the certified line, which I use and love)
  • Kahina Giuing Beauty
  • Madara
  • Pratima Ayurvedic Skincare
  • Tata Harper (I’ve used and loved)

Clothing companies: (I’ve found over 75 so far, all have websites, I’m updating with links as I have time)

Ethical & Fair Trade Clothing List:


Crew –
Cock and Bull
Liv (
Monkee Genes
People Tree
Ruby London
Good & Fair Clothing
Thread Harvest
Shift To Nature
The Root Collective
Good Cloth
Brain Tree Clothing
Fair Indigo
Maggies Organics
Marigold Fair Trade
Have Now
Earth Divas
Kutie Protocal (kids)
Frugi (kids)
Kite Clothing (kids)
Eileen Fisher
Nicole Bridger Designs
Study NY
Thieves (
Zen Nomad
Ado Clothing
Alabama Chanin (made to order)
Alternative Apparel
Amour Vert
EcoSkin Collections
Feral Childe
Groceries Apparel
Organics by John Patrick
LoomState (
Osei Duro
Raleigh Workshop (denim)
Simply Natural Clothing
Christopher Raeburn
From Somewhere ( Upcycled clothing)
Good One
Nurmi Clothing
Nudie Jeans
69b Boutique (only sells sustainable brands)

Beauty reviews

I recently posted about changing my beauty routine. I’ve changed even more since I wrote that post. In an effort to help someone who might be thinking of trying one of these products I thought I’d write down my thoughts on each one. With my weird rosacea, and late blooming problematic skin, I’ve been reading and trying lots of late to try to find something that I can live with (i.e. be willing to go out in public with my face issues). I’ve been using the following products for two weeks (unless noted otherwise).


Make-up removing balm – No7 Cleansing Balm ($10) – it works great for taking off my makeup but I do find I sometimes need to use an additional eye makeup remover (I’m using Up&Up from Target). I use Almay regular mascara for sensitive eyes, I don’t even think it’s waterproof, and I use very little but it can be difficult to remove. (For reference I read an average mascara user ‘eyelash swipes’ 20 times. I do 4 times, so…) I remove the balm with a wet washcloth and it leaves my skin feeling nice and clean. You can buy it at Ulta but I believe it’s put out by Boots which is also available at Target.


I do a second cleanse because I use foundation/moisturizer with spf (go to Caroline Hirons to find out why you should too). I am In Love with this next cleanser. Tata Harper Clarifying Cleanser. Expensive? Yes, very at $58, and that was hard to swallow from someone who was used to spending $6 at the local drugstore. But I’ve noticed a difference, and it’s made my skin smoother and feel better. It has a wonderful citrus like scent that really wakes me up in the morning. It’s all natural and I really like that too. Most importantly it hasn’t irritated my rosacea like a lot of all natural/organic skincare products do. I linked to the Tata Harper website up above because it is one product I’m really really happy with. It comes in a glass bottle which makes it look nice sitting on the counter too. In case pretty bottles are your kind of thing. I rinse with water to remove.


I’ve been using REN Clarifying toner/lotion after cleansing ($24), mixing it up with the Botanics below.

BotanicsRosewater FacialRadiancePads

I’m not 100% sold on toners – I also have Botanics rosewater spray toner ($8) and I am expecting Beauty Aid Radiance Exfoliating Toner Pads ($30 for 60 pads) in the next day or so. I definitely need exfoliation, especially in winter, and I wanted to move away from the Dermologica daily micro exfoliating powder ($52), that I’ve been using. Plus if it works, it’s a 2-in-1 pad, so we’ll pretend I’m saving money there…


I also use Eysilix eye cream (Indeed Laboratories, $25 at Ulta). I’m not sure I’ve seen any difference, so I’m sort of doing this ‘if I feel like it’ in the mornings and at night.


Next up is Hydraluron ($25) which I use in the morning only. I think this has made a huge difference in hydrating my skin. It’s meant to go under moisturizer, since it’s for hydrating under the top layer of skin.


A new product I’m trying is Karin Herzog Vita-Kombi 1 Mousturizing Cream ($53). I put some on my neck just to test it out when it arrived, and it feels very silky and soft. The problem I have is the scent. It’s very perfume laden, so I don’t know how I’ll do since I dislike scented products. But for the price I might just have to suck it up (an advantage if you want to try this one is to buy it at a makeup store with a good return policy (Ulta and Sephora have exceptional policies for this). I bought it off Amazon, which has a great policy for most things, but I’m not sure about opened, used skincare products.) Everything I’ve read reviewing this cream has been glowing (pun intended) so hopefully it’ll calm my redness from the rosacea.


I’ve also been using REN Clay Cleanser ($34). But I did notice some irritation after using it every night, so I’m switching to only a couple nights a week, and only at night. It leaves my skin silky soft.


I was using Simple Mousturizing SPF for under my makeup but it’s causing redness and irritation in my rosacea so I’ve backed off using it. I also used Aveeno Intensiv Night Cream for quite awhile but it feels like it sits on my skin, is greasy, and even hours after applying if I rub my face it’s like the product ‘peels’ off my skin and I get grey blobs, a bit like rubbing your skin a minute after you shower and the dead skin comes off (which is really gross). So I’m just going to stick with SPF in my foundation and go to town with regular sunscreen if I am actually spending time at the beach or extended hours in the sun. Which considering I live in Seattle and am about to move to London, is equal to about 1 hour per month. If I’m lucky.


For fun I’m tossing in what I use for shampoo and conditioner, Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (which I have a cult love for though not for the $24 price tag) and Not Your Mothers Beach Babe Moisturizing Conditioner ($8). I don’t like the coconut smell of the Beach Babe but it leaves my hair feeling silky, so I’ll suck it up, and my daughter likes to sniff my head after I use it.

So it sticks around for those reasons.

Those are all the products currently in rotation. Past products include Cetaphil face wash, Eucerin Dry Skin Formula (great in winter, though heavy as it’s meant for hands, etc, not face), Acure spray toner and argan oil which I talked about in my other beauty post (both have since gone to the trash because of horrible reactions to the organic products), Simple Foaming Face Wash, Clinique 7 Day Scrub, and Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer (which all you have to do to cross off that one is look at the red and yellow dye in the ingredients list. Sadly, I used this for a long time before I realized how bad it is.) There are others as well that I have tried and tossed, but I could list them all day. The quest continues.

What are you using that you like or dislike? Have you tried anything on my list?

*prices are based on a combination of different websites. I paid less based on where I bought the products or by using coupons/sales. 

Beauty and the Beast (a lesson in skincare and other things)

When I was a teenager, I had lovely skin. I’m not sure how it happened, maybe because I was a late bloomer, but I never really had the torture most teens go through: acne. My skin wasn’t always perfect but considering I didn’t even wash my face regularly (and I didn’t really wear much make-up) until college, I feel pretty dang lucky.

The sunshine and roses stopped somewhere in my mid-twenties…and from then on I’ve been a slave to finding the perfect products. And I have the requisite cabinet full of products that didn’t work, and cost a lot. Somewhere in every women’s bathroom cabinet similar products lurk. I haven’t figured out what works (yet), but I have learned a lot along the way.

Today I came across a blog post by Brooklyn Blond (who has awesome posts on fashion, and is on Instagram as well) all about washing your face. And let me tell you, there were things I definitely didn’t know. I watched the video she linked to Caroline Hirons YouTube video on beauty products, specifically How To Wash Your Face. Oh my. The things I’ve been doing wrong.

Foaming face wash? wrong

Applying cleanser to a wet face? wrong

Seriously, go check out Brooklyn Blonds post and then Caroline Hirons video. I’ll wait.

Amazing isn’t it? Now, I’ve bought a lot of products based on blogger opinions and raves…and the majority of them were crap for me. That’s not to say they don’t work for others but for me, with my dry skin, large pores, and mild rosacea? Such a waste of money. And so very, very, frustrating.  Here’s a sample of some of the most recent products I’ve purchased (probably in the last 8 months or so):


I like some of them, like the Simple SPF Day Lotion, the Clinique lotion, and a few others I talk about below. The worst offenders were the Acure products, which are supposed to be all natural and organic (which I figured was good for the skin.) The facial toner and argan oil turned my face bright red (not pictured, I also bought and used an Acure sea kelp facial scrub). I felt so very, very self-conscious of the way my skin looked while using these products. My make-up didn’t cover the redness. I used the products for a couple of weeks, hoping it would resolve after getting used to the products. It took me two months to get my skin back under control afterwards.

Until watching the Caroline Hirons video today, at night I’d been using Up&Up facial wipes when I feel lazy (cause everyone does it now and again, even celebrities like Anna Kendrick), and using Simple Foaming Cleanser, followed by Boots Expert Sensitive Gentle Refreshing Toner, and Eucerin Skin Calming Lotion.

Well, that’s going to change. I have to ditch the wipes (listen for Caroline’s 3 uses for the wipes, it’s pretty funny), and take the time to do it right. Many nights as soon as I tuck Chick into bed at 8, I wash up. Because I know at 10 or 10:30 the last thing I want to do is spend ten minutes removing make-up, washing, toning, and cream up my face. Face it, at the end of the day no one wants to do all that.

But we must! (apparently.)

Tonight I plan to go back to my Cetaphil (which is so gentle, and was recommended by the one time I went to a dermatologist), putting it on a dry face, and using a washcloth as recommended. They recommended a cleansing face balm, but I’m not really sure about that, and the recommended product is $55. So I’m going to have to look for an alternative lower-priced option.

Because frankly I’ve spent enough on this crap to buy a fancy jar of $55 cleansing balm and have it not work for me. I’ve been there with other products, and all it does is make me feel ill when I chuck it out.

I’m up in the air on continuing with toner. I’ve heard Yes, use it! and No, don’t use it! I haven’t noticed a difference one way or the other. I did buy the Hydaluron gel from Indeed Laboratories (and incidentially, you can buy it at Ulta and right now a lot of products are buy 1, get 1 half off, which is awesome, and if it works, I’ll be going back to stock up if the sale is still on). The Hydraluron goes on before my Aveeno Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream.

In the shower every morning I use Dermalogica Microfoliant, and no cleanser. Is the Dermalogica worth the $54 price tag? Yes, it is. I’ve been using it for almost a year and my skin is so much nicer than it used to be. It removes all the icky dead skin cells without overdoing it and destroying my skin. I didn’t bring it when we went on vacation to Hawaii in February, and after just three days, my skin was flaking, and my make-up was caking.

It also lasts forever (like three months!), so if you break it down over a daily cost, totally worth it at $.60 a day.

Will any of this work? Who knows. I am hoping it will.

Up next, make-up. Don’t even get me started on how much money has gone down the drain trying to find proper products in this category…