Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Life Update ♥

I can't believe we are now in October - just where has the year gone? I can't say I'm disappointed that summer is well and truly over though; autumn and winter are my favourite seasons and I'm looking forward to wrapping up warm for long walks through the golden crunchy leaves in the woods; snuggling up on the sofa with blankets and hot water bottles to read and watch films; and of course getting excited for Christmas!
It has been a few months now since I last blogged, so I thought I'd post a little update as to what's been going on in my world. Life just got so busy over the summer that blogging was the last thing I felt like doing. In fact, the thought of planning and writing blog posts became something of a chore and I put it to the back of my mind, ignoring the many emails that built up in my inbox from PR companies kindly offering to send me products to try and organisations asking me to help promote the latest updates in the cruelty-free world. I haven't even had the chance to read other blogs, so I certainly have some catching up to do!
I've enjoyed my little break from blogging, and now I feel ready to get back to my laptop and write again. I have a list of blog post ideas ready to be written, including makeup and restaurant reviews, fashion hauls and recipe posts, so check back regularly if you would like to have a read :)
In the meantime, here's what I've been up to lately:
I moved out
After what seemed like years (oh wait, it was!) of doing long-distance, my boyfriend Jamie finally finished with uni (after completing his BSc he went on to do a PhD) and moved back home. We had been ready to move in together for ages; we were lucky to find a house quickly and we soon settled in. I've enjoyed buying cushions and fairy lights, hearts and trinkets and other little bits that make a house a home. We've gone for a shabby chic/nautical Cornish cottage theme, and I love it! What I haven't loved so much is having to learn how to cook meals other than my tried and tested vegetable risotto. Luckily Jamie is a good cook (and a veggie) so we've been sharing the task. I'm getting better at it though, and I can now add a roast dinner and vegan cottage pie to my repertoire!
I went on a road trip to Scotland
Back in July, Jamie and I headed to Edinburgh as he had to attend a medical conference there. As it is such a long, long way from where we live we decided to make a road trip out of it, staying at a few random places on the way there and on the way back, including Somerset, the Peak District and Yorkshire. Although we didn't get to see much of Edinburgh it seemed like a lovely city, and we did have an amazing meal there at Henderson's Vegetarian Bistro! I think I will do a separate blog post about this :)
One of my best friends got married
My lovey friend Chloe recently got married and I can't believe that it's all over now after months of excited chats about the wedding. I helped to organise part of her hen do (a spa day of course!) so I was kept busy arranging everything for that. I also made her a cake which I took to a surprise meal with all her girl friends and family. I haven't had much time to bake or do big cakes lately but I really enjoyed doing this one. It was a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing decorated with sugarpaste. I struggled to find a bride-to-be tiara that didn't have feathers on it but I eventually found one on eBay. I will probably do an outfit post about what I wore to the wedding.
Jack turned 5
In August Jack turned 5 and as usual we celebrated with presents for him to open and I made him a vegan doggy cake covered in peanut butter. We went to one of our favourite beaches for his birthday walk, where he enjoyed running around and playing with his ball. I can't believe my little fur-baby is  5 already!
 ♥ I turned 25
Last month I celebrated my 25th birthday. Although it probably still seems really young for a lot of people, it felt like a bit of a milestone for me and it's scary to think I'm headed for my thirties now! I had a lovely day and was spoiled by Jamie, my family and friends. Jamie, Jack and I spent the day in sunny St. Ives (which wasn't the best idea as it was still heaving with tourists!) where we ate delicious pasties on the beach and browsed all the lovely shops. In the evening my family joined us for a meal at one of my favourite restaurants, Kota Kai in Porthleven where I enjoyed an amazing trio of vegan dishes. Jamie even made me a delicious vegan cake which he decorated with an anchor, a symbol that means a lot to me (I'll probably explain another time) and obviously fits in with my love of all things Cornish and nautical :)
I've been working hard
Running your own business isn't a 9-5 job. Even when I'm not treating clients (which also isn't 9-5; often I'll work in the evenings as well as Saturdays too), I'm busy sorting out paperwork, book-keeping, reading and writing articles, designing posters and flyers, updating websites and social media, advertising, marketing, replying to emails and phone calls and constantly thinking of new ideas to drive my business further forward. Often I'm more productive in the evenings, so after a busy day I might plan to have a relaxing evening, but my mind won't switch off and this is usually the time I come up with my best ideas! I don't mind this though; I've learned to go with the flow and do tasks when I feel like doing them. Although it's hard work, I absolutely love working for myself and I am excited for the future. I have a few things planned that I can't wait to get started on, and I can't wait to reveal more soon!
I'm off now to catch up on all of your blogs!
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Monday, 22 June 2015

The CosmEthics App: Your Personal Guide to Safe Cosmetics

I have recently started switching all my cosmetics and toiletries to more natural products. Whilst things like parabens, sodium laureth sulfate and triclosan may be easy to spot when reading a product label, I have to admit I have found it tricky to decipher whether other chemicals are safe or not. Some chemicals are irritants and others are thought to contribute to cancer and hormone disruption, as well as being harmful to the environment. It can be time consuming to read labels and Google ingredients, so I was intrigued when I was contacted by a company called CosmEthics, who have created an app that helps people make smart product choices tailored to their individual needs.
The CosmEthics app is free to download on Apple an Android devices. Every product in the CosmEthics database is reviewed for three default alerts, which are linked to research articles and an abstract (overview of research on the hazard ingredient). You will see a red traffic light appear next to the ingredient name, if the product contains an ingredient from the following alert groups: formaldehyde, parabens and phthalates. CosmEthics also has six ready-made alert lists including aluminum (24 ingredients), plastics (16 ingredients), vegan (209 ingredients), fragrance allergens (26 ingredients), chemical sensitisers (colourants) (6 ingredients), chemical sensitisers (preservatives) (3 ingredients). You add any or all of these lists to your alerts depending on the type of ingredients you wish to avoid. 
The app features hundreds of products on its database, which can be added to by users of the app. You can search for a product or brand, or use your phone to scan a product barcode. If the product you scan isn't already on the database, you can take photos of the product and its ingredients and submit it to CosmEthics for them to review and add to the app. If you are the first to submit a product, you are added to a monthly prize draw to win free products.

I found it really easy to scan products and submit photos, however, the camera quality on my Android phone decreased in the app, resulting in images that were blurry and the ingredients lists became illegible. CosmEthics advised me that they are aware of this problem and because there are different versions of Android on market, it takes time to get each version to have a good camera focus. Their IT department are now working on manual uploading feature, which will be live soon. However, despite me uploading blurry pictures, the products I submitted had been reviewed and successfully added to the database within a couple of hours!

 I added all the lists to my alerts. I had a go at scanning a few of my products. Some of them were already on the list but others I was the first person to submit pictures of. Once you've scanned or searched for a product it will tell you whether it is safe, or whether it contains any of the default hazard ingredients or an ingredient(s) on your personal alert list.

You can view the full ingredients list for each product and tap on them to be directed to a Wikipedia page to read more about them. The app also recommends alternative products that it deems safer. You can add a product to your 'washbag' if you already own it, add it to your wishlist, or buy it through the app via Amazon.

One thing that I will mention is that the vegan alert is a little confusing in that it doesn't mean a product is vegan, it means that it contains one or more ingredients that may not be vegan. It is also a little confusing that it flags up potential non-vegan ingredients in products that are definitely vegan (either Vegan Society registered or confirmed as vegan by the company). Therefore if you do not know whether a product is truly vegan, you may need to contact the company to find out. For example, I know that all Jason products are vegan with the exception of a couple of products that contain beeswax. However, this sun cream was flagged by the app because it contains glycerin which can sometimes be of animal origin.

The CosmEthics app also allows you to set up a personal profile, which is linked to your Facebook account. Here you can view your alerts, washbag and wishlist, as well as personalise your skin and hair type.
I decided to see if any cruelty-free products on the database were considered toxic. I searched for Superdrug as although their own brand products are cruelty-free and most are vegan, they do contain a lot of chemicals. Sure enough, some of their products flagged up toxic alerts. Their Naturally Radiant Brightening Day Cream, for example, has an alert for 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
3-diol (bromopol)
. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a website that is really handy for information on harmful chemical ingredients), this is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative which is an irritant and carcinogen and is banned from use in cosmetics and toiletries in Japan and Sweden. I was not aware of the dangers of this ingredient before using this app, so I will be careful to avoid it from now on.
from use in cosmetics and toiletries in Japan and Sweden - See more at: http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/formaldehyde/#sthash.NI7BHOIs.dpuf

On the other hand, the app does not flag up other ingredients that could be potentially harmful. For example, I have decided to avoid chemical sunscreens such as octocrylene (which can also be found in the Superdrug moisturiser), which is absorbed into the skin and acts as a photosensitiser, resulting in an increased production of free radicals. Free radicals cause DNA damage and can potentially contribute to malignant melanoma, something that is increasingly being seen in sunscreen-users compared to non-users.
I have made a suggestion to CosmEthics that they could include a cruelty-free alert, as not all the products on the app's database are cruelty-free (companies such as L'Oreal, Garnier and Herbal Essences are included for example). They have welcomed my suggestion and say they are going to look into this, so fingers crossed!

I have found the CosmEthics app really easy to use and I have a feeling it is going to come in very handy. If you are concerned about the ingredients in your cosmetics then I would definitely recommend giving it a try, especially when out shopping as it could save so much time studying product labels.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Vegan Life Magazine Issue 6

 Issue 6 of Vegan Life magazine was fab as usual; another interesting mix of recipes, news, interviews and features.
I particularly enjoyed the interviews in this issue, as two of them featured the faces behind some of my favourite vegan businesses.
Fellow vegan blogger and founder of TheVeganKind monthly subscription box Karris McCulloch talked about why she went vegan and how she spreads the vegan message through her business and her personal life. I have been a subscriber of TheVeganKind since it started nearly two years ago and I always look forward to receiving a surprise box of vegan goodies (see my review here). When I first started this blog, Karris's blog was one of the first cruelty-free blogs I found, and I was really excited and happy for her when she annouced she was launching a vegan business. It was lovely to read more about her in this interview, and hopefully people will sign up to TheVeganKind if they didn't already know about it.
I also loved reading more about Rose Brown, the founder of PHB Ethical Beauty. PHB is one of my absolute favourite beauty brands as it just ticks all the boxes when it comes to finding perfect products. PHB make a wide range of cosmetics and toiletries which are all vegan, halal, free from harmful chemicals and palm oil, and are certified by Cruelty Free International. It was great to learn that, although Rose and her business partners (her partner and her mother-in-law) weren't vegan when they started PHB, they naturally made the transition after insisting that their products contained no animal ingredients made them think about the issue more. I think it is important that vegan businesses are run by vegans themselves as it earns them more trust and respect (I've heard reports of the owners of veggie cafes being seen cooking bacon sandwiches before the cafe opens in the morning!) and you can rest assured that your money won't be funding animal cruelty outside of the business. Rose is hoping to expand her range with more products, and is currently redesigning product labels to inform customers that 15% of profit each year will be donated to charity. She also hopes to turn the company into a not-for-profit organisation to raise money for people and animals in need. How amazing is that? I genuinely love PHB's products, and if you haven't tried anything from their range before then I strongly suggest you give them a try. I have previously reviewed some of their products which you can read here.
It was also interesting to read about Patrik Baboumian, an Armenian strongman who is known as the 'Vegan Badass'. Patrik has taken part in countless strength sports competitions over twenty one years and has set multiple world records as a vegan between 2012 and 2013. He has written a book - Vrebellion - to help tackle the stereotype that vegans are weak and deficient in protein. I think it's great to see more men dispelling the myth that you need to eat meat to be 'manly' and muscly, especially when they are compassionate too (Patrik realised that he had always been kind and helpful to animals since his childhood). Patrik said that one day he realised that it was hypocritical to want to help an injured bird and not let it suffer, but on the same day go into a supermarket and buy a dead chicken for his dinner. I wish everyone would make this connection!
Some of the delicious recipes that I fancy having a go at from this issue are lentil and mushroom pasties, vanilla bean chocolate chip cookies, puy lentil salad with roasted vegetables, Mediterranean quinoa salad, chickpea protein burgers, no-sugar, no-cheese cake, pink lemon coconut bonbons and superfood seed bars.
Issue 7 of Vegan Life magazine will be on sale very soon - you can subscribe to the paper version here and the digital version here.
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