Monday, 19 May 2014

Being somewhat introverted


I recently got myself a new job, which I start in 6 weeks. In the second interview I had, the interviewer asked me whether I would consider myself an introvert or an extrovert, and how I felt I could work with people who were the opposite to me.

I paused for a moment, reflecting on my tendencies. My answer was thus: I am predominantly an introvert, but I have taught myself to be extroverted.

I am a classic introvert. Just for a recap, this doesn't mean that I'm shy, but more that I gain energy from within myself. I hate using the telephone, especially to people I don't know. I hate small talk. I like to party, but only when I'm in the mood and I've had sufficient time to recharge my batteries beforehand. I like being alone. If people come to stay with us, I get antsy after about 3 days, because there are people in my space and I feel like I have to be 'on' all the time. Big events exhaust me.

But at the same time, I have learnt to buck this a little. I was a politician, which meant doing a lot of things that were completely outside of my comfort zone, like knocking on doors asking for people's support in an election. It probably speaks volumes that I never directly asked that of people without asking them something else first - I could never walk up to someone and outright ask them to support me. I had to learn to network, when small talk is my most hated thing. I had to learn to deal with stuff I would normally shy away from.

So now I consider myself an introvert with learnt extrovert traits. I still need space to myself. I can still ground extroverts, providing much needed balance to their enthusiasm (unfortunately I always feel like I'm the party pooper as a result). Being an introvert is a bit of a problem when you're learning a new language as well - you need to be able to make small talk to improve your skills, but if you hate small talk doing it in an unfamiliar language is the worst thing ever!

I was thinking about this because I read Sarah Wilson's piece on introverts and extroverts. She mentioned something about going to concerts not because the thing itself energises her, but because the experience pushes her. That made me pause - I love going to concerts. Music is my passion and live music is what I love. But only when I'm alone (or with someone who shares my love for whichever band we're seeing). The concert will fill me with energy and love, but if I'm with someone else then I end up using some of that energy being 'on'.

I read somewhere else that introverts are best partnered with extroverts. I don't agree with that - The Beard is as introverted as me, but in different ways. He is much better with small talk and networking than I am, but less good with mass social outings to parties etc. I'm fairly confident that one of the reasons we mesh so well is because we understand each others needs and don't try and push them too hard. But because we're differently introverted we don't end up with the stuck in the rut thing - we know how to push each other in different areas.

Extroverts can be hard work if I'm with them too long. I need time to recharge, time to refresh. Not too much time though - one thing people don't always understand about introverts is that even we get cabin fever. All that energy that we recharge when we're in down time has to go somewhere, and eventually we need to interact with other people.

As with just about everything, balance is the key.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

REVIEW: MD Solar Sciences Mineral Creme SPF 50

MD Solar Sciences Mineral Creme SPF 50 is a sunscreen designed by dermatologists with skins prone to acne and rosacea in mind. Which is pretty much why I bought this.

It is a completely mineral sunscreen, with 17% Zinc Oxide and 2% Titanium Dioxide. It is very difficult to get a pure mineral sunscreen at this level of protection unless you go for the Australian brands, which are difficult to get in the Northern Hemisphere. So this was a real win.

The ingredients list is quite short - mainly silicones of one form or another and right at the bottom green tea, pomegranate and cranberry extract. It sounds on paper like a good make up primer with high sun protection. Exactly what I was after!

Except... despite applying well the first couple of times I tried it, as the days went on, this just wouldn't sink into my skin, instead sitting as a plasticky layer on top of my moisturiser. I did leave it an hour one day and it eventually sank in, and that was the only day my make up lasted really well on top of it. The other days it would just break up in a few hours, leaving me with patchy coverage on my chin and around my nose.

The worst part was the breakout. Despite being marketed as suitable for acne prone skins, this broke me out. Not all over my face thankfully, but along and under my jawline, and on my neck. I haven't had spots on my neck since I stopped taking the biotin supplements! They really hurt too.

Since I stopped using this my skin has calmed down quite a lot. Sadly, this does not work for me. I think it is probably the high level of silicones present in the sunscreen - I don't care how many experts say that silicones do not clog pores because the particles are too large to get in them. To me, applying that amount of silicone to my face is akin to using cling film (saran wrap) on my face. It is like a layer of plastic that disrupts my skins ability to do something (I am not a dermatologist) and it makes me break out.

My foundation contains silicones, but different ones to this, and they don't cause any problems. It is obviously a sensitivity to certain ones. But to me, this makes this sunscreen a big fat fail.

Friday, 16 May 2014

REVIEW: Murad Acne Fast Fix

I grabbed the Murad Acne Fast Fix at the till in Sephora in New York, on a little bit of a whim. I'm really glad I did, because this product is absolutely amazing!

I've always been a little reluctant to use chemical warfare on my skin because it is so sensitive - even too much salicylic acid will actually make my skin worse than better. So as this product contains benzoyl peroxide, it was a bit of a wild card choice for me. Nevertheless, I gave it a try, having heard great things about Murad products.

Murad Acne Fast Fix is a light gel that sinks in really fast. You apply a thin layer to the affected area after cleansing and before moisturising. I have a fair few spots at the moment and I probably use a dollop about the size of a small pea at most. It does sting a little on open skin, but this is to be expected. It won't get rid of a spot overnight, but it does significantly reduce them. I personally don't experience any drying or peeling as a result of using this, but everyone is different.

The directions say this can be applied up to 3 times a day - I usually apply in the morning, when I clean my face in the evening, and sometimes add a little more just before I go to bed. Beware, this can bleach pillowcases if it hasn't had a chance to absorb properly. 

As this contains bezoyl peroxide it is important to wear sunscreen if going outside, even in the cloudiest conditions, as BP makes skin sensitive to UV light.

The best thing this product has done for me is help reduce the persistent spots on my jawline. Slowly but surely they are going!

Sadly this product doesn't look as thought it is available in Europe, but hopefully as it is a new product it will come this way soon. Unfortunately although Sephora now ships to the UK (and maybe Germany), they won't ship this as it is considered a hazardous product.

Murad Acne Fast Fix is a key part of my skincare routine, and I would recommend it to anyone who suffers from persistent acne who can get their hands on it!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Beating spots for good: super simple skincare

It has been 6 months since I quit dairy for good, and aside from a few moments (particularly in the USA where everything seemed to be cooked in butter), I have been dairy free for that entire time. As I've mentioned before, the deep, painful cystic spots disappeared, and my skin was generally clearer.

But I still had niggling spots that just wouldn't go away. A random googling of avocado oil led me to this post by Minimalist Beauty about the types of oil suitable for acne prone skin.
I did a little googling to verify what I was reading, and there is some scientific research to support this theory.

Basically, skins prone to acne, eczema and psoriasis have been found to lack linoleic acid in their sebum. This means the sebum is thick and sticky and prone to clogging pores. The treatment is simple: apply high linoleic acid oil to the skin. Examples of very high linoleic acid oils are Evening Primrose and Passionfruit seed oil.

It is also important to keep a balance of linoleic and oleic acid in the skin, so just applying linoleic rich oils won't keep your skin in top condition. This is where my new favourite skin care oil comes in: Pumpkin.

The ratios of LA to OA in pumpkin seed oil varies depending on the quality and pressing method, but the stuff I use contains 48% LA to 34% OA. Therefore when I use it I mix it with grapeseed oil, which has around 70% LA and very little OA, and EPO which has similar ratios to grapeseed oil. I use this as a cleansing oil, following the oil cleansing method, both morning and night.

Following this I use Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix (this appears to be new and not available in Europe yet) on any spots - this really helps to get rid of any spots that crop up, and the persistant ones on my jaw have been slowly going thanks to this. I actually picked it up as it was in the stand by the till in Sephora, and I thought 'why not?'. At $16 I figured it was worth a shot!

I then apply Lush Cosmetics Enchanted Eye Cream to my eye area. I've been using this eye cream for years, since I worked at Lush whilst a student. I still haven't found anything that works better than this! It was discontinued for a little while but thankfully they brought it back!
This product does contain almond and jojoba oils, but as long as I don't get this too far below my eyes it is ok. I'm half heartedly looking for a new eye cream - I have also tried Melvita Rose Eye Gel which is lovely but causes my eye make up to melt by lunchtime.

For daytime, I use Neals Yard Remedies Frankincense Nourishing Cream, which has organic sunflower oil as its primary oil ingredient. This is supported by wheatgerm oil, keeping the balance of the oils firmly in the LA rich category. The OA rich oils present in this cream help keep the skin moisturised, but due to the greater presence of LA rich oils, the balance is maintained.

At night I apply Tarte Pure Maracuja (Passion Fruit Seed) Oil. This oil has around 80% LA, making it brilliant as an overnight treatment for those of us with LA deficient skins. I find that using this overnight really helps my skin, to the point that the OA rich oils in my day moisturiser don't bother me. I think you can buy this from QVC in the UK, but other than that, unfortunately it is difficult to get hold of in Europe! I really wish I'd bought the smaller travel size bottle as well, but I shall add it to my summer Sephora order!

If I need a special treatment, I exfoliate using Kneipp Enzyme Peeling Powder (sorry, the link is in German), and then make up a face mask with pumpkin seed oil, oats and water. Slap that on the face, avoiding the eye area, and leave for 20 minutes.

This routine is really quick and simple, and my skin is thriving because of it. My scars are also starting to fade! I still react randomly to things - for example this weekend I used the salt spray in my hair that I have had for a while, and on the side of my face where my hair is almost chin length, I now have a lovely crop of spots along my jaw and in a couple of places where my hair touches my face. Lesson learnt! But following the routine means my breakout has only lasted a couple of days, rather than a couple of weeks.

So, if you suffer from persistant spots that don't seem to go away no matter what you try, try switching your oils up to include more LA rich oils and see if you see a difference. All skins are different, so it might not work, but it isn't going to do any harm!

All products purchased by me!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

USA Trip 2014: Shopping!

Over the Easter holidays, The Beard and I took a little trip out to the USA. We did a little tour of the East Coast, taking in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. As well as sight seeing, I found a little time to do some shopping. After weeks poring over the websites of various US based stores, I finally got to flex some plastic and do some buying....


This was the big shopping for me. I have been to Sephora in Prague and Rome but I don't think I've ever been to one in the USA before, as during my last trip I didn't have much time in NYC and there isn't one in Downtown Washington.

I spent hours looking at the website before we went, examining all the brands not available here in Europe, checking prices, making lists. So here is what I bought... (reviews to follow separately)


Becca Ultimate Coverage Complexion Creme in Shell and Cashmere

Cover FX Cream Concealer in N X Light and N Light

MD Solar Sciences Mineral Creme SPF 50 and Clinique City Block SPF 25

Korres Lip Butter in Guava and Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix

Tarte EmphasEYEs Liner, EmphasEYEs Inner Rim Brightener and Pure Maracuja Oil

Sephora Collection Eyeshadow in Secret Boudoir, Sephora Pencil Sharpener and Bobbi Brown Gel Liner in Black Ink


I didn't buy that much in MAC, just the basic things that I use loads of and are much cheaper in the USA!

Opulash in Bad Bad Black, Prep and Prime Finishing Powder and Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Painterly


I also bought some underwear and clothes in Target, and some underwear and tights in Macys.
But the big purchase for me was a brand new suitcase. I needed a new one as my old one was used as a toilet by the cats and the wheels broke! I will be doing more travelling for work when I start my new job, so a new hardshell suitcase was pretty much a must have. Thankfully I found a very reasonably priced Samsonite in the sale in a bag store in a mall in Arlington.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

USA Trip 2014: New York City

Over the Easter holidays, The Beard and I took a little trip out to the USA. We did a little tour of the East Coast, taking in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. As is the way for two people with a passion for photography, we took rather a lot of photos between us - somewhere close to 4000! I wanted to share our trip, so each city has it's own post complete with edited photographic highlights and a link to the bigger album, should your curiosity get the better of you!

New York, New York!

The final leg of our journey took us to New York City. The first night we stayed in the Ravel Hotel in Queens, under the Queensboro' Bridge. The room was significantly cheaper than the equivalent standard in Manhattan (and it was very nice), and there was a fantastic Penthouse bar and restaurant, with amazing views of Manhattan!

The only slight downside was that they are doing some renovations to the Penthouse so it was a little chilly up there, but the view more than made up for it!

Our first order of business was the Statue of Liberty. I booked tickets months ago, because they usually sell out pretty quickly for the Crown. It was windy and cold on the boat, but beautifully sunny. The climb to the Crown of the Statue is not for the faint hearted - I had to get The Beard to talk to me all the way up and down because I was so terrified! But the view from the top is amazing!

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around, after lunch in a deli behind the World Trade Center. Mmmm Turkey club sandwich....

At the Rockefeller Center were all the Easter Eggs from this year's Easter Egg Hunt.

We ended up having dinner in this crazy little Italian place in the Theater District, called Da Marino. We literally just stumbled on it, and although the wine was a little pricey (a common theme we found in the USA), the food was good and reasonably priced for Mid Town Manhattan.

We finished the day with a trip to Times Square at night, and somehow managed to miss a proposal happening right in front of us!

The following day we got sandwiches from a deli round the corner from where we were staying on the Upper West Side and headed into Central Park. What is better than a BLT in Central Park?

We wandered through the park from the West side in the middle down to the South East corner, taking plenty of photographs along the way! We were even lucky enough to see a hawk in the park, having a quick lunch of squirrel! It was a few degrees cooler in New York than it had been in D.C., meaning that the cherry blossoms were just reaching peak blossom, and the gardens were a riot of spring colour.

What followed next was an abortive attempt to go to B&H Photography - we got there just as they were closing. This did save us some money though...
As we were at this point incredibly hungry, we decided to make our way to Katz's Deli for lunch. This famous diner, home of the When Harry Met Sally diner scene, serves pastrami on rye sandwiches as big as your head.

After lunch we headed down to the Brooklyn Bridge, to do a slow penguin shuffle across it. We got as far as the first upright before decided to head back, mainly as we had to be at the Rockefeller Center for 5pm to do the trip to the top.

The view from the Top of the Rock is amazing, and I particularly loved looking down on Manhattan and seeing all the tall buildings from the top!

That night we went out for dinner with one of my NYC colleagues in Brooklyn (Williamsburg to be exact), to a Peruvian restaurant where I had an awesome Pisco Sour and probably the first meal in over a week that wasn't cooked in butter! We also drank water out of jam jars....

Our final morning was spent packing our cases and then a lovely breakfast with our host at Pershing Square, a diner under the roadway into Grand Central Station. We had to queue a little but not too long and the breakfasts were huge!

Sadly my camera battery died just after we got into Grand Central, but I did manage a nice shot of the Chrysler Building!

You can view my full New York Album here and the full Rockefeller Egg Album here

Monday, 12 May 2014

USA Trip 2014: Philadelphia, P.A.

Over the Easter holidays, The Beard and I took a little trip out to the USA. We did a little tour of the East Coast, taking in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. As is the way for two people with a passion for photography, we took rather a lot of photos between us - somewhere close to 4000! I wanted to share our trip, so each city has it's own post complete with edited photographic highlights and a link to the bigger album, should your curiosity get the better of you!

Philadelphia, P.A.

Home of the Philly Cheese Steaks! Which we did eat, but were so hungry that we totally forgot to photograph them before we started!! I can only say that they were amazing - if you find yourself in Philadelphia, check out Campos - I'm not sure how they compare to others, but to me they tasted amazing!

Another place we went that we didn't photograph was Mac's Tavern. Owned by the guys from "Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia", this was a must visit on our itinerary!

I really liked Philadelphia. It is a nice, small city (well, the centre is) with a lot of historic charm. Typical touristy things to do in Philly include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Love Park and the Museum of Art (where the Rocky statue is). There is also a stunning collection of Rodin sculpture in the Rodin Museum.

The thing I loved most about Philadephia was the architecture. There are just so many old buildings, ranging from Colonial to modern, with loads of inter and post war buildings.

We left Philadelphia the way we arrived, via 30th Street Station.

You can check out my whole Philadelphia album here.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sunday Round Up #2

Tulips in New York

This week has been incredibly busy at work (nothing new there then!), especially Monday and Tuesday when I worked quite late both nights. The two day meeting had some good outcomes but it was so intense I was exhausted by the end of it!

The rest of the week involved a lot of writing up and digesting what had been decided, and planning the next steps.

I did manage to get out the office at a reasonable time every day though. Wednesday night I had dinner with a whole load of colleagues which was fantastic.

Thursday night we stayed in and ate sushi from our favourite delivery place, then Friday I finished work at lunchtime, came home and chilled before the cleaner came later in the afternoon. I mentioned it last week - we decided to get a cleaner and it is the best thing we've ever done!

Friday night we went out for drinks and Indian with a friend, which was really nice. I had my favourite, lamb bhuna, and samosas. Deeelicious.

I reserved a car for Saturday so we could take some bits to the rubbish dump, go to Ikea and do a supermarket run for the heavy stuff we can't carry (so wine, tinned food and orange juice then). We did that after a monster fry up and some TV. Typically we spent much more than we intended in Ikea, but it was all stuff we needed, like a shoe cupboard for the lobby, some pasta bowls, a bigger pestle and mortar, the blackboard we've been after for a while, and some food from the Swedish shop.

Finally today I've been processing photos and writing up blog posts. This is why having a cleaner is fantastic; I now have time to do these kind of things without feeling like I should be doing something else! I have put a huge lump of beef in the oven, and while that is cooking I will do the laundry and Skype the folks.

The weekend has been rather relaxing and lovely, and I will probably finish it off with a bit of a facial pamper later.

I hope you have had a good week and weekend!

USA Trip 2014: Washington D.C.

Over the Easter holidays, The Beard and I took a little trip out to the USA. We did a little tour of the East Coast, taking in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. As is the way for two people with a passion for photograpy, we took rather a lot of photos between us - somewhere close to 4000! I wanted to share our trip, so each city has it's own post complete with edited photographic highlights and a link to the bigger album, should your curiosity get the better of you!

Washington D.C.

The capital of the USA! I have family who live here, so as well as it being a stunning city to visit, it was nice to catch up with my aunt and cousins (especially the one I hadn't seen for 15 years!).
We had quite a nice relaxing few days, hanging out with my cousins, and pottering around the city. There was of course some shopping, but more on that later!

My aunt took us out to Arlington, to visit the US Marine Corps Memorial (which is a LOT bigger than I thought it would be) and the National Cemetary (which is also HUUUGE!).

We also visited Alexandria, a small historic town in Virginia, further down the Potomac. It reminded me a lot of Exeter and small towns in parts of England.. perhaps unsurprising as this was a former colonial town...

Then on our final day in D.C. we did the Memorial Trail, walking around the Tidal Basin, onto the Mall and towards the Capitol Building. This was Easter Monday and the Annual Easter Egg Roll was on at the White House, so we didn't go too close because of the crowds.

We left Washington D.C after 4 days on an early morning train from Union Station to Philadelphia...

You can view my full Washington D.C. album here.


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