Travelling for control freaks

I posted ages ago about how I like to keep complete control over the contents of my handbag using pencil cases and mini versions of things ( This started when I was on maternity leave and I still think it’s a brilliant way of doing things, especially as I no longer have a titchy small, cute and manageable baby, I have a marauding toddler who thinks nothing of wiping his lunch casually around the inside of my bag. Wipe clean pencil cases saved the day when that happened, believe me.

I do the same thing when I’m travelling. I don’t get to travel as much as I would like, but I do get to disappear from time to time on business trips to hot places, and stay up late in hotel bars drinking gin. It’s quite a change from being a mum, and I like it very much, whilst also feeling desperately homesick and wanting to see my son and have him shout ‘MUMMY!’ at me. So a slightly conflicted thing-I have weeks where my son won’t sleep and is under the weather and teething and I yearn for a break from it all, a break from nose wiping, soothing, collecting abandoned bits of toast, changing nappies and tracking down missing socks. Then a trip comes along and I can feel myself trying to relax on the plane, thinking ‘sleep, you can sleep for THIRTEEN HOURS and the only person who wakes you up will be a stewardess who wants to give you breakfast!’ but also working out exactly what my son will be doing at any given point of the day or night and feeling a gut wrenching sense of separation that I just wasn’t expecting to come with motherhood. Tough, this parenting business.

I’ve found the perfect suitcase for me-a Samsonite case It’s hand luggage size for short European trips, and I can easily fit my laptop, three days clothing, my Kindle or tablet and airport security friendly toiletries and make up, and anything else I need for the trip (purse, small bag for evenings out). For long haul, it’s still hand luggage friendly (you’re usually allowed a case around this size plus a laptop bag or other handbag) so I pack my laptop separately with my Kindle and any other tech things I need, then up to five days clothing, toiletries etc in the case. Not having to wait for checked bags saves a huge amount of time, and I get competitive about travelling light, so finding the smallest versions of things/reducing the weight of my bag from trip to trip is weirdly satisfying. A couple of points worth mentioning: I don’t have to wear formal business attire, so clothing doesn’t take up much space (short sleeved silk tops/vest tops and cardigans on top, a pair of trousers and a skirt, in addition to the casual clothes I wear to travel in, with a spare pair of ballet flats in the case, a swimming costume and underwear. That’s it. If you are more interested in clothes/need to take three suits with you/have lots of formal dinners etc this is probably not the case for you). I also have no problem using hotel laundry services if I’m away for longer than I have clothes for, and am quite happy to buy extra stuff overseas if I need it (if I finish my mini pack of cleansing wipes/toothpaste/run out of knickers before the laundry is returned). I also never take chargers or adapters, as I can always find a spare charger for my phone or laptop in our offices, and hotels always have adapters you can borrow. And I very rarely buy gifts while I’m away, so I don’t need to have extra space available in my case for the trip home (don’t usually get much shopping time, and airport gifts seem a bit pointless).

So, shoes in first, then clothes arranged as flat as possible around them. My laptop goes on top of clothes if it’s a short trip, then I put all the other bits in pencil cases wherever they’ll fit, and my Kindle and phone go in the pocket at the front.

Make up: Travel pack face wipes, 4 x sachets of face wash and moisturiser from a magazine, cheapy Boots cucumber eye gel. Tiny pot (5ml?) with enough foundation for me to use it several times, concealer stick, mini eyeshadow, black mascara, eyebrow pencil, very thin flat pot of blusher and small blusher brush, lip balm

Medicines/emergencies: paracetemol, ibuprofen, sudafed tablets, Strepsils, immodium, senna tablets, Karvol, plasters, earplugs in a small case, antihistamine tablets (these knock me out on a long flight) single use twisty thing of saline solution, tampons x 2, mini tube of antibac gel, tea tree oil spot stick. No tweezers-they get confiscated…

Toiletries: mini Nivea deodorant spray, travel pack of baby wipes, magazine sachets of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and hand cream, Sainsburys basics toothbrush and mini tube of toothpaste, travel dental floss

Other bits: small flat purse with foreign currency, debit and credit card, passport, work pass, comb and small mirror, pack of mints.

And that’s it! It works for me-what are your travel essentials, and how do you prepare for business trips, whether home or away?


Quick beauty fixes for new mums

Royal baby fever has made me come over all emotional, thinking back to the day we left hospital with our baby son. I’m not a huge royal fan to be honest with you, but seeing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the hospital steps yesterday did bring it all back-the sense of protectiveness, the realisation that this is your baby’s FIRST LOOK AT THE WORLD-just mindblowing stuff, not to mention the terrifying passing over of the baby from one parent to another (‘What if he DROPS him?’) and the ever popular hissed row about whether the car seat was in properly (I can’t believe William and Kate missed out on that one-nearly as much of a rite of passage as having to fold your buggy up on a bus with one hand).

Hair and beauty wise, Kate did exactly the right thing-hairdresser, make up artist and a very carefully chosen frock. For those of us without her resources (or the world’s media camped outside the maternity ward doors) there are some quick fixes which can help you look and feel a bit more like your old self during the first few daunting, sleepless and wonderful first days with your newborn. I did some of them, and wish I had done others!

Leaving the hospital

Hair: top recommendation here is to find a two in one (shampoo and conditioner) that suits your hair. Remember that your gorgeous, shiny pregnancy can sometimes fall out sharpish after you’ve given birth, so I went for a volumising shampoo and conditioner. Didn’t bother with any styling products, but it felt good to have clean hair, dried simply and pulled back with a simple clip.

Face: I had a foaming face wash in my maternity bag, as friends had warned me that the maternity ward was incredibly hot, and I’d need something refreshing (as an unlucky acne-prone person, too much heat has me breaking out sharpish). So a quick but thorough face wash, then a caffeine eye gel (one with a roller-think it was Garnier) to try to get rid of some of the dark circles, and a light moisturiser. Once that had soaked in, I used a BB cream, a creamy brown eye shadow and Vaseline as lip gloss, and I was ready to go and introduce my baby to the world!

Clothes: I was in jersey maternity smocks for several months after DS arrived, so don’t think I’m in a good place to give advice about post-baby wear…

Once you’re back home

If you’re lucky, your other half will probably have a fortnight of paternity leave. Pretend everything is normal during this time, don’t rush your bath/shower time-you may as well enjoy having someone else there to watch the baby. Once the fortnight is up, you’ll probably have to speed things up a bit though, or be shouted at by a sad faced baby while you’re exfoliating, which isn’t relaxing for anyone. So, use moisturising EVERYTHING (shower gel, face wash, hand soap) as it should mean you end up clean and moisturised in one step, rather than two. Oil shower gels are particularly good for this-I think I had a Nivea one. I used to sit on the end of the bed next to the baby while I dried my hair, and he’d happily watch me (and shriek if I moved away from him AT ALL). Vaseline your feet every now and then overnight to get rid of dry skin, and paint your toenails with something pretty if your baby ever naps.

A multivitamin is worth thinking about, and drinking a lot of water. I used to aim for a pint every time I breastfed, but buggered it up most times by forgetting to get the water before I sat down, then realising I was stuck for the next forty minutes. Think about booking a mobile hairdresser who can come to you when the baby is very little-mine needed feeding all the time when he was small, I didn’t dare go for a haircut, as I’d have been worrying about him being hungry all the time. Mobile hairdressers are often cheaper too, as they don’t have salon overheads-mine used to charge about a tenner for a cut, which was perfect for my maternity pay budget!

Resign yourself to the fact that everything has changed. Remember that just because you no longer come first, it doesn’t mean you don’t count at all-you just made a human, which is just a staggeringly brilliant thing to have done. You will almost certainly have days when it feels like the only thing you’ve achieved is emptying the dishwasher, so why not have pretty toenails when you do it?

I was on a break

I’ve had a few weeks off. I wasn’t planning to, but it had got to the point where the idea of having to switch my laptop on in the evening was just TOO HARD so I thought a break was in order. Sometimes, it all just gets a bit much.

Things that were depressing me
-The amazing non-sleeping baby
-Friends with babies the same age saying how great it is now they’re sleeping through the night, and me saying ‘Oh that sounds lovely, we’re still being woken up every two hours ha ha’ and them doing sympathetic head tilts at me
-The losing weight is FUN! switch in my head had turned itself off, and I’d really piled it on
-None of my clothes fit me (see above)
-Dreadful skin
-One of my toenails really hurt
-I still can’t open the petrol cap on the car, so my husband has to fill it up for me. This is mortifying, but I just can’t do it (and the power of positive thinking has left me looking like an arse on the forecourt as I spin the cap round repeatedly trying to make it click properly on more than one occasion)

Things I’ve done to try to improve things

-Been horrified by several recent photos, and started losing weight again. I’m short, I just don’t carry excess well
-Managed to fit my arse into a few more bits of clothing (VERY dull only having one pair of trousers you can actually get into)
-Been to the GP for the pill, and to get on the waiting list to see a dermatologist. I think I need Roaccutane again
-Cursed everyone who told me that having a baby would stop adult acne. It hasn’t. Thanks all.
-Been to the podiatrist again and got her to sort the sad toenail out
-Accepted that my baby won’t sleep for more than two hours at a time till he’s ready, and I can replace the car in two years, and get one with a petrol cap that doesn’t need witchcraft to open it

Things are looking up!

It’s sandal time

I have been horrified by my feet-despite my best efforts through the cold weather, they really were not sandal ready. A trip to the podiatrist was in order; nails cut, hard skin taken off with an actual scalpel (beat, THAT, foot filers!) and some Flexitol rubbed in-I left 25 minutes and £29 later, but with feet that will do my sandals proud. A summery pink polish (Rose Libertine by Rimmel-it did stain my nails last time I used it, so I actually used a base coat this time, and am sure it will do the job!) and I’m ready to go!

Garnier 5 Second Perfect Blur Primer

I’m an absolute sucker for a new beauty thing, so couldn’t resist picking up a tube of this primer in Boots.

What it says on the tube
A smoothing and perfecting primer with optical effect. Diffuses light in all directions to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, open pores and uneven skin tone

The texture of this primer is oddly fluffy (and doesn’t come out of the tube evenly when you squeeze-it kind of blurtles out, making small, slightly puffing noises as it comes out of the tube) but soaks into the skin amazingly quickly, leaving a lovely velvety surface. I actually did the test they show in the adverts-where you see a half and half face, with and without the primer, and it does genuinely make a difference. My face looked smoother, had virtually no shine, and smaller blemishes looked like they’d disappeared into the skin. So far, so good. I was a bit disappointed once I’d put my foundation on over the top-I gave it a good few minutes before applying make-up on, but ended up with a less smoothly blended finish than usual, which made me wonder if the primer hadn’t absorbed into my skin as well as I thought.

Will I be switching?
I’ll probably keep the tube and use it if I run out my Barbara Daily primer, or take it with me when I travel, but won’t be using this daily-despite the velvety feel, it felt like a step down from my usual product

Spring cleaning

The sun is out (for now) and the sky is blue, and it’s highlighted the many cobwebs and dusty areas of my house. Spring cleaning sounds old school, but it does actually make sense. After doing the rooms (top to bottom, left to right-if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it properly!) I like to have a proper bathroom sort out-toiletries and make-up need a good clean and tidy up too!

This takes a good hour or so, with some baby wipes, (for cleaning drippy bottles) at least one bin bag, (for lotions and potions that don’t make the cut) a notebook and pen so I can write down any products that I’m running low on. It works better if you can offload any small children while you’re doing your spring clean, or they’ll try to ‘help’/drink the shower gel, and it just won’t work.

I keep my toiletries and cosmetics in plastic baskets on shelves (not attractive, but functional). I do one basket at a time, and work top to bottom, left to right. Like products are stored with like (dental stuff, make-up, soaps/shower gels, moisturisers, baby toiletries, hair stuff-they all get separate baskets)-if you don’t have a system like this, it might take you a bit longer (and will be harder to see if you need to stock up on anything). Each basket gets emptied onto the floor, wiped or washed clean, and left to dry and air on the window sill. I check all of the products and decide if I like them, still use them, roughly how long they’ve been open (yes! make-up and toiletries have a shelf life too-look for a number in a circle, often on the bottom of the tub they’re in-a 6 means they should be disposed of six months after you first opened them) and keep or chuck accordingly. Anything being kept is cleaned thoroughly and put back in the clean dry basket. When I’m all done, I have a quick look and see if I’m short of anything (I like to have at least a couple of bottles/packs of shampoo, razors, soaps and moisturiser in reserve) and make a quick note on my shopping list. The basket goes back to its shelf, and I move on to the next one.

Makeup is slightly different-I like to move from using my winter foundation (latest favourite is Barbara Daly’s moisture foundation) to something with a bit more glow (I have just bought some Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation, and have very high hopes for it!) so will swap them over in my basket. Benefit Dandelion blusher goes out, and Posietint cheek stain comes in instead, and neutral nail colours make way for something brighter.

It’s odd, but I genuinely feel lighter and happier once the spring clean is done, and I’m ready to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts

Daffodils, sunshine, pretty good skin

I’ve not had the best few weeks (relentlessly ill small boy, too much stuff on at work, weight loss has slowed right down) but I’m trying to think positive. The baby is (finally) on the mend, the end is in sight with the work tough patch and I’ve probably lost less weight because a new cake shop has opened up just down the road. In other positive news-the garden is full of daffodils, the sun has come out, my gel polish lasted three full weeks, so I’ve had them redone (in clear this time) and my skin is looking pretty good at the moment. I think an increase in the amount of sleep I’m getting has helped, but I’ve also been really strict about thorough cleansing morning and night (double cleanse at night, after getting lazy with face wipes-really not ideal for regular use!) and using a rather lovely new moisturiser-Balance Me Daily Essentials Moisture-Rich Face Cream. Now, I know it’s hard to believe, but it was still snowing here in The Shire a couple of weeks ago. Actual snow, the sort you don’t want to be driving in, not just a few odd flakes here and there. And the extended cold weather had confused my skin-it was blotchy, tired and looking quite worn out, despite my tired and pathetic efforts to keep it happy as we moved from snow to overly hot central heating and back again. It needed a bit of TLC, and a moisture-rich face cream sounded good-I’m glad to say it delivered:

Balance Me Daily Essentials Moisture-Rich Face Cream

On the label: plumps and smooths for rejuvenated looking skin, 99% natural origin

This has a beautiful rose scent, and a lovely texture-smooth and very quickly absorbed. It left my skin looking fresh and plumped up, as promised, and the glow lasts all day. It contains rosehip and camellia oils, and shea butter, but doesn’t feel at all greasy, and leaves a nice surface for make up a couple of minutes after application. It comes in a squirty tube, and I generally find one squirt is fine for the mornings, when I’m in a rush, but I do two squirts in the evening and spend a bit longer massaging it into my face and neck.

The result-I have smooth, glowing skin, which managed to cope with the worst the snow and central heating could offer, and is coping equally well with the warmer weather. This is a real find!