SMUG Sleep Mask

I am a huge fan of naps. I know not everyone can manage it, but I am big on the napping and try to get away with as many naps as possible.

I’ve seen adverts for SMUG pop up all over my social media accounts. Their main product is a 3D sleep mask which is advertised to protect those with eyelash extensions.

I don’t have eyelash extensions, but I do regularly get my lashes lifted so I’m hoping the contour will help protect that too and make them last longer.

When I saw that the mask was on sale at ASOS, I thought I’d buy it to see what it was like. If it arrived and I didn’t think it was suitable, I could always return it.

The mask arrived the following day and packaged as pictured above. I liked the look of the mask. The cute little eyelashes on the front amuse me and the bright pink is bright and distinctive.

The sleep mask has an elasticated but adjustable strap which is really good. Other sleep masks I’ve owned previously have only had elasticated straps which have stretched overtime and then don’t stay in position very well at all.

The contour of the mask is very deep. As I’m Asian, I have quite a flat face so I was concerned that it wouldn’t fit right but it was actually perfect.

I had a nap and used the sleep mask and it was great. It was the perfect shape for my face and blacked out all the light which is exactly as advertised. The depth of the eye mask even fit my flat face and my eyelashes were well protected underneath the sleep mask.

I paid £8 for the sleep mask on ASOS which I think is reasonable. There are a lot of perks to this sleep mask and it was very comfortable. I’m so glad that I can bin off my old sleep mask that no longer fits!

Finding Your Dream Wedding Dress

Some of you may be aware that Tom and I got engaged last year and we’re now planning our wedding! It’s onto one of the big decisions… the wedding dress!

Where do you start?

For all you brides out there, it is recommended that you buy your wedding gown 12 – 18 months before the wedding. As I’m in that time frame, I started my search.

I had already started following gown designers and local shops on Instagram for inspiration. I didn’t have any expectations as I just loved everything out there.

Visiting Bridal Boutiques

I would never dream of just casually walking into a bridal boutique with a group of friends but I’ve walked by many a window and admired from a far. This attitude played a big part in my nervousness surrounding the idea of trying on dresses.

One of the small boutiques I was following on Facebook and Instagram, Willow In White, put a poll up on Instagram about having an open evening. I thought this was a great idea. It was an opportunity for new brides, such as myself, to go into a boutique without feeling the pressure of any commitment to buy and for her to meet us too. The poll was a resounding success and an opening evening was organised.

I popped along to the open evening on a Thursday evening, was greeted by Mel (the owner) with a glass of bubbly and I felt at ease. There were other brides there and I was able to look at all the gowns and accessories available at the boutique. I booked my gown trial appointment for the Saturday immediately after and I was very excited.

Who do you take with you?

Don’t be shocked… I went on my own and when people have found this out, I’ve had the most peculiar reactions…

My sisters no longer live local and my mum works on the weekends, and due to my last minute appointment decision, they wouldn’t have been available to attend.

I was absolutely fine on my own. Arguably, it was better as the fewer opinions I had the better! Even though I am quite a decisive person, I am easily swayed by other people’s opinions, especially when they’re my family as I value their opinion the most. Without them there, it forced me to think about my own opinions!

By going by myself, I picked a dress that I fell in love with, not anyone else. For those who are more strong minded than I am, take a few of your nearest and dearest!

How do you know if you’ve found the one?

I asked this question to everyone and I got the same answer from almost everyone… When you know, you know. And it’s true.

There were so many dresses that I loved and was even surprised by, but when the one was on, I knew.

I couldn’t stop looking at it in the mirror and I didn’t want to take it off. It made me feel so special and I didn’t even want to put on any of the other gowns again because I was just so in love with it.

My Experience Summarised

I was nervous going into my gown trial. I was worried that I wouldn’t suit anything and that I wouldn’t like anything. But after the first gown went on, everything shifted and I was so excited.

A big part of my amazing experience was meeting Mel. As I went on my own, she was a massive help and a big part of my experience. I valued her opinion and she asked all the right questions to get the one.

As much as I loved the experience, I’m glad I found the one with Mel at Willow In White because I wouldn’t want to traipse around town trying on all sorts of gowns in different boutiques.

For some top tips, follow Willow In White on Instagram and watch their Top Tips highlights!

BeYou: Period Patches

WARNING: this blog post talks about lady bits and menstruation, so look away if you’re not prepared for the realities.

Since having my implant removed last month, all possible hormone change symptoms have come flooding my way all at once.

Irritability, discharge, headaches and what this post will focus on… cramps!

A few weeks ago, I had debilitating cramps and I could barely get off the sofa. I haven’t suffered from cramps since I was a teenager, and even as a teen, it wasn’t this bad!

I messaged my lovely friend Emily, and she told me to go get myself a hot water bottle and have a lie down. I had forgotten how soothing a hot water bottle could be and I was glad I messaged her complaining!

Shortly after, she sent me over a picture of BeYou‘s Period Patches which she recommended to me! She described them as ‘4Head for cramps’. If any of you have used 4Head before, you’d have been as impressed as I was… so I took the plunge and bought some.

The pack comes with 5 patch strips. I bought mine on Amazon but I believe you can also purchase them at Boots and on the BeYou website.

I finally got the use them for the first time this month, and they are genuinely life changing. My cramps sort of just appeared out of no where, and although not as a bad as last time, still uncomfortable and tiring. I applied a patch underneath my belly and it made so much difference.

It felt calming and I felt comfortable so quickly after application. The product claims to last 12 hours but to be honest, I wasn’t keeping time. By the time I took it off, my cramps had gone and I was back to normal.

These patches are perfect for use at home, at school or at work. I’ve been lucky enough so far to have only suffered from my cramps at home, but I suspect in the future I may be at work so I’ll make sure these patches aren’t far! What’s better is that they are vegan and cruelty-free (although waiting accreditation)!

Planning a Vegan Wedding: Issue 3

Wedding websites… Do or don’t?

A wedding website isn’t for everyone, but I think they’re a good idea. It’s nice to have one place to collate important information for your guests. I know not everyone is tech savvy, but at least it’s there for those who are.

Building your Website

I decided to build mine using Wix.com which I would absolutely recommend. There are a lot of website builders similar to Wix out there so the world is your oyster. I used Wix upon recommendation from a friend of mine who built her wedding website on Wix too.

The great thing about Wix is that they give you the option to build your website from a template or to start completely from scratch. I built our wedding website using a template and it actually gave me loads of ideas on what to put on there.

It’s a drag and drop style website but there is a Dev Mode option that allows those who are code savvy to make custom code changes and hook into any external APIs (if they so wish).

Wix at its most basic level is free so it’s good just to play around first if you’re not sure as it won’t cost you anything.

Another bonus is that you can lock your website down with a password. This means that you can limit those who can see your website and the content to your guests (as long as you give them the password!).

Domain Names

For those of you who don’t know, a domain name is simply just a website name. The Wix free domain name isn’t always very meaningful, so for your wedding website, you might want to opt for something your guests will remember.

We went for http://www.annabelandtom.com which I thought would be a nice and easy one, and fortunately it was still available.

You can purchase domain names from various registrars online, but I went on GoDaddy. I was able to purchase my domain name for 2 years (which is more than enough) for about £20. GoDaddy was one of the cheaper options across all the registrars but I recommend shopping around in case you find better deals.

Linking GoDaddy with my Wix website was really easy. GoDaddy provided clear instructions on what details to put in, and it only took a few hours for the domain name to take affect which was much quicker than I anticipated.

The only thing is that you have to pay for a premium plan with Wix to be able to link your domain name to the site but there are lots of different options, including ad-free ones at a higher price.

Website Content

It is entirely up to you what information you put on your website, and there’s plenty of other sites and posts that will tell you what kind of helpful information you can include.

  • Your couple origin story
  • Accommodation options in the area of your venue
  • Registry information (in our case, we’ve asked for no gifts)
  • Information about the wedding venue and it’s location
  • Local Transport company information

We also included a little snippet on ‘traditions’ as we won’t be taking each others names, and we also reminded our guests that our wedding will be entirely vegan!

As the plans get more settled over the next year, I plan to add more to the website, even pages for day guests and evening guests to give them specific information about the day.

I included the website details on my Save The Date cards, and I’ve had a few compliments so far so I think the effort has paid off.

Planning a Vegan Wedding: Issue 2

So you have your venue sorted… What do you do next?

The Wedding Planning list is absolutely endless and is also completely dependent on what you want from your wedding day!

It was a little easier for us as Tom’s sisters had either just had their wedding day or were getting married very shortly so they had experienced everything they already could!

We decided to try a Wedding Fayre as Tom’s sisters had been to a few and enjoyed them. We booked and paid for tickets to The Big Welsh Wedding Show in October 2019 which was held in The Depot in Cardiff. I asked for a list of exhibitors from the organisers and I was interested in seeing what was there.

I found the whole thing incredibly overwhelming. As someone who’s just started planning a wedding, the event seemed a bit much and very ‘pushy’. We arrived and I had to fill out a form with my personal details. I remember specifically opting out of marketing e-mails, and yet somehow I ended up on the marketing list and receiving e-mails from various exhibitors as a few weeks went by.

There were A LOT of exhibitors which was great for window shopping. However, I felt a bit bored as I wandered around as I found that exhibitors were either too pushy and keen to talk to you, or couldn’t be bothered to make an effort with you at all.

I would like to take the time now though to rave about one company I saw there, Pretty Little Pictures. They are a lovely couple that run a photo booth company and they were so nice! They demo’d their photo booth box and back drop and we walked away with a cute little photo strip. I highly recommend dropping them a message if you’re interested in having a photo booth for any occasion.

Other exhibitors included:

  • Various venues, including Oldwalls
  • QuirkIt – A styling, rental company with the loveliest owners!
  • Paperdate Stationery
  • Photoboth companies with included PLP (as mentioned above) and Ultrabooth
  • And many more that I don’t remember the names of but included cakes, celebrants, car services, accessories and a string quartet.

We started talking to exhibitors just as the first catwalk of the day started. The catwalk was just models walking up and down in wedding attire, which is all well and good, but none of them had the same body shape or size as me so didn’t really encourage me . Additionally, the music was blasting so loud in the venue, it made it impossible for me to talk to any exhibitors at a reasonable volume.

As much as I would like to recommend everyone to go to a wedding fayre, from my first experience, I wouldn’t go again. I didn’t enjoy it, and you can usually find what you’re looking for online anyway!!

Saying that, I’m sure that there are plenty of you who would find it beneficial so don’t write it off just yet. I recommend checking the list of exhibitors and checking to see if any of them interest you. Go prepared with questions for those you do want to see!

Planning a Vegan Wedding: Issue 1

So for those of you who follow my blog more closely, you’ll know that Tom and I are planning our wedding! With it only being 18 months away now, I thought I’d start the Wedding Planning blog issues.

Issue 1, we’ll start with our venue hunt!

Tom has always had his heart set on getting married in the Gower, or at least close to the water. We find the water so calming and it’s the perfect back drop for us.

Ocean View Gower

In October 2019, the first venue we went to see was Ocean View Gower. The views here were absolutely breathtaking and it was a lovely venue. It was Emma who showed us around the venue and she was really nice and so helpful. You could do so much with the venue and it gives that lovely rustic feel.

They took us on a golf cart round the corner to their little camping village where they had a few pods where wedding guests could stay. The Bridal Suite was a gorgeous, larger version of the other pods.

The only thing that really deterred me from this venue (besides the dates available) was that it was on a working farm. As a vegan, I can’t support the industry and knowing that’s where my money would be going.

Oldwalls Gower

We went on a tour of Oldwalls directly after our visit to Ocean View and we fell in love with it. We put a deposit down there and then and we haven’t looked back since. Oldwalls was a little more polished that Ocean View and as a dedicated wedding venue, the services they provide were exactly what we were looking for.

It was a more polished version of Ocean View, but the price does reflect that. They have a lot of onsite accommodation which is really helpful for us as we’ll have a lot of guests who’ll want to stay. In addition to this, they have a gorgeous glamping village with lots of glamping pods for even more guests to stay in! All the guests that stay will also have breakfast included so it’ll be nice the following morning to have breakfast with our overnight guests.

Tom’s sister got married at Fairyhill last month which is the sister venue of Oldwalls. You can read my blog post about it here. The most important thing to us was having a vegan wedding. Oldwalls were more than happy to accommodate that with no problems. This included all the food, as well as the drinks.

Oldwalls hold showcases throughout the year so I recommend following them on social media to keep an eye out for them. Fairyhill will usually hold showcases on the same day so as you’re in the area, you may as well go and see both!

We’re really excited to keep moving with the planning. We should be invited for a food tasting this year, approximately a year before the wedding. Keep an eye out for that blog post in the future!

Natracare: Plastic Free Periods

For those of you who don’t like too much information or discussing women’s sanitary needs, please stop reading now. Those of you who aren’t bothered and are completely interested, make sure you keep reading because it may change your life (a little dramatic but seriously!).

Prior to my veganism, I used Always sanitary pads and Tampax tampons. I like to use both products for different reasons. Since turning vegan and being more exposed to ‘kinder’ products, I decided to be more conscious about the products I was using inside my body.

I came across Natracare by chance when I was browsing in Brontosaurus in Swansea. I didn’t buy it then and there, but they were on my radar and I started following their Instagram account.

I’ve had the contraceptive implant in for around 8 years now, and during the majority of that time, I didn’t have any periods. Over the last few months, they’ve surprised me by returning! As it was a surprise, I had to use what I had at home which were the Always and Tampax products.

Did you guys know that most of these mainstream products contain plastics, other synthetic products and chemicals? Surely none of these should be put into your body for long periods of time?!

I decided to replace my existing products with Natracare products from a local health store in Cardiff, Beanfreaks. I then donated my old, unused products to a local women’s homeless shelter. I recently found out that Ripple Living on Albany Road have a basket in their shop where you can donate your sanitary products.

I picked up a few products which included:

  • Natracare Panty Liners
  • Natracare Applicator Tampons
  • Natracare Maxi Pads
  • Natracare Ultra Pads

I don’t even know where to begin with these. They are really life changing. There is a very noticeable difference in the effectiveness of the organic, chemical-free Natracare products compared to Always and Tampax. I personally found them to be far much more absorbent. But not only this, they were 100% more comfortable!

I wore a Natracare tampon all day and didn’t even notice it at all. The applicator was a bit fiddly compared to the Tampax Pearl, but with the benefit of not having any extra plastic, that minimal extra effort is worth it.

With the added benefit of not putting anything unfriendly into my body, switching to Natracare is a complete no-brainer. If you’re still unsure, visit their website to research and understand the business and their products.

Vegan Christmas Dinner 2019

So Christmas has been and gone, and my sister, @vgnnatalie, cooked another fabulous vegan Christmas dinner (with the exception of a bit of veggie and meat for my mum, dad and brother! – Still gotta keep the omnis happy).

The Family

To make our lives easier this year, we bought in some of our food instead of cooking it from scratch. For our centre pieces, we had the Waitrose Vegan Festive Wreath and their Vegan Root en Croute. I didn’t manage to take a picture of the root en croute, mainly because I didn’t think of blogging this until after I’d eaten it all!

Waitrose Festive Wreath

The Festive Wreath was made up of vegan sausage and stuffing in the middle. The Root en Croute was a pastry with roasted carrots, spinach and a creamy sauce.

The Waitrose food was freezable for up to a month so I chucked it in the freezer and defrosted it Christmas eve, ready for Christmas Day! What was even more fantastic was that both items cooked at the same temperature for 25 minutes which made it so much easier on the day.

Natalie cooked almost everything else from scratch, which included crispy roasted potatoes, cauliflower cheese (made with vegan Applewood cheese), vegan yorkshire puddings and, of course, all of the vegetables.

The only exception were the pigs in blankets which we bought from Morrisons and were thrown in the oven along with everything else.

Natalie did an incredible job on dinner, as she always does. My parents even enjoyed the vegan Waitrose centre pieces. They couldn’t believe the Festive Wreath wasn’t meat!

After last year’s debacle with a very salty and not ideal seitan roast from Bun Fiction, I was nervous that our parents would be disappointed by another lack lustre vegan centre piece, but this was not the case. Waitrose have done a great job in catering for vegans and these were just right for us.

Maybe next year I’ll finally try making a mushroom wellington myself, but until then we’ll be resting and snacking on all our vegan chocolate we got for Christmas.

From all of us, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas and we hope you have a happy New Year!

Being a Vegan Wedding Guest: Issue 3

We had the absolute honour and luxury of attending Tom’s sister’s wedding at Fairyhill in the heart of the Gower of Swansea. Fairyhill is an absolutely stunning venue surrounded by so much natural greenery.

Hannah, Tom’s sister, and her new husband, Jonnie, are both vegan too so it was a fully vegan wedding which was great! When they were planning their wedding, it was important to them that the wedding be fully vegan and the team at Fairyhill were more than happy to help make that happen.

Getting Ready

As you’re all very aware, I love my beauty products so I’ll throw in a quick section here of what I used on my face to get myself wedding ready…

My dress is a Chi Chi London dress I bought on ASOS and the floral hair clips are from Accessorize.

The Venue

Fairyhill is absolutely beautiful. The night before, we stayed in a lovely modern cottage only a short drive from the venue. Fairyhill is tucked away in a little corner of the Gower so is very private and hidden.

Jonnie and Hannah

The ceremony and the wedding breakfast is held in the Kaleidoscope room (Garden Room) which stuns with gorgeous panoramic views of the forestry around it.

At night, the building is lit up beautifully in colour and is gorgeous and incredibly atmospheric.

There are also rooms available to stay in at Fairyhill if you are a guest of the Bride and Groom. We had the pleasure of staying in one of their rooms. The bed was incredibly comfortable and the convenience of being able to stay on site was a luxury. They put on breakfast in the morning which was lovely and we got to wake up to this gorgeous view…

The Food

I sadly came down with a migraine during the wedding breakfast so I wasn’t able to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the festivities with all the guests.

Tom, being the gem that he is, brought up my food for me to our room. The staff offered to take it up for me themselves but Tom declined the offer as he was keen to check up on me.

Even though my head was pounding, I was still able to enjoy the food. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the food. The polenta chips were delicious and the pesto pizza had a vegan parmesan which had plenty of flavour. There was a stuffed mushroom to start but I forgot to photograph it and I didn’t particularly enjoy. The sticky toffee pudding was sooooo good and baked to perfection. I personally would have preferred custard to ice-cream but still great either way.

Tom had a cauliflower dish to start which he said was banging. He had a miso ramen as his main which was flavourful, but the ribbon noodles had disintegrated a little which made it a little more difficult to eat.

In the morning, a breakfast buffet was laid out and there were vegan sausages, hash browns, mushrooms and beans. They also have various fruit and cereals, and also soy milk for the teas and coffees.

Tom and I

Everything was amazing. Hannah and Jonnie planned an absolutely beautiful day for the gorgeous floral arrangements to the music played through the evening. It was such a pleasure to be a guest and the fact that all the food and drink there was completely vegan was so great.

It’s helped me and Tom decide to plan our wedding, so we’ve booked Oldwalls in the Gower which is the sister venue to Fairyhill! We’re very excited and I’m sure over the next year and a half, I’ll be posting a few wedding planning posts!

Give the Gift of Sustainability

Sustainability is very much in fashion at the moment, and I hope it’s not a phase. A lot of us have made small switches to reduce our waste and lessen our impact on the environment. The biggest change we should be making is moving to a plant based diet, but you can’t gift that!

With the approach to Christmas, many of you may have read some of my gift guide posts. On this post, I’m going to include a few swap and gift ideas that you can give this Christmas!

None of us are perfect, but we can all do our best to make swaps in our lives to help improve things.

Face Halo

I switched to the Face Halo last year and it is still one of my favourite purchases!

For those of you that don’t know, the Face Halo is a make up remover pad. You can visit the website for more details, but it’s so easy to use and has yet to fail at removing my make up! I don’t buy disposable make up wipes anymore as I have no need for them!

I bought a pack of 3 straight away and so far I’ve only used 2 of them, alternating when 1 goes in the wash.

They currently have limited edition cherry ones which look absolutely fabulous and would make an excellent Christmas gift!

Chilly’s Bottles

My brother bought a Chilly’s reusable bottle and it encouraged me to buy my own. There are other insulated bottles out there that are cheaper, however the quality doesn’t match Chilly’s.

I bought both a coffee cup and a water bottle and I love them both. The coffee cup keeps my hot drinks warm for a few hours and I’ve been really impressed with it. The durability of the bottles is amazing and I highly recommend them.

Vegetable Shopping Bags

This may sound like a weird one, but it’s made a big difference for us in our home!

When we pop to the supermarket to buy our fruit and veg, we try and avoid buying the pre-packaged items and pick up the individual fruit/veg that we need for that day/week.

We used to use the plastic bags that the supermarket provide you. We stopped doing that and were placing the bar code stickers directly onto our fruit and veg so we didn’t have to pick up a bag.

I found these bags on Amazon, that have been so handy. We keep them in our shopping bags and now we can keep our fruit and veg separate from the rest of our shopping.

They might not be the most exciting gift to give, but for anyone who is looking to make these swaps, it’ll make a great addition to their lives.

Ripple on Albany Road, Cardiff

On my final note, we walked along Albany Road back to the car from Luna’s Vegan Corner last week and finally popped into Ripple. They are currently working on an expansion project which I think is going to be really exciting.

I wasn’t fully prepared for this visit so didn’t have any containers with me, but everything is amazing. You can buy containers there, but there are also donated containers which you can pick up for free. The range of products is amazing from cleaning products, to tea, to granola and to pasta.

For those of you in Cardiff looking for zero waste shops, Ripple is where you need to be. I was so impressed and I’ll definitely be making another visit with all my containers soon!