Liquid Gold: Five Hacks for Moroccan Oil

OK, confession time, I am about as late to the Moroccan Oil party as can be. Actually, I tried it years ago, when everybody else was raving about it and I didn’t get the hype. My brother, who had been travelling in Morocco brought me back a bottle of “real” Moroccan oil as a souvenier. If I was using it wrong that’s on me, but it made my thin and fine hair lank and greasy, and in frustration I retired it thinking it wasn’t for me and my hair type.

About 12 months ago I had a culinary disaster and burnt off a chunk of my hair (because that is just the sort of thing I do). And as the front part of my hair has grown back it is still a bit dry and frazzled, and sticks out at a curious angle, and no amount of frizz ease has managed to tame it. Hair oil seemed like a reasonable solution. After checking a few out I picked up the OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Miracle In-Shower Oil and now I couldn’t function without it, I seem to be finding more and more uses. Here are five miracle uses I have discovered, with this multitasking gem.

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Hair Oil

Let’s start with the obvious bit, what this stuff is marketed for, hair oil. My last foray into hair oil I had been using this post shower, now I pop it in before I shampoo, focusing on my burnt frizz and my ends. It gives my hair the boost of moisture it needs, because I love a bit of volumising shampoo, which is notoriously dehydrating, this is the fix my thirty hair needed. My hair is not just moisturised at the front, which is what I needed, it is glossy throughout.

Skin Care

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I didn’t know you could even use Moroccan oil on your skin, but the bottle suggests it as a use. So I gave it a quick blast, because it couldn’t hurt. My skin was silky and smooth, in fact my dry winter skin hadn’t looked so plump in months. I have been using it as a weekly face mask letting it sink into my skin while I take a bath, it all feels super luxurious.

Eczema

If you read my post on cleansers, you’ll know I’ve had a couple of runs in with eczema over the last couple of months after reacting badly to new cleansers. There is nobody alive that wants that on their face, and I have been desperately seeking a quick fix cure that isn’t the usual doctor prescribed steroid cream (been there and done that with previous outbreaks, I’m yet to be prescribed one which works). I’ve been massaging in a barrier of Moroccan oil to the affected areas while showering. It’s certainly helped in bringing down the redness and easing the irritated feeling of my skin. A quick google told me that Moroccan oil is rich in a rare form of vitamin E which helps repair the skin. As the eczema has fade I have found that my skin hasn’t been left with an scarring which I have suffered from previously.

Shaving

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We’ve all tried out baby oil to shave with before, but since Moroccan oil seems to be the multitasker supreme of the beauty world I thought I would give it a whirl. After all there isn’t much point keeping around two products which have the same function. Performance wise there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them, luxury wise, this one wins hands down, and my skin looked less red and irritated in more sensitive places. I’d definitely recommend this over the baby oil, especially if you don’t often use oil to shave.

Nails

We all love an at home manicure right? I’m not exactly skilled with nail varnish, but that doesn’t stop me. I’ve used it a few times now as a cuticle oil before letting loose with the polish. I wish I could say it really makes it look like I’ve had a professional manicure, but … my skills only extend so far, but it makes my nails look so much healthier, and if you’re having a pampering session then this really adds to the experience.

Do you have any other uses for Moroccan oil? Some amazing hack that you think is life changing. I’d really love to hear it, as finding hand uses for this product has become a bit of an obsession.

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The Glow Down: New In Beauty Spring 2018

I decided to spend too much time and money in Boots, and find out what new makeup they had in stock. For spring it seems like it’s all about the getting that glow, and if there is one brand who have really nailed the spring trends it seems to be L’oreal. I should probably rename this the L’Oreal haul or something, although stay tuned for some special guest appearances from a couple of other brands.

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Benefit’s Pearl Porefessional Primer isn’t the newest product out there, but it’s still a fair recent addition to their line. I love the original Porefessional, although I don’t particularly have any skin concerns that tend in that direction the feel and finish is amazing so I keep repurchasing. I have long wished it was a little less matte, and slightly more glowy. So I was pretty excited to try this product. Don’t expect it to be a blinding glow. But it does add just a hint of pearl to your skin. Along with this I also picked up the original Porefessional and some more High Beam, both of which are staples when I’m going all out with my makeup. Since, spring trends seem to be focused on glowing, pearlised finished High Beam I know I can rely on the High Beam to deliver just that.
I also picked up a couple of makeup brushes from Spectrum, I’ve been contemplating some new brushes for a while, but options in store have been fairly standard and limited until this point. These are soft and beautiful, as well as a reasonable price point. I picked up B01 Buffing Foundation Brush and A10 Small Fan Brush, because I’ve been applying highlight with a blush brush for years and it’s not the easiest way to apply it.
Of everything I picked up Max Factors Colour PrecisionEye Shadow is the winner. The shade I selected was Pearl Beige and it is beautiful. I’ve not seen eyeshadow in a tube in the drugstore for years, and this made me instantly nostalgic for a little gold number I used to wear for dance makeup as a kid. It also brought to mind the CoverFX shadows. It hasn’t let my expectations down. I’ve worn it everyday, with a matte crease colour it makes my eyes pop while still being neutral. It also lasts all day and is quick and easy to apply with just the applicator and a finger to blend.

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Now we should probably move on to my product fails. I want to preface this by stating that they are all amazing products, which I have donated to friends, but which are no good to me personally. I’m an avid reader of ingredients lists for skincare, but I’ve never had an issue with makeup before, although I do check mascaras. L’Oreal seemed to have the edge on all the glowy spring launches, I wanted them all. But coconut oil features heavily in their formula, which is great for a product that goes on smoothly and beautifully. I didn’t notice until I got home and put the Nudista Skin tint on my face that it was making me itch. Only at that point did I check its ingredients and then the ingredients of everything else I’d picked up. It would be nice if it was easier to read the ingredients on makeup, there is nothing more awkward than peeling off labels in shops.dav

To summarise, the Bonjour Nudista Skin Tint has a great finish, with a bit of effort, although the shade range is quite limited if you’re pale, the colour Fair is a good light shade, if you’re dark skinned you may have some issues. Life’s a Peach Blush is the most beautiful shade for spring and summer, it has just a hint of glow, despite being matte, and it smells like peaches which was a pleasant surprise. Finally there was La Vie En Glow pallet in Cool Glow, I’m not sure about the blue shade, moonlight, it was very blue on my pale skin and popped a bit too much, but the other three shades are beautiful, I was half tempted to keep this pallet as I don’t often use highlight and I thought if I used it sparingly it wouldn’t affect me too much. In summary I’d recommend these products and feel over all a bit disappointed that I can’t use them and embarrassed that I wasted so much money. dav

Back to the L’Oreal wins now, the Color Riche Shine Lipsticks are stunningly packaged and remind me of the grown up version of the Revlon Lip Butters (who remembers those?), without the weird grainy glitter in them. They are semi sheer, but with more pigment than a tinted lip balm. I love how fresh and light they seem, even though I still love a matte lip, they are much more in line with the dewy spring makeup look. I picked up #MLBB, I’ve mentioned the never ending nude quest before, it’s too brown toned to be my lips but better, but at least it is neither too light nor too dark to be my nude, and I can see I’ll get plenty of wear out of it. I also love a sheer red lip in the summer, nothing too strong and pigmented, but just a hint of something bright and cheerful, Insanesation will be just perfect for that specification. On the lips these last as well as you would expect a sheer slightly glossy lip product to last, although Insanesation left behind a nice stain when it had worn off.
Paradise Lash Mascara has been doing the rounds for a little while now, and in fact I picked this up quite a while ago. My impression of it is much like everybody else’s. AMAZING. It gives my lashes awe inspiring length, and volume, it doesn’t clump, it doesn’t run, it doesn’t give me panda eyes, I don’t end up with a weird clumpy clod of eyelashes on my left eye (a very specific issue). My only complaint is the amount of product which comes out the tube each time, I have to spend ages wiping it off and trying not to waste any, and it’s a pretty messy process. But this is a product that I will repurchase frequently.

Wedding Look Book

Wedding season is upon us and we all have just a touch of royal wedding fever too (I will be sat in front of the TV with a festive fascinator on my head for no reason). I love a wedding, in fact rumour has it I’m a bit of an enthusiast because I seem to go to so many, and while I don’t have twenty-seven dresses to show for it I have hit the ominous bridesmaid trifecta too. With the spring and summer fashions hitting the shops it’s time to start thinking about investing in a new dress or outfit or to recycle something I already own and I have been scouring the internet for some inspiration. These are some of my favourite ideas.

The Pink and the Black

The pink and the black

Dress – Closet London; Black Court Shoes – Ravel; Facinator – Suzanne Bettley; Black Clutch – Oasis; Pink Clutch- Oasis; Shrug – Wallis; Pink Shoes – Oasis

Pastel florals for a wedding are completely ground breaking, I know. But who doesn’t love pink right now? In its way it has a modern and fashionable edge to it, but the cut and the print is classic enough that it won’t date. The other thing I love about this dress is I could accessorise it with black pieces, which I already own, or I could get these beautiful little pink shoes from Oasis. Confession, I saw the shoes before the dress.

One of my top tips for wedding season is to keep your accessories neutral, I have black and nude clutches, facinators, shrugs and court shoes that I can use again and again, and I never need to purchase new accessorise for any wedding outfit if I don’t want to.

Nudista Fashionista

Nudista Fashionista

Jacket- Oasis; Clutch –Dune; Clip – Amazon; Earrings – Beaverbrooks; Bangle – Pandora; Court Shoes – Dune

If you’re looking for something a little more fashion forward than a pink floral dress then nothing screams bold and glamours at a wedding more than a jumpsuit. Whenever I’m at a wedding the guest in the jumpsuit is always the envy of every woman there. This one from Warehouse would be best for a more formal evening wedding, but would still work for a summer or even a winter wedding. I would keep the accessorise quite neutral, with just my everyday jewellery and this adorable scalloped edge jacket.

I don’t think that this is the type of piece that would work with a hat, but if you still want something for your hair then I would recommend looking for a jewelled hairclip, Amazon is a great starting point for something like this, as they have a huge selection for a very reasonable price.

The Mad Hatinator

Mad Hatinators Tea Party

Hatinator – Monsoon; Shoes – Dune; Clutch – Katie Loxton; Shrug – Monsoon; Dress – Oasis

If this dress from Oasis’ Fitzwilliam Collection doesn’t scream wedding I really don’t know what does. I love the on trend midi length and the off the shoulder detail and, but I love it more because I won’t have to stress over wearing a strapless bra! This would be utterly perfect for a proper English Country Wedding. I’d also like to take a moment for the hatinator, which I think is so glamourous, but not quite as daunting or mature as the traditional big hat. Every time I buy a wedding outfit I contemplate a big hat, but I’m too much of a wimp. Should this be the year I go for it?

The silver clutch and shoes are another alternative to the nude or black. If you’ll be outside then then a block heal is both fashionable and practical, you won’t sink into the grass in the middle of the champagne reception.

Destination Deity

Destination Deity

Dress – Coast; Clutch – Accessorize; Pashmina – Chesca; Headband – Accessorize; Sandals – Carvela; Bangles – Accessorize

Honestly, I love a maxi dress. This one from Coast will hide all manner of sins, but the cut on the natural waist will also be super flattering. Forget about the etiquette of dress lengths, a maxi dress is a great, comfortable alternative for a wedding. A couple of years ago I attended a destination wedding, on a yacht, and while I was a bridesmaid this would have been a prefect option if I hadn’t been. But I think a maxi is a great option, nobody ever looks bad in a maxi dress, and it’s a great alternative look to your traditional floral, pastel shift dress.

One of the most important things to consider is your environment, if you’re at a destination wedding keep your shoes flat, because boat or beach stilettos aren’t practical and to amp up the look go gold. A hairband is a great idea if there is a sea breeze and a scarf can multifunction as protection from the sun and the sea breeze.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Mix and match mayhem

Dress – Chi Chi; Shoes- Miss KG; Earrings – New Look; Clutch – Lipsy; Fascinator – Chesca; Coat – River Island

My final option is to reuse something I have worn before. But to reinvent the look. I’ve already mentioned having neutral staples at the ready to pair with dresses but the same can be said for your clothes too. I love a shift dress, and have a very similar one to this crochet one from Chi Chi which I had a few years ago. I also have a smart cream coat, that I can throw over anything I want when the weather is being predictably unpredictable, I once went to a June wedding where the guest spent the whole day frozen!

So if you’re not looking to splash the cash on a new dress then try mixing it up with different shoes and a bag. Another alternative would be to pair it with some on trend jewellery, like these statement orb earrings from New Look, it will completely refresh a trusty old dress.

Weddings can be an expensive, even when you’re just a guest, I’d never just rush into a purchase without some careful thought and consideration, actually I’ve already done some shopping and eliminated some option. But which one of these options is your favourite?

*Links and not affiliated. Photos are not my own. All credit goes to the owner.

Nella Grace and the Quest for the Holy Grail Cleanser

So the worst thing to ever happen happened. My holy grail cleanser got discontinued. I’m sure everybody can sympathise with the pain of a beloved product getting discontinued, right? My skincare routine was, until that moment, a carefully curated confined and unvarying collection of products that are my skincare saviours. No spots, no scales, no stress. So I hit the aisle of Boots in the name of science, to find out if there was there another product, that suited me so well as the Good Things Creamy Cleanser.

I scoured the shelves looking for the elusive cleanser that I could adore as much while trying very hard not to set the bar of expectation too high. Was there another product out there free of mineral oils, parabens and sodium laurate sulphate? Would it be such a bargain? Would it be so lazy girl efficient? Just how many non-foaming cleansers were there? And finally, because of an allergy, could I find something that was moisturising and coconut free? Honestly, there were slim pickings so I grudgingly expanded my search.

Here’s the “science” part: I’d test each cleanser I found for two weeks and while I still had a stash I’d fix any complete disasters with the Good Things. I’d stick to my usual routine, cleansing twice a day, toning with water, and using my usual moisturisers of choice with my weekly extra of facemask and facial oil night.

Round one saw me take on the Botanic’s Moisturising Cleanser with Clary Sage. This had a gel texture, my first reaction to that was fear. But on the skin it had a sort of balm-like texture. The instructions said to apply to damp skin, and it would turn milky. I never saw the milky moisturising cleanser, and I couldn’t really tell which parts of my face were just wet and which part had cleanser on it.

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On the fifth day, I got spots. Not just one spot, six. I was mortified, they were everywhere and there were more bubbling up under my skin. But I stuck to it when I remembered there’s a reason I have an arts degree, the fatal flaw in my plan was I’d forgotten about uncontrollable variations. Specifically, hormones. Only it wasn’t just hormones, I should have cried off at the first sign of spots and known that the reaction wasn’t normal. The end result was angry red, flaky skin, that spread onto my eyelids despite the fact that I don’t usually put cleanser there and took weeks and weeks to shift. Nobody wants eczema on their eyes. I don’t know what caused it, whether the product just wasn’t for me or if I had an allergy to an ingredient, but this one was a total bust.

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Round two saw Super Facialist Rose Hydrate Calming Creamy Cleanser take centre stage. I was cautious about this one, having used the Rose Moisturiser in the past, it had made my skin red and irritated, but I have also used a now out of stock mask from Super Fascialist that had good results. It was more expensive than Good Things, but £7.99 doesn’t need a mortgage. Sadly it made no promises at being free from anything on the bottle, but a quick visit to the website revealed it was all that and more. I liked this a lot. I had no spots, my skin wasn’t irritated, it smelt pleasant, and I was actually excited to use this. The formula, being creamy, was much closer to what I was used to.

Round three saw the appearance of Nivea Daily Essentials Gentle Cleansing Cream Wash, at £3.15 it was the most affordable of the bunch. Again my skin held up well using this product, I liked it, in fact I forgot to stop using it and move on, so I took that as a positive sign. But, it wasn’t free from parabens or mineral oils.

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My biggest complaint was the little tiny beads. Although they promise to be environmentally friendly, so the fishes aren’t hurt, I did find them scratchy on my skin as they dissolved. My other concern was that I couldn’t use it to wash off any eye makeup, because of the beads. Let’s be honest here if you’ve been on a big night out (which is the only time I wear eye makeup) the last thing you want is to go through several thousand different steps to get your makeup off and your face clean.

Next up came a wild card from L’Oréal, which I had purchased on a whim without reading the ingredients, on a separate shopping trip. It was another super cheap product. It was also another dermatological disaster, for me anyway. Having not seen it on my first forty minute trip to Boots, I snatched it off the shelf without careful examination. The tragic news is that this product contains the dreaded sodium-laureth-sulfate, it’s a harsh detergent, and its main function is to foam up, it’s often acknowledged as being very drying. It only took three days for my face dry up. My skin was so rough it could have taken up an apprenticeship as a carpenter. By day four, after putting moisturiser on twice to almost no effect, I gave up and returned to my trusty old favourite.

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I’m not sure what the obsession with foaming products is, or why companies seem to think that we will feel sufficiently cleansed and scrubbed once we see foam appear. If that was all it took I would be submerging my head in the washing up bowl every night and have done. Am I the only one that feels like this? But anyway, enough of that personal gripe of mine. Having been burned with a product that wasn’t right for me once already while I conducted this very important experiment I was much quicker to react and say enough is enough. With a couple of extra facemasks (also L’Oréal and a favourite, I’m not brand bashing) and a couple of extra doses of facial oil my skin had largely cleaned up, except the side of my nose, which is always a problem area for me.

After my skin was something a little closer to baby soft I returned to another Boots

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product. This time the No 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm for Dry/Very Dry Skin. Let’s be clear here, this isn’t how I would define a balm, it was a cream product, it didn’t feel thick or rich. I only used this for a week, I got a few spots, which have since turned into a huge patch of eczema around my nose and mouth. I had to put off a first date because it was just so hideous at one point. Honestly, I’ve never had so many run ins with eczema on my face before. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s winter, or if both the Botanics and the Number 7 used an ingredient I have reacted to, but I can say that I didn’t treat the spots any differently to how I usually would.

It was at that sad point that I ran out of my beloved Good Things Creamy Cleaner. So I tried out my final cleanser the Burts Bees Orange Essense Facial Cleanser. The brand claims it doesn’t use petrochemicals, phthalates, parabens or sodium lauryl sulfate, there is no mention of whether they use mineral oil, so I’m assuming it contains them, but it was one of the closest products I could find to my original criteria. Sadly, I hadn’t been able to try out their Sensitive Facial Cleanser, because it contained coconut and worryingly the orange cleanser was also a gel formula, which had already gone badly once. I think there in lay the biggest issue with this product, it was good, but my face started to look a little thirsty, although the aforementioned eczema was still on my face it didn’t irritate it or make it worse. Will I use it up? Probably in the summer. Would I recommend it? Yes, as long as your skin isn’t as dry and mine. Oh but don’t use it near your eyes, I splashed some in washing it off my face, and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that citrus-y products burn.

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My final thoughts from this experiment. First off I hope I never have to repeat this ever again. Maybe I’m over reacting, my skin is largely pretty clear, and I’m sure other people have experienced worse than a few spots and some eczema. Second, I found two or three products I liked, although I won’t repurchase the Burt’s Bees Cleanser, and I’d probably only repurchase the Nivea if I was in a financial stitch I will be repurchasing the Super Facialist Cleanser again, and I will be happy to use it as a replacement for my old familiar. But if anybody else has any other suggestions I would be willing to take your advice.

Working Girl: The Office Appropriate Look Book

“I can imagine you in heels and a pencil skirt.” said pretty much every friend I have when I graduated to the 9-5 office job. I can picture me in a pencil skirt too. Sadly, in my work environment it isn’t appropriate. I have spent the last twelve months attempting to perfect my office style, trying to balance the fine line of is this skirt too short and does this make me look frumpy? And having had a bit of a spending spree on work clothes this month I thought I’d share some of my favourite workplace looks.
First of all, my office dress code probably isn’t appropriate for everybody it’s very much business casual, jeans aren’t for the office, but aside from that it’s almost casual Friday every day. It’s a very male dominant environment, and even if I’m in the office all day you can guarantee that I will still be handling something dirty and possibly a bit smelly at some point in the day. Taking these particulars into account I do think I’m finally starting to establish my look for work, and thought I’d share some of my favourite looks, because it’s been a bit of a struggle attempting to compromise my own style with more practical considerations. These are five looks which will see me through the week.
Manic Monday
Do you really hate Monday morning? Because I’m completely rubbish at getting out of bed after a weekend. My solution to trying to appear presentable? Get yourself a work uniform, but keep it interesting, I’m not suggesting you go full Obama and wear a white shirt and black trousers, unless that is really your thing. I’m a dress girl, they’re fun, girly and actually pretty low maintenance. You don’t have to go to the effort of matching and co-ordinating do you?

Warehouse Floral

I just picked up this one in Warehouse, and although I’m slightly concerned it might be a bit too “fashion” for the office (I’d rather not go through the Rupert Bear trousers mockery again) I like the loose fit and the length, which isn’t too short or too long. I’ll pair this with my black ankle boots and be out the door is seconds, well I can hope anyway.
Office Essentials
If you’re just setting out to build your working wardrobe you need to get hold of some good practical basics. It sounds boring I know, but black trousers and a black cardigan will see you through a lot. For both of these I’d recommend trusty old M&S, the cut of their black cardigan is beautiful, and they have so many different cuts and styles of trousers you will find something you’ll love. I picked up a pair of slim cut jersey trousers in a leg length too short back when I first changed jobs, I’m forever being asked where they came from. But most importantly they wash like a dream.

H&M Shirt

I don’t have a classic white shirt, it’s just not my style, but I have just picked up this absolutely gorgeous printed one from H&M, it was a steal at £17.99, I love the loose fit, I can tuck it or leave it loose and it will mix and match with several pairs of trousers I already own. I like the pop of pink in it, but again it’s not too formal, and it looks a lot more expensive than it was, maybe I’m deluding myself but it reminds me of Whistle.
Boardroom Boss

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As a rule my workplace is pretty laid back, but every now and then I’m expected to make a little bit more effort than usual, because there’s an important client in or I’m attending a meeting. I could go spend crazy, but I keep a couple of smart but inexpensive dresses on standby. I recently picked up this little patterned shift dress from Apricot, who do have some good affordable options for workwear. I love the pink shade, but it doesn’t look young or childish. And can we take a moment to appreciate the pockets? I pair this with brogues and a black cardigan.
Cosy and Chic

Laura Ashley Trousers

Did anybody ever call Laura Ashley chic before? No, probably not. But I saw these trousers and fell in instant love. They were pricy, but my I was with my Mum, who is a loyal devotee of theirs and she had a discount. I’ve made a promise to myself that I will be very careful with them, but can a clumsy girl every be that careful? If like me you love them, but are a bit disturbed by the price tag then F&F at Tesco have a similar pair for a fraction of the price. Blue Jumper

To go with them I’ve picked up this light blue jumper from New Look, I sized up because I wanted something quite slouchy. And for £9.99 I think I can say that I managed to balance out the cost of the trousers. Again I think I’ve managed to keep my choice pretty professional with the dark base colour and just a touch of pastel.
Field Trip Friday
So I’d accessorise this with a hard hat and hi-vis jacket, but that is definitely optional, it’s not really a look. Also I think if you were after a casual Friday look you could adapt this to suit. If I’m out the office, then jeans are permitted because they’re more practical. I have two conditions, when selecting an appropriate pair, first they can’t be expensive in fact I have a preference for these jeggings from Marks and Spencer, because of the details. My second is that for work I prefer black, because it’s smarter and should I happen to bump into a client then I still look professional. I pair it with a smart looking jumper, this lace collared jumper from Warehouse looks smart but is warm and practical. I also layer up with a black fleece, but again, this is definitely an optional piece.

Warehouse Lace Collar
How about you? Do you struggle to find walk the line between what is office appropriate and what matches your own tastes and styles? Maybe you’ve got your own solution for looking practical, fashionable and professional. I’m still learning how to make my style office appropriate and would love to hear your thoughts.

Fifty Facts About Me

I think it might be time for a get to know me post. So here are fifty interesting, mildly interesting and probably even some boring facts about me.

1) I’ve always consistently wanted to write books. I wrote my first story when I was three, it was about a girl who dances naked in a field and dies of a fever. I must have been a really twist child!

2) I wasn’t taught to read, I simply picked it up as I went along and could read before I started school.

Oh Mr Darcy

3) Despite this I was diagnosed with dyslexia, very late on, just after my twenty-first birthday.

4) I don’t know what my favourite book is. It depends on the day.

5) I am a huge huge Jane Austen fan, my love of the internet started with Jane Austen fanfiction.

6) I had a story plagiarised, I still can’t get my head around the idea that somebody was making money off something I wrote when I was sixteen.

7) Although Mr Darcy is of course Mr Darcy, I have a literary crush on Henry Tilney.

8) I have a degree in Medieval History, I’d been meaning to read English until I started studying Chaucer.

9) I also have a masters in History Theory. It was probably the poorest financial decision I’ve ever made.

10) I wish I’d thought about becoming an architect, but then I remember that I’m useless at drawing and I don’t really like maths much either.

11) After I’d finished university I became a cliché working in a coffee shop.

12) I still hate coffee. It smells so good, but it tastes so different.

13) I neither love nor hate marmite. I can’t be the only person who is indifferent to the stuff, right?

14) I have been putting together a world carbonara ranking since I was ten years old. It’s my absolute favourite food ever.

15) I’m allergic to tomatoes (mildly) and coconuts (hideously). Aside from food allergies I’m also allergic to chicken pox and penicillin.

16) I’m lactose intolerant, but not very good at it because obviously there is pizza and tea and chocolate in the world and I have zero self-control. And of course there is the aforementioned spaghetti carbonara too.

17) The only food I absolutely will not touch is beef. Although I wouldn’t eat pork after watching Babe.

18) Pigs are my favourite animals.

19) I claimed to hate sushi for years and year, but I’d never tried it. I’ve only just learnt I love it and now I can’t believe I’ve deprived myself of it for so long.

20) As a kid Disney was largely banned in our house, although we were allowed to watch anything we were given.

Nellie Mouse

21) I still haven’t seen Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, but I know that Belle is my favourite princess anyway.

22) I watched The Little Mermaid for the first time in an A-level history class, my teacher was honestly concerned I hadn’t seen it yet.

23) Even though I’m not an avid fan of the films I’ve been to Disneyland Paris four times, the most recent this summer.

24) I haven’t travelled as much as I’d like, but I loved Egypt when I had the chance to go there.

25) Going on holiday with me is quite hectic, I get a bit obsessed with site seeing, and I really want to see it all before I leave. I’m not one for lazing around by the pool.

Paris

26) The one place in the world I’m desperate to visit in Venice.

27) I have a twin brother, who is my complete opposite in personality. He was like my human security blanket when I was little.

28) I’m related to Samual Morse, the inventor of Morse Code, which is cool, but would be better still if I was also related to Inspector Morse.

29) My Dad has one hundred and twenty first cousins, but I only have one half cousin.

30) To this day I’m convinced I once levitated around my house when I was eight. Sadly, the rational side of my brain knows I must have dreamed it.

31) I love Harry Potter so much I thought that was a sure fire sign that I’d get my Hogwarts Letter.

32) I believe in ghosts, and have lived in two houses with a spirit. One was friendly and the other ceased her hostilities eventually. I swear I’m not totally crazy.

33) I am a cat person, and have always lived with cats. I only have one right now, I call him Bear.

Ru Bear

34) I’d like to keep chickens and goats for pets too.

35) If I was really really rich, the most extravagant thing I would spend money on would be wearing new socks every single day.

36) I absolutely love clothes, but somehow I can’t figure out why I keep running out of storage space.

37) My biggest fashion gripe is that a lot of clothes are made for women without women’s shapes.

38) I wear a GG bra, they’re all real, and it’s quite a burden. Should I even be telling the internet this?

39) I wasn’t interested in makeup in my teens. I didn’t really wear it until I was twenty-one.

Makeup mayhem

40) Like a lot of people, I got into makeup watching YouTube Beauty Gurus. I found it relaxing watching makeup tutorials, I used it as a way of calming my anxiety.

41) Somehow I’m still not particularly good at applying it myself, I guess I just lack any sort of artistic talent.

42) I love dancing, I started ballet when I was three years old, and even though I’m pretty clumsy I’m sure it would have been ten times worse without.

Ballet Shoes

43) As well as ballet I’ve studied tap, modern, jazz, latin and ballroom.

44) I can play the piano and clarinet, but only where there’s nobody around to hear me.

45) Everybody thought I would become an actress, despite being painfully shy.

46) Whenever I meet a famous person I don’t have a clue who they are. This includes, but is not limited to Prince Charles and Camilla. More embarrassingly I once told Jasper Carrot I thought he was a black man (I was nine, my parents still love to tell the story).

47) My friends all call me giraffe, because of my skinny legs. Each different group has come up with this idea independently.

48) I lived in London for five years, I used to think I’d be there forever, but I’m happier in my field in the country now.

49) Sometime I feel like the only person who’s lost and confused by live. But other days I think I adult quite convincingly. Does everybody feel as at sea as me.

50) I’m sorry I cannot think of a fiftieth fact! So I lied, it’s only forty-nine semi interesting facts about me.

What’s in My Bag

To be perfectly frank this isn’t just a what’s in my bag post, this is motivation to have a good spring clean inside my bag. It might be only just February, but spring is on its way, I hope anyway. Even though I do have a sift through on a pretty weekly basis and pull out the most offensive rubbish, somehow my bag has got itself into a pitiful state. I’m holding a busted makeup bag zipper and a ripped travel card wallet entirely responsible. It has absolutely nothing to do with my Mary Poppins like tendencies.

In the bag

Let’s start with the bag. This is the best bag I have ever owned. My Osprey Rebecca Hobo Bag was

Back to bag

bought in TK Max two years ago (seriously the best place to buy a good bag), it manages to achieve smart and professional and relaxed all in one go, I think it’s the suede tassel. It’s light weight and I can carry everything but the kitchen sink in it without struggling. That said I do think the bag is losing its shape a little bit, and I’m almost convinced that is because I completely over stuff it, otherwise the leather is holding up well, and the handles are still completely attached to the bag. I love this so much I’ve started looking for another one as a direct replacement – a girl can hope right?

Shopping bag

So what’s inside, and what am I fixing and replacing? I’ll try and be completely honest and even tell you the most embarrassing details about my lack of organisation. The first thing out is my purse, from Radley, which I got for Christmas, I’ve been using Radley purses for years, but specifically asked for one in the medium size, as I have a tendency to overstuff my purse as well as my bag. And yes, I am one of those people who keeps their purse in the dust bag! I also always carry recyclable shopping bags, the ones from Paperchase are particularly good as the fold up small into a pouch which attaches to the bag so you can’t lose it. If I’m out shopping I also usually carry a note pad and pen, because I love a shopping list and a to do list.

The other essentials I always carry are my keys, complete with ridiculously large pompom keyring, a

Essentials bag

phone charger, and my glasses case, which occasionally contains my glasses. I also have a travel wallet, for my Oyster Card (I moved out of London quite a while ago now), as well as expired travelcards from Paris and Barcelona and a ticket from my first trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, back in 2013. What can I say I’m a hoarder? There were also twenty-six old train tickets. I think you’ve guess this is why my travel card holder was broken and spewing out all over my bag. I replaced the old wallet with a new one also from Paperchase, it seems quite sturdy, but it doesn’t fit into the card pocket in my bag unless I put it in sideways, which is slightly irritating.

I don’t carry around a huge makeup bag, just the bare essentials (uh, theoretically). I replaced the one with a broken zip for this slimline marble effect one I picked up at a local pharmacy. Inside I carry my Laura Mercier Mineral Pressed Powder in Tender Rose, this is good for a touch up or as a complete base. There are two lip products, a Clinque Chubby Stick in Super Strawberry and my favourite Avon’s Matte Lipstick in Tempting Mauve, one is more every day and the other more dressed-up. In the name of honesty I cleared out another eight other lip products. I also carry around the Nuxe Reve de Miel Lipbalm because it’s winter and my lips are insanely dry right now.

Beauty Bag

The bag also doubles up as a little first aid kit – I’m clumsy and allergy prone, so I have some plasters, bits of medication, my inhaler and sanitary items. Finally, it contains a travel sized pack of makeup wipes, or babywipes because they’re just useful. Loose in my bag I also carry around a travel sized Tangle Teaser which is compact and lightweight and always good when you need to quickly smarten yourself up.

Whatever the weather

Lastly, I carry around some slightly more usual items. Because I live in England and the weather is, well everybody knows what English weather is like you’ll never find me without an umbrella, I’ve had this one for years, I wish it was lighter, but I adore the pattern. I also usually have a hat and scarf in my bag, if I’m not wearing them, I’m always cold. Because where I live there are no street lights, I have a teeny tiny light weight torch from Maglite, it’s useful for walking back from dance classes and nights at the pub. And then there is my tea collection. I always have teabags with me, usually I have some fruit teas, but at the moment I just have some English Breakfast, because again I’m English, and I’m fussy about tea.

The last item I carry in an unused pocket, where it’s being kept safe. It’s highly sentimental, although I’ve never read it and it is just a piece of paper. It was one of hundreds of letters written by my Great

Bag of bizzare

Aunt to my Grandad, somehow I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out when clearing out his house. Again my hoarding tendencies are making an appearance here, but it was hard to throw out their weekly letters. I’ve kept it, although it was never intended for me because I wanted something to cling onto.

But it’s a handbag, at the end of the day it gets filled with some fairly bizarre items, earlier this week there was an empty egg box inside, there’s often food, bits and drabs of shopping, hair straighteners, greetings cards and bits of post and even pairs of shoes! It’s not always kept in the most perfect condition, sometimes there are old sweet wrappers inside. I think it’s a sign of a real life with a functional handbag. So what treasures do you keep hidden in yours?

My Not So Perfect Life: A modern morality tale?

I’ve not got a clue if anybody wants to read about books. But I’ve just finished reading Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life and actually felt compelled to tell somebody about this fluffy piece of chicklit and its very modern message. This is not your typical boy meets girl plot, instead it is a reminder that social media isn’t an accurate representation of other people’s lives. The message is pretty simple, and I know in my heart, this is something I already know, but no matter how sensible I think I am the truth is I follow some very perfect lives on Instagram, and I can’t help but envy them.

My Not So Perfect Life

Katie Brenner is the first of Sophie Kinsella’s heroines that I honestly think I relate to. We have the same hang ups and concerns, stressing over career development, rent, mortgages, the cost of going out (£32 for a salad?!?), and the fear that her friends are simply doing life better than she is. But she still comes with the same hilarious retinue of awkward situations and high jinxes. Becky Bloomwood’s crippling credit card debt, funny though it maybe, lacks the authenticity it had even ten years ago, most of us are not in a situation where would splurge on both the yellow and the orange shoes in LK Bennett, which is not to say I don’t want shoes from LK Bennett.

I was slightly sceptical of the blurb, I thought this was a plot I had read before in The Undomestic Goddess. That is not the case. Samantha was your typical over achiever, we’d all like to be a well-paid lawyer in theory right? Katie has just got her feet off the ground and started to earn some money, after the two obligatory internships obviously. And while they both lose their jobs that is where the plot similarities end. If you’ve read the Undomestic Goddess then you will know that Samantha find happiness beyond her career, and while I don’t want to go and ruin the book for you with spoilers I was rooting for Katie to get the perfect job and not the perfect man.

Katie’s arch nemesis is her boss, not some man stealing other woman. Demeter has the perfect life, and is also to all appearances the perfect monster. She has a husband, a career, two perfect kids and a two-million-pound house, something which would take Katie one hundred and ninety three point four years to pay for. Have you ever used the Rightmove mortgage calculator? Then you’ll know that sinking feeling. Of course there is the obligatory love interest, but he is more like the icing on the cake to Katie’s happily ever after.

Grasp the Nettle

“Ok, full disclosure” Katie narrates like an Instagram caption, not all the time, but you know her voice. Each time she imparts a harsh reality or truth about herself she uses her overused phrase, and you recognise it well from comments like, “#fulldisclosure I used a filter in this shot”. It reminded me of Poppy and her hilariously out of place footnotes in I’ve Got Your Number. [1] She is also queen of some of the most inspirational and motivational sentiments I have ever come across in a Sophie Kinsella book, you know the exactly the sort I mean.

Sick and wicked

Ultimately what I loved the most about this book was the reminder that nobody’s life is ever what it seems. Katie misinterprets a lot of people throughout the book, she is envious, or at least eager for a lot of experiences. She doesn’t fully understand her Dad and his opinions, or the bounds of professionalism on Dementer. Even Katie and her best friend, who is far away in New York and only communicating with her via Instagram, have lost touch with the realities of each other’s lives. On social media Katie outright lies about her life in London, in real life she lies about the places she eats and the state of her finances (she is eminently sensible with money), and to her Dad she conceals her state of employment, to save his feelings. But it doesn’t occur to her, that the people around her are putting on a façade too. Even though she has a job in marketing, which she appears to be good at despite the whole getting fired fiasco, it doesn’t seem to cross her mind that people are essential promoting themselves on social media, ironic. No?

But eventually she comes to realise that she isn’t the only person to ever stretch the truth. Is it stretching the truth if you linger outside coffee shops and photograph people’s hot chocolates while they’re in the loo? But that everybody is guilty of doing it, nobody is completely transparent about their lives and nobody is perfect. It is a worthwhile reminder that we are all susceptible to believing that other people have the perfect lives, whether it is your friend or sibling who everything seems to comes so easily to, or that Instagram star who lives in a cloud of pastel pink perfection. But the truth is we are all guilty of too easily assuming that another person has the perfect life.

Is this the type of thing anybody wants about? My thoughts on a book I’ve read? I’m not sure if I’m even qualified to write a book review. The last time I wrote one I was ten, my favourite book then was Carbonel, and if you’ve never read about Rosie and her talking witches cat, I’d recommend that too. I could have written about something much less frivolous, but somehow, I’ve spent more time thinking about this book in the past week than anything I’ve read in a long time.

Sophie Says

[1] Poppy’s footnotes are the funniest part of Got You’re Number have you ever seen them in a chicklit novel before?

* For the sake of clarity, I love Instagram.

Maybelline and Gigi Hadid Eyeshadow Pallet: A Novice’s Review

I love makeup, although I had reached my twenties before using it much or realising it. I have no talent for applying it, so please have no expectations of an amazing tutorial from me, but sometimes I think that is what you need from a product review. How functional is this for the average every day not professional make-up aficionado? I’ve lost count of the number of times I have fallen into the trap of making a purchase, based on a beauty guru’s recommendation, only to find myself severely disappointed with the product, because I don’t have the skills to make the colour pop, or the blend so flawless, or the pigmentation so rich.

Gi Up

At £13.99 I had been, understandably, leery of purchasing the new Gigi Hadid Eyeshadow pallet collaboration with Maybelline, but the neutral pink shades were calling to me, it was incredibly appeal to me, and it had some amazing an unusual metallic shades. But, I was lucky enough to be gifted this by a friend for Christmas, and I love it. I love the shades, I love the size, I love how multifunctional it is. Dare I utter the cliché? It’s the sort of product that would be amazing to take on holiday.

icecream-eyeshadow2.jpg

I have two eyeshadow pallets, which I love, and use fairly regularly (I don’t wear any eye-makeup day to day). Both of them are by L’oréal, my go to smokey eye is the Colour Riche quad in Marron Glacé, this is the most buttery and pigmented eyeshadow I have ever used, but I can only create the one look out of it. I also have the La Palette Nude in Rose, which is, as you have probably guessed, full of ten pinky nudes, I use this on days I was to do something a bit extra with my daily makeup, although I’ve used it to make a smoky eye before. I thought I would use these as a point of comparison for the new Maybelline pallet.

Rose Nude

Formula wise the Maybelline pallet is reasonably creamy, especially the metallic shades Gi Force (the gold one) is mind-blowing when swatched, I’ve never found anything similar in the drugstore, the three matts are a little more hit and miss. Carbon Canyon is lovely, the deep purple East Valley is a little patchy but overall pretty good, especially for such a dark shade. I found that Butterfly Lane, the mauve shade was on the chalky side, and my makeup brush took chunks out of it. It was also the colour which I thought I would get the most use of, it’s an amazing crease colour.

The pigment in them is great, I noticed that Carbon Canyon, Butterfly Lane and Magic Hour were not entirely dissimilar to shades in the Rose La Palette Nude, and swatching them side by side the Gigi Hadid pallet was a lot easier to work with, you get more pigment, I think because the formula is creamier.

In terms of functionality the Maybelline pallet is pretty spectacular, it comes with instructions for one eye look which uses all six shades. I’m pretty sure that if I were to try this it would look like a muddy overkill, I shall leave it to the more talented among you. But I have been able to create three other looks.

Again, not a makeup artist. Actually, not any sort of artist. But a complete novice like myself was able to create three looks which I was happy with. Firstly, a nice neutral day to day look, with Butterfly Lane in the crease, Carbon Canyon all over the lid and light dusting of Magic Hour in the centre of my lid, ridiculously easy and fail save. I’d probably repurchase this pallet just to recreate this look again and again.

Nudist Square

The second look was a more smokey evening appropriate look, I used Butterfly Lane all over the lid and crease, East Valley in the outer corner and lower lash line, and Gi Force on the lid as well, with Off Duty in the inner corner, it is an incredible inner corner shade. I will say that Gi Force wasn’t so easy to apply to my eye as it was to swatch, but I loved the shimmer.

Purple Reigns

The final combination was a little more out there for me. Full of metallics. This time I used Carbon Canyon in the crease, Off Duty on the inner third of my eye, magic hour in the centre and Gi Force in the outer corner, with just a little touch of Butterfly Lane. Honestly I’d save this for days I was feeling brave and wanted something totally out there, or if I was going to some sort of futuristic fancy dress.

All that glitters as the gold

The final verdict is I would buy this again. Without hesitation. But of course it is limited edition and will be long gone from the shelves before I am even half way to pan. For an “everyday” neutral look it is absolutely a winner. But I also loved the smokey look I was able to create. Do I think it’s one of the best pallets I’ve ever used, yes! It’s functional, flattering and flexible. It’s about to become a mainstay in my makeup bag.

Stress and Starvation: A Mental Heath Note

I am not a stress eater.

Are you? Usually when people discover this unusual quirk they want to know how I do it. They also express how jealous of me they are. But to me it’s a bit like the straight haired girl lusting after the curly haired girls locks and vice versa. Or the girl with big boobs longing to be something smaller, like a B cup. I can’t tell you how to stop yourself stress eating, but I am going to bare my soul to any stranger on the internet who might stumble across this, because I can, and because, generally I hate speaking about it.

Also because there must be other people who react to stress and emotionally upheaval just like me, and who can relate to what I experience. Not just that, but I have developed ways to manage my self destructive behaviour, and I hope that I can offer up some wisdom to anybody else who has had similar struggles with food and stress.

Jokingly I used to refer to it as “stress starving”. It was a habit I first noticed during my A levels, and became increasingly more apparent when I was at university, when my weight yoyo-ed, plummeting around coursework deadlines and exam periods. It was almost a joke amongst my friends, something which we all made light of. But there must have been some underlying concerns too, I didn’t fail to notice my culinary challenged flatmate bringing me sustenance in the form of baked beans and potato smiles while I furiously typed away.

It wasn’t until I was finishing a Master’s degree I noticed my behaviour was alarmingly unhealthy. Disappointingly I wasn’t in a position to continue studying, I had been desperate to do a PhD, but financially I wasn’t in a position to continue. I took this failure, and the associated embarrassment and blamed myself. Therein followed a solid month, while trying to write my dissertation, in which I ate one lump of cheese a day and sweet tea, purely to stop myself collapsing.

This behaviour reared its head once more a couple of years later when I was simultaneously given a promotion and a new manager, and struggled to meet an entirely new set of expectations. I began skipping my lunch break trying to keep up with the new manager’s workload, which only seemed to make the situation worse, I was so hungry I couldn’t focus. When my new manager, stressed himself, left after only a few month, it fell to me to hold the fort until a proper replacement arrived.

That was the moment when I finally reached out for help, admitting to myself that my mental health was under no insignificant strain.  

Love story

The councillor used the term “punishment by starvation”, and looking back at the pattern of how these periods of hunger had arisen it seemed a reasonable assessment. The moments I struggled the most had been brought about when I perceived myself as not being enough. Whether I was panicking to meet a deadline after a week off with a chest infection, or I was disappointed that my lack of confidence had cost me PhD funding, or I wasn’t coping with my workload. On all those, and similar occasions I was disappointed in myself.

The armchair psychologist in me still struggles to comprehend why? I don’t remember being sent to bed without dinner as a child. I wasn’t rewarded for good behaviour with food. And I wasn’t bribed into good behaviour with the promise of a treat. There was no rational explanation to why I would punish myself by withholding food. And yet that was what I did. The only real guess I have is that I love food, and I love to eat.

Most people, when they think of an eating disorder immediately think of anorexia, and bulimia, and they associate them with negative body image. I have some hang ups about my body, I wish my boobs were smaller, and my stomach more toned, but nobody’s perfect, right? Eating disorders are, at their core, a mental health issue. The term “punishment by starvation” is often, not always, used in conjunction with anorexia. Like anorexia I have fallen off the wagon more than a few times, and I am accepting that there will be future occasions when this happens again. I know that the root cause of my problem boils down to the state of my mental health. I know that I perceive myself as undeserving, and that my self-esteem is often low. There is a lot of work still to go on my sense of self.

Love story

If you happen to be reading this and recognise some of these behaviours in yourself, I have some advice on how you can attempt to prevent spiralling out of control.

Snacks. Keep something to hand which is quick and easy to easy to eat. This is for the times when you catch yourself saying “I don’t have time to eat”. For me, I keep cereal bars in the office. This was the brain child of my old manager, who saw how hunger tended to make me underperform, and how I would continue to struggle and strive to get the job done. Now the minute I feel like I’m stressing and my energy feels low, I eat a bar. It’s amazing how a bit of energy can change your outlook.

Plan your meals and plan your time. This one works best when you’re on your own. At these times I regulate my day, allotting time for foo, time for study, time for chores and time for work. I regulated myself right down to setting alarms reminding me to eat, like some Pavlovian dog, because I know how easy it is to get caught up in the moment. Equally have a meal plan, if I know in advance what I’m eating then I not expending any brain power deciding what to cook. When you’re feeling low making a choice can be the worst. Because I hate cooking for one I make sure all my meals are quick and easy to prepare, so I’m not wasting any of my precious time. That way eating doesn’t seem like such a chore than I didn’t have the time for.

Treat yourself. Make the time for something you love. Ironically enough I love food, I’m a big fan of going out to eat, I like a catch up with friends where we cook a huge meal, and let’s not forget about takeaway pizza. Sometimes it can be hard to eat, particularly if I’m at my most emotional, but I will always stand by the opinion that food and socialising are a winsome combination. At one of the worse times in my life I was lucky enough to make an amazing friend, who already aware of my tendency to not prioritise food, was constantly inviting me out for food. To this day I am ever so grateful to her, for persisting in forging a friendship when I most needed support.  

Speak to somebody. It honestly helps. Having somebody spell out to me exactly what I was doing gave me a feeling of validity, this wasn’t just something silly I was over anxious about. This had the potential to be an actual problem. There are lots of people who you can reach out to for help. I’ve been referred to counselling services through my doctor as well as being able to access it anonymously through my employer. I’ve had group counselling sessions, one to one sessions, I’ve even been allowed to have a friend there to give me support. You have to try it out and work out what’s best for you. Personally I liked telephone counselling, I think I liked the anonymity of confessing everything to a stranger, where neither of us could see the other. I hate group counselling, there is literally nothing that can shut me up quicker than a captive audience looking at me while I bare my soul.

What I’m saying is there is something out there for everyone. I’d never dictate one approach over the other, you have to work out what suits you best. Maybe you’ve already tried a group counselling session and hated it, like me. Or perhaps you’ve felt horribly uncomfortable sat in a room alone with a physiatrist. Don’t give up on it all just because ones already let you down.

I hope this has helped somebody out there, or that somebody out there maybe has some suggestions on how they cope with a similar issue?