Cruelty-Free Spolight | Introducing Passion for Natural

Though winter may be my least favourite season, a clear day with bright blue skies and frost under foot blows the cobwebs out like nothing else. I love snuggly jumpers, mulled wine and cosying up inside at this time of year. But since not all winter days are like this, it’s hard to ignore that you’re getting up in the dark, leaving work in the dark. The lack of natural light makes it a terrible time to be a blogger trying to take photos, not to mention (more seriously) the peril of not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Something I am making a conscious effort to do this winter is to pay a little more attention to my skin. Biting winds contrasted with central heating often makes for dry, occasionally irritated, skin. In a bid to use moisturiser more often I’ve been on the lookout for new brands that fit the bill of being cruelty-free, natural, not highly perfumed and good quality.Passion for Natural Products

Passion for Natural are a Leeds-based company who produce organic aloe vera-based products, all of which are free from parabens and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) (both known skin irritants common in many cosmetics). Their range of lotions and scrubs are made using only natural ingredients to complement the aloe such as skin strengthening betaine, protective shea butter, and soothing jojoba seed oil. These combinations make them the perfect winter allies.

As a company Passion for Natural ensure that everything they do has as minimal impact as possible – from recycling their waste, using low energy bulbs or limiting fuel use. I have so much respect for a company who sees the difference they can make through these small actions as well as the big ones. Of course, Passion for Natural also ensure that all ingredients or end products are never tested on animals and most of their range is also vegan (some products do contain beeswax). Being from Leeds also means their products are made from right on my doorstep, cutting down their “air miles” which is a bonus.Passion for Natural Body Butter

I tried out the aloe vera body lotion and body butter, both of which felt rich and nourishing – perfect for these winter months. The one I really loved though was the aloe vera gel; it is great having something to hand for irritated skin that I know is completely natural and healing and will also be perfect in summer for insect bites or sunburn.

What are your go-to skin products to get through the winter months?

Ireland Diary: Ways to Explore Dublin

Some cities just have “it” – that definable yet undeniable quality that makes them feel alive and exciting. Dublin, for me, is one of those irresistible cities. In the five trips to Ireland I’ve taken over the past two years (I couldn’t actually tell you how many times I’ve visited in total!), it has never disappointed and I’ve always come away with the feeling of having discovered and experienced something new.

When I heard that London City Airport were going to focus on Dublin as the next city in their #NoFilter series, creating an unedited portrait of cities across Europe, it seemed like the perfect time to share some snaps and insights from my travels to the city. The aim of the #NoFilter project is to get back to the roots of photography, celebrating the fact that photos don’t need to be Instagrammed or filtered in order to show how beautiful a city is.

I’m a firm believer it is the small details just as much as the famous sights that give a place its character so that is what I’d like to share here alongside some ideas on how to explore Dublin and a few tips on capturing a trip #nofilter.

Ways to Explore Dublin

1. Get out on foot

Irish Flag Bunting in Dublin

A walking tour is a great way to get to know a city; I love doing them on the first day of a trip to find out where to go back and explore further later on. Dublin was no exception as there is a great free walking tour available. Find more details here.

2. Shop VintageAntique Jewellery in Powerscourt Centre, Dublin

Dublin has an ever-growing vintage scene with shops selling everything from high-end hand-picked pieces, spots to rummage through for a good bargain and re-worked ready-to-wear finds. Get yourself started by checking out Eager BeaverCarousel, and the Powerscourt Centre for an array of antique jewellery.

3. Have a beverage or two or three…

Temple Bar in Dublin

I know it’s a cliché but Ireland really does have a cracking night life with pubs and bars to suit every taste. 1920s style cocktail bar The Liquor Rooms and Mexican bar & restaurant 777 (tiny sneak peek here and check back here for a full review sometime soon) are both a good place to start but be sure to book a table – yes even for bars!

For proper pubs and traditional live music, there’s Temple Bar and for a more varied music scene, plenty of drinks and fresh stone-baked pizza served out of a double-decker bus(!), head out to The Bernard Shaw south of the city.

4. Don’t be Shy

Smile Sign in Dublin

Everything you’ve heard about the locals being friendly and welcoming is true; embrace it since everyone from taxi drivers to the people on the next table will have a story for you!

Getting there: If you are flying into Dublin airport, the Air Coach bus runs twenty-four hours a day – every fifteen minutes between 23:55 and 03:25, then every thirty minutes through the night. The route map and return timetable can be found here.

3 tips for #nofilter photography:

  • Adjust as many settings as possible within your camera before taking the photo:
    • Whether you use a phone camera, point & shoot or DSLR, there is always a way to improve the resulting shot. Check out these essential photography tips to get you started
  • Choose settings that reflect your photography style:
    • Do you find yourself drawn to a certain style of image? If you appreciate warm, glowing images then turn up the colour temperature in your camera (or shoot during the “golden hour” if you can). Do you like grainy, vintage-looking photos? Play around with high ISO settings to create atmospheric noise
  • Frame and re-frame:
    • Always try to take more than one composition of a scene and from more than one angle to increase the chances of getting a shot you are happy with. Remember you can crop afterwards too.

Monica of The Travel Hack will rounding up this installment of the series by picking her favourites that show the true essence of the Dublin. This post was created in collaboration with London City Airport but all thoughts are my own and all trips to Dublin have been from my own pocket!

What are your tips for #nofilter photography?

A Very Veggie Xmas; Vine Tomato & Aubergine Rolls

An ideal vegan addition to a Christmas buffet or delectable accompaniment to dinner these sweet vine tomatoes are roasted in fresh basil and black pepper then rolled up in baked aubergine for a perfect mouthful.

Vine Tomato and Aubergine Vegan Rolls

As the second part in my Christmas series on how to host a vegetarian or vegan Christmas, this dish is a simple one but full of fresh, classic flavours. The recipes only calls for three ingredients plus seasoning and olive oil that you will already have in your cupboard.

If you want to make a cheesy version there are optional extras; mozzarella for the vegetarian version that is of course widely available, or nutritional yeast for a vegan version which can easily be bought from Amazon or health food shops.

Vine Tomato and Aubergine Vegan Rolls

I have drained the aubergines with salt to make them firmer and allow them to crisp up better. Having a crisper vegetable does make it a little more difficult to roll aubergines but the benefit to the texture and flavour make it worth it sacrificing a perfect appearance.

Vine Tomato and Aubergine Vegan Rolls

Makes 6 rolls

Ingredients:

6 large vine tomatoes

1 aubergine, cut into slices

1/4tsp black pepper

1/4tsp sea salt

Handful fresh basil leaves

3tbsp olive oil

Optional extras: 2tbsp nutritional yeast (for vegan version) or 1 ball fresh mozzarella (for vegetarian version)

-You will also need cocktail sticks for this recipe

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180C / gas mark 4.

2. Heat 1tbsp of olive oil in a baking tin (make sure it has sides so the tomatoes don’t roll out!) Pierce the tomatoes a couple of times with a knife then add them to the pan along with the pepper. Carefully roll the tomatoes in the oil until they are fully coated. Place in the oven and roast for around 45 minutes until they are soft and beginning to brown. About five minutes before the end, tear and add in the fresh basil leaves.

3. In the meantime, place the aubergine strips on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and sprinkle on the sea salt. Leave to drain for thirty minutes, turning half way.

4. Pour the remaining olive oil onto a baking tray and place in the oven. Once hot, carefully coat either side of the aubergine in oil and spread out over the tray. Bake for around 10-15minutes.

5. Remove both the roasted tomatoes and roasted aubergines from the oven and leave until they are cool enough to handle.

6. To make the rolls, place a tomato at the end of a strip of aubergine. Gently roll up and secure using a cocktail stick or two.

*If you want to add nutritional yeast then sprinkle this on the aubergine strip before rolling around the tomato.

*If you want to add mozzarella, then add a thin layer on the aubergine and roll up with the tomato. Ensure it is secure then place back in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

What will you be eating this festive season?

Christmas Gift Guide: Gifts that give twice

As my first Christmas in the blogosphere I’m going to be sharing tips and recipes for a vegetarian and vegan Christmas all month long. As I’ve been focusing on ethical shopping lately, I also thought it would be nice to share a few little ideas for supporting some great charities this Xmas.

Now typically the words “charity gift” may make you think of sponsoring an animal/child/tree on behalf of your loved ones (and many of them are). Whilst there is definitely a place for these and they can go along way to support a charity’s work, I wanted to highlight some imaginative ways of giving this Christmas that (hopefully) may give you some interesting ideas for unique and special charity gifts:

The Book of Everyone

Did you know…You share 50% of your DNA with a banana?  Which famous historical event you share your birthday with?  What the number one single was the week you were born? (For me it was Move Closer by Phyllis Nelson.)

The Book of Everyone

*PR Sample

The Book of Everyone is a unique gift that can be customised for anyone in your life; a book full of stunning artwork, glorious personalised facts and fun statistics. You can also add photos and your own quotes into the book making it truly personalised. For Christmas, The Book of Everyone have teamed up with the charity Age UK meaning that every book you buy it goes towards the “gifting” of a book for an elderly person who may not receive a gift.

To make The Book of Everyone as a gift for someone, all you need is their full name and date of birth. If you can’t remember their exact birth date, it has a nifty inbuilt Facebook feature that can help find the details for you.

The Book of Everyone is available via their website www.thebookofeveryone.com and is available in the following options: Digital £7.50, Paperback £19.50, Hardback £29.50 and Deluxe £49.50.

Good Day Out

Hedgehogs & Hedgerow Foraging with Good Day Out

Images kindly provided by Good Day Out

Have you ever dreamed of learning how to forage for your own food? Or wondered what it would be like to spend a morning with hedgehogs? (I hadn’t imagined the second one before but I am now.)

Good Day Out offer just that, good days out that: interesting, educational and fun ways for people to easily engage with good causes whilst the charities who benefit are helped to raise money for specific projects. The experience days also work to support rural communities in the UK by providing income for local people.

They also have a range of gifts in their online store all made by various artisan producers with a social conscience.

Good Day Out experiences start at just £2, largely in the Brecon Beacons but with more popping over the UK all the time. Find your experience on their website www.gooddayout.co.uk, gift vouchers are also available.

World Land Trust Art Gallery

The World Land Trust Gallery

Images kindly provided by the World Land Trust

Does the idea of buying original art seem a little, well, indulgent to you? What if you got to take home an original artwork by a renowned contemporary artists whilst also knowing that your purchase was going towards protecting threatened habitats around the world?

The World Land Trust uses its art gallery in Suffolk to do just that, with all profits going towards their vital conservation work. Specialising in wildlife and landscape art, the gallery showcases the work of local artists and those from further afield.

Artists who exhibit in the space can choose to either sell their paintings with commission going to the charity, or generously donate their artwork so that WLT receive the full sale price of the piece. Either way, you can know that the purchase has gone to supporting biodiversity and endangered species.

The World Land Trust’s gallery is available to browse online on their website www.worldlandtrust.org/gallery/artwork, starting from only £25 with pieces to match all budgets.

Are any charities that you support doing anything special this Christmas? Share your own charity gift recommendations in the comments!

France Diary: Montpellier Street Art

Less well-visited than some of its neighbours in the South of France, Montpellier is a laid-back city with a historic quarter full of charm. One of its main draws is just the chance to wander the backstreets, soaking in the atmosphere and ducking in and out of its many independent shops, cafés and bars.

Another element I couldn’t help but notice too was the street art and the different forms it manifested in – some deserve a closer look to see what is really there..!

Montpellier Street Art 1Montpellier Street Art 3Montpellier Street Art 2 Montpellier Street Art 5Montpellier Street Art 6 Montpellier Street Art 7 Montpellier Street Art 8 Montpellier Street Art 9 Montpellier Street Art 10 Montpellier Street Art 11  Montpellier Street Art 4Montpellier Street Art 12

If you didn’t spot it first time around, take another look at #8 and #11, can you see it now?

Do you ever see street art in your city?