Five Asian Sheet Masks

Today I’m going to review some sheet masks that are K-beauty (and also C-beauty… China beauty. Yeah that’s a thing. And they’ve got some decent stuff available).

By the way, in case you’re wondering what happened, I scheduled my posts, one a week, for the last 4 weeks, and I thought it was a glitch that I couldn’t see them. Then, today, I checked behind the scenes and none of them are there. Hmm.
So while I’m figuring out where all my content has gone, here’s five of the face masks (sheet masks) I’ve tried since I got here, and I’m sorry if this is a weird time of day to get notified of a new post, but the scheduling thing isn’t working out so good:

Mizon Enjoy Vital Up Time Face Mask:

 


I’m not sure how I felt about this one. It was great on my skin and I felt super-chill while I wore it, but after… my face seemed moisturized and refreshed, and I was happy enough with the product, but I didn’t really feel energized or however else I’m supposed to very tactfully say, “not old” in polite conversation. It didn’t really do a lot on the anti-ageing front. There was a slight redness for a couple hours after, as you can see in the picture above where I’ve just taken the mask off, but then my face settled down again. So it’s definitely NOT one to try before an evening out. Maybe I’m being spoilt by so many sheet masks lately, because it was still above average for a sheet mask, and I think as long as you’re not looking to eradicate fine lines or smooth the skin it was good, and it did leave my skin glowing after the redness settled. There’s a selection of Mizon sheet masks available on Amazon; have you tried any of the others? I’d love to know how they turned out!

Conclusion: Great for a girly night in. Felt quite nourishing. Not so hot for fine lines.

Coryman Eye Mask Superior Shining and Repairing Eye Mask:
These were da bomb. Like, there’s no other way of describing them. I found them in a beauty store in a shopping mall in the city where I live, and they are the BEST GODDAMN THING that ever happened to my eye area.

IMG_3052

The scientific description is fundamentally meaningless but the actual product… I used it once and I noticed a difference under my eyes. The faint expression lines I’ve been getting since I hit 30 were gone when I wasn’t smiling. I like this. I wish they did a full face mask. I’d be all over it. It wasn’t the only thing I’ve used lately that’s shown a huge improvement in my skin’s elasticity, but it’s definitely in my top 3 products right now. Tragically, you can’t get these in the US, or I’d link you to them. ūüė¶

IMG_3053

As you can see, it’s got collagen, pentapeptide-4, hydrolysed silk AND vitamin E in it. I love all of those.

IMG_3048

IMG_3044

And as a DISTINCT plus, you get to sorta look like Zorro when you wear it. Kinda. In the right light. Maybe I imagined that. I’ll do a comparison on this and the Sea Algae eye masks really soon.

Conclusion: I am in LOVE with these.

The Face Shop The Solution Firming Face Mask:

the solution face mask

the solution face mask2

This one definitely felt like it was doing something. It firmed but it didn’t moisturize so it needs to be paired with a face oil or serum after you use it. This was ¬£1.99 as I got it before I left the UK and just used it this week. On Sunday, I bought that cute kitty hairband to keep my hair and sheet masks separate, so they were a great combo now my hair is shorter again. If you’re in the US, you can get a multipack that includes a vast selection of The Face Shop masks on Amazon.

Conclusion: These were good on the anti-ageing front but my skin needed moisture afterwards.

I also tried tomato and broccoli masks from South Korea last week. The full name is V Prove Tomato Lycopene Vitality Phyto Therapy Mask Vitality Air Pocket Sheet and V Prove Broccoli Chlorophyll Vitality Phyto Therapy Mask Vitality Air Pocket Sheet. A lot of these sheet masks have names that sound like word salad. I really want to make a pun about literal salad being in these masks but I don’t remember the last time I saw broccoli in a salad:

tomato and broccoli1

No, they did NOT smell or taste like tomato or broccoli. I was disappointed. It was like the Tony Moly red wine mask all over again (I’ve STILL not tried the Tony Moly rice one, because it’s to help clear skin and I haven’t had a breakout in SO long). I thought the “chlorophyll” in the broccoli one was a little silly, since human beings have no use for chlorophyll, and when my friend first showed me these masks my first thought about the chlorophyll was, “it’s what plants need” (its from a film called Idiocracy where people just repeat stuff they saw on adverts). The broccoli one was okay, and my skin felt fairly happy after I used it (I needed to moisturize after, though), but the tomato one (maybe this was obvious to anyone who wasn’t me) just made my face really red and sensitive for a day or two. At first I thought it would be gone in an hour or two but as time went on I realized it wasn’t fading. Eek!! I already have a redness problem, so I don’t recommend the tomato one. Maybe the tomato ones are for a different skin type (one that doesn’t have a redness problem). The broccoli one was like the Mizon Vital Up Time mask; the effects were moderate, but it was nice for a quiet evening spent not leaving the apartment! And I may have been imagining it but I sorta think (maybe, possibly, perhaps…) the redness was lessened with the broccoli one. I can’t find either of these on Amazon but there is a VProve soy one on there. I’ve not tried that, though, and since the broccoli was fairly decent, but the tomato was a miss, I’m not sure I’m going to try the soy one any time soon. Anyway, these come in a multipack so I have a lot of broccoli and tomato to use up, now!
Conclusion: Broccoli was a hit. Tomato was a miss.

Overall, then, The Face Shop and Mizon masks were predictably quite good, but they’re kinda expensive. I liked the broccoli face mask and it was unbeatable on value for money, but it definitely didn’t work any miracles. The Coryman eye masks were AMAZING and I need to get me more of these just as soon as I remember the name of the shop. I know the name of the mall, though, so it can’t be too hard to find… right?? Right???

Having said all that, no face mask will fix beauty issues on its own, and I’m going to talk about serums and essences next time, because I’ve found a couple of really nice ones that work very well when used as part of a beauty routine that incorporates regular sheet masks.

Advertisements

Purple Circles Under Your Eyes? 5 Ways To Kill Them No Make-Up (and one quick fix)

Looking to permanently fix those under eye purple circles? ¬†I discovered there was no real information about how to permanently get rid of purple circles under the eyes, after I wrote my article on how to get rid of blue circles¬†(you might want to¬†read that too)! To fix¬†that, I’ve written about how to cure under eye¬†purple circles here and hopefully you’ll get here BEFORE you’ve wasted years on Google on unhelpful articles about getting rid of dark circles which are to do with ageing! Purple under eye circles affect anyone of any age and getting rid of purple circles¬†without using make-up doesn’t take a lot of work.

Purple under eye circles are different to dark circles under the eye because dark circles are caused by hyperpigmentation due to ageing. Purple under eye circles have similar causes to blue circles but they are more responsive to permanent remedies!  So here are five ways to permanently solve the problem of under eye purple circles and one quick fix for in the meantime while you wait for the purple circles to heal, all without using make-up.

First, let’s talk about the quickest fix to get rid of purple under eye circles without using make-up (why no make-up? Because 50% of people with purple and blue circles under their eyes are men, and they don’t really want to be using make-up; a lot of women don’t want to be covering their purple under eye circles up with make-up either).

All links take you to Amazon as I’m an associate and find Amazon¬†very convenient, and every product I mention on this page is one I’ve actually used to get rid of my own purple and blue circles under my eyes and have used and recommended to help other people with the under-eye purple and blue circles problem too:

If you want a quick fix:
Fake (or real) tan: Getting a product with a small amount of fake tan in it, and building it up over the face is a subtle way to get rid of those under-eye purple circles – it works to a moderate extent but it’s not a permanent fix because as soon as you wash the tan off, the circles will come back. However, it is the fastest way to get rid of purple under eye circles without make-up because as your skin darkens, the purple circles under the eyes become much less noticeable! It’s basically the same as blending them out. In addition, the orange and yellow base pigments in most “hint of a tan” type products does the same job as under-eye colour corrector to get rid of those purple circles under your eyes. My favourite is the Dove Summer Glow with a hint of sunless tanner and even though it’s a body lotion, I just use it on my whole face morning and night for a full weekend, then go back to my normal skincare routine because it’s not a face cream, then I make sure to reapply the Dove summer glow once every couple of days, to get a circle-covering glow. About four applications should start to reduce the purple circles (but remember to use it on the rest of your body occasionally as well, so you don’t just have a darker face and whiter everything else).

To ditch those circles permanently:
1. Eat more broccoli and kale: These are both extremely high in vitamin K, the vitamin everyone forgets when they’re planning their diet. Vitamin K is the one that gets rid of redness and helps with chapped lips, and it also helps get rid of purple circles by preventing your blood from being too thin. This is the cheapest but slowest way to get rid of those circles, but they should be improved within 6 months.

2. Try Vitamin K Cream¬†for your face: Vitamin K cream is the wonder solution to get rid of all sorts of dark under eye circles; purple circles, blue circles and brown circles. At $7.94 (inc shipping), it’s also the very cheapest cream you can try so I would try this Vitamin K Cream¬†first before any other permanent solution for purple under-eye circles. ¬†It also works to fade out bruises! ¬†You should get results on purple circles under the eyes in 2-4 weeks. ¬†This vitamin K cream is also safe for children, making it perfect for pageants. ¬†If you’re on blood thinning medication such as warfarin or aspirin, you need to be careful with vitamin K and consult your doctor.

3. Take a vitamin K supplement: Vitamin K supplements are fantastic for people who don’t like eating their greens. It works internally to ensure all your blood is the right thickness, which will also make you bruise less easily! Vitamin K supplements cost more than the cream but the results last longer, so¬†this one is good value, but it will take a month or two to work so keep at it. ¬†As above, consult your doctor if necessary.

4. Check your iron levels: Another huge cause of purple circles is low iron levels. When your iron level gets too low, it’s clear in your face because you start to get dark purple or blue circles under the eyes, usually more of a navy blue¬†line than a purple circle. The only solution to an iron deficiency is to eat more iron-containing foods (hot chocolate made with pure cocoa is the most overlooked source of iron. ¬†Vegan? Use soy milk) on a regular basis. Covering up purple circles under the eyes caused by iron deficiency is not a good plan, you need to solve the cause or they just get worse.

5. Sometimes the skin is the problem, rather than what’s underneath it: When you’re sure it’s not a deficiency, it’s likely that you just have thinner skin under the eyes. Luckily, there is a solution for this: Regular use of any face cream containing Matrixyl will help get rid of blue circles permanently. The Olay Regenerist 3 Point Cream (which I talked about in my article on blue circles) is the absolute best cream I’ve tried for getting rid of purple and blue circles under the eyes (only use a TINY bit because it’s powerful stuff). How does it work? The Matrixyl actually helps to thicken the skin so when it’s applied to the under-eye area it helps the skin to grow thicker and when it’s thicker, it’s less transparent and less delicate, meaning this cream gets rid of the cause of the purple and blue circles under the eyes. If you don’t have $40 there’s a cheaper alternative here from Andre Lorent at $20; although I found it was slightly greasier, it did still work to reduce my dark circles, so it’s up to you.

After living for years with blue circles that turned purple on a regular basis, my own method was to do all of the above together to really kill those blue and purple circles, and now they only come back if I stop doing all of those things for several months (such as when I was pregnant – I have no idea if any of these things are safe for pregnancy and had bigger things to worry about than purple or blue circles so I’m working on getting rid of my under eye circles again now, which is why it seemed like a good time to write another article about this).

Blue Circles? How to get rid of under eye blueness, purple circles, and veins.

So you tried Googling “how to get rid of blue circles” and read a bunch of articles about how to get rid of DARK circles, and are feeling pretty disillusioned? ¬†I’ve been there. ¬†I’ve had them as long as I can remember and have tried every concealer to no avail. ¬†Then I did some scholarly research and found the answers. ¬†Now I will share with you what to do and what not to do to get rid of the blue circles you get under your eyes. Some people’s blue circles show up more purple; the solutions here will also work for purple circles where the root cause is the same. ¬†Note this won’t work for those brown ones you get with age, this is just for blue circles or purple ones! ¬†Most of the stuff about dark circles is really talking about brown circles, and they tack “and blue circles” (or “and purple circles”) onto their generic articles just to drive you nuts in your quest for answers. ¬†Why don’t they differentiate? ¬†Well, that would mean you wouldn’t keep buying products that won’t work, then they’d be making less money! ¬†Let me start by stating I have no interest in discussing make-up because it’s not an option for many people, and it won’t address the root cause of the problem, which with blue veins and blue circles is almost always your first task. ¬†To use an analogy, why put a rug over a cracked floorboard when you can just fix the floor instead? Having said that, at some point I will do an article about color correcting with make-up because it’s worth knowing about, if you can wear make-up. I will link here once I’ve written about color-correctors.

What Causes Blue or Purple Circles?

Really the key to killing them is to work out what actually causes them in the first place.  Basically, the blue circles are caused by the veins standing out and becoming visible through the skin.  So two things are contributing to blue circles:  Enlarged veins, and thin under-eye skin.

Enlarged under-eye veins are caused by:

Caffeine (including those under-eye caffeine treatments that are marketed at getting rid of the other type of dark circle), and other stimulants such as energy drinks and certain medications Рthey dilate blood vessels.  In brown circles, this improves blood flow (and oxygen) to the under eye area, which helps.  In blue circles, it makes the problem worse.  Solve it: To really reduce those blue circles, cutting out coffee is number one.  This will, after a couple of months, allow the veins to go back to normal, eliminating those pesky under eye blue circles.

Allergies – Not the sort that put you in hospital, the sort that make your eyes feel sleepy, runny nose, itchy eyes, or a feeling of being gunked up inside. ¬†When we are allergic to something, the immune system produces histamines to try and fight it. ¬†These histamines make blood vessels swell. ¬†This puts a lot of pressure on your under eye area, especially when you blow your nose, which increases physical blood pressure to the face. ¬†This all causes blue circles under the eye area to look far worse than they would otherwise. ¬†Solve it: Take an antihistamine, if you’ve never used them before, start with Loratadine or Cetirizine (the cheaper of the two – that’s $8-ish for 100 cetirizine pills vs $7-ish for 30 loratadines), and work your way through the others until you find the best one for you (they put strain on your liver so go with the lowest one available, usually the two I just mentioned are safest especially for long term use e.g. if you’ve a dust allergy and work anywhere with dust), and pinpoint and remove the source of the allergy as much as you can. ¬†Hayfever typically strikes when flower pollen is at its height, but tree pollen can also be a cause and it’s found earlier in the year (March to May in the UK, this varies by plant succession and climate around the world). ¬†Dust allergy is most commonly associated with year-round rhinitis (snot) and “hayfever relief” tablets work well for dust allergies too. ¬†Move onto Benadryl only if you’re having no luck with loratadine or cetirizine (in England, Benadryl’s active ingredient diphenhydramine is used in sleeping pills). If none of the over-the-counter allergy tablets work, it’s time to pull out the big guns and ask your doctor to prescribe you the prescription strength ones, but only go for these if you really need them, as they will take a toll on your liver. ¬†The clue about whether this is the cause is that you will have the other symptoms of allergy such as runny nose, hives etc, not just blue circles.

Iron Deficiency or Anaemia – If you can’t see any blue veins through the skin, just more of a continuous blueness radiating from the tear ducts, your blue circles are probably down to an iron deficiency. ¬†This can occur in meat eaters and vegans, and can be¬†associated with heavy blood loss e.g. due to your period. ¬†Solve it: ¬†Get some iron tablets, I’ve discussed which are best in this article. ¬†Continuous use of iron tablets has side effects. ¬†To determine whether your blue circles are down to iron deficiency, get a blood test done at the doctor’s, and check whether you have any other symptoms such as fatigue¬†or¬†poor concentration. ¬†Consult your pharmacist to check¬†if you can take iron, some people can’t. ¬†Pharmacists always know best about these things, they are a cove of free knowledge.

Vitamin K deficiency – This goes hand-in-hand with iron deficiency, as vitamin K deficiency causes you to have increased blood loss, and it will cause the rest of your face to have redness as well as those blue circles from blood deposits as vitamin K makes your blood clot and without it, it doesn’t clot properly (it also helps you absorb calcium). ¬†Many iron-rich vegetables are also great sources of vitamin K – such as kale or broccoli, or other dark green leafy things. ¬†Solve it: ¬†Vitamin K supplements. ¬†Read my article on Vitamin K for advice on all things Vitamin K related, as well as the other effects of vitamin K deficiency and the interaction (bad) between Vitamin E and Vitamin K (always leave some hours between taking E and K supplements and buy them as separate supplements or they cancel each other out). ¬†Avoid Vitamin K supplements if you have thrombosis or are taking anticoagulants (e.g. warfarin) as they cause problems, although if you think your blue circles are down to thinning of the blood, it is worth seeing your doctor if you’re on anticoagulants/blood thinners as they may need to adjust the dosage. ¬†Consult your pharmacist before taking Vitamin K if you need to; their advice is always free and while they can’t generally advise on the effect a vitamin will have on you, they can definitely ask the right questions and tell you whether there is any reason you shouldn’t take it. Many pharmacies don’t actually stock Vitamin K because so many people don’t understand its benefits, I buy mine from Amazon; here’s a link to the Vitamin K I’ve been buying (it’s vegan, they’ve changed the ingredients which is why I’ve changed to this one; the quality is better than some of the more expensive ones). If you’re in the UK, you can get it here although if you’re on a budget, I recommend the (not available in the US) Pure Nature Vitamin K; the packaging’s a bit weird but I tried it this month and I’m halfway through my first pack and the quality of the supplement is nearly as good as the first one I linked; get it here (UK only)
(I only recommend things I’ve bought myself).

Thin Skin under eyes: ¬†This can be something you were born with, sometimes it’s caused by a broken nose (it stretches and thins the under-eye skin) or it can just be a natural sign of ageing. If you’re really unlucky, it’s all three. When the skin under the eyes is too thin and pale, the blood vessels underneath will shine through like a shadow puppet show making delightful dark circles under the eyes. Luckily, some anti-ageing creams can help (even if you’re not ageing). ¬†Solve it: ¬†Creams marketed as “anti-ageing” are not created equal, but look for one with the ingredient Matrixyl in – this has been shown in double blind independent testing by the University of Reading (no pharma connections here, this is an unbiased study) to solve this problem. ¬†Common products include Olay Regenerist 3 Point (has to say 3 point on it) Age Defying Moisturiser (this is the exact one: I’ve found it to be more expensive in shops than on Amazon); Sanctuary Covent Garden Spa Power Peptide Protect Day Cream SPF 20 (NOW DISCONTINUED as of December 2016). ¬†Just Google Matrixyl Cream to see what comes up if you want to browse all the options, there’s loads, and they all put different amounts in, so if one doesn’t work for you, try another, although I highly recommend the Olay Regenerist 3 Point as I’ve found it to be fantastic and it’s had some excellent reviews compared to more expensive products. Use it VERY sparingly under the eye (I use tiny dots). ¬†The other solution is “laser resurfacing” but it costs thousands of dollars and I’ve not seen a single good review or success story for undereye work so I wouldn’t go there personally. Get it here if you’re in the UK

What doesn’t work:

1. Anything that says “banish dark circles” they’re usually marketed towards brown circles for people in their late 30’s onwards, and generally work by thinning the skin and bleaching it (which makes it more transparent, which as you and I both now know,¬†makes blue circles worse).

2. Caffiene under eye roll ons or creams: ¬†These dilate those blood vessels, which means they make them bigger, which makes blue circles worse!! ¬†I wish I’d known that before I tried one of these for 2 years!

3. Concealers and color correctors: ¬†I’ve heard of people using tangerine concealers to get rid of blue circles but I don’t think they work if your skin is very light or very dark. I’ve tried all of them (even the MAC colour corrector), I’ve watched countless application videos and not one single one worked to just make my under eye area look like the rest of my pale face – they all either left it a bit too white, orange or brown (or yellow) and some of them sparkled, which made people think I’d been punched in the face by a glitter fairy (illuminating glow? ¬†Who are they kidding??). ¬†Maybe these work on a different kind of blue circle, and to be fair, they do cover it up on camera, but face to face in real life for normal people they’re no good. ¬†Make up in general is no good¬†to cover this up for those of us who are pale, prone to activity, like walking from A to B, or who don’t like to waste time, as the blueness tends to show through after an hour or so of even the thickest plasterboard of make-up.

4. Normal eye cream: I’ve not actually found any normal eye creams to be useful for any of the common complaints around the eye area, particularly blue circles. ¬†Most of them are too watery or burn my under eye area which can be a sign of cell damage leading to ageing effects in the future so I discontinue use right away if anything burns.

5. Honey or beeswax – This bleaches things because it contains a low concentration of ammonia; honey is actually used to lighten hair “naturally” by some people. ¬†If you use it regularly under the eyes when you have blue circles, it will keep lightening the skin, which makes it more transparent, which will make your blue circles or veins stand out even more. It has it’s uses, but this isn’t one of them!

Update 2016: I also did this shorter article about purple circles (because mine are sometimes purple)
Got any more tips for blue circles? ¬†Share ’em in the comments! Click here to find out about the 3 brands I work with and find out how to get bigger lips without using fillers.

Wedding Wednesday: The Dress

This post contains affiliate links. ¬†This does not affect your browsing experience, cost, etc of things at the other end of said links in any way. ¬†I’ve been getting really annoyed lately at the amount of people who don’t disclose this, so now if I see a link in someone’s blog to a shopping site, I have to assume it’s an affiliate link unless they’re upfront about it in their linked posts and about page.

The dress was one of the first and last things I found. It was the first, I bought it for ¬£12.99 and it arrived 18 months before our wedding – before we even had a date. It was beautiful, and everything about it seemed perfect except… it was too short in the body. It was a jumpsuit comprising of 2 parts, an opaque figure hugging inside in white sequin and a see-through outer part in floaty white. It was beautiful. But the opaque inner was too short on the body meaning either my booty could fit in or my boobs could, but not both at the same time. This was super unfortunate and I thought I could fix it with some straps and some extra trim around the bottom but I made about 10 modifications to it and it still didn’t fit my height, so I gave up with three months to go before the wedding. ¬†I will do something with it at some point I’m just still deciding.

I then had a series of dresses that didn’t turn up, didn’t look remotely like the picture, weren’t designed to fit actual people; one even got cancelled on Ebay after bidding had ended because it hadn’t sold for enough (they hadn’t put a reserve on, they just cancelled the bid and refunded my payment that I sent straight after the listing ended. ¬†They even emailed and told me they’d sold it elsewhere. Disgraceful)… In the end, the dress was the last thing I bought; with two weeks to go, I bought a ¬£10 white satin dress on Ebay that was completely perfect, and it arrived a week before the big day. ¬†It was an ex-Debenhams either overstock or factory second, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and it fitted perfectly. ¬†It was satiny fabric but it was actually 100% polyester, and the satiny layer was overlaid with that fine meshed plain lace that the veil is also made of, all made of polyester which is made¬†from three chemicals which are petroleum byproducts (as is plastic, because as I’ve discussed somewhere before, chemicals aren’t made from nothing they’re all made from the natural resources on our planet):

My £10 wedding dress, on my actual wedding day.  That's about $16.
The Dress
A full length candid shot of the dress during movement.
A full length candid shot of the dress during movement.  Not the best photo of me but a good pic of the dress.

My veil cost ¬£2.50 and came from China. ¬†I advise you to read listings carefully to check exactly what you’re getting – some veils don’t come with a comb, for example, so are just a big square of filmy fabric. ¬†Mine came with a comb and it said freshwater pearls but I knew they would be at the very best made of glass, and were actually made of plastic, which was perfect because pearls are an animal slaughter byproduct.

My shoes were a story in and of themselves that I’ll come to on the actual day. ¬†These were the ones I bought for the wedding:

Silver jelly shoes currently going for about £7 ($10) here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/D14-Summer-Ladys-Mary-Jane-Jelly-Hollow-Shoes-Breathable-Crystal-Sandals-UK-/141563283137?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item20f5d446c1  But there are plenty of other sellers for these if you use similar search terms such as
Silver jelly shoes currently going for about ¬£7 ($10) here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/D14-Summer-Ladys-Mary-Jane-Jelly-Hollow-Shoes-Breathable-Crystal-Sandals-UK-/141563283137?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item20f5d446c1 But there are plenty of other sellers for these if you use similar search terms such as “ladies jelly sandals wedges” it just takes some looking to get the right one in a good size.

I made my own jewellery using crackle Glass Beads and plastic glow in the darkpony beads and semi-precious beads and elastic and nylon wire from Amazon.  I started making the jewellery about 4 months before the wedding and found that it was a good de-stress project during the planning stages.

I accessorized with a unicorn bag that I’ve had for ever and a broccoli bouquet because I don’t like the idea of wasteful flower bouquets and broccoli could be eaten by the rabbits later in the day. ¬†Broccoli was 49p at Morrissons, we took our time to choose a really nice symmetrical one the day before the wedding. It made for some damn good photos, and we spent absolutely nothing on flowers which was amazeballs because I felt like the cost of floristry was going to be mandatory wedding robbery when I don’t like large quantities of flowers that aren’t growing somewhere.

One thing I hated about dress shopping was that there’s this expectation that you are an inadequate human being if you don’t spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on a dress. ¬†In all the wedding planning sites I looked at, I was shocked that there was an assumption that the dress would be up to 1/3 of the budget (excluding honeymoon). ¬†Unless your wedding only contains three items – your dress, his suit and a priest (no rings, no indoor space to get married in, no food, no invites etc) – it’s a little disproportionate.
You don’t even need to spend ¬£50 to get a decent dress that will look really nice on the day and in the pictures afterwards. ¬†It doesn’t need special stitching or whatever because probably you won’t wear it again (even if you think you will), it doesn’t need preserving because it’s only special to you, and it doesn’t need saving for children because they want to choose their own dress. ¬†Just like you did. ¬† Think about those articles that say things like “you can use your mother’s wedding dress by cutting it into pieces and wrapping the bouquet with it” then think whether that’s worth ¬£250 or ¬£2500 to you, for your child to take a pair of scissors to it at some point in the future and use it as a tablecloth or bouquet wrap for their own wedding. ¬†Bear in mind they’re probably only doing it so you don’t feel bad that they don’t want to wear your dress. ¬†Was that worth the effort? ¬†I decided in my case that it was all insane levels of excessive money and object gluttony, and I wanted to start the marriage as I meant to go on.

In the words of Francine Smith’s Chinese Parents: ¬†Wastefulllll.

You wasteful!
Wasteful!

As I kept reading this crap I felt myself straining against it as it tried to suck me in.

Keep yourself safe from being brainwashed by the Wedding Industry, friends. ¬†A minimalist wedding is possible and the bride’s (or brides’ – YAY GAY MARRIAGE) outfit is one of the hardest stages to keep your resolve, particularly if you get hypomanic spending like I do.

Total cost of bride’s outfit including “bouquet”: About ¬£30. ¬†¬£43 if we’re counting the first one.

Meat Free Monday: More Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipes

Given how well my first two cheese sauce recipes went down last week, here’s¬†two more. ¬†They’re a bit more complicated but I’ve made pasta and cheese in all of these methods and can vouch for the fact that it will scratch an itch, even if it’s not remotely nutritious (more advice on making this meal more nutritious at the bottom). ¬†Some of these are more realistic than others, as a general rule of thumb, the harder it is to make, the more realistic it comes out, so it’s up to you how much effort to expend in making vegan cheese sauce. ¬†I oscillate¬†– sometimes I¬†don’t care¬†enough to take any time and other times I’m spending half an hour on that perfect vegan cheese sauce recipe and smoothing out lumps with my hand blender (that’s a pro-tip, btw). ¬†It all depends on how hungry or rushed I am vs how much I miss cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce 3. Using vegan cream cheese, method C:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 2 tablespoons of cream cheese per person (you may need more)

About 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person (also works with rice milk, not sure about others).

About 1 tablespoon of cornflour.

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. In a small non-stick pan (ideally), on a medium heat, spoon your required amount of cream cheese into the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person to start with.

Stir it together while it’s heating until it’s all warm and sauce like.

3. Add the cornflour (sieving it into the pan with a fine mesh sieve is the best way to avoid lumps, but work with what you’ve got) and combine well with a fork.

4. Once the sauce has reached the right consistency, serve it all up – put the pasta in bowls and pour the sauce over the top.

Cheese sauce 4. Using vegan cheese slices, vegan cheese sauce method D:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 3-4 dairy free cheese slices per person (Tofutti or Violife are the UK brand leaders),

Method:

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. Put the pasta back into the pan. Tear the cheese slices up and drop them into the pan.

3. On a medium heat, stir the cheese slices into the pasta. Need it cheesier? Add more cheese!

4. Serve it in the right number of bowls and eat it.

Nutrition: To make these more nutritious, use cauliflower or broccoli (or some of both) instead of pasta. ¬†I like to also throw in a serving of frozen or fresh peas to ensure there’s some colour on my plate. ¬†A handful of peanuts will help you achieve your day’s protein goals. ¬†I strongly recommend you don’t use lentils¬†– they don’t work well in this sauce.

You can make any of my recipes gluten-free by subbing the pasta for GF pasta.

Stay tuned for next Monday when I will put up the all-singing all-dancing Oven Baked Vegan Mac-N-Cheese Recipe that you will want to get your hands on.

Meat Free Monday: Mac and Cheese Recipes 1 and 2

Pasta and ‚ÄúCheese‚ÄĚ Sauce

Before I developed a milk allergy, my favourite food was mac and cheese, although I would make it with lots of different shapes and sizes of pasta (one of my favourites was pasta shells, because they suck up the sauce). Since I’ve been dairy free, I’ve tried a lot of different ways to make pasta or macaroni and cheese.

The one way I absolutely DO NOT recommend is the ‚Äúvegan‚ÄĚ ‚Äúcheese sauce‚ÄĚ that comes in a tub from the supermarket/health food store. It’s a crime against vegetables. It literally tastes like someone threw some herbs in a pan then threw up on it.

Over the next three weeks, I will present¬†several alternative pasta and cheese ideas, leading up to the all-singing, all-dancing “proper” one with a roux and everything; today’s two recipes are the simplest, and both use vegan cream cheese:

1. Using vegan cream cheese, method A:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 2 tablespoons of cream cheese per person (you may need more)

About 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person (also works with rice milk, not sure about others).

1. Cook the pasta and drain. ¬†Gluten free pasta takes much less time than wheat pasta as it doesn’t have to soften the gluten protein.

2. In a small non-stick pan (ideally), on a medium heat, spoon your required amount of vegan cream cheese into the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person to start with.

Stir it together while it’s heating until it’s all warm and sauce like. If it’s too thin, add more cream cheese. If it’s too thick or the flavour’s too strong, add more soya milk.

3. Once the sauce is warm enough and reached a decent consistency, divide the pasta in bowls for each person eating and pour the sauce over it in a fair manner, then eat straight away.

2. Using vegan cream cheese, method B:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 1/3 of a tub of vegan cream cheese per person.

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. Heat the cheese in the bottom of a small non-stick pan (ideally) and once it’s softening, mix the pasta in until it’s all coated in cream cheese.

3. Serve in bowls and eat at once.

4. This one dries hard, so wash your bowls straight after eating.

Note: 

You can make these gluten free by using gf pasta instead of regular, or replacing pasta with either broccoli or cauliflower (although I recommend using my pasta recipe #5 for cauliflower).

These provide none of your 5 a day (fruit and veg), no vitamins to speak of, and negligible amounts of protein. They’re¬†mostly carbs and a smattering of fat. To make it more nutritious, serve with a salad, or replace the pasta with cauliflower or broccoli (or just serve them up on the side) and sprinkle with sunflower seeds or your favourite nuts for protein (dry roasted peanuts are my fave but you gotta eat them fast so they don’t go soggy in the sauce). ¬†I love mac n cheese but rarely eat it these days because it’s a nutritional vacuum.

Meat Free Monday: Pasta Scossese

I am away in the Scottish Highlands until Friday evening. I will not be able to reply to or approve comments until I get back. My posts are all pre-set to go live Mon-Wed, I will not be posting Thursday/Friday this week.

As it’s fitting with where I am when you’ll be reading this, I’ve decided today’s food will be Pasta Scossese (that’s Italian for Scottish Pasta). It’s another easy vegan pasta dish. Make it gluten free by substituting GF Pasta or broccoli for regular pasta.

OBT means Optional But Tasty.

Pasta Scossese:
Ingredients:
1 cup per person: Your favourite pasta (depending on density), gluten free or otherwise,
1 cup per person: Curly kale (scotch kale in the US),
1/2 cup per person: Tinned carrots (or 1 chopped fresh carrot per person, but will need boiling for longer to soften),
2 medium sprigs (those little mini-trees) of broccoli per person.
An onion,
Half a cup of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) mince, or other vegan mince of your choice,
1 carton of tomato passata,
1 tbsp of your cooking oil of choice (I prefer coconut oil),
OBT: A small sprig of rosemary and a larger sprig of thyme (or a little sprinkle of each dried herb), a sprinkle of basil, and a generous dash of garlic and oregano.

This meal is 2-3 of your 5 a day (depending on portion size), and serves 2.

Method:
1. Put the TVP/vegan mince into a bowl and add a little water and Vegemite (yeast extract), mix in and leave for 5-10 minutes to absorb the liquid.
2. Cook the pasta for 10-13 minutes and drain. Put it aside. While the pasta is cooking, boil the carrots, broccoli and kale until tender. The broccoli needs longest so could also be cooked with the pasta if you prefer.
3. Chop the onion in half, then chop it into thin strips, then cut each thin strip into 3 to make little rectangles.
4. Using the same pan or a fresh one, heat the oil and add the onion.
5. When the onion is sizzling, drain your broccoli (if it’s been cooked with the other vegetables), carrots and kale, and add them to the onion.
6. Pour the tomato passata over the vegetables in the pan and add the optional herbs if you wish. Stir it all together well, to ensure no onions are stuck to the bottom of the pan, then simmer on a low heat for 4-6 minutes.
7. Mix in the pasta (and broccoli, if it was cooked with the pasta), until everything is evenly distributed throughout the pan, then serve in a bowl.