A parenting & lifestyle blog written by Claire Chircop.


AD | This post has been written in collaboration with Hit Search on behalf of REN skincare.

It happens every year, as soon as Winter comes around and the temperature drops my skin screams out for a more hydrating & more nourishing skincare routine. After chatting to a few of my girlfriends about it, we've sussed that so many of us are in the same boat, which is exactly why I wanted to share with you guys a few of the products I've been using.

I'm a firm believer that less is more when it comes to skincare. I've said it a thousand times on this blog, I couldn't think of anything worse than having a skincare routine made up of a dozen products. Not only would it be a nightmare for my bank balance, but I really don't like the idea of clogging my skin with a tonne of products. The following five products aren't ones I use on a daily basis, but they are products I've relied on this Winter for hydrating my skin. 
Claire looking at REN skincare product.
NSPA Beauty Rituals pure exfoliator.
When it comes to combating dry and lackluster skin I find the best way to start is with an 'out with the old, in with the new' type attitude which is exactly where a good exfoliator comes in to play. I tend to find less abrasive exfoliators better for this time of year as they're less damaging on my already dry & damaged skin. My product of choice at the moment is the NSPA pure exfoliator from their sensitive skin range, which bizarrely I picked up on a bit of a whim during my weekly shop in ASDA. I didn't really think anything of it, other than I need a good scrub to get rid of dead skin cells on my face, but this little product is blooming amazing. It's nourishing & gives my dehydrated skin an instant boost of moisture which for an exfoliator is pretty hard to come by. I've been using this product twice a week, as I don't want to overdo it, but every time I use it I can instantly feel the boost in hydration to my skin.
Hydrating skincare products.
Eve Lom cleanser.
I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I unpacked the Eve Lom cleanser from my Look Fantastic beauty box last month. Quite frankly I'm sad I only received the sample size tub of this product as I've fallen in love with this pretty pricey piece of skincare - One I'm not sure I can afford to hand my pennies over for when this one runs out, even though I really really really want to! I've found because the oil based cleanser is quite thick in consistency it works best by heating between the fingertips first before popping on your face as it makes the application process much smoother & the task of removing makeup super duper simple - It feels like an absolute dream to use! It's packed full of goodness too, with ingredients such as chamomile oil, cocoa butter & clove oil, which if that isn't a recipe for success, I don't know what is! Not only am I left with super duper fresh clean skin, but my face feels so much more hydrated and nourished after using. It really is a brilliant cleanser, especially for this time of year.

Ren glow daily vitamin c gel cream*
A newbie to my collection is the vitamin c gel cream from Ren; a light moisturiser with as the name suggests a creamy gel like consistency. I've not actually used a moisturiser with this texture before, so when I first pumped the product onto my palms I was super intregued and couldn't wait to lather my skin with it. I made the mistake initially of using three pumps of the product on my face which was way too much, when in reality 1 pump is more than enough. I have the 50ml size product and can already tell that it's going to last a long time, the bottle's also super handy in the sense that you can see how much of the product you've used - Perfect for  reminding you to repurchase before you've ran out. This product contains vitamin c which boosts collagen production and also helps with UV damage to the skin, magnesium to nourish the skin and Tara Pod extract to help even skin tone - This product is an all round good egg when it comes to giving the skin some much needed glow. Even after only using the glow daily vitamin c gel cream for a couple of days, I'd noticed my skin appeared plumper, softer & more luminous.
This little tube of citrus scented goodness doesn't officially launch until early next year, it's scheduled for release on the 2nd January, but once it does I'm sure it's going to be a total hit!
Hydrating skincare products.
Rodial dragon's blood hyaluronic tonic.
I've never really been sold on toners before, I didn't understand how they worked & to be honest thought they were a bit of a fad when it came to skincare. In reality toners are super important, they soothe, nourish and hydrate the skin restoring the delicate PH balance. The hyaluronic acid contained in this toner gives my face a plumped & hydrated appearance, which is very much needed during Winter. Obviously this product does what it says on the tin, however what I love most about this, is just how refreshing it feels when spritzed on the face, it's cooling properties leaves me feeling rejuvenated and my skin stimulated - It's blooming amazing! Truth be told this is the only toner I've tried in spray form so I can't really tell if it's the best of the best, all I know is that I enjoy using it & I can definitely feel a difference in my skin when I use it.
Skincare products.
The Body Shop lip scuff.
If I could recommend only one product for Winter, it'd be this one... I've been using it since I was a teenager and one I can't imagine going through the winter months without. Not only does my skin get really dry around this time of year, but my lips literally go as dry as the Sahara desert. I've gone off lip balms as I find they're often quite sticky or claggy, I much prefer a scrub as it gets rid of all the horrible dry skin I seem to accumulate on my lips. This one from the body shop exfoliates, nourishes and moisturises the lips all in one go... And the fact it's in a super handy bullet form, it's literally the easiest thing in the world to use - Sadly I don't think this product is available anymore, but I'm fully stocked up & ready for whatever Winter may throw at me.
Claire looking in mirror with the body shop lip scuff.
So there we have it, my five favourite products when it comes to combatting dry, lack luster skin over Winter time. Like I say, I've not been using all five every day, but without them I really think my skin wouldn't look half as good as what it does. 

Has your skin been suffering this Winter? What products have you been using?

Claire. X

Lifestyle | Why University put me off my dream Interior Design career.

University and my experiences over the three years I had there have been something I've found very difficult to talk about. It's hard even now, even to friends and family and even 8 years after graduating. My University experience put me off my dream career in Interior design; The difficult reasons why, I'm going to divulge in this blog post.

Please forgive me if it's a bit of a ramble, I've never really put my thoughts and feelings about the whole situation down in one place. Feel free to grab a cup of tea and put your feet up.

Lets go back to the beginning. Can you see I'm stalling.
For as long as I could remember I'd wanted to be an Interior Designer - Since watching Changing Rooms back in the 90's and becoming completely infatuated by the transformation process of interior spaces I'd had it in my head that Interior Design was the career choice for me. This resonated with me right through GCSE's and A Levels choosing courses that were orientated towards art & design and therefore setting me off onto the right path for my dream career. You could say everything I was working towards since I was an 11 year old girl was to become an Interior Designer. And if that doesn't sound like pressure, I don't know what does.
I suppose this pressure & expectation is exactly where to start my University story.

University wasn't what I'd thought it would be.

My University experience started off surprisingly well, I got involved & stuck in with the projects, enjoyed creating mood boards & 3D interior models. It was fascinating, and exactly what I'd wanted from the course.
The first year on my course was very tutor led, we had lots of guidance & set times and days for doing particular projects which worked perfectly for me. However my first wobbler was thrown during a written based project towards the end of first year. I can't remember exactly what the reasoning behind the project was, and I suppose that's what says it all, but we had to write a history report about one of the older University buildings on campus. Why? I've got absolutely no idea, because in my head this had & still doesn't have anything to do with Interior Design.
I struggle writing academically, I write like I talk, which for this blog works amazingly well as it brings my personality through, but when when it comes to University projects I'm sure you can agree is not so great. Truth is I'd gotten so wrapped up worrying about my writing and how I was coming across that I was loosing my passion for creative design. I remember throwing my toys out oft the pram & saying to the girls on my course that I wasn't coming back the following year. I couldn't do it! My cry for help was met with sayings like 'don't be daft' or 'you can do this' which is all good and well, but I'm the type of person where if I'm crying for help, that's exactly what I need... Help. And unfortunately that's what I didn't receive from my University tutors. And herein lies the problem with my University experience.

I spent the summer mulling things over. Do I go back? Do I find full time work? If I do find full time work, what the hell do I even want to do?

My parents thought I was going to be an Interior Designer, my friends thought I was going to be an Interior Designer, my teachers thought I was going to be an Interior Designer... Can you see where I'm going with this? I felt like I couldn't quit. In my eyes at the time, to quit was to fail, when in hindsight looking back now, to quit could have been the best thing I'd done. Who knows? That's another one of those 'what if' situations which isn't really worth thinking about too much.

I went back to University the following September to find the years projects to be even less tutor led, it felt like the course was more of a 'you get out of it what you put into it' type of thing, which again is not what I was expecting especially when you're paying the fees you do for University, you'd expect a little more guidance. A little more bang for your buck you could say. Our tutors would come in a couple of times a week and sit down to see how we were getting on. However in all honesty it felt like they'd sit with who they wanted to sit with - Thinking about it, it was a little like the dinner hall scene on Mean Girls, in the sense that it was very cliquey... Please say you get the reference? It was always more of a fleeting visit rather than actual teaching, which again thinking about it from a tutors point of view, isn't that what you want from your career?... To teach? I just didn't understand it. For me, having issues the previous year I suppose I wasn't at the top of their list, and again this is totally fine, sometimes these things happen, but it got to the point where I was finding things so difficult but I felt like I could't reach out and ask for help. I just plodded along, not really loving it, not really hating it... I was just there.

My third and final year brought with it the dreaded dissertation. I knew this was coming & even though it scared me, I felt like I prepared well for it. Truth be told, I had probably more guidance with my dissertation than anything else, and guess what... I actually enjoyed it! I enjoyed writing and found my subject matter to be really quite interesting. All I needed was a little help. 
Apart from my dissertation however I had two projects that year, an aptly named minor & major project, which as I'm sure you've guessed by now I had no guidance with.
For me there is nothing worse than asking for help & it not being given. It takes an awful lot to admit that you're struggling and for it to fall upon deaf ears is somewhat hard to take.

I graduated and passed my University degree, I suppose you could say I was a qualified Interior Designer, but I didn't pass with the grade I wanted; And I believe that's down to being left in the dark & not getting the help during my three years at University I'd so blatantly asked for. I look back on my time there and see a young girl pleading for help, asking for guidance, but not quite getting it. For what reason, I'm not sure, but I believe I wasn't given the support I needed to leave University with a first class honors and a career in Interior Design.

This three year lull unfortunately was enough to put me off pursuing a career in Interior Design. I've actually done freelance work since graduating and even in 'real life' situations, my passion for it is no longer there. It's quite sad & feels like such a shame that I let my bad experiences beat me... But I suppose that's just part of life.

Fast forward to now, I'm obviously not an Interior Designer, I work in retail - I'm the store administrator for a high street jewellers, and even though it may be looked down upon, especially when you compare it to what could have been, I love my job. Granted I may not be earning as much money as what could have been, but who cares? I certainely don't. There's no point worrying about the what could have been's and the what if's. I'm happy doing what I'm doing & I'd much rather spend my Monday-Fridays doing something I enjoy rather than something that gets me down all the time, which I know for definite is what a career in Interior Design would have me doing.

Luckily I think (or I'd like to think) I'm part of a small minority of people that didn't enjoy their time at University. Did you go to University? What was your experience there like?


Lifestyle | My plans for maternity leave.

As we speak I've currently got two weeks left at work before my maternity leave & let me tell you, I'm SO ready for it. I'm officially on countdown & taking as much time off as physically possible! My plan of action is to go back to work in January 2020, which feels absolutely insane considering were currently in November 2018 - I've well & truly planned this whole pregnancy thing perfectly haven't I?

With my time off I'm planning on using my days wisely and productively. I'm well aware that this could definitely 100% be all talk, but hey ho, we're going into this with a positive and open mindset. Here are a few things I'm planning on doing with my maternity leave.
Swimming with baby.
Something I wish I'd always done when younger is to learn how to swim. If my life depended on it I could swim & could probably get myself back to safety, but am I confident in water... Definitely not. And that's something I definitely don't want for our baby. I've already done a little bit of research into water baby classes and it seems like there's so many available in our area, we're not going to struggle with finding a nice pool somewhere close by. Not only is this going to be brilliant for baby, but it's also going to be a fantastic way for me & Dan to bond as well as spend time with other new parents.

Reread the Harry Potters.
I'm a big ol' HP fan and quite often partake in a Harry Potter movie marathon. In fact that's what I've done while I was off sick last week. I must have watched them hundreds of times, and even though I have my favourites, the movies in general just never get old! I've rewatched the films, but when it came to the books I've only ever read them once. Why? I'm not really too sure, but with all this extra time I'll hopefully be having it seems daft to not reread them. I'm going to try buy the books from new again & keep them in the baby's room, not only will they be fun for me but fingers crossed they'll be something the baby can enjoy too when they're a little older.
 Learn Calligraphy.
I don't know if this sounds lame, but something I've always wanted to learn is calligraphy. I think there's such an art to it & if I was good at it and had the patience for it (Lord knows there's going to have to be a lot of patience for it) someday I may be able to turn it into something I make a bit of money from. A side hustle. I first looked into Calligraphy when it came to planning our Wedding, especially with regards to table numbers and name cards, and since then it's been hovering at the back of my mind. Dan said it perfectly to me one morning, I'm going to have over a year off work, that's more than enough time to learn a new skill... Maybe Calligraphy is mine.

Get outdoors.
I'd like to think I get my 10,000 steps in during most days however admittedly the closer I'm getting to the end, the more and more difficult I'm finding getting out and about. Baby's due just before Christmas so I'm very aware it'll be absolutely freezing at that time of year, but I'm hoping to get out as much as possible with baby in tow. We're wanting to bring baby up being as outdoorsy as possible. Me & my sister were very much outdoorsy kids living close to the North Yorkshire Moors. Dan not so much, but I think as he's gotten older he's wished for less of the city life and more countryside & that's something we want to bring our baby up with.
Huts in the hills.
I've had my eye on this place ever since seeing Chloe's blog post earlier on in the year. There's nothing I love more than taking time out and getting away from it all, and Huts in the Hills looks like the perfect place to do so. I'm going to get something booked during the new year, I'm not sure whether to book it for our 1st wedding anniversary or Dan's 30th birthday, but nether the less we will get there! Bring on having no signal, bring on the countryside & bring on family bonding.

Create a capsule wardrobe.
Something I've struggled with during pregnancy is figuring out how to dress my new bump. I've always been relatively confident with what I look like & how I dress however these last eight months have seen me thrown well and truly in at the deep end with fashion. You could say that I'm nesting, but I've gutted my wardrobe about fifty times during pregnancy, and once baby is born and hopefully my body pings back into place (pray for me please) I'm going to really evaluate what I want fashion wise & create the perfect capsule wardrobe for myself.

Grow my blog.
This year my blogs taken a little bit of a back seat unfortunately. The wedding took up a big chunk of our spare time as well as getting the house baby ready, this years been our busiest yet and as I'm sure you can understand this little slice of internet hasn't been my main priority. I'm hoping that all changes next year, obviously my baby will be my main priority, but I'm hoping my new parenthood experiences will bring me more things to write about, more inspiration and generally more fabulous content. I'd love to try making a little bit of money through my blog next year as we all know Maternity pay isn't fantastic so if you have any tips or tricks please holler at me.
I've already shed a few tears over this one, my baby isn't even here yet & I've already felt the mamma guilt about leaving them behind. But it's booked and paid for now so there's no going back! Eeek! I'm spending a few days away in Berlin for one of my closest friends hen party in April next year and even though I know it'll be hard, I know it'll be exactly what I need at the time. My baby will be five months old at the time & as my husband keeps telling me that at that point I'll be thankful for the break, which I'm sure I will be! I'll be upset leaving baby (and husband ofc) behind but am more than excited about spending a few days away with the girls. Bring on the bratwursts!

Basically I'm wanting my maternity leave to be as productive as possible. Apart from the possibility of having more children, when am I ever going to get the opportunity of time off work again. I enjoy my job very much and will be sad to leave it and my colleagues behind, but at this present moment with only a matter of weeks to go before my due date, I am more than ready for the time off.

Have you got any tips for making money through your blog? Can you point this mamma to be in the right direction?

Claire. X

Have you read my previous posts?
Lifestyle | Stress free wedding planning.
Beauty | The Look Fantastic 4th birthday beauty box #lfbeautybox.
Food | Afternoon tea at Betty's, Ilkley.