An extended break.

You may or may not have noticed that it’s been a while since I posted.

It turns out that the hiatus has been longer than I’d planned, or wanted, but I don’t have it in me to write this blog at the moment. To cut a long story short I’m currently fighting the black dog that is depression and anxiety/PTSD.

I don’t feel that I can subjectively post my opinions on things, when my perception is as skewed as it is, which is a disservice to everyone. Nor, at the moment, do I want to write about the reality of living with this.  The good news is that I am getting help with it – with the help of my GP we are looking at medications to help and also CBT.

I’m aware this will mean that I’ll likely have to start from scratch when I do return, which I do plan to, but at this time I think this is for the best. I do hope that you understand, and hope to see you when I emerge towards the other side.

Sara

Information !!

I  just wanted to give you a quick heads up that this blog will most likely disappear for a couple of days in the very near future whilst it’s undergoing an overhaul (try saying that 5 times quickly!) but will be back, and the first post on there, after saying I’m back, will be reporting on the Bloggers Funday that’s happening TOMORROW!

I’ve not been that active on anything the last week or so, due to a cold, and life happening but I am very much looking forwards to this, and have been for a while! I’d hoped to get everything sorted in time for it this week, but I’ll be pleased to say that all the prep work is complete now….

Still alive!!

Hi everyone,

I’m not going to apologise for not posting anything – see my earlier posts for why, but I did want to let you know that I haven’t yet fallen off the face of the earth, just still having a downwards dip and I’ve gone back to work and all kinds of fun stuff, and thanks to some pesky white stuff, I still haven’t gotten home, so things are slightly delayed. Rehab for my leg is going about as well as it can be expected to I guess, but I’ll know more when I’ve been to see the consultant.

BUT I can share with you that I will be moving to my own domain pretty soon with a shiny new design! So while I’ve been quiet, I haven’t been neglecting everything!!

I’m currently testing it and finding out what works well, and what doesn’t and even have a logo that’s very slowly taking shape!

I’m hoping to have it all done in time for the Sheffield Blogger meet on 21st February, which I am very much looking forwards to. No promises though, as I really need to be back on my big PC for that!

Catching up on the end of 2014 and an apology for absence

First up apologies for not posting much over the last month or so. I got hit pretty badly with my SAD, and it wasn’t fair on anyone to try and post when I’d got no enthusiasm for anything. Thankfully I’m coming out of the other side of that now, so it’s time to play catchup and move forwards! So here’s a bit of what you can expect coming up!

Coming up over this month, you can expect the lowdown on the Plus Sized blogger meet-up from last month at Meadowhall, a review on Christmas Lights, TWO book reviews, which brings me up to date, and then you can expect my first clothing reviews, and something that arrived in the post for consideration today. So things certainly haven’t stopped!

I’m also preparing to move to my own domain as well soon, something I was going to look into doing for the New Year, but I got caught away from home in the snow that hit on Boxing Day and then being stuck for a week until it cleared and I was allowed out again. I’m going back to work next week as well, which I’m quite looking forwards to, but will obviously impact on my time now, but I’ve already planned for that, and hopefully you’ll hear from me two or three times a week.

I’ve also got a couple of events lined up already for this year, which seems really organised, the first of which is two weekends away, and I’ll be there with my new camera as well to catch all the action with at least one or two other blogger friends.

So there you go, the ice has been broken (quite literally) and you’ll be hearing from me again soon.

Sara x

ForYou Skincare: M4 Moisturiser Review: Two weeks with Before and After pictures

ForYou(TM) Skincare is a new company who will be officially launching on the 12th of January 2015.

I recently received a sample of their M4 Anti Ageing Moisturiser* to try out and provide feedback on as they get closer to their launch- which I was more than happy to do, as I’m still in my never ending search for products that cause me issues, or worse, are fine and then cause a huge breakout or flare up!

On the one hand I’ve been really fortunate with my skin – I’ve never suffered from acne on my face particularly, yes I got the odd breakout (and still do occasionally), but on the other hand, I do suffer from sensitive skin, and react quite viciously even to a change in water sometimes! For that reason I tend to stick to more natural products when I do use them, as due to this, I very rarely used them when I was younger (and yes I know that makes me sound old!) but I have noticed that since I hit my thirties, I have made more of a conscious effort when it comes to my skin, and so the long hunt for decent products began.

 

ForYou Skincare: M4 Anti Ageing Moisturiser

 

One of the first things that attracted me to ForYou is their ingredients listings. No Parabens or nasty chemicals, and not tested on animals. As you’ll see from the picture above, of the product I received, the active ingredients listing is one of the shortest I’ve come across containing Argan Oil, Hyaluronic Acid, and Vitamins C and E.

So, I started out by taking a picture of myself sans any makeup (I know, I’m sorry!) before I started using the moisturiser, and have used it for two weeks and taken another picture as well as noted my observations throughout that time. Two weeks for me is long enough to know whether I will have an adverse reaction to a product, and also means that I’ve had enough time to actually make up my mind! Sometimes I don’t understand people who can give an opinion of something especially skin care after one or two uses (notwithstanding a reaction obviously) but anyway… I digress.

 

ForYou Skincare: M4 Moisturiser

Me before beginning using my sample pot.

 

My first thoughts were how impressed I was with the consistency – not too thick, and not too runny. It thinned out as it was spread across my face, and this gives one major advantage – you don’t need to use much. The picture of the pot is after two weeks use and you can see I have dented it, but I’m barely a third of the way through. Some days I’d not quite used enough, but that was fine as I could always add a little more – and on the days I give extra care, I used it three times in the day, rather than in the morning and at night.  The second thing I noticed was after a couple of days my skin was starting to feel smoother in general, and I don’t mean 5 minutes after I’ve applied the cream and am just ensuring it’s soaked in. I’m talking random times in the day, I would actually notice.

About 6 days in I did get a bit of a breakout, which did make me panic, as I was loving this cream, and really didn’t want it to be down to this, however it soon proved to be unrelated, and I could breathe easy. So I did have a day where I didn’t use it, but over the two weeks, I have felt my skin become more supple and smoothed out – make up has gone on easier as well, and it’s felt a lot more hydrated than it normally would this time of year, thanks to central heating and cold wind, so there are some definite positives and I’ll be honest I’ve yet to find any negatives. The closest I could come, has already been addressed in feedback and fixed – and that is the issue of scent.

ForYou are offering the choice of unscented or scented products across their range on launch. The sample I received was unscented, and there is a difference between unscented and no-smell. The smell isn’t unpleasant by any means, but does remind me a little of salt dough which I’m not a huge fan of in terms of smell. So you have the option of a scented product (in this case Mandarin) as well. This is great for people who tend to react to scent, as they can get a cream that will really suit sensitive skin and not worry about the perfume setting things off. But it also has options for those used to scented product.

So, I shall present you with the after picture. I know these pictures aren’t great in themselves, and might not display a noticeable difference in my skin but the important thing is that it FEELS better for using the M4 Moisturiser, which is ace. But, if you see a difference, let me know!

 

ForYou Skincare: M4 Anti-Ageing Moisturiser

After using the product for two weeks

 

In addition to 4 specialised moisturisers, ForYou are also opening their range with Cleansers, Exfoliators and Toners, so there’s something for every stage of a normal skincare routine, and there’s also access on the website to a questionnaire to work out what the best combination of products is for your skin type, so you don’t need to sit and try an compare which is best for you. It takes about a minute to click through, and rather than spend a lot of money, you can order everything in a travel size  so you can see if it’s right for your skin, which is a really nice touch – I for one hate having to buy full sized things only for them to be rendered useless when I react to them!

Personally I’m really looking forwards to trying out other things from ForYou. I tend to have issues with toners, so will be interested in particular how that works, but all I can say is give it a go and see if it works… ForYou.

Would you be willing to give this a go? Or are you too attached to attached to your current moisturiser to switch it up? If so, what are you using and why wouldn’t you change? Let me know…

Sara 🙂

*sample received in return for feedback and review.

Photo Calendars by Snapfish and a new camera!

Well, I finally have my new camera and can say that I am now the proud owner of a Fujifilm Finepix S1, thanks to a lightning deal on Amazon and some birthday pennies… so soon I will be back to going out and taking pictures, and everything else I did with it before my old one was stolen! Expect a review of it to come up soon, as there are a few new things to explore with it!

However, that doesn’t mean I’m neglecting my old photos, oh no!! Snapfish were kind enough to get in touch with me to invite me to review their photo calendars in the run up to Christmas, basically by sending me a voucher** and telling me to go crazy! Who am I to turn that down? Nothing ventured and all that!! So, I hopped on over to their site and had a look – there are several different ones to choose from, from poster style, through to desk calendars and wall calendars, so I made a mix and match and ordered several, and began to work through the design process.

This in itself can be as simple or as involved as you want to make it – for the more traditional ‘page a month’ calendars, you choose the style you want, which will dictate the backgrounds and text etc, and then you can choose for the site to automatically assign your pictures to a month, or you can work through month by month if you want a more curated display. You’re also able to add special dates to give it that even more personalised touch. If I’d been using photos of people/family then I would have been tempted to go with the easy option, but I’d got some specific photos I wanted on specific months, so went with the more involved option. It’s also possible to change the layout of the monthly page – which did take a bit of working out how to do, but once I’d worked it out was pretty simple.  I opted from these to make a two wall calendars, and a desk calendar, and I was really pleased with how they came out. Enough space to put on dates and days for the recipients, and also really liked the finish on them. I’m confident that they won’t smudge, despite having a slightly glossed finish (but more satin than high gloss) The photos came out fine; I deliberately chose a mix of high definition images and normal, and was given a warning when the images might have been distorted for being too low resolution, making it pretty foolproof!

IMG_20141115_103520  IMG_20141203_155622_hdr_edit

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I also opted for a poster calendar, which was really really simple – I uploaded my images for the project, and it automatically will arrange them into a collage – if you don’t like it, then click refresh and it’ll do it again. I clicked this a fair few times, and was a little disappointed that the algorithms meant that I had a lot of clicks before two images I didn’t want together ended up far enough apart for me to be happy with, so my advice here is definitely to just keep clicking and it will eventually happen. Try changing the order they’re added into the project as well, as that seemed to help for me.

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Once all of this was done, all I had to do was wait for my items to arrive, and they arrived quickly! I was expecting something else that day, (which didn’t turn up) but instead was cheered up by these, as they all looked great! The paper quality is really good, and as I mentioned before has a lovely finish on it. The exception was the poster collage calendar, which had a high gloss finish on it, which whilst it does look great, won’t make writing on it that easy, so if you don’t write on your calendar, that’s fine, but if you’re like me, it might drive you a bit nuts, but nothing a post it note won’t solve (and if you’re being really thrifty, you can always cut the dates off at the end of the year, and you have a photo collage poster left!)

Having experienced the process, I’d definitely consider these as presents for birthdays/Christmas (you don’t have to go from January to December with them) as they come out lovely, and even if they aren’t home made in the traditional sense, they’ve had thought and love put into them. I’ve used Snapfish in the past for other prints, and always had good service from them, and a whole bunch of sometimes very generous offers, so you can often get what you’re looking for at really reasonable prices – so go and check them out, and if you make a calendar, I’d love to see it!

Sara

x

**voucher received from Snapfish in return for a post about their photo calendars, however all content and viewpoints remain my own.

Superphoto UK – Personalised Photo Books

I was contacted a little while ago by Superphoto, who are new to the UK, and provide a fully automated photo printing service, providing photobooks, calendars, mugs, canvases, and cards using the latest equipment (as detailed in their “About” section) and asked if I would like to review a photobook for them.

This was a bit of a no-brainer for me, as I have a lot of photos, and having had a lot of time since my accident had started to sort them out, and having a nice way to present some of them – a portfolio of sorts would be great!

Photography has been a hobby of mine for a few years now, and I’ve photographed bands (live and profile), exhibitions, and events on request, but I also really enjoy just taking my camera out with me too and capturing what I see, which are the photos that I don’t get so much of a chance to show to others. I’m currently looking at replacing the camera which was stolen when I moved back to Sheffield so keeping an eye out for a suitable replacement, but the photo capabilities of my phone were also a factor in picking it, so I always have *something* to take a snap should the moment arise! I am planning to post some on the blog as well, either with an explanation of what I was up to or it’s relevance to something else.

So, I started through selecting some photos for inclusion in my photobook – which is 24 pages, and I wanted to try and group things together. Some of the photos I included are posted throughout the post: A word of advice though, to reiterate the site – use high resolution images where possible, otherwise your pictures will end up grainy!

(C) Sara Smith

Umbrellas in Cliffords Tower, York (C) Sara Smith

(C) Sara Smith

‘Bumblebee’ – @ Geeks Unleashed, Doncaster, 2014 (C) Sara Smith

(C) Sara Smith

Bluebells in the Ponderosa, Sheffield, 2014 (C) Sara Smith

Having done that, I began to look at the site, and the first thing I would say, is that I would highly recommend watching the tutorials! The site is quite intuitive, so you can dive in and get on with it, but you will pick up some subtleties from the videos. The only downside for me with the videos is that they are silent, which actually disrupted my focus a little, so I had to watch them a couple of times – but is easily remedied by having something in the background.

The other thing I would point out straight away is that I did have some memory issues using Chrome Browser when uploading photos as well. I’d be interested to see if I switch to my big rig whether that’s still the case, but the simple answer was to switch browsers if this happens. I switched to Internet Explorer and had no problems.

(C) Sara Smith

Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs -The Dambuster Run, August 2014 (C) Sara Smith

(C) Sara Smith

Wallflower, Dronfield 2013. (C) Sara Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve selected the images and text for your front cover and back page, you get into the meat of the book, and you can really play around and customise settings here – whether it’s backgrounds, border size or how the photo is presented on the page. I found this pretty easy to do. The only thing I had trouble with was the mask effect, which just didn’t seem to want to work, but was no real detriment as I don’t think I’d have used it. I used several backgrounds and border styles as well as full page pictures so I could see how it turned out when it was finished. I’d say the whole thing probably took me an hour from start to finish, but I was being a bit of a perfectionist about it, and switched some photos out and in again.

The website is clear that once you submit your order, because of the automated systems, NO changes can be made, so do remember to check carefully! I fell slightly foul of this I realised, as I’d intended to adjust a photo that was a bit close to the edge at the beginning of the book while I was still getting used to how it worked and completely forgot about it. It’s only the border that’s messing with my OCD though, so not too bad, but do make sure you go back for a final check! Also, if you do need help, there are some really helpful humans you can contact, so don’t worry 😉

Confirmation emails arrived promptly after clicking the final submit button so I knew then that all I needed to do was wait for the book to arrive!

(C) Sara Smith

Ladybird awaits the sun – Botanical Gardens, Sheffield 2014 (C) Sara Smith

 

 

… And so a few days later, a knock on the door, and my book arrives! It was well packaged, and helpfully, I’d been tweeted to say it had been sent the day before! The first thing that I noticed was the quality. It looked good. My pictures of the book don’t do it justice, but it’s very definitely high quality printing and finishing. There’s also an option for leather and linen covers, which delightfully are no extra charge, but the standard hardback is really professional looking! Another nice touch is the barcode on the back, adding that little personalisation.

Next up is a blank page, so if you’re making it as a gift, you could happily inscribe it, or even write a descriptor of the pictures, and then into the pictures. It’s printed on high quality photo paper at 200gsm, which gives it a good feel, and also easily takes the printing on both sides without suffering at all. A couple of the pages had borders slightly cut off, but that may be me rather than anything else (I’d said I’d gotten close to the guide for cutting!) Trying out the different backgrounds and layouts means that I’ve definitely got a good idea for a cohesive book when I order another one! I’m really pleased with how the print turned out though, and having had a week and a bit to show various friends and family as I’ve seen them, they’ve all been impressed and asked where I got it from etc, so I can see these coming out and being made for birthday presents etc. I’ve enclosed a couple of pictures of the book, but they don’t do it justice, and really would say that if you’re looking for something a bit different this year, this might be that thing!

Front Cover

Playing with the layouts – this is one of the pages which came out a little skewed as I got too close to the cut mark

Using s lighter border to frame the image

Double page spread turned out really well. I spotted details on the image I’d not seen until it was enlarged!