Review: Asli Desain Sportswear (modelled by little ol’ me)

This short-ass was never going to be a supermodel, but I can review scuba gear and apparel, hell yeah!

While completing my Divemaster course out here in Bali, I was asked to pose for a few publicity shots for Asli Desain, a new Indonesian sportswear brand.

We had a good old laugh while I tried to look seductively at the camera, holding wrenches and stroking cylinders. You’d think after working on the Top Model TV shows I’d be able to smize like a pro… But I can’t take myself seriously enough (I’ve omitted the shots of me pouting and wetting myself laughing when I couldn’t concentrate).

I love the ‘Diver’ hoody, which looks and feels fab on the boat between dives and the ‘Born 2 Dive Forced 2 Work’ rash vest says it all about divers.

It’s a fun and edgy new clothing line to hit the sportswear market; you can tell the brains behind the business are divers, because their products are both practical and look good. Rule #1 of diving is to look cool, right? It’s in the manuals somewhere, I swear…

If you like what you see, they have loads more designs on their Facebook page too.

Enjoy, merfolk!

Thanks to Tanner Smith for the photography.

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They Should Teach Karma At School

I hear the word ‘Karma’ most often used in the context of revenge, but that’s really not the point of the concept.

It’s more about showing us how to be decent, good people. I saw this hanging up at a yoga retreat in Sicily (will share my experiences of that with you soon) and spent minutes letting it sink in every day.

Maybe we all need to read and learn these lessons from a young age – being kind to each other is the only way humanity will survive, surely? No good impressing Ofsted if we grow into people full of greed and selfishness.

Looking for the light and love in people…

  

Kind To You & Nature: New Eco Beauty Products Reviewed

Protecting the planet doesn’t have to mean taking part in organised activities, like beach cleans or conservation programmes. Although they are extremely worthwhile and essential, there are everyday choices we can all make to help take care of the environment, as well as ourselves.

Scanning the ingredients list in beauty products is now something I do just as much as the food I buy. From a personal-care point of view, if I’m trying to be (mainly) healthy with the food I eat, why would I throw the equivalent of junk food on my face, by choosing something crammed with chemicals?

And if I’m trying my best to buy sustainable, ethically sourced food, it’d be irrational to not care what my beauty brands put in their produce. I’ve talked before about checking for plastic particles, or microbeads, in your beauty scrubs, which the Marine Conservation Society has been working for years to eradicate with its Scrub It Out campaign.

Eco beauty brands: natural ingredients for a healthier skin and world
Eco beauty brands: natural ingredients for a healthier skin and world

So, I’ve been looking for the emerging eco-products making waves in the beauty market; products that work but don’t cause harm to the earth, animals or the communities who help make them.

Although it might be hard to get it right every time, thanks to some businesses ‘greenwashing’ or jumping on the natural ingredients bandwagon without really being true to what they promise, I do my best to make the most responsible choices. The eco beauty brands you can trust are those that are transparent about their ingredients and their origins, and employ sustainable business methods.

Here are some pioneers of the eco beauty industry I’ve put to the test:

Fresh Therapies: Natural Nail Polish Remover, Nail Polish Remover Wipes and Nail Elixir

I’m never going back to nail polish removers that are packed with acetones.

What a joy to discover Fresh Therapies, a company that’s managed to make a nail polish remover with natural ingredients and is not tested on animals.

A fresh approach to nailcare
A fresh approach to nailcare

As soon as you open the bottle of the simply titled ‘Natural Nail Polish Remover’, you feel like you’re pampering yourself rather than just taking off nail polish. I can’t say that I particularly enjoy removing nail polish usually; it isn’t a relaxing or indulgent aspect of self maintenance, like lying back with a face mask in the bath is.

But the zingy, lime fragrance that pops in the nostrils feels like you’re giving yourself a treat: the process of removing nail polish actually feels nourishing rather than damaging to your nails and skin.

My nails have always been my weakness; they’re my stress point and I gnaw on them absent-mindedly. As a result, not only have my nails been short, my cuticles and skin around the nail have always felt neglected. After applying this product, I felt like my nails had been given a treatment and that I was healing myself.

To test the efficiency of the product, I also tried it on my toenails. The polish seems to weld on if I haven’t changed colours for a while (euw), so this would show whether it could cope, despite its gentleness.

You do have to rub a bit harder than you might with other chemically-packed removers, but it does work and all the polish came off with no hassle. And a little does go a long way, making its price tag of £8.99 worth it. Buying cheaper products that harm us is surely a false economy anyway.

I also tested the Nail Polish Remover Wipes – the same product, but in a handy, travel-friendly size. They do the job just as well and I’ll definitely be popping them in my bag for when I’m on the move.

As my nails could do with some extra looking after, I gave the Nail Elixir a try. This little bottle of oils is an indulgence that deserves a permanent place in anyone’s beauty box.

It soothed the sore areas around my cuticles and left skin and nails feeling soft and smelling like I’d visited a spa. Even though I applied it quite generously with the pipette, the oils soaked in quickly without needing to walk around with my hands out flat, like I was in an alerted state of a game of slaps.

I also love how the products don’t come in plastic packaging and that they’re gentle enough for pregnant women, sensitive skin and children.

The Fresh Therapies range is worth spending a few more pennies on for the strong and healthy nails it leaves you with. Or even just the smell that makes you go oooohhh.

Zk’in: Calming Cream Cleanser and Relief Moisturiser

Our skin changes throughout our lifetime and mine changed about 3 years ago, which I’ve struggled with constantly. I never had skin problems before and didn’t spend my life on a quest for products that would be kind to my skin, as I do now.

I’ve been looking for the best sensitive products on the market, which would calm and soothe rather than irritate.

Australian brand Zk’in (pronounced simply as ‘skin’ – not ‘zke-uh-in’ with glottal stops and clicks) has just made its debut in the UK, which promotes organic skincare. I tried their sensitive range of Calming Cream Cleanser and Relief Moisturiser.

Zk'in: Great for soothing sensitive skin
Zk’in: Great for soothing sensitive skin

As soon as I applied the cleanser, it felt extremely gentle and I realised I’d got used to most products leaving me with a stinging feeling. The Calming Cream Cleanser was just that and I felt like my face was being caressed. *Blissful sigh*

My skin was left clean and glowing with no tightening sensation, as is the case with lots of mass-market products I’ve used before.

The usual highly sensitive areas, which often flare up, felt relief. Plus, it works. I think there’s a feeling that some natural products must be so gentle that they can’t do the job, but this removed heavy make-up, including thick eyeliner. I enjoyed the two-step process of removing make-up with a cotton pad and then reapplying the product for a deep clean.

I followed this with the Relief Moisturiser, which left my face feeling silky and nourished. The overall effect was a zingy, healthy glow to my skin and I felt rejuvenated.

Zk’in clearly try to be transparent with their ingredients by giving an organic percentage rating of each product; the cleanser racked up 85.93% and the moisturiser clocked 92.51%. This might fall short of your expectations if you make your own beauty products in your kitchen and know that they are 100% organic, but if you don’t cook your cleanser just yet, the brand ticks the list for being not tested on animals, vegan and the cleanser is palm oil free.

The moisturiser is palm oil sustainable; I’m on the fence about deriding this yet in favour of everything being palm oil free, because replacing it with other, less yielding, oils would use more land. For now, my guiding thought is that palm oil sustainable products shouldn’t be dismissed – as long as they really are and businesses get palm oil production right.

Zk’in’s range of products is definitely one to watch and a brand I suspect will become a new beauty staple.

Africology

Like Zk’in, another brand making its UK debut is South African-born luxury beauty brand, Africology. And I know I go on about smells a lot, but their products really did grab me with their spa-quality fragrance.

There’s something transportive about smell. I might be sat indoors looking out at the rain lashing against the window, numbed in the brain from the sheer amount of work to do, but a smell can take your mind to another time and place, lifting you out the slump.

When I opened the Africology products, I pictured myself in a fluffy robe and those open-toed towel slippers that make you shuffle around like you don’t have knees. Quite disappointing to realise there isn’t a therapist on hand to work out your knots when you put the lid back on and shut the spa scent away.

Smells and feels naturally beautiful
From a South African kitchen: smells and feels naturally beautiful

I tried a few of their products, including their antioxidant masque, body balm, moisturiser and exfoliating cream. What stood out to me, smelly sensuality aside, was their use of African potato in their ingredients. I know, sounds weird. But it’s helpful for treating acne, eczema, psoriasis, skin cancer, arthritis and er, prostate enlargement. Who knew?

Their products are jam-packed with organic ingredients, which left me feeling healed and revived. What stayed with me after applying products was, yes you guessed it, the smell. I caught whiffs of myself and felt expensive and nourished all day.

I’ll be keeping Africology goodies in my bag for when I need a pick-me-up.

Ermana

Ermana‘s products make you feel like you’re getting something special and made with love. As they’re made in small batches and come in cute cardboard boxes with a batch date, stamped by hand, you really feel like you’re getting some homemade goodness.

As you’d expect from a natural beauty brand, their ingredients are 100% organic and are free from all the nasties you want to avoid when you turn to eco products.

The pots are densely packed with botanical oils and waxes and they go a long way; they’re also dinky, making them perfect for travelling.

Little pots of organic delight from Ermana
Little pots of organic delight from Ermana

I tried the Comfort Balm before going to bed, which I applied to my temples and wrists. Breathing in the scents of lavender, ylang ylang and geranium soothes as well as nourishes. It’s ideal for those dry or chapped areas and leaves you feeling buttered up and delicious. Like a marinade.

The Refresh Lip Balm is simple and effective. Some lip balms don’t seem to last very long, making you reapply frequently, but this little pot of natural lip love kept my pout feeling hydrated and soft. The grapefruit tang perks you up too, without that artificial blast of synthetic smell you get from chemically-laced products.

I do enjoy a ritualistic cleanse and the Cleanse Balm allows you those few minutes of calming  rejuvenation. After a minute of warming up the balm between my fingers, it melted into my face, quenching the skin instantly. Once I’d removed the balm with a hot muslin cloth, my skin felt plumply smooth, without that need to throw on loads of moisturiser.

High street cleansers tend to make my skin feel stripped and tight, but the natural goodness of shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil simply worked in tune with my body.

Ermana’s use of oils, butters and waxes isn’t only kind to the skin – it means you’re getting more for your money. An obvious win. They don’t use water to bulk up the products and therefore there are also no preservatives to prevent bacteria growing.

I rate their ethos and attitude. My quest for something that finally nourishes and cares for my skin, without costing the Earth, may be over.

What eco beauty brands do you use? What do you look for in eco beauty products – ingredients, packaging, community projects…?

Please note: these products were gifted to The Adventure Girl’s Guide for review. I have made every effort to include the best eco beauty brands and declined to review those that I believed didn’t fit in with the conservation aspect of the blog.

The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches In Cornwall

There’s so much to do with your furry best friend in Cornwall; the county’s renowned for being dog-friendly, after all. Even so, there are a lot of beaches that are closed to dogs in the summer, which usually means from Easter until October 1st. So, if you’re off to Cornwall with your pooch for your summer holibobs, take a look at the best dog-friendly beaches I discovered from my wanderings.

Nahla’s tail curl rounds pertly and proudly when she sinks her paws into the sand. Seeing her trot around on patrol, ears pricked and tongue lolling out the side of her mouth always makes me smile. The digging, the running into the sea, the chasing around with other dogs… What more can a doggy ask for?

The dog-child let me bury her in the sand. Bonkers animal.
The dog-child let me bury her in the sand. Bonkers animal.

Newquay

The beaches of Newquay allow dogs and they’re stunning. If your dog is off-lead, you just have to watch out for the surfers. There are so many surf schools constantly in and out of the water, so this may either freak your dog out, or in the case of Nahla, I had to stop her from joining in! She was well up for catching some waves. Newquay Beach Newquay Beach It’s also a fab town to wander around afterwards: as it’s a surfer’s mecca, surf shops line the streets, as well as tattoo and piercing parlours, reflecting its younger and edgier vibe. The day we went, the sun was thankfully shining and we chilled in the outside area of Walkabout. It has huge, squishy bean bags to sprawl out on and looks out over the sea. Perfect spot for a cool beer and a bowl of H2O for the hound.

Holywell Bay

Just a few minutes’ drive away from Newquay was my favourite beach of the trip – Holywell Bay. It has so much to explore – sand dunes with meandering paths, a long stretch of beach and there’s a snack hut for the daily ice-cream craving, as well as bodyboard/surfboard hire. I also noticed some enterprising individual was hiring out large, round discs for sledging down the steep sandbanks. Ace.

You can access the beach by either parking at The National Trust car park for £5 or, if you can squeeze on the St Pirans Inn pub car park, they charge £3.50. From there, it’s a 5 minute walk across the grass and dunes. The best thing about Holywell Bay is that if you keep walking away from the crowds, you find secluded coves where you feel like you have all of nature to yourself. I walked as far as I could and got cosy in a nook in the cliffs. Nahla could bounce around without annoying anyone and I could sunbathe in peace. Enjoy a moment of secluded calm as the sun sets over a shimmering horizon and take in the sounds of the marine birds calling to each other. IMG_1806 IMG_1810 Duporth

I made the mistake of typing this place into Google maps on my phone and got big, frowning eyes from the bear when I kept being sent round and around in circles. This is a beach you can’t drive to. Ah. You have to park at Charlestown, a pretty little harbour with some impressive ships, and take the South West Coast path about a mile west (there are wooden signs all around the SW Coast Path, so you don’t need to know your bearings!). It’s only a small beach, but it’s a good spot to play fetch after you’ve wandered around Charlestown.

Charlestown and the South West Coast Path that leads to Duporth
Charlestown and the South West Coast Path that leads to Duporth

I’d say Charlestown is the draw and Duporth is somewhere for your dog to let loose; the route also provides some impressive, panoramic views with old forts along the way. Just a note about Charlestown – there aren’t many dog-friendly pubs, so go for lunch al fresco at The Pier House and look out at the harbour. It’s also worth heading in the other direction of the SW Coast Path towards Carlyon Bay for some doggy-friendly trails: narrow paths give way to wide-open green spaces for some decent bombing around (maybe only my dog bombs).

Trebah Gardens Beach

The private beach at Trebah Gardens, Polgwiddon Cove, is a piece of secluded delight. The water is so clear and worth getting your toes wet from the shingle beach. Get your chops around a moreish ice-cream from the Boathouse while you take a load off and look out at the maritime scene. If you want to access this beach, you have to visit Trebah Gardens, which is well worth a trip.

Dogs are allowed on leads along the paths of real flower power. The colours are knockout and, as is the case with Cornwall’s vistas, the gardens reminded me of a land untouched by humans, when nature ruled the Earth. I felt like I was in an H.G. Wells novel, hurled into a land before time.

Nahla splashing around at the private Trebah Gardens beach
Nahla splashing around at the private Trebah Gardens beach

In the summer, the giant gunnera are thriving. I was joined by a couple of mates the day I visited these gardens, and we felt like we were in ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids’ as we skipped through the gunnera passage, shouting skywards, “Dad! We’re in the rhubarb patch!”.

Claire's a crouton in a giant salad
Claire’s a crouton in a giant salad

These are just a few highlights – Cornwall has so many dog-friendly beaches to enjoy and we went to plenty more than those that made it into this feature. Which are your favourites?

A good site I used to find doggy beaches is Cornish Coast – click here for a map of beaches where dogs are allowed.

Camping In Cornwall With A Dog

The little furball has firmly lodged herself into my heart and lifestyle now.

That face… Heart-melter
That face… Heart-melter

We’ve had a good few adventures with the little smelly brown bear already, taking her to cottages in the countryside for long walks and rests by the fire in convivial inns. From staying in an old Piggery in the Peak District to relaxing in a country home by the beautiful Norfolk coast – to name just a couple of her jaunts – she’s a well-travelled hound.

I think dogs deserve a holiday as much as humans do; they must get fed up of routine and want to sniff new smells and pee in new spots. If only we had such simple desires, eh?

Travelling with your pooch is great fun, but it has its limitations of course. It can be a bit frustrating wandering around to find a dog-friendly pub or to find a dog-friendly beach in the summer.

I bundled Nahla up for a long road trip down to Cornwall for some camping, pasties and cream tea (she may have tasted a few crumbs). It was just the two of us, which does add another dimension of difficulty to travelling with a dog, mainly when you need to wee. I hate leaving her tied to a chair leg, while she frowns at the spot she last saw me. But I’ve learned to answer the call of nature quickly and people are generally kind and offer to watch her for a minute.

She is a fab companion and was the warm furriness I needed at night in the tent. You’re never alone when you travel with a dog; you just become do-lally after no human contact and start having full-blown conversations with them. It’s the socially acceptable version of muttering to yourself.

Getting There

I’ll post highlights of dog-friendly Cornwall, but for now, I’ll share my experiences of the camping and the journey there, to help make the long route bearable for you and your four-legged friend (because Cornwall is generally a long way for most of us!).

Driving with stops easily takes 8 hours from the north and the midlands, so I decided it would be kind to us both to break the journey into two and make an overnight stop halfway down. That made it somewhere around the Cotswolds, which I could reach in about 3 hours. With a lunchtime set-off, that gave us the late afternoon for a long walk to stretch the legs and to relax before spending the next day on the M5 and the A30.

I discovered Colgate Farm in Cheltenham during my research, which was perfect for an overnight stay. It was ideal for dogs: Nahla was allowed to run around freely, which she happily did with the farm’s little troupe of doggies. It’s also on the Cotswolds Way, so is a gateway to excellent walks. We stayed in the log cabin, which looks out onto glorious hills. It’s not a luxury option, but is a decent base for exploring nearby attractions and the walking routes.

Nahla's walk at Colgate Farm in the Cotswolds
Nahla’s walk at Colgate Farm in the Cotswolds

After trundling along the Cotswolds Way as dusk fell, I relaxed in the cabin while Nahla tired herself out by exploring the new smells and sights.

They leave the place stocked with breakfast goodies so you can eat at your own pace and when you like. There’s also a bench outside so you can make a brew and just have a moment of peace, listen to the birds and take in the countryside. If you want to stay connected to the outside world, there’s free wifi.

Accommodation costs £50 per person per night and wagging tails cost £5 per night.

The Campsite

Halfway point achieved, we pressed on down to our campsite near St Agnes – Blue Hills Touring Park.

If you’re looking for a pool and a clubhouse, this isn’t for you. But neither is it a field with a portaloo. This site offers you the back-to-nature experience you want from camping, but also has some modern comforts to remind you it’s a holiday, not a survival exercise. It has a decent toilet and shower block – and the water is nice and hot, so no dancing around in an icy trickle. They also offer you a fridge space if you haven’t brought the entire contents of your home and need somewhere to keep your bacon. I opted for electrical hook-up too, so I could charge my phone and blow up my air bed.

The campsite is nicely out the way to feel like a break from the rush, but then again, that’s Cornwall all over. It’s a short drive from the cosy village of St Agnes, which has everything you’d need – newsagents, gift shop, butcher, florist, pubs, restaurants and takeaways. Importantly if you’re travelling with your pet, it has a vet, which we ended up in…

It’s also a 5 minute walk away from the beach or the cliffs, which, if you’ve just arrived after hours of being in a car, make you stop and breathe a silent ‘wow’. Once I put the tent up and made the canvas palace ready for the week, I took Nahla for a local reccy around the cliffs of Perranporth Airfield.

IMG_1786 IMG_1788 IMG_1791 IMG_1793 IMG_1794 IMG_1795 IMG_1796 IMG_1799 IMG_1800

From there, you can follow the South West Coast Path a few minutes down to Trevellas Cove, a good beach for your dogs to play on. It’s out the way and too rough to swim, so all the day trippers and surfers are elsewhere. Or if you’re up for a few miles of walking, you can hike to Perranporth beach, where there are dog-friendly areas, surfing and rock-pooling.

This site is a good base to explore Cornwall from – I got familiar with the roads really easily without a satnav. Although I didn’t get it right every time and mumbled silent prayers when I ended up on a cliff-side lane in the pitch black, only just a tad wider than my car (and it’s an ickle Fiat).

The weather was shocking the week we were there (mid-July 2015), which does make camping rather difficult. I almost wept at not being able to get my stove going to make a cup of tea in the rain and practically snogged the lady who turned up one morning with a coffee van. The night of harsh rain and lightning wasn’t much fun for us either; I don’t know whether I was comforting Nahla or the other way around.

But there’s nothing you can do about that – you know you can’t bank on the weather in the UK, but generally, Cornwall is as good a bet as you can make. When the sun did come out it, you felt like you were a long way away from the UK and you wonder why everyone hasn’t tried to squeeze on that little foot of the country. The sea is blue! The beaches are bountiful! The smell of neoprene is in the air, oh my!

Review: Deep Heat Muscle Rescue

Deep Heat Muscle RescueGetting outdoors does wonders for your mind and body. Compared with sitting at a desk in the same position for 40 hours a week, I found six weeks of diving in Thailand a marvel physically and mentally.

I got stronger thanks to lugging heavy kit across sand and rocks and throwing tanks onto a boat. Of course, diving in itself put my body through its paces. The same goes for all outdoor sports – walking, climbing, canoeing, cycling… Getting in the fresh air clears the mind and shakes out your muscles.

But it can ache a bit afterwards. I’ve struggled with an aching back for years: it was particularly bad when I spent most of my life sat at a desk, getting stressed out, and the knots never went away. Then dragging said kit back and forth every day did add more strain. So when I heard that the makers of Deep Heat had created a bath soak and cream, I thought it was worth a try. And it might keep the massage bills down (not telling the other half about this review… I need the massages).

When I think of Deep Heat, I think of the distinctive smell. But the bath soak doesn’t assault your nostrils; in fact, it made me go ‘ooh’ with delight. Let’s be clear, it isn’t Deep Heat bubble bath – it contains essential oils of rosemary and orange, which instantly soothed thanks to their scent. Someone who makes a living out of this, medical herbalist Pamela Spence, says this isn’t just a figment of our imagination: “Scents activate the brain’s limbic system – where we store memories and emotions – which can influence our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.”

I was looking forward to getting in that steaming tub. My back could always do with some attention, but the night before I stupidly did a Pilates class and a Legs, Bums & Tums class back to back. I was using the bannister a little too much to get down the stairs and sitting down was accompanied by an elderly ‘eeeeehhh’. The perfect time to test the Muscle Rescue products.

Whether it’s my mind convincing me to feel better thanks to the warming smells or not, I did feel relaxed after my soak.  I tried out the neck & shoulder cream afterwards too. This is a particular problem area for me and massage therapists are always stunned by the state I’ve got in; my neck and shoulders carry all my stress and worry.

The PR line is that the product is a “soothing, warming cream”. Remember that with caution – the instructions do say to use sparingly, but it really does set on fire if you use a little too much. Start with the smallest amount and see if you react before liberally attacking all over! Yep, note to self.

The whole experience felt like I was creating my very own spa and that’s reason enough to do it at least once a week until my tired muscles are fully relieved.

You can find out more about Deep Heat Muscle Rescue on their Twitter and Facebook pages.