I'm back! Well, I will be by the time that this post is published; I'm currently writing it on the train back from Amsterdam. This week has been an absolute dream, and I have so much to tell! However, first order of the day is to get organised. You see, as soon as I get in tonight I'm moving house.

I know it's crazy timing (no, this hair-brained scheme was not my idea, rather the cards fell that way) - our holiday was booked a week before my landlady decided she was going to sell the flat. So in order to prepare, I spent last Saturday packing, both to go to Amsterdam and to move house.

It took a lot of planning, but in return a lot of good has come out of it. I've remastered the art of organisation (something I've enjoyed since my first time in the stationery section of Woolworths, may it forever rest in peace) and it took me less than a day to put my material life in two piles: holiday or new home. Here's my timeline on how I divided everything into two parts, and got rid of things I didn't need in a sustainable way...

ONE MONTH BEFORE
In the run up to moving, I was aware how much I've expanded since moving into my current flat in February. Despite having lived in three homes since 2015, I haven't been able to stop myself accessorising in every home I've had, with little bits that fit in one and not in the rest. On top of that, I've bought clothes, kitchenware, and homeware. It was time to cut down.

In my bedroom wardrobe I set out a large charity bag and threw items I hadn't used for at least 6 months into the bag. It didn't take long for things to start piling up: strap tops, heeled boots, a knitted hat, spare cushions, jeans that were too big, and more all landed in the bag. I then went about my life with these bits hidden away to see whether I could live without them all. There were a few things I reclaimed, such as a black work skirt, but everything else just sat in the bag, as if they were already donated.

ONE WEEK BEFORE
On the week before, I cut down on buying things and upped the cleaning. I set out the bags I needed and over the course of the few days I ate the food left in the fridge and freezer rather than buying new, and also washed everything in the laundry basket (including a few items that went into the charity bag, having sat at the bottom of the basket for weeks).

I also started planning outfits for the trip. I'm not the most sartorial person around, but I knew that weather reports seven days in advance would give me a good enough idea of how to dress for Amsterdam. With temperatures akin to that of London, layers were my best bet (and did me well in fact!) so I made sure these clothes were reserved.

I also took my big wardrobe bag (which had grown to two bags) to the local charity shop. I'm never normally picky with who I donate to, this time giving to Sense. It was a relief to give everything a way, and left me feeling the same way I do after a big haircut - with a little more bounce and less weight on my shoulders.

ONE DAY BEFORE
This was the big day. With a little coaching from Anna of The Anna Edit on how to roll my clothes in my suitcase (seriously, it saves so much space) and a nostalgic watch of You've Got Mail, I set to work. Working clockwise around the flat, I took and cleaned each item, and put it in my suitcase or a box. This worked well with bathroom items, beauty products, kitchenstuffs, and office items, but clothes were more tricky. It was just too painful to take clothes already ironed and fold them up into a box! Instead, I've left them hanging as the last thing to grab when I leave.

THE BIG DAY
Well, this is it! So far, it's actually not been that great. As I've written this our train has been delayed by two hours, so we're going to miss the connection in Brussels, and get home pretty darn late. The move may even have to be postponed until tomorrow, but thankfully the contract is signed, keys picked up, and boxes packed! It's funny how life throws curveballs at you like this, so I'm glad there is flexibility to move across the weekend - clearly, this was the most (accidentally) organised part of the whole plan!

P.S. If anyone has any snacks on this train, would they mind sharing with me...?
Fabled by Marie Claire
Natural skincare at Fabled by Marie Claire
Origins at Fabled by Marie Claire
Touch screen advice Fabled by Marie Claire

When I first arrived in London, the lack of natural beauty products on the high street was one of the things I was disappointed by. There's not much I can say about London that is negative, but I was so surprised that natural beauty and skincare weren't already a thing!

Considering there's so much chatter around it online, from boutiques to bloggers and many retailers offering greener skincare, it's still sad to wander into a Boots and realise there's not much choice in "real life".

Well, no more! I recently visited Fabled by Marie Claire on its launch day, and was spoilt for choice. The premise is that all products recommended by Marie Claire (who generally has its thumb on new beauty trends, inspiration, and advice) will be stocked in the shop. More than that, these products will come with their bespoke recommendations from the mag, and you'll find them lined up in comparison with one another, something I really love.

On launch day, there was a real ruckus around the event - there must have been hundreds of us crammed into the store, and upon arrival I was really quite overwhelmed. (Shoutout to Megan from Origins who kept me company!) It's also odd to walk into the store and be confronted by all the usual beauty brands without any real indication of the alternative bits and bobs. Sadly, other than the pseudo-green-beauty from Bare Minerals, us natural beauty junkies have been relegated to the back of the shop on the first floor, for a dabble in skincare and wellness products alone.

However, once you're there, you'll find a lot to love. There's a melting pot of natural, vegan, cruelty-free and natural brands (all distinctly different qualifiers!) Some of my favourite bottles sit side-by-side, including: AlchemyAromatherapy Associates, bkrDr. Hauschka, Elemental Herbology, OriginsKorres, and Neom.

Near the natural skincare and wellness sections are what I've dubbed 'advice counters' such as the one pictured. These have a number of items lined up together to compare and contrast them depending on skin type and use, or show how they can all work well together. I love this personalised insight from the Fabled and Marie Claire teams, as it means you can walk in without having done a lot of background research and still walk away with the products that suit you best and leave you informed of their benefits for you.

In the future, it would be nice to see this spread to the clean, minimalist, Fabled website, as well as an option to sort products by what you think is important (be it natural skincare, organic certification, cruelty-free brands, etc.) akin to their Wellness section.
RMS organic beauty products

RMS Beauty may just be the holy grail of organic beauty products. I've coveted them for a long while - minimalistic, versatile, and made from certified organic ingredients, they are as beautiful to look at as to apply.

The unique philosophy behind RMS is that their makeup doubles as skincare. Nourishing the skin with a base of organic plant-based oils, cocoa butter and beeswax, I've already started cutting back on the skin oils and face serums I apply before I get round to applying these pretty little pots.

So far in my collection is RMS Beauty Lipshine* in the shade Content and RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-up* in Colour 11. The lipshine was my first foray into RMS and I was amazed at its staying power when wearing it over the summer. Ignoring my lip-licking tendencies, the deep red colour stayed put on some hot sunny days, despite its soft base of castor seed and coconut oil. I also like that it works when applied softly, or given a little more oomph for a sultry night out.

The "Un" Cover-up is my newest beauty addition, and while I've only worn it three times so far, I've started to see how the range interacts with one another. I'm loving that this too can be applied as little or as much as I like, to be treated as a concealer or a foundation depending on your mood (and skin!) The final piece I need in my collection to perfect these is the RMS Beauty "Un" Powder as I've been finding my nose gets a little too shiny using the "Un" Cover-up alone.

As the shallow natural beauty junkie that I am, I love that these come in uniform brushed glass and metal lidded pots, packaging perfect for a tiny makeup bag or to sit out on my beauty counter. I also love how these are intended to be applied with your fingertips. It makes me feel dainty and also a little more connected with my skin when applying in the mirror most mornings, plus it's good to see how my skin is feeling. I'm almost hyper aware of the sensitivity of the skin on my face, adapting my daily routine based on the weather and its condition after cleansing. For example, this week in London has taken us from grey humidity to jumper weather, meaning that my skin is immediately crying out for a good night cream and a deep moisturising face mask on the weekend (I'm looking forward to it!)

While I write about natural beauty all year round, I thought it would good timing to feature my new love for RMS during Organic Beauty Week. This is Soil Association's annual week to raise awareness for certified organic products (which is a thinly veiled push for more upcoming organic brands to get certified by them) but there is good reason for organic certification. As expensive as it may be, it's one of the only ways consumers can truly trust natural beauty companies to produce safe, toxic-free products fit for our skin and the bloodstream it sinks into. Sadly, RMS is not yet certified organic, and considering the price and how established its products are, I'd really expect it to be approved by at least one independent body (in America, this is commonly the USDA, and Ecocert in Europe). I'm hoping that seeing how well established these certification bodies have become, and their adaptation to certifying beauty products too, brands such as RMS make that leap. My fingers are crossed!


I'll be honest, there wasn't much green fashion chatter around London Fashion Week A/W 16. While I may be slowly immersing myself in sustainable style, I had to actively sniff out green collections and initiatives that have made relatively small appearances in the LFW calendar.

However, that being said, there is movement towards better practices, cleaner clothes, and the endorsement by some of the fashion elite. It may be a stark contrast to the Charity Shopping Tips I wrote for Barnardo's blog The Thrift, but I'm invested in ethical and sustainable fashion on all levels (and who doesn't get excited by a week of shows and gorgeous street style?!)

Here's the best sustainable fashion news around LFW this season:

HIGH FASHION BRANDS GET ETHICAL
We've seen it happening the world over. Calls for 'Who made our clothes' has been rattling the fashion industry for a while, and it looks like certain large fashion houses are taking note. As reported by Conscious Magazine, brands are improving their practices from sourcing sustainably to the wellbeing of staff. Picks of the bunch are Rodarte for its eco-friendly dyes, reduced industrial waste, and HQ 'green space', and of course Stella McCartney for its animal-free collection, campaigns against fur, and reducing their textile mills' environmental impact.

GREEN CARPET CHALLENGE
I've been a big fan of Livia Firth for a while (and no, not because she's married to Colin Firth). Her fashion ethics consultancy Eco-age is pioneering industrial change, and doing it in the most luxurious way.

This year, their Green Carpet Challenge saw the high-fashion elite (Anna Wintour, Keira Knightley, Victoria Beckham are just a few Vogue reported on the green carpet) swoon over vintage couture and the world's first ever eco-friendly mannequins, while simultaneously raising the profile of sustainable fashion as a whole.

VOITURE VETEMENTS
...or car clothes in not-so-sexy English. Upcycling fashion brand Felder Felder created a 100% sustainable carbon fibre dress in collaboration with BMW to promote their electric vehicles. If you haven't seen it already, the twin designers have miraculously turned the industrial material into an eclectic shimmering dress that fits well with their eco-rock collection (read more on The Huffington Post).

SEASONLESS FASHION
Possibly my favourite initiative, and one that hasn't really been reported as sustainable, is the seasonless collection put together by Burberry. Inspired by the novel Orlando, the collection spanned time in a way not seen before on the catwalk, but that's not quite what piqued my interest. It might not be eco-friendly, nor promoting any change within the industry, but to my mind it did ask the question of whether fashion has to have seasons. While it's exciting to see clothes change from season to season (or even faster on the high street), perhaps there is power in layering and minimalism? It would be good to see a change in consumer behaviour to key investment pieces and also reducing material waste.

NO MORE ESTETHICA?
On the other end of the scale, it was shocking to realise that sustainable fashion initiative Estethica has seemingly disappeared. Having supported over 100 sustainable fashion designers since being established in 2006, it seems young and up-coming green fashion labels are no longer a highlight of the week. Considering sustainability has been in the public eye more and more over the last few years, it does make me wonder why it's gone underground, and whether anyone else will step up to the plate of curating and representing conscious designers in the future.
You know me and tea. Me and tea, sitting in a tree... I'm a bit of a fanatic. This weekend has seen me boxing up my stuff in anticipation of our flat move, and with that came the realisation that I have far too much of the stuff. I mean, 20+ boxes of tea. I may need tea rehab.

In moving house, I'm learning to cut down my consumption and also prioritise what I really need, and what I can live without. This has actually been a lot more strategic than it first seems, as I've been prioritising things that are good for my health, good for the planet, and generally make me happy. When it comes to tea, this means keeping the ones that are ethically-sourced, healthy, come in biodegradable bags, and are too darn tasty to go without!

Lucky for me, my newly-found Begu teas* are all of these things and more. Their herbal teas are all natural (although lacking in organic certification) and have distinct uses, perfect for pretty much any tea craving you may have:

APETITE
A spicy apple and cinnamon green tea is to be drunk before a meal to help satiate your appetite. I think this is actually quite a good thing, as it's hard to distinguish hunger and thirst, so keeping hydrated with this will also keep you from overeating.

CALM
A caffeine-free alternative, this minty tea is built for finding a moment of calmness when you're feeling a little stressed out. Personally I like using this and the Nightea Night just before bedtime for a moment of peace before drifting off.

CRAVE
This is my favourite out of the lot! A black tea with hints of chocolate and coconut, it's perfect for those 4 o'clock cravings without any extra sugar needed.

MORNING BUZZ
This green tea has a lemon and ginger kick, perfect for warming up your digestive system first thing in the morning and giving you a small caffeine boost too.

NIGHTEA NIGHT
Any nighttime tea worth its salt has valerian root as a core component, which Begu's Nightea Night does. Combining cinnamon, orange and apple for a yummy comforting feeling before bedtime, it takes my Dad's favourite nighttime tea ingredient of cardamoms and mixes it in with sleep-enhancing valerian root and hops.

SYSTEM CLEANSE
I don't think we're ever going to truly get away from teatoxes (I'm not a fan, as they're really natural laxatives masked as a healthy weight-loss drink) but I do like how honest Begu is about their System Cleanse tea. A gentle laxative, it's good for losing weight but also for anyone feeling a little sluggish and in need of a, shall we say, digestive boost.

While I do have my favourites from the range, I have to say that it's the overall care and attention put into the sourcing and throwing away of these bags that make me more than happy to have all of them in my cupboard. And for one lucky reader, they can also have the whole range too!



To enter my giveaway for the entire range of Begu Teas worth over £125, use the widget below. You can do as many or as little of the options as you like, and you can also enter once per day using the Twitter share button. Please make sure you live in the UK so that these can be sent to you! Good luck!

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The other major day out I had on my week off in London was to Kew Gardens. As a new-Londoner, I really want to get to know the city better, and that means both tourist attractions as well as organically finding indie spots!

Kew had been on my go-to list for quite a while, and I knew that I wanted to see it over the summer to catch the plants in bloom. What I wasn't ready for were the intense heats of the greenhouses, the fear-factor treetop walk, or the chirping parakeets that I startled when navigating as-the-crow-flies around the park! Here's a run down of my favourite attractions that I visited on the day; Kew is far too big to see everything in one day so if I've missed any places you've enjoyed, please let me know for my next trip.

PRINCESS OF WALES CONSERVATORY
This was one of my favourite spots on my day out at Kew. With ten climatic zones, the Princess of Wales Conservatory has a beautiful selection of plants growing, showing agave plants in the Palm House, and air-fed orchids in the Orchid House. There was even a little pineapple growing on one of the plants, something I've never seen before! It's possibly my favourite house in the park, but it's pretty hard to choose!

COMPOST HEAP
While it seems slightly outrageous to have a compost heap as a visitor attraction, I did enjoy seeing how Kew recycles its garden waste. By combining woody and herbaceous cuttings with horse manure from the Royal Horse Artillery Stables in St John's Wood, the gardens are somewhat self-sustainable.

THE HIVE
As a sort of limited edition attraction, The Hive was one stop I wasn't going to miss on my first visit. Having recently written about the minimal efforts we can go to in order to save the bees, I was really inspired by the huge wiry structure which represents a bee's home, with lights, audio, and sensors giving an insight into the ways bees communicate in a hive. There was also another jelly-legged moment as part of the floor is completely transparent, which showed the ground (and other visitors) directly beneath my feet!

WATERLILY HOUSE
Does anyone else remember the episode of Blue Peter where they showed the giant waterlilies at Kew? I was so excited entering the Waterlily House to see large lily pads and hanging gourds - so pretty, and the humidity was a fun experience too.

PALM HOUSE
Another amazing and humid greenhouse, Palm House was an extra-special place for me as there were so many plants that I've encountered in one way or another since getting into wellness! Most important was the oil palm, a giant tree that oil is extracted from, and quite controversially is causing intense deforestation due to its value. As Selva Beat magazine taught me - there's so many easy ways to avoid it in food and beauty products, and it's worth looking out for if you're environmentally-conscious.

Other plants in the palm house that were fun to get up and close with: the soap nut tree, which produces natural clothes detergent, the salvadora persica, or toothbrush tree, and a vanilla plant, which was the first time I've seen fresh vanilla!

TREETOP WALKWAY
Having never had a problem with heights, I was so excited to go go on the 18m high treetop walkway. I ran up the steps and reached the top eager to see the trees from a different angle and spot birds flying around. Instead, I was greeted with jelly legs, vertigo, and a genuine fear of the rusty and creeking walkway! It was a long and treacherous 200m walk, with steel pinging and the whole bridge swaying, but when I was able to relax and it was amazing to see bees bumbling around at such a height, and how the trees span across the area.

LITTLE EXTRAS
If you stray off the beaten path, you'll find little delights such as a replica badger sett and of course the flourishing wildlife there. The best attractions were the surprise ones, such as finding a friendly red robin hopping about, and if you're lucky, some Kingston parakeets, feral green parrots that squawk and eat tree fruits.

Today's style post sadly does not have me modelling... those photos just wouldn't stand up to Rosie Huntington-Whitely's lingerie pics and I couldn't be doing with that!

However, today's post does cover the interesting topic of bamboo clothing. Is it or isn't it a sustainable option? Can it be organic? And what about the workers?

I was kindly sent a Shaper Bra* and Hipster Bikini* by Boody, an eco-wear brand that specialises in bamboo clothing. Having already heard a little bit about bamboo clothes (and having bought my boyfriend some bamboo yoga trousers for Christmas last year), I wanted to know what the deal was, and also just how comfy the clothes really are.

When I first received my undies, I wasn't sure that bamboo was totally green. Bamboo is a type of grass, and grows incredibly quickly, as well as in a number of different environments. This speed and its grass-like durability means that it can be harvested and regrown again and again, without damaging the soil or surrounding environment. So, so far, so good, especially as cotton slowly drains the nutrients in the soil it grows in.

And while the most part of bamboo is not certified organic, it is grown organically. Bamboo needs no type of pesticides or fertilisers to grow (which is actually true of most crops too, but would increase poor harvests), and it does this by creating an antimicrobial substance that naturally fights against pests and fungi. Boody is one place where they state that their bamboo is organic, which is great.

However, what isn't so great is the treatment it goes through to get to a soft fabric - the process may use a lot less water than cotton or denim, but it does use a lot of chemicals, and essentially ends up being rayon. Having worn my Boody underwear a few times now, I can attest to its likeness to cotton - the fibre is breathable and comfortable, but it does make me feel a little anxious knowing I have rayon up against my skin.

The reason rayon is so bad is that it takes natural products such as bamboo and spins them in a highly chemical solution to create a soft fibre. Sadly this solution has been linked to human reproduction problems, and is a problem for workers who are exposed to it every day, as well as the water systems it drains into. According to Ecouterre, only 50% of the solution is treated properly, meaning 50% is dumped improperly.

What is good news is that there are processes to treat bamboo differently. Instead of creating rayon, it can follow the same processes as lyocell, an organic fibre taken from eucalyptus trees that is treated in a non-toxic solvent. It creates a fabric which is and leaves very little waste product. For the time-being though, it's not in these undies!

When speaking to Boody, they did tell me their treatment process uses sodium hydroxide, which they do not consider a harsh chemical and therefore are more sustainable than most. EWG's Skindeep database says the chemical can cause irritation and organ system toxicity, rating it 4/10. Either way, it would be great to see them using a less rayon and more lyocell fibre in the future.

One other downside, if we're going to be frank, is that the shaper bra makes me look a little flat-chested. I don't have much against that look, and enjoy emulating an androgynous vibe every now and again, but I don't think many smaller girls want to lose what little assets they do have!
Have you tried fermented food or drinks before? I'm already a massive fan, having spoken about kombucha previously, but there's a new k-word in town: Kefir.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made using kefir grains. Having done a little reading around the subject, I'm loving the mystical history surrounding it - originating in the Caucasus Mountains more than 2000 years ago, it is the oldest fermented milk drink known to man!

The drink is made from cow's milk (preferably organic) and naturally packed with billions of gut-friendly bacteria. Having tried Bio-tiful Kefir, I've found it to be less fizz than kombucha and more like yoghurt, with a delicious natural milky taste. They also have in their range a Morello Cherry Smoothie, which is pretty tasty, as well as a Honey & Mint Smoothie and Baked Milk Kefir.

The beauty of kefir is that it works in too distinct ways: first, the drink itself is really quite nutritious, with 8g of protein in each 250ml serving (around 16% of your recommended daily allowance), essential vitamins (including B2 and B12), as well as calcium and phosphorous. This means that it helps maintain skin, teeth and bone health and naturally supports your immune system and energy levels.

However, the real magic is the benefit of the live bacteria in the drink - these top up the healthy bacteria in your digestive system, and help you to get the most nutrients out of your food. My experience with probiotics, in both tablet and drink forms, has probably been the most revolutionary thing I've discovered on my wellness journey so far. In January of this year, I was so frustrated with my grumbling tummy that I read The Microbiome Solution and discovered that probiotics is one of the first and best ways of helping your body to recover from digestive problems, and further help other parts of the body such as your skin, brain power, and hair. Since then, I've found that by topping up the good bacteria in my body, I've stopped suffering from IBS, and am more productive throughout the day as I'm not worrying about when it's going to strike next!

It is worth pointing out that while I generally don't drink dairy, I've made an exception for kefir to try and understand its benefits. I enjoyed trying out Bio-tiful as their products are made with organic milk (so no strange hormones) and their range caters for everyone. In fact, it was developed by former figure skater Natasha Bowes, who moved to London from Russia and realised no-one here drank kefir!

My number one tip on getting the most out of kefir is to have a diet high in foods that help the growth and nourishment of probiotic bacteria, such as fibre-rich grains, rice, and soy, as well as inulin, a dietary fibre found in chicory, which can be added to smoothies and drinks. As with all wholefoods, a combination is key!

This post is sponsored by Bio-tiful Dairy.


The first thought that crossed my mind when I was planning for my week off in London (which I took last week) was the spa. The infrequent yoga session and hot pink salt baths are definitely wonderful mid-week stress-relievers, but I had been craving something more.

You may know by now that I'm quite the fan of the spa. I love to sweat out tension, steam away negative thoughts, and generally sit in a bubbling tub of complete relaxation. Well, Banya No. 1 certainly delivers on intense relaxation, but it's definitely not your average spa...

I started the day as per usual - a humid London made for a sticky tube journey, and I ducked out at Old Street to find myself wandering into a residential area. Citymapper wasn't lying - I was just about to discover one of London's best-kept secret spas.

BANYA NO. 1
Banya No. 1 is located in the basement of an apartment building, and has just opened its private suite, Taiga. Upon entering the beautiful wood-adorned rooms, you're welcomed by fresh eucalyptus scents and a distinct earthly feel, plus the running water in the entrance is lovely on the ears.

Upon entering, I was taken through the way that banya, a Russian-style sauna, is completely different to your average spa or sauna. Integral to Russian culture, rural families build their own banyas, while city-dwellers visit the communal banya as a weekly ritual, making friends with the people who also join them at the same day and time every week. I loved hearing how important banya is in Russian culture, intwining wellness and community through a shared experience.

The key difference at a banya is steam, and the intensity of the whole experience. On every visit into the authentic timber-walled sauna, steam is thrown onto a 700°C cast iron furnace which creates an incredibly humid room ready for parenie (a treatment I'll detail below). Divided into male and female sessions, banya is best when naked (although I wore a bikini the whole time, I'm not that brave) as it increases blood circulation, and promotes great cardiovascular health.

You probably haven't heard of banya (nor had I before last week) - this might be because Banya No. 1 is the only one in London, and it opened in 2013. However, historically there were lots of banyas in the city, with jewish immigrants opening bath houses to congregate in the 1900's. You can even find a replica of one of the famous banyas that used to exist on Brick Lane in Banya No. 1!

MY EXPERIENCE
I started my treatment by changing into my bikini and heading to the banya for a quick five-minute introduction. Before entering, I was given a soft little hat to wear (honestly they're so cute) to protect my head and hair from the intense heat. It's astounding how quickly my body changed to adapt to the 70°C heat upon entering, and once my time was up I left the banya light-headed, chilling out under the warm shower before going to sit in a private booth and rest. The key to any type of sauna is to spend a short time inside, and double the time resting before heading back in.

During my first rest, I was greeted with a few selections from their classic menu, such as milk and honey, and kvass, a fermented drink made from rye bread that's a little reminiscent but a lot less sharp than kombucha. These were a great pick-me-up before banya part two!

After 10 minutes, I left with sweat pouring, and washed under the shower before resting in my booth. I did feel like I was getting the royal treatment with the booth, which was a lovely escape in-between sessions.

SCRUB A DUB DUB
I was then fetched by a lovely woman for my honey and salt scrub. This was pure bliss! Laying down on a warm stone table, she lathered my skin with honey and sea salt, thoroughly scrubbing away any dead skin, and leaving my body really peaceful. It was at this point that I began to get drowsy, and was left to sit in the banya for a little while with the mixture melting on my skin, and then thoroughly shower before resting.

It's good to note that all of the beauty (and food) products used at Banya No. 1 are natural, organic where possible, and made on premises. That's always something I'm a little wary about, but I was even shown where they keep the bundles of leaves to soak so they're fresh and fragrant in the sauna.

PARENIE
Finally it was onto my parenie! This is definitely the best part, but it's genuinely not for the faint hearted. On my second visit to the banya, I watched a demonstration of parenie, a vigorous massage for the entire body, with a fragrant bouquet of birch, oak, and eucalyptus leaves placed over the face. Two more bouquets are then used by the masseuse to bring steam from the top of the room down onto the body and pressed into the skin to clear the pores and ease up the muscles.

On doing this in the new Taiga suite, I was treated to the whole banya, with their most senior masseuse and banya extroadinare taking me through everything he was doing as he beat my body down with leaves, and took tension out of my muscles. It started on my front, with intense heat wafting down and being pressed into my back, and then again on my front. Finally, I was sat upright to steady my blood flow and breathing before being taken for the somewhat scary part: icy cold water.

The beauty of parenie is that it first opens up the capilliaries, and then rigorously shuts them back down again by pouring two freezing cold buckets of water on your head (front and back). When I was stood under this, my whole body acted without me, shouting out when the water hit me and again, before being led to the 7°C plunge pool to jump into, completely submerging myself and exiting full of adrenalin and excitement.

Looking back on it, it's actually incredible that this didn't hurt, but instead felt purely amazing. My mind and body had connected on a level that I didn't control and despite having to sit and breathe after the experience, I was already excited to do it again at my next session.

I ended my time there by drifting in and out of sleep in my booth, while sipping a little fireweed tea, a caffeine-free tea made from fermented rosebay willowherb leaves. When the time came to leave, I drifted out of the building and through the streets of London on a cloud!

I was gifted my experience at Banya No. 1 for a review (full disclaimer).
Last month I finally reached beauty shelf nirvana. Look how pretty all those little brown bottles look together! And they're all natural, organic skin care products too.

For the first time ever, I've decided to do an all-beauty monthly favourites because I wanted to highlight just how much I pampered my skin over the month. With the hot and humid weather, I've been using sunscreen regularly and having to wash my skin more. All this has meant my skin has had to work harder, so I've taken extra care with a few key beauty products to truly pamper myself!

BALM BALM FRANKINCENSE CLEANSING BALM
Every morning starts the same, with a good cleanse. I love natural products that don't totally strip the oils from my skin, especially as I have sensitive skin across my cheeks. This Frankincense Deep Cleansing Balm* from wonderfully-named Balm Balm has been looking after my face, so much so that I use it both morning and evening.

58 BALANCING BATH OIL
When I really want a pamper, I have a bath. I don't normally have enough time for one, but give me a good Sunday soak and I'll be golden! Recently I've been loving a few drops (oh who am I kidding, I add like 20 drops every time) of 58's Balancing Bath Oil* in my tub. Forget the soapy SLS suds - the scent and aromatic oils are great for body and mind.

SALTY APOTHECARY BATH SALTS
For a really deep cleanse, I've been using  Salty Apothecary Bath Salts*. I spent a good half-hour drifting in the heavily-scented salts, with Himalayan pink salt being great to buff the skin with too. My favourite part of the package was the instruction leaflet that came with the salts, and the warning that a bath in them will leave you a little subdued - that's definitely true!

ANTIPODES HYDRATING DAY CREAM + SERUM
I'm wavering at the moment when it comes to whether it's better to have light or heavy moisturiser when it's hot. While I don't want to be sweating it out (ew), I do want the intense hydration, especially for my sensitive skin. I've been finding a combination of Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream* and their Hosanna Intensive Hydrating Serum* works really well if left to dry fully before applying makeup.

BALM BALM PETITGRAIN PERFUME
The final addition to my brown bottles is this Petitgrain Organic Perfume* from Balm Balm. Now, it's definitely not your usual scent - it's a lot like grain alcohol, and is musky rather than floral - but the fact that it lasts well and is 100% organic is pretty impressive. I'd love to try the other scents in the range and see whether there's anything close to Chanel No. 5!
Kew Gardens
South Bank London
Afternoon tea
Hello you! It's been a long time since my last post (one week in fact) and I thought it about time to let you all in on what I've been up to.

Taking a break from something you love is difficult; taking a break from blogging is even more difficult. I say this in jest but it was seriously tough to do - I had to turn off all notifications and emails, and avoid reading my favourite blogs because I'd get itchy fingers, yearning to tap out paragraphs upon paragraphs of new material! It's actually quite a relief to be back behind a screen tapping out all the exciting happenings I've had during my week off.

This year I'm taking two holidays, the first being the week just gone in London (despite living in the city there is still so much I haven't done), and the second being my trip to Amsterdam at the end of September. I've had such a great time over the last few days, so here's a brief overview of what I've been up to, as well as a preview of a few upcoming blog posts too...

KEW
On day one of my holiday, I went to Kew Gardens for the day. I'm having to be a bit thrifty due to my upcoming flat move, so I took a spelt salad as packed lunch and enjoyed it under one of the beautiful large trees in the park! I spent five hours wandering through the flora, with little flashbacks to a certain episode of Blue Peter when in the waterlily greenhouse (anyone else see that one?), and a jelly-legged moment on the treetop trail.

BANYA NO. 1
In the middle of the week, I visited the only Russian banya in London and was indulged no end! A banya is akin to a sauna, but it's so much more invigorating; let's just say it involves going from a 75° C sauna into a 7° C plunge pool! Banya No. 1 is the second highest rated spa in London, and was an absolute pleasure to visit and learn about Russian culture, their natural beauty products, and fermented drinks (plus a quick peer at the handwritten review of the place from Justin Bieber...) I'm looking forward to telling you all about it in a later post.

RUSSELL BRAND
On Thursday evening I got to see the wild-haired Russell Brand live - a first for me, but I completely worthwhile experience having followed The Trews for a year or so. He mixed comedy with more serious points on finding (or even founding) community and the humanity behind everyone rather than worrying about the small stuff. It was a seriously good night out, and I even spied Joe Wicks there too!

AFTERNOON TEA
On the weekend I returned home to see my family and my boyfriend's family too. I had the pleasure of taking my little grandma, mum, and sister out for afternoon tea (we are ladies, don't you know) and while the place we went struggled to understand my vegetarianism (despite my guide on how to eat out as a vegetarian) I did have a lovely time catching up with some of the most important women in my life.

MEDITATION IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
On the final day of my hoidays, I went along with my boyfriend and his family to a meditation centre in the countryside. We learnt about Buddhism, and were taken through guided meditation with one of the Geshes there. During the moments alone with my breath, I did get a little distracted by my thoughts and a poor red robin that had ventured inside and couldn't find its way out, but did find an inner calmness and a will to continue practising it alongside yoga.