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Friday, 12 August 2022

Versed Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream - RRP £14.99

The brand describes the product as; "Enriched with restorative ingredients like algae extract, vitamin E, and squalene (an ingredient that hydrates and replenishes the moisture your skin once had), this rich moisture cream keeps skin nourished and hydrated while fending off signs of aging. Note: It is rich but not greasy. In fact, the smooth texture is rather dreamy. Oilier skin types can still use this moisturizer as a night cream or as their heavier wintertime moisture cream".

Pros

- Has vitamin E.
- Hydrating.
- Silky texture.
- Smells lovely.
- Sinks beautifully into the skin.

Cons

- Has a thick consistency.
- A little on the pricier side.

The Verdict

This is another of the brands products that I highly recommend trying. With it being on the pricier side, I can understand if you waited for it to be on an offer. This moisturiser has a thick, silky consistency, which won't be for everybody, and I'd steer this to being a few times a week or an everyday autumn and winter moisturiser. It is so lovely. I feel hydrated, smooth and it smells lovely. The perfect way to end my skincare routine before bed.

As always, thanks for reading...

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Versed Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil - RRP £8.99

The brand describes the product as; "Most lip balms feel great when you apply them, but five minutes later you’re wondering why your lips feel dry again. It’s frustrating. That’s why we ditched the balm in favor of a more effective form: lip oil. It’s a moisturizing blend of jojoba, camellia, sesame and sunflower seed oils, and antioxidant-rich vitamin E that conditions and smooths chapped lips. Your lips will stay soft and hydrated with a subtle, healthy sheen (not a glossy shine). Most important, you can still feel the moisture on your lips even after the oil is fully absorbed. We’re confident you’ll be a lip oil convert, too". 

Pros

- Moisturising.
- Non sticky formula.
- Does feel like silk.
- Long lasting.
- Smells lovely.
- Helped my chapped lips.
- Love that it has Vitamin E.

Cons

- None.

The Verdict

This was one of the items I purchased in the 3 for 2 offer Boots had a few months ago. I didn't get on well with lip oils or lip balms as they always pile in the corners of my mouth and/or wear off easily. When Versed say "we're confident you'll be a lip oil convert too", they are 100% on the money. This is my new go to, I even purchased another to have in my bag for on the go. I've also found that this doesn't interact badly with lipstick, which is another positive for me. But, the brand does have these in different colours as a tinted lip oil, which I cannot wait to try next. I am a lip oil convert.

As always, thanks for reading...
Monday, 8 August 2022

Versed Zero-G Smoothing Eye Cream - RRP £14.99

The brand describes this product as; "Fight back against gravity with a little pot of peach perfection dedicated to the very area that starts to show those signs of aging first: your eyes. Made with line-smoothing algae extract, firming peptides, and deeply moisturizing olive oil, this Smoothing Eye Cream applies like butter and works overtime to improve the appearance of crow’s feet. It leaves a soft-focus finish with an illuminating effect (hello, instant brightening), thanks to mica (ethically sourced, of course)".

Pros

- Hydrating.
- Firming without feeling tight. 
- Sinks into the skin quick.
- Has a nice fresh smell.
- Smoothed texture that glides under the eyes.
- Brightening.

Cons

- On the pricier side.
- The consistency isn't going to be for everyone.

The Verdict

I purchased this on a whim. I really liked the Versed Skincare cleansing balm which I reviewed last year (click here to read) and as my usual eye cream was out of stock and there was a 3 for 2 offer, I thought why not. I am so glad I did. 
This has been a game changer for my under eyes. I have dark under eyes that are a little sunken, genetics. I can't do anything to fix them but this brightens, hydrates and firms them to the extent I feel more confident in my skin.  
I can see the price being off putting for some. I would highly recommend this product but would say to try it when on sale or as part of an offer. I found I had to really work with the texture. It's a thicker, gel-like consistency that feels like silk. The amount of product that has slid off my finger, but persevere, it's worth it.

As always, thanks for reading...
Sunday, 7 August 2022

Last weekend, my brother arrived back home for a visit. He and my dad managed to get tickets to the rugby as part of the Commonwealth Games. It's always nice having my brother home, even when he helps himself to my junk food stash. On Sunday we went out for a Sunday roast at a local pub. Well, everyone else had a traditional Sunday roast, I had a burger. It was such a lovely warm day so I didn't fancy a gravy dinner. Conversation, laughs and good food ensued. It was the perfect way to end last week.


During this week, I worked away at Novella Prints, at the blog, and generally tried to get back in the swing of things. On Wednesday, we had my little cousin with us for the day. We geeked out over Harry Potter, made stickers with the silhouette and took a trip to the local garden centre, where she got soaked from head to toe. Watching her running through the sprinklers, giggling...it makes you want to be carefree and just go for it.

Over the week, I released three of the twelve reviews for The August Review. I've been so happy with the response and hope you carry on following this series.


Through TikTok and YouTube, I've noticed a lot of shops have started to get their Halloween stock in and I've seen many tweets or comments proclaiming, Halloween already?! Yes! Halloween always! 
Seriously, with autumn just around the corner, I will be putting up a few Halloween posts for those who may need to plan in advance, as things like costumes can take time to make or time to find.

As always, thanks for reading...
Friday, 5 August 2022

Pixi Glow Tonic - RRP £18.00

The brand describes the product as; "The Pixi Glow Tonic is a highly concentrated, invigorating facial toner that deeply cleans pores by sweeping away excess oil and impurities. Remove excess oils and impurities with Pixi Glow Tonic in its 250ml size from Pixi Beauty. This award-winning, invigorating toner deeply cleanses and gently exfoliates all skin types in one lovely step."

Pros

- A little goes a long way.
- Available in a smaller size, great for travel or to be more budget friendly.
- Given me a lovely glow on the skin.
- Left skin smoother.
- Hydrating.
- Pores were minimised. 
- Didn't flare my redness.

Cons

- None.

The Verdict

This is one of those "cult beauty products" in skincare circles and I have been using it, on and off, for years. As I already had a glycolic product in a serum, that at the time worked better for me, it's only recently, after disusing that serum, that this was it's time to shine.
With everyday use, I came to love this product. My skin texture has never been so smooth, my pores so small and still feel hydrated. Glycolic in high percentages, for me, can feel quite stripping on the skin. 5% was the perfect percentage and I've found when talking to friends, they felt the same. I highly recommend this product as an everyday use tonic.

As always, thanks for reading...
Wednesday, 3 August 2022

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution - RRP £8.00

The brands description says: "Revitalise lacklustre skin with The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. The AHA solution works to gently exfoliate the surface of the skin, helping to combat the dead skin cell build up that can contribute to dullness, textural irregularities and congestion. pH balanced for optimal efficacy, the glycolic acid toner is infused with Tasmanian pepper berry and aloe vera to help soothe the skin, alongside ginseng root to promote a radiant finish. Incorporate into your skincare routine to support a glowing, smooth and refined-looking complexion. Vegan and cruelty-free."

Pros

- Affordable.
- Minimised visible pores.
- Smoother skin.
- Light glow to the complexion.
- No breakouts.
- Brilliant for brightening the skin.

Cons

- Can be difficult to find in stock.
- Not the most travel friendly.

The Verdict

I've used a few serums by The Ordinary and it's been hit and miss, but the affordability of the brand makes them worth the try. I was actually recommended this to lighten my underarms, but I decided to also use it as a facial toner.
When it comes to my underarms, it has worked such a treat. There has been such a huge difference in lightning, not a permanent solution and nowhere near as powerful as bleaching. But, for someone who has dark underarms caused by medication and shaving, this has thoroughly helped alongside exfoliation and switching to waxing.
As a facial toner, although the Pixi glow I previously used is 5%, I found the 7% is quite strong for everyday use. I'd recommend using it 3 - 4 times a week, especially if you are introducing your skin to glycolic acid. Overall, I'd 100% recommend this as a toner and as a way to lighten your underarms. The only two cons, as you can see above, are it's popularity means it can be hard to find stock and it's quite bulky to travel with.

As always, thanks for reading...
Monday, 1 August 2022

Skin + Me Consultation Package - £24.99 per month

The brand describe themselves as; "Were a small (but growing) team of industry-leading dermatologists, direct-to-consumer experts, pharmacists and other brilliantly innovative people. And together, we're here to change the face of skincare."

Pros

- Simple questionnaire.
- Photo analysis by experts.
- Eligibility process.
- Tailored skincare treatment plan.
- Ingredient information.
- Routine information. 
- Affordable.
- Compact.
- Subscription which you can cancel at any time.

Cons

- None.

The Verdict

I found Skin + Me through Caroline Hirons, who, if you don't know who she is, you need to follow. In the UK we are short of dermatologists and with every medication outbreaks due to Ulcerative Colitis, I thought now I'm no longer prescribed them, this was the best time to really focus on my breakouts. 
After my online consultation process, I was eligible for the daily doser treatment they offer. Another great selling point for the company. With the process, the questionnaire, the photos, it takes a few days for the experts to go through that consultation and so, if they cannot come up with a plan for you, you are refunded. 
I was given a 4 month treatment plan in which, over those months, the strength of ingredients increases or decreases and some ingredients are added in at certain months. I am just over one month into using Skin + Me and I have noticed quite a change. I found stripping back my skincare routine to only include a cleanser, eye cream, hyaluronic acid serum, moisturiser and SPF in the day to double cleanse, eye cream, Skin + Me daily doser and moisturiser at night has also aided that. I feel companies like Skin + Me, because everything is prescribed to you, you are spending less on trial and error, spending less on products and saving space. I was umm-ing and aah-ing about whether I knew enough or had used this enough to review and the fact I am after a little over a month speaks volumes about how happy I am with my skin. 
I have noticed fewer breakouts, skin pigmentation is improving, dryness is improving and other smaller goals, like less visible pores, have also been addressed. I've also come to find that makeup application is a lot smoother and looks better on my skin, leading to me not using as much.

Skin + Me is truly an affordable and innovative way to treat your skin. Click here to visit their website.

As always, thanks for reading...
Sunday, 31 July 2022
I've spoken many times before about what I have missed out on because of having IBD. This week was one of family, and I can't wait to have more weeks like this.

Winnie The Witch

Starting last Sunday, I caught up with my dad's side of the family as we celebrated my little cousin's 3rd birthday. It was a lovely day and I was able to hug and chat with one of my cousins who I hadn't seen in about 4 years. Watching the little one opening presents, jumping around on a bouncy castle and conversing, I hadn't seen her since Christmas and, they do grow up so quick.
When I was a kid, my Auntie bought me lots of "Winnie The Witch" books by Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul. I remember not only reading them with her, but my parents, grandparents... Winnie and her cat Wilbur are imprinted on my childhood love of reading. When my cousin welcomed her daughter and as Christmas's and Birthdays came around, I immediately knew that passing on those books to her was a must. Last Christmas, we bought her "Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa", which she loved, and so, for her 3rd Birthday last week we found a compilation of 16 Winnie The Witch books to give her. She loved them (my Auntie did too!) and it was one of those moments where you're not just sharing a love you had as a child, but sharing a memory. I highly recommend looking at your childhood when it comes to gift ideas. 

Dinosaur Hunting & The Blitz Museum

During the week we had one of my other little cousins with us for the day. A trip into town with a girls lunch out, we started by going Dinosaur hunting. West Orchards shopping centre in Coventry has set up a Dino Trail (ending 11th September 2022) where you have to find them all! You can access the website to download, or pick up whilst there, an activity sheet and enter the competition to win £100 in shopping vouchers. 
We decided to just follow the trail round, taking pictures as we went. She loves dinosaurs, and was able to teach me which one was which. Although, I'll still call it a long neck as I cannot pronounce it's actual name as well as she can. It was the perfect start to our day. 
Because of Covid, lots of children like her missed out on the local school trips and she'd never seen Coventry Cathedral. On arrival, we found they had a Blitz Museum. It's free, completely run by volunteers and is a flashback to the 1940s. You start with a DVD and a talk about Coventry during World War Two and the fateful night the cathedral was bombed, before moving onto the displays and artifacts where you can pick anything up, try anything on and discover more. As a fellow lover of history, on our way to lunch she had so many questions and wanted to learn more. 

Finishing with lunch at the Cosy Club (another restaurant ticked off my list) and a bit of shopping, we ended up having a really fun day. I can't wait to take her out again to learn about our city's history. 

The August Review

August begins tomorrow and this year I have 12 products to review for you, including one which is a re-review that I'm excited to share.

As always, thanks for reading...
Friday, 1 July 2022
Going on holiday over the last decade meant dealing with severe anxiety and depression because of having IBD (on top of the IBD). This year I was just over a month post surgery when visiting North Wales with my family and it's the best holiday I've been able to have in a long time.

Betws-Y-Coed

The house we rented was amazing, such a lovely little spot, close to the village but peaceful with our own garden. Gwen loved it. 
Trips into the village were picturesque to say the least. I loved the blend of branded and small owned businesses. 
There were many restaurants to choose from. We experienced a lovely Sunday Roast at the Ty Gwyn Hotel. The building its in is so beautiful, it's one of the few original coaching inns in the area.
We also thoroughly enjoyed afternoon tea at Craig-Y-Dderwen Riverside hotel. It was such a shame the weather turned slightly, so we were unable to lunch on the terrace but the views were stunning.
On our last night we ventured to the Gwydyr Hotel and had a more traditional pub meal. Delicious! Highly recommend the Welsh Steak Burger. The more modern outlay with the vintage twist in the decor was right up my street. I wish I took more pictures.
Not far from the centre of the village, towards Conwy, you'll find Swallow Falls which is a beautiful site. It's a quick visit stop, perfect to fit in for a day of light exploring.

Portmeirion

About a 40 minute drive and we were in Portmeirion. It was the first full day I spent out in so long. I loved it there and cannot wait to go back. Portmeirion Village was built by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis, also an environmental campaigner, he wanted to show how you could build on beautiful locations without spoiling them and man did he do that! Inspired by Mediterranean villages, a little Italian inspiration on the North Wales coast is a gem when it comes to the notion of "visiting your own backyard". 
I'm going to post a few pictures here, but I'm going to do a photo dump on my Instagram. I seriously took over 200 photos, it's that breathtaking. I highly recommend taking the time to visit.

That was my little trip away, I can't wait for the next adventure. 

As always, thanks for reading...
Monday, 6 June 2022

When I uploaded my last post "Starting Life At 30" I had mentioned how I felt a little under the weather and thought I'd come back from hospital with a cold, I actually had covid. After 2 & 1/2 years of shielding and dodging, I caught it just after my life changing surgery. Almost sarcastically poetic hey? For me, it was hell. Thank god I had 4 vaccines by then.


It's now been just over 30 days post surgery and it has been a month of learning. When Stitch 1.0 was formed, handling him was a breeze. His stitches dissolved quickly, he shrunk to his size gradually and it didn't take too long to work out why I was having leaks. Even as we went into the pandemic, I had amazing support from my stoma nurses, but I didn't need to contact them often. This time round has left me needing to call and email a lot more. Stitch 2.0 has been a little bugger. I had an in person appointment with my stoma nurses who thankfully took most of his stitches out, managed to steer me in the right direction of which bag to use and help better with cutting the right size for him. Cutting the bag to the right size is something I'm still having a few blips with now and then, but he hasn't shrunk to his size just yet and there are a few stitches left I'm waiting to dissolve. Overall, my recovery is going well. I still feel dog tired but after speaking to others, suspect that's from having covid. My surgical incisions are healing up well and I am now waiting to be signed off.   


One thing I was very happy about, was being able to join in with the celebrations for her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee... despite being a complete washout weather wise.
With having IBD and being so sick, I missed out on a lot. Family functions, friends parties, concerts...any celebration or event. I also missed hosting. Having two of my friends join our street party, I decided to put on a buffet lunch beforehand. I had the most wonderful time, catching up with friends and my neighbours. When those with chronic illnesses say it can leave you housebound, it really does. Some of my neighbours, who live only 5 or 6 houses down, I hadn't seen in years!
To top it all off, the work that went into the Trooping The Colour, The Concert, The Pageant... all of it, was amazing. To be apart of something, to not have any FOMO and create memories during something so historic, it's early days, but I am living my life. It shows that with this surgery, I made the right decision. 

As always, thanks for reading...
Thursday, 12 May 2022
When you’re young and you’re asked what you want to be when you grow up, those around you will always remember that first ever answer. I wanted to be a singer. I remember that and also wanting to be a dancer, a figure skater, a mum, a teacher and as I got older and started to align studies towards having a career, I decided I wanted to work within forensics and criminal justice.

Unfortunately, it did not work out that way for me, despite how hard I tried. Being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis turned my world upside down and shook everything I was. Since symptoms started at 19, I had gradually developed into having the label of “the sick one”. Friends started inviting me out less and less, milestones that I wanted to have reached by a certain age were passing quickly and by 25 I had just succumbed into a state of depression and pain that I did not think I would make my 30th Birthday.

In such a constant cycle of being pushed from department to department within the hospital I honestly didn't expect to be writing this post today. I knew I needed to do something. It took a few more years but I changed consultant, signed up for medical journals, read up on all new treatments and options, spoke to the most amazing people in the IBD community and eventually saw a surgeon. In February 2020 I had my first surgery to form a loop-ileostomy. The goal and the hope were that it would give me back a better quality of life, but I could still go ahead and try new medications to see if there was going to be something that kept the Ulcerative Colitis under control
.

10 days after I was released from hospital, people classed as clinically vulnerable were told to essentially shield and not long after the first lockdown in the UK came in.
Over the first two years of covid at its height, I couldn’t keep the flare ups under control and although I’d initially gone in with the idea of having a subtotal colectomy on my first ever meeting with the surgeon, it was still upsetting and disappointing that another plan hadn’t worked. And so, we f
ast forward to last Thursday and well, it was a doozy.

Pre Surgery



After having a good cry, I got into the car and made my way to the hospital. This operation was going to be a lot bigger than the last and that of course gave me anxiety, how could it not? But with covid restrictions still very much needed in place for hospitals my biggest fear of being alone was there, my parents couldn't come in and wait like last time.
After another Covid and MRSA test I had some really uplifting and lovely talks with 3 other women who were also waiting for surgery. I watched them leave one by one as I had the surgical and anesthesiologist team round to discuss the surgery with me and it very much dawned on me then what was happening.

I had made this choice and although I could have said no there and then, by saying no meant I was then consenting to living the way I was and I knew my mental and physical health couldn't take anymore. It also became apparent that my fear was not just having major surgery it was that, this has to be the thing to fix me to an extent that I could live, so who am I going to be when it's all over?

No, not that C, Evans...unfortunately.

The Surgery & An Unexpected Turn



I remember donning on my lovely hospital gown, compression stockings and slippers my brother gifted me for Christmas, being wheeled down to the room before theatre where you get sorted and put to sleep. I was chatting with the anesthesiologist team, them trying to put me at ease. A little under an hour before I was given numbing cream on my hand because I'm such a wuss when it comes to needles and cannulas so we were joking about that. 

I don't remember much after waking up in recovery other than everything went well. I had a spinal block so I wasn't in a lot of pain, the surgery was done laparoscopically which also helped and I remember asking to swap from the oxygen mask to the little nose breathing tube as my mouth was so dry.

A few hours later, in the early hours of the morning things took an unexpected turn. When given anaesthesia I basically conk out and sleep deep. Whilst I was doing that, I was continuing to have rising lactate and acidosis levels with no obvious cause. This can be very dangerous and I was woken up to be told I was being taken back to theatre with suspected internal bleeding. A lot of my memory from that moment is fear and upset, I remember my name being called quite a few times as I was so disorientated, I remember speaking on the phone to my mum and making one nurse upset as I tried to get her to promise me I'd wake up again. I also remember one nurse looking like my year 4 primary school dinner lady and thinking "I'm naked on a theatre table in front of my dinner lady" which thinking back to now I also realise that I remember being in theatre and being under those huge lights that you only really see on TV. 

Post Surgery 


Waking up a second time, I vaguely remember speaking to my surgeon who said two things, "you ruined my evening" and "you scared me". If you can't get a surgeon with a sense of humour then keep looking. Thank god there was no internal bleeding but still have no real reason as to why my levels rose so high so quick after the first surgery. I had another cannula in, a catheter which was my first experience of one and wasn't too bad but they did put a central line in my neck and I honestly can say I was not impressed with that at all. It wasn't painful it was just uncomfortable and felt very heavy. 


I slept some more and woke up again to see my parents. I had the most lovely nurses in ITU, one braided my hair into a bun away from my face for me and I had an IPC or Intermittent Pneumatic Compression, which is a machine that helps the circulation and as it would inflate and deflate another nurse would rub my legs in between and make sure I was comfortable. 

I was then moved into my own room for a few days, before being moved to a shared ward the Sunday night. By Monday night I was discharged back home to recover and I can honestly say, for me, that is the best thing. I sleep a lot better in my own bed. 
When in my own room at the hospital I could sleep and rest a little but I was also on clear fluids only, despite a doctor saying I could eat a light diet. Mum had to come in and speak to someone as between Wednesday and Sunday I'd had maybe 5 mouthfuls of soup, a jelly and some ice cream. I was starving, I was pressing the morphine pump I had to sleep so I didn't have to think of the hunger, so come Monday morning when I could eat breakfast I was a lot happier. It's the only downside to being in your own room, on a shared ward you hear everyone's story and the nurses hear what's happening too. Whereas one nurse told me I couldn't have a cup of tea because I couldn't have dairy (no idea why) and yet the other nurse gave me ice cream? 

7 Days Post Surgery



It's now been a week and I'm on some great painkillers. I'm still quite tired and sore and unfortunately came home from hospital full of cold. I feel like this is it now. I'm relearning which bag is going to be the best for Stitch 2.0, waiting on the wounds to heal up as nice as they can and for my yellowy bruised skin to go back to normal. In a few weeks time, I'm going to be able to start living and I am scared. Who am I going to be? What am I going to be? I feel 15 again and being told to pick my GCSE options. I really hope you stay around to see my journey and I hope I become someone worth the chance I've been given.


Hello, I'm Hannah Marie Brankley and I'm starting life at 30.


As always, thanks for reading...

Friday, 22 April 2022

Yesterday, I received the call I've been waiting months for, my surgery date has been confirmed. To tell you I cried is an understatement, I sobbed with happiness. After years of being prisoner to my IBD, From 5th May, I'll be able to take back some control.

The Story So Far

To recap, I started showing symptoms at 19, but I was misdiagnosed as having IBS until I was 21. After blood tests and a colonoscopy I was told I actually have Ulcerative Colitis, one of the forms of IBD. I've been on a host of medications and flared on and off since. At 24 I started the battle to speak to a surgeon about other options to treat the Colitis and finally saw him when I was 27 years old. It was agreed I'd have a Loop-Ileostomy but unfortunately, the flare ups are still occurring, I'm still in pain and I still need high doses of steroids. After an appointment in September 2021 it was decided the colon was coming out, something I actually wanted in the beginning. I wrote about what the surgery entails here.

What Happens Now

Stitch becomes a semi-permanent feature and I go on to heal and live my life with a stoma. There will be big decisions to make again over the next decade but for now, I will be in surgery on the 5th and starting my 30's on the 11th. 

I will post updates on here once able but follow me on Instagram at @HannahMarieBrankley for more.

As always, thanks for reading...
Sunday, 9 January 2022
Happy New Year! 🥳🎊

Looking back at 2021, like for most, it was full of highs and lows. 
For me, the year was unfortunately consumed by ulcerative colitis. 
I reverted back and started enduring a series of flare ups. But even through it, I launched my own small business and can’t wait to reopen on 5th January! 
*Shameless plug; check out Novella Prints* 

With 2022 round the corner I have so many exciting things to look forward too and that’s what I’m trying to focus on. 
- I’ll be turning 30. 
- I’ll be having surgery to remove my colon, making stitch a semi-permanent feature.
- I’ll be changing up things with the blog, sharing new adventures.
- I’ll be diving into my family history a lot more, (1921 census to be released this year!) adding to the growing research.
- I’ll be spending as much time as possible with loved ones.

2022 is going to be my year and I cannot wait.

As always, thanks for reading...

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