Fresh Faced – Origins Haul

My skin has been in an awful state the last few months.  The stress of moving internationally, starting a new (and sometimes super stressful) job, hard water and no skincare routine at all have really taken their toll on my face.  I even went so far as to swear off makeup for a while which helped with my blepharitis, but not my oil patches, flaky patches, clogged pores and breakouts.

Back when I was in a routine (way back in London-land), my brand of choice was Origins.  Pricey, but good.  When I moved, I was at the end of most of my products and, being limited to a couple of suitcases, I didn’t replenish.  I took my Night-A-Mins with me and that was pretty much it.

Yesterday, finally, I decided to give in and headed into the Origins store in Charlottesville (while Nick geeked out in Game Stop).  I walked out $100 lighter, but with some amazing products that are already making a difference even one day on.


Never A Dull Moment – Exfoliator

My consultant at Origins was great.  She took a look at my skin and we talked about my various issues and how contradictory they were–oily spots and dry spots, for example.  She recommended Never A Dull Moment to start my rescue regime.  This isn’t your typical exfoliator.  It’s super gentle and it smells amazing.  She recommended that, instead of using in the normal way, I slather on a thin layer as I would a mask and take a nice hot bath, allowing my pores to open up.  Then after a bit, gently wash it off my skin.  I did just that, and my skin felt super smooth and fresh.

Out of Trouble – Mask

This mask purports to help clear skin up in a mere ten minutes.  Since my skin had so many different problem areas, we both thought this mask would work the best.  It’s super cleansing (and even smells almost medicinal) but you only leave it on for ten minutes, so it doesn’t get the chance to dry out your skin.  I put it on straight out of the bath while my pores were still open and skin was just slightly damp.  I wasn’t expecting much difference but after rinsing off the mask, I was pretty impressed to see that the redness in my cheeks had gone down and my face just looked brighter.

Make A Difference + – Moisturizer

Normally in the evening I’d be putting on my Night-A-Mins nighttime moisturizer, but I was so excited to try this one I decided to give it a go.  Again, this smells amazing–I don’t think I’ve met an Origins product that I don’t like the smell of!  The consistency is more gel-like; I felt like I needed less to cover my face.  It took a bit longer to set in, but once it did, my face felt super happy.

Bonus round:  Freebies!

The great thing about Origins (besides their products) is that they’re not afraid to let you try stuff out.  In addition to Out of Trouble, I was interested in two other masks: Drink Up Intensive and Clear Improvement.  Drink Up Intensive is an overnight mask that’s supposed to give even the driest skin a moisture boost.  Clear Improvement is a charcoal mask with some serious cleaning power.  She sent me home with two sample tubes to try out.  I’m going to have to resist the urge to do one every day!

What are some of your favorite skincare products or brands?  I’m looking for mascara that’s good for someone with blepharitis at the moment, so any suggestions in that realm are super appreciated!

(Note:  Review and thoughts are honest and my own opinion.  I was not given any products or moo-lah in exchange for a review.  That being said, if Origins would like to send me stuff to review, I’m not gonna say no!)


Snowmageddon 2016

Who’d have thought that, living in Central Virginia and having 60 and 70 degree temps throughout December would put me smack in the middle of a historic snowstorm?  Not this girl!  I spent the whole week poo-fooing the forecast and being a total naysayer.  Nick spent the whole week praying for snow.  I guess he won, though he was regretting it as we shoveled the driveway this afternoon.  I was so woefully unprepared for the storm that I had no gloves, snow boots or even a coat good for shoveling snow in!  Never mind that we had no salt, no shovel and no damn common sense to know not to bother going to Walmart the night before Jonas hit.  Thank goodness for good neighbors willing to lend shovels and such.

Regardless, living in small town VA during a snowstorm has its advantages.  You go nowhere.  You see no one.  You can binge on Parks and Recreation in pajamas you don’t change out of the whole weekend without feeling guilty.  You can do tequila shots with your husband to “keep warm”.  Not a bad shout.

All in all, I’d say we were landed with about a foot and a half… the snow came up to my knees so I’m basing it off of that.  Scientific leanings, me.

Anyhow, in case you don’t follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter–some photos of the snowy glory!


Today was spent digging the car out and watching loads of ice and snow fall off the roof.  Despite my hatred for snow, I would love another day like yesterday, huddled up under blanket, drink in hand and dozing off to the TV.  Hmmm… I think a nap is in order.  Football IS on, after all.

Return of the Mack

I’ve paid for another year here on WordPress.

I guess this means I’m back?


Carter Mountain Orchard

While I continue to ponder yesterday’s conundrum, I thought I’d go ahead and start posting about what we’re up to in the meantime, otherwise it’ll all pass by and I’ll forget or get wrapped up in something else (like my new obsession with revamping old furniture… watch this space).

Last weekend, N and I ventured up into the foothills of Appalachia, just outside Charlottesville, to a beautiful orchard called Carter Mountain.  It was our first real exploration of the area, since we’d only finally gotten a car the day before, so we were pretty excited to begin with.  But when we drove up the (long, somewhat scary, steep) drive to Carter Mountain Orchard, we got even more excited.  Stepping out of the car, we were greeted by the most amazing view of the surrounding area and the mountains further away.




Does it get much prettier than that?  So far it hasn’t!

We’re in the midst of prime apple harvest season, and Carter Mountain Orchard didn’t disappoint on variety.


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We wound up with a bag of two different types of apples (all from their orchard, natch), all of them so juicy and delicious.  Honestly, I like apples, but these were out of this world.  Completely different to supermarket apples.  We picked up Albemarle Pippins and Wine Sap apples, purely as we’d never heard of them.  The Wine Sap apples are gone, and we’re still working on the Pippins.

We also picked up some fresh (non alcoholic) apple cider to bring home.  They’ve got a massive store that sells all types of local jams, honey, wine and more than you can shake a stick at.  I could seriously blow my savings there.



We then ventured to the Bold Rock Hard Cider Cellar to grab a couple of cold pints of local hard cider.  They were so good, we wound up having to bring a mixed six pack home!

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Great stuff.

Before leaving, we decided we just had to try Carter Mountain’s famous Apple Cider Doughnuts.  Stay with me here.  The line was long.  Super long.  Like, Black Friday at Walmart long… and it moved just as fast (or not).  We stood in line for over an hour for fresh, hot, amazing doughnuts.  They’re so good and so sought after, that everyone in line was good natured about the wait and in high spirits.  That’s how we knew they were worth it.  We bought a dozen, mauled two each as we took in the view for the final time, and brought them home and froze them for later use… as recommended by one of the Carter Mountain employees!


All in all, a great afternoon.  We’ll definitely be back in the summer for the peaches, and for their Thursday Evening Sunset Series when it starts back up next year.

And let me just say that right this very second, as I’m typing this, I’m sitting on the top step of my back porch in the growing dusk, sipping on hot cider (spiked with Apple Jim Beam, of course) and thinking about how I’m already thinking of this place as home.  It’s weird how I’ve just fallen into the vibe and the slow pace so quickly, particularly after coming here from London.  I’m already wearing plaid flannel shirts, for cryin’ out loud!

Steph x

Decision time

I’ve come to a point where I’m into a routine enough to start blogging regularly again, which is great stuff.   I’m having lots of adventures right now and have so many things going on that I want to share!

Except, well… I’m not in London anymore. And there’s my problem.  Do I create a new blog?  Do I change the name/logo/etc of this one?  Or do I just keep writing under The London Diaries?

What do you guys think?

Steph x

(Nearly) Two Weeks Later…

It finally feels like we’re starting to get settled down here in Virginia, thanks mostly in part to the kindness of strangers.

After nearly a week of no furniture (bar an air mattress), a lovely guy from where I work spent his entire Saturday driving us around to get our cell phones and also hauled some furniture back to the house for us.  Another guy from work helped us score an amazing deal (and a super fast install) with Comcast so we could have internet.  People here are so friendly, so welcoming and just so warm that it continually amazes me.  People at work are constantly telling me to let them know if I need anything, need a ride, if I want them to pick up lunch for me.  It’s things like that that really make me feel at home here.

And the house?  The house is lovely–apart from the mutant crickets which seem to love nothing more than to ambush me and scare the living bejeezus out of me.  It’s so big… everything here is big.  From the mountains to the skies, even down to food portions (oops), everything here is extra large.

I promise pictures of the house soon… it’s still very much a work in progress and I want a few things like some rugs and such to give it an even cosier feel–but I suppose that’ll come with time.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a snapshot of a super pretty glass bourbon decanter I found in a thrift shop today for a measly four dollars.  Really must get my booze station going…


“Federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle” Like this bad boy isn’t going to get filled up with bourbon at the earliest opportunity.

Six Years Later…

I’ve lived in London over six years now and tomorrow scares me.  The uncertainty of moving to a town I’ve never been to in a state I’ve never set foot in terrifies me.  Moving into a house with no furniture terrifies me.  Moving on to a new job terrifies me.  Life is just one big terrifying ball of crazy right now.

Regardless of the terror and the crazy, this time tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to DC.

The last few weeks have brought many ‘lasts’… last fish and chips, last trip to Colchester and so on.  The past few days have brought on even more… last commute to work, last trip over Battersea Bridge, last night out with work people, last day at work, last curry, last trip to Meza, last shopping day/lunch/dinner with H, last trip to the pub, last night in our flat.

It’s painful seeing all of these ‘lasts’ come and go, seeing the flat empty out, handing back the keys and seeing the last six years of our lives reduced to a few boxes and suitcases.

I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next.