Snail gel – no, honestly!

First time I told my friends I used snail gel on my face I got some very strange looks.  In fact, every time I tell my friends I use snail gel I get some very strange looks.  Making the the leap from garden to face never appeared very strange to me.

I grew up in a small village of about one hundred people in the highlands of Scotland.  Many residents, including out school head master  grew up speaking Gaelic as their first langue and English as their second.  Impecable English at that.  Our curriculum covered all the basics, reading, writing, doing maths without using your fingers, but also covered a smattering of myth and legend, folklore and superstition.  My primary three teacher, Mrs Skinner (who none of us ever saw without about thirty thin silver bangles jangling on her right arm) told us how one cure for warts was to pick a snail up from the garden and let it wander all over the effected part.  The warts would be gone the next day.

So when browsing in Holland & Barrett and finding a Dr Organic product based on snail gel, it didn’t appear like a way out there idea.  I feel I’ve been vindicated.  I’ve always had what is euphemistically referred to as “problem skin”.  I’m not that far from forty and I still get hormonal acne!  I decided to change my skin care focus from covering it up, to actually, well… caring.  The snail gel was one of the first products I tried and it’s been amazing.  Within the first week my skin had visibly improved.  My acne has dramatically decreased, and the little I get now is vastly reduced in both size and subsequent scarring.

Although this is a product directly derived from an animal, it is cruelty free.  To harvest the gel all the snails need to do is slide up and down a piece of glass.  Dr Ogranic only harvest from “free roaming” snails.  What makes snail gel really work is the ingredients in it.  Snails produce their slime to repair any damage to their shells. Not dissimilar to the way we humans produce oil to protect our skin.  The snail gel also stimulates the production of elastin and collagen in human skin, so aids our repair too.

I’ve tried a few different brands of Snail Gel and I have to say Dr Organic’s is definitely the best.  They just add a little aloe vera and some citrus essential oil to lift the fragrance, but other than that it is fairly pure.  Dr Organic’s is exclusive to Holland & Barrett, but luckily all their stores stock it, and you can click and collect if they’ve run short, or order online.

When I first tried it I was put off the price £20 on the secretion of a snail!  It felt like a lot to spend on my vanity.  However I decided to consider it was spending on my skin health and self confidence.  Given that a little goes a long way, and Holland & Barrett often have it in its buy one get one half price offers I feel I’m worth it.


5 best Edinburgh blogs

I fell in love with Edinburgh when I was five.  I was in the boot of the family hatchback crossing over the Dean Bridge into the city.  (We had a big family.)  The sky was a mix of peaches and reds, and the backs of the New Town houses appeared as if they were growing organically right out of the rock.  For a wee girl from the Black Isle it was entrancing and I wanted to live in the city ever since.

There is no point living somewhere you like if you don’t get out and sample it’s delights, try what it has to offer, suck it dry and spend the rest of the next day recovering.

Here are my five top blogs for enjoying the city.

Crumbs and Petals:  Husband and wife team (and also my friends for transparency) Crumbs and Petals explore all that there is to offer in Edinburgh’s food and cultural scene. They’re on a pause just now, but the archive is worth looking through.  If you want a festival beer, find out about gin or how to make a giant after eight – these are your people! Who doesn’t want to make a giant after-eight?

Lost in Edinburgh:  Ok not strictly a blog, more a FaceBook community.  Edinburgh is a city that is not only teaming with life, events, art and culture but also history.  Much of it turbulent and bloody.  The kind of history I like.  Lost In Edinburgh will help you discover some of the hidden gems, little known facts and nooks and crannies that all too often get forgotten about in the madness of pulling in the tourist pounds.

Edinburgh Coffee Lovers:  If wild beer soaked nights of spoken word, street performance and sticky floors are becoming a little bit boring then kick back with the slower paced Edinburgh Coffee Lovers.  It will specifically plug you in to the independent coffee scene in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.  These people know what they’re talking about.

Edinblogger:  They got there first with the name!  This blog has been going for a while, and I really appreciate getting truly honest reviews.  Sometimes it’s ok to say “The experience was meh…just alright…nothing special.”  It doesn’t all have to be whizzes and bangs.  If I’ve thought about reviewing a place, they’ve generally got there first.  *shakes fist*

Edinburgh foody:  despite the title this isn’t a blog about people who are richer than you eating in places you’ll never afford.  It’s about real live actual people, who aren’t cut outs from the Observer Magazine, eating, drinking, reviewing gadgets, trying new recipe books. Go eating!


Let’s not be friends

There are lots and lots of advice columns about if you should stay friends with someone you’ve been dating if one or both of you have decided not to take things further romantically.  They go through all kinds of scenario’s where it is/isn’t the right thing to do, and ask all sorts of question which can have you sieving through the minutia of every interaction.  One thing I am yet to read through is an in depth analysis of what is really the most important part of the “Should I be friends with them?” question.  What friendship really is, and what it means.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me friendship is something that in the right package can come close to the sacred and can be very profound.  Five years ago I was introduced to a woman twenty years my senior and with quite a different personality to mine.  She’s now become one of my closest confidants, has guided me through several life events and at no point has made me feel anything less than utterly worthwhile and incredibly interesting.  This is what real friendship feels like.

Friends are not the same as acquaintances.  Acquaintances are people who you know, who you occasionally spend time with, but with whom you have not yet formed (and may never) the sort of close emotional bond that you need for a real and true friendship to take place. That’s the thing, friendship is a close emotional bond, not just happenstance or the culmination of a handful of good dates and physical encounters.

Like any bond it needs time, respect, empathy, forgiveness, sense of humour, kindness, and a desire from both of you to make it work.  There will be some added extra’s that are individual for each person, but these are the basics.  Kinda like a relationship really, and you wouldn’t get into it with just anyone who comes along.

Often in a dating scenario when someone is saying “Let’s be friends” there are three things they can mean.  1. I’d like to feel less guilty about giving you bad news.  2. I’m more interested in someone else, but I’d like to keep you as an option in case it falls through.  3.  I really like you, let’s be friends.  If the real motivation behind the request for friendship is one or two, it’s worth noting that none of those statements include anyone other than the person making the request.

True friend is an important role in your life.  There are loads and loads of people out there who are possible fits, and no limit to how many you can have.  Not everyone who makes the grade will become your true friend, there is time, children, studies, carers, ill health, ill family and many other things that mean some friendships never quite come to fruition.  But that never means it was a waste of time, you’ll both have enjoyed each others company, and who knows, one day circumstances may change and make it easier for you to carry on that building work.  Friendships can be built in fit’s and starts, the work abandoned and then come back to.  Relationships however can’t, they need consistent attention and dedication.

We all need friends in our life.  We don’t need bad friends, false friends, toxic friends, ignoring friends, superior friends, negative friends, energy sucking friends, friends with hidden agendas or pretend friends.  If someone is showing signs of being one of those types of friend by say, offering friendship as a way to make themselves feel less guilty, or suggesting friendship as a way of still keeping you in reserve while they give it a shot with someone else, they are never going to make the leap into the true friend category.  No one ever got in the true friend category by doing anything other than treating the other person with respect.

If your trying to decided if you want to carry on a friendship with someone you’ve dated you need to ask yourself some questions.  “Does this person meet my criteria for friendship?” and most importantly “Have they treated me with the respect I expect my friends to treat me with?”  Once those two questions have been answered you will know what to do.

These decisions are best made with:  My chocolate lime coconut milk ice-cream.  Because handled badly it can come across as bitter and acidic.  Handled well it’s self love.


Chocolate lime non-dairy ice cream

img_20160429_164655714.jpgBeing an indoors kind of day I felt like spending time making food.  I decided to dust of my ice-cream maker and start making ice-cream again.  Knowing several people who are either vegan, or lactose intolerant, I was keen to try  my first non-dairy version an opted for a coconut milk base.  Coconut milk is full of fibre and vitamin’s, so that totally cancels out all the sugar, right?

I’ve tried experimenting with no-sugar ice cream and it just doesn’t work.  Not because of flavour, but because the sugar is needed to make sure it does not freeze solid and remains scoop-able.  I ended up with a blueberry cinnamon milk stone.  The other ingredient that can keep the ice cream at the right texture while freezing is alcohol, but that wouldn’t really work for my eight year-old.

We’re just going have to accept that ice-cream is going to have a lot of sugar and calories in it. Everyone needs a treat now and again.  This is my favourite flavour combination I’ve made so far.  The lime and chocolate compete against each other in a dance off on your tongue.


400ml can of coconut milk

150g dark chocolate (I used 60% coco in this one)

86g golden syrup

zest and juice of one lime

pinch of salt

Step 1

Melt the chocolate by placing it in a glass bowl set above a sauce pan of boiling water.

Step 2

Add the chocolate and all the other ingredients to your blender and blend.

Step 3

Put mixture in ice cream maker and follow instructions.

Step 4


Step 5


Rich Chocolate Mousse: No flour, no dairy, no added sugar.

My attempts over the years at making healthy sweet treats have been rather hit and miss, but always a fun experiment.  This rich chocolate mouse however is all hit.  I’d defy anyone to find a chocolate mouse recipe which is more healthful while still giving you the satisfying taste and texture of the more traditional desert.  Of course the flavouring with orange is optional and you can add whatever additions you wish to try.  This recipe serves two very generous portions, or four, if you like the people your eating with enough to have less yourself.


2 ripe avocados

100g dark chocolate (I like about 75% coco)

1 tablespoon coco or cacao

Zest of one orange

A squeeze of orange juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Step one

Break up the chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl.  Rest the bowl above a pan of boiling water, without it’s bottom touching that water (I have no idea what happens if they touch, but everyone appears to think this is really important so I’m not going to try).  Once it has all melted move to Step 2.

Step 2

Scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin and put in a blender.  Add all the other ingredients including the melted chocolate and blend until it is all combines.

Step 3


Step 4



Talking to children: Sex, masturbation, homosexuality

One of my friends has been urging me to write more parenting blogs.  She has been particularly keen for me to write about how I discuss masturbation with my daughter.  While we were having a general conversation about sex and the body masturbation came up, and here is how it went.

Daughter:  “I sometimes touch myself there.”

Me:  “Yeah, it’s a bit like picking your nose.  Everyone does it, but no one talks about it.”

That was it.

However, for the sake of having a slightly longer blog post here are my own personal rules for talking to my child about sex.  Please note, these are my own rules based on my own world view and personal circumstances – they won’t necessarily fit yours.  I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist or an expert.  You don’t have to follow them, or even agree.  No one is forcing you to read any further…

  1.  Let the child lead.  Children’s job is pretty much to discover the world and what place they want to take in it.  They are always learning and absorbing information.  Generally they will ask for the information when they are ready for it or need to know it.  With my daughter, who adores babies, all the questions started with “How do you get babies?”  “How do babies come out?” etc.  The trick is to answer honestly, but without being dogmatic.  Use tact, kindness, flexibility and compassion.  With this method by the time my daughter got to seven she’d put it all together herself and found it “Gross!”  A completely age appropriate response.  It all happened naturally because information hadn’t been either thrust upon her when she wasn’t ready, or withheld from her when she was.
  2. Make consent part of the talk.  I believe that talk about consent is necessary and vital with children.  However it can be a tricky one to negotiate.  I love the NSPCC underwear rule.  It’s a very helpful website, with loads of advice for parents so you don’t have to do the tricky stuff all on your own.
  3. It’s a continual conversation. Learning about your own body and sex is not something that happens once and never again. My daughters questions started when she was three, and they’re still going.  I believe that both gender and sexual orientation are fluid, which means discussion should be fluid.   I feel as a parent this also takes the pressure off me.  If I phrase something badly, I can come back to it.  If I realise I could have explained something better, I’ve not blown the only chance to get it right.  As your child grows, so will their personal boundaries and knowledge.  It’s important to adjust to those changes, and let the child lead.  It’s kind of like a slow dance.  I think of parenting as being a bit like Tai Chi.
  4. Talking about homosexuality.  “Some boys like to hold hands and kiss boys.  Some girls like to hold hands and kiss girls.”  My daughter has pretty much accepted this at face value.  It also helps that we watch TV together with openly gay characters.  We were both quite gripped by the Alec/Magnus, will-they-won’t-they story line in Shadowhunters.  When we talk about the future I try to include lines like “When you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you might…”  Although I have to fess up and say that giving these signals to my daughter, that whomever she becomes is ok with me, isn’t my strong suit.  Growing up in a homophobic household and hetronormative society takes a while to break down. I do need to improve on this.
  5. Children follow your emotional ques. If you think something is scary, and you model it being scary in your behaviour, your children will find it scary.  If you are confident in an area of your life, it’s likely your children will pick up on that confidence and feel the same way.  The same is true for sex, if you talk about it in a relaxed way that makes it a normal healthy part of everyday life, this is the que your child will take from you.  It’s not quite so cut and dried though.  Emotions are messy, slippery little things, that jump out on you and surprise you, and get all tangled up in each other.  Being an adult is absolutely no guarantee that you will always model the best emotional behaviour in every conversation and interaction your child observes.  If you think it does, you are probably in some very deep form of denial.  Two phrases I say to my daughter “I’m sorry,” and “I realise I could have done that better”.  Both have the plus side of also showing your child it’s ok and forgiveable to make mistakes, and to learning how to adjust behaviour is a normal thing.
  6. Make yourself a safe space.  It’s my belief that the main role of being a parent is to make yourself a safe space for your child.  If they know they can come to you with anything and they will not be judged, or ridiculed or punished, then they will.  This is really important when it comes to sex.  Children are negotiating a tougher world than the one I grew up in.  You can never protect your child from the world, but you can give them the tools to deal with it, and a safe haven where they can rest.  When they are older, if you’ve mainly done it right, they may even forgive you for the parenting mistakes you’re bound to make.

Happy parenting!


Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Faces, Features and Creatures Trail

It’s now half term in Edinburgh.  As always there is a need to find something to do with children, that doesn’t cost too much money.  A friend and I decided to take our daughters to The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and try out their Face Features and Creatures Trail designed by award winning artist and illustrator Sara Ogilvie.

Location:  Central Edinburgh so easily accessible by public transport.

Cost:  There is no cost, although you do need to leave a £10 deposit for the trail bag.  The bag includes colouring pencils, costumes to dress up in at certain portraits and objects.

The objective:  The trail takes you round the different floor of the galleries, stopping at eight different places to find specific things, then followed by a drawing task.

Time:  It took both girls two hours to complete.  Importantly though, it didn’t feel like two hours.

Is it fun for the parents:  Well, I have to admit while the girls dashed from gallery to gallery us Mummies trailed behind them having a chat.  If you get some catch-up time will largely depend on where your child is on the independence spectrum.  Our two girls were eight.

Child’s perspective:  When I asked my daughter what she thought she said “Good.  Really fun to dress up.  That was the best part.  Now I want to watch more TV.  I cant believe you’re writing that Mum!”

Downsides:  Fortunately one of the pictures on the trail, of Queen Charlotte, had been moved so we were no longer able to find it in the gallery.

Staff:  I’ve found with the staff of the various National Galleries in Edinburgh are always very kind to children.

Overall:  There are a series of different events for children, free, fun and time consuming.  We’ll definitely be going back