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10 years of Neal's Yard Remedies' One Pot Wonder

Last week I was invited down to the Cambridge Neal's Yard Remedies store to celebrate the tenth anniversary of one of its most iconic products, Wild Rose Beauty Balm*. Like most people my experience of NYR until now went as far as their rather luxurious hand creams - I'd seen the product in store before but never actually tried it. My experience at the store has totally converted me to the rest of their range.

When I arrived I got chatting to the staff a while and picked up a couple of aromatherapy roll-on's to help with my daily struggle with eye strain. You see NYR is more than just a skincare brand. The whole ethos surrounds herbal remedies and every ingredient in all their products from candles to eye cream is selected for its unique natural properties. There were loose lead teas, tinctures, essential oils and more to indulge in and the ladies that work in the store are incredibly knowledgeable.

The store is also a spa, with treatment rooms downstairs offering a wide range of packages. My visit entailed a hand and arm massage, using none other than Wild Rose Beauty Balm. When I was invited to the hand and arm massage I wondered how necessary they really were, but as someone with chronically dry, sort-of elderly looking hands that also spends a lot of time hunched over a desk I was proved very wrong.

The massage works the balm into the skin, with the therapist massaging out any knots (my mouse arm had plenty!) and also paying special attention to the hands and cuticles. The balm contains antioxidant rich rosehip seed oil, patchouli to strengthen and stimulate damaged skin, borage (a.k.a. starflower) to tackle inflammation and restore the moisture barrier, and geranium to balance and smooth. I probably don't need to tell you that the scent is incredible, but the moisturising effects also lasted more than 24 hours even with showering - I'm impressed!

I spoke with the therapist about the balms different uses and couldn't believe how many there are, hence its reputation as a 'one put wonder'. You can use the balm as a cleanser, a moisturiser, a mask treatment, a lip balm, a cuticle treatment, as a highlighter over makeup and to tame unruly brows, to name but a few!

At £38.00 per pot I was initially startled by the price-point, but can say after just a few uses at home that it's worth every penny and will last for ages. Having a product that's truly luxurious yet so versatile means I'll always find a use for it. You can purchase some for yourself here, complete with a soft muslin cloth.

*The product and treatment were provided by Neal's Yard Remedies for review purposes but all gushing opinions are totally my own.

5 ways to bring creativity into a busy everyday life

I'm not a full time blogger, nor am I a full time writer, painter, musician, chef or any other creative profession. That said, I love to write, take pictures and create things. It can be hard to find the time when juggling a 'normal' career and home life, but I'm learning that there are ways in which creative activities can be included in each and every day no matter how busy you are.

So why be more creative? Even if you don't think of yourself as particularly artsy, finding a creative passion and devoting a small part of your day or week to it can be an amazing form of therapy. Creativity is a great outlet for stress and can have calming effects that overflow into your daily life, making you happier as well as more focused and more productive.

1. Just add colour

So this is a simple one, but I've found recently that using a pack of coloured pens in all my 'to do' lists at work and at home has been weirdly motivating. You could even try starting a bullet journal (check this post by the lovely Hannah Gale out to find out how they work) which allows you to be more creative in the way you set out your day.

2. Embrace technology

If you're artistic but don't have the space or the time to set up an easel or crafts room (who really does?) there are tonnes of apps for iPads and other tablets now that give you the freedom to paint and draw. Have a peek at the app store and whatever takes your fancy spend 15 minutes of your lunch break or commute doodling away. It's guaranteed to relax.

3. Change up your reading material

If you're the sort of person that usually reads magazines, newspapers and articles on your phone, switch it up with some genre fiction (think sci-fi, post-apocalyptic or whirlwind romance) to transport yourself to another world. There are also some great motivational books out there written by creatives that are sure to inspire. I'm excited to soon be reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear which countless people have recommended to be.

4. Choose structured creativity

Many people (myself included) have become obsessed with adult colouring books and writing prompt books lately. I recently picked up 642 Things to Write About and there are activities both long and short, I also had a copy Wreck this Journal at university that was so much fun to spend time on in between essay sessions.

5. Reduce your screen time

I know I just told you to download some apps but I suppose in the end there is one thing that's sucking up most of our free time these days, and that's the internet. If you're feeling bored, uninspired and like you can't relax then nothing beats putting away your phone and doing something you really love. You might feel like you don't have enough time to bother doing this, but using an app like Moment to track just how much time you really spend watching snapchats and scrolling through twitter might make you thing twice. Take creative ownership of your free time and stop letting the phone win.

How do you inject creativity into your everyday life? Let me know in the comments below.

5 places you must see in Marrakech, Morocco

It seems like this is the time of year when people catch a glimpse of the Spring sunshine, remember what it's like to experience a bit of warmth and daylight, and head straight to the travel agents or Expedia website.

Marrakech is definitely a hot destination at the moment. It's very affordable (we did our whole trip - flights, accommodation, food, the lot - for £600) and the Moroccan city is hot, vibrant, busy and beautiful. There's an awful lot to do there, so I thought I'd share our top 5 places to visit:

1. The Souks

The markets of Marrakech (known as souks) are an absolute must visit if you want to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city. When I visited we stayed just off the main market square, Jemaa el Fna, which is a central hub for both locals and tourists alike.

Don't be put off by how chaotic it seems, or be afraid to haggle for everything from spices to pottery and leather handbags. It's a maze-like market with artisan workshops at the centre and more touristy trinkets around the edges, so if you're open to getting slightly lost be sure to dive straight in.

Make sure you head back to Jemaa el Fna at night too. As you take in the beautiful sunset from one of the many cafe terraces, street food stalls begin to pop up on the ground below. Be sure to enjoy some of the skewered meat and Khobz bread, followed by deliciously sweet pastries and mint tea.

There are about 50 stalls but all serve very similar food and very similar prices and will go for the hard sell to get you to choose theirs. I'd also advise eating with your hands as they often clean cutlery in the same bucket of water all night thanks to the lack of running water on the stalls. We did and it was not only fine but totally yummy and a real experience!

2. La Jardin Majorelle

These gardens require a quick taxi ride into the new part of the city but are a true oasis compared to the hot and dusty old town. French painter Jacques Majorelle created the gardens, which then become home to designer Yves Saint Laurent until his death in 2008. The bright blues and yellows of the buildings interspersed with cool, shady greenery are honestly such a joy to behold. It felt like we'd stepped into another world. 

The gardens are also home to a museum dedicated to the ancient tribal cultures of the Atlas mountain region and a gorgeous cafe. Visit first thing in the morning for a relaxing few hours, as the bus loads of tourists that arrive before and after lunch can make things quite busy.

3. Madrasa Ben Youseff

We visited many a historic site in the 5 days that we were in Marrakech but none blew me away quite as much as the ancient religious school of Ben Youseff. Entry was incredibly cheap but the asymmetrical architecture and central courtyard complete with a clear blue pool of water are just stunning.

The mosaic work that covers the entire building is perfect and you can wonder in and out of the many rooms to your heart's content. It's also virtually next door to the Musée de Marrakech that contains some impressive works of art and is also a beautiful building, having once been a palace.

4. The tanneries

Our trip to the tanneries was somewhat involuntary, thanks to a very sneaky, pushy young man who claimed to be a guide and kind of swept us towards the leather district. Be wary of this and be sure to make your own way there as these phony 'tour guides' will demand a large sum of money in exchange for their 'help', even if you didn't want or ask for it!

Shady wheeler dealers aside a properly planned visit to the tanneries is still a sight to behold. Hides are treated and cured on the rooftops, so not only is it interesting to see how it's done but the views are ah-mazing (I'm running out of adjectives to describe just how picturesque Marrakech actually is!).

The 'exit through the gift shop' trick has also not been lost on the Moroccans, so if you find yourself in one at the end of your tannery tour and don't want to haggle for a purchase then politely but firmly decline. The prices they will try and charge you will be astronomical.

5. La Palmeraie

The very last thing we did our trip was take a camel tour through the palm groves on the outskirts of the city. The land here is flat and dry but populated by, you guessed it, a lot of palm trees. You can do all sorts of activities in the area, from walking to quad biking, and there are also golf courses dotted around, but we opted for more traditional transport. Gotta try everything once!

We went at the end of the day as a storm was brewing, which was good because it meant that the June weather wasn't so scorching, but not so good because my camel had properly had enough. He was as scary as he was fed up (I have to admit I did feel quite bad for him once I saw that) but eventually he settled into it and I think we both had a good time. The guide was interesting too and made us little origami camels out of dried leaves.

Don't forget to read this post on what I wore during our trip to help you cater your wardrobe to the climate and local customs!

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