And finally, we've reached the end of our pregnancy journey.

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I've been meaning to share my skincare routine on the blog for ages!

Part of the reason why it's taken so long is that I've spent a while trying out different products to see what suits my skin and lifestyle best. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another, and I also like to trial just one new product at a time so I can really notice the positive effects {or rarely, any reactions}. 

It's worth explaining that my own routine is very simple - some may even describe it as lazy! When it comes to good skincare, you could go the whole hog and really splash out on some luxury - and effective - products {Caroline Hirons' website is a great place to start for some product recommendations and tips} but I personally tend to choose products which are mid-range or high-street prices. It's all about choosing what works for you.

Before delving into my bathroom cabinet, I would advise that if you are struggling with acne and it's starting to have a negative effect on your life, please see your GP and discuss whether a referral to the dermatologists is appropriate. You can read about my own experiences of severe acne and subsequent treatment with roaccutane here - and don't feel you need to wait before getting professional advice yourself!

M Y   A M   R O U T I N E

Step 1: Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Wash, 200ml - RRP £24.50 {Currently reduced on Amazon*}

I first started using this face wash around 9 months ago, and I've used it every single morning since because I love it so much! It smells beautiful, scented with thyme, German chamomile and Lady's Mantle, and you only need a small amount to lather up and cover your face and neck. It's perfect for my sensitive skin, and always in my overnight bag when we travel. It's also vegan friendly and free of sulfates and parabens.

{Optional Step 1: I aim to exfoliate a couple of times a week as the last time I had a facial - way before lockdown happened, sob - I was told that my skin could do with a bit more. I've been using Liz Earle Gentle Face Exfoliator* before using my facial wash, and it seems to do quite a good job, although I'm not over keen on the scent, so I'm still looking for the perfect product. If you've found a good one, let me know!} 

Step 2: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo [+] Anti-Imperfections Moisturiser, 40ml - RRP £17.00 {Currently 25% off on Feelunique*}

This feels so light on my skin, which is great for my oily complexion. It's packed full of clever ingredients including niacinamide, lipohydroxy acid, salicylic acid, zinc PCA, procerad and glycerin, and the great thing about La Roche-Posay is that they work closely with dermatologists to ensure that their products are evidence-based and show good results. 

Step 3: The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion SPF 50+, 40ml - RRP £18.00

We all know how important sun protection is, but I hate the feeling of suncream on my face - and it often causes my skin to breakout. There are lots of excellent specialist facial suncreams out there, but this is the one I use daily. It has a pleasant smell {an added bonus!} and doesn't feel at all greasy. I aim to put this on every day I know I'm going to be spending any time outdoors - but some experts will argue that we should wear it all the time. I leave this to dry for just a few minutes before applying my make up, and it leaves no tackiness or stickiness which is perfect when I'm in a rush to get ready...

M Y   P M   R O U T I N E

Step 1: Elemis Pro-Collagen Rose Cleansing Balm, 105 g - RRP £43.00 {Currently reduced on Amazon*}

My girlfriends and I went to a spa last October for my birthday, and we all treated ourselves to a facial. As soon as the facialist started to gently apply this to my skin, the beautiful rose scent made me feel calm and relaxed - and it left my skin feeling so soft and clean! It's excellent at removing a full face of SPF and make up, including waterproof mascara {the ultimate test}. You can buy a travel-size version too which is handy for holidays. I apply this to dry skin, and then use a damp flannel to wipe off. 

Step 2: Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic Spritzer, 200ml - RRP £16.00

Liz Earle's products are renowned for being great, and I love this spray. Again, the scent is wonderful; on the ingredients list are aloe vera, calendula, chamomile, cucumber and pure essential oils, including rose-scented geranium, lavender and sweet orange. I either spray onto a reusable cotton pad and sweep over my face, or if I'm feeling warm and want to feel really refreshed, I spritz directly onto my skin which is lovely and cooling.

Step 3: CeraVe Eye Repair Cream, 14ml - RRP £12.00 {Currently 15% off  on Feelunique*}
Due to my olive skin, if I am just the slightest bit tired I end up looking like a raccoon, with heavy, dark circles under my eyes after just the smallest amount of sleep deprivation. I dread to think what they will look like once Baby Maggie May gets here...! However this surprisingly affordable eye cream from CeraVe does actually seem to help - whilst it doesn't completely get rid of the circles {only concealer will do that} it does help to reduce the darkness and puffiness. I've had no irritation from using it around my eyes, despite having sensitive skin and being a contact lens wearer, so I would definitely recommend it.

Step 4: Neal's Yard Remedies Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Oil, 30ml - RRP £32.00

A friend of mine recommended this to me, and once she squeezed a couple of drops onto the back of my hand I could instantly see what all the fuss was about. It feels luxurious and nourishing, and is a lovely little treat for dry skin. I've taken it with me on flights before, as it's perfect for when the plane air conditioning leaves your skin feeling ruined! Just a few drops are all you need for an instant moisture hit, and the scent of frankincense is beautifully relaxing.

Step 5: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, 50ml - RRP £12.99 {Currently reduced on Amazon*}

I really love this stuff, and it's so affordable! I think I first saw it recommended by the aforementioned Caroline Hirons, and thought there would be no harm in giving it a go. The gel-like consistency means it's both incredibly lightweight and yet super hydrating at the same time, which makes it a bit of a miracle product in my eyes. I'm already on my second tub, as I sometimes use this in the mornings too. It's very cooling too which is great if your skin is inflamed or angry. Of all the products I have mentioned above, if you were to go out and buy one thing, I'd probably recommend this.

I obviously use other products too, and don't strictly stick to the exact items listed every AM and PM, however the ones I have linked to are those which are my fail-safes. As you can see from my skincare shelf {I'm so lucky to have this in our en suite!} I have a range of different moisturisers, toners and serums to use depending on how my skin is feeling, and I think that's an important skill to develop - recognising what your skin needs on a day to day basis, responding to the hormonal and seasonal changes, and adapting what you use to help it out. 

If you have any skincare recommendations that you just can't live without, I'd love to hear them! Either comment below or you can tweet me - especially if you have the magic ingredient for banishing dark circles forever...

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.

Being Honest about Pregnancy - Maggie May

We've finally hit the last stretch of pregnancy - I've passed the 28 week milestone which means I'm officially in my third trimester!

I've learned several lessons since becoming pregnant, for example; morning sickness can be debilitating, reflux can be very uncomfortable, and those pelvic cramps and aches throughout pregnancy are no myth. I've also learned that 40 weeks is actually quite a long time to be pregnant - especially if you're an impatient person like me!

To know that this is the final push now {no pun intended} is incredibly reassuring, and I have to say I'm relieved. Something I've found quite difficult to cope with during this time {other than being pregnant in a global pandemic!} is how my experience of being pregnant is so very different to how I imagined it would be.

I have dreamed of having children for a long time, initially feeling broody as a teenager and eagerly looking forward to the day I would carry a baby. {Please tell me I'm not the only person to have stuffed clothes under their top to see what a bump would look like...?!}

I often used to say to Mr MM that I was just as excited about the idea of being pregnant as I was about having children. I couldn't wait to see my body changing, to feel a baby growing inside me, and to spend 9 glorious months bonding with my bump. I wasn't completely stupid; I knew it would be tough and tiring, and especially gruelling towards the end, but I saw these as challenges that I would willingly take on with very little complaint.

My experience of pregnancy has been so far from my expectations! Admittedly, I was simply unlucky to be affected by hyperemesis gravidarum, and suffering with regular sickness up until 20 weeks made everything much harder. But there have been other aspects which have surprised me; I really struggled with body image and confidence issues as I started to gather weight around my middle. As the bump I had so desperately longed for started to appear, I felt ugly, overweight and sometimes even disgusted by my appearance in the mirror. Having imagined cradling my ballooning tummy, I now found myself angrily trying to find clothes in my wardrobe to stretch over what I thought looked like an unflattering beer belly.

Being Honest about Pregnancy - Maggie May
Looking back, I think I was frustrated and upset with my body and how it had responded to pregnancy. I felt like it had failed me, and that I was terrible at being pregnant. Passing comments from people about how their pregnancies had been fine, or how they'd loved being pregnant and maybe even missed it added to my guilt. Was I an awful person for not enjoying this time? I know how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to have a child - so was I being ungrateful by not loving the experience?

And then the penny dropped and everything became easier. My pregnancy has been tough. Yes, all pregnancies are tough, but I have really struggled with mine for lots of different reasons. And that's OK!

Instead of making enemies with my own body and churning out negative thoughts all the time, I started to make a conscious effort to address my way of thinking and my approach:

- My body is growing a human which is pretty incredible, so cut it some slack. 
- It's hit lots of bumps along the way and suffered lots of ill effects, so be even kinder to it! 
- Acknowledge the difficulties you have faced, accept them - and then try to move on. 
- Change the language and words you use about your body - I'm not being lazy, I'm tired because I'm busy nurturing another little life inside. I'm not fat, I'm growing in size which means our child is growing too. My skin is breaking out because my hormonal levels are changing, in readiness for carrying our baby to the finish line and then delivering them into our arms!

When you first opened this post, you might not have expected these sorts of words. And I don't know if that's what I even had in mind when I started writing it. But it's so important to me to be honest about my journey. Being pregnant is hard work without putting ourselves under lots of pressure to 'do it well'. If one other woman reads this and finds that she's not the only one hating on pregnancy - that she's not the only person in the world to have felt like this - then it is entirely worth my honesty. And who knows, I may need to remind myself of these things in a future pregnancy...!

Now for the positive bit. I am so unbelievably excited about having our baby. When I feel those kicks {those very strong and powerful kicks, particularly the ones in the bladder} I rub my bump with happiness and have a little chat with Baby Maggie May, telling them how we can't wait to meet them and have them here with us. I can't wait to see them open their eyes for the first time; to feel them cuddled up against my chest; to see Mr MM with them. The thought of labour terrifies me {anyone who says differently must be lying?!} but I'm weirdly looking forward to it too.

Pregnancy has been the hardest time I've ever had to face, and I know that being first-time parents and caring for a newborn is going to be a whole new mountain to climb. But I have never looked forward to something as much in my entire life. And I know that if I went back in time, and had to experience this whole journey again - including the hyperemesis and being pregnant during a pandemic - I would do it without a second's hesitation.

See you soon Baby Maggie May!

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.
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Maggie's Weekday Suppers

If you're anything like me, it can be a real struggle to decide what to cook during the week.

The weekends are a bit easier - you can choose to make something from scratch that needs a little more time and attention, and can leave a pot of deliciousness bubbling away on the hob for several hours for the flavours and tastes to develop. But when it's 8.00pm on a Thursday evening, you've spent the whole day working and you're starving, the last thing you want is something that takes an hour to prepare. I can't be the only one who experiences hanger...?

It's easy to get into a lazy routine; Mr MM and I can very quickly persuade the other one that we deserve a takeaway pizza or curry after a long day. But when you're both busy, these choices can become more and more frequent until you realise you haven't cooked something nourishing for a while.

Surprisingly, our eating habits changed for the better at the start of the pandemic. We started keeping ourselves at home just before lockdown officially kicked in due to Baby Maggie May and decided that we would need to start planning our meals more efficiently so we could limit trips to the supermarket. I was also keen to start eating healthier foods since my hyperemesis had improved, and I began fancying dinners that weren't just beige...!

Being our usual geeky selves, we have a spreadsheet that we fill out every fortnight to see what we have in our fridge, freezer and cupboards, so we can be sure to make use of the various ingredients in the kitchen and avoid things going to waste. We also have a meal planner pad on the door of the fridge, where I write down a flexible plan for our suppers for the next couple of weeks. If you'd be interested in a post about how we meal plan and reduce food waste, let me know in the comments! I won't rush to write it as I appreciate that not many people may be as weird and freaky as me...

As a result of the planning, we've resurrected some of our favourite suppers to cook and eat, as well as discovered new dishes both online and in our collection of recipe books. And it's been so great! We're both really enjoying taking it in turns to cook a variety of different things - but do you know what they all have in common? They're simple. They're easy. And they're all utterly delicious.

Some things we've tried haven't quite gone to plan {let's not talk about the veggie 'meatballs' made from aubergine that disintegrated into mush} but I've built up a nice little collection of the things that have worked, and am excited to share some of these with you below. And if you have any great weekday supper recommendations, I'd love to hear them so I can add them to my Pinterest board! You can tweet me or comment below - I'm sure my readers would be interested too.

S I M P L E  W E E K D A Y  S U P P E R S

Jack Monroe's red lentil bolognese from her book A Girl Called Jack*

Deliciously Ella's baked sweet potatoes from her book Deliciously Ella Every Day*

Quorn Vegan Hot & Spicy Burgers {from the frozen aisle} - in buns with sweet potato fries, or with couscous and salad

Delicious magazine's cheese, tomato and gnocchi bake

Chilli con carne - we make up the recipe each time {!} but BBC Good Food have a classic recipe

Jack Monroe's gigantes plaki from her book A Girl Called Jack*

Yorkshire Provender Rustic Vegetable Broth with Kale, Lentils & Quinoa {find it in the chilled aisle with the soups - it's lovely!}

Rukmini Iyer's crispy gnocchi with peppers and ricotta from her book The Green Roasting Tin*

Deliciously Ella's classic stir fry from her book Deliciously Ella*

Jamie Oliver's roasted vegetables and halloumi traybake

Anna Jones' carrot dahl from her book The Modern Cook's Year*

Maggie's Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup

My parsnip and sweet potato soup, pictured above

Pasta with green pesto, frozen peas and broad beans {similar recipe here}

Rukmini Iyer's crispy gnocchi with mushrooms and butternut squash from her book The Green Roasting Tin*

BBC Good Food's butternut squash and sage risotto

Phil Vickery's French onion soup

Black bean tacos - lots of great recipes online; this one is a good starting point

The Londoner's Swedish meatballs

Jack Monroe's mixed bean goulash from her book A Girl Called Jack*

Dr Oetker's Ristorante Funghi pizza {because we love pizza as a treat!}

Madeleine Shaw's butter bean and cauliflower soup, from her book A Year of Beautiful Eating{I can't find the recipe online for that one frustratingly, but let me know if you'd like it and I can post on here!} 

I hope you find something in the collection above that tempts you!

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.

Maggie's City Guide to Edinburgh - Palace of Holyroodhouse

I've only been to Edinburgh once, and ever since our trip a few years ago I have been itching to go back.

I've also been itching to write this blog post, and it's taken me a long time to finally put pen to paper and share some of our favourite discoveries in the city!
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