17 Jul 2019

book reviews: medical/science (feat. Adam Kay, Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell, Henry Marsh and Nigel McCrery)

Continuing the themed book reviews I'm intent on doing, this month, it's medical/science books. There are two types of non-fiction I absolutely adore reading: funny books and geeky books about medicine and forensics. The first one fits into both categories while the other three a bit more nerdy! So here we go!

This is Going to Hurt - Adam Kay

A colleague recommended this book to me so I knew I had to give it a good read. Spoiler alert: I was absolutely not disappointed by it.

It's a funny read from the beginning with an extremely sad ending. For anyone who is a junior doctor, the angst Adam Kay goes through is something we've all experienced. From feeling out of our depth to not being able to do our job justice due to work and time pressures all the way to losing patients we genuinely warmed to. At points, it hit a bit too close to home. The fact he manages to create humour from it is testament to him. Comedy's gain is the NHS' loss.

And for those not in medicine? It makes a light-hearted read (until you get to the end) and it will leave you wanting more. Parts of it have been embellished I'm sure, but the overall theme is one all junior doctors will experience nearly every day. 9/10

Silent Witnesses - Nigel McCrery

This forensics book is very different to many others I've read. Instead of centering itself around cases, it goes through each of the major technologies used in forensics, how they evolved and how they have helped solve cases throughout history. It's a different set-up and I actually really enjoyed it. It had the potential to be boring with a structure like that but it actually worked really well! 8/10

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies and the Making of a Medical Examiner - Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

As humans, we're all naturally curious (some more than others!) and we all have a dark side. This book brought those two traits of mine together. Judy does a good job of giving a bit of background to her patients and the processes used to come to a conclusion. I found parts of it heartbreaking - the chapter around 9/11 was a particularly difficult read. The fact that she knew her job would be ridiculously busy in the aftermath and knowing that all of the victims had to be identified with their families informed broke my heart a little. I found her job fascinating though - not a career I'm considering but can definitely see why it could appeal. 8/10

Admissions: Life As a Brain Surgeon - Henry Marsh

Having read Mr Marsh's first offering of Do No Harm, I knew I would eventually get round to reading his second book. It's a different one compared to his first. He talks more about Nepal and the work he's done overseas and there is an edge of frustrating to a few of the chapters. It's definitely not a light-hearted read but I wouldn't call it a heavy one either.

Mr Marsh practised at my medical school's hospital and knowing the area pretty well, I could actually picture parts of his book in my head quite vividly! He writes very well and is very engaging when it comes to telling stories from his own life as well as the story behind some of his patients too. 8/10

** all book covers from Amazon.co.uk **

10 Jul 2019

my skincare routine: finding holy grails and trying to keep it all within budget

Skincare and make up is something I got into a few years ago and since then, the obsession has exploded. I've done reading on the different ingredients and what they do to skin and also which layers should go where and how often certain exfoliators should be used, etc. It actually came in useful in my job when I had a patient come in to ask about treatments for acne - although it can be a medical condition, using the right skincare can also help! I used to have quite mild acne and it cleared up with using the right skincare products and the combined contraceptive pill without any need for antibiotics or other stronger anti-acne medications which have side effects. (I still get the odd spot here and there but nothing like before!)

Anyway, let's talk about the routines! I last blogged about my routine in May 2017 and there have been some significant changes!

Morning Routine

I start off with using cold water splashed on and then patted dry with a cotton flannel. 

1. Melano CC Vitamin C serum/Kiehl's Clearly Correction Dark Spot Solution

I start with this on any old scars which need fading. The Melano CC works a treat and I find the fading is obvious from day two! The Kiehl's one I'm still testing - it was a gift from my sister!

2. Cosrx BHA Blackhead Toner Liquid

I genuinely think this is one of the reasons my skin has cleared up dramatically. BHAs can draw out impurities and keep pores unclogged. I recommended it to my sister a few years ago for this reason and she has sworn by this same product ever since.

3. Kikumasamune High Moist Lotion

Ceramides aplenty in this lotion! Ceramides are great at locking in moisture and maintaining that moisture barrier. I had to slip in ceramides to my morning routine somehow! This is a great way - this lotion is more of a liquid and absorbs super quickly. Ideal for mornings when you are a bit behind schedule! Some people use more than one layer but for me, I find one is sufficient. 

4. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo [+]

I've been a loyal user of this for many years now. I didn't think it did much but when I stopped using it for a few months, I noticed an increase in breakouts. The Niacinamde helps keep my skin clear whilst brightening it up, giving that all-important healthy glow. Honestly one of my holy grails! Every time Escentual do their French Pharmacy promotion, I buy three or four until the next promotion a few months later. 

5. A moisturiser: depending on what my skin feels like that day/the weather, usually one of the following: Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Gel Cream, Cerave Facial Moisturising Lotion with SPF, Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream or Rosette Ceramide cream.

So there are quite a few products here! Let me explain how I choose. 

Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Gel Cream: for days where my skin feels dry but the weather is going to be cool.

Cerave Facial Moisturising Lotion: for days that are hotter and where there is the potential that I may end up a bit sweaty at points!

Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream: winter days where it is cold and windy.

Rosette Ceramide cream: cool temperatures or cold temperatures which aren't too windy. 

Evening Routine

1. Pixi Glow Tonic 

Another one that I've used for a few years ago. Still not sure it does anything and now that The Ordinary have come out with an alternative, I will give that a go once this bottle is done. I always start my evening routine with an AHA of some kind though.

2. Hada Labo Gokujun Hyaluronic Lotion

I bought this on the whim whilst in Hong Kong last February. It was cold, my skin was dry and I hadn't brought enough moisturising products with me. This was priced at around £7-8 equivalent and having seen some rave reviews for it, I knew I had to try it. It's great! I'm going to try their premium version once this one is done but Hada Labo could become a company I'm very keen on!

3. Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid

Another Dr Jart+ offering! Can you tell I'm a huge fan? They are on the pricier end but I have yet to find a line with so many ceramide laden products that work well on my skin. I have tried the Holika Holika line but it didn't mix well with other layers or make-up. This one is a liquid which can be patted on and I have noticed that my skin is plumper the next day when I've used this.

4. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

More Niacinamide because you can never have enough! At £5 a bottle and with a bottle lasting me about two months, this product is totally worth it. I get a lot of 'bang for my buck' as some of the Reddit forumites say!

5. Simply Pure Hydrating Serum

This serum is extremely cheap and can be found in Superdrug. It also has three types of ceramide in (similar to the Dr Jart+ products I use) but I've found that the more ceramides I use, the better the outcome. I may see if this alone does the trick once I run out of all of my Dr Jart+ products.

6. Hyasoft Instant Moisture Boost

I got this in the M&S Beauty Advent Calendar last year and honestly, it's been a revelation. The first night I used it, I remember saying 'meh' out loud. When I woke up the next day, the glow was unreal! However, when I looked up the price (£19!), I was put off a bit. That said, this tube has lasted me a good four months or so with daily use. I'm tempted but need to finish a few other products first before I consider purchasing this one.

7. M&S Ultimate Sleep Cream

Another M&S Beauty Advent Calendar offering. I love the smell of this (though I can imagine some people disliking the strength of it) and it's quite a thick, moisturising cream which feels luxurious on the skin. Again, I wake up with the softest of skin the next morning. Tempted to re-purchase but have a few other products to finish first!

Other Products

These are products I sometimes use instead of the ones above or in addition to depending on what my skin is doing.

1. Mizon Overnight White Sleeping Mask

I use this one on the nights as a final where when it feels like my skin needs an extra bit of moisture locking in.

2. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This peel gets used once a week as a more intensive treatment. Usually in place of whichever AHA was due to be used.

3. The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

I use this once twice a week - Sunday nights and Wednesday nights in place of my AHA. Seem to have a good effect so far and I've noticed a decrease in the number of spots I'm getting.

4. Laneige Vitamin Brightening Cleansing Water

This cleansing water gets used periodically, on days where my skin seems duller than usual. I haven't noticed much difference with it but then again, I have only used it a few times!

5. Banila Co Clean It Zero

This gets used on the days where I've worn make-up. It's a great oil cleanser which melts off all of my make-up without making my skin feel tight and dry.

6. Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

Used before Clean It Zero to get some of the make up off in preparation for an oil cleanse.

7. Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Oil Balm

Mainly used in the winter as a last layer at night to add some extra moisture.

8. Alpha H Liquid Gold

Used twice a week (Monday nights and Thursday nights) in place of the Pixi Glow Tonic. I'd use this every night if I could (it's that good) but the last time I did that, I killed off my moisture barrier and it took a while to get it back.

9. Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream

On dark spots/areas of redness/areas that need healing fast. It works like magic, if you can see passed the fact that the key ingredient is from snail slime!

10. Avene Cleanance Expert Emulsion

I've yet to see any effect from this so I'm basically using it for the sake of using it. I won't be purchasing this product again!

So there you have it. A bit of a tour of what's on my shelf in my bathroom! I'm still trying to find cheaper alternatives which work just as well as the more expensive products I use (ahem, Dr Jart+) but until I do, I'll stick with my premium ones. They inflict a bit of a dent in my monthly salary but for that extra confidence boost of glowy skin, it's totally worth it. At least for the time being...!

26 Jun 2019

what's in my bag #23: a new addition!

I bought this Kate Spade bag in the sale earlier this month. It's perfect - small enough to fit the essentials, not too big for me to stuff it with everything and the kitchen sink and can be worn as a grab bag or with a detachable shoulder strap. I don't actually own many black or crossbody bags so this is perfect to cover both bases.

The bag has an outside slip pocket which can fit a few slim things.

And the contents of the bag itself:

With the contents of the slip pocket in the bottom row:

Contents (top left, clockwise): water bottle, stethoscope, make up bag with basic medicines and make up, a Katie Leamon notebook, portable charger, tote bag, hand cream, pocket tissues, chewing up, lip balm, a Lamy Al-Star fountain pen, another lip balm, more chewing gum!, dried fruit and nuts, glasses (just in case as I tend to wear contact lenses!). 
I still think I carry a bit too much! Sometimes, my shoulder does ache from carrying all of this around. In those instances, I whip the tote bag out and transfer the heavier items into it and sling it onto the opposite shoulder. I've found it hard to whittle down what to carry though - I think all of these are essentials! In the summer, it's even more difficult as I sometimes cram a few of these items in my coat pockets (Barbour jackets are amazing for extra pockets) and of course, no coats are worn during the summer (but this is the UK so anything could happen!).

This has become my favourite work bag on the days I am on site where I have a locker. Otherwise, I use my Longchamp as this one is a bit too precious for me to not leave locked up. Anyone else do something similar? 

19 Jun 2019

book reviews: books by people in comedy (Joe Lycett, Sarah Millican, James Acaster, Aziz Ansari)

I've been reading solidly this year (twenty-one books so far!) and thought I'd return to doing a few brief book reviews. This year, I thought I'd categorise them a bit so in this first instalment: books by people in comedy. I watch a lot of comedy on TV and have yet to go to a proper show in person. It's actually one of my goals for this year and once I start my new job in August (which is purely Monday to Friday, 9-5, no weekends/nights/antisocial shifts), I am hoping to head to one then. Especially as one day a week is spent in Central London!

Anyway, there are many comedians I have found funny over the years. Some I didn't think were funny to begin with but seeing them on a programme they wouldn't usually be on changed that (James Acaster is the perfect example here: I didn't find him hilarious on Mock the Week but when I watched an episode of the Great British Bake Off: Stand Up to Cancer where he was one of the bakers, I found myself belly laughing at every quip he came up with!). This post features books from Joe Lycett, Sarah Millican, James Acaster (of course) and Aziz Ansari. I was going to put Adam Kay's This Is Going to Hurt in here too but I have saved that for a more medical/science edition!

Parsnips, Buttered: How to win at modern life, one email at a time - Joe Lycett

If you've ever seen Joe Lycett on 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, you'll know that he loves writing a complaint email or two. And he does them extremely well! This book just expands on that and how he manages to create hilarity out of even the most mundane of situations. His drawings in it also add to this hilarity and I found myself laughing out loud at least once every five minutes - good job I live alone, eh! 

If you love a book that is full of anecdotes of situations where Joe capitalises on the opportunity to write a sassy email or two about something negative that has happened to him, this is the book for you. You'll tear through it in no time. I found myself finishing it in two evenings! 8/10

How to be Champion: My Autobiography - Sarah Millican

I love a strong female comedienne and Sarah Millican is definitely one of those! Her book has done a good job of transferring her Geordie humour onto paper, whilst still maintaining a moderately serious tone with her tips at the end of each chapter on 'how to be champion'. She writes about romance, friendship, being bullied, each career she's had and also about family. Though not an autobiography in the chronological sense, it touches on each part of her life and how it has made her the person she is now. And with plenty of humour too. 

And I also like how she writes about not having kids. I think too many women are judged on whether or not they've given birth, and if not, when they are planning to have children. In this day and age, why can we not just be career women, or a someone who likes their life the way it is? For me, this was the best message she could have conveyed in her book and I would urge all young, strong women read her book just for this alone. 9/10

James Acaster's Classic Scrapes - James Acaster

Having seen James Acaster on Would I Lie to You?, I knew the stories about 'cabbaging' and him sleeping in a dress would come up. And I was not disappointed! These are just two of many funny stories of situations James has got himself into. I'm sure if we all looked back on our own lives, there would be stories similar to his but he manages to tell them all in an endearing way. I think he's a comedian who has grown and got funnier over the years and this book is evidence of that.

If you're after a light-hearted read or have had a spate of bad luck recently, this is definitely the book to get stuck into. 8/10

Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari

One of my friends from medical school actually recommended I read this a number of years ago. With the rise and success (if we can call it that) of various dating apps worldwide, this book writes about how romance and dating have changed to the state it is in now. If you've ever used a dating app, it actually makes a lot of sense! Our generation meet people very differently. I've met patients in their 80s and 90s who have been married for 50/60/70 years and met their partner at a dance or were neighbours, etc. Now? We meet people through jobs, through friends of friends, through apps! And we're very much an 'instant' generation which makes it enticing to swipe for a date. Aziz backs up his observations with studies and expert opinions too so it's not just a bloke who's opinionated about dating!

Definitely worth a read. I'm not ashamed to admit I've used a dating app or two and it's interesting how much of it you can relate to if you've ever gone through all of that! 8/10

** all book covers from Amazon.co.uk **

12 Jun 2019

the parker IM special edition in midnight astral

A Parker fountain pen was my first ever fountain pen and at school, I used various models. My mum's Parker 45 was my absolute favourite and as a result, the Parker 45 will always have a special place in my heart. Parker have slipped off the fountain pen radar somewhat in recent years. I would say that their popularity ebbs and flows with their vintage offerings more popular than their modern counterparts. However, it appears they are trying to change this with the introduction of a Special Edition IM line. 

Here, I present to you the Parker IM Special Edition in Midnight Astral with a medium nib. The rest of this post is pictorial so sit back and enjoy!

*** Disclaimer: This pen was provided by Executive Pens Direct for an honest review. It has been reviewed as impartially as possible and all views are my own. Thank you to Executive Pens Direct for working with me.***

22 May 2019

introducing the pilot lucina yellow fountain pen with a fine nib

Yellow is a colour I often overlook for fountain pens (not quite sure why!) so when I saw this Pilot Lucina, I knew it would be a perfect addition to my pen collection. The yellow was the first thing drawing me to it and knowing that I would more than likely get on with the nib instantly, I knew this pen would be a winner. And I wasn't wrong.

Design and Usability

I love the bright yellow barrel with the black and gold coloured accents. To me, it's a cheerful pen which will always raise a smile each time it is used. The only thing I don't particularly like is the word 'Lucina' across the black band on the cap - but that's such a minor thing, I can overlook it.

Made of plastic, it is lightweight in hand and ensures an even distribution of weight whether or not the cap is posted when in use. Honestly, I have found this pen a pleasure to write with during long periods.


As always, not a bad word to say about the nib. Pilot really do know how to knock it out of the park with excellent nibs. Predictably, I went for the fine nib and it writes a true fine line with no feedback, no scratchiness and excellent ink flow. With finer nibs, we often say that inks with sheen don't show off this property as much as it could; however, I have inked this pen with Diamine 'Robert' and there was sheen aplenty.


I ordered this all the way from Japan for around £40 including postage and I definitely would pay that again. But I would say that for many of Pilot's fountain pen offerings. The main selling point would be the nib and I guess you could say that the Pilot Metropolitan would be just a good a pen for a fraction of the price.


I bought this pen because I wanted an affordable yellow fountain pen. This one came within budget and was from a brand I trusted. The nib was pretty much guaranteed to be perfect for me and I knew that the build quality would be decent.

However, for the price, you might be better off going for a Pilot Metropolitan. If, however, you're thinking of this or a Pilot Prera, I'd probably recommend the Pilot Lucina. The Pilot Prera is a short pen whereas the Lucina is more 'normal-sized'.

In my opinion, this pen is perfect for students, essay writers, story writers and just anyone who writes for long periods of time. The lightweight pen is perfect for those long sessions (precisely what I need for those long ramble journaling sessions or study sessions) without inducing severe hand cramp.

15 May 2019

smythson of bond street duke's organiser (A5 size equivalent)

Back when I was still a student, I had a Smythson Bond Street organiser which I absolutely loved. However, I stopped using it because it seemed a bit too small for me and the A5 seemed to be too large a size for my needs. The Smythson A5 size is called the 'Duke' whereas the personal sized one is called the 'Bond street' - bit misleading as their brand name is Smythson of Bond Street! 

Anyway! When I was hunting for an A5 Filofax to use, I found this Smythson Duke's organiser on eBay for a fairly good price. I just couldn't resist and before long, it was in my hands. It's a neutral colour with the gold accents coming from the clasp. 

Comparing it to the A5 Filofax Original I have, this Smythson is much heavier and feels like it is made of better leather (as expected with its RRP!). The clasp on this Smythson seems a bit more flimsy compared to the A5 Filofax one and one other negative is that the pen loop is made of leather and can only take a slim pen as a result. I guess some elastic would have cheapened the look somewhat but it would have been nice to be able to put a fountain pen in the pen loop!

The layout inside is exactly the same as the Bond Street sized organiser by Smythson. 

This really is a lovely organiser but due to its weight and inability to hold a fountain pen in the pen loop, I think the A5 Filofax may be my everyday carry, with the odd moment in this Smythson (for when I want that bit of luxury)! 

8 May 2019

introducing: the moonman 80, a modern ode to the parker 45

Back when I was about 14/15 years old, my mum let me use her Parker 45 fountain pen. It had a gloriously fine nib and is potentially the start of my obsession with fountain pens. Since then, I've not found a Parker 45 in the same design (red barrel, steel cap) which writes as finely as hers did. Even when I tried to insert the nib into another Parker 45, it didn't seem to write as finely as I remember?

When I heard that Moonman were releasing a tribute to the Parker 45, I wanted in to see if it could be just as good. I opted for the olive colour and the teal offering too.

Design and Usability

The design is similar to the Parker 45 so aesthetically, it looks good. The plastic barrel and steel cap make for a lightweight pen, cap posted or unposted. I can't really fault its design but it does feel more flimsy than the two other Parker 45s I have used (one being the one mentioned earlier and another being an all-steel offering). The slip cap glides on smoothly and seems to form a tight seal. 


I found both nibs a bit disappointing. Poor ink flow, scratchy and although I went for a fine nib, it wrote a disappointingly broad line. All in all, not really the ideal nib for me and the line was too broad for me to consider tuning the nib for better ink flow.


Extremely cheap - they came whizzing all the way from China for less than a fiver each if I recall correctly!


Although the Moonman 80 looks like the Parker 45 in design, it does not match up in usability. I guess you really do get what you pay for sometimes! I think I'll stick to the real thing in the future... That said, it's not a bad starter pen which sports a classic design.

1 May 2019

full circle: back in a filofax but this time, an A5 original!

Many moons ago, I wrote about my disappointment with the Filofax brand. There were many things: the ring problems, the paper quality, the leather quality, etc. Fast forward a number of years and I have decided to give them another try - mainly because my sister uses an A5 Filofax and has had no issues with hers. Back in the day, I preferred the 'personal' size but reflecting on my needs now, an A5 size felt like the better fit.

I compared the prices of current A5 Filofaxes and narrowed it down to a few options. I knew I wanted leather and something timeless and neutral in colour. It just so happened that this A5 Filofax Original in nude turned out to be the cheapest and I succumbed to ordering it from Amazon as I had a gift card to use, bringing the cost down further. This happens to be the exact same model as the one my sister has too and we're embracing being Filofax twins.

When it first arrived, five of the six rings were perfect. The top ring had a 1.5mm gap to it and I noted that pages kept catching on it so back it went. A replacement arrived a couple of days later and I'm pleased to report this one had no page catching issues though the top ring still looks a bit precarious.

The leather is a lovely patent nude with rough edges which I'm okay with. These pictures make it look lighter than it is - it is more of a true nude in real life.

On the inside, there is an elasticated section which can potentially hold two pens (one would have to be a slim one!), with two card slots and a larger full length slot for anything you choose. As always, I have made a dashboard at the front using the clear plastic that initially came with the Filofax. I have replaced the Filofax dividers with Smythson ones (more on the Smythson in the next few weeks). I prefer the thicker card of these Smythson ones as they feel a lot more durable.

Behind the first divider is a page with some essential info on and to-do lists.

Hiding behind the second one are budget planning sheets and notepaper.

Behind the third section is my planner which I have opted to get from Kikki-K. Let me just say, the paper is unrivalled. It takes fountain pen ridiculously well and the bright white paper is a nice contrast to the blue ink I have decided to use (Kyo-no-Oto Hisoku). There is a year planner, a month planner and a weekly planner within these inserts.

The month inserts have clean lines with a handy 'notes' section on the right side. Each box leaves plenty of space for events that need noting down.

At the top, I have used a Midori clip to denote which month we are currently in and of course, from today, I will be using number '5'.

The inserts themselves are minimalistic and have the bare minimum on them. My only gripe is that there is a slot each day for a 'birthday' which seems a bit excessive. However, I've found more than enough space for each day. Next year, I'll probably go for a week on one page with a notes page on the other side.

Going back to my old ways, I like to add in colour, stickers and washi tape :-)

The final section has a host of notepaper in too. I've got an assortment of notes in here and the one I've shown is what I need to finish this year in training (which runs until August 2019) and what I need if I decided to opt for Emergency Medicine as a career. This is so I can stay focussed with my eyes on the prize.

Unfortunately, I'm still finding the Filofax paper to be a bit shoddy on quality so I've resorted to ordering some 90gsm A5 plain paper to print on and punch myself.

At the back, I have a zipped pocket from Kikki-K, currently empty but will fill up in no time. There is also an A5 Tomoe River paper notebook (unfortunately, I've forgotten the brand!).

Though still early days in this Filofax, I am already preferring it to the Leuchtturm I was using. As much as I liked using a bound diary, it did irk me that I'd have to transfer information from one planner to another. I also don't like writing things down and then not being able to rip it out and shred/recycle it once no longer needed. Hopefully, this Filofax will serve me better!