How to have a zero waste shower

When the news came out about how lots of our ‘recycled’ plastic actually ends up in dumps on the other side of the world, I realised I had to start cutting down on unnecessary bottles. I’ve always been low-key worried about plastic consumption, and never really saw recycling as the answer, but I’d kind of repressed that worry for years because I didn’t know what to do about it. But after seeing those news reports, and learning about microplastic pollution, I decided that I was going to make changes. At the time, my bathroom was completely covered in tubes and bottles of shower gel (a byproduct of working in the beauty industry and being addicted to long hot showers) and so I decided that once they were all used up, I would try out bar soap in the shower instead. I was worried that bar soaps might dry my skin out – but if that happened, I decided I’d just apply body oil afterwards to counteract the effects.

What it did for my skin

It’s been almost a year since we started using bar soap full time again, and you’ll be amazed to lean that the skin on my body has barely needed moisturising at all in that time. Maybe once or twice a month, rather than after every shower. It turns out that apparently, soap and body skin (still not sure about the face) are perfectly suited, and I actually have SOFTER skin than before! There are lots of ways to use soap – if you rub it on a body puff you’ll be virtually drowning in bubbles before you know it (very fun), but obviously they aren’t ideal because they’re made out of plastic. Otherwise, you can just rub the soap directly all over your body, or rub it in your hands until it lathers, and then massage that all over. You can also buy a natural sponge, but they’re expensive as hell (and not vegan), or a loofah, but they’re pretty harsh and I can’t seem to get them to soften up.

How to shave with soap and a safety razor

Given the hundreds of shaving products lining up alongside all those plastic razors in the shops, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d need something from all those shelves to successfully shave your unwanted body hair. But as it turns out, that’s just not true. Bar soap is perfectly adequate for shaving your skin, and safety razors are brilliant! To get a thick lather for shaving, wet the soap ever so slightly, rub it between your palms to get them well covered, and then rub your hands fairly vigorously over your leg (or wherever) until you get a good layer of white over your skin. Then shave away! It is slightly different to shaving with a disposable, but this blog post is getting long so I’ll revisit that later. My safety razor is by Bambaw, and I like it because it has a bamboo handle, which lessens the amount of metal that went into making it.

What about guests?

I don’t know about you buy I’m not going to make my guests use the same bar of soap as me, or even make them use bar soap at all if they don’t want to. Instead, I keep a glass bottle of Bloomtown Botanicals’ divine Hedgerow Body Wash in the shower for guests to use.

Zero waste exfoliators

I exfoliate with this Body Shop hemp bag – you just put a bar of soap in it and rub all over yourself. But when I remember, I also like to use leftover coffee grounds – I just stir in a bit of coconut oil or tea tree to make sure they don’t go mouldy.

Which soap to choose?

There are sooooo many bars of soap out there that it can be hard to pick (and very easy to go totally wild and fill your bathroom up with them…) so I thought I’d share a list of the ones I’ve tried so far, to give you an idea of what to look for, and what to avoid!

Lush soaps

These were the first we tried, and I hated them. They don’t lather up at all when you rub them on your skin, and don’t leave you feeling particularly clean. I also got a UTI while using them, I don’t know if the two things were related, but I’ve only ever had one UTI in my life before, and haven’t had one since. Do not recommend. 3/10 (only for the scents)

BECO Soap

I’ve tried the honey blossom and spring meadow scents and I think they’re both delicate and lovely. The soap itself cleans really well, and fits into my small hands perfectly. But the most amazing things about this soap are its eco and socially conscious credentials. They employ people with visual impairments, disabilities and financial disadvantages, and go the extra mile to accommodate their employees’ needs. That is tragically unusual, and absolutely brilliant in my opinion. In addition to that, their bar soaps are totally plastic free (including unlaminated boxes, which very few brands actually offer) and their ingredients are sustainably sourced. AND AND AND!!! You can get them in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and the Co-op. Effortless, eco friendly and the most socially conscious company I’ve come across. 11/10

Aesop Cleansing Slab

I’m so frustrated that Aesop wrap this in shrinkwrap plastic! If they didn’t do that, this would be one of my favourite soaps. The scent is divine, it leaves my skin perfectly clean, and it creates a super rich lather. It’s certainly the most expensive soap I’ve tried, but at £17 it’s less than I would have expected from Aesop. If it didn’t have that plastic on it, it’d be a solid ten, but as it is, 8/10

Faith in Nature Lavender Soap

For some reason I expected this to be rubbish, I’m not sure why, but all I can say is I was completely wrong! This is a great soap, really lovely lavender scent, and the best part is, this is one that can be bought completely packaging free in some health food shops! Plastic wrapped in others though. 8/10

Oliva Soap

I like the simplicity and affordability of this soap, but it doesn’t smell good, and it isn’t the most ‘lather-ey’. My skin didn’t feel very clean when I was using it, so I did a second cleanse with the Aesop afterwards. I ended up throwing it away because I couldn’t stand the smell, but it is a very tightly packed soap so it’s good value for money. 2/10

Dr Bronner’s Rose Geranium Soap

Love love love this soap. It’s a great shape, perfect for rubbing all over yourself, and it cleans just as well as their liquid soap. It’s a great option, not too expensive, and very solid so it lasts really well. Oh and, like with BECO, this comes in unlaminated card packaging. 9/10

Suma Rose Geranium Glycerin Soap

I LOVE this soap! I find the way it goes clear when it’s wet to be really satisfying, and the circular shape is really easy to hold. It lathers really well and it also leaves my skin feeling very soft too. This is also another one that you can buy packaging free in health food shops, or in an unlaminated box. 10/10

MOR Cyclamen Tuberose Soap

This is without a doubt the most heavily scented soap I’ve ever had in my possession. Luckily, the fragrance is absolutely divine, it’s like a Diptyque candle! It’s heady and floral but not at all sweet, I really love it. And you can get it from Waitrose. When I bought it I thought I was onto a winner – wrapped in brown card with a beautiful design, held together with a rubber band… but then I opened it and discovered it was wrapped in plastic. Eyeroll. 7/10

Well, I hope you found that useful! I’m on a mission to zero-waste my entire bathroom, so keep an eye out for a follow-up blog post when/if I ever manage it…

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What happened when I tried the ‘curly girl’ haircare method

It’s been a good few months now since I first adopted the ‘Curly Girl’ method of haircare, so I thought it was about time I shared my experience with the world! The curly girl method, or CGM, is a set of rules for taking care of curly hair so as to best preserve curl, strength and shine, whilst keeping frizz and dryness at bay. It was created by hair stylist Lorraine Massey in her book ‘The Curly Girl Handbook’, and it has quite the following nowadays. If you already know about CGM and you’re just wondering about my experiences and routine, then skip this next part! But if you’re new to the method, I’ll start with a quick intro…

Of course I’m also going to pepper this blog post with plenty of photos of my hair, after all, you need to see the proof, right?!

The main rules of CGM

No sulphates or harsh cleansers – these strip the hair of its natural oils and cause dryness. They can be found in almost all shampoos, even ones for dry hair! Use conditioner to wash instead, or one of a select number of shampoos that contain only the most gentle cleansing ingredients.

No harsh alcohols – alcohols can be broken down into two main types; long chain and short chain. Long chain or ‘fatty’ alcohols like stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol are moisturising and nourishing to the skin and hair, whilst short chain, like ethanol, isopropyl and others are very harsh and must be avoided.

No silicones, mineral oil or waxes – these coat the hair, which stops moisture from penetrating it, and can weigh it down. These ingredients also need to be washed out with a sulphate, so are incompatible with CGM cleansing techniques. Luckily there are LOADS of suitable styling products out there, for all budgets. You just have to know which to buy.

No chemical processes, heat or straightening – these weaken the hair and cause breakage, frizz and dryness. You can use a diffuser on a low or medium setting, or a soft t-shirt to dry your hair.

No brushing – this can lead to breakage and split ends. Detangle with fingers instead, and distribute product with a wide tooth-comb.

It can be confusing at first because there are lots of different techniques you can try, and you’ll probably have to replace almost all of your products and start a completely new routine. You also need to start becoming aware of ingredients lists, but there is a website called curlsbot.com that you can use to help you. It might seem like an effort, but it’s so worth it. For me, I’ve always worn my hair curly, so I didn’t really need to change my styling techniques, but I was using a shampoo that was far too harsh, as well as some products that contained silicones and waxes. I was shocked to learn that my ‘dry remedy’ shampoo contained a harsh sulphate, and that my argan treatment oil contained more silicone than oil!

My favourite Curly Girl Method approved products

So, here’s a quick rundown of my routine and the products I use…

Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo Review
Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Treatment Masque Review
Garnier Hair Food Review
Tangle Teezer Curly Hair Review
Shea Moisture Raw Shea Extra Moisture Detangler Review
Twisted Sista Dream Curls Gel Review
Curly Girl Method Products UK

Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo

This shampoo is what’s known as a ‘low poo’ – which means that it contains very gentle cleansing ingredients instead of sulphates. It removes product build-up and grime without stripping the hair of natural oils. I absolutely love this product, it’s amazing how it leaves my hair feeling super clean but not dry or stringy at all. I wash my hair about once a week, so I can get away with using this every time I wash. Lorraine Massey encourages you to try co-washing to begin with, but it doesn’t suit everyone, and it definitely doesn’t work for me. This shampoo is the perfect alternative. (Buy it from Boots – £12.99)

Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Treatment Masque

Because I only wash once a week, I use a really rich moisturising mask to make sure my hair is nourished and softened. This is a really thick mask, and it’s very, very hydrating. I love the smell, and it leaves my hair feeling silky smooth when I rinse it out. I apply a big glob of it to soaking wet hair, and then squish it into my hair (using a technique called ‘Squish to Condish’). When I rinse it out, I try to leave a little at the ends. I also find it to be surprisingly good for detangling! More on that below… (Buy it from Boots – £12.99)

Garnier Papaya Hair Food

This is a fairly new addition to my routine, but one that I am already in love with. The Hair Food masks (there’s also Banana, Aloe and Coconut versions) are ultra moisturising, and a LOT lighter than the Shea Moisture Masks. I like to use this if I’m going for a bouncier curl, knowing that my definition won’t last as long, but that my hair will have more body. I use it on washday in the same way I use the Shea Moisture Mask. I also use it as a leave-in when I want to refresh my hair – to do this I use a technique where I scoop a bit out, wet my hands, and then smooth it over the curls. It takes a while to dry, but it looks gorgeous afterwards! (Buy it from Boots – £3.49)

Tangle Teezer

Not CGM, so if you want to follow it to the letter, skip this part. But because of the amount of hair I have, I would be spending hours upon hours detangling by hand, and I don’t have time for that! I detangle my hair upside down in sections, and make sure to keep both my hair and the brush soaking wet – this makes the conditioner more ‘slippery’ and helps the tangles to come out without breakage. I find that the Tangle Teezer is the gentlest of the three ‘curl friendly’ brushes – the other two are the Denman Brush and the Wet Brush. I’ve used all three a lot, and I find the Wet Brush to be totally inept (the bristles bend) and the Denman to be almost impossible to get through my hair. If you’re going to brush, go for the Tangle Teezer. Another popular use for a brush when you have curly hair is to use it to define your curls – you’ll find loads of tutorials for this on YouTube, and they’re usually done with a Denman Brush, but I find that the Tangle Teezer works amazingly well for that, and I love it when I want to make my hair form big, luscious curls. (Buy one from Boots – £11)

Shea Moisture Raw Shea Extra Moisture Detangler

Whilst this has probably the worst product name in cosmetics history, it’s actually my FAVOURITE product EVER. This is a super super moisturising leave-in, which completely eliminates tangles and deeply hydrates the hair. It eliminates frizz without being heavy, leaving smooth, soft, really well defined, gorgeous curls. Seriously, I have so much love for this product it’s bordering on ridiculous, but it leaves my hair feeling SO GOOD. I apply it to soaking wet, freshly rinsed hair, and I do it in one of two ways. If I want smaller, bouncier curls I smooth this through all of my hair using a technique called ‘praying hands’, and then squish it in to get every hair coated. If I want sleeker, longer curls, then I flip my hair right side up, and smooth it over each curl individually, and again I squeeze it in to make sure it gets on all of the hairs. I was using Lush R&B for years before this, which was a sticky, heavy, waxy leave-in, and it’s such a joy to get all the benefits of that, without the gross residue. If you only buy one CG product in your whole life, make it this. (Buy it from Boots – £10.99)

Twisted Sista Dream Curls Gel

I use a small amount of this soft gel to seal in all the goodness from the rest of my products. It works brilliantly to maintain soft definition, but it’s also really good for getting a ‘cast’, which is basically where your curls are defined to the point of being crunchy. If you use enough to get a cast, you can scrunch it out once your hair is dry (apply some oil to your hands first), and by magic, you get defined, soft, bouncy, frizz free curls! (Buy it from Superdrug – £5.89)

blonde curly hair

My experience

Even though I didn’t make particularly huge changes compared to a lot of people who start doing CGM, I’ve still seen amazing results and I’m over the moon with how my hair looks now. I’ve never been so happy with it! One thing I used to struggle with a lot was how quickly my hair would tangle, and since switching up my styling products, I now no longer have that problem. I don’t have any breakage or split ends, and my hair itself is extremely strong and very healthy (I can say that because my hairdresser told me lol). My hair was doing okay before I started CGM, but I absolutely freaking LOVE IT now. I really recommend giving the Curly Girl Method a try – it will help you to truly understand and enjoy your hair!

a white woman with long curly hair wearing a green cardigan

7 Reasons why ‘detox diets’ are nothing more than a bunch of toxic lies

If you, like me, are ALREADY starting to see January detox and diet talk online, here is a blog post filled with everything you should need to help you ignore it all. With over 13 million posts hashtagged with #detoxtime on Instagram and brands, newspapers and magazines still pushing the ‘new year diet’ agenda, it’s fair to say that detox culture is still hanging on, despite the best efforts of more progressive magazines, webzines and internet users.

If you’re in any doubt as to whether or not the concept of ‘detoxing’ is something you should be buying into, here’s a fact to get you started: Detox is the process by which the liver and kidneys remove toxins that enter the body through eating, drinking, breathing etc, and flushes them out via urine and sweat. Bowel movements also play their part. There is no other form of detox that takes place in the body. No detox tea is ever going to ‘suck’ toxins out of you, it’s just a straight up lie, and you cannot ‘stimulate’ the liver to work more efficiently (at least not by using starvation techniques or drinking juice). Making yourself go to the toilet more often doesn’t mean that your body is ‘flushing’ toxins out. The one and only way to efficiently detox is to have a healthy liver and kidneys. So anyway, lets debunk some myths:

1. Juice Cleanses

Juice cleanses force your body to deal with extremely high levels of sugar with no fibre, fat, protein or complex carbs to actually nourish your body. Whether it’s lemon juice with maple syrup, or a selection of various vegetable juices mixed with ‘superfood extracts’, it makes no difference. Fresh juice contains vitamins and minerals, but you’d consume less sugar if you just ate gummy vitamins (please don’t do that either). 

2. Detox Teas

Detox teas are even worse than juice cleanses. Some of them contain unregulated levels of laxatives and diuretics that will dehydrate you and stop nutrients and real medicines from being absorbed, and can upset the balance of gut bacteria in your digestive system, just like with any bout of the runs. Other detox teas just do absolutely nothing other than cost you a lot of money. Again, they might contain healthy nutrients and be better for you than a sugary coffee, but they do not do anything to ‘detox’ your body. Purging is not detox. 

3. Diets

Detox diets generally rely on you starving yourself and eating lots of leafy salads. And restrictive, temporary diets have been proven, time and time again, to be completely and utterly ineffective. A healthy diet full of veg, wholegrains and freshly prepared food is great, a crash diet is literally one of the worst things you can do, not just to your body, but also to your poor mind.

4. Drinking water to get clearer skin

Water does not ‘flush toxins out of your skin’. When you’re hydrated you sweat more – this sweat forms one half of the oil-water barrier that protects your skin. If there isn’t enough water to make sweat, your skin produces more oil to compensate. This is the only reason why your skin can start to look clearer if you drink more water. Too much oil = spots. More water to sweat = less oil. 

5. Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal absorbs certain poisons from the digestive tract in medical emergencies, but charcoal taken as a ‘detox supplement’ absorbs vital nutrients and some medicines too. Charcoal is good on the skin, but it does nothing for your health if you ingest it, and can actually damage your health by absorbing things that are actually good for you. 

6. Detox ‘symptoms’

Something really awful that detox advocates will talk about are the ‘symptoms’ of detox. They’ll tell you that having an upset stomach, no energy, nausea, headaches, shakes, bad skin, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, are all signs that your ‘detox diet’ is working. This is a big fuckin’ lie. People who give up certain addictive drugs or alcohol go through this when their bodies start to remove those substances. But it’s their bodies, the normal liver-kidney function, that are removing the substances, and it’s the withdrawal from the drugs that makes them feel terrible. It has nothing to do with a damn juice cleanse. If you feel like crap when you do a detox diet it’s because your body is starving and probably overloaded with sugar. It is not healthy.

7. Unhealthy attitudes

The idea of ‘indulge in December then detox in January’ is dangerously close to ‘binge then purge’ and it is not a healthy way for anyone to think. There are people who can’t help but think this way because of eating disorders. Stop making it harder for everyone, stop reinforcing detox culture. Hide the diet ads you see. Don’t buy skinny teas. Unfollow the celebs that sell them. Don’t talk about feeling ‘fat’ and needing to ‘detox’. It is not healthy. The only reason ‘January detox’ exists is to sell us stuff, it’s not for your health. 

Let yourself live

Detox culture is toxic. It’s unsustainable. Making REAL healthy changes like eating nutritions food (no judgement on what the food is, a pizza has more nutrients in it than a bowl of lettuce after all), and drinking more water isn’t interesting, doesn’t make for great marketing material, and certainly doesn’t make you better than anyone else. But if you want to help support your body’s natural detox functions, being well hydrated and getting lots of nutrients though your food really is all you need to do. Love yourself, enjoy winter, have a happy 2019, and ignore marketing messages that prey on your insecurities, because you don’t deserve to put your body through this all.

Further reading…

If you want to know more about detox, and just why exactly it’s a giant scam, here are a few links you might like to read:

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-one-thing-you-need-to-know-before-you-detox/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-cleanseshttps://www.healthline.com/nutrition/detox-diets-101

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dubious-practice-of-detox



How to make the most out of winter

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been experiencing a really weird mix of festive joy and SAD-induced low moods since winter hit this year. I wanted to try and combat this by attempting to take my depression by the horns and focus on embracing and enjoying life, so I wrote out a few ideas for making the most of the next couple of months. And I thought, well, I have a blog, I may as well share! I hope you find some inspo here, from self care to self improvement, fun social ideas and yummy treats. 

Make a seasonal wreath

I know Christmas is almost upon us, but I don’t see why a winter wreath has to be exclusively a Christmas Day thing. It’s a perfect way to bring some nature into your home, in a stylish kind of way. There are wreath making sessions all over the country that you could go to, but what I did instead was buy a handmade wooden wreath at a craft fair, and do it up a bit by adding holly leaves and painting bits of it gold. It looks lovely and wintery up in my flat!

Start a creative home project

This could involve upcycling old picture frames, making a macrame plant hanger, painting some plant pots to look cute and trendy, or even organising your books and DVDs by colour to make a striking feature out of your bookshelves. You could hand make candles or bath products, or dry out some oranges and make pot-pourri. Basically everything on Pinterest. In fact Pinterest is probably your best starting point – create a board with all the projects you would genuinely like to do, and work your way through them! 

Learn something new at home

Short, cold days mean spending more time indoors for most of us – a weekend trip or a night out can really lose their appeal when it’s dark, raining and bitingly cold. Instead, why not invest some time into learning a new skill you can practice at home, perhaps even on your sofa? I’m about to start learning BSL using an at-home course which I’m really excited about! But you could start sketching, doing embroidery, learning a coding language, photography, photoshop, woodworking, making model planes, knitting, baking, yoga, indoor gardening… so many of these things get written off as ‘millennial grandma’ activities but hell, both my grandmas are/were awesome. And actually, innocent hobbies like these are fucking FANTASTIC for your mental health (less innocent hobbies are also included! Doesn’t have to be PG to be good for you). Of course they won’t cure you, and if you have depression you’ll probably abandon a few along the way (hi, me). But carrots don’t make you see in the dark either, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat your veggies, right?

Socialising

On the complete flip side of the last point, is this. Making plans with others and sticking to them is one of the key ways that Norwegian people get through their long, dark winters. I certainly have a tendency to hibernate in winter, which I’m determined to stop doing! It helps to structure your days, get you out of the house, and spend some time laughing and smiling with others. So look up fun free/cheap things to do near you and invite a few friends along! It doesn’t matter if this isn’t something you do very often – so many people are lonely these days that your friends are more than likely aching for extra human contact too. If you really are isolated, and you genuinely don’t have anyone to ask to go out, try the friend section of Bumble or join Meetup.com to find new people. 

Volunteering

Look up opportunities in your area – you could work in the warehouse of your local foodbank, do social media outreach for a local charity, organise clothing collections or meet up with isolated elderly people for a cup of tea. The volunteering world always needs eager, friendly and kind people to give their time, and to give it unconditionally. Also, with the decimation of our social services, many jobs in the health, social care and justice services that were previously paid are now volunteer positions, which is disgraceful, but if you have the time, that’s the only way many vulnerable people will ever get the help they need. And if all else fails, I don’t think there’s a charity shop in the country that will turn you away from a stint volunteering as a sales assistant! 

Bake stuff!

Life’s too short for bullshit January detoxes, diet culture and food shaming. Winter is a time for enjoying wholesome home baked goods, and in our household we plan on embracing this completely! I’ve been enjoying making gingerbread this year, and I think I’m going to try ginger biscuits and maybe even my first ever fruitcake too. James has been perfecting a danish pastries, and he’s gotten really good at them! Here’s a Pinterest board full of yummy treats you might like to try – lots of vegan ones in there too. 

Read! 

If you’re already in the habit of reading, that’s great, but if not, here are some tips. Reorganise your space so that there’s a lamp nearby, which will mean you can read comfortably. Phones and computers can be read easily with a light halfway across the room, but the same can’t be said for books, so make sure your space is adapted for it. Set aside one or two of your evenings in each week where you don’t open your laptop or do extra work. Put music on as soon as you walk through the door, and eat dinner without turning the telly on, because you’re guaranteed to get sucked in if you do! There are so many distractions that it really can be hard for a lot of people to get in the habit of reading, but this should help you make a start. 

Rewatch your favourite films

Buy some snacks, make some popcorn, stock up on DVDs or downloads, light some candles, snuggle under a blanket and shamelessly spend a weekend rewatching every feel-good film you’ve ever loved. Not to bang on about Pinterest, but I do find it particularly useful for organising my thoughts, and I’ve actually created a surprisingly pretty board to remind myself of all the films I enjoy – here’s the link if you want to check it out!

Get outdoors

Not to get all ‘Cordially Invited’ on you, but yes, enjoying the outdoors during winter is GREAT. A winter walk is bracing, beautiful, and fantastic if you suffer from SAD. A walk that doesn’t involve too many slopes is ideal if you want something relaxed, because there’s less risk of slipping on ice (we used to go walk around a beautiful reservoir called Carsington Water when I was a kid, really chilled out but absolutely beautiful). Or you could go ALL the way, rent out some winter hiking gear and attempt Ben Nevis like we did last March 😉 Here is a website full of accessible walks if you or a friend/family member has a disability too: Walks With Wheelchairs

Cook some seasonal yummyness 

I like to keep things fresh and seasonal, and find that it keeps me interested in cooking when SAD and depression take their toll. Of course, James takes over when things get really shit, and makes us yummy, healthy comfort food. Here’s my food Pinterest board for some inspo, I absolutely love using Pinterest to find new and interesting seasonally appropriate meals! 

Declutter and tidy

I recently read an article in Breathe Magazine about a scientific study that was done on cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and its relationship to mess. Cortisol rises throughout the day when you’re at work, and in the study, people who came home to a tranquil, clean environment saw their cortisol levels fall as the evening went on. People who came back to a messy flat did not experience a fall in cortisol levels, and instead their stress levels stayed the same until they went to bed. Having a tidy space does really make you feel better. If you can (i.e. if you aren’t depressed or ill) get up and tidy the area you spend most of your time! Especially in winter when we do spend so much time indoors, being in a pleasant environment is super important. 

8 lovely, simple ways to embrace autumn this year

I don’t know about you but I love autumn. Knitwear, hot chocolate, an excuse to fill my flat with candles and spend evenings reading under a pile of blankets… But more than this, it’s the natural, seasonal changes that I love the most. Darker evenings, crisp mornings, the turning leaves, seasonal vegetables (especially apples, I love in-season apples). There’s a huge trend on Instagram at the moment about embracing seasonality, and I really think it’s wonderful – it inspires people to get out and enjoy nature in different ways, depending on the time of year. Spending time in nature is phenomenally good for our wellbeing, so I thought I would share some of my favourite ways to embrace autumn, but not just outdoors: indoors too (because let’s face it, those cosy evenings inside are THE BEST).

IMG_8763.JPG

Get crafty with a cosy homemade project

Recently I’ve spent a few evenings upcycling a rarely-worn jumper into two cuddly hot water bottle covers, and I’ve also made several vanilla and cinnamon soy candles – I used vanilla extract and cinnamon powder, which smells UNREAL. It’s not that much cheaper to make your own candles really, especially if you use baking ingredients for the scent. But it’s incredibly satisfying and there’s less waste when you’re reusing using old candle glasses. There are so many other things you could try as well – did you know that Flying Tiger (or Tiger? Not sure what they’re called now) sell watercolour colouring books? So you don’t have to be able to draw to use watercolours! And there are dozens of embroidery kits out there too, which is something I’ve got my eye on right now. Whatever crafts you choose, it’s really good to spend a little bit of time focused on creating something. And if you’re feeling daring you could always make a coffee table like I did last month 😉

IMG_8931.jpg

Seek out seasonal foods…

…and cook with them, of course! Supermarkets make it easy nowadays, there’s always a union flag on products that have been produced in the UK. Plus, here’s a great website to help you find seasonal foods. Apples are in season now in the UK, I really have a soft spot for seasonal apples because my family used to grow and sell them. But butternut squash, leeks, kale, shallots, beetroots and more are also all in season in autumn too so get cooking!

Try baking something cosy too

Gingerbread loaf, apple pie, pumpkin tart, carrot cake, cinnamon apple cake, honey cakes… are you salivating yet? I certainly am. It’s not just the joy of eating baked goods of course, it’s also the process of baking that gets you into the autumnal spirit. The spices, chopping and stirring, the oven making everything warm, the smell of a cake as it cooks… it’s all so homely! I love it.

Find a cosy book to curl up with 

There’s the obvious, but still lovely choice of Autumn by Ali Smith, or a modern classic like The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. An exciting new release like Melmoth by Sarah Perry or a brilliant work that’s stood the test of time like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (one of my all time faves). I mean, let’s face it, autumn is the perfect time to spend a rainy day reading that book you’ve always meant to read, with rain hammering against the windows and a hot chocolate in your hand. Here’s another blog post I wrote about brilliant books everyone should read, to get you even more inspired!

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Make more plans 

A tried and true method that Norwegians use to get through the dark (and in Norway it gets reeeeally dark) months of autumn and winter is to make plenty of plans. You don’t need to have a buzzing social life or huge friendship group to do this so if you’re socially anxious don’t panic! Just make plans to do specific things with people you like, with your partner, and even with yourself. It will get you out of the house, and make you feel like you’re making the most of your time.

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Make your home a nice place to be

Making your home a nice place to be is essential during autumn and winter, so that you can really feel relaxed and at ease when the weather is raging outside. There’s a reason that Scandinavians take their homes seriously, and this is it – you need a good base camp to cope with cold, stormy weather. When you’re out on a cold walk, or your feet are soaking from the rain, or you’re at work with a winder cold, you need to know that you have a cosy space to come back to. The first step is to make sure your home is actually warm. Even if you’re renting and can’t really control the insulation or heating system, there are things you can do such as using blackout curtains, which will keep the heat in at night, and picking up some insulating strips to use on doors and windows. Next, get yourself some candles. Nothing makes a home cosier than candles! Wilko do a great selection of affordable ones, or if you live near an Ikea, go wild in their candle section too! Lastly: blankets. Don’t skimp on the blankets. And some soft, brushed cotton bedding, too! James and I have just bought this set, because we live right next to one of London’s deer parks and we can watch the deer grazing from our living room window, so it seems appropriate! Wilko, again, have a fantastic selection of cosy blankets and bedding, and they’re great quality for the price, too. You don’t have to spend a fortune on making your home a cosy, calm space. Even just tidying up can do wonders for that ‘hygge’ feeling!

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Go for an autumn walk

Not to get too simplistic on you here, but if you haven’t yet then get to your nearest botanical garden, nature reserve or park and enjoy the changing leaves, look for squirrels and breathe in that autumnal air. An autumn walk is a magical thing, just make sure you dress appropriately – bring a bag that will fit your coat in if you get too warm, but also bring along a waterproof, gloves and extra socks, because autumn gets cold, it gets wet, and it gets unexpectedly warm too. If you’re well prepared, you’ll be able to enjoy it no matter what. Also – here is a directory of accessible walks across the UK, for people who are disabled.

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Get in the bath

Of course, it wouldn’t be autumn without a hot, candlelit bath, and it wouldn’t be my blog without me recommending one, would it?! Check out this other post I wrote about the best bath products I’ve ever used (out of like, hundreds of products guys, when it comes to baths I do not mess around).

Happy autumn everyone!

 

12 of the best tips for staying cool in the heat

This blog post goes out to all my fellow wilting Brits (and anyone of any other nationality who lives here and has acclimatised to our usual rainy drudgery). We’re struggling right now. It’s rough.

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I felt like I was gonna faint when I took this photo and it was literally 10am

I’ve found it strangely hard to find good, practical advice about staying cool in the heat. I think this is probably because apart from Northern Europe, we’re the only country that has this problem because everywhere else is well prepared, with aircon and homes that are designed to let heat out in the summer. It’s really, really tough to not be able to cool down. I’m finding that my anxiety is getting worse, and I know other people are struggling in even worse ways. So I spent a little while compiling advice from various sources in the hopes that you’ll find some things that actually work for you.

1. Damp face cloths

Not the most glamorous or tidy option, but keeping a few damp washcloths in a bowl in the fridge is a lifesaver when you need to cool down quickly. Just get them out, and lay it over the back of your neck, on your forehead, or use a few and lay them over your arms and legs. If you do this just before you get into bed, it should help keep you cool enough to drop off to sleep.

2. Keep fizzy and still water in the fridge

It’s absolutely essential to keep cold water in the fridge in heat like this. So refreshing and quenching! I find that too many fizzy drinks make my teeth feel furry, but I love the refreshing feeling of the fizz, so I keep fizzy water in the fridge, though obviously that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Whatever you drink, make sure you have enough of it for your wee to be pale. If it isn’t, you aren’t drinking enough.

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At least these echinacea are loving the weather

3. Windows at dawn

If you can sleep with your windows open, I’ll assume you’re doing it already. If you can’t, set an alarm for 5am, open them all up, and go back to bed. Your home will be much cooler when you wake up to start the day. Likewise, when you go out, close your curtains and leave the windows open as far as you safely can.

4. Cool the breeze

At night, hang a damp tea towel in front of any breeze you might be able to create (whether from a fan or an open window). This drastically cools the air down, but because tea towels are so thin it doesn’t stop the breeze from getting to you. You can also use a length of a thin fabric like muslin.

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Maybe you could stay cool if you lived in this topiary hide?

5. Wear white when you go out

Yeah we’re at that stage of heat where I no longer think this is a ridiculously middle aged thing to do. Cover up in white. Get yourself a linen shirt or trousers. It really, REALLY makes all the difference.

6. Use a black umbrella as a parasol

See above. Nuff said.

7. Get dramatic

Wet a large towel with cold water, wring it out, then lie on the floor underneath it and fan yourself with a stiff piece of card. If anyone sees you, who gives a fuck. It’s hot as balls.

8. Ice water bottle

Half fill a hot water bottle with water, then stick it in the freezer. About half an hour before bed, take it out and put it in your bed, to cool your sheets. Then, cuddle the bottle like you would in the winter, or if you’re like me, rest your feet on it. Just wrap it in a towel first!

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Limiting activity and taking lots of breaks is also a good way to cope in hot weather, but it’s just no fun

9. Water sprays

When I worked in central London, in an office with no air con, we kept a supply of Caudalie Grape Water in the fridge and sprayed it ALL THE TIME. You can do this with Avene Thermal Water or any other brand that sells the big sizes of aerosol cans, or you can just get a couple of spray bottles from a garden centre, fill them with tap water and spray them all over your face, neck, chest, arms and legs whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed from the heat.

10. A cold ending

When you’re showering (if you’re anything like me this is certainly happening more frequently than usual), gradually turn the temperature of the water down, until by the end of the shower it’s completely cold. When I was in the Amazon we only had freezing cold water and I found it HORRIBLE to have that jolt of cold when the shower turned on. If you like that feeling, then go ahead and have a fully cold shower, but I can’t stand it, so I let it happen gradually instead.

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Literally two seconds away from just jumping in tbh

11. Sleep under a wet sheet

At this point, pretty much everything we’ve been taught about not getting things wet incase they get mildew has gone out of the window. Even if your mattress gets wet, it won’t stay wet in this weather. So if you’re really struggling to sleep, take a sheet, get it wet, and sleep under it. Apparently this is what the Egyptians used to do! Just maybe put a towel underneath you to limit how much your mattress does get soaked.

12. And finally, don’t leave the house without…

A spare pair of socks and baby powder if you have to wear shoes to work.

Sunscreen (you need to be wearing this every day now, without fail, this is holiday weather).

Deodorant.

Your favourite thigh-rub remedy if needed.

Flip flops for your journey to and from work.

A mini water spritz (Caudalie, Avene, Evian and Mario Badescu do good mini sizes).

A massive bottle of water.

Blister plasters.

And a hand held or makeshift fan.

Good luck! Together we might survive climate change for a few more years 🙂 

Spring Clean with KINN* – toxin free, natural products for body and home!

Thinking about doing a bit of spring cleaning? Perhaps you’ve read the recent news stories about household cleaning products being an underestimated source of air pollution? Or maybe you heard about the new research, which has found that women are more likely to experience respiratory illnesses due to inhaling cleaning products over extended periods of time? Not long ago I tweeted about how looking after your home is a form of self care, but how can it be when the products required to clean a home are so dangerous? These news stories really left me feeling a bit despondent.  Luckily for me, when these stories were published, I had been invited to try a new, non-toxic and organic lifestyle brand called KINN… and trust me, you’ll want to learn all about this amazing brand too!

Four bottles. One is a body lotion bottle, one is a bath oil, one is a kitchen cleaner and one is washing up liquid. there are two plants behind them.

KINN products are non-toxic, vegan, and have fully traceable ingredients (which is something that very few brands actually have). The brand was created by mother-daughter duo Marie and Sophie, who set out with the aim of creating products for the body and home that would be enjoyable and effective to use, without doing damage to the consumer or the environment. I’ve tried four KINN products so far, two from their cleaning range and two from their body care range, and have been absolutely delighted with every single one of them!

Two bottles sit on top of three cookbooks. The bottles are washing up liquid and kitchen cleaner in modern, clean packaging. A plant is next to them.

Eco Friendly Kitchen Cleaner – £3.50

This is without a doubt the best cleaning spray I’ve ever used. It’s anti-bacterial but not in the same way that Dettol is anti-bacterial – instead of horrific chemicals, KINN use rosemary and lavender extracts to kill off unwanted germs sustainably. The scent is absolutely beautiful, a clean rosemary scent, and it cuts through dirt to leave surfaces absolutely sparkling clean. I actually really do not like cleaning, but the gorgeous scent of this stuff, and how satsfying it is to just absolutely blast through kitchen worktops, the hob, cubboard doors etc with this stuff makes it so much more enjoyable.

Eco Friendly Washing Up Liquid – £3.50

Easily the best washing up liquid I’ve ever used. Although in this country, everything that goes down the drain is heavily treated before being released back into the ecosystem, I do know that your water company’s job is made a lot harder when weird chemicals go into the mix. So when I put things down the drain, I prefer them to be as natural as possible. This is an absolutely brilliant washing up liquid, it’s so effective, it’s kind to my hands and smells wonderful; those lavender and rosemary extracts again.

Two white bottles sit on a white tile in front of two green plants. The bottles are of body lotion and bath oil.

Organic Body Lotion – £18

This body lotion is absolutely stunning, and is 90.9% organic, amazingly. The scent is ylang ylang and lavender, with orange in there too to lift it up. The base is sunflower seed, shea and cocoa butter which makes it rich, but absorbs really beautifully. And there’s aloe vera in there too which gives it a gorgeously soothing feel as you massage it in. A little goes a very long way too, and I find that when I use it after I shave my legs, it completely prevents any dryness from occurring, which is a recurring problem for me with shaving – so it’s clearly an amazing body lotion if it can treat that!

Organic Bath Oil – £28

This might actually be my favourite product of the four I’ve tried. It’s not like any other bath oil I own, which have very herbal scents like arnica, pine or rosemary. This is a delicate, uplifting scent that put me in a good mood as soon as I poured it in. The scent comes from tangerine oil, lavender and ylang ylang and it’s just so lovely. The oil blend is composed of sweet almond, grape seed, avocado and sunflower seed oils which are very good for nourishing the skin, but they are all very easily absorbed meaning it doesn’t make your bath or your skin oily. There’s added vitamin E for extra skin-loving nutrients. Every time I have a bath in this I just do not want to get out, ever! The oil is 100% natural and 99.5% organic too. It doesn’t get better than that.

I hope you enjoyed reading about KINN, this brand has been an absolute revelation to me and I can’t believe how much I enjoy using their home cleaning products! They have lots of other gorgeous sounding products too, including a body oil and body wash, a bathroom cleaner and a floor wash. I really want to try their body wash, it sounds divine!! You can buy KINN products on their website here, or they are also available in Waitrose.