Thursday, 30 April 2015

Monthly Favourites - April

Another month comes to an end and this month I have to admit that I have had another slight lapse in the frugality department and have bought a couple of new items for my capsule wardrobe. I have now virtually completed the Spring/Autumn/Winter version, so these were some of the final things I needed to buy in this regard. I haven't actually considered if there is anything I need for summer, just a few vest/sleeveless tops I think might suffice.

I purchased these particular items at this point in the year, mainly because they were in a half price sale on ASOS's website, but I am so not regretting it, as I'm pretty sure I could never have got such good deals anywhere else.

The first was this pair of black knee high leather boots which at £37.50 were a great price. They were a bit of a gamble, as I have rather a wide calf, so I wasn't sure if they would fit me in this area.  I sized up one size for this reason, which I often do with boots. When they actually arrived, they fitted pretty well.  I wasn't so keen on the fact that they don't have a full length zip, which makes them a little tricky to take off, but once I'd tried them on with tights, I found this a lot easier. I really like them though and they are a nice simple design and will look good worn with skirts next autumn/winter. These have replaced the Clark's boots which I had had for a good few years and which I have recently donated, as they were looking very tired and I no longer enjoyed wearing them.

The second item was this pair of leather Chelsea ankle boots at £33. I finally parted with my pointed black (previously tan - I dyed them) Chelsea boots this year in my wardrobe shake up, as they were falling apart and I couldn't see a way to repair them. These I bought to replace them, as they are a great boot for everyday wear in the autumn/winter/spring, especially with trousers.  I love the contrast trim on these. I've worn them once and found them very comfortable, if a little stiff. I think they just need wearing in a little.  I am leaving them in my spring/summer capsule, as I think I might wear them quite a bit in the next couple of months.  Good for rainy days.

Moving away from relatively big purchases, I did also buy a couple of small things this month, one of which was this Scandalous Nude Khol Eyeliner by Rimmel.  I heard about this on a YouTube video and thought I might like to try it to brighten up my eyes a little.  I had tried Little Bird's white eyeliner, but wasn't so enamoured by it. This one, however, is perfect and I really enjoy wearing it on my waterline. You can tell I've been using it a lot as it is already looking a little messy and needs a good sharpen. (Please note, it was bought before I made a firm decision to go 'organic and natural'.)

One other favourite this month is another show I've started to watch on Netflix called Bloodline. After finishing watching the final two episodes of Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, I was looking around for another series to watch.  I had initially started watching the first episode of this new series with OH, but at the time we both decided it wasn't for us and didn't even finish watching it.  Anyway, I've gone back to it and this time around I'm loving it.  It's set in the Florida Keys and is about the secrets/lies, etc. that lay beneath the surface of a prominent family's life.

Finally, I have also been loving this candle bought for me for Mother's Day by Little Bird.  It is a grapefruit scented soy wax candle and smells divine.  I love, love, love it.  That's all for this month. I'll be back with more favourites next month.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Food Shop Fest

Monday this week, was my first attempt at doing as much of a shop as possible, buying natural and organic foods. Last week's shop was more reconnaisance, but this week I was starting more for real.

I usually shop at Lidl, which I love and is great value, but I knew that their organic products were few and far between, i.e. onions and carrots, I couldn't remember seeing anything else.  I still went there though and did do quite a bit of non-organic and free range shopping as some members of the household particularly like some of their products.  I did find a few organic items that I didn't know they stocked.  These were semi-skimmed milk, which is useful, wholewheat pasta and fair trade bananas, which is great as we eat a lot of these.

I will keep going in to check and see if they have expanded their range, but I can see myself shopping here a lot less in the future unfortunately, unless anything changes.

Most of this week's shopping was done at a huge Sainsbury's superstore out on the North Circular road, which is about 10 miles from where I live. As I was at the gym in the morning, I was almost half way there already, so continued on, as I'd heard from other bloggers that they have quite an extensive organic range.  This was very true.

I ignored the free ice creams that were being handed out as I walked in and straight away got down to business in the fruit and vegetable aisles.  I have to admit I was pretty shocked at the prices of some fruits and vegetables which were £'s more than non-organic, and for some I couldn't justify the expense at that level, so I didn't buy them and resorted to non-organic instead for the time being.  I'm talking specifically about sweet peppers, blueberries and avocados.  Anything with a thick skin I'm not too concerned about, such as citrus fruits and avocados, which is just as well.

Next, I progressed onto the meat aisle which was also pretty shocking.  I did manage to find some reasonably priced organic products such as a small chicken for £6 to £8, which for 3 of us would be okay actually, and a small joint of lamb or beef for £6 or £7.  I would probably pay this for the pleasure of eating meat.  Also pork mince was very reasonable. Diced beef was a bit pricey at £5.50, but I would pay it, to be able to eat a lovely stew with dumplings.

Most non-meat and some dairy items I found much more reasonably priced and more comparable price wise with non-organic, which was encouraging. I was so pleased to find some organic wholemeal bread products, that I bought a couple of loaves and have put them in the freezer, just in case I don't get back there for a week or two.  Some items, i.e. own brand tomato ketchup and own brand baked beans I bought specifically to try and see if we like them rather than paying more for Heinz organic products.  There's no guarantee that they will be compatible with our taste buds. As I wrote this post, I was eating a salad, which I'd dressed with their own brand organic balsamic vinegar. It's not the nicest I've tasted and I will be looking around for an alternative when I finish this bottle.

All in all though, it was a good shop and I was very encouraged.  My favourite purchase was a jar of organic Tikka Masala sauce, so that I can still have a curry from time to time.  We tried it last night and it was very nice.  A bit more expensive, but definitely worth it.

Next food shop, I'm heading to the huge Tesco down the road from this Sainsbury's to see what they have in their range.  Anything I can't get there I can always go on to get from Sainsbury's.  I've also just received some money off vouchers from Tesco, which will come in useful.  The first is £3 of a £20 shop.

Last night, I spent some time checking out some of the organic food websites.  It was interesting. but I found them even more expensive than supermarkets and even more so when postage was factored in.  They can be handy for buying in bulk though. I also checked out Ocado and found them to have a great organic range too, where I can buy some staples I've not yet found anywhere else, such as wholewheat penne pasta and brown basmati rice. In addition, they have lots of toiletries at very good prices and some meat products seem very reasonable too.  It's quite exciting really.  I apologise now if readers aren't finding it so. Please humour me for a few weeks until I settle into it and shut up about it.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Monthly Reading - April

April was another productive month in terms of reading.  Helped enormously by having a break over Easter when I read quite a lot.

The first book I read this month was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I really loved this book, although it did take a while to read.  It was divided into three main sections, which related to the travels taken by the main character in the book.  After a bitter divorce and a subsequent not so healthy relationship, she decides to spend a year travelling to Italy (to learn Italian), India (to learn spirituality) and Indonesia (to learn the art of living a balanced life).

This book charts her journey and the things she learned about herself on the way.  I just loved the whole feel and journey that this book portrayed, the freedom of travelling, the simplicity of the life she led whilst travelling, and how by the end she was able to actually start doing positive things for both herself and others.  I think I will now have to watch Julia Roberts in the film version of this book.  I can imagine that she played it beautifully.  I have already given this book away to a family member and I hope she enjoys reading it as much as I did.

The next book I read, whilst away over Easter was this book by Deepak Chopra.

I've already reveiwed this book in a blog post, so I won't repeat myself here, save to say it has caused me to completely rethink our eating habits and my beauty routines.

Concurrently with reading the above two books, I was also dipping in and out of this book by India Knight. If you've read  some of my monthly reading posts before,  you will know that she is a regular feature in my reading lists.  This book is about what it says in the title.  It doesn't strictly tell you how to shop, but she does let you into some of her shopping secrets.  As ever, the book is written with her usual wit and I enjoyed reading it.

I  would say that this book is slightly dated in that it was written 7 or 8 years ago and as we all know the internet has come a long way in that time.  Some sections that weren't particularly relevant to me I did skip, but I did particularly like the little story that she ended the book with.  No spoilers here though, so you'll just have to read it if you want to know what it was.

My next read was this book that I picked out of the Little Free Library up the road.  It told the story of Frank a local newsreader in a Midlands TV station who finds himself drawn to the things that don't always get mentioned in the news stories he presents.  Although finding himself a cult figure amongst students who find his on screen corny jokes hilarious and branding him the least funny person in the world, Frank takes it all in his stride and is not in the least bothered by this.  He is more interested in taking his young daughter around to see the last few buildings built by his architect father, before they are demolished and gone forever.  In addition, he finds himself drawn to investigating the death of his predecessor and friend  Phil who was killed in a hit and run accident.

This book was also good.  I liked the humour with which it was written.  It did seem a little bleak at times, but perhaps that was because it dealt with the banal everyday realities of life more than many books do.  I will be popping this book back in the Little Free Library for someone else to read when I'm next walking the dog past it.

My final book this month, was this book by Kathleen Tessarro. When I first bought this book, I thought it was a factual book about how to be more elegant, which appealed to my sensibilities at the time.  When I read the reverse  more closely, I realised that it was a fictional book, based on an actual book about elegance written by a female French writer in the 1950's.  As a consequence, it kind of got left in the book pile for longer than it might otherwise have been, only to be read as I got nearer to clearing the pile.

Having picked it up, however, I really enjoyed reading it, and although some of the exerts from the original book which are used, are not necessarily so relevant in this day and age, they are very interesting.  The main thrust of the book is the main character's journey brought about by reading the book. A lovely read.  I will be looking for other titles by this author from now on.

Monday, 27 April 2015

More Natural/Organic Beauty Health Products

After making the decision recently, to try to use and source more natural beauty/health products in the future, I have spent a little time this week looking for particular products I need online. After a search on YouTube, I discovered a vegan food/beauty box at which you can subscribe to and be sent various products to try on a monthly/quarterly basis.  I haven't signed up (yet), but I did take a look through some of the products that had been in their past beauty boxes.

This led me to a business based in Scotland called White Rabbit Skincare, who have a shop on Etsy. In order to try some of their products before buying full sized ones, I ordered what they call a favour bag, which is ideally aimed at hen nights, wedding favours, etc. In it there are three small pots of some of their products.  It arrived today and is super cute.  Here's a picture.  The packaging is delightful.

I was sent their Dew Soft Day Cream, Mango Body Butter and Coconut and Rosehip Calming Cream.

They all smell lovely and I can't wait to try them.

In addition, I also took a look around Etsy for a Calendula balm, which I needed for one of my feet, which suffers from flare ups of Athlete's Foot.  I have purchased a similar cream several years ago now, from a local herbalist and found it very effective for this purpose, so was looking to find a similar product.

There were lots and lots on sale from US vendors, but the postage made them much more expensive. I finally found this one from the UK by the Tiny Oak Apothecary.  It is called a Healing Salve and is made with Calendula, Burdock and Lavender.  It is anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and accelerates healing, so is a perfect addition to any first aid kit.  It smells lovely and I'm looking forward to putting this on my foot and hopefully resolving my current problems.

This company also produce a Christmas Balm with Frankincense and Myrrh for winter hands or as a year round healing moisturiser and also a Warming Salve with Ginger and Black Pepper designed to sooth muscles and bring warming relief to painful joints.  Both sound really interesting.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Truly Disappointing Trip to the Cinema

Last night, we decided to treat ourselves to a night at the cinema, to watch the new Marvel Avengers movie.  We don't go too often, as it is pretty expensive, but as we hadn't been for a while, OH was happy to treat us to a family night out.

I was incredibly disappointed, however, when a member of the viewing audience, who I believe had Special Educational Needs (I apologise if this is not the current politically correct term) was asked to leave the cinema half way through the film, on account of the complaints of a couple of viewers, that they were making too much noise and causing a distraction.

This was so out of order, I was shocked and disgusted.  Yes, they were making a little bit of noise, but this was a major action movie, with lots of loud action scenes.  It was easy for anyone with only a modicum of humanity to overlook an extra little bit of noise, especially when it was the sound of someone who was seemingly enjoying the film.

After witnessing this incident, I was so angry I was shaking.  I couldn't help myself but to go outside and speak to a member of staff about the matter.  I was told I wasn't the first person to complain about the course of action taken, but that the matter was being dealt with 'in house'.  I'm not sure what that actually meant, and I realise that I was possibly being 'fobbed off'.

This incident spoilt my enjoyment of the film, knowing that someone who had paid to watch it, wasn't able to because of the immaturity, selfishness and narrow mindedness of a few individuals. Shame on them I say, for not allowing an already marginalised member of our society, the opportunity to enjoy a Saturday night out at the cinema.

Shame too, on the incredibly insensitive decision made by the duty manager.  We had all paid and been granted access to watch that film and should all have been allowed to do so. The superhero genre of the film made it all the more ironic that this incident should have occurred.  It makes me feel sad.  Why are we so intolerant, in our supposedly democratic and egalitarian society?

I have made a complaint online to the company concerned (although their website does not make it easy to do so) and I am awaiting a suitable response.  It will be interesting to see what they have to say, although I don't hold out much hope of it being anything in any way positive.  We really do need to think about how we are excluding some people in society, from fully participating in cultural life.

We are all human beings and we should be more accepting and accomodating of each others differences.  I feel ashamed to have been one of a full audience that witnessed this and didn't rise up to prevent it.  A few people did leave the cinema as this was happening, whether they were in the same party or whether this was in protest or not I don't know, and I should have been one of them. Needless to say, I will protesting with my feet (albeit too late) in the future and will not be returning to this multiplex cinema anytime soon.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Another Allotment Visit

After our mammoth effort last weekend, to rebuild the paths at the allotment, I headed back this Friday to finish off the job by covering the paths with wood chips.  Here's a reminder of what it looked like when we left last Saturday.

Luckily for me, there was a big pile of wood chippings just outside the site gate, waiting to be loaded onto a barrow and put on the paths.  It took about three barrows full to complete the job.  It was worth it though, as it looked great when I'd finished.

I sowed a few more seeds whilst I was there, some suede, turnips, purple sprouting broccoli and more lettuce.  Then I watered everything, as I hadn't done this since sowing lots of things a few weeks ago. Then finally, it was time to go home after a very busy morning.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A Friday Dog Walk

I decided to take the dog on a different walk today, one I don't do very often, as I wanted to combine her walk with a visit to the allotment.  We live approximately 4 miles from the centre of London in the East of the metropolis.

Surprisingly, all around us are some wonderful dog walks only a short distance from our front door.

I took the car to the allotment on this occasion, and walked the dog when we got there.  First, we crossed over the canal on a little bridge. Great view of the canal boats from here.

Then down a little shady path, with the marina on one side and a reservoir on the other.

Here the dog is waiting patiently for me to scoop the poop, and take a photo, before continuing.
Then it was though a little wooded area, you can just see a den/teepee that has been built from branches in the bushes.

On we go though a little woodland,

until we reach a clearing.

Then we had to pass under the railway lines.  Watch your head!  You have to duck down unless you're 5' tall or shorter.  (Obviously the dog didn't have a problem here!)

Through a picnic area.

You could have a proper outdoor banquet at this super long picnic table, complete with throne at the head.

Maybe someone did, as around the corner I found this disgusting mess.  It's a pity that people don't take their litter home with them.

Onwards we go, past the mural.

Pictures of the local wildlife, the cattle are often grazing in fields around here. Then down a very parched path. We've had very little rain now for a month.

And into a lovely big field.

Down the newly built wooden walkway

and onto the canal path where there are boats of every shape and size.  There is a large water dwelling community in this area.

Over another foot bridge 

and on past the marina where many more boat dwellers live.

I do love to walk along the canal.  The boats remind me that there is a simple way to live, if you so choose.  For some people, I'm sure it isn't a choice, as property has got more and more expensive in London.  

Then it was back to where we started and off to the allotment to do a bit of work on the plot.  I hope you enjoyed the walk.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Kitchen Declutter Begins (Finally!)

More than three weeks into April and I finally get around to starting the kitchen declutter that I wanted to do this month.  I'm not sure that I'll get it finished, but here goes.

On Wednesday night, spurred on by finding an item that I was happy to donate, I finally got started after supper.  I began in a very small way by tidying out two cupboards.  The first was the boiler cupboard, which held very little, just a few glass bottles and a bit of dust!

As usual with these things, I get so enthused and forget to take a before picture, but there isn't too much to show in this case. Anyway, after finding another home for numerous fancy glass french lemonade bottles in the next cupboard and giving it a good wipe over, it was done.  Here's a very boring after picture to get the ball rolling.  A nice uncluttered cupboard, just how I like it!

 (Please excuse the lighting in these pictures as they were taken when it was overcast outside)

I decided to adopt a carrot and stick approach to this task.  Every cupboard that I completed, I awarded myself with a small piece of Green and Black's chocolate.  Needless to say, I stopped at two cupboards in this session, lest my waistline expanded even further.

The next cupboard was the cupboard in which we keep most of our glassware.  I found a few items I was happy to donate in here, well, 4 in total.  I toyed with getting rid of more of the lemonade bottles, but decided against it, as Little Bird likes to use these to make homemade lemonade and I may one day decide to make some sloe/rhubarb gin, for which they would come in very handy. In the end, I'm ashamed to say that I kept 8 out of 9 of them.  I will most likely reduce this down further at some point in the future.

Most of the dustier glass items on the top shelf were washed and replaced, but most of the rest of the glasses (save the cocktail glasses) get used regularly and are stored rim down, so they don't really get dusty.  I cleaned the shelves and after a bit of reorganisation, I was pretty happy with the results.

I then went on to do a bit of decluttering in another cupboard by sorting through the medicine box and sifting out any out of date products or things we no longer use, so that when I get around to cleaning that cupboard, most of the work has already been done.  I'll keep you posted on future progress.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

What Are You Hungry For? - A Review

I mentioned in yesterday's post how I had recently read Deepak Chopra's book - What Are You Hungry For? whilst we were away on holiday and that it was changing my attitude towards the beauty products I use and the food that we currently eat in our household. It was a book that delivered a very important message about healthy eating and finding balance in our everyday lives. In my case, I've long known that I am overweight and can readily admit that I eat too much and too often. I'm a grazer and although I exercise very regularly, this just serves to prevent me putting on too much weight and doesn't really seem to help me lose it.

When I saw this book in a charity shop, I hoped it might help me to rectify some of my negative eating habits, by way of aiding me in uncovering the reasons for them and possibly set me on the road to eating much more healthily and mindfully.  All of these matters are covered in this book and more besides and made it a very interesting read indeed.

Deepak Chopra, who wrote this book, is an endocrinologist by profession and a practitioner of both traditional Western and Ayurvedic medicine.  In this book he combines his knowledge of both of these traditions to create a balanced and holistic approach to health and well being.  He has written many such books on related subjects, which I will now be looking out for on my travels, as I really enjoyed this one.

In this particular book, Chopra urges you to take a look at long hard look at your eating habits.  He suggests that diets are really completely pointless and do more harm than good to the body.

As an endrocrinologist, who has studied hormones for many years, he argues that diets cause the secretion of hormones which can actually prevent weight loss. In addition, he points out how hormones released by people who are overweight and have belly fat, actually cause their hunger to increase and thus, they actually eat more and continue to gain weight. What is needed to maintain a healthy weight, he argues, is not a diet, but a total overhaul of one's self-awareness and eating habits, in order for you to achieve a healthy weight that suits you and that you can easily maintain for life.

All of this is not actually anything that I haven't heard before, (save for the hormone that causes an overweight person continue to gain weight), but the way that Chopra explains this, is incredibly interesting and seemed to appeal to my current sensibilities.  He very sensitively encourages you to take a good look at yourself and your lifestyle and then offers ways that you can dramatically improve and simplify your life to achieve more balance and improved health.

The first area that Chopra tackles is eating habits and he suggests that people eat, either because they are hungry and need to eat or are trying to fill a hole, be it emotional, mental or spiritual and food has become the quickest way to do this. He goes on to question what triggers overeating i.e. being in a rush, eating out at restaurants, boredom, tiredness, being busy or alternatively a raft of reasons that are connected to self esteem, i.e. feeling depressed, lonely, unattractive, anxious, stressed, negativity about oneself or wanting to be comforted.

What he goes on to suggest is to focus on what triggers you and try to find an alternative activity such as doing a chore, drinking a glass of water, reading a book, phoning a friend, etc.  In this sense he purports reconnecting mind and body and looking inwards to identify what it is that you are actually hungry for and become aware of your body, emotions and choices.  He suggests that many overweight people have lost touch with their bodies and need to wean their brains away from old conditioning and choices and create new techniques which allow change to occur more naturally.

He goes on to talk about how we need to nourish our bodies, minds and souls and a very good way to do this is to eat according to Ayurvedic principles.  Ayurveda, he explains, involves conscious experience of what you're eating, slowing down and conciously consuming our food and includes the avoidance of frozen, leftover, unnatural, nuked (microwaved) and canned food, whilst moving towards a plant based diet. Now I know that in this day and age this might seem a little severe, but he goes on to explain the reasons for this method, how food is adulterated and the effects this can have on the body and mind.

Ayurvedic principles also include the notion of the 6 flavours of life i.e. sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent and how by balancing the body's need for these flavours in our daily food intake, we can help the body and emotions to feel balanced.

A very interesting chapter in the book concerns itself with self-regulation and how the body takes care of you and is a self-regulating system with hundreds of feedback loops that function to keep us alive, healthy and vital.  He suggests, however, that our input is also needed in this process and one of the main ways we can participate is to  ensure we get enough sleep in order to avoid interfering with it's self regulation.

The book goes on to  say much more about stress eating, emotional well-being and a whole raft of other things including how to develop a lightness of soul and participate in meditation.  I admit that I have picked out only some of the more pertinent points, that actually stuck with me after reading this book, but I would highly recommend it, as it is very enlightening on a myriad of issues.

Now, whilst many of the ideas in the book are very interesting and convincing, I can't say in all honesty, that I'm aiming to follow the book's suggestions in their entirety, but having read it, it has given me a starting point from which I can try to eat in a different way.

I'm starting by slowly introducing more organic foods into our diet. I've read lots recently about how seemingly simple natural foods such as fruit and vegetables are treated with chemicals to make them last longer on the shelves of supermarkets and producers are not even required to list this on packaging.  In addition, there is the issue of how animals are pumped with hormones in the process of fattening them up and how this remains present in their meat.  Not a very nice thought.

Obviously, some things are more affordable and more easily sourced than others, so I'm not sticking religiously to the idea of eating organically.  Organic meat, particularly, is very expensive, so we may either have to suck up the cost or just eat less.

It's a gradual integration of these foods as I can afford them, as I use up what we already have and as I manage to source alternatives, but I'm hoping that this will be healthier for all of us, not to mention more ethical and ecologically conscious.  I am also hoping that being conscious of how much more expensive things are will stop us eating more than we really need to and subsequently help with any weight issues.  It is a bit of an experiment and it will be interesting to see where it takes us.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Going Organic

In recent months, I have been considering making some dramatic changes to my diet and beauty regimes, in order to move towards eating and using more natural products.  After reading Deepak Chopra's book, 'What Are You Hungry For?' whilst we were away, I have become more and more convinced that this is a road that I want to venture down at this point in my life.

I have flirted with eco and organic products at various times in my life, usually for very brief spells, but have never been fully committed to the idea, mainly on cost grounds and a cynical belief that such products can't really be significantly better than normal products, to justify the additional costs. More recently, however, I'm finding myself actually starting to think that perhaps they just might be.

When I look at the ingredients of normal cosmetic brands and the multitude of chemicals they contain, I am frankly amazed and somewhat disturbed. Do we really need so many of these chemicals in our skincare and beauty products?  I've recently started looking at the ingredients when buying products and have decided that I'm going to try to buy products which are either organic or as natural as possible.

Today, I was out and about running errands and needed a new facial wash, as I'm virtually out of it completely.  I took a look in Boots at the Witch Hazel products they had in there, which I've looked at before. (I'm a superfan of witch hazel) I was almost tempted to buy a couple of the products in the range. They were on sale at half price, meaning a facial wash was less than £2.  I then took a look at the ingredients and I just couldn't bring myself to buy them, even at such a reasonable cost.

Instead, I decided to take a look in the Health Food Shop a few doors down, where I found this Organic Tea Tree Face Wash by Dr Organic.  It is infused with mandarin, lemon and witch hazel and when I looked at the ingredients they didn't completely overwhelm me.  Yes, there are still chemicals in there, but it is Paraben free, SLS free and contains no artificial colours, fragrances or harsh preservatives.  That was enough for me and at £6.49, although way more expensive than any usual purchases, I thought it was reasonable for an organic product, which I expected to cost much more. It is also a 200ml tube, so should last an age. I have tried it out and find it works perfectly well for my needs and leaves my skin feeling fresh, so I am very happy with my purchase.

I took a look at the rest of the Dr Organic range and there were a couple of other products that I might try such as a Manuka Honey Face Cream and a Rose Otto Day Cream.  These were a little more expensive, but it is perhaps time I start to think more about the implications of using more chemical laden products on my skin and on the environment and stop worrying so much about the financial cost.

I do already have another product by this brand, that I received free with a copy of Healthy magazine, that I bought whilst we were in Yorkshire.  The product in question was their Organic Snail Gel Hand and Nail Elixir and I have tried this product and found it to have a lovely consistency and smell. There has been rather a lot of hype about this product range, and more especially the face cream, which I don't take too seriously, but I don't rule out using it in the future if I find it suitable for my skin.

I flicked through this magazine after photographing it and found a 20% off voucher for Holland and Barrett, where I purchased the face wash, so I will definitely be using this when I return to purchase a face cream, as it will make it much more affordable.  At the moment I've been using up various samples from beauty boxes and magazines, but to be honest I'm not finding that any of them hit the spot and leave my skin feeling good.

I took a look at some online reviews of the above products that I'm considering and think I might actually try the Rose Otto Day Cream as there were some very positive reviews of it on the website.

Has anyone else tried these products?  How did you find them?

Saturday Afternoon at the Allotment

Saturday morning, as I was getting myself ready with no particular plans for the day in mind, OH
asked me whether I wanted to get the edging of the beds at the allotment done this weekend. I was a bit taken aback to be honest, firstly, because he rarely offers to go to the allotment, and secondly, I hadn't really got my head around the idea of when I was going to actually finish this job, other than putting it on the eternal 'to do list'.

Little Bird was going to the mall with her friends that afternoon, so I hastily grabbed the opportunity with both hands, in the hope that it would finally help get this item crossed off my to do list for the next few years at least.

Later that morning, he helped me cut up some timber to make the posts for the bed edging.  After cutting them to the appropriate length and then cutting them to a point, I dipped the ends in some preservative and left them to dry in the sun, ready to take to the allotment later that day.

I still hadn't taken proper measurements of all the beds at the allotment, so we took the timber for the sides of the beds uncut, along with a saw and some preservative, so that we could cut it on site.  We also took a drill and plenty of screws and nails to secure the posts to the timber sides.  In addition to taking the timber, I also took some weed suppressing fabric to re-lay the paths, or at least one of them, as I didn't have enough to do them all. I also took my staple gun to secure these to the back of the bed edges to prevent weeds growing down the edges of the path, which they have a tendency to do. Doing it this way also meant that I didn't need any pegs to secure the fabric (I didn't have any). Having loaded up the car, we set off.

I hadn't been to the allotment since before Easter, when I planted some onions, potatoes, beans and sowed some salad seeds.  It was interesting to see the progress. The broad beans, which I had planted very late, were making good progress, some salad seedlings had sprouted, as had the onions and some of the potatoes. Here's what the plot looked like before we started work on the beds. (You might have noticed that we took the dog too!)

OH started work on the first path. He did encounter a few problems at first, mainly because he forgot to bring the lump hammer, but he got resourceful with a smaller one which did the job albeit with OH grumbling quite a bit.  (I don't blame him really as working on the allotment is his very least favourite thing to do!)  Here's path one completed.

I then went along and staple gunned the fabric to the inside of the timber along the length of the path and then did the same with the other side. We didn't actually get time to fill the paths with chippings, as Little Bird called to say she was on her way home, but I was so pleased to get the brunt of the work done. The rest I can definitely do myself on my next visit.  It now looks so much better and will make my life so much easier in the coming years.

The only casualty of the task was my staple gun, which gave up the ghost on the last stretch and which I have now thrown in the tip bag.  I will need to replace it at some point, as it is really useful for upholstery and other projects.

Here's a couple of pictures of the almost finished results.

Thank you OH. A great day's teamwork and the best bit is that we can all now enjoy sitting out in our garden, now that the wood for the allotment has been removed.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Simplifying MyTechnology

Following on from my recent post about problems I've been having with technology, I've been having a few more, and as a consequence, I've decided that it's time for a bit of technological simplification around here.

After my blogging camera gave up the ghost the other week, I decided that I would utilise Little Bird's camera, which hasn't ever had much use since she got a phone with a camera. I then discovered that she had lost the lead that enables you to upload the photos, so that put paid to that idea as we don't have another one that fits.  I could still have opted to use OH's digital camera, but that would mean sharing this with him and he needs it for his work, so this wasn't an ideal option either.

As a result of all the above and in keeping with my aim to simplify my life this year, I've decided that instead of buying another separate camera for me to use for blogging and my business, I'm just going to use my phone camera from now on and make life simpler by having less devices.  I'm hoping this should translate to fewer technological problems. (We'll see how long this theory stands up!)

Anyway, I'm now back using the laptop and have downloaded the app to allow me to upload photos from my phone, so I'm back in action which feels great.  I just need to remember to keep my phone fully charged now in order to take pictures when I need to!  At least it will be one less thing to carry around with me when I go out and about, and one less battery using device to worry about and spend money on replacing.  I just need to recycle the old devices in our local small electrical appliance recycling bin, which will be very satisfying.

Friday, 17 April 2015

This Week

This week has been a busy one.  Busy catching up with all the things I've got behind on whilst we were away over Easter.  Wednesday was a particularly productive day as I managed to finally get some vegetable seeds sown in my little greenhouse.

I sowed some tomato, cucumber, courgette, fennel and chilli seeds as well as quite a few flower seeds, some for companion planting and others just to create some flowers for cutting and colour in the garden.  I also found a little lemon balm plant that had self seeded in a pot in the garden, so potted it up it a little pot of it's own.  I love lemon balm, it just smells divine. I was really pleased to get sowing as I had left it quite late, but the change in the weather since Easter reassured me that the time was now right, as I am now here to water them when needed.

Following on from spending a bit of time in the garden, I also decided to get my summer clothes out of storage and put them in my wardrobe. At the same time, I packed away the heavier of my winter clothes, in the hope that I won't need them now. Fingers crossed.  I have left some medium weight sweaters in my drawers just in case.  I didn't find too many things to donate but a few things I got out of storage I did decide to donate as I couldn't see myself wearing them.  There may be more to  add as the months progress, as there are a few I'm still not too sure about, but have kept for the time being.

My wardrobe now looks a little more colourful and yesterday for the first time in ages, I actually wore a skirt, albeit with tights.  I must admit that I have really gone off wearing skirts, which used to be a wardrobe staple for me.  I'll have to wait and see if I can get back into wearing them, otherwise a few more things might be making their way to the charity shop.

For much of this week, I have been catching up with blog reading.  Ten days of being absent from the blogging world means a lot of catching up to do.  I have now almost got right up to date and yesterday I spent time catching up with some of my favourite YouTubers, whilst I started to tackle my ironing mountain.  I'm half way through it and hoping to get it all done by the weekend.

Once I've got back on top of all the regular jobs, I'm hoping to start on a bit of a spring clean of the kitchen, which desperately needs it. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and giving it a thorough clean and declutter.  Have you got any plans to do any spring cleaning?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

You Beauty Discovery Box - April Edition

On our return from Yorkshire, I took delivery of this month's You Beauty Discovery Box, which had been posted out to me whilst we'd been away.  I had received notification that from 1st April the products you could chose to be included in your new box would be available and you could therefore order this month's box.

I had made a mental note of the products I wanted in my box, but by the time I got around to ordering them later on the first available day, the main products I wanted, which were a hand and lip balm duo were out of stock.  I was a bit disappointed, but as this was the only option that was made up of two products, I wasn't entirely surprised that everyone had plumped for it, so that they got an extra item in their box.

This month's theme for the box was Organic and Natural.  There seemed to be a preponderance of small sample sizes in the choices.  Probably because these products do tend to be quite expensive I suspect.

I decided to pick the Tisserand Sweet Dreams Bath Oil which sounded quite interesting as it contains various 100% natural essential oils including bergamot, lavender and ylang ylang .  I like to take an occasional bath, especially after an afternoon down the allotment, so it will be good to have something nice to put in it.  It is only a small 20 ml bottle, but I decided it was preferable to some of the other choices on offer.  I couldn't find this particular bath oil on the website, but similar ones retailed at £12.50 for a 100ml bottle, so this sample size was probably worth a couple of pounds or so.

My second choice was this Chamomile Desensitising Hydrogel (a kind of gel toner) by a company called Heaven Skincare.  I liked the sound of the contents, which included organic chamomile and rose essential oils and organic witch hazel and coconut.  Again it was a small bottle which was only 10ml in volume.  On taking a look on the product website this product alone, which is a travel sized product, costs £10 to purchase full price, so I guess I was getting my money's worth with this product alone.  (The cost of the whole box is £6.95 including postage).  I do like the pump action bottle and the packaging of this product and it does smell lovely.  I will definitely use this product for travelling instead of taking my larger regular toner.

The other two products in the box that members were automatically sent included this sample sized sachet of this Yours Truly Organics Fix Me!  Repairing Serum.  I will be interested to try this 10ml sample and it will also be useful when travelling, so it will get used.  A full size product in this range costs £28 for 30ml, making this sachet worth £9 and it should be enough for a good few applications. I may even transfer the contents into a small pot or bottle for ease of use.

The final product in this month's box was another health food product, which was this sachet of Linwood Milled Flaxseed, Cocoa and Berries mix which can be added to smoothies, yoghurt, cereal, salads, etc.  I have already tried this out on some porridge and it wasn't too offensive. You are supposed to take two dessert spoons of this each day, in order to benefit from the flavinols or antioxidants it contains.

In all honesty, I have to admit that I have been slightly less impressed with this month's beauty box and more especially with the size of the products.  There was the option of one other full size product apart from those which were already sold out, which was a cleansing sponge, but it wasn't something I would use.  This month's box was, however, useful for directing me toward websites where I can find more earth friendly products, so it was good from this point of view and I will report back about any of the products that I particularly like if this should be the case.

As this box is quite an inexpensive treat, for the moment I will continue with this subscription for a couple more months to give it a fair trial and if I'm still not so enamoured of the contents of the boxes, I may then decide to cancel my subscription.  I will also have to make sure I remember to be quicker off the ball to secure the products I want.