Self care, skin care,
& nurturing Mother Nature.

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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, searching for pure happiness & joy

December 05, 2018

Have Yourself a Sustainable Little Christmas

It's just 20 days to go until Christmas Day and who is as excited as me?! As you may know if you are a regular reader or if you follow me anywhere on my social media, I am trying my best to be a little more sustainable and thoughtful this Christmas (check out this post for sustainable gift ideas). Aside from the gifts I have chosen, I've realised there's lots of other little things you can do this Christmas to still keep the festive spirit very much alive but also ensure that you're not costing the planet - so here we go!

Use brown parcel/kraft paper for wrapping your gifts. A really simple switch to make but completely overlooked. I only just found out this year that many wrapping papers are not actually recyclable due to the coatings and treatments they have had (even if they seem like ol' regular paper!). Therefore kraft paper or parcel paper is a fab alternative that keeps your gift wrapping completely eco-friendly. This also gives you the chance to be really creative as you can paint, draw, or stamp your own designs onto the paper or buy some recyclable twine or reuse any ribbons you may have already from previous parcels and do some simple ribbon work around your parcels. Kraft paper is really cheap and you can often get quite a few metres of it in one lot. If you don't fancy using kraft paper, why not try plain and simple newspaper instead and use colourful ink and stamps to make it look festive? You can add brown paper or card gift tags too!

Try fabric wrapping too. So, this is a new one for me, but hear me out. Furoshiki is a Japanese knot wrapping technique and I am obsessed. There's lots of instructional how-to videos on YouTube for this technique and I'm really keen to give it a go this year. Lush are always a brand that have done the scarf wrap really well with their bathbomb gift sets, but I never thought of doing something like that myself. This is a great way to use up any old fabric you may have lying around or if you are inspired by the likes of Lush, you could totally buy a bandana or scarf to try this idea out. This is a particularly good idea for anyone in your life that may use the scarf too as it's technically an extra gift!

Buy things in bulk and spread them out. Something that is a great way to be more eco-friendly but that will also save you some pennies is bulk buying an item then spreading it across many recipients. For example, you could buy a really large bag of bath salts, a large bottle of body lotion or bath oil etc. and a set of smaller jars or bottles (or even get them secondhand in a charity shop!) and spread the product out amongst the smaller containers. This may seem cheeky to some people, but this is a great way to make little stock fillers or an extra small gift to go with other things. You can then decorate the containers however you wish (with twine, ribbon, artwork etc.) and give it a handmade feel. This also gives you a chance to experiment so you could mix together bath salts and bath petals for example and make your own concoctions for others to enjoy.

Make things yourself! In-keeping with what I just mentioned, if you're crafty or a good baker, why not make things?! I probably should have included this in my gift guide but, if you have a natural flare for something, definitely utilise it at Christmas time as not only will it save you some money, but you can also make your gifts more personalise and sentimental to the person you're making the present for. An example of this for me would be the fact that I could make someone an embroidery hoop, some cookies, or a natural face mask. There's tons of things out there you could make whether it's a drawing, painting, a homemade candle, a room spray, a cake, Christmas tree decorations for the next year, jams or marmalade, knitted gloves scarves and hats... the possibilities are endless.

Create your own hamper. Who out there has someone tricky to buy for each year? I know I do but, a great way to get around this is by creating your own personalised hamper for that person. Of course you can buy a variety of hampers and gift sets/boxes, but by creating your own version, you can make sure that every single product included in it is something the receiver likes and will use. You could include food items, drinks, beauty products, jewellery, home decor... there's so many great things you can throw in a hamper! You can also make them very specific to a particular hobby (gardening, favourite movie, sport, music etc.) so you have so many potential avenues to go down. Although the individual gifts may not be necessarily sustainable, you absolutely can try to make the hamper itself purse-friendly and sustainable instead. Scouting out baskets and boxes in charity shops is the best for this and it means you can display the items you've hand-selected for this gift in the best way possible.

Don't just stop there with charity shops. Think decorations, too. If you're on a budget or simply want to source things second-hand so you're not buying into a high street Christmas, charity shops can be goldmines for second-hand Christmas goodies - especially decorations. Things such as garlands, bunting, baubles, and tinsel can be found in charity shops if you check regularly and closely during this time of year - even whole Christmas trees can be found in some of them!

Use what's naturally available and completely free! If you're really struck for cash or you want to really try to be zero waste and eco-friendly, use what nature might be available to you to create a festive home and gifts. You could collect pine cones from the local park and sprigs of Christmas tree if your local flower shop sell them or if you have a real tree in your home. These pine sprigs could be used in your gift wrap decoration or could be added to decor around the home. They can also be plopped into some hot water to create a lovely room fragrance if you have people visiting. If you have time before Christmas, you could also dry out and press some flowers and leaves to use for decoration or even for gifts - placing pressed plants in photo frames can make pretty gifts.

Up-cycle the old to make it the new. Lastly, I wanted to mention another thing that we can overlook and that is upcycling some of our old Christmas decorations to refresh them and give them a new breath of life. Using the same decorations can get boring and they can begin to look tatty and tired, but by giving them a makeover you can save yourself some serious money and minimise your waste as you won't be tempted to throw old decorations out. An easy way to do this is by buying spray paint or glue and glitter and transforming your tree decorations. This year is seeing a grow in the popularity of very garish bright decorations as well as the classic millennial rose gold, so you could always spray old baubles a fresh new colour or even dip lightweight toys you might have (such as small dinosaurs, army men etc.) in glue and glitter to make your tree very Paperchase-chic. You could cover old pillar candles in glitter too to make them more festive looking or add one to a large bowl with some old tinsel or pine cones to give your dining table some Christmas spirit. Another favourite of mine is using old books to create new pieces - Matt made some beautiful flowers from pages of old books and you absolutely could use the same resources to make a garland of stars, snowflakes, or other festive shapes for your fireplace (or use that leftover kraft paper from your gift wrapping to give it some variety!)

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November 30, 2018

Cost Per Wear: Ethical & Sustainable Fashion & the Blogging Clash

Back in April 2018, we saw a surge in people asking #whomademyclothes as it was Fashion Revolution Week. This week each year sees many of the most popular brands being challenged to be more transparent about the process their items go through from who collects the natural fibres, to how the items are made in factories, to the shipment of the finished articles across the globe. This, alongside many other reasons, is why I opted out of buying into the fast fashion industry as much and why I'm still trying to create a fully slow/sustainable/ethical wardrobe for myself now. Whilst I find it really important to ask brands about their production etc., Fashion Revolution Week naturally sees a surge of interest in this big ethical question which isn't maintained throughout the year. This isn't the fault of the movement of course, but it's interesting to see how little interest is shown when the topic isn't in the spotlight.

Which brings me on to the real topic of today's post. You've probably all guessed that it might be a bit of a rambling rant of a one already, but I just had some things I had to get off my chest (no surprises here for regular readers). Being more sustainable and buying more into slow fashion has gained a lot of popularity, especially during this past year, and it's such a positive thing. There's been a huge growth and popularity in sustainable bloggers and YouTubers, people advocating a more minimalist, less consumer-led life, and lots of people showing you how DIY things from beauty products to cleaning to clothing alterations and everything in-between. More awareness is being raised which is obviously a great step within such a consumerist society, but is it just a phase?

Over this past year I've made a switch in the content I consumer for entertainment. I mainly watch recipe, zero waste, slow fashion/thrift YouTube accounts now and I find that it has completely altered my purchasing and "need" for things for the better. Some of the "big name" YouTubers I still watch now and again have seemingly started to dip their toe into the ethical/sustainable fashion world and again, whilst that's a fantastic thing to see, it's all falling a little short for me. I've genuinely watched a YT video of a quite well-known influencer review an item of clothing from a more sustainable brand (thumbs up) but literally - as in physically - wave away the explanation of sustainability and ethical fashion with a flick of their wrist and that was that. I fully understand that the majority of this particular person's audience might not give a hoot about the background to an item and just want to see on trend pieces, but plopping the word "sustainable" into a video just doesn't cut it for me. It's not benefiting anyone if you discuss it in such a sweeping way. It needs an explanation.

Although ethical and sustainable clothing is becoming more of a popular choice, the true benefits of purchasing such items are glossed over with "it's good for the planet" and that's that. It was not that long ago that everyone and their gran were talking about that Stacey Dooley Fashion Industry Documentary and rightly so, so many influencers, bloggers etc. shared their horror over the truth of fast fashion via their social medias. Fast forward a week later, they're throwing out "AD" after "AD" for those exact fast giants they were horrified about just a matter of days ago. Of course, it's an influencers job and income at stake if they suddenly stopped doing this, but I'd almost prefer sustainability to not be mentioned at all by such big names if it's going to be just a trend to get them some more views, readers, or subscribers.

I feel like a cynical wee bitch writing that because I know, every little helps - even in this situation - but I can't help but feel the lack of detail is a massive error. Often individuals with the best of intentions can decide to start shopping more sustainable and ethical clothing only to find out how expensive it is. This can be a huge turning off point for many and can cause many to turn away from the idea. And you know? I totally get it. Ethical brands are *definitely* more expensive but if there was more explanation behind why this is from influencers who undoubtedly influence their audience, then it would certainly help.

Ethical and sustainable fashion is more pricey because you're paying for every step of that garments journey. You're paying for natural and sustainable materials which can be grown in bulk, which don't damage the planet in anyway, which are paid for fairly by brands paying those who farm the fibres. You're paying for the dyes and treatments used to not damage the planet so much; to cost a little extra because the individuals completing this step are paid fairly and treated with the respect they deserve. You're paying for the individuals who sew those materials and fabrics together to create your items to be paid a good living wage, for them to have safe and clean working conditions, and to not be mistreated like sweat shop workers are. You're paying for more environmentally-friendly ways to ship garments around the globe amongst so much more. *These* vital points are what are often missed out or forgotten about when advocating sustainable slow fashion.

Many sustainable brands aim to have less of an impact on the planet but of course you as a customer have a part to play in that too. As I mentioned earlier, I am the first person to agree that sustainable clothing can be damn expensive but the reasoning behind this and what it means for you as the consumer has method in its seeming madness. Many bloggers and YouTubers in the fashion industry will talk about "cost per wear" to justify purchasing an often expensive garment or item. This exact philosophy should be applied to sustainable clothing because not only are you buying into brands and an industry that cares wholeheartedly along the journey of their productions, but also once they've been passed over to you after purchase. Sustainability is not only about being kind to the planet and others but also about proving that you don't need as much as you think you do. That's not me saying that you have to be minimalist if you're trying to be sustainable (lord knows I'd call myself anything but), but if you've bought a well made white t-shirt that is made from sustainable fabric that is high quality, that t-shirt should last you for years and not need to be replaced or repurchased for some time. Compare that to £3 basic tee from the likes of Primark and I guarantee after a few washes it loses it's shape, crisp white shade, and it will have almost certainly have started to bobble.

I know you're all sat there thinking "Jesus Christ Amyleigh get off your high horse" and you know what? I wouldn't blame you because I'm as lost as you are at this point as to where this post was going. But, I want to leave you with some food for thought:

If you buy a dress for say £30 (usually what I used to consider the top-end of my budget when I used to buy *way* too many clothing items from fast fashion high-street retailers), divide that by two. You've now got £15. That £15 is probably the wholesale price (it's assumed that some retailers will mark up items up to two times, some mark up for as little as 20%, but many mark it up more than that). Now half that wholesale price of £15 - we're left with £7.50. That £7.50 is the price of the fabric, the labour, the machinery, the factory rent, the additional items such as buttons or zippers, the packaging for the item, the cutting and sewing of the fabric - all for £7.50? £7.50 is just over the top-end of the National Minimum Wage per hour in the UK. Therefore that £30 dress may have been a "bargain" for you, but at the drastic cost of someone else. It's overlooking the livelihood, rights, and just general human kindness that each and every person deserves. I know that a £3 tee in Primark might be all you can afford and I've been there. I understand. All I ask is that you think twice when you see a sale or you only buy what is needed because your wardrobe bursting with stuff has blood sweat and tears sewn into each seam.

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November 26, 2018

My 10-Step Cruelty Free Korean Skincare Routine

It's been a wee while since I did some real beauty chat on NB, so I'm coming at you all with my evening skincare routine that just so happens to be heavily influenced by Korean skincare products and practices. Over the last couple of years, the "X Step Korean Skincare" routines have swept through the online beauty community so surprise surprise, ya girl got sucked right into them. If there's one thing I feel like Korean's are known for, it's for caring for their skin and being observant of their skin needs. Having shared my morning skincare routine a few months ago now, I thought it was about time I shared what I do in my evening routine because if there's one thing that really helps out my oily, acne-prone skin, it's having this quite heavy routine but oh my my, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it.

Before I get into each step and each product I like for them, I have to mention here that these step routines aren't for everyone. Some people find them great for their skin whilst others find it just makes them break out more so take everything I say with a pinch of salt. What works for one person and skin type won't necessarily work for another. It's also worth noting here that some people do a 4-step routine, some do 10 - and some might do something in between. I typically do around 9 steps most days but not every evening as it really would be overkill. So here, let me show you:

Monday: 6 steps (no exfoliation, no face mask, and no sleep mask)
Tuesday: 9 steps (traditional face mask, chemical exfoliation, and sleep mask added)
Wednesday: 7 steps (traditional face mask added)
Thursday: 8 steps (solid exfoliation and sleep mask added)
Friday: 7 steps (traditional face mask added)
Saturday: 7 steps (traditional face mask added)
Sunday: 10 steps (solid exfoliation, sheet mask, and sleep mask added)

Although the use of traditional wash off-style face masks aren't usually included in a Step Korean skincare method, I really enjoy doing a face mask most evenings and find that it helps my skin out a great deal so I slot them in between steps 2 and 3. I typically listen to my skin though and if it's looking and feeling fine (and more importantly, I'm feeling damn tired) I will skip the traditional mask as it's not a necessary step anyway!

Step One: Oil-based Cleanse
Heimish All Clean Balm | 120ml | £13.0o -This cleansing balm is my absolute favourite skincare product. It's a really luxurious feeling balm but it's incredibly gentle and fuss-free too. I take a gumball-sized amount on the spatula provided and rub gently all over the face. I find it breaks down products like my mascara and eyebrow gel really well and just makes sure I've definitely removed all traces of makeup. It's not a heavy product at all but, it will still leave the skin feeling soft and nourished.

The idea of the the oil cleansing step is to remove the grime of the day. If you don't want to buy an oil-based cleanser, you can absolutely make your own. Some people believe natural oils to block the pores but, I've never had any issues with any natural oils I've used in the past. Natural cold-pressed coconut oil is a great option as it melts in a similar way to this balm. If you're more oily-skinned or acne-prone, I'd recommend mixing 1 part olive oil with 1 part castor oil. It will help neutralise your oil production levels whilst also leaving the skin soft and melt away makeup - nice and easy zero waste option!

Step Two: Foam/Water-based Cleanse
Superdrug Naturally Radiant Complete Cleanser | 150ml | £5.99 - I don't use a specifically Korean brand cleanser for this step, purely because this Foam Cleanser from Superdrug has become a ride or die product for me over the last couple of years. Again, it's gentle on the skin but it leaves my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and my skin is never as radiant or clear if I don't use this product in my routine.

Using a foam cleanser after oil cleansing at night helps lift any excess oil residue and just leaves your face feeling thoroughly clean and ready to soak up any products you want to lay on it overnight. I only use my foam cleanser in the mornings and miss out the oil cleanser as I just feel I need a refresh and a foam cleanser has a great way of waking up the skin.

Step Three: Exfoliate
Skin Food Black Sugar Scrub or Pixi Glow Tonic | 250ml | £18.0o - Exfoliating is a vital step in skincare for keeping skin looking healthy and getting rid of texture and lord knows I need help in that department! This step should only be done a couple of times a week as over-exfoliating can actually damage the skin so don't over-do it! My current go-to's are the Black Sugar Scrub from Skin Food (sadly Skin Food are ending!) or the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening Micro Polish. Both of these products are your classic grainy skin polish that buff away dead skin cells and I thoroughly enjoy using both of them - particularly on my chin and forehead. I also use the highly coveted Pixi Glow Tonic once a week too. I know some folk like to use this everyday as a toner but it's just too much for my skin to handle. Instead, I use it once a week as my exfoliation step to get rid of any dry/flaky skin and dead skin cells by popping some on a cotton round and spreading it across my face.

Exfoliation can be either a gritty scrub formula or a chemical one so just use whatever you are most comfortable with. I tend to use a scrub at the weekend as kind of a deep reset for my skin and half way through the week as a pick-me up whereas my chemical exfoliant is used at the start of my working week to try and keep some glow and healthiness locked into my skin.

Step Four: Toner
Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner | 150ml | £16.0o - Toner isn't usually a product I stay particularly loyal to, so I tend to try a new one each time my current bottle runs out. Recently, I've been using the Cosrx AHA/BHA Toner and I'm quite enjoying it. It's a lovely gentle toner that secretly packs a punch. I find it balances out my skin really well and isn't harsh or stripping on my skin which is always something I'm weary about being an oily-skinned girl (as I don't want it to send my oil-production into overdrive!). I also like this one for my morning routine too as it's very cooling and calming on the skin and the convenient spray bottle means I don't overuse or waste product.

Toner is a great step that can often be overlooked. When I was younger I never used to tone and I really notice a difference in my skin's condition nowadays if I miss out this step. I find toner helps balance my skin a lot and it can help prevent me from getting too oily everyday which is always a welcomed aid! Depending on your skin needs whether you're acne-prone, oily, dry etc. toner can be helpful to manage and improve all and any issues.

Step Five: Essence
Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence | 60ml | £24.0o - Ah, the step that confuses everyone: essence. My understanding (which please note could be entirely wrong,) is that essences are almost like serums but seem to be runnier/thinner liquids and possibly more intensive for the skin. I love this Snail and Bee Venom essence as it feels feathery light on the skin and sinks in rapidly. It's great for hydration and plumping up the skin and it really helps me fill in my laugh and frown lines.

If you don't want to use an essence or you can't get your hands on one you like, you can always just try an additional serum of your choosing. I'd definitely recommend trying essences however as I honestly feel they are little miracle products and there's a wide variety of them out there.

Step Six: Serum
Boots Botanics All Bright Radiance Concentrate Serum | 25ml | £8.99 - Back to one of my western products of choice. The Botanics range is one that I love and I always use this serum every evening and morning without fail. It's a lightweight serum that really hydrates my skin and leaves me looking glowing. The glow I get from this product is healthy and radiant without being greasy or too sparkly/unnatural. It doesn't irritate my skin at all and my skin seems to love it.

Serums are another step that I used to overlook when I was younger but can really see the benefit in them now. This step is a great chance to add in any intensive treatment for whatever your skin needs. Although I still suffer from acne and could sometimes do with using a more acne-fighting product, I never miss this product or step out as getting healthy glowing skin is my top priority and other than exfoliating, I feel that serums manage to reach this goal the best.

Step Seven: Sheet Mask
Skin Food Masks or Love Beauty and Planet Masks | 1-use Mask | £4.99 - Okay, confession time. I typically do a face mask everyday. I love them and can't get enough of them. However, when it comes to sheet masks, I find them to be quite intensive and so I typically will only do one once a week. I *love* the Skin Food masks but unfortunately, these guys are shutting down shop so I've been trialling alternatives and I've fallen hard for the Love Beauty range. The Love Beauty and Planet masks smell delicious and are so good for plumping up the skin and leaving your face feeling soft and supple.

It's recommended that you use sheet masks only once or twice a week - some individuals seem to use them everyday but I find that's just too much for my skin to handle. Always pay attention to your sheet mask's instructions, particularly the time, as if you leave it on longer than the recommended time stated you could actually make your skin worse as it will start to dehydrate your skin and rehydrate the mask.

Step Eight: Eye Cream
Mizon Collagen Power Firming Eye Cream | 25ml | £20.33 - I don't have any loyalties to any specific eye cream, but one thing I always look out for in any eye cream I choose is that it has to hydrate my undereyes and lids but also not irritate my eyes at all. Despite my super sensitive eyes, the Mizon Collagen eye cream does a grand job of keeping my skin soft and hydrated without causing my eyes any distress. I picked up a sample/travel size 10ml tube of this stuff and I definitely think I'll be picking up the full size tub once I've finished this.

Eye cream is incredibly important in a skincare routine no matter how long or how little time you spend completing your routine. Eye creams are usually specially formulated for the delicate eye area and will avoid particular ingredients that might be in other skincare products. It's always best to gently apply eye cream with your ring finger and pat it in. This keeps the eye area happy!

Step Nine: Moisturiser
Superdrug Naturally Radiant Renewing Night Cream | 75ml | £5.99 - Surprise surprise, another product from the Superdrug Naturally Radiant line! This night cream (which is the combo/to oily skin version) has been a firm favourite for some time. It's thick and nourishing for bedtime but also somehow doesn't feel heavy and has an almost jelly type of texture. I feel like it does a fab job of locking in all the products I've used in previous steps and makes my skin look healthy the following morning.

Just like eye cream, moisturiser is such a significant step in any skincare routine. It not only keeps your skin hydrated, but it can protect your skin from UV rays, sun damage, pollution, and more. Always have a good reliable moisturiser to hand and you won't go wrong.

Step Ten: Sleep Mask
Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask | 80g | £12.50 - Okay, I promise this is the last time masks will be mentioned in this post. For Korean skincare routines, the last step is usually sunscreen but as I only do my routine in the evenings, I switch out that product for a sleeping mask instead. My favourite one to use at the moment is this Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask as it's brightening and smoothing. I honestly notice such a difference in the appearance of my skin, in it's texture, and how generally healthy it looks if I don't regularly use this product. Using just a pea size amount, I smooth it gently all over my face, avoiding the eye area, once my moisturiser has finally dried down.

Sleep masks are certainly not essential, but if you ever feel like your skin needs a bit of a boost, using one of these is always a sure-fire way to make your skin happy again. They tend to be quite intensive as you leave them on overnight and you really do reap the benefits the following morning. I typically like to use a gentle but heavy-duty sleep mask so it can work lots of magic overnight but not irritate my sensitive skin. If you need a quick fix, particularly for things like dry skin, dullness, or blemishes, a sleep mask is definitely the way to go.

So you guys, you can breathe now. It might seem completely excessive to some people to have a skin routine this long and intense, but it's genuinely done my skin the world of good and I've seen some undeniable improvements in my skin's condition in the few months I've kept this routine up. If you haven't tried out the Korean step skincare routine yet, give it a go - you might be pleasantly surprised with just how well it all works!

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November 22, 2018

Sustainable, Zero Waste & Eco Friendly Christmas Gift Guide

Here it comes - the start of some Christmas content! I'm not usually one for blogging about specific times of the year all too much, but one thing I knew I wanted to talk about this Winter was sustainability at Christmas time. I've got a post coming in a couple of weeks that will delve into how to be more sustainable with things like your gift wrapping and gift making (for those on a budget or would like to make something a little more handmade and/or zero waste), but before that I thought I needed to talk gifts generally. I'm usually someone who buys gifts rather than makes them as I usually simply don't have the time to put into a variety of gifts for all the different people in my life. I also struggle with some people and wouldn't even know where to begin making them something - buying can be hard enough! So I like to think I'm quite savvy when it comes to buying gifts, making my money stretch, and getting more "unique" gifts that other people wouldn't necessarily know where to buy them themselves.

Although I've always enjoyed the gift-buying aspect of Christmas, something I'm consciously trying to do this year is buy things which are more sustainable, eco-friendly, or zero waste so each gift I hand out reflects my beliefs more. This is a lovely way to still stay true to yourself and your ethics, but without pushing it down other people's throats. There's so many great options out there and so many wonderful small and indepdent businesses which really benefit at Christmas time. One thing you truly have to remember at this time of year is that many small and indie businesses are either one individual or a small team who are working behind the scenes - it's often a hobby-turned-business and can be an individual's livelihood and only source of income. They're not multi-million corporations and they often have good ethics behind their products and services because they come directly from the individuals who set the businesses up in the first place. No corruption, no middle man, no issues. Therefore I wanted to mention so great gift options you could use this year that vary from gifting second-hand to buying something new.

I've purposefully published this post now so it hopefully gives you all a chance to order anything you like the idea of before Christmas cut-off dates. Due to Christmas deliveries, small businesses often have stricter deadlines for orders to ensure they get to you on time. So let's stop rambling and get to it!

Non-physical Gifts
Donating to a charity which is important to your gift recipient is always a thoughtful alternative gift. Not only does this mean others benefit from this gift, but it is fuss-free and has no physical waste is created. If you wanted to, you could print the evidence of your pledge/donation which could always be recycled at a later date. Sponsoring or adopting an animal is also another great alternative as this again has benefits for more than just the recipient and they usually have a certificate/gift as part of the sponsorship/adoption. Of course this doesn't make the gift exactly zero-waste, but it does create something that an individual would like to keep forever and it benefits are friends we inhabit the planet with.

Another option which has minimum physicality to it is buying a star. Over the years I have somehow accumulated two stars which people have named for me and honestly, it's such a thoughtful gift that I know this astronomy aficionado loves. There are a number of places that "sell stars" and there are then various options depending on how much you want to spend or how big of a star you want to purchase. Whoever you buy the star for will then usually get a certificate and a star chart, detailing exactly where their star lives in the night sky. A very thoughtful and heartwarming gift that doesn't create too much waste!

One last mention here I have to make is services. There's lots of services you could tap into for Christmas gifts - pay for yoga classes for someone, pay for a gym membership, pay for a creative DIY class or a chocolate tasting session - there's all sorts! One service I *have* to give a shoutout to is Holly Cassell's Witch Services. Whether it's a tarot reading, crystal programming or a beautiful candle, Holly should be your first port of call for all witchy goodness that doesn't cost the earth (in more ways than one!).

Ethical/Sustainable Clothing
An obvious option for those loved ones who love fashion is definitely an item or gift card for an ethical and/or sustainable fashion brand. This could be one of the more "big name" brands out there (check out some of my favourites here) or smaller handmade brands. Etsy is a great place to start if you want to explore sustainable/ethical small-biz and many offer gift cards so if you don't know what to buy in particular, you can play it safe. Buying ethical and sustainable fashion for friends or family members at Christmas can be a wonderful way to introduce them to slow and sustainable fashion if they're not into it already.

Some of my favourite small business brands (that I haven't already mentioned here) include:
- Ragtrade Clothing Co: beautiful linen capsule wardrobe pieces created by an equally beautiful and hardworking woman
- Rawson Chicago: The no.1 place for the best pants and vintage tops and tees
- notPERFECTLINEN: lovely linen pieces that fit like a glove

If your loved one is really into shopping second-hand or vintage pieces, there's absolutely no reason why you can't use this joy for their Christmas gifts. Not everyone is comfortable with receiving something second-hand as a gift, but if you know someone who is all for it - do it. Etsy can also be a a good starting point for this if you want to shop online, amongst other fab online options.

Eco-friendly Items
There's *so* many fantastic eco-friendly products out there that can help someone because more eco-friendly or less wasteful in their day to day life that would make awesome gifts. You could try some practical items such as Bees Wax Wraps for keeping food fresh or an alternative to store your lunch-on-the-go in, Reusable Cotton Pad Rounds for the beauty lovers in your life that want to make a better impact on the planet, or a fresh new Bamboo Coffee Cup or Water Bottle for everyday sustainability and reducing plastic pollution.

If you want to branch out even further, curated sustainable gift boxes are perfect as items have been hand-selected and come together in one great package that is bound to be a show-stopping gift. Brands who do this really well are The Sustainable Box and Low Tox Box. If you're looking for more specifically beauty or skincare related gift boxes, definitely check out Green Tulip too!

Plants, plants, and more plants
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know by now that I bloody love plants so so much. House plants are very "in" right now so they're an excellent gift idea as they're so readily available. Not only that, but I am a firm believer that a house plant has a thoughtful vibe to it and can boost people's moods and elevate a home's atmosphere too. They have so many health benefits and can be something someone will treasure for years. Of course you can pick up house plants anywhere and everywhere these days - even in your local supermarket - but my favourite more independent places to shop plants are definitely:
- The Watered Garden
- Stupid Egg Interiors

Handmade & Re-gifting
Handmade DIY presents are often overlooked but have so much love and time poured into them, it's rather silly that they're not given more attention. Baking some cookies, making a candle, or making your own shower scrub/bath salts is a lovely way to tick off one of the gifts on your "to-buy" list and make it a little more personal. Not everyone has the time or abilities to be creative and do things themselves, but if you're feeling comfortable and confident, I say go for it and make whatever your heart desires. By making something yourself, you can ensure that that outcome is ethical and you can also consider if the ingredients are natural, zero waste, eco-friendly etc.

Lastly I want to mention something that some people deem quite distasteful but, hear me out! How many of us end up with unwanted gifts each Christmas because people go a little consumer crazy? I personally see no issues with re-gifting these items to others as long as it's something you would genuinely gift to that particular person anyway and if that person wouldn't mind. A great re-gifting option to minimise the backlash of this is definitely books and cookbooks. I know that my kitchen has an awful lot of cookbooks in it and many don't get used regularly at all so passing these on to others who would lovingly use them is not only cost-effective, but sustainable too. If you have a favourite page-turner that you've absolutely loved reading but you know you won't read it again, pass it on to a friend or family member too!

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November 06, 2018

My Favourite Apps for my Inner Astrologer & Mystic

Hey folks, I thought it was high-time we talked a little bit more about the stars and predicting our futures - just kidding. We all know here I am a massive advocate for horoscopes and learning more about starsigns, but I always like to use them as a way to navigate life and assign things that might happen to me which don't make sense or stress me out etc. as horoscopes help me to give that particular incident a purpose so I can then think "what should I do about that? What should I do next?" and I find that really helpful. I also just like them because I think they have a lot to do with our personalities and who we are as people. As my first post delving into astrology went down well with you all, I figured I would share with you the apps I enjoy using and would highly recommend for those tech-savvy mystics out there:

Daily Horoscope: One of the first ever horoscope/zodiac apps I downloaded and I still swear by it. This is my favourite app to look at not only my daily horoscope, but also my weekly and monthly. This app has a nice little level of customisation for the colour palette, the font size, the readability etc. of the app so it fits your style, but really it's the content of this app that always wins me over. You can scroll back and forth between days so you can read ahead of time future horoscope predictions if you so wish or if you missed yesterday's, you can scroll back to see if it was accurate or not. Daily Horoscope also has a nice addition of the Chinese birth years which you can read for each sign and Druid tree signs that you can educate yourself on. You can also check other horoscopes so it's not just fixed on your own and have an annual overview or traits read of each starsign so there's a lot of flexibility with this app. My favourite thing about this though is that I just find it to be the most accurate out of all I use and have tried in the past. I find I can apply most of what is said really easily to something going on in my life and it helps me process what might have changed or what I'm currently experiencing as it gives it a purpose and correlation.

Golden Thread Tarot: If you are interested in tarot but you just don't know where to start, get Golden Thread Tarot downloaded as soon as possible. This visually pleasing app helps explain how to read and interpret tarot cards and tracks a lot of information in the mean time. This app will track what cards you pull over time and the affect they, or the things the cards may be hinting at, have on you and your feelings. I really like this app as it's kind of like a spiritual toolkit so it not only educates me but can be used for support and insight into my more spiritual side. If you really want to, you can also purchase a physical tarot deck of the same cards that are used in the app's beautiful artwork so you can feel like you've really got all of your shit together.

Celeste: If you're someone who wants to get more into very specific astrology and get down to the nitty gritty of birth/natal charts and what they mean about you and your interaction with others, then Celeste is the app for you. I've talked about birth charts and the beginners guide to understanding them before and also recommended helpful reading on the topic but if you're more techy and find it easier to understand when you actually just get stuck into it, Celeste maps out your birth chart based on the information you input. Therefore it's a great starting point for those who are wishing to map their birth charts or if you simply want to be nosy and check out someone elses.

Co - Star: Okay so, if you own an iPhone, you need to get this app. Co-Star gives you the opportunity to not only track your own horoscope and gain familiarity with your birth chart, but you can add friends and family members who also have the app to explore their charts in more detail and also look at your compatibility. I *really* like this one for that reason the most - I can read about my friendships and relationships and it's helped me make sense of some things and prepared me for others. I find it be yet another app that is very accurate and its got nice imagery and a nice interface too. If you're someone who has started to get into your birth chart and horoscope but you're still learning what it all means, this app explains things simply and clearly.

Time Passages: Another app similar to Co-Star, Time Passages allows you to map your own birth chart and others, understand your sun, moon, and rising signs in more detail (if you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about, check out this post), but also updates you on moon phases and upcoming mercury retrograde periods if you want to prepare yourself for their effects. Just like many of the other apps mentioned in this post, this one is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate but also utilises GPS on your phone really well to give you an as accurate chart and reading as possible. In-app purchases are available and you can also buy a more detailed version of the app, but I honestly think the free version and it's freebies deliver more than enough.

Astrolis Horoscopes & Tarot : This app allows you to look at both your horoscope and tarot cards and both can be looked at daily. The horoscopes are short and sweet and include little snippets in relation to the planets now and again which I like (it always feels a little more authentic when this is the case!) and you can check just a regular daily update, weekly, monthly, annually, and everything in between! If you're having money worries, you can check that out specifically. If you've recently fallen head over heels, you can check out "Love" and see if it tallies up with reality. I like that this app gives you a daily compatible sign, lucky numbers, and also daily outlooks focusing on your mood, love, energy, and money - most of which I find quite accurate day to day. My favourite part of this app though is the daily tarot pulls you can do. You can flip three tarots - past, present, and future - and read a little about them and what they might be related to. Again, these readings are short and sweet, but I find them quite insightful and they help me navigate changes and negativities in life.

iLuna: I make jokes about "mercury in retrograde" as much as the next millennial, but the way the moon affects the planet is something I will always argue and stand by. The moon has an effect on the ocean and the tides so in my mind, it's foolish to think that it doesn't have an effect on us as human beings. iLuna tracks the moon and it's travels through the 12 signs of the zodiac. During this tracking, it suggests ways in which the moon's movements could affect us and you can also search ahead of time to find out what phase the moon may be in on a specific date (if you want to check special date and plan accordingly). Again, this is another visually pretty app to use and is simple to navigate so it's just a joy to use.

Mystic Mondays: I love the whole aesthetic and pay off of this app. Mystic Mondays pulls a daily tarot card for you and I often find it to be scarily accurate or applicable for my day or recent mood. I like this app because it's simple and fuss free but the artwork/design of it is still gripping and visually stimulating. Although, of course, you get some repetition with it (as there's only so many options you can possibly get from a tarot deck each day), it still feels individual and unique to me and the words are just as good as the artwork. It's definitely a full package kind of app. It's also a good one for those of you who might be getting into tarot reading as it has a library section of all of the cards and what they typically refer to.

Skyview Lite: Skyview is a great app not just for those of you who are into your astrology or spirituality, but for anyone who just wants to look at a beautiful app and potentially wow others. Skyview allows you to point your camera at the night sky and will map out the stars for you, constellations, and satellites. Skymapping apps can get quite pricey, but this one is free for the most part and has a nice interface to use. It's educational and a must-have for stargazing advocates as you can check out local stargazing events too!

Dreamboard: Last but not least, if you're someone who remembers their dreams or remotely likes to sleep track etc. then Dreamboard is a must. It is a dream journal app which you can use for tracking, analysing, and recording your dreams. A bit like a fitness app, Dreamboard will collect whatever information you store in it so you can visually see how often you may have nightmares, lucid dream, if you haven't dreamt for a long time - even if you've had a good night's sleep. I like to look back at the narration I can input to see if any themes crop up or if I have any recurring dreams.

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October 28, 2018

Having a Sustainable Halloween: Recipes for Using up your Pumpkin

Halloween is one of the best parts of the year - don't @ me trying to tell me any different. But guess what? This goth for life has never carved a pumpkin til this year. I know, you're all utterly horrified but, it's just the way it's always been! I remember carving a turnip when I was younger (shout out to fellow working class folk who grew up doing this because it was the cheaper alternative) but, this year I wanted to finally sit down and complete this main Halloween tradition properly. Something that I wanted to make sure I did whilst carving though is make sure I used up as much of the pumpkin as possible. Many times I've witnessed pumpkin carving going on and all the good bits inside have made their way swiftly to the bin. What a waste. Pumpkin is *such* a comforting and nutritious food - here's just some of its benefits:
- high in Vitamin A
- also full of various other vitamins for improving immunity
- nutrients that promote healthy skin
- high anti-oxidant content for reducing risk of chronic illness
- full of nutrients that can protect eyesight

So, I think we can all agree that pumpkin can really pack a punch. With all the benefits of it in mind, and the fact that I didn't want to waste any perfectly good food just for the sake of a carving, Matt came up with the idea of posting about a sustainable Halloween. And that was that. So, I came up with a couple of recipes for both the inside and out so I could truly benefit from ticking this tradition off my list of things to try. If you want to eat some scrummy food and also pamper your skin for a low price and to make your Halloween carving time a little more sustainable and waste-free then just keep on reading! (Please note: one of the best things you can do is carve out as much pumpkin flesh as you can before doing your actual carving. This will a) give you some flesh to work with during your pumpkin being used for Halloween and b) make it easier for you to carve. It's also worth noting that one of these recipes requires chopped pieces of pumpkin so cutting up your jack-o-lantern before it goes bad is worth it for that particular recipe! And shout out to Matt for being a source of grand ideas. You can all thank him for this. )

Curried Pumpkin Soup & Curried Seed Crunch - Vegan & Low Calorie
This recipe is a fool-proof option and a great autumn warmer. Pumpkin doesn't hold a lot of taste on it's own which makes it a great base ingredient for soups, stews and curries. I use US "cup measurements for this as it's easier to keep track of the ratios of ingredients. This soup is packed full of veggies and great flavouring that tallies up to just 161 calories per portion and uses up the flesh and the seeds of the pumpkin!

Calories: 161 per person | Serves: 2 (generously)

For the soup:
- 1 tbsp of oil of your choice for frying
- 1 regular-sized yellow onion, sliced
- 3 cups of pumpkin, chopped or carved out
- 1 cup of carrots, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp of fresh ginger, minced (ground ginger or paste works too!)
- 1 tbsp of curry powder
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- salt & pepper
- 1 litre of vegetable stock (or chicken if you're not veggie/vegan!)

For the seeds:
- 1 cup of clean pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 tsp of oil of your choice
- 1 tsp of curry powder
- 1 tsp of fajita seasoning or cayenne pepper
- salt & pepper

For the soup:
1. Add some oil to a deep pan on a med-high heat ready to saute the onions. Cook them through until they start to go translucent (about 5-6 mins).
2. Add the garlic and ginger and carry on cooking for a couple of minutes.
3. Now add the carrot, pumpkin, curry powder, and cumin. Stir through.
4. Pop in the vegetable/chicken stock and bring to the boil. Now reduce the heat and leave it to cook through with the lid on for 20 minutes.
5. Once the vegetables have softened, pop it all in a liquidiser or use a handheld one to whizz-up the ingredients. Pulse the ingredients to a texture of your liking for soup (I like mine quite liquid rather than chunky!) and add salt and pepper to taste.

For the seeds:
1. Preheat the oven to 190c.
2. Toss the seeds, oil, and spices in a bowl.
3. Place some baking paper on a baking tray and lay the seeds on it in one flat layer.
4. Bake for around 8-10 minutes. Check on them occasionally and move them around if need be until they are browned and smell delicious! You can also pop them under the grill to get them really crisp.

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Pie with Maple Cream - Easy & Vegetarian
This one is a new one for me as previously, I had never tried pumpkin pie! It's a very rich and indulgent dessert but is a very autumn/winter appropriate sweet option that has a festive feel. I've made it easy with ready-made pastry and I didn't even have a proper tart cake tin - so this is proof that you can make do with what's in your cupboards (including making it vegan if you can find good single and double cream substitutes!)

Calories: 585 | Serves: 6-8 (depending on serving size)

For the pie:
- Ready-to-roll shortcrust pastry
- 6 cups of pumpkin, peeled & chopped/carved
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup of butter, melted
- 150ml of single cream
- 1 cup of muscovado sugar (light or dark - I only had dark in stock!)
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ginger
- 1 tsp of nutmeg

For the maple cream topping:
- 1 small tub of double cream (I used Emlea 284ml size)
- 3 tbsp of maple syrup (I used maple-flavoured agave as I didn't have any!)

For the pie:
1. Unroll the pastry and leave to thaw according to the packaging instructions (mine suggested 60 minutes). During this time, cover the pastry in a sprinkling on cinnamon.
2. Put the pastry in a 20cm tart/cake tin if you have one, if not, try and find a similar-sized square tin with high sides. Trim off any excess pastry as it should come up to just above whatever tin you've put it in.
3. Pop the pumpkin, cream, muscovado sugar, nutmeg and ginger in a pan to simmer through. Simmer on a medium heat for around 20 minutes or until the pumpkin starts to soften (if you have a lot of carved out pumpkin rather than chopped up pieces, this is perfect for this recipe as it will all be blitzed soon anyway).
4. Pour the mixture into a blender and whizz it up until smooth. Leave the mixture cooling and go back to your pastry.
5. Heat your oven to 200c and cover the pastry with baking paper of foil. Pour baking beads in on top of the paper/foil and bake the pastry for 15 minutes (pro tip: if you don't have baking beads, dry rice works just as well and can be put back into packaging once used!)
6. Remove from the oven and remove the baking beads and paper. Bake the pastry once more for 5 minutes longer.
7. Pour your pumpkin puree mixture into a bowl and beat in 3 eggs and the melted butter.
8. Turn the oven down to 180c and pour the mixture into the pastry case. Fill it almost to the top but leave some crust showing! Cook for 30-40 minutes. You'll know when it's done if it wobbles like jelly in the middle.

For the cream:
1. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it stiffens.
2. Beat in the maple syrup/maple syrup substitute. Spoon onto the top of a warm slice of pie and enjoy!

Pumpkin Seed Energy Balls - Vegan & Healthy Snack
Date energy balls are a firm favourite when it comes to snacks. I really enjoy making them with oats and almonds with some cacao powder as they're a good healthy alternative to having a chocolate biscuit with a cuppa, but these ones have a hint of festive spirit to them thanks to the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Calories: 80 per ball | Serving: 10-12 (depending on size)

- 12 medjool dates
- 1 cup of pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- cacao or cocoa powder to roll balls in if you've got a sweet craving!

1. Remove the pits from the dates and put them in a food processor.
2. Add in the pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Blitz the whole lot until it starts to combine and spin around the blender as a whole lump.
3. Separate the mixture into small handfuls and roll in the palms of the hand to make small balls.
4. Leave as is to chill in the fridge or roll them in some cacao or cocoa powder if you want some extra sweetness!

Pumpkin Enzyme Face Mask & Scrub - Vegan & Brightening
On top of the benefits I've already mentioned, pumpkin is great for the skin's surface too. The enzymes in pumpkin and the AHAs can increase cell turnover, smooth the skin and soften it. It is full of the antioxidants Vitamin A and Vitamin C which not only soften the skin but can also boost collagen production and thus, help with anti-ageing. This recipe is lush to put on when your skin is angry too. As it's a fresh natural face mask, you need to keep it in the fridge and use it within a week, so small batches are best. It's very cooling and will feel gently tingling on the skin as it helps blood flow to the surface of the skin. Add in some granulated sugar if you want to give it a scrubbing property too!

- 1 large tbsp of pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ginger
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tbsp of honey (or agave to make it vegan)
- 1 tbsp of white granulated sugar (if making it a scrub!)

1. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl/jar and mix well.
2. Apply to the face and leave for 10-15 minutes.
3. Rinse and enjoy your baby-butt-soft face and glow!

Remember that if you're sat there with a whole lot of pumpkin on your hands, if you roast it for 1 hour on 180c and then peel away the skin, you can pop it all in a blender/liquidiser and make puree. Puree can then be used for *so* many recipes but best of all, it can be sealed in a container and kept in the freezer for a good 3-4 months so if you think you've got too much to use up fresh, freeze the rest for use during winter.

Lastly, if you've somehow got through this whole post and thought "hang on a minute, I don't even like pumpkin" or you are worrying about what you do with your carving once it's starting to collapse then, don't you worry. Popping your pumpkin outside whether it's at the bottom of the garden or even in your local park or woodland is a great, sustainable way to get rid of it because the animals love it. Whether we're talking about birds, badgers, squirrels, foxes... you name it, they'll wanna eat it. If you happen to have any of the seeds leftover, pop them outside too - there's no reason it's only the humans who should get to enjoy this time of year.

Happy Halloween!

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October 21, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: Switching to Zero Waste Natural Cleaning Products

Hey gang, it's been a hot minute since the last Sustainable Sunday post so that fact combined with something I need to get off my chest, I decided to post this. Cleaning isn't something that's usually talked about on a lot in the blogging/vlogging world, but it's become quite popular recently due to a few different influencers via Instagram, blogs etc. and whilst I think it's quite a good thing, it's also made me painfully aware that many people don't pay much attention to cleaning products and what they're actually are.

I've been cruelty free in every aspect of my life (including my household cleaning products for a little while now), but I've recently upped that movement of mine to making sure I am also using natural ingredients in my cleaning regime which in turn means I am also becoming more zero waste which is great in my opinion. So in this post I want to share with you all why switching to zero waste, natural cleaning products is a really positive and how easy it can be!

It's a lie that you need lots of different cleaners
One of the biggest lies ever told is that you need a whole-host of different cleaners for different rooms, surfaces, spills/marks etc. Don't get me wrong, if you're polishing something that is metal then you might not want to use the same product on something wooden, but the idea that you need a kitchen cleaner, then a bathroom cleaner, then something else for the oven hob, then another product for the shower screen/glass... It's all just lie. Using a natural cleaner with basic ingredients in means you can tackle every job in the house with that one bottle of product and doesn't that sound like the easiest way to live your life?

So many cleaning products aren't cruelty free
Something that not everyone may be concerned about but something that's certainly close to my heart is keeping up my cruelty free way of life. After switching to shopping exclusively cruelty free over a year and a half ago, I've started to pay more and more close attention to what I pick up when shopping and in more realms of my shopping too. Household cleaning products isn't usually the main area people think of when we think "cruelty free". We tend to focus on the beauty and skincare worlds and the household kind of gets left out of the scrutiny limelight. But the problem with this is that *so* many of the popular cleaning products aren't cruelty free. The idea that many cleaning agents are experimented on animals is upsetting to me and so a huge benefit of making your own products at home is without a doubt the peace of mind that I know no animals were harmed at all.

Many products have a lot of harmful chemicals in them
Adding to the cruelty free point, another factor I'm not completely comfortable with with many products is just how full of chemicals they are. I get it - the chemicals help cut through grease or limescale blah blah blah - but so do so so many natural ingredients that are anti-bacterial and disinfecting. I personally like to have a super clean home and a lot of this stems from my mam being OCD and growing up with that, but I'm also a firm believer that if you're not exposed to germs of any type, you're going to have a super bad immune system. Using harsh chemicals that have warnings on the bottles about the product getting on your skin or causing irritation, chemical burns and poisoning just seems like a drastic step to take to avoid some germs when they can be tackled and managed in a much safer way. Some studies have suggested that women who held cleaning jobs whilst pregnant had an elevated chance of their babies having birth defects which of course, is kind of alarming.

Speaking of harmful chemicals, the fumes/fragrances can be toxic too
It's probably no surprise to some of you that a few cleaning chemicals on the market can trigger asthma, other respiratory problems, and allergic reactions (and I know I for one used to cough my guts up whilst cleaning my bathroom). Synthetic fragrances are usually to blame for this and annoyingly, many petrochemicals such as phthalates are included in this umbrella term on the ingredients list. This is annoying for a consumer because phthalates have been linked to any number of things: breast and liver cancer, lowering sperm count, disrupting hormone activity, and nervous-system disorders yet many companies are allowed to include these dangerous ingredients because it "smells nice". Synthetic fragrance is absorbed into the bloodstream through contact with the skin so watch out for it listed in any number of products - not just household cleaning. It can be in candles, dryer sheets, baby wipes, air freshner etc. and although the EU and US banned phthalates from being in products such as childrens toys, they are allowed a very small percent of them to be present and not every single phthalate is banned. To me, it just makes sense to avoid them all together and create your own cleaners!

Switching to zero waste means less one-use plastic pollution
The battle against plastic pollution has been a big one this past year and whilst I still think we have a long way to go and a lot of the damage is irreversible, there's a lot of things we can do to make things better. Again, something that I think is overlooked, is the containers we buy our products in. We often don't think twice about how some items are packaged yet we complain about others (think about the whole debate about fruit and veg being packaged in plastic). The majority of shop-bought cleaning products come in plastic bottles or containers and many of us - myself included for the longest time - didn't give a second thought to this single-use plastic that yeah, we throw in the recycling in the hopes that it *will* be recycled, but if we're really honest with ourselves, we don't know what happens to it for sure. By making natural cleaning products at home, you drastically minimise the amount of plastic you're wasting and throwing out which is a great side-effect alongside all the other benefits.

Homemade cleaners have great natural products which are effective
Something I touched on earlier and will certainly go into more detail in my DIY cleaning products post is just how great natural ingredients are and how effectively they clean. Think back to when Kim and Aggie would go around all those desperate-for-a-deep-clean homes on TV and they would have the place sparkling after a dash of vinegar here and a bit of bicarbonate soda here. These readily available items amongst many others are *so good* when it comes to cleaning and can do arguably a better job than the cleaners with the high price tags and chemical counts if you just use them in the right way, in the right mix.

You will save *so* much money
Last but certainly not least, I can't stress enough jut how much money zero waste homemade products will help you save. Many of the ingredients in these natural cleaners are items you'd pick up in your weekly or monthly food shop and thus are ofte affordable, available, and don't have a great deal of waste. I urge anyone reading this to have a look under their kitchen sink and just tally up how much their various cleaners, detergents, bleaches etc. come to and then compare it to the one or two natural ingredient DIY products you could make. Not only are you saving because you can use cheap ingredients each time you need to make a new batch, but you're saving on overspending just because of a brand name, and you're saving on the price potentially being hiked-up due to paying for packaging as you can reuse whatever container you use again and again.

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for a DIY zero waste cleaning product recipe post so you can make a switch to natural household cleaners with ease!

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October 16, 2018

Book Club No. 17

Hello lovely folk, today I'm back with a book review post for you all. This is an all-round "good books" review which is fab as that's not always the case for Book Club but, I've read some great things recently. If you're a fellow fan of graphic novels/comics then you'll be pleased to know, I've got you covered in this post too! So let's get into the reviews:

Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Oh man you guys, where do I even start with this? If you've been a reader for a while, you will know that I'm a *huge* fan of this series and really enjoyed the first and second books a lot so it's probably no surprise that the third instalment also really floated my boat.

I'm not going to explain the back story or general plot too much as I already have here, but this is such a great third and "final" book. I say "final" because it's been recently announced that Ransom Riggs is actually releasing the 4th book so I'm mega excited, but the 4th book is the start of a new trilogy set in the United States rather than the UK. This book is still following the trip in London that the children are going through to find their beloved ymbryne, Miss Peregrine, after she is stolen away along with the other ymbrynes. Library of Souls goes down the more fantasy route whereas, despite the main characters being magical with amazing varying powers that defy logic and all odds, the other books are set in more realistic environments and circumstances. Library of Souls however spends the majority of the story in a peculiar-only zone/town and part of me feels that a small reason for that is this book can get dark and the magic kind of softens the blow.

The gang that you follow throughout the series get separated for a lot of this book which I completely understand why as it fits the narrative and plot, but I was kind of disappointed because the group as a whole work so well together that I often felt like I was missing characters: Enoch's sarcasm or Bronwyn's care and consideration mainly. Despite this though, it's a great way to explore Jacob's - the main character - thoughts and feelings towards things seemingly coming to a close and him dealing with how much power, influence, and friendship he has built. It gets quite dark as the violence is stepped up a notch and Riggs describes this really well by keeping it suitable for young adults but also making it suitably harrowing at the same time. New characters were introduced into this third book too and I was not mad about it - Sharon is a fucking great character and I hope he has a little cameo in the next trilogy. Overall, the book did a fine job bringing this epic adventure to a close without dulling the opportunity for future escapades and although I would still say the second book (Hollow City) was my favourite, this one still gripped me and had me guessing throughout whilst also turning each page hoping and praying that my favourite characters wouldn't meet their end.

The one problem I had with it, that I weirdly didn't have with the other two books, was the fact that Riggs uses old photographs throughout the book to give you an idea of what particular characters look like. He has stated before that he does this as he's been influenced by these old photos from garage/yard sales and wanted to use them in his stories. Obviously, some of them have been altered to match his characters as well, but it just didn't seem to flow as well in this book. Sometimes it came across as if characters were just included momentarily as some sort of filler just so the photo would make sense, rather than them being central to the narrative. This isn't something that ruins the story at all, it's just something that distracted me as a reader from the plot at times which is a shame. However like I said, I recommend this book and the whole trilogy very highly. Grab your own copy here for £5.58

Injection Volume 2 by Warren Ellis
Somehow, it's been two years since I read the first Injection volume and boy oh boy am I pleased I've got back to this story. I'll quickly give you some backstory: Injection focuses on five specialist individuals who are brought together by the British government to theorize about human culture and why society is progressing and changing the way that it is in the 21st century. They then create an artificial intelligence that is a mix of shamanism and technology which essentially poisons the world in response to their theories and hypotheses. Injection really begins when the group has disbanded and then are being brought back together to try and stop the havoc the intelligence is starting to reek on the planet.

The second volume obviously explores some of the main characters a lot more which is great, and also develops the story so you can begin to understand more about Injection/the poison/the artificial intelligence and how it has grown and learned things to develop itself. This second instalment was just as gripping as the first and had some excellent scenes of humour which I always feel steps up graphic novels that little bit extra as they can jump from funny to serious in a page turn or strip. The artwork in Injection is also really good and fits the genre and mood of the comic well. After reading this second volume, I feel that Injection is a bit of a slow burn overall despite the first two collections being really hard-hitting with twists in the plot, but generally speaking, I feel like it's all building to a huge crescendo at the end which will be epic (or that's what I'm hoping at least). If you like comics that have a sci-fi feel but with elements of superstition, horror, and mythology thrown in there for good measure, you are bound to love this. Volume 3 is also out now and Volume 4 will be released next month so get on it quick! Get your paperback copy for £11.78 here

The Knife of Never Letting Go: The First Novel of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
I know I said it earlier, but honestly, I don't know where to start with this one, gang. I got this book (along with the next two in the trilogy) from Matt for my birthday and holy shit. I didn't know what to expect, but it's fair to say, it's ended in love after this first book. Patrick Ness wrote one of my favourite books that made me ball like a baby in public the first time I read it, so I was so excited to get stuck into The Knife of Never Letting Go. This series follows a young boy named Todd Hewitt who lives in a backwater town called Prentisstown. This town is on New World - a planet which some humans decided to move to and colonise as they wanted to get back to a simple way of living - and to Todd's knowledge, it's the only town which has survived after the war with the aliens who lived here called the Spackle.

Prentisstown is unique as towns go as it consists on solely men and boys who are taught from a young age that the greatest goal in life is becoming a man; something which little Todd Hewitt is a matter of a days away from and he is dying for it to happen as he is the last boy in the town to enter manhood. Another major factor in Prentisstown is that no one's thoughts are true feelings are entirely theirs to keep to themselves because of the Noise. At the start of the story, Todd explains that the Noise was a weapon the Spackle unleashed on the humans which means that their thoughts are constantly active and visible/audible for all those nearby to see and hear. It has colours, it can be hard to control if you are feeling emotional at all, and it means that the centre of town for instance, can give you a real bad head as there's never any silence. Todd lives on a farm with his adoptive guardians - Ben and Cillian - who promised Todd's deceased parents that they would care for him.

When Todd discovers something in the swamp, he can't keep his wandering mind quiet and his Noise lets slip what he found and his whole life snowballs into escape, danger, and confusion. When I first started reading this book, I instantly thought "oh no" as Todd's character and many of the Prentisstown men's speech is written with an accent: so "you" is written "yer"... you get the idea. I usually hate this as I'm a slow reader as it is, but having elements like this in books makes it even more difficult for me to rattle through them but surprisingly, I grew to love it in this book as it gave me so much more of an idea of Todd as a character. I don't really want to say much more about the plot because it will give away all the surprise and suspense, but this book is amazing for creating drama and leaving you constantly on a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter (including the last chapter - goddamn you, Ness). The characters in the story are so easy to picture in the mind and you get really attached to some whilst others you have a real distain for and it makes ploughing through the story all that more enjoyable.

If you're someone who usually overlooks YA fiction, you *have* to give this book a shot because I feel that Ness is such a talented writer that he puts some adult fiction writers to shame. He creates such a harrowing, dark, terrifying, yet empathetic and beautiful story that I'd be surprised if anyone said they didn't like this at all. I can't wait to dive into book two of trilogy, I'm just building myself up to it because it's a long one. You honestly have to grab this book - it's only £5.73 here

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October 09, 2018

Shane Dawson x Jake Paul - Sociopath Stigma

Gang, I have some thoughts and I just needed to get them out. I've aired some of my thoughts thus far with people in real life, via Twitter, but there's just *so* much I want to say, it made sense to get it all out right here where I ramble best. So let's talk about the current Shane Dawson series with Jake Paul.

Before I really start getting into this, I have to note here that I'm a big fan of Shane Dawson - I've watched his content off and on for years now, I'm a subscriber of his, and I just generally enjoy his content whether it's him just vlogging with his friends or his conspiracy videos - I enjoy the majority of the content he produces. I always view him as quite a genuine, down to earth character and I've always admired the fact that he confronts any criticism well and will apologise for anything said or done that hasn't sat right with people. Shane recently started to create little mini-series in which he would talk to other YouTube stars to get down to the nitty gritty in their lives. I first got sucked into it all when he met up with grav3yardgirl and then, of course, the very popular series with Jeffree Star. Shane has a knack for comforting people and seemingly making them at ease enough to share anything and everything with him, often leaving him quite emotional and viewers like myself also feeling like you've hopped on an emotional rollercoaster. This is where some concern started when the first indication that Jake Paul would be involved in one of these mini-series. People just didn't want it.

Shane received a lot of backlash upon mentioning any sort of collab with Jake Paul. Many fans of Shane said they didn't want to be left feeling sorry for Jake as he's not a nice person, they didn't want to see Shane giving Jake another platform to potentially build an audience or views, and many fans were adamant that if the series happened, they would be unsubscribing from his channel. So it's fair to say people were pretty heated about this before it even took off. I personally don't know much about Jake Paul or Logan Paul - the majority of what I knew before this series started is that both brothers create content I'm certainly not interested in; content that seems very self-invested but not in a positive way, it's about flashing the cash and a carefree attitude because "I've got money so the rules don't apply to me", and making monumentally bad decisions and thus, setting really bad examples for their mostly young impressionable audiences - of course though, this is just my opinion of it and at complete face value. I'm talking about both brothers here because they're very rarely talked about as separate entities - especially now, almost everything comes back to Logan Paul and that straight up fucking ridiculous Suicide Forest video.

But let's get on with the point of this post. Shane went ahead with the series despite the initial backlash and honestly? I didn't think I would find myself watching it because of how little interest I have in Jake Paul. However (and this is a big however), I'm completely invested in the series now. Shane's channel has some great edited videos - he is very very clever with the choice of music, the shock factor, the entertainment, the fact that he's a very likeable person - and this series definitely reflects all of that but, not necessarily in the best way. The first thing I noticed about the series that was a little 'off' for me was the fact that Shane heavily focuses on the idea of Jake being a sociopath - right off the bat. The focus on this is one thing, but the fact that video is edited in almost a horror story-style way is very off-putting. From the very first video, I had a problem with the fact that 'sociopath' was thrown around a great deal despite Shane himself not really being able to explain what that means. It's a word that is just thrown out there at the start of the series and it instantly holds so much stigma. It's something that Shane creates fear around and uses as a "dun dun duuun!" aspect in the videos.

It might sound silly to some, but I probably wouldn't have been so instantly riled up about it if Shane had approached it with more care and consideration. Even if he had sat there chatting to the camera/Andrew/his viewers at the start but had pulled up a google "what is a sociopath?" search and read it aloud; even if he had done just that I would have felt more comfortable. But he didn't and naturally, some folk got pissed off about it. So that brings me onto the biggest issue I have: the therapist.

In the second video, The Dark Side of Jake Paul, Shane sits down with a friend and certified therapist, Kati Morton. Kati discusses the symptoms of this Antisocial Personality Disorder and lemme tell you, I was not okay with how it was done. Kati has her own YouTube channel and whilst I think that her creating content that openly discusses mental health, particularly from a professional, educated level is great to see on the platform, how she discussed this particular disorder was not okay. Repeatedly throughout the discussion with Shane, Kati refers to the symptoms of this disorder as being "icky", "gross", and "creepy". Now, I feel like this may have been because she states that sociopaths wouldn't typically care what anyone thinks of them - so therefore by default they probably wouldn't care about her saying that right? Wrong. Discussing any individual in that sort of demeaning way is wrong, especially when your whole career revolves around helping such individuals in a sensitive, non-judgemental, neutral way.

My major gripe with this was the fact that Kati, as a professional, should not have used those words to describe anything to do with an Antisocial Personality or Behaviour Disorder. Whilst on the one hand I could play devil's advocate and say that she was just talking to a friend and therefore it might have just came out at the end of the day, she's still a licensed therapist and should never speak about anyone or any symptoms in that sort of a derogatory way. I feel that what was said shouldn't have even come out of her mouth - even if the camera wasn't recording. It's completely unprofessional to talk about any mental illness that way but considering this was about one that has so much stigma attached to it already makes it all the more irresponsible. At one point, Kati shares the statistic that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths. This statistic is then tossed around in such a way that is scaremongering; as if there's lots of monsters roaming around amongst us in society. It's almost laughable that symptoms of this disorder are discussed in a way that makes it sound like we're living in The Purge in real life.

This, for me, is where the accountability really needs to be stepped up on Shane's channel. Since that video, Shane has included disclaimers at the start of videos stating that he doesn't mean to accuse anyone, label anyone, and no one should be trying to self-diagnose or diagnose others based on what has been talked about in this series. The problem with this is, it's all a little too late. As I mentioned before, I always appreciate that Shane will answer criticism and that he will hold his hands up and apologise for things he's said or done but I'm just not getting that vibe this time around. Of course the disclaimers are needed and he can't rewind time to erase past video mistakes but the disclaimers are somewhat empty for me. The main reason for me feeling like this is the fact one of the first things Shane has said in response to the backlash is "I've used footage of friends in the clips mentioning sociopaths!". It just sounds like a weak version of those comments you hear like, "some of my best friends are gay!" "some of my best friends are black!" when someone has fucked up majorly. In the fifth video, we see Kati Morton state that she usually works with eating disorders in her day-to-day career and thus, Antisocial Personality Disorders such as this are not her strong suit - again, if this had been discussed more at the start of the series, it might have helped.

Having now watched the first five videos in this eight-video series, I can say that the majority of the series has been entertaining and eyeopening. It's almost been a YouTube reality show sort of level of drama. I don't watch any soaps on TV or any reality shows, but I imagine the *drama* on those shows would be similar to the 'tea' this series has tried to deliver. Although I've found it interesting as I now want to know more about Jake Paul as a person as there's so much controversy and - quite frankly - conspiracy around who he is, what he's hiding, his relationships/friendships etc., I still feel that there's been a lot of distasteful editing and things said that shouldn't be excused just for the entertainment value. YouTubers like Shane are incredibly popular (the first video of this series has already had 19 million views and it's only one week old), and therefore they have a great deal of influence. If 19 million people have watched him throw around the term 'sociopath', if 19 million have heard him and a qualified professional verge on making fun of the symptoms of a mental disorder, if 19 million have self-diagnosed or diagnosed others as a result of symptoms being relatable or stigma being easily attached to themselves or others, *that* is a major issue.

I'll still be watching the series to the end and will no doubt continue to watch Shane as he's incredibly charismatic and I fully believe that the series has come from a good place and no malicious intent is present here, especially after watching episode 5 as it's more what I'm used to from Shane. It's more about getting to know the individual the series is about and not creating this over-the-top backstory before that individual even makes it on screen and says hello. However, I'm full of hope that this series and the criticism it is now facing is not only educational for viewers but, also for Shane himself. Mental health and anything negatively affecting it is not something that should be joked about or used as a prop for entertainment to cause horror or discomfort. As I've mentioned, there seems to be less of the scaremongering and "horror" elements as the series go on, but it means as a viewer, you are even subconsciously looking out for traits and actions in Jake Paul that reflect the symptoms of this particular Antisocial Personality Disorder just because they've been discussed so feverishly beforehand. I guarantee the same would have happened if Shane had set up the Jeffree Star series in the same way. My views are changing as the series goes on and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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