Sunday, 12 August 2018

gardens in the rain, and the restorative power of plants

yesterday we spent the afternoon out at exbury gardens. it was one of those mornings that started great and then disintegrated... so we packed ourselves into the car, let the todder fall asleep and drove around the new forest. almost as soon as i was in the countryside i could feel my spirit lift, and so my husband decided to drive us to somewhere new (to us) that he knew would make us all feel brighter.

exbury gardens was created by the De Rothschild family, and is a really well established garden. it blends into the Beaulieu River in a way i've never experienced in a garden before, and the view from the bank is absolutely phenomenal, even in the rain.

obviously, right now we're sort of into visiting gardens (see our visit to Hillier Gardens), because the 2.5 year old just loves to run around and i am really enjoying the restorative power of creation, especially in its cultivated form rather than wild - but i think with these gardens being in the middle of the forest, there was a good deal of both on offer.

since working with flowers for a living, i love to see them cultivated so beautifully, and it inspires me one day to do the same - i hope one day i will have a garden that i can invite other people to sit in and enjoy. i even love having just a few pots at the moment because it brings me such joy!

there is one particular garden at Exbury, the Sundial garden, which is hidden away and is absolutely abundant with flowers at this time of year, it was so gorgeous and i could've stayed there for a whole day.

the garden also has its own steam train to ride on, which was fun for all of us actually, not just the toddler!

we also ate at the cafe, which was really delicious! the only thing i'd say is that it's a pretty pricey experience, so it wouldn't be a super regular thing for us, but it's definitely worth going and we will go back in another season (and maybe on a sunnier day!)

thank you for reading x

currently listening to: better love by green river ordinance

you may be interested in reading: 25 things to do with a toddler

Friday, 10 August 2018

love and marriage : my relationship advice

hey all, today i'm sharing something close to my heart - i'm talking about marriage, my tips and advice from all the things i've learnt these last crazy 6 years!

if you're new to this blog, my name is Alissa and i'm married to a guy named Pete, and our story is not super typical (but then whose is?). we got married 11 months after we met, and we planned the wedding in a short 11 weeks. we didn't live together, and he was my first ever boyfriend - it was a steep learning curve for me in particular, and i think a lot of people thought we were crazy! but we were madly in love, and we still are, praise God!

honestly, the first year of marriage in particular was tremendously difficult for me, because there was a lot of new things to learn about living with a man, about living with Pete and about what marriage meant. i even honestly had a very real moment where i almost packed my bags to leave, because it was all too much for me... but i stayed and fought, because that's a big part of being married, fighting for each other. 

so here goes on my list of marriage tips for you. please read them all, take those that are helpful and discard the rest - not all of these will be relevant for all of you, and some you may already have learnt or not be ready to learn, or maybe they just don't relate to how you see marriage... anyhow, here goes!

1. put yourself in their shoes.
the surefire best way to end an argument is to throw away your pride and your way of seeing things and try to see things from the other persons point of view. maybe they're tired from a long day and they aren't thinking clearly, maybe they were taught a different way to handle that situation as a child and they've never seen it another way.

i reckon if you take the time to see things from their angle you'll feel both empathy and understanding and solve your argument much more quickly. that doesn't mean that you tell them how you think they're seeing it (although sometimes that is appropriate), instead it means just accepting their perspective and gracefully sharing your own or trying things from a new angle. 

         “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 
– Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. don't always listen to the world around you. 
no-one knows your marriage like you two. you are the only two people in this marriage and whilst outside advice is sometimes helpful, you shouldn't take it from every single source. everyone's understanding of the inner workings of marriage is different, because every person is different and every couple has a different way of working things out.

even family can get it wrong too, and they're often the first to give you their opinion on the way you do things. but you need to be wise and thoughtfully weigh up the opinions you take on board, because sometimes they can be damaging to your relationship.

i've found the best advice we get is from other married couples, especially those that have been married for longer and/or are similar personality types to us. make sure you make time to ask those people for advice when you're having a more serious issue or you need some tips.

3. figure out what your expectations are/were of marriage.
with marriage comes a lot of expectation and assumption of how things should and shouldn't be. and for me, a lot of that came from movies that i'd watched - and it is so funny to catch myself almost playing out a scene from a movie but in real life. you know what i mean, when something cliche in life happens, say the man has left his dirty clothes in a heap on the floor, we have a lot of movie reference guides for how that scene should play out...

instead, every time you assume your partner should be doing a particular thing in a particular way, or your marriage should resemble something else, ask yourself why? where did that assumption come from? try and eradicate those expectations from your marriage and start in a fresh way - do things the way you two would do them, don't copy other people!

4. be endlessly forgiving. 
a major life lesson, especially within marriage, is to not set a limit on how much forgiveness you will show your spouse. just keep on forgiving them, keep on showing them love, and keep on being understanding. it's emotionally exhausting sometimes, and often involves you laying down your own pride, but isn't that what we should do for our spouses? lay down our lives for theirs? 

this goes especially for those little things that annoy you about them, those little irritating habits that can build resentment in you over time. we have a choice in marriage - we can either be the typical wife that moans about her husband coming home late after work all the time or we can chose to not let it bother us, accept our situation, forgive him and move on with a smile on our face (a real one).

      "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth.…"
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

if you saw the video i did about resenting my husband then you'll have more of an understanding on this point, and if you haven't seen it yet i'd recommend to because there's been a lot of positive feedback from it...

5. serve each other, in ways you each appreciate.
if you've not read the 5 love languages (US/UK) then why not? it's a really helpful book that can help you understand how every single person sees love in a different way, and it has really helped our marriage, because quite often we find that we're trying to show love using the wrong sort of language - say Pete says "i love you" but doesn't hug me, then i think that he is lying. or for him if he comes home and i give him a hug but then he sees that the house is a mess then he thinks i don't love him. we all have different ways to understand and appreciate love, and they're not wrong, they're just different. 

and when we choose to accept these differences and show each other love in ways we understand then marriage is SO much sweeter. 

      “A good marriage is a contest of generosity.”
-Diane Sawyer

also, please note, that these "love languages" change over time and with different seasons of life, so make sure you're always communicating if something isn't working for you and you need something different.

6. understand that men and women are different. 
last night we watched The Female Brain (see trailer) which was actually a really funny comedy movie about how our brains are wired differently and it reminded Pete and i of some important truths.

sometimes we come from different angles because we're wired differently - and we have different emotional attachments to different scenarios. and that's ok! accepting these differences is part of the battle, and then you can communicate in a different way about them.

7. TALK!
lack of communication is the reason that marriage counseling exists. you need to make space to talk with each other, share not just problems, but share your life with each other. don't hide things, always be open and 100% honest, even to the point of embarrassment or an argument. remember that its better to say it than not say it... however difficult.

8. be naked!
if we're ever struggling to communicate then one of the easiest ways to resolve an issue or think more clearly is to get naked. this may just be in our marriage this one, but we often find it helps! generally we just lie naked in bed with the sheets over us, and we end up having a much better discussion than we would've done clothed on the sofa. sometimes anyway. but if the conversation doesn't happen, then something else might, and that's also helpful in a marriage ;)

9. don't gossip about your spouse.
respect your partner by addressing them directly with the issues you have with them. i think i used to think it was normal to talk about problems with my spouse with my family and friends, but then referring back to point #2, not everyone has helpful advice.

also it wrecks trust and makes them respect you less. and breeds resentment towards your husband in other people, which isn't great as the years go on and your still married to them. i know this one first hand, and i wish i could go back in time and not say bad things about him to my family and friends.

      “The best thing we can do with the failures of the past is to let them be history.” 
― Gary Chapman

10. do stuff together.
when you got married you wanted to spend your lives together, doing stuff together right? but then life happens and it's all too easy to get swept up in careers or children, and forget the importance of doing life together. so make time for each other in whatever way suits you both - for us its going out to lunch at the weekends with our son, or just cooking a special meal for each other in the week. making time to do thing together is so key.

11. accept change in each other. grow together.
one of the things we're learning right now in our marriage, during this period in our lives where a lot of major things have happened (see here and here), we've both been learning a lot about ourselves and the world around us, seeing things more clearly and sometimes seeing things differently. one of the things we've made sure to do is to talk to each other about these things, go on the journey together, talk about how we're feeling, help each other through it, and repair together.

i think it can often happen that people drift apart as the years go on, and i think that's because it actively takes effort to bother to share stuff with each other over time, because you can assume you already know how the other person is feeling or what they're thinking. but however well you know someone, they will probably still surprise you. share you personal journey together.

so there you have it, my marriage advice!

now really quickly i want to address those people who aren't married but are thinking about getting married, wondering 'should i get married?' ...

1. don't settle! 
only marry someone you think is smoking hot inside and out. AND that you honestly love like the love in the movies, that proper head over heels thing is REAL people, i live it and i see it all around me. and without that passion, marriage can work, but it's not as fun.

2. don't marry because you think you 'should', because you think 'it's time' or because you think that's just the next step in your relationship. 
marriage is HARD and should be entered into lightly or for the wrong reasons. the only reason to marry someone is if you LOVE them and you GENUINELY want to spend your life with them, however hard it gets. and seriously think about if you should really get married if you're doing it so you can have kids or because your parents want you to or because you think you're getting too old!

and for the guys in particular:
 - run after her, especially when she wants to run the other way. women are more flight than fight. be persistent, it's heroic!
 - listen to her, even when you have no idea what she's saying. don't try to "fix" it, just listen.
 - work on your physical spacing in an argument, it's taken 5 years but finally i realised the best place for my husband when i'm annoyed with him isn't cuddling me, it isn't the other side of the room, it's sat right next to me. 

and lastly,
      "In marriage, each partner is to be an encourager rather than a critic, a forgiver rather than a collector of hurts, an enabler rather than a reformer."
 - Norman Wright and Gary Oliver

thank you so much for reading - please ask if you have any questions - i'm here x

Monday, 6 August 2018

chocolate truffle tart for breakfast | gluten free, refined sugar free

this is one of those blog posts where i'm really writing things down for the sake of my own memory, because this tart is delicious! and i want to be able to make it again...

yesterday afternoon i was just in the mood to bake something, and i had a load of chocolate in the cupboard - good chocolate that needn't be wasted, and needed to be celebrated. and i'd been in the mood for a chocolate tart like i used to get down at the patisserie when we lived in Brussels. and i managed to make one!!

chocolate truffle tart
makes 1 large tart, serves 10

for the crust
a handful of dried dates
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 a large banana or 1 small banana
3/4 cup oats
a sprinkle of sea salt
approx 1 cup buckwheat flour (or other flour)

for the filling
200g dark chocolate
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 can coconut milk (the creamy bit not the watery bit)
drizzle vanilla extract
a sprinkle of sea salt
2 egg whites

coconut shreds, for topping (optional)

1. pit the dates and put them in a bowl and cover them over with boiling hot water for 10-15 mins to soften them.
2. pour off the water from the dates and add them to a blender, with the coconut oil and banana. blend until totally smooth. 
3. add in the oats and sea salt and blend again until smooth.
4. put the paste into a bowl and add buckwheat flour until the mixture is not sticky any more and you can roll it with a rolling pin. it will depend on what type of dates you use, the size of your banana and what type of flour you use as to how much you will need, so go slowly until you have the right consistency. 
5. roll the pastry dough out into a circle and place/press into a tart pan.
6. bake in a preheated oven (180c/350f) for 10 minutes or until cooked through and slightly golden at the edges. remove from the oven and let cool.
7. place a pyrex bowl over a pan shallowly filled with 1 inch of water. add your chocolate and sift in the coconut sugar. bring the pan of water to a medium temperature, almost a simmer but not too hot or else you could burn the chocolate - slow is good! (mine took 20mins or so)
8. once thoroughly melted and incorporated (the sugar will still look quite grainy at this stage) add in the vanilla extract, sea salt and the creamy coconut milk and whisk until very smooth. 
9. separate your eggs if you haven't already and whisk the egg whites in a bowl until they form stiff peaks. 
10. fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. then pour this mixture into the prepared pastry crust. sprinkle over any toppings you so desire (i used coconut shreds) and then place in the fridge to set for 2 hours or overnight.
11. enjoy!!

cook's notes:
 - to separate your coconut milk more easily, pop it in the fridge and then the cream will harden and be really easy to separate. otherwise pour slowly and do not shake the can before doing so, and it should be easy enough to stop pouring once you see the coconut water at the bottom.
 - you could also substitute soy cream for the coconut milk.
 - to make this vegan, simply omit the egg whites and it is still a very light and delicious mousse! (and arguably more similar to the original Belgian version)

this is a really light and fluffy mousse-like texture, and actually would be delicious without the crust too served in individual ramekins - it would be a great chocolate cream pie filling too topped with whipped coconut cream and bananas! this is such a versatile mousse.

and i did eat it for breakfast today! because of the high amount of dark chocolate in it, there's a fair amount of caffeine, so it makes a good morning treat - there's even a version of this in my old breakfast cookbook in the brunch section ;)

thankfully my little Buds doesn't really like dark chocolate yet, so even though he tried a mouthful it came back out again - i'm so proud of him for always trying, i hope that always stays!

thanks for reading x

currently listening to: farther along by josh garrels

Thursday, 2 August 2018

seeking nature & finding the woodland pigs

this morning i woke up with some energy, which for me is actually a pretty rare occurrence. and because the sun was shining right along with me i decided that little IJ and i should go out for the morning. nowhere too far, somewhere that would be relaxing and calming, and i've been so envious of my brothers trip to Sweden (see his instagram) that i needed to be in BEAUTY so badly today. 

so i settled on a trip to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens - reasonably close to where we live, and also not somewhere with too many "kiddy" distractions - it's cultivated of course but it's not designed for children so it's very peaceful for both of us. 

one of my favourite things ever is to walk around beautiful gardens, see the flowers up close, smell them, listen to the buzz of the insects, walk in the shade of giant trees. it nurtures my soul, reminds me of how intricately made our planet is, and gives me vitality and energy... 

the whole morning actually went pretty well, given we got there at 10:30 and left at 1pm, and we didn't take the pushchair at all! he walked almost entirely the whole way by himself, up steps and up hills, through woodlands and on paths. i was a VERY proud mama today. he didn't moan and i honestly think he loved it in the same way as i did, because he was also calmed and relaxed by the whole experience. 

there were a couple of times that he fussed and then we just ate a little cake, or drank a little juice and carried on. there are a lot of things to distract a toddler, like woodland pigs or some beautiful sculpture, and that helps to keep them moving! i was so thankful there wasn't a massive play-park to distract him in a fake way from the amazing play-park that was the entire garden, where he could watch fish and walk down cute hidden pathways, or tangle himself up in giant bamboo.

so, i wanted to share the photos i took with you, because i hope they can transport you in some way, so you can enjoy some of the beauty that we did too - and maybe it'll inspire you to get to some sort of garden near you.

also, it's surprising how far a 2 year old will walk to go and see pigs! we travelled the whole length of the estate to find them, and he almost didn't want to leave..,

so, i hope you enjoyed reading! let me know where your favourite gardens are to visit with your toddler, because we'd love to visit more all over the country x

ps. this sort of follows on in a genuinely accidental way to my most recent blog post about things to do to pass the time with your toddler! sometimes you just have to get in the car and have an outing, and today i was so glad we did seize the moment.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

how to pass the time with your toddler: 25 things you can do

hey all, today i am bringing to you some tips and tricks on how to pass the time with your toddler. which, as any other stay-at-home mum will know, is not easy, because toddlers can be both super challenging and super boring. it's hard as a mummy to stay motivated and excited and keep the rhythm of the day flowing happily day in day out.

for the first 18 months of my son's life i didn't find anything to be too boring; i loved breastfeeding and i loved the challenge of getting him to sleep and continually changing and optimising his sleeping routine, as well as trying new foods and watching him learn to crawl and walk. but then after the 18 month mark, things slowed down a lot and there were fewer new things to watch, and the routine sort of stayed exactly the same... so it got pretty dull.

also, my toddler is really keen and ready to learn, and he daily needs a challenge to help him grow and develop. i must honestly confess that, in comparison with other parents, i'm quite laid-back and i like to be at home. there are plenty of mummies i know that simply like to pass the time by going out and doing activities. but, i find it so exhausting to be out with him, so i don't do a big outing every day, instead we do that 2-3 times a week.

i also really value independent play - i think it benefits both parent and child, and i have spent most of the first two years of his life encouraging him to interact with things in his own unique way. there was a very long period up until he was about 25 months where he really needed my help with everything, or he needed some companionship, so instead of being able to do anything else whilst he was playing, i actuall had to do all the playing with him. and then come 25 months-ish, he was much more able to play by himself, except on days when he was too tired or feeling sick.

so, here's a pretty comprehensive list of things we do....

firstly, let's just mention those outings that we do do during the week sometimes:

 - the park - we go to the park at least once a week, because the good ones are a bit of a walk or a bus ride away. and we love it! as he spends more time there it's so fun to watch him increase in confidence and learn to use his body in new ways. he also gets to interact with other children, and burn off energy.
 - soft play - this is a new one to us, but our friends invited us last week and we loved it! it was early morning so it wasn't busy and we both had so much fun climbing around and going down slides and up rope ladders... and they even had a break for a craft activity included in the entrance fee. we will definitely be going again.
 - playgroup - i must be super honest and say that i've really put off going to a playgroup in my local area since i moved back to England. partly because i thought we'd be moving house sooner than we actually have, and partly because they're so darn intimidating. but there are so many to chose from and i know it would be great for him to go and interact with other kids. also, when we first got back to England he went through a hair-pulling/hitting phase, which wasn't fun for anyone, so i sort of have been waiting for it to pass and then when he stopped several months ago i just haven't organised things yet... so watch this space.
a city walk/nature walk - a guided walk is so much fun, because he learns so much about the world around him. whether he's actually walking or sitting in the pushchair taking time to explain all the things around him is both important and interesting. at the minute he's really enjoying learning his colours, so we get a lot of "red bus" or "purple car".

 - coffee/lunch dates - i have tended to do less coffee dates and more lunch dates, because he loves eating out but not just sitting and playing in such a confined space. so, we usually go to the same two spots and he has learnt how to interact in both of those spaces, so he is well behaved and know where his boundaries are, so i can relax and enjoy myself more.
 - food shopping - it's essential that a couple of times a week we pop to the shops to pick up food or household bits, and i love showing him how those 'boring' things can be fun, but also need to be done. it also teaches him patience, new words, new smells and he does love to help scan things through and use my card to pay
 - swimming class - his gran takes him swimming each week, as we've just signed up at the local pool. it's quite pricey, but teaches him an essential skill so i feel the cost is worth it. and after our last holiday to Corsica where he enjoyed swimming so much, i wanted to "take the bull by the horns" and see how he'd enjoy classes. and he does love it! it also provides me with an essential hour off from looking after him which is pretty important!
 - obviously there are heaps of other local activities you can take part in, and you just need to have a look/listen out for things you can get to...

secondly, here's a list of things i can leave him to do for a good number of minutes in the house so i can get on with other things:
 - play with his toys - i have a video sharing all of our favourite toys, so go watch that if you haven't already - his absolute favourite that he could play with for hours is his wooden train track (US/UK). honestly i don't know how i would parent without those trains!
 - watching television and movies - actually his favourite thing isn't really the TV, but he loves to watch YouTube videos of trains and helicopters and counting videos - he also really loves three particular films, which are Cars, Paddington and Ponyo (which if you've never seen an anime, or heard of this film you should get it, all kids seem to love it and it's got nice messages and music - US/UK)
 - playing in the garden, usually riding his bike - i usually can get 5 minutes of him pushing his bikes up and down so i can do the dishes and watch him from the kitchen window
 - listening to music - he loves to sit there with my headphones in, listening to his favourite songs on repeat. so of course i need to be nearby so that i can make sure his songs are all playing - i've got a playlist for him on the iPhone but often he just wants to listen to the same song again and again.

 - pouring in the kitchen sink is something he still loves - he gets up on his little step, and digs his hands in to play with whatever is in the washing up bowl. he loves the bubbles and he loves to pour and experiment. i can get a good 20 minutes out of this activity usually, so it's great for me to clean the kitchen and sort out the dishwasher each day.
 - threading beads - i can get about 3-10 minutes of concentration of him using his threading beads (US/UK). which is great for putting makeup on, and honestly he's probably getting a little old for it now. we might need to start moving into matching games.

lastly, here's some of the things that i like to do with him still, because they need supervision or a second pair of hands - but arguably, these are really stretching him more than the others in new ways and so the more he does them, the less supervision he is likely to need:
 - reading - i have a video sharing some of our favourite books, but i love to read with him, to get him to interact with flaps and animal noises and pictures
 - sidewalk chalk - these chalks (US/UK) are great, because they're pretty versatile if you've got any outdoor space. you can draw with them, and then (perhaps the most fun bit for my son) wash it all off. and then just repeat that process on different surfaces to see how it will react. and older kids can get involved too. we love this stuff!

 - finger painting - we've been using some lovely eco finger paints (US/UK), which work brilliantly for him, because he learns that he is allowed to get his fingers dirty (which he isn't normally a huge fan of) and that he can create something so amazingly colourful.
 - using Procreate on mummy's iPhone - i got a Wacom Stylus pen (US/UK) for using with my iPhone and my boy loves to use it with Procreate Pocket, where he can pick the colours and types/sizes of brushes and create something amazing.
 - drawing & stickers in his art book - i got him a giant A2 sketch book ages ago (US/UK), and it's already pretty full of all of his scribbles, stickers and doodles. there's also some finger painting in there, stamping and various other things we've tried out a few times. the notepad also gets used as a ramp for his trains... and one of our other new favourites is using some Gelatos (kind of a cross between a lipstick and a watercolour - the 12 piece set i got also came with a brush, but there are varying sets you can try - US/UK), which he loves to use in his book and on his waterproof mat.

 - dancing - we move all the toys out the way and put on a really loud song and have a good wiggle. sometimes we even get the musical instruments out and use those too. but he loves to practice jumping and twirling, and he can really move!
 - watering plants & weeding - this is something we do together or else next door would get wet, or I would get soaked, or my favourite plants would get pulled up - i love showing him how to work the earth, and i'm excited for him to be a whole year older so we can plant seeds and he can understand things even further. he loves to help move branches for me too, so he's a great help when i trim the bushes.

 - glueing and sticking - good old-fashioned paste scrapers and kid-safe PVA, along with a sheet of paper of some kind, and then some scraps of other papers, tissue paper, fabric or anything else that you can find, and then you can create some spectacular pieces of art!
 - cooking and cutting - i like to cook, and so he likes to help me in the kitchen. ages ago we brought him a simple wooden step from Ikea, and he's used that ever since he was tiny, and can now handle it safely without me worrying. he also has his own crinkle cutter (US/UK) for occasions where i need him distracted but doing something. he likes to chop bananas into pieces and eat as he goes. he's really got into stirring everything lately too, so
 - screwdrivers - daddy's screwdriver set is an endless source of fascination. he likes to get them out and find anything with screws. currently he's not strong enough or silly enough to ruin the screw, the house or the screwdriver... so mostly he just tried to replace the batteries in his trains.
 - puzzles - we've only got a couple of wooden puzzles (US/UK), but he's pretty good at them when i sit with him and encourage him along. it only takes a few minutes, but i feel like it's an activity worth investing in, because if he continues to enjoy it and can handle more complex puzzles he'll be able to sit for hours with a 1,000 piece as a teenager.
 - flashcards - we've got a couple of sets (this is our favourite - US/UK) and he actually likes to get them out and see how many he can do in one go. i would've thought somehow i would have had to make it into more of a game, but he seems to do that all by himself. he's always looking for the chicken.

and if you're all out of ideas still, i really recommend this book by A.M. Sterling called "Montessori at Home Guide" (US/UK), and it's full of very easy activities to do, which is perfect if you're after helping your child to be helpful, as well as keeping them busy with activities.

thank you so much for reading today, and i hope that this has given you an insight into some of the things we get up to at home all day long. please if you have any other ideas, i would love if you would share them in the comments box below! and some of the loveliest ones i may add to the end of this post...

extra ideas:
 - cleaning & hoovering - my son loves to spend ages cleaning his cars and hoovering with our mini handheld vacuum cleaner. how did i miss this from the original list!
 - going on a train or a bus - often we just get a cheap bus ticket into the city centre and that's our outing of the day. it's a distraction, a simple one, and he usually loves it. we tend to plan on a train trip a few times a month, which is a much anticipated and enjoyed excursion.

have a fabulous day x

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Monday, 2 July 2018

be the change: the culture of social media

hey all, i've been doing a lot of thinking lately about my presence here on the worldwide inter-web. it's a very different creature to the one i first started out with, it's changed and morphed into something far more complex than i can quite comprehend. hence why i've been spending time trying to get my head round it. why do i find myself on it constantly? should i be on it as much? what is it for? is it changing my personality?

if you're interested in the way social media shapes culture, i hope you stick with me on this one. and at the end of my "conversation" i've listed a few tips on what i think YOU can do to change the way the internet works for everybody - how you can make it a positive and encouraging place where people feel better about themselves. as well as letting you know how i'll be moving forward with things.

what a difference a decade makes

firstly let me address how i think social media has changed since i first logged on to the world of "social" 9 years ago with my first blog posts and YouTube videos.

when i started there were a couple of simple formats in which people could share content, and they tended to choose just one or two platforms - usually a blog and a YouTube channel, and then sometimes a Facebook page or Twitter (if the community wanted it or the following was big enough and depending on the content). and then along came Instagram...

instagram has evolved, not just in itself with all of it's algorithm changes, but it's also evolved how we use social media, and how we perceive it. since it's start as a simple daily photograph sharing space, it's now become so professional, it's given creative people a huge outlet to share their content that didn't really exist before (Flickr and Picasa weren't really that user friendly or shareable). and now i think lots of people perceive social media as a place to have a full-time career, building their own business and become social "celebrities".

5 years ago when i was creating a lot of content and a lot of buzz about my journey with natural beauty there weren't that many of us out there, and now the YouTube world is saturated with content and (like Instagram) it's high quality content too, which is hard to keep up with if you aren't a videographer, don't know an editor or have the time to do proper editing yourself (because you're a full time mummy, wife and running a home), and you don't always remember your snazzy video camera (and you still take most of your footage on your iphone).

i find that getting any engagement is super hard work. to me it seems like people are engaging less than they were 5 years ago, and on a YouTube video i'd usually have received about 5% of views as comments, i now receive about 0.5%. perhaps this is more a reflection of my changing audience and the different sort of content that i create... perhaps i don't 'cut the mustard' any more.

the great things i still love about social

the main thing i really LOVE social media for is the way it brings together like-minded individuals, who would probably never have otherwise found each other. particularly for more niche interests, like green beauty, or plant-powered eating, or gentle parenting (which all now, thanks to social media, are much less niche and more main-stream).

i love that you can search hashtags on instagram and easily find people who are similar to you, who think like you do. this is such a major reason why people are so attracted to social media. it makes us feel less alone. that 90s teenage movie character complaining that "no-one thinks like me, no-one understands me" is a thing of the past. if you are a teenager of today, you can find these people. and if you can't find them, you can attract them by sharing how you feel and what you're up to.

one of my favourite things ever is when i get an email or message from someone who has seen a blog post or a video and they want more advice on their particular situation or they just want to thank me for it in particular. i got a lot of these emails after my 'no sex before marriage' video, and then i got a lot of loving personal messages after my blog post about Rose. i also get a lot of questions about breastfeeding, diet/gut health and acne. this is what social media should be for, and what i always think it should be for - connecting with others around you, sharing wisdom and giving advice from friend to friend. not in a professional way always (obviously), but as we would've done centuries and centuries before us, chatting with our internet 'neighbours'.

THE reason i stick with social media, even when new algorithms drive me crazy, is because i believe the best way to learn is through the experience of other people. it's why i like to share my story, share things i don't like and why, things i love and why, places i've seen and experiences that i've found challenging. so other people feel more normal and challenge them to think in new ways. and i love that so many of my friends have chosen to share their stories in blogs and posts too, because it is encouraging and uplifting to hear every type of opinion and experience.

the problem with social media

the problem with finding these people who think similarly to you, is that, when you do it's far TOO EASY to feel like you don't match them or that you can't live up to their standard. which is actually all too easy for any of us to do, whether you're my husband following the latest car releases on YouTube and being bombarded with the latest technology. or you're me and you are following so many beauty channels that you feel like you're always out-of-date with the latest product releases and trends.

it may not feel like you're being bombarded with advertising, but as someone that used to work in "social media marketing" i can tell you that it's one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there, as it's super subtle and people actually sign up to it. in the world 10 years ago, Google Ads ruled the internet and that was THE way to get your business message out there, it wasn't personal. now we have visual ads that people are often choosing to scroll through, making companies seem more real. it's incredibly powerful.

and instagram and YouTube are both encouraging their content creators to think more business-like, allowing them to work more easily with brands, choose adverts on their content and encourage paid/sponsored adverts on personal pages. which isn't inherently a bad thing, but...

what do you DO it for

...for me, i find that being able to see all the analytics, the amounts of likes and dislikes, the number of comments, the type of comments, the number of new subscribers, well i find that it can really easily drive me crazy! it means that i can easily switch focus from the positive to the negative. i forget that the whole reason i create content is really as a creative outlet for myself, as well as a way to spread positive and encouraging messages out there and put a smile on peoples faces.

anyhow, the biggest thing that i want to say is that i feel like there are lots of big 'celebrity' YouTubers in the news lately, discussing their break-ups and holidays, their latest makeup product launches and their opinions on motherhood. and i think all this publicity is creating an impression in millennials that YouTube can be an easy job. but i can honestly tell you it's one of the hardest things to do - to live up to the standard of your surrounding competition, write content, edit videos, reply to comments, upload content. do you know it takes me about 3-5hours per video? and more if it's something longer and more complex. which is a challenge when you've got a toddler pulling on your hand to come play.

the other thing that i want to say is that i think a lot of people start on social media and then develop a following and feel obliged to continue posting even when they aren't feeling super inspired. and that's the challenge for me at the moment. without enough interaction from my "community" i don't feel like the effort i put in is worth the outcome, but i also appreciate that a lot of the reason for this is because i'm not feeling inspired myself, so how can i expect to make engaging content?! anyhow, i've taken many breaks from YouTube in the past, and i've taken a couple of social media holidays before too, but then i've always come back and done exactly the same sort of thing, because i feel like it's what people expect of me.

"what people expect of me" ?? how weird is that.

ok, really as well, as a stay-at-home mother, with a husband working 12hour days, i get super bored. it's something to do. it's something that slightly challenges me but doesn't scare me. i feel like it somehow is keeping ME alive. but it doesn't really. not really, because i put out content to make a conversation but there isn't one - or at least not really with me anyway.

so, this all boils down to 2 things:

  • firstly, please know that your interactions matter, people that share content on the internet would like your feedback - so see the ideas below on how you can help keep the community-side of social alive!
  • secondly, i need to focus on figuring out who i am, who i'm made to be. that day a few months ago changed me in so many ways that i don't really understand yet. so i need to give that more time. real time. and life is busy enough with a 2 year old. i want to be sharing messages with you that are encouraging, inspiring and uplifting, rather than just sharing my latest favourite moisturiser - LIFE is so much bigger than that, and i want to use any influence i have for something more meaningful. but i don't know what that looks like yet.

YOU can be the change

so, here's my tips on what you can do to affect the world of social media.
  1. you have to believe that SMALL THINGS YOU DO MATTER. the world can be changed with one simple smile, whether that's literal or a thumbs-up or smiley face on the internet.
  2. stop being passive. TAKE PART. if you watch, read or listen to content, BE THAT PERSON who leaves a nice comment or review. obviously we can't do that on every piece of content we consume - do it when a blog post or video makes you smile or think, or you recognise it's changed you in some small way. that person deserves some recognition.
  3. consume less content and CURATE IT more. if you notice that you haven't been commenting or engaging with someone you're following consider either whether you've missed some of their content (thank you algorithms), or, if you're up-to-speed perhaps just consider unfollowing them. make sure you're engaging with content you actually like.
  4. SHARE. there's a distinct lack of sharing the love on social media any more. we need to get back to "Share the Love" posts where we share people and posts that inspire us. let's create an outward-looking community. and it's really easy - just click "share".

so, there you have it, my ramble, my rant, my thoughts on how social media has changed in the last decade, how it's improved and what i think it can be for. and i really hope you have some positive takeaways from this that you go on to implement in your own life. and on your own smartphone. and please let me know in the comments below your thoughts on social media at present, because i think it could be a really interesting discussion ;) x

Monday, 25 June 2018

an adventure to corsica

hello dearest reader! last week my mum, my boy and i went on a trip to Corsica, which is an island off the coast of France/Italy. mum had actually had it booked for ages to go by herself, but given recent events, we sort of ended up deciding that Buds and i would go with her... and given we'd also spent the previous four weeks basically trapped in the house with our bathroom being remodelled, we were so excited to get out!

Corsica is somewhere i've wanted to visit ever since i heard about it as a holiday destination a couple of years ago. and it didn't disappoint as a holiday destination, in fact, it reminded me a lot of my visits to Fiji and Hawaii, because of its relaxed island vibes. there are a lot of beautiful sandy beaches, a lot of marinas full of boats and lots of markets with local produce. there are also a lot of herds of animals roaming across roads, with no obvious sign of the farmer guiding them - which i find both cute and a sign of how relaxed the industry side of things is there.

we ended up staying in two locations, both of which were based on the east of the island, within 45 mins of the airport. firstly, in Bravone...

the beach at Bravone was lovely, and not too busy, although we didn't go at peak season (end of July and all of August). the sea would've been lovely to go in for a swim, but my boy isn't really a huge fan of the beach yet - he gets upset by sand and the sounds of the ocean, he always has. but i was proud of him that day because he walked by himself the whole way up the beach and back almost all of the way too.

but at the beach we got bitten to pieces by bugs, and this was on the first day - annoyingly i had Googled "are there mosquitoes on Corsica?" before leaving and decided i didn't need to bring my repellent with me... i need to go and put new answers in those forums because there definitely are bugs in Corsica! we ended up buying something in a pharmacy up the road the day after. i feel like such a Brit because i just don't know how to deal with bugs well - mum and i kept saying that we should've brought marmite because eating that is supposed to ward them off?!

the place we stayed was almost like paradise, it was gorgeous, lovely pool, cute animals, stunning garden for my little one to run around in, there was even a patisserie van at 7:45 each morning with fresh produce. and these sheets, look at them...

we spent a lot of time feeding the goats, swimming in the pool and running around the flower garden.

unfortunately, i contracted some sort of horrendous stomach bug just two days into the trip, which put me out completely for a whole day, and then i was weakened for the rest of the trip. but we still made the most of it! and i praise God for my mother being so helpful in looking after my boy when i was unable to.

on the Wednesday we drove an hour south to Pinarello - a lovely long beach near Porto Vecchio. we watched the kite surfers in the water, going back and forth and fast and slow.

half way through the trip we moved ourselves to an AirBnB in the footsteps of the mountains. we enjoyed a little more space to move around, as well as aircon and good wifi, and we got to have several long evenings full of deep discussions.

we went for walks down the little lane, looking at the abundance of beautiful wildflowers, and all the smells of the island.

and one day we decided to brave the terrifying cliff-edge roads in our rental car and drive further into the mountains through Cervione (stopping to play in a cute playpark) - eventually stopping at a reservoir to take in its beauty and vastness. there was no-one around, and it was so peaceful and majestic.

instead of beaches we took the little one to see boats instead, and he loved it. it seems a lot of guys were just chilling on their boats in the afternoon, and we also got to see a boat come in and attempt to pull in by the jetty. it's nice to see a harbour full of boats that people actually use, rather than ones that are too big and not used enough. there was life in the harbour, is what i mean, and i've only really seen that in a couple of harbours in the south of england in summer months. i kind of wish i was more of a boat person.

let me just say that i want to go back to Corsica again one day! it really is a stunning island, and i just wish that circumstances had been different and i had felt much better throughout the trip. or, as i'm clearly not a 30c/85f woman, perhaps we will consider exploring it around easter time when it's cooler but still sunny. and also perhaps when my boy decides that beaches and sandcastles are cool ;)

we ended the holiday by saying that we wished we'd had one more week in our house because we were just about getting into our groove and relaxing together. it really was important for us to get out of our regular routines and look at how we are doing with things and give some time to reflection.

anyhow, any questions you have, please don't hesitate to ask! thank you for reading, and i hope this inspires you x

Friday, 22 June 2018

why i'll always have a konjac sponge in my bathroom

it's not too often i find a new thing that i love so much as i love my new sponge. what a strange sentence?! but i do, i really do, love my sponge.

it's a konjac sponge - which is a sponge made out of konjac root. which if you've never heard of that before, don't be surprised, because it grows in asia and you'd only ever have heard about it (probably) if you have tried konjac noodles from a health food shop. anyhow, the root itself is super healthy and packed with minerals and vitamins. it grows wild at high altitudes, and is naturally alkaline - so it's perfect for balancing out the PH of your skin.

they come in all shapes and sizes (even a cute heart-shaped one), as well as with additional ingredients like pink clay or charcoal. there are never any other ingredients though, no additives, no colours, no pollutants.

one of my main favourite things about it is that it's 100% sustainable and biodegradable - it's not taken from a reef and it's not putting plastic out there into the world. the sponges i use from The Konjac Sponge Company are the original and the best - any other brands are just copying from their success but not meeting the same high standards of production. these ones have the official Cruelty-Free and Vegan stamp of approval too.

but THE MOST IMPORTANT thing about these sponges is how it cleans my face, and has helped clear up the congestion around my mouth and chin. basically i've been using it every other day for about 2-3 months now (actually i'm on my second one) and seriously the bumpy, blackhead-y, congested skin there is clearing up, it's tightening my pores and clearing them out. which is amazing, because no other "product" has been able to do that for me. and this is so simple.

when it arrives it's a hard de-hydrated block, and you need to rinse it under water for 30 seconds to rehydrate. you'll know when it's ready because it will get good and squishy. and then i simply run the water warm and clean my face in small circles until it's done. you can't apply hard pressure with it, because it's too soft for that, so it really is gently on your skin. and if you're someone who doesn't like to use a lot of water or would rather use some other product to cleanse even deeper, then you can use the sponge with your cleanser too.

if you're someone that suffers with acne or bad breakouts, then i think this will help, because they would work well for people with sensitive skin. i would say that any harsh scrubs you should be avoiding anyway if you suffer with breakouts, because it will just aggravate your skin.

once you're finished using the konjac sponge rinse it through, and then give it a good squish in the palm of your hands and leave it somewhere hanging up to dry - i just use the shower door handle, and sometimes the handle on the back of my wardrobe. it needs to be somewhere it won't get wet or get touched and it will get air all around it to dry out fully. this will help preserve it for longer and you can then get good value out of it. these sponges don't last forever, but they can last a good 3-6 months depending on how well you look after it.

if you're interested in purchasing, you can find them easily on Amazon, or browse the whole collection on their website:
Regular Face Sponge - UK/ US
Small Pore Refiner (for daily use) - UK, not available on US Amazon yet 
Large Body Sponge - UK / US 

also, if you have any questions please do ask! it's so much fun to bring to you things that i really love. and if you're more of a visual person, then you can watch my full review below... x

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

what we ate on monday & my bircher muesli recipe

is 'what i ate wednesday' still a thing? i feel like it got taken over as soon as instagram arrived... but i wanted to write a post about what we ate monday, because it was TASTY, and i finally filmed a 'what we eat in a day' video for my YouTube channel (scroll down if you're interested, because i'll pop the video at the end of this post for y'all).

it's my most commonly requested video, and perhaps that's because so many of those following from the old school days of blogging remember my food posts. let me start by saying that the day went super smoothly, i literally only spent 69 minutes cooking and preparing food (because that's as much footage i had from the day) and that's all because i actually PLANNED what we would eat. meal planning makes all the difference for my sanity and our health as a family.

so if you're looking at the day thinking "i could never feed my family like that" just know that you simply need to sit down and write a plan for 30 minutes at the weekend and you'll be much more likely to feed your family nutritious food! you can grab my example template and meal suggestion guide here and find out how i meal plan here in one of my recent-ish videos.

ok, enough pre-amble, into the food...

we started out the day with bircher muesli, topped with raspberries. and even though we eat this ALL the time, i've never actually shared a recipe on my blog, so today is the day!

bircher muesli
serves 2-3

2 eating apples, skin on
1/2 cup porridge oats
1/2 cup dairy-free yogurt
2/3 cup soy milk
1/4 cup raisins
a sprinkle of cinnamon
a squeeze of lemon
a dash of maple syrup, optional/to taste

1. grate the apples into a bowl.
2. add in the rest of the ingredients and stir.
3. leave overnight or for a couple of days in the fridge.
or eat it straight away covered in fresh raspberries.

for lunch we had some roasted potato fries/wedges, along with leftovers and veggies from the fridge, including some leftover lasagne, some pesto olives, some avocado, hummus and some corn on the cob. truly delish leftovers!

for dinner we ate pizza!! not just any pizza, but homemade pizza base pizza ;) i use this Jamie recipe, which is divine, easy and reliable. and then topped it with tomato puree, frozen spinach, sliced tomatoes, salmon and Sainsbury's Dairy Free grated cheese (i prefer Daiya, but i wanted to try out something new).

and for dessert we had apple, peach and nectarine crisp - it was supposed to be crumble but it came out really crispy and delicious, so i renamed it! really delicious with a drizzle of Alpro cream.

and of course, he didn't eat it all! my 27 month old boy ate all his breakfast (no raspberries though), most of his lunch (minus the potato wedges), and then basically nothing for dinner other than a banana before bed (i think he was full from a liqorice bar he had that afternoon!). but i enjoyed it! and there were a lot of leftovers for the rest of the week.

please let me know in the comments how you feel about everything we ate today, and let me know if you'd like more posts like this going forward? i won't know unless you tell me ;)

and as we're going old school today, i'm ending the post by telling you my latest favourite song...

currently listening to: the proof of your love by for King and Country

Monday, 4 June 2018

my favourite non-toxic deodorant: salt of the earth

if there's one product that i'd love for everyone to switch over to being non-toxic, it's their antiperspirant deodorant. so, i hope you stick with reading this little blog post that explains a little bit about why i think so, and also the things i've tried so far...

why switch to natural?

because conventional deodorants have aluminium salts in them, which are a potential carcinogen. and because they work by blocking up your sweat glands, which actually is an essential part of the body's detoxification process. and the aluminium can also be absorbed by the body (particularly after shaving) - and in studies in past they've found high levels of aluminium in breast tissue (because the breast tissue begins in the armpit and goes down in a teardrop shape from there...

so, for me, this was a definite switch i needed to make, but it wasn't easy to find one that would work! i started with sprays and sticks that looked the same as my old conventional one, but sure enough by the end of the day i would start smelling. the only other two options i found that i kind of liked are:

bicarbonate of soda - which does a fantastic job to eliminate any scent, however hard you exercise. BUT it is messy, it's a little weird to explain at airport security, and when it mixes with sweat it actually becomes quite acidic and starts to really irritate my skin and produce a rash - so bicarb is a no-no in summer or when i exercise. actually Schmidt's is something lots of other people use, which is bicarbonate of soda mixed with a few other things and the pot comes with a spoon, so it's a little easier to use (try it here - US/UK).

Jason's deodorant - this stick deodorant has a very similar feeling to conventional deodorant and works well, but i don't find it lasts all day, or is as reliable as the salt stick. but if it's not the middle of summer and you're not doing intense exercise then it's pretty good and nicely scented (try it here - US/UK)

BUT, the absolute winner has to be Salt of the Earth (try it here - US/UK) because:

  • it's easy to use - simply run it under water and swipe it under your arms, or use it straight out of the shower before you dry off
  • it has no scent, which means it's also unisex
  • it leaves absolutely no white marks
  • it has just one ingredient
  • it gives ALL day protection
  • the actual rock lasts for ages! i only bought a new one two years in, and finally upgraded to the full size, instead of the travel one - so i expect full size to last 3 years or so.

you can of course buy alum rocks from other companies, but i do like the convenience of this one, despite the plastic packaging (which is in theory recyclable anyway). it's great for travel and reliable.

how do you use it?

i keep mine by the sink, so i run it under the tap before i brush my teeth in the morning. then quickly swipe under my arms back and forth a couple of times to make sure i've covered the area. then it's important to leave the stick to dry out without the lid on. i only use the lid when i need to travel actually.

how does it work?

it's kind of strange to use the first time, because you can't see anything when you apply it - it's totally clear. you just feel like it's water that's on your underarms. according to their website it works by "leaving a microscopic layer of mineral salts on your skin.  These mineral salts inhibit the growth of odour causing bacteria leaving you feeling fresh and scent free."

there's an absolutely brilliant article on their site that is a must-read if you're interested more in how alum actually works.

will it stop me sweating?

no. it doesn't block your pores. but i find that the more i used it the less smelly i became. perhaps because i'm not naturally super stinky, or maybe because my body took a while to get into a better rhythm of detoxing through the underarms. there's an interesting article by The Washington Post that delves into some thinking behind whether anti-perspirants may even make you smell worse by altering the 'flora' of bacteria in your pits.

here's a little review video i did a while back that explains things out loud,, in case you're interested:

this works for me 99.9% of the time, and there isn't any need for me to try anything else - i've found my holy grail for my underarms. so i hope you give it a shot! and if you have any questions about it please let me know because i'd love to answer them.

if you want to know more about my journey to natural beauty, catch up with my last blog post, 'what cleaner beauty means to me'.

thanks for reading, and i hope you stop by again soon x

Thursday, 17 May 2018

what cleaner beauty means to me

i believe that clean beauty is important for everyone. and i've personally been using a natural skincare, bodycare and haircare regimen for the last 12 years of my life.... here's why...

in my late teens i had a job at a well-known high street cosmetics company, and it took me a long while to learn that the products we were marketing as 'green', 'eco' and 'natural' were actually rammed full of ingredients that were toxic. i felt so annoyed that a company could so easily misrepresent themselves - and people would so easily fall for the marketing and pay such a high price for those products.

i guess there's three things to this:

  •  firstly, people don't tend to look at ingredients labels - usually they tend to look at an advertisement and a price label
  •  secondly, people do like the idea of a 'greener' brand
  •  thirdly, people see usually the origins of a companies ethos and not how it develops - The Body Shop used to be similar to Lush (actually they are sort of half sisters) and the products were hand made, and then the company expanded and was bought by L'Oreal. now, inherently i think the brand is much the same as it was before that takeover, as with most mass production, there seems to be a dip in quality if you want to see the same price. anyhow, the important thing here is, whilst some of the ingredients are fairtrade, lots of the rest of them are toxic, and it's very different from where the brand started. 

one item that comes to mind as a particular bestseller from those days was the Hemp Hand Cream, which was always bought by people who thought that it was an eco product, partly because of the packaging and the name - but it rates a scary 8 on the EWG website!!

which leads me to one of the most important steps in my cleaner beauty journey - the EWG website. the Environmental Working Group have put together the Skin Deep Database, where they are continually adding new products and scoring them in terms of their levels of toxicity (0 is not toxic, 10 is super toxic). it's been a really helpful resource for me when looking for new products or ingredients. unfortunately not all products are on there, but i often type in the ingredients.

the main problem i had from switching over to cleaner beauty products was actually how my skin reacted! i'd been using a simple routine for a few years and then as soon as i added natural skincare products i started to break out. i was 19 and i got my first proper spots! not very good for my self confidence at uni... i was supposed to be past that now.

it turns out that a lot of the cheaper natural skincare brands used heavy oils which really don't work well with my skin (arguably most skin under the age of 50). and seriously 12 years ago the whole natural skincare market was nowhere near as vast, comprehensive or well-researched as it is today!

but i was sure that it was the best decision for my skin. and here's the main reason why i stuck with natural skincare even when i had acne....

some of what we put on our skin may be absorbed into our body.

for me i didn't need a percentage, even if it was just 1% it was too much. and there are certain places in my body where i know the % has to be higher - like my lips, my eyes, my underarms.

and so, i slowly experimented, trying out new products until i found my HG (Holy Grail) for each thing in my arsenal. and there was so much experimenting and failure, that i even started my YouTube channel to document the things i liked and the things i didn't. also, because not many of my friends seemed to care about what they put on their skin (although that is changing a little now, thanks to Goop), i found a community of like-minded people who i trusted to recommend me new products.

it's important when you start on your cleaner beauty journey to be know your boundaries as to what you think is acceptable and how you'll choose your products, because every single company is different. some are really into small production and supporting small/local businesses. some are very much into sourcing high quality ingredients. some are into trying to get 'better-for-you' products into the wider market. each of them have their benefits.

for me, i like a range of brands and love to support them if the products are of good quality. and i do find that a lot of companies have a champion product that stands out amongst the rest. if you're not familiar with natural beauty brands, i would recommend getting a bunch of samples from various online stores, so you can try some things out.

it also helps with not spending too much money on products that don't work for you. because the prices of some of these products are pretty high! you can get samples or minis from Naturisimo, Content Beauty and Glow Organic.

keep an eye on my YouTube channel for reviews of my HG products, like my favourite natural deodorant or my favourite natural under-eye concealer. and please keep asking me for specific items you'd like to see a review of. i've really began experimenting again, after using the same products for years on end - mostly because, vain as it sounds, i started to see fine lines on my face and wrinkles on my forehead, and wondered if there was a natural solution to slowing down that process. i also wanted to try out some of the incredible new organic makeup lines available - because there're LOADS to try!

much of what my content is about is trying out products and reviewing them so there's another voice and opinion out there. how else would you know that the Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil makes your legs look silky smooth and smell delicious all summer? there are more and more voices speaking for the cause of cleaner beauty, and i'm proud to be among them so i can help you find products that perform.

so, if i were to give you a place to start i'd say to start with your most used item and google like crazy for alternatives and seek video/blog reviews of them. ask your favourite instagrammers for advice and what they might suggest. seek truthful people who seem similar to you in terms of skin type/hair type etc. what works for one person doesn't always work for another - but if their skin is similar it's more likely to help!

obviously cleaner beauty is just a part of a more holistic picture - i think most skincare 'problems' stem from something deeper than skincare, so make sure you look at the whole of your life.

final thing to say is, this post was written in conjunction with the fabulous Weleda and their #CleanerBeauty campaign - they're a fabulous brand to start off with, and perfect if you have kids (my son has only ever used Weleda products - toothpaste, body wash, nappy cream - since he was a tiny baby). also Pete has used their Skin Food for years as his daily moisturiser. i was so honoured to be a part of spreading the message of cleaner beauty.

any questions you have, please ask - i'm here to help x