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My eco-friendly lunch kit

October 6, 2019
eco-friendly lunch kit

Bringing my lunch to work

I recently started a new job and along with understanding my role and the organisation; I’ve been getting to grips with a new working environment too. We have kitchen facilities but no cutlery or crockery.

I want to get better at bringing my lunches in. This is partly due to financial and health reasons: it’s expensive and I struggle to find healthier options when I’m out and about. However, I also feel conscious of all the packaging the food I’m buying comes in too given that I’m trying to reduce plastic waste.

Up until recently, my only option has been to make sure I keep a few wooden forks in my desk (thanks M&S) so I don’t have to use plastic forks from our work canteen. This is why I was really pleased when Global 1rst got in touch with me seeing if I wanted to try their eco-friendly wooden cutlery set. Its handmade from sustainable mahogany wood and is washable after use (not dishwasher safe). The size also means I can keep them in my locker comfortably along with the rest of my eco-friendly lunch kit.

I also now make sure I carry around a reusable cup with me, a stainless steel water bottle and a lunchbox. There is an initial investment and eco-friendly products aren’t always cheap because they’re made out of better, more durable materials. However, given that you reuse them and coffee shops often give you a discount if you have your own cup, then they start to pay for themselves.

My next step is to start investigating different food suppliers to see if I can reduce plastic packaging. I work long hours and so supermarket home deliveries have been a lifesaver. However, I want to explore some different options and see what else is out there. Any tips, let me know.

My eco-friendly lunch kit essentials

  • Reusable coffee cup – I like keep cups. I love their design and as I’m a black coffee drinker; I find the cups are better insulated so they don’t burn my hand.
  • Stainless steel water bottle – there are so many brands out there for lots of different prices. I have this Chilly’s one.
  • Stainless steel lunch box – look for ones that don’t leak. I bought one from Black & Blum
  • Reusable cutlery – such as from Global 1rst

Some of the products reviewed in this blog were gifted but all my opinions are my own.

wellbeing

Sage smudging for releasing negative energy

September 29, 2019

Sage smudging has its roots in Native American tradition where a wand of dried sage is set alight and the smoke used to clear negative energy. People believed energy tended to linger – both positively and negatively – and so sage smudging was used as a cleansing ritual. It was also used to cleanse people from illness and release them from other difficulties in their lives.

These days people burn sage to cleanse a space or environment, generate wisdom and clarity, and/or promote healing. Some people smudge once a week, others when they move into a new home or office to clear the energy from the previous occupiers, or as part of a full/new moon ritual. I like to use sage smudging as a new beginning to clear myself of what has happened in the past.

The science behind sage smudging

It’s said that sage smoke releases ions that change the composition of the air, which are linked to positive mode boosts. However, I’ve not managed to find any studies to back that up.

What I have found is research that shows sage smudging clears the air of 94% of bacteria within the first hour and so there are real health benefits to this practice.

How to sage smudge

  1. Buy a sage wand from a local florist, health food shop or try online at Etsy. You can also make a spray with sage, rose and eucalyptus essential oils.
  2. Set your intentions and what you want from the energy releasing practice. Is it to start anew? Or to release yourself from past hurt and let yourself heal?
  3. Remove any excess clutter and allow yourself to have the feeling of space.
  4. Open doors and windows to let all the negative energy flow out.
  5. Light sage wand and blow flame to go out whilst keeping it away from your face in case of embers. Allow the flame to go out and ensure the tip of the wand is smouldering and let smoke billow up.
  6. Start with the lowest part of your space such as the ground floor of your house and move from room to room. Use your hand to waft the smoke into each four corners of the room where the ceiling and wall meet.
  7. Encourage the smoke to leave through the doors and windows and release the energy from your space.
  8. Extinguish the wand by pressing the end into a hard surface so you can use it again.
  9. Fill the space up with love by spraying with an essential oil blend. Lemon, peppermint, sandalwood, clary sage, frankincense, black spruce, cardamon and palo Santo are all good for positive energy (please note, just one or two of these together would be fine).
mind

What is arrival fallacy?

September 18, 2019
arrival fallacy

You achieved what you wanted. So why aren’t you happy? Suffering with arrival fallacy

A few years ago, I ran my own business as a sideline selling vintage jewellery. It started to take off; celebrity stylists got in touch for their a list clients in both UK and Hollywood, I got featured in glossy magazines and made a bit of cash.

And yet despite all that, I just felt flat.

I’d achieved everything I‘d set out to. I’d proved I could start a business with less than a hundred quid. I was noticed by celebrity stylists and fashion journalists. But instead of being happy about it, I felt a bit deflated and I wasn’t sure what was making me feel this way.

According to Tal Ben-Shahar, a Harvard trained positive psychology expert, I had arrival fallacy.

The mythical feeling success will make you happier

Arrival fallacy is based on the idea that external recognition of our achievements doesn’t make us happy. Ben-Shahar who coined the phrase describes it as: “the illusion that once you make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach everlasting happiness.”

Essentially I had got what I wanted – and yet it didn’t give me the feeling I thought it would.

How many times do we think we’ll be happy when we get a promotion, a new job, a partner, a new house etc and then feel unsettled when somehow things still haven’t fallen into place?

How many times have I said to myself, I’ll be happy when I lose a stone without thinking about the fact I wasn’t doing cartwheels with joy when I weighed 8 stone?

We set our goals higher and higher and then when we achieve them, we feel deflated because it didn’t give us the happiness we thought it would.

Remember happiness comes from within

Yes, I know I’m rocking out a self-care cliche but it really is true: happiness comes from within.

Sure, a compliment can be a nice boost and being recognised for doing a good job makes you feel appreciated – but fundamentally only we can make ourselves happy.

It’s good to recognise the smaller moments in life. The little wins where we felt proud of ourselves and the good things that happened along the way. It’s also important to reflect on how we’ve changed and grown. We all evolve.

Being in the moment is important

I do feel it’s useful to think about the future and not drift along aimlessly hoping for someone to pluck you out of obscurity and transport you to a better life (hello 20-something me). In my experience, you have to work towards something to make things happen in your favour.

However, it’s also important to think about how those goals and what you think success really looks like? Is it always about the achievement of goals or what you’re learning and experiencing along the way? So have you grown? Do you feel different? Has the experience shaped you? What have you learnt along the way?

For a filmmaker, does happiness come from receiving an Oscar and listening to the applause from an adoring crowd? Or is it being able to bring people together and create your vision?

Likewise, for a writer, is it about winning prizes, or the enjoyment of crafting words to put on a page?

Now, I’m not saying external recognition isn’t important – none of us can live off fresh air alone. I’m just using this to illustrate how we need to look at what actually makes us happy.

Can we help ourselves to be happier?

So if achieving our goals don’t make us happy and we know that arrival fallacy exists, then how do we make ourselves happy? Are there ways we can inject ourselves with a dose of happiness?

There are times when things are truly rubbish and I personally feel, those feelings should be validated. I’m not a big fan of the idea we should always be thinking positively whatever the situation. I believe you need to process your emotions: good and bad.

There are other times though, when there’s not really anything terrible happening – but it feels like nothing really great either. Life is just a bit blah. It’s those moments where we can change our mindsets.

For me, gratitude practice is one of the quickest ways to help me notice the smaller things that work in my favour. I feel grateful for the slightly delayed train, which means I don’t have to wait for the next one when I’m running late and it makes me realise life can be on my side. Once you start noticing these little moments, you see them more and more and your mood elevates overall.

I prefer to practice gratitude in the morning – other people prefer to think about what went well at night. Some people do both. Whatever works for you really.

Some people get more from journaling and using to to identify common themes and issues which can be looked at and changed where necessary.

Other people write notes with affirmations, listen to motivational podcasts and/or meditate to help cut the chatter in their minds. Some of us do as much as we can.

Happiness isn’t reached by a tick list – it ebbs and flows – but it’s always within our grasp.

home wellbeing

My eco-friendly bathroom products

September 15, 2019
eco-friendly bathroom products

I’ve been working towards a chemical-free home for a while now. I’ve become more conscious of what I buy, what I put on my skin and more importantly the products I use on my child.

I’ve always been aware of the amount of plastic I use – possibly because I grew up in the 80s when there was less packaging around. However, I’m ashamed to say I never really gave much thought to all the chemicals I released into the oceans when I was desperate to buy the latest designer shampoo promising me some hair magic.

Please note, my hair has never been magic…

I’ve been trying to buy (or make) more eco-friendly bathroom products. I always try to be honest and highlight that this is a work in progress. I still use toothpaste and I’ve struggled to get on with shampoo bars because I don’t have 2 months to be able to adjust past the greasy stage – if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

What I am doing is trying to be thoughtful about what I do use and think about the environmental impacts. Eco-friendly bathroom products aren’t going to reverse climate change – but every little helps.

My eco-friendly bathroom products

Bamboo toothbrush

It’s estimated that we use 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes worldwide and 80% of them end up in the sea where they take over 1000 years to dispose. 

One of the easiest changes to make is to switch to a bamboo toothbrush.

I’ve used a bamboo toothbrush for years now. I only used to be able to buy them online but now I live in an area with lots of health food shops, I can find them everywhere.

They’re recyclable and biodegradable. you need to pull the bristles out to put them in the plastic recycling and the actual toothbrush can be composted.

Brands include: Bambaw

Natural teeth whitening charcoal powder

Want white teeth but not at the expense of the planet? Yes, me too.

I use charcoal powder. It’s really easy to use and 100% natural. The packaging can all be recycled too or in my case upcycled into candles.

Brands include: Smile UK

Soap bars

For some of us that are old enough, we can remember a time when shower gel was just a glint in its mother’s eye. We all used soap.

I’m getting back into using soap again. It contains far less packaging and lasts a lot longer. Sometimes I make my own using an SLS free melt and pour base from my favourite apocotherapist Baldwin’s. Otherwise, I buy locally.

Brands include: Friendly soap

Hand wash

I make my own hand wash using castille soap, distilled water and essential oils.

I buy everything in bulk and decant it into amber bottles I buy from Baldwin’s.

However, I completely appreciate you may not have the time or interest to make your own. I happen to love doing anything vaguely crafty. There are good options on the high street such as Faith in Nature or Method. I have a shop locally that does Faith in Nature refills so I don’t need to keep buying the bottles.

Bath salts

I make my own bath salts and honestly, it couldn’t be easier. I can never go back to buying ‘luxury’ bathing products ever again.

They only contain 3 ingredients and essential oils but failing that, use Epsom salts. They’re also natural and the magnesium will give you a health boost.

Brands include: Westlab Epsom salts

Cotton buds

I tried to go on a cotton bud break because I convinced myself they’re a product I only use because they’re there. Anyway, my break only managed to prove that I do need them after all.

I will only buy products that contain no plastic and have some guarantee about the cotton used.

Brands include: Organyc

Room spray

Without wishing to go into too much detail, there are sometimes occasions when the bathroom needs a bit of freshening up..

Get a spray bottle and add 30 drops of essential oils into water. Job done.

Please note, some of these products were gifted but all reviews are my own. The sites I’m referring you too aren’t always where I bought the product – it’s just for ease of reference.

self-care

Why you need a self-care tool belt

September 9, 2019
why you need a self-care tool belt

I’ve been pretty stressed recently. I started a new job and have been trying to absorb lots of information in a short space of time. I feel completely out of my comfort zone – and whilst I definitely wanted to shake everything up a bit – it’s been challenging too.

I’m also adjusting to a new working pattern and reinforcing how I can no longer be chief cook, grocery shopper, washer woman has meant some rather fraught conversations have taken place at home.  

[Side note… how did we get to 2019 and the domestic load is still a thing…?]

Now, none of these things are insurmountable. I’m assuming at some point I will get up to speed at work and things will become easier. Likewise, we all need to get used to the fact I’m around less at home. 

However, whilst everything’s bedding down, I need to make sure I’m looking after myself too – particularly as I can feel stress oozing out of every pore. 

I need self-care.  

What is self-care?

Self-care is the art of looking after yourself properly so you can manage everything else in life.

It’s about understanding that we need to put ourselves first sometimes in order to be able to do things for others. 

It has its detractors who mock self-care as just being about face masks, candles and bubble baths as though it’s some sort of commodified product that only idiots fall for. Personally, I think anything that brings you joy and peace is worth it; I bladdy love a good candle. 

However, I do agree self-care is about much more than ‘me time’. It’s about recognising where you need help, being able to be open and vulnerable enough to ask for support. It’s about putting boundaries in place so you reinforce your needs, as well as learning how to let go of situations and people who no longer serve you.

And that’s literally the tip of the iceberg. 

Why is self-care so hard to do?

There’s an irony in the fact we need self-care more than ever when we’re busy and stressed but we don’t have the time or energy for it. 

It falls down to the bottom of a list and in my case, another stick to beat myself with. I feel disappointed that I’m not looking after myself properly.

So how can we prioritise self-care and make sure we get what we need?

Creating a self-care tool belt

One of the best ways to ensure you can look after yourself better when life is stressful is to create a self-care tool belt. It involves planning ahead so when you’re busy and overwhelmed, you can think about what you have in your armoury without needing to expend too much brainpower.

Now in terms of self-care, all our needs are different because we all have our own challenges and priorities in life. For example, a busy stay at home mum is going to have very different needs from someone who travels a lot for work, even though both of them probably feel their time isn’t their own. This is why it’s important to reflect on what will support you.

Try to think about actions you can take to try and ease the pressure on yourself. They may be things you can do yourself – or ways you feel you can ask for help. That way you can dip into your self-care tool belt as and when you need it.

Simple self-care suggestions

  • Ask for support. It can be really hard to ask for help, particularly in a work capacity because you don’t want to look like you can’t cope. However, it’s worth raising the issue so that people are aware. I think overall employers have got better at recognising they need to at least be seen to support employees and some are absolutely brilliant at it.
  • Drop what doesn’t serve you. I remember years ago not going to a party because I wasn’t in a great headspace and I thought it’d make me feel rubbish. I’m still glad to this day I made that decision. I’m not suggesting you ditch all social occasions in favour of box sets because getting out can make us feel better. But if you really don’t want to do something, don’t do it.
  • Remember done is better than perfect. There are occasions when there’s just not the time to pour over something and analyse it. Try to be happy with the fact its done.
  • Get some fresh air. I try to make sure I go outside every lunchtime, even if it’s just a 5 minute walk around the block. It helps clear your mind and reset.
  • Take a break from social media. It’s not relaxing and most of the time, it’s not especially productive. Switch it off.
  • Think about what you’re eating. Our bodies crave sweet foods when we’re stressed because it thinks it’ll need the energy (flight or fight mode). However, don’t beat yourself up either if you’re getting a takeaway, especially if it’s going to save you time. It’s about balance and sometimes needs must.
  • Do carve out time for yourself. Run a bath, light a candle, watch Great British Bake Off. Do something just for you – you deserve it.

nature

6 ways to connect with nature when you live in a city

August 28, 2019
ways to connect with nature when you live in a city

One of my dreams in life is to be able to open my curtains and look out on to a view of green fields without another house in sight.

Where this plan falls over is I actually love living in London. I really like being able to nip out to a coffee shop and having a choice of which one I go to all in a 5 minute radius. I like going to the theatre, galleries, street food markets and generally feeling like I have a choice in what I do. I’ve built up friendship groups here, a career and now I’m starting to make friends through my son’s nursery and build a family life here too.

I spent nearly every weekend in my early years in the Peak District and I think it must have been then that the need for green seeped into my bones. I like wild open spaces and not being able to see another soul in sight. I enjoy the feeling of insignificance realising there is something much more powerful than yourself. And just so you realise how much of a nature lover I am, yes, I have hugged a tree. You should try it.

I’ve learnt over the years that I need to create a balance between my city lifestyle and need for nature. It’s hard to describe the feeling but without it, I’m like a little plant that shrivels up without sunlight. This is why I’ve found ways to still connect with nature even though I live in a city.

How nature impacts our wellbeing

Research shows I’m not the only one who feels a boost in wellbeing around nature.

Studies from back in the 1980s showed that patients in a hospital room which looked out on to greenery recovered from surgery quicker than patients who didn’t.

It’s not just our physical health but our mental wellbeing too with research from the University of Derby for the Wildlife Trust showing nature makes us happier too.

As much as research tells us, we should surround ourselves with nature, it’s not always possible to up sticks and move to a more rural part of the country. For some of us, our families, friends and livelihoods are in cities and there are elements of this way of living we enjoy.

This is why we need to be mindful of making sure we do get the balance right and still connect ourselves with nature even though we live in a city.

Here are some ideas to help.

6 ways to connect with nature when you live in a city

1. Find local parks close to your home and work

Thank you Nicky for that most basic piece of advice I hear you inwardly sigh. However, please bear with me. A study by Fields in Trust shows there is a direct impact between spending time in parks and your physical health.

The good thing about London is you don’t have to walk too far to find a spot of greenery even in the financial district. Someone once they were old plague pits and that’s why they can never be developed – however, google hasn’t confirmed either way if that’s true.

Decent parks aren’t just confined to London either. Sheffield, my home town has plenty of green spaces (greenest city in Europe FYI) so it’s worth reaching them out wherever you are.

I personally like a more unkempt space than your usual well-manicured Victorian affair. If you’re in the UK, the Wildlife Trust have information on nature reserves. They also offer volunteer opportunities too.

2. Treat yourself to some plants

One of my biggest light bulb moments in my adult life was realising most of my plants died because I overwatered them and not from drought.

Look at the top soil and check if it’s dry. Only water, if it is. You will thank me.

Gardening tips aside, even the smallest of spaces can handle a few plants indoors. If you have a garden or some outdoor space then even better.

House plants have a really boost to our wellbeing and are even said to help us recover quicker from illnesses.

3. Visit botanical gardens and garden centres

If you told younger me, I’d get my kicks from visiting my local garden centre, I’d have laughed in your face before hotstepping it onto the nearest dance floor.

TBF though, my local garden centre looks like it’s been designed by Pinterest. It’s incredible.

I also really love visiting botanical gardens and there tend to be some brilliant ones in larger cities such as the one in Cambridge shown in the photo above. There is something about being in a botanical garden that immediately relaxes you and makes you feel calmer.

4. Become more aware of your eco-system

It’s becoming increasingly easier to forget where our food comes from. We buy it pre-packaged, pre-prepared and without a trace of earth. It’s not always possible because of time, money and outdoor space to be able to grow our own food or buy organic fruit and vegetables from farmer’s markets. However, I do think it’s good to be mindful of where our food comes from.

Do you need to buy pre-chopped apples sealed in a plastic bag or could you just buy an apple?

5. Look around you

I was once staring out of a meeting room and saw a beekeeper stood on a roof tending to his hives. I never knew people were making honey right in the city of London.

It’s worth making an effort to unplug from your phone and look around you. Once you get into the habit, you start to notice communal vegetable gardens in blocks of flats, allotments slap bang in the middle of cities and observe wildlife around you too.

6. Stand in bare feet on the ground

There’s a theory known as grounding where you feel more connected to the energy of the earth when you stand in your bare feet.

In our modern times, I don’t know if it’s more to do with the fact we’re used to wearing shoes so there’s a novelty effect? What I do know is, as soon as I’m on a beach, the first thing I do is take my shoes off and walk barefoot in the sand. There’s something very freeing about it. I also love standing barefoot in my garden whilst I potter around watering the plants. So the next time you’re in the park, give grounding a go.

6 ways to connect with nature when you live in a city: Peckham Rye park
travel

21 best things to do in Peckham

August 23, 2019
Best things to do in Peckham: Bussy Building and Copeland park

Peckham is in the London Borough of Southwark in Southeast London. It’s surrounded by East Dulwich, Nunhead, Camberwell and Bermondsey.

It’s been described as the new Shoreditch but actually I think it’s better than that. The chains haven’t quite moved in yet and Peckham Vision have campaigned for redevelopments to be meaningful rather than multiple new build flats. This is why Peckham has become home to an eclectic mix of hipsters and old Nigerian communities where rooftop bars and shops selling dried fish sit side by side.

Here are 21 of the best things to do in Peckham.

Peckham Levels

Peckham Levels began life as a multi-storey car park. It was saved from dereliction and opened in 2018 as workspace and cultural destination. It includes a street food market, bars, yoga studios, hairdressers, as well as co-working spaces. Every level is painted a different colour and as a result there will be at least one influencer photo shoot happening on the stairs.

It’s situated on Rye Lane and the entrance is to the side of the cinema.

best things to do in Peckham: Peckham Levels

Bussey building and Copeland park

Bussey building started life as a cricket bat factory over 100 years ago and was used as an air raid shelter in WW2. The entrance is next to Kahn’s department store on Rye Lane.

It was saved from demolition by Peckham Vision and now the building and surrounding area play host to rooftop bars, nightclubs, yoga studios, art galleries, co-working, gyms and even a sake distillery.. You name it, this place has it.

Copeland park also has regular vintage markets and is home to Peckham Festival in September each year.

Peckham Rye common and park

Yes, Peckham has a bustling high street but it’s also incredibly green. It’s really important to me to be close to nature and I love having so many green spaces on my doorstep.

The biggest park in the area is Peckham Rye common. It’s 113 acres of grassland, playgrounds and ornamental parks. It’s about an 8 minute walk maximum from Peckham Rye train station. East Dulwich and Nunhead stations are also reasonably close by.

The adventure playground is suitable for kids of all ages and includes zip wires, mini trampolines and a water play area amongst other things.

The cafe does a decent pizza and is also licensed so there’s something for everyone.

PeckhamPlex cinema

I can’t believe there is a cheaper cinema anywhere in London than the PeckhamPlex. All tickets are a fiver to see any film including new releases. I think you may have to pay an extra pound for 3D.

I genuinely think the last time I paid £5 to see a film was Titanic in the 90s.

Where to eat in Peckham?

Peckham is a foodie’s paradise and I have made it my mission to try ever single restaurant – purely in the name of research you understand…

I would advise booking on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday because Peckham does get really busy – especially if you’re a big group.

To be honest, I could have given another 6 or 7 recommendations because there are so many brilliant restaurants. However, in the name of keeping things concise, here are some of my favourites.

Mr Bao

Mr Bao is a Taiwanese style restaurant on Peckham Rye specialising in bao, steamed buns and other asian dishes. There’s something for everyone on the menu including vegan choices. The staff are really helpful and always so friendly to my 2-year old.

They’re also opening a bar next door and by the looks of things, it’ll be opening soon.

Miss Tapas

Miss Tapas is an amazing, laid back tapas restaurant on Choumert Road offering authentic Spanish food and wine.

Fun fact, Miss Tapas is the wife of Mr Bao, no really… I’ve even bought pottery from Mr Bao’s Mum (she’s amazing FYI).

The Begging Bowl

The Begging Bowl is probably one of Peckham’s best-known restaurants. It’s on boujie Bellenden Road, which is home to some great boutiques, restaurants and street lamps designed by Antony Gormley.

The Begging Bowl specialises in modern Thai food. It’s fresh, utterly delicious and well worth a visit.

Persepolis

Persepolis is a Persian cafe and shop on Peckham High Street. It’s no frills, cheap and does great food.

The shop sells Middle Eastern groceries including herbs and spices. It’s also BYO at night and has a private dining area for groups.

Yadas

At first sight, Yadas looks like a disused railway arch but appearances can be deceiving….

It specialises in Kurdish food and is super tasty. The restaurant is BYO and has very reasonable pricing. You don’t pay a corkage charge, which makes it a great place to go as a group.

It’s so cool that every time I go, I feel like I’m in Berlin.

Coal Rooms

The Coal Rooms is just outside the entrance to Peckham Rye train station. It’s in one of the old railway station buildings and offers a range of fish and meat cooked over a charcoal grill. Their Sunday lunches and brunches are legendary, but I actually love their midweek dining menu. Make sure you try their Fatboy potatoes.

Best bars in Peckham

Frank’s Cafe

Frank’s cafe is one of the best-known rooftop bars in Peckham. It’s situated on top of Peckham Levels and has stunning views over the City.

It only opens during summer and is so worth a visit.

El Vermut

Technically, this is in Nunhead but a) it’s one of my favourites and b) it’s on the Peckham borders so therefore I think it can be included.

It specialises in Vermouth but also has other great Spanish wines along with cheese and meats.

Peckham Springs

Peckham Springs is underneath the railway arches just by Peckham Rye station on Blenheim Grove. They sell cocktails, craft beers, food and put on events such as plant markets and record fairs.

Four Quarters

Four Quarters or as it’s known locally, the arcade bar is on Rye Lane. It has old arcade machines as well as a range of craft beers. Its a fun place and there’s usually a DJ on at weekends downstairs.

Where to shop in Peckham

DKUK

DKUK is a hairdressers with a difference: haircuts are in front of art. They charge gender neutral pricing based on length and complexity of the cut.

Find DKUK on Queen’s Road Peckham.

Little Sister

Little Sister is a vintage shop in Holdren’s Arcade on Rye Lane. It’s the last shop towards the back. Go there for reasonably priced and well-curated vintage fashion.

D.A.Y

D.A.Y is a Scandinavian inspired boutique on Bellenden Road. It sells a range of Scandinavian designers and has both women and men’s clothing.

Sage Flowers

There wasn’t a florist in Peckham and so I would have to go to East Dulwich if I wanted to buy flowers (I know, #firstworldproblems). This is why I was really pleased when Sage Flowers opened on Rye Lane. The women that own the shop are really friendly and run the occasional workshop so it’s worth keeping an eye on their instagram.

Traid Peckham

It might seem a bit odd to include a charity shop in a list of recommendations, however, Traid Peckham is really worth a mention. They have a great range of clothes and I always manage to spot something. It’s cheaper and more sustainable than buying new so I feel I can treat myself.

Art galleries

South London Gallery

The South London Gallery is on Peckham Road and has a rotating collection of contemporary exhibitions. There’s also a great cafe and beautiful garden to relax in.

Copeland Gallery

Copeland Gallery is in Copeland Park and has a variety of exhibitions on from photography, to alternative degree shows to sculpture. It’s free to get in and worth keeping an eye on.

How to get to Peckham

Peckham has two railway stations: Peckham Rye and Queen’s Road Peckham. They’re about a 10-15 minute walk away from each other. It’s also served by numerous buses and Nunhead and East Dulwich stations are also about a 15-20 minute walk away.

Peckham Vision

To find out about the incredible work of Peckham Vision, please visit their website or their pop up space in Holdron’s Arcade.

soul

How to find your purpose (and make your soul sing)

August 20, 2019
How to find your purpose (and make your soul sing)

Feeling lost and drifting 

Three years ago (not quite to the day) I went on maternity leave for a year. This was the longest time I’d ever been away from work and I felt it would be a good time to think about what I really wanted from life. I gave myself two objectives: one (and obviously the most critical) to nurture my son; and secondly to use the time to find my purpose.

I had been feeling like I was drifting for quite a while and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. I had low level dissatisfaction with work: it wasn’t amazing, but I wasn’t crying in the toilets either. I felt like I had changed and my job wasn’t quite the right fit for me anymore. I needed to understand what it was that would make me happy.

This is why I wanted to go on this voyage of self-discovery and really try to understand what makes my soul sing.

Now, spoiler alert, I didn’t find my purpose during maternity leave. A) I had a newborn to look after so didn’t have the time and B) l never had a lightbulb moment where suddenly everything fell into place.

I’m saying this to illustrate that finding your purpose is a journey and may not happen overnight. It’s a process of exploration.

Here’s what I learnt along the way.

The world isn’t your oyster

For a self-help/self-development/wellbeing blog, it might seem discouraging to say the world isn’t your oyster. Surely that’s going against the grain of everything I say?

Well yes and no. I believe if you really want to do something, then you should throw everything at it. Life’s too short for coulda, woulda, shoulda.

However, if you’re floundering around like a fish washed up on the shore waiting for the tide to sweep you back into the sea, then sometimes you need to be able to focus on what you need in that moment in time. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with too many choices, which leads to indecision.

So focus on your needs, then your wants. Be pragmatic. 

What I mean by that is in my situation, as much as I’d like to spend all my time with my son pottering around my local area, it’s never going to be a realistic option for me. I’m the breadwinner and financially, I have to work to support my family. Momma’s gotta make rent and all that. 

I also genuinely like work. I enjoy being around people from different backgrounds and learning from their experiences. I also have a reasonably creative job and it’s important to me that I can using my brain in that way.

So whatever I did had to support those needs (financial) and those wants (being creatively fulfilled). 

It’s important to recognise here that we quite often think finding our purpose means finding a job we really like (I realise my examples above reinforce that..). However, I personally feel it involves taking much more of a holistic look at our lives overall to understand what gives us meaning.

Sometimes, there are ways of getting what we want in other ways outside of employment. Plus, whilst work can give us external validation, it doesn’t always give us the inner fulfilment we need.

This is why it’s important to check in on yourself and reflect on what your needs are because they change throughout your life – and your purpose will do too. Our lives all develop and evolve.

What makes you tick? 5 probing questions to ask yourself

I often think I’d like to move to a small holding surrounded by goats and sheep; yet the reality is I’d find that life really hard. I don’t mind getting up early but truthfully a 4am start in winter isn’t my jam.

This is why it’s important to ask yourself what really makes you happy?

Take some quiet time to yourself and sit down with a pen and paper. Write down your feelings in response to the following 5 questions.

1. What comes easily to you?

2. What makes you feel energised when you’re doing it?

3. Where would you like to be in the future? Write down how you want to see your future self.

4. When did you feel the happiest in life? Write down all the occasions you felt true happiness.

5. What would you do if you stopped holding yourself back?

Now reflect on what you’ve written to see if there are any common threads or thoughts. Does anything spark your interest or make you want to explore it more?

Can you use what you’ve written to create a vision for your life? How about putting some goals to help you put this into action? Are there steps you can take first?

The best way is just to start 

Do you ever have an idea and then immediately think of several reasons why it wouldn’t work?

Well, stop that. Stop that right now. 

I only really started promoting this blog (by which I mean sharing links on Twitter) back in June. For ages, I felt stupid and embarrassed that someone I know might read it. 

I had other reasons for writing initially. I wanted to write about something I felt passionate about and use it as way to hold myself to account. But the more time I spent writing, the more ridiculous it seemed to not share it. Otherwise, I may as well just be writing a diary.

So I started to share links and take my blog a bit more seriously and funnily enough, the only thing that happened is more people now read what I write. No one has said: this is the worst thing I’ve ever read or judged me. And if they do, so what? It’s just their opinion.

It’s easy to let our fears of being judged stand in our way. We’ve already decided it’s a disaster and so don’t even start. Whilst this is our way of trying to protect ourselves, we also don’t let ourselves grow and look for new opportunities. 

Please remember it’s just an annoying voice in your head and not your reality so try not to let it hold you back.

It’s ok to change your mind

Sometimes I think we feel the idea is the destination and once we have that cracked, the rest will fall into place. This is why we end up feeling so indecisive at the beginning becuase we feel we have to get it exactly right.

However, our lives don’t stay still: they transform throughout our lives so we don’t need to have the answers right away. This is why I feel like it’s important to try different things to see what makes you happy and sets your soul on fire.

It’s funny how sometimes life has a way of gaining momentum once you start putting thoughts into action. It’s like a chain reaction takes place and opportunities start coming your way.

“Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans”

John Lennon

What if your real purpose is just to be you?

Imagine a world where you feel truly connected to what you need and that you can live your life based on your needs. Where you trust your instincts, follow your intuition and make decisions based on what feels right.

Your true purpose is to live your life without limiting beliefs and wondering about the what ifs. It’s about learning what’s right for you, not worrying about what other people are doing and putting thoughts into action (or recognising its ok to stay still). It’s about being happy with the decisions you make in this moment in time and recognising you can shift and change in the future. We’re ever evolving.

Your real purpose in life is just to be you.

mind

How to silence your inner critic

August 17, 2019
How to silence your inner critic

I’m far too busy judging myself to worry about judging you.

Quite often (and generally in a work context), I will be talking out loud and a voice will start in my head saying, ‘stop, you sound ridiculous, Just stop before you embarrass yourself any further’.

This voice tells me I look too fat in my clothes, that I’m ageing and wrinkled. It likes to analyse situations and tell me where I’m going wrong. This can be in the moment or after the event – it doesn’t discriminate. It points out my inadequacies and then really hones in on what I could have done better. It only focuses on the negatives, never the positives and really enjoys making me feel bad about myself.

This voice is my inner critic.

If things don’t go my way, my inner critic will tell me it’s because I’m stupid / useless / annoying / a bad person (delete as appropriate). And when things do work in my favour, my inner critic will still find a way to put me down. It’s the last kind of person you want on your team.

I’m sure all of us have an inner critic, particularly as it’s impossible to go through life without experiencing self-doubt at some point. However, if this situation does apply, then I need to meet you and discover what you’re doing differently to the rest of us..

The difference is for some of us, our inner critic can be debilatating and it can stop us from reaching our full potential.

This is why we need to learn how to silence it (or at least put it on mute).

Why the critical voice in our head stands in our way

Listening to our inner critic point out our every ‘failure’ fundamentally leads to low self-esteem and feelings of poor self-worth. It’s hard to feel confident when a little voice is telling you you’re not.

My inner critic tends to be at its most vocal when I’m feeling a bit down about myself anyway. This then becomes a vicious cycle because the lower our self-esteem, the more our inner critic attacks what confidence we have left.

Our inner critic helps us build up patterns of limiting beliefs. This is where we tell ourselves we’re not good enough or a course of action wouldn’t be right for us. Our limiting beliefs are defensive mechanisms where we try and stop ourselves from getting hurt or looking foolish. But ultimately, they stand in our way and don’t let us take new opportunities or progress.

The important thing to remember though is that your inner critic isn’t real. It’s just a stupid voice in your head.

How to silence your inner critic

The best short term way of getting rid of your inner critic is to become aware of it. Remind yourself it doesn’t mean anything. Recognise it’s unhelpful and try to dismiss it as just that.

Longer term, mindfulness and learning how to calm your mind will help to silence your inner critic. It helps us to observe our thoughts and let them go whilst recognising they’re not our reality.

Gratitude also helps me. It makes me feel more positive about myself, in control of my own life and can recognise the good things that are going on (rather than just the bad).

The better I feel, the more able I am to tell my inner critic to pipe down.

wellbeing

What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

July 28, 2019
What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to be able to cope with or navigate your way through difficulties and crisis.

It essentially means you’re able to either bounce after a crisis or adapt to new circumstances.

Resilient people are able to understand what their body and mental state need and put in processes or modify their behaviour accordingly.

Why is resilience so important?

It’s a fact of life that we’ll all experience setbacks and challenges in life.

Whilst it’s true, some people will have more difficulties due to their circumstances of birth; it’s impossible to go through life without some form of hardship.

The loss of loved ones, relationship struggles, ill health and financial issues are all common themes we’ll probably all experience at some point.

Being resilient doesn’t make us impervious to stress or hurt. It just means we’re more able to cope, in spite of challenges that may be thrown our way.

It’s a sign of emotional strength.

Can you become more resilient?

The good news is resilience is something you can build.

Ironically, the more difficulties you have, the more you can develop your abilities to be resilient. You start to understand your emotional needs and put coping strategies in place.

I come from baby boomer parents and one trait I sometimes see in that generation is their emotional intelligence isn’t hugely strong. They were born in post-war years to people who had lived through horrific events and as a result a lot went unsaid.

If I had an emotional problem, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. No one would have tried to help me or come to my rescue. They just didn’t understand.

I sometimes felt a bit envious of people whose parents would drop everything to give them emotional support and take care of them.

But now I look back, I realise that it made me very self-sufficient. On the flip side though, I struggle to ask for help when I need it and find it hard to show vulnerability.

I also feel my experience is quite common in people of my age and I see similar traits in my peers.

I think it’s only in recent years we’re starting to develop the language to talk about our emotions and understand our feelings.

Although the term ‘self-care’ is sometimes mocked, essentially it is the act of understanding our needs and putting that support in place. Even when it does mean opening up and asking for help.

7 ways to build resilience

So how can you build resilience to help you through difficult times?

  1. Remember that a crisis is not forever even though it may feel like it at the time. Life ebbs and flows and we have hard times as well as good.
  2. Change is part of life. There are 2 types of change: change that happens to us; and change we create for ourselves. Change that happens to us is harder to navigate because it can make us feel that we’re not in control of our own lives. Accept there are sometimes events and issues completely out of our control and consider what you are able to change yourself.
  3. Look for opportunities for self-development. Difficult times help us grow and can make us more empathetic. It’s worth reflecting on challenging situations once you have some distance and thinking about what we learnt or how the experience may have changed us.
  4. Understand that this is part of human experience – not just about you. I had my fair share of shitty times growing up and it knocked my self-esteem and made me feel powerless. I now realise I wasn’t singled out by the universe for some special negative attention; it’s just one part of my history and not my whole life.
  5. Try to keep things in perspective where you can and remember everything is relative. However, I do also think it’s important to feel your feelings and just because one person sailed through a similar situation doesn’t mean you should to. Our ability to cope with challenges is dependent on how we’re feeling at that moment and what else is going on in life. It is worth though trying to remind yourself that this won’t be forever.
  6. Be positive (where you can). Again, I’m not suggesting there’s always something to feel positive about – sometimes there really isn’t. Try to remember things will get better.
  7. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. Yes, I know it’s an inspirational quote cliche – however, hear me out… Let’s be honest, so many of our problems can generally be put down to the actions and behaviours of other people. Try not to let them grind you down and remember you, my friend deserve better than this.
travel

Tavira with kids: a family travel guide

July 24, 2019
Tavira with kids

Tavira is a sleepy town on the Eastern side of the Algarve (the less busy side).

It was recommended to me as a nice place in Portugal to visit with kids by my friend and ex-work colleague who lived there a few years ago.

I wanted to go somewhere not too touristy where we could spend time relaxing as well as having things to do (without worrying about losing our child in a crowd).

Tavira with kids

Tavira is a beautiful little town with a slow pace of life. It’s small, mainly pedestrianised and there aren’t too many cars noticeably around.

It’s also really easy to walk around. There are cobbled streets adding to Tavira’s charms. However, they’re easily manageable with a buggy.

What to do in Tavira with kids

The Roman Bridge

The town is separated by a river and a Roman Bridge. This is one of the most picturesque spots in Tavira and the scene of many a photoshoot.

I can’t say your little darlings will wow at the view or have a moment of reflection thinking life doesn’t get much better than this.. However, it’s buggy friendly and my son enjoyed running from side to side.

There’s also a great ice cream shop over the bridge with lots of choice including fig, the local flavour.

Terrapins in the band stand

We got a great tip about taking our son to look at the terrapins and koi carp in the pond which surrounds the band stand.

My son is a big animal fan and he absolutely loved seeing the terrapins swimming around.

It’s a completely free activity to do in Tavira with kids and offers a bit of shade away from the midday sun. Win. Win.

Band stand with terrapins. Tavira with kids

Tavira castle

Tavira castle is uphill along cobbled streets. We (ok, my husband…) managed to push our sleeping toddler and make it there. It’s well worth it for the incredible views.

There are also steps leading up to the castle in the town by the Islamic museum, which offers a much quicker route.

21 churches

Tavira is also famous for its 21 churches. I would check opening times in advance before you visit as they’re not always open.

This is why we only managed to see one..

Tavira island

Tavira island is 11 kilometres of white sandy beaches. It is stunning, trust me.

You need to take a ferry, which in the summer months runs from the river side. It costs 2 Euro for an adult return and takes about 20 minutes.

We didn’t take a buggy but I did see people who had so I think Tavira Island is doable with kids of all ages. There’s also a boardwalk once you get to the Island.

Where to eat in Tavira?

Pausa is a delicious tapas bar on the edge of town just behind the river. I spotted it after seeing some French people had reserved a table thinking the French are never wrong about food.

Turns out my stereotyping of an entire nation was correct. The food was utterly delicious and although not cheap compared to other places, still worth it. The portion sizes are also massive.

I ate the most delicious grilled sea bass at Os Arcoz down by the river. The food was great and the location even better.

Roman Bridge - Tavira with kids

We also ate at a local’s place down by the river at the less touristy end near the Tavira island ferry terminal and next to a boat shop. Yes, I do realise how ridiculous these instructions sound (Michael Palin I am not) but I’m still dreaming about the stuffed pork cheeks now.

There are obviously 100s of patal de nata spots. We liked Veneza near the Roman Bridge where I’m reliably informed a glass of wine costs 2 euro (aka my kind of place..).

Where to stay in Tavira?

Usually we stay in an Airbnb but this time I wanted something really simple and not have to worry about finding keys and buying food.

We stayed in the Vila Gale, which was in a great location close to the town and near the ferries to Tavira Island during the summer months.

The rooms were great, staff super helpful and the breakfast was incredible with nice touches such as fruit grown on their own farm. There’s also a decent pool area with sun beds and towels.

I also saw a sign for Bea’s bed & breakfast and while I can’t vouch for the rooms, it was in a good location overlooking the river.

What to buy?

Tavira has some really beautiful shops selling handicrafts and pottery.

I really loved a shop called Kozii, a textile shops which sells clothes, accessories and home furnishings. Yes, I did treat myself to a scarf and earrings – well I was on my ‘olidays..

Getting there and away

We flew into Faro and took a taxi to the station (costs 10-12 euro). We then took a train to Tavira (3.20 euro), which takes 45 minutes and has beautiful views of salt flats and the coastline, followed by a taxi to our hotel (3 euro).

It sounds more complicated than it actually was and its a journey I’ll definitely do again.

mind

How to switch off (and have a mindful relationship with your phone)

July 17, 2019

Do you need to switch off?

I don’t know about you but I struggle to remember the last time I felt bored. If I cast my mind back, I think I was on a train, in an area with no 4G and I didn’t have compatible headphones to watch anything I’d downloaded. I didn’t have any option other than to switch off.

I quite often find myself mindlessly looking at Instagram and realising I’ve lost 10 minutes without even realising it. I’ve caught myself looking at wedding photos of people I’ve never met, have no connection to and zero interest in. So why am I doing it?

Comparison and social media

Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt

Social comparison theory was developed in the 1950s and looks at how we evaluate ourselves against others.

I know I regularly compare myself to others on social media (mainly Instagram tbh) and criticise myself for not having enough followers or making enough effort. It’s ridiculous – it’s a bloody App.

I’ve made the conscious decision to stop looking at insights and best times to post so I get the most engagement. I don’t make a living from this (and I feel the ever-changing algorithms are unfair on people who do) so why bother?

I’m just posting for me now and images that I like.

Sod the ‘gram…

Dopamine hits for likes

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which sends signals from the body to the brain. It plays a massive role in motivating behaviour by giving us a feeling of reward.

The feeling you get after taking a bite of some good food = dopamine. The feeling you get after exercising is also dopamine. It’s responsible for giving us a little rush every time it wants to reward us.

This is all great when it’s rewarding good habits. However, dopamine also gives us a hit every time we get a like or new follower on social media. It’s the reason we keep coming back to Instagram, looking at our likes and thinking about if our posts are working. It’s a form of social validation but fundamentally it does us no favours. The only people it serves are the ones making money from advertising.

Is social media destroying our relationships?

Esther Perel is a psychotherapist and host of the ‘Where should we begin’ podcast. She says that social media is creating a new feeling of loneliness in relationships. I can completely see why. I have a rule with my husband that we don’t have phones when we’re at dinner or out together. I don’t want to spend good money looking at someone looking at their phone.

I became more conscious of my phone activity after my son was born. It’s not always easy: I’ve had work emails to respond to or situations to deal with. Plus, looking after a child can be hard and at times on maternity leave, social media was a bit of a lifeline for me. I try to think about it though and make sure I switch off.

Creating the space for creativity

There is a reason why people say they get their best ideas on holiday or on planes. It’s because they actually have to switch off. It’s hard to have good ideas when your brain is permanently cluttered.

I find it hard these days to go through my 20 minute train commute without having some form of entertainment: music, a podcast or a mindless scroll. But am I really giving myself time to think? Probably not. Staring out of the window would be more conducive.

How to have a more mindful relationship with your phone

  • Self-awareness is key. Are you on your phone in the company of others? If so, put it down. It’s rude. If it’s an emergency, then communicate it – even if it’s to your 2 year old.
  • Become more comfortable with silence. We don’t need constant entertaining but we’re so used to it, it’s hard to sit with our own thoughts.
  • Think about your relationship with social media. There are hundreds of positives and I love the fact it’s given a platform to people. However, I know it has at times made me feel a bit shit about myself and that’s when I know it’s time to give it a break.
  • Equally, remember social media isn’t real. I enjoy following interior accounts – however, they don’t show what’s gone wrong or the arguments that have taken place, which are generally part of the DIY experience. It’s a highlight reel – not life.
travel

San Francisco with a toddler

July 9, 2019
San Francisco with a toddler leaning against a mural in the Mission District

Are we mad taking our toddler on a long haul holiday?

I had lots of ideas about parenting until I became an actual parent and realised its not always as easy as you think. Which is why I questioned if we were mad to take our toddler son on a long haul flight to San Francisco?

However, we wanted to go before our son turned two (and avoid having to buy him an adult price ticket…) so decided to go for it. I travelled a lot as a child, which is why I don’t find it too daunting. However, I completely appreciate travel is not easy; mentally as well as financially.

I also downloaded every episode of Peppa Pig…

What to do in San Francisco with a toddler 

I used to try and race round cities to cram in as much as possible so I could spend the rest of the time sitting back and people watching with a beer in hand.

Funnily enough, my toddler isn’t really up for watching the world go by. I’ve also learnt that it’s just not possible to rush with a toddler either. There are practicalities involved with what they can do because either their legs get too tired or the terrain isn’t suitable for a buggy.

Which is why this will probably be the first guide to San Francisco ever that doesn’t feature Alcatraz… Next time…

It’s also important that he enjoys the holiday too. We always try to do at least one activity a day, which is just for him. Luckily for us, he loves parks and let’s face it, most of them are free. Win, win, all round.

Even though San Franscico is hilly as anything, it’s such a wonderful city to be in. Everything is quite compact so you feel like you do a lot with minimal effort – which is perfect when travelling with a child.

So here are five things to do in San Francisco with toddler

1.Sea lions at Pier 39

My son is an animal fanatic to the degree that his first word was ‘dog’ (not Mummy…) so he loved looking at the sea lions at Pier 39. I wasn’t hugely enthused by Fisherman’s Wharf itself and found it full of tourist tat. But equally, I’ve also been to far worse places in my life as anyone who’s ever been in Leicester Square on a Saturday night can testify.

San Francisco with a toddler sea lions at Pier 39

Eat the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at the Boudin Bakery Cafe.

2. Mission Dolores Park

I don’t know about you – but I can find parks quite tedious and feel that I’m trying to enjoy being there, rather than actually enjoying it. I’m hoping this is a universal parenting experience…?

However, Mission Dolores Park is a game changer… It’s in the Mission district so go and see the murals first. Incredible views. Surrounded by beautiful houses. Great playground design. Plus lots of people relaxing and drinking beers on the grass to people watch (whilst keeping my beady eye on my child obvs).

San Francisco with a toddler Mission Delores Park

For post park refreshments, check out Bi Rite Creamery, which I’m told is the best ice cream in San Franscico. It was delicious.

3. Cable cars

Other than winding streets, is there anything more San Franciscan than the cable cars? We got the cars from Union Square and looked out of the window at Nob Hill and Lombard Street.

We went early in the morning on a week day after reading that the queues were large at other times of the day. There were still queues at Union Square but we made it on without too much of a wait.

San Francisco with a toddler cable cars

Take coins with you as it’s cash only. Luckily for us, it’s pretty cheap as we were not prepared…

4. Golden Gate Park

For a spot of peaceful restoration, head to Golden Gate park. It’s quiet and has over 1000 acres of park land so our son was able to scamper freely without me worrying about cars (he hasn’t yet grasped the green cross code..). There’s a lovely playground and it’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours.

Golden Gate park

Take a picnic with you and enjoy time in nature.

5. Sausalito

I know Sausalito isn’t technically San Francisco but indulge me in this okay… A standard San Francisco activitiy is to hire bikes and cycle across the bridge. Well, that wasn’t doable for us but I still loved Sausalito. It’s quaint, I loved the houseboats and it’s one of those places where it feels nothing bad could ever happen. I appreciate that sounds like the starting sentence of a Steven King novel…

Sausalito with a toddler

Enjoy a drink in one of the cafes on the waterfront.

Getting around

We used the MUNI and local buses, which were easy enough with a buggy and a toddler carrier. Drivers are patient with you. I can only assume they thought we were quaint…

We also walked a lot and it was infinitely doable although I would suggest getting a bus up some of the hills.

Walking ideas:

North Beach and the Beat area: City lights bookstore / Language of the Birds / Jack Kerouac alley / Cafe Trieste / China Town

Mission and Castro: 24th street for Mexican bakeries / Balmy Alley murals / Mission Delores Park / Castro street / Harvey Milk plaza

Picture postcard landmarks: Haight Ashbury for the old hippy area / Painted ladies

San Francisco with a toddler Golden Gate bridge
wellbeing

Get started with essential oils

July 6, 2019

The power of smell can have a real effect on our wellbeing; helping to reduce stress and lift our mood. It’s linked to our limbic system, which is part of the brain that controls mood and emotion.

One of the easiest ways of doing this is through essential oils, which are a concentrated scent of the plant they come from.

However, there are over 90 commonly used essential oils, each with their own health benefits so the choice of what to buy can be overwhelming.

How do you know what’s going to be right for you?

Then, what do you do with them?

Here’s an introduction on how to get started with essential oils. 

how to get started with essential oils
Essential oils contain the scent of the plant they come from

How do you use essential oils?

There are several ways to use essential oils: topically (where they’re applied directly through the skin); inhalation; and in beauty and household products. 

Here are a few ideas to help you get started with essential oils.

Diffuser (inhalation)

One of the easiest ways to use essential oils is with a diffuser. All you need to do is add a few drops of essential oils into water and the scent fills the air. There are various products on the market; I use this bamboo diffuser which works really well and turns off automatically when the water runs out.

Massage (inhalation and into the bloodstream) 

Add a few drops of essential oil to around a tablespoon of carrier oil such as sweet almond, jojoba or coconut oil for a full body massage.

I also add lemongrass to a carrier oil and use to massage my legs to increase circulation after spotting some potential varicose veins (the aging process is so fun. Sighs…).

Candles

There are so many essential oil candles on the market. However, look for ones that are essential oil based rather than the scent. Essential oil based candles are more expensive but they’re not made out of synthetic chemicals and so are much better in my book. Try looking on Etsy for ideas.

Beauty products

One of the easiest ways to create a home spa experience is to add a few drops of your favourite essential oil into a hot bath. Job done. For added luxury, also add 1-2 cups of epsom salts (to help ease achy muscles) and a tablespoon of carrier oil (to soften your skin) and then mix before you get in. 

Household cleaning

Sweet orange cleaning spray

Did you know a number of essential oils are a natural disinfectant? Tea tree oil, eucalyptus, lavender or any citrus fruit based essential oils can be used for general household cleaning. Just mix into a spray bottle with water or white vinegar (the cheap stuff).

I also love this DIY natural fabric conditioner with mandarin which leaves your clothes smelling better than any shop bought products. I promise. 

Treating minor ailments 

Cuts and grazes, plus insect bites can all be treated with tea tree essential oil. Always make sure you dilute with a bit of water before using to avoid your skin becoming irritated if it’s particularly sensitive.

What are the best essential oils to get started with?

I would always advise people to think about what scents that you’re attracted to. I’m not naturally someone who goes for rose or more floral smells, however, I love citrus and woody smells like sandalwood. 

Here are some ideas to help you get started with essential oils.

Please note, each of these oils have several uses so I’ve just highlighted some of them.

Eucalyptus 

Use for coughs, blocked noses, as a rub for aching muscles and as a natural disinfectant. 

Fill a sink with hot water and add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to steam away a blocked nose.

Lavender

Use for almost everything: skin and beauty products, household cleaning, headaches, sleep, mood enhancing and can even be used for sunburn.

Try adding a few drops to your pillow to help with sleep.

Sweet orange

One of my personal favourites. Sweet orange is said to help lift your mood and give you a sense of calm. As it’s a citrus fruit, it can also be used for cleaning products because its antimicrobial (gets rid of bacteria).

Add a few drops of sweet orange essential oil with bergamot and water into a spray bottle for an uplifting mood spray.

Bergamot

Bergamot is an invigorating essential oil which reduces stress and tension. It can also help you fight tiredness.

Mix with lavender in a diffuser and enjoy a moment of calm.

Peppermint

Use for digestive problems, colds and bronchitis.

Try spraying around ant invasions (not at the ants themselves…) to discourage them from coming into your home.

Tea Tree

Can be used to treat insect bites, cuts and on your skin and hair to reduce oil.

Add to water and put into a spray bottle for a natural insect repellent.

Basil

Basil is a calming essential oil, which is great for mental fatigue and to help you relax.

I make my own hydrating body spray with lime, basil and mandarin similar to that of a well known beauty brand… Recipe is here.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is another of my favourite essential oils. It’s so multi-purpose and I love the smell. It’s great for the nerves, can be used in household products (its antimicrobial), and is great for the skin also.

Use as a natural deodorant by diluting with water. It’s also supposed to be good for cellulite (mix with a carrier oil and massage affected areas.

Rosemary

Use to help reduce stress and boost the immune system.

Massage 5 drops of rosemary essential oil into your scalp to help your hair grow.

Juniper

Use for digestive issues, skin problems and heartburn. It’s also good for helping to balance out emotions.

Add a few drops into a carrier oil and use as a massage to help reduce fluid retention.

How do you create essential oil blends? 

Essential oils can be used on their own or blended together.

Here are a few basics to help you get started with essential oil blends.

Oils from the same family tend to blend well together. For example, flower based essential oils (rose, geranium, jasmine); herbs (basil, rosemary, marjoram); and spices (cinnamon, ginger).

Spices and citrus blend well together, such as ginger and lemon, cinnamon and sweet orange.

Woody scents and citrus work well. Examples are rosewood and bergamot, cedarwood and lime.

There are some oils which dominate and take over any scent combination. These are: peppermint, fennel, tea tree, clove, thyme and camomile. Although camomile may be lightened with lemon.

Menthol and flowery scents don’t tend to work well together.

Here are some essential oil blends to try

Uplifting energy blend

2 drops eucalyptus; 2 drops peppermint; 8 drops lemon; 1 drop cinnamon leaf; and 1 drop cardamon oil.

Memory enhancer for studying blend

1 drop clary sage; 6 drops lemon; and 10 drops rosemary oil.

Relaxtion blend

1 drop lavender; 1 drop ylang ylang; 1 drop bergamot and 1 drop patchouli oil.

Sleep inducing blend

10 drops sandalwood; 10 drops lavender; 15 drops bergamot; 2 drops ylang ylang and 3 drops frankincense oil.

What are carrier oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated so only a few can be applied directly to the skin without being diluted. They can either be diluted with water or with a carrier oil.

A carrier oil is also essential for massage as otherwise it would be painful on the skin and muscles.

Here are a few different options to help you get started.

  • 1. Grapeseed. This is a popular and easily available oil of a medium texture made from grape seeds.
  • 2. Almond. It’s more expensive but very kind to the skin with a delightful aroma.
  • 3. Apricot Kernel. Recommended for use on the face and neck, light and easily absorbed.
  • 4. Sunflower. A popular choice for body massage as it contains Vitamin E and easily available.
  • 5. Soya. Especially good for oily skins and easily absorbed.
  • 6. Avocado. More expensive but rich in texture and ideal for dry skin, containing Vitamins A and B.
  • 7. Wheatgerm. This is made from the germ of the wheat and contains Vitamin E. Excellent for dry skin but very rich – it may be used in combination with another lighter oil to prolong the life of the oil.
  • 8. Sesame. Again very rich with a nutty aroma. Best used in combination with another lighter oil.

Where to buy essential oils? 

Always buy essential oils from a reputable brand because some of the cheaper products can be mixed with other ingredients so they’re no longer pure.

I buy either Baldwin’s or Tisserand essential oils.

What’s the best way of storing essential oils?

Essential oils should be kept in dark brown glass bottles and away from direct sunlight.

Keep the lids on tight.

If stored properly, they should keep for 1-2 years.

Things to note

There are some essential oils which aren’t advised to be used on young children or pregnant women so I would always check best practice first if this applies to you.

I’ve also added some affiliate links to products, which I’ve bought myself and have been happy with. I’m not saying this is the only place to buy them from – am just sharing in case its useful. 

I often think the power of smell is underrated compared to other sensory experiences such as listening to music and the impact it can have our emotions. However, research shows essential oils can reduce feelings of anxiety and aid sleep and they’re a reasonably cheap way of lifting your spirits.

I hope you find this post useful.

mind

Why we need to practice self-compassion

June 26, 2019
self-compassion and why you need to practice it

Ever ruminate over something you said, which you could have said better? Or beat yourself up over how you could have dealt with a situation differently? 

Do you tell yourself you should be further ahead than you are? Be more confident/quick-witted/have the body of a 20 year-old when in reality you’re 44?* 

*I appreciate the last one might just be me… 

Well, it sounds like you need to practice self-compassion. 

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is the practice of extending compassion and kindness to yourself in instances of perceived inadequacies, failure or general suffering. 

It’s talking to yourself kindly and being more mindful of your inner voice.

Self-compassion means talking to ourselves in a way that we would to a friend.

Are you your own worst critic? 

There is absolutely no way I would talk to a friend in the same way, I talk to myself. It would be cruel, hurtful and I would have no friends left.

I’m not analysing their every move and criticising everything they do. I’m not listening to every word they say questioning whether or not they used the right terminology or phrasing. Neither am I listening to them talk about things that have gone wrong and thinking, well you cocked that up again…

But for some reason, we think its ok to beat ourselves up and give ourselves a really hard time. And it’s ridiculous.

Understanding the difference between bad decision making and being a bad person

There is a massive difference between making a bad decision and being a bad person.

I for one, have a tendency to confuse the two. I can literally take one bad incident, apply it to the whole of my life and tell myself I have a character defect.

Yet if my friend had made a mistake, I wouldn’t automatically think, you’re a terrible person who sucks at life. You know the whole person and all their good points. You understand they’re human and things happen. In those instances, I want to make my friend feel better and reassure them they’re doing ok.

However, I can spend hours ruminating over my choice of words and criticising myself for getting them wrong. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

Self-compassion doesn’t mean overlooking your mistakes and not taking responsibility for things. It’s not a way of shrugging your shoulders and acting like things haven’t happened or ignoring someone’s feelings. It means recognising those mistakes, dealing with them, then building a big old bridge and getting over it.

Learn to love yourself

If you can't love yourself, how in the hell can love somebody else?
Wise words from Rupaul

I remember in my single days reading a lot about the importance of loving yourself before getting into a relationship and it’s so true. 

The reality is if you treat yourself like sh*t; then how can you expect someone else to come along and treat you better? You’re telling yourself continually that you don’t deserve love.

This is why self-compassion is so important. 

It’s not just romantic relationships but all areas of life: family, friendships, work etc.

I sometimes look back at things that have happened in my life and think why did you let that happen? I had no idea what boundaries were, never mind know how to set them.

However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself when looking back at the past. I didn’t have the tools then to be able to deal with certain situations, and to a degree, we need these things to happen to in order to grow. 

So how do you start practising self-compassion?

  • Recognise in yourself that you deserve better.
  • Think of areas or issues that you give yourself a hard time over and write down how you would approach the same situation with a friend. Would you use the same language? Would you be kinder?
  • Change your inner voice to the one you would use to speak to a friend.
  • Appreciate your successes as well as situations that don’t go your way.
  • Remember, it’s not always about you… Didn’t get the job? It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible interviewee; it just means there was someone who was a better fit. Someone doesn’t like you as much as you like them? It doesn’t mean you’re a deeply unattractive person; they just don’t feel the same way and that’s ok. It happens and it’s not personal.
  • Appreciate that change is incremental. We don’t simply become better humans: we evolve and grow. Stop giving yourself such a hard time.

It’s all about the journey, not the destination

I often think we have strong ideas on the type of person we’d like to be or think we should be and then get cross with ourselves when we fail those expectations.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. So don’t give yourself a hard time because you’re not yet the perfect you. Be kind, pick yourself up and start again.

Tomorrow is a new day.


self-care

What is self-care and why do you need it?

June 18, 2019
What is self-care and why do you need it?

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of looking after yourself to protect and/or improve your physical and mental health.

It means ensuring that we’re aware of and are actively taking care of our needs.

It’s impossible to go through life without stress or issues that we need to deal with. We all have to navigate work, family and relationship challenges that are sometimes completely out of our control.

Self-care is the act of understanding that these things have an impact so we can better take care of ourselves.

Why you need to practice self-care

Self-care sounds very simple in theory, however, the reality is that it’s often something we overlook. We can be so busy doing things for other people, we forget about looking after ourselves too.

Yet, in order to be able to do our jobs properly and care for others, we need to be in a good physical and emotional state. We need energy and balanced emotions; otherwise, it’s easy to feel frazzled, snappy or simply run down.

The emergency drill on planes always tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else. I’ve never really understood this; thinking my first reaction would be to save my child (and then remove my high heeled shoes to go down the big slide – joke). But the reality is, you can’t save anyone, if you can’t breathe. You need to equip yourself to make sure you can look after everyone else.

I appreciate that’s quite a bleak example; however, hopefully the message behind it makes sense. You have to look after yourself to be the best for everyone else.

you can’t pour from an empty cup

Self-care and understanding what your mind and body needs means you can protect and preserve yourself. Fundamentally, it will give you more energy and help you feel better able to deal with challenges as they come along. Practising self-care doesn’t make us selfish; we’re just recognising we have needs too.

When we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re more likely to feel fatigued and get physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach issues.

Self-care helps us to create that balance.

How to start a self-care routine? Carry out a self-care audit

The best way to start a self-care routine is to recognise you need to think about yourself too amongst, everything else that’s happening in your life.

We all have different issues happening at different times in our lives so it makes sense that what we need from a self-care routine will be unique to all of us.

Try to reflect on where you are currently. Ask yourself questions about how you’re feeling. Are you tired? Are your emotions hard to deal with? Do you think you’re suffering with signs of stress such as feeling teary, snappy or down?

I created this self-care audit template so you can work through it and see what areas you could focus on. All you need to do is reflect on some of the questions and see if there are some simple changes or actions you can take to look after yourself better.

Often we don’t see the toll that stress or life challenges are taking on us until it’s too late, so identifying potential triggers helps us put self-care strategies in place. As a doctor would say: prevention is better than cure.

It’s also important to remember, your self-care routine will need to adapt and change depending on what else is going on in your life so check in with yourself regularly.

20 simple self-care ideas

quick and easy self-care ideas
  1. Practice self-compassion and talk to yourself as though you’re a friend and not a critic.
  2. Run a bath. Yes, I know a hot bath with candles is a self-care cliche. However, it’s a great way to take 20 minutes out for yourself and rest your muscles.
  3. Remember done is better than perfect. Give yourself a break.
  4. Get into good sleep patterns.
  5. Create and reinforce boundaries.
  6. Take time out for yourself. Go to a yoga class, read a book – anything that’s just for you.
  7. Drink more water.
  8. Go for a walk. Fresh air and exercise are always beneficial.
  9. Practice mindfulness which has proven benefits on improving mental health. Daily meditation will help with stress relief and calming an overactive mind. Try Andrew Johnson or the Headspace App.
  10. Talk about your feelings and try not to let things build up. I appreciate this is easier said than done so think about journaling and write about your feelings instead.
  11. Are you eating properly? My diet turns to custard when I get busy. I don’t have the time to buy food, never mind cook it.. Try to plan in advance with a few frozen meals so you have something nutritious to eat when time is minimal.
  12. Choose a couple of things each day to tick off your to do list. There’s only so much you can do in a day so try to break down tasks, rather than feeling a failure for not achieving the unachievable.
  13. Have a digital detox. Ever fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and wonder what you’re doing with your life? Yes, me too. Think about switching off your phone once a week or after 8pm.
  14. Prepare in advance. There is a saying that says: ‘a Sunday well spent, brings a week of content’ and it’s true. I find if I plan for my week ahead, then life runs a lot smoother.
  15. Learn to say no. I often find myself saying yes to things out loud even though I’m saying no in my head, which is utterly ridiculous. It’s a hard habit to shake but an important one.
  16. Keep a gratitude diary. I feel I bang on about my gratitude practice a lot but it’s one of the easiest ways to change your neural pathways and help you feel more positive about life.
  17. Focus on your own personal growth. It’s hard to go through life without picking up some emotional baggage. It’s good to focus on your own self-development and become more self-aware as a result.
  18. Put yourself first. If you’re tired and you don’t want to go to something, then don’t go. You’re allowed to rest and recuperate.
  19. Celebrate your successes. I’m great at beating myself up when I feel I’ve messed up and terrible at congratulating myself when I’ve done well.
  20. And lastly, breathe. Even focusing on your breath for a minute will help calm your thinking.

wellbeing

365 days of happiness (or how to make yourself happy)

June 12, 2019
365 days of wellbeing

365 days of happiness

Jacqueline Pirtle believes happiness is a practice and wrote ‘365 days of happiness’ sharing daily guidance to help you be happy.

She teaches mindfulness, gratitude and visualisation techniques to help retrain our thought processes and create a positive mindset.

The idea is you work through the book doing one practice a day. The teachings are short, easy to digest and don’t require any pre-planning so they’re really easy to do each morning and help set you up for the day.   

Can you really make yourself happy?

Of course, there are times when happiness is harder and I fully believe it’s important to feel your feelings rather than trying to bury them. Pirtle agrees with this too and offers advice on how to look at those emotions and recognise their benefits.

However, there are times when nothing is going badly; it feels like nothing is going particularly well and life is just a bit blah. This is when a mindset change can reframe how you see life and help retrain our neural pathways.

And this is where ‘365 days of happiness’ comes in…

I’m generally a positive person by nature. However, I can spiral downwards when I’m tired; I eat bad food, avoid exercise and then feel miserable because I’m not looking after myself properly. It’s a chicken and egg situation and one I feel more motivated to change after reading ‘365 days of happiness’.

Anyway, enough about me…

6 lessons I learnt from reading ‘365 days of happiness’

How to be happy

  1. Remember that everything in our universe is vibrating energy. This includes rocks, trees, animals and ourselves; anything and everything you can think of. We may be vibrating different frequencies, however, we’re still all connected in some way. It’s quite incredible really and makes you realise that we’re all part of something bigger. Every thought, action, emotion and word is energy and vibrates at different frequencies. We can tune our energy to a different frequency and change our state of being with it.
  2. Wake up smiling and saying, ‘this is already and will be the best day ever’. Remember every day is a new day and a chance to start over. Making a decision that this will be the best day sets the tone and your intentions for the day. It shifts you into a frequency of excitement and creates lots of positive energy.
  3. Visualise how you feel when you’re happy. Ask yourself, ‘how do I feel in my high for life frequency’ and ‘how happy am I in my radiant frequency’? Visualise your answers often and it will shift you into a feel-good frequency.
  4. Pirtle also asks you to imagine yourself as a hotel owner and to think about how you would care for your guests, how you would check in with them and create an experience that they would enjoy. She asks that you recreate that experience for yourself. So check in with yourself and ask how you feel, what you need right now and how you can serve yourself better? This feels like the ulimate self-care and worth remembering for people who tend to put themselves last.
  5. Have a YES or No day where every decision you make, you make with clarity. There are no ‘probably’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘I’m not sure’ answers only YES or NO. If you can’t clearly say YES then it’s a NO. This will help you stop overthinking, second-guessing, or falling into the trap of catastrophising and help focus your thoughts to make decisions that are good for you.
  6. Take time out for yourself to be happy and create a moment of stillness to invite happiness into your life. This could be as simple as looking out of a window with a cup of tea. Give yourself a moment to think about how you feel and invite happiness into your day. Check into your happiness in the morning, afternoon and before you go to bed and remind yourself that it’s there.

365 days of happiness’ was gifted to me. However, all reviews are my own opinion. I don’t receive any commission if you decide to buy the book.

Want to read more on the science behind happiness?

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/happiness/

and

home

DIY natural fabric conditioner: a how to guide

June 5, 2019
DIY natural fabric conditioner

At the risk of sounding utterly boring, I’ve got sick of seeing my washing machine clogged up with the old residue of fabric conditioner. I’m also not convinced it’s great for the environment or our clothes. However, I really like the smell and so I’m not quite ready to give up my fabric conditioner addiction. I do try to buy more natural products but even then I’m still worrying about all the plastic packaging. This is why I’ve been determined to try to make a DIY natural fabric conditioner at home.

I’ve tried putting a few drops of essential oils into the washing machine, as well as using a homemade fabric spray afterwards. It’s not quite the same though.

After searching for a while online, I decided to give this DIY natural fabric conditioner a go using only three ingredients that I had already at home. They are epsom salts, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils.

Anyone else starting to realise that you can make almost anything from bicarbonate of soda or am I just really late to the party?

Anyway..

To make DIY natural fabric conditioner you will need:

  • 1 cup of epsom salts
  • ¼ cup of bicarbonate of soda (or baking powder if you’re in the US)
  • 10-15 drops of essential oils. I went with sweet orange because I love the smell and it’s also supposed to be an uplifting scent. I think I was feeling a bit fed up on the day… Really any oils would work so next time I think I’ll try lavender and lemon to mix it up a bit.

I buy my ingredients from Baldwins, a natural goods store and a health food shop near where I live.

Mix and pour into an airtight storage jar.

To be completely transparent, mine does stick sometimes. It may be that my jar is letting in air? Or more realistically, it might be that commercial products tend to have anti-clogging agents… Regardless, it does work just fine after a quick stir.

travel

Why a festival with kids isn’t as bad as you might think

May 31, 2019

Goodbye nightclub, hello nappies

In the early days of motherhood I couldn’t imagine ever going out again. Sleepless nights and feeding took a toll on my energy levels, but if truth be told, I just didn’t really want to. A night in the pub seemed out of the question, never mind a festival with kids.

However, I now have a 2.5 year old and life seems a bit easier. He has fairly good sleeping patterns (most of the time) and is at the age where he can engage with other kids and have a good time.

I also feel I’ve reclaimed my sense of self and no longer have that rabbit in the headlights feeling of being a first time mum. And one thing I now really appreciate (because the chances are so limited) is spending time with friends.

My husband and I are in the sad position of not having much in the way of family support. We only have my mum left as a grandparent and she lives hundreds of miles away. Weekends away as a couple are impossible. We do get babysitters for nights out but that adds on to the cost of the evening and so we can’t do it as often as we might like.

So when our friends asked if we wanted to join them and their kids at Shindig festival, of course we said yes… My husband had been before and loved it. We’re also reasonably experienced family travellers and so the thought of camping for a few days didn’t seem overly daunting.

Turns out a buggy makes a great festival chair

Shindig festival

Shindig is a boutique music festival in Bruton, Somerset. It’s small and in a beautiful setting surrounded by green, gently rolling hills.

It’s a family friendly festival with lots of kids around. It seems to attract similarly minded parents who want to spend time with their children but also aren’t quite ready to hang up their disco boots.

Shindig festival has more than enough to keep little ones happy. There was so much on offer including a theatre tent, a circus, a climbing wall, hoops for acrobatics and a brilliant DJ in an ice cream van to keep the parents entertained in the kids field.

The food was great and I heard all locally sourced. You could bring a few cans in with you into the entertainment area (no glass bottles), which helped to cut down on costs.

There was a camping area for people with disabilities and also a big wellbeing area. I can’t say I took part in any of the early morning yoga classes but I appreciated they were on offer.

There was a big emphasis on cutting down on waste with composting toilets and recycling facilities. Festivals are notorious for litter and the damage they do to the land and I thought it was great the organisers were trying to limit this.

There’s a brilliant music policy with small dance tents so you feel close to the action. I particularly appreciated the kids hammocks outside one of the tents because it meant we could tag team each other and have a dance to LTJ Bukem.

I imagine it’s great for people without kids. However, I wasn’t out late enough to see the action after hours and I don’t think my husband really remembers…

Being thrown in the air is the best fun ever

Why take your kids to a festival?

It may seem a bit mad to go to a festival with kids, however, not everyone has easy access to babysitters so it’s not as straightforward as that. I also think it’s good to have fun with your children and introduce them to the things you enjoy.

I spent a lot of time as a child travelling with my parents and some of my greatest memories are sleeping in a hammock across the front seats of our van. I think children enjoy a break from the norm and stepping out of their routine.

It’s also great to be able to introduce your kids to live music. Admittedly, there are other ways to do this than paying for a festival. I live in London so there’s often free events taking place and I like to think my son benefits from listening to music – maybe it’s just me who does…

Top tips for surviving a music festival with kids

Choose a smaller boutique kid-friendly festival. Shindig takes about 15 minutes to walk across and wasn’t crowded, which gave me peace of mind. I think most parents worry about their kids bolting (or is that just me?) and it was open enough to be able to see them easily.

Ear defenders are a must. My husband is pretty deaf (although sometimes I think selectively) after years of working in sound. Younger ears are even more susceptible and it’s just not worth the risk for something you can buy pretty cheaply. We have these Peltor ones. Sermon over.

Take tons of wet wipes for you and your kids. I took biodegradable ones to try and cut down on waste. Some festivals have shower facilities but most of the time I don’t bother. Let’s face it, everyone else is in the same boat.

We took a toddler sling and buggy. We didn’t end up using the sling but it didn’t really matter. The buggy was great for afternoon naps and for shoving all our stuff underneath. Other people had carts and they looked great for smaller kids that need to nap.

We froze milk in advance so it slowly defrosted while we were there. For smaller bottle-fed babies, you could bring steriliser fluid and cartons of milk?

Having a camper van was a game changer. Now, before I sound ridiculously over-privileged, please hear me out… We don’t have a car so needed to hire one and buy a lot of camping equipment such as a tent. We worked out that hiring a van would be cheaper overall, particularly as we cooked meals there. We had nice breakfasts, cups of coffee and best of all, dry clothes when it rained.

Bring lots of food and snacks. ‘A hungry man is an angry man’ once sung Bob Marley and never was a truer word spoken.

We also took a potty because we’re going through the joy of potty training. We also relied pretty heavily on nappies.

If camping’s not for you – and it’s not for everyone, then think about a day festival. We went to Jam on the Rye back in 2018 and Rudy had a great time bopping around.

My best tip though is to go with other families. It helps to have other people to keep an eye out if you go to the loo or the bar. Plus when you’re back in the camping area at 9pm because your kids need to sleep, you can hang out with your mates. Winner.

What are the best festival for kids?

Where can I find out more?

The Festival Kidz website reviews festivals with children in mind.

My personal opinion is smaller festivals aimed at a broader audience are probably a good place to start. You can always build up to a bigger one as your kids get older / you gain confidence.

wellbeing

Essential oils for beginners

May 24, 2019
Essential oils for beginners

Essential oils seem to be having a renaissance of late with people talking about the impact they have on their overall wellbeing.

We’re all aware of the power of music and how it can tap into our emotions so it stands to reason that smells affect our senses too.

I love the fresh smell in the air after it’s just finished raining because it gives me a feeling of newness. The smell of pine brings back one of my earliest memories of being in a forest on a family holiday.

The power of smell has the ability to transport us to moments in the past and affect our emotions. Essential oils help with this.

But what are essential oils and how do you use them?

Essential oils are concentrated liquids that contain the essence of the plants they come from. They are characterised by their smell.

People have been harnessing the power of herbs and plants for centuries. Essential oils have been used for medical treatments, religious reasons, food flavouring, perfume, skin care and aromatherapy.

Modern methods of extraction and distillation are very powerful so today’s essential oils are much more concentrated than in the past. They’re used today in everyday ingredients such as laundry detergent, washing up liquid, shower gels and candles.

However, they offer so much more than that. Essential oils are good for your mind, body and soul. I use them to lift my mood as well as around my home.

Like anything though, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

Here’s an introduction to essential oils for beginners to help you learn what to buy and how best to use them.

Essential oils for beginners: how best to use them

Aromatherapy inhalation

I use a bamboo essential oil diffuser to diffuse essential oils into the air. Inhaling essential oils stimulates our olfactory system (the part of the brain connected to smell). There is also evidence which suggests oils are absorbed into the bloodstream when inhaled.

I also mix essential oils with distilled water and into a spritz bottle and spray into the air.

You can make blends such as bergamot and sweet orange to help lift your spirits and increase motivation and ylang ylang is said to help with depression.

Aromatherapy massage

Essential oils contain tiny molecules which are easily absorbed into the body when used on the skin. They must always be mixed with a carrier oil such as almond, avocado or coconut oil.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can damage the skin if not used correctly. Please note, use with caution on children and if you’re pregnant.

Candles

I make my own candles using soy wax and add essential oils (method to follow). They smell utterly divine and so much better than synthetic fragrances.

Cleaning products

There are a number of essential oils which act as a natural disinfectants and antiseptics. Look out for tea tree, rosemary, lavender and any citrus essential oils. Mix with white wine vinegar to create a cleaning spray.

Or try this natural DIY fabric conditioner, which will leave your clothes smelling absolutely divine.

Beauty products

I adapted a fragrance from a certain well known perfume brand (cough, cough Jo Malone) to make a natural body moisturising spray. As I’ve got older, my skin has started to get dryer but as someone who gets ready in approximately 47 minutes in the morning, I don’t have time to slather on a rich body cream and wait for it to settle into my skin before I get dressed. This spray moisturiser is light enough to absorb really quickly and is made from completely natural ingredients.

Use a funnel and pour the following ingredients into a spray bottle

  • Lime, Basil and mandarin essential oils (approximately 3-5 drops of each depending on the size of the spray bottle you’re using and your personal preference. I tend to use less basil as I find it a bit overpowering)
  • Almond oil (a couple of tablespoons)

Then mix the following ingredients following the proportions below:

  • Glycerin (20%)
  • Witch hazel (20%)
  • Rosewater (60%)

That’s it. Spray it after you’ve had a shower and lock all the moisture into your skin.

Also try making rose petal bath salts which make wonderful gifts.

Essential oils for beginners: 4 best essential oils to get started

Lavender –  great for sleep and relaxation. It can be used as a natural remedy for anxiety and helps with depression. It can be used in beauty and skin care products, as a fragrance or as a cleaning product because its naturally antibacterial. Add a few drops to a hot bath to help with relaxation. I also combine it with distilled water and spray on my bed linen for a good night’s sleep.  

Sweet orange –  helps support a happy mood and lifts your spirits. It’s also thought to stimulate the immune system. All citrus essential oils are astringent and antiseptic so make great cleaning products. I mix with ginger to make the most beautiful smelling candles.  

Peppermint – is also thought to uplift the spirits and promote focus. Mix with a carrier oil and apply to the feet to reduce nausea and fevers and can be used in soaps and cleaners. Add peppermint essential oil to hot water to help steam away cold symptoms and unblock the sinuses. I also use to keep ants at bay which seem to like to come into the kitchen once the weather turns warm.

Tea tree – well known for its cleansing and purifying benefits. It can be mixed with castile soap and distilled water to create a facial wash. It’s antibacterial so is great for cleaning the body and the home. It can also be mixed with water to make a great bathroom cleaning spray, which gets rid of the black mould around your shower tiles really easily. I bring it with me on holiday to help treat mosquito bites.

mind

How to practice gratitude

May 6, 2019
how to practice gratitude

Gratitude practice changed my life

I’ve previously about how gratitude practice changed my life. It turned me from perpetually being a ‘grey sky thinker’ to seeing the positives in life.

I had gone through life feeling like the odds were stacked against me. 

Good fortune and luck were things that happened to other people. I was great at seeing the negatives in any situation which helped back up my theory (let’s face it, none of us like to be wrong…). My train was 2 minutes late: this always happen to me. Didn’t get the call for a job interview: that’s just typical. 

In pretty much any situation, I found it easy to dissect what was wrong about it, I just struggled with thinking what was right.

I first learnt about gratitude after reading the Secret and falling down a Rhonda Byrne / self-help book rabbit hole. I decided to give it a whirl for a few weeks and here I am 7 years later with my cup still half full.

For me, the greatest change has been to stop sweating the small stuff and to notice the positives more. I feel happy when I’m running late and my train is equally late too. I look for opportunities in situations, rather than being a naysayer and I’m much more in control of my feelings instead of being led by them. 

However, the main benefit is, I feel much happier overall.

Now, that’s not to say I find positives in every situation. When my Dad died very suddenly, I can’t say I found anything to feel particularly grateful about. I could barely function. However, a few years on, I can see the experience has changed me for the better. I have a deeper level of empathy and understanding towards other people, which just didn’t exist before. Obviously, I wish my Dad dying had never happened – but I guess as it did, I’m grateful I learnt something along the way.

What is a gratitude practice?

Gratitude practice involves regularly paying attention to the good around us, such as being around nature, meeting friends and time spent with family. 

It’s looking out for those small moments and feeling grateful for them. The cheery smile from a stranger or enjoying a really nice meal. 

Happiness is a feeling we can cultivate. So the more regularly we practice feeling grateful, the more aware we become of the good around us and the happier we feel.

Most of us take our lives for granted (a roof over our head, regular access to food, good health) and we forget to recognise it. Gratitude helps us remember this and all the other positives in life.

The science behind gratitude

There is a lot of science behind practising gratitude and the benefits it brings to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Researchers have found it helps with sleep, moods and overall physical health. 

There is also evidence that it retrains our neural pathways in the brain. Our neural pathways carry messages to and from the brain and are created by learnt behaviour so most of the time we don’t know we’re doing it. They’re not just physical responses, but emotional and behavioural too. 

Think about when you cross the road. In my case, I’m generally listening to music or a podcast and am pretty much in a world of my own. However, I still know to press the button and wait for the green man before I cross. I’m not diving into the road because I’ve done this task so many times my brain knows what to do.

Ever felt anxious when you know you’re going to have to navigate a tricky conversation? That’s because your brain knows this might result in conflict and so has sent that message to the brain and your emotions are heightened.

In the same way, if you’re always noticing negative events and situations, then your brain starts will send messages as soon as these things take place so you’re more aware of them. 

By focusing on feeling grateful when good things happen, then your neural pathways will send happier messages and you’ll be more aware of the positives in life instead. 

4 ways to practice gratitude

Here are 4 ways, I practice gratitude.

1. I follow a process I learnt by reading ‘the Magic’ and keep a gratitude journal where I write out 10 things I feel grateful for and the reasons why. I then read it back and say ‘thank you’ 3 times.

2. I use an App called Gratitude Plus. This sets a daily reminder, which prompts me to fill it in. This is great for being on the go and I use it on my commute.

3. I try to pause throughout the day and feel grateful for small moments. 

4. I reflect on the day before I go to sleep and pick out things that happened which I feel grateful for. It takes seconds and is a really nice way to end the day.

Please note, I’ve included links to Amazon for books that I’ve read. I’m not not suggesting you use this store over another – it’s just to be helpful. 

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