The Monthly Gift

My first ever blog post back in December last year was about Monthlies, a period subscription box. Their boxes are filled with sanitary products, all organic and plastic, chlorine, animal testing free. For every box you purchase, 20% of the profits will go to support women and girls in the UK and abroad. I still use Monthlies, they are amazing, but over the months I’ve managed to accumulate quite a stock of excess sanitary products.

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A few weeks ago in Nottingham I stumbled upon The Monthly Gift who are a campaign that donates sanitary products to homeless women and those who have limited access to them. This was a perfect solution to my ever increasing pile of pads!

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Periods are annoying on a good day. But they are a whole lot more difficult to deal with when you don’t have a home or a bathroom or money and that is the reality for thousands of homeless women everyday.

The issue even goes beyond the homeless, girls in the UK are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products. Female pupils could be skipping up to a week of school every single month because they can’t afford sanitary products and they’re too afraid to ask for them due to the ridiculous stigma and shame still attached to periods.

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You can help.

If you don’t live local to Nottingham there is also a Monthly Gift Manchester  and many other charities that help provide period support to those that need it such as; The Homeless Period, Action Aid and Irise. Food banks are also a great place to donate.

Give it a go!

The Yorkshire Soap Company

Last bank holiday I headed up to Harrogate to visit my boyfriend’s parents. On Saturday we popped into Knaresborough and discovered The Yorkshire Soap Company.

The Yorkshire Soap Company has six shops dotted around the region selling natural handmade soaps, when you walk in the shop its like a fancy patisserie. Loads of pretty designs, colours and smells.

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I could of bought all sorts. But managed to settle on two bars.

INGREDIENTS: Ylang ylang and yorkshire heather – Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palmkernalate, Aqua, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Ylang Ylang, Heather. Orange, carrot and calendula – Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palmkernalate, Aqua, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Carrot, Calendula, Carotene.

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All products are free from animal testing, handmade in Yorkshire and suitable for vegetarians. They don’t just make soaps but also bath bombs, body lotions and shampoo. Everything is very reasonably priced considering the products are natural and handmade, the bars I got were just £3 each. Along with their great selection they do some cool gift packages. The above ‘yorkshire lass’ hamper would make a perfect pressie!

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World Fairtrade Day – Honeystreet Handmade

As it is World Fairtrade Day I thought I’d write about Honeystreet Handmade who make beauty products in the Wiltshire countryside using Fairtrade Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter and Apricot Kernel Oil.

A few weeks ago I ordered their Sunshine Body Scrub and Butter.

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INGREDIENTS: Shea Butter, Grape Seed Oil, Kernel Oil, Corn Silk, Orange Peel Oil, Lemon Peel Oil, Grapefruit Peel Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Citral, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool – 56% are Fairtrade

The body butter has a mousse like texture and at first seems really difficult to apply and rub in. But once you get used to it and realise that it is not like a normal moisturiser it’s great. Within days my skin felt hydrated. What I also like is that the butter doesn’t have an overpowering scent, once on the skin it just smells very clean and fresh.

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INGREDIENTS: Sucrose, Sodium Chloride, Dead Sea Salt, Grape Seed Oil, Kernel Oil, Olive Oil, Orange Peel Oil, Lemongrass Essential Oil, Lemon Peel Oil, Grapefruit Peel Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Citral, Citronellol, Eugenol, Geranol, Limonene, Linalool – 47% are Fairtrade

Again, the body scrub at first is difficult to use. It is made with natural dead sea salt, as soon as the scrub hits water it begins to dissolve. I found the best way to apply this is using an exfoliating glove. Using it this way it definitely brings results. My skin is lovely and smooth after using it. Like the butter it smells fresh and clean, slightly citrusy, not overpowering.

Honeystreet have a wide variety of ‘flavours’ for their body butters and scrubs. They also make soaps, bath bombs and massage oils. All products are individually handmade in small batches. None of the products contain parabens, sulphates, petrochemicals, palm oil or artificial colours and fragrances. All products or raw materials have not been tested on animals, just friends and family.

Ticking all the boxes? Hold on there’s more…

Their packaging is eco-friendly and recyclable. Their paper is handmade from recycled cotton and hand screen printed in a Fairtrade unit in India. The plastic bottles and jars are PET and are fully recyclable.

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Today is World Fairtrade Day. Why don’t you head out today and try something new that holds the Fairtrade mark (coffee, shampoo, bananas, lip balm, chocolate…) and help support the development of farmers and their working communities by giving them a fair price and better working conditions. Be an #agentforchange!

Beautiful Bank Holiday in Berlin

This time last week I was begrudgingly returning to work following a long weekend in Berlin (which now seems a lifetime ago). Having visited the city just last March, this trip’s aim was to practice our German ‘skills’, see the sights we didn’t manage to see last time and to experience some of the cool suburbs Berlin has to offer.

Whilst there we racked up a daily average of 27,000 steps. But do not fear, the calories burnt were soon topped up with booze and food.

Friday night after lots of German beer in Neukölln we headed to the Quasimodo jazz club in Charlottenburg to see Alexandra Savior perform. She was good, but as often happens didn’t even play our favourite song Shades!

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Saturday was spent mooching round the many vintage and independent shops. My will power somehow miraculously kicked in stopping me from spending a fortune on a beautiful handmade belt from Hoffnung or on a new pair of brogues from Zeha. That evening we hit Torstraße, having a different gin in each place and returning to our favourite smoky cocktail bar – Neue Odessa.

Berlin has a huge hipster scene. After watching a Rick Stein programme earlier in the year where he visited Berlin and called every cool place he entered ‘noir’, we also began calling these hipsters ‘noir’ and created a ‘noir scale’.

Sunday morning we ticked off the Reichstag from the tourist list. We’d booked to do this tour of the German parliament buildings last time but were too hungover to turn up. That was silly of us because I definitely recommend doing it, the views are amazing and you get a great overview of Berlin’s history, so make sure to pre-book before your visit and pick up the audio guide. Final pointer on this… it is FREE!

For lunch we headed to Kreuzberg for a famous Burgermeister and then crossed the Spree to the East Side Gallery to look at the graffiti and umpteen selfies being taken on the Berliner Mauer (wall).

On our way back to the hotel I was determined to find a Photoautomat machine just like Richard Ayoade in Travel Man. Nearly making the full journey back to Alexanderplatz and not finding a machine we decided to follow a ‘noir’ looking fellow to see what cool place he was heading to. This ‘noir’ chap all of a sudden dipped off the path under some old bits of wood, so we followed. On the other side of the wood stood what I’d been looking for, a Photoautomat machine! There was also a mini beach, fire pit, food huts, a bar and Bob Dylan blasting from the speakers. Holzmarkt was an amazing find.

Berlin, once again you were a blast. See you next year! x

Ethical Food Shop

As someone who absolutely loves food, but wants to buy and eat a product that is sustainable and safe, is from a company that looks after its employees and does not damage the environment, I was very much looking forward to Ethical Consumer Magazine’s latest issue.

Every issue Ethical Consumer focuses on a specific area, in which they investigate brands and products and publish their findings alongside an ethical rating. Their May/June issue brought focus to supermarkets and food.

I am under no illusion that supermarkets are an ‘ethical’ way to buy food. Personally I try where possible to buy from the local grocer, market, butcher or baker. However sometimes, for convenience and cost there is simply no other way to do a food shop than to head to the nearest Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op or Aldi.

supermarkEthical Consumer assessed the supermarkets on environment, animals, people and politics to generate an ethiscore. Their full range of products sold, company policies and strategies were reviewed.

As you can see, none of them scored very highly.  The highest being the Co-op with 5.5/20.

Specific findings on animal welfare, climate change, cocoa, cotton, fish, palm oil and timber were detailed in the article.

Did you know that all the cocoa in Co-op brand products will be Fairtrade by 27th May?

Did you know that only 2% of Morrisons fish is MSC-labelled compared to 72% at Sainsbury’s?

As their findings are pretty disheartening Ethical Consumer goes on to explain what the alternatives are. Shopping at a wholefood shops, farmers markets or ordering veg boxes.

If we are to keep shopping at supermarkets, the next best thing to do is buy ethical products from their stores.

Here are some of my favourite products with an Ethical Consumer review:

  • Baked beans – I count myself as abit of a baked bean conosoir. I just love em! Branston tend to be my go-to. And that is why I was gutted to find Branston only have a 4.5 rating. Geo Organics and Mr Organic were found to be the best with a score of 17/20! I will be giving these the taste test and let you know how it goes.

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  • Bananas – I eat a banana every day and always buy Fairtrade. Ethical Consumer’s ‘best buy’ is to go to supermarkets that only sell Fairtrade (Co-op, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s). For non-supermarket bananas Eko Oke is the best as they are Fairtrade and Organic, however I don’t think I have ever seen one of these in an independent shop. Below is a ‘banana split’ showing where the sale of a non-Fairtrade banana is distributed, shockingly workers only receive 7% of the bananas cost. For me, the best advice is to carry on buying Fairtrade.

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  • Coconut oil – I use coconut oil for all sorts. Not just for cooking but for my nails, face, hair and teeth. The brand I use is Lucy Bee’s (scoring 18/20). Sourced from Sri Lanka the oil is unrefined, extra virgin, Fair Trade, organic and raw. And personally, I love it.

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I hope this has helped in some way. If you have any suggestions on how to do an ethical food shop, please comment! x

Easter Weekend – Adventures on the Doorstep

I very rarely get to spend a weekend at home, nevermind a bank holiday weekend. That is why this Easter was very special as I got to spend it at home with my nearest and dearest exploring what is on my doorstep.

Despite having lived in the East Midlands now for about four years I’ve rarely had the time, or not made the time, to explore what the local area has to offer. This weekend I began to scratch the surface.

My Easter weekend started early as I took Thursday off from work for my sister’s birthday (HAPPY 25TH FIONA!!!!).

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We spent the daytime eating and drinking in Nottingham. I finally got to experience Annie’s Burger Shack which definitely lived up to it’s reputation. Annie’s has an amazing burger menu, in which every dish can be done meaty, vegan or veggie.

Then as my birthday present to Fiona we went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Theatre Royal. Having previously read the book myself, it was probably quite a selfish gift. The play was a success. It told the story really well, making you appreciate how an autistic boy lives. I’d definitely recommend reading the book or going to see the play.

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We stayed over in Nottingham and on Friday morning decided to not waste the day away looking round shops at things we didn’t want to buy. Instead we ventured to the well hidden City of Caves. Who knew underneath the shops and pubs were over 600 man made sandstone caves?! I certainly didn’t until we painstakingly managed to find them. Heads up Nottingham… you should shout about this more!

After the Caves we had a nice walk up to Nottingham Castle. Again, we were completely unaware that Nottingham had a castle! It’s a beautiful area of the city, full of Robin Hood history.

Saturday was spent being productive. I did a 5k park run at Conkers beating my previous time by two whole minutes (buzzin!!). I then had a good ole spring clean of the flat. Finished off reading Dawn O’Porter’s The Cows (blog post to follow on this great read) and then went out for a couple of drinks in Ashby with Rob.

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On Sunday I took Barney out for a walk with Rob to Carsington Water. We packed up a little picnic and set out for a nice 8 miler.

Finally today I went with my mam, dad, sister and Barney to Mercia Marina for a walk along Willington canal  with a stop off at The Dragon for lunch.

I have thoroughly enjoyed a long weekend at home. I’ve managed to have a proper catch up with close family, get some much needed fresh air and see what the East Midlands has to offer. The rest of this precious time off work is now going to be spent eating chocolate and watching films. #lazydays

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If you live in the area and know of any other fun days out I can sample, please let me know.

Happy Easter x

Books

 

I love books. Always have. As soon as I could read I was onto Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Dick King-Smith. I then progressed onto Jacqueline Wilson, Meg Cabot and my favourite, J.K Rowling.

I would do my sister’s head in, especially in the summer holidays, “Anna dya wanna play footie?” and I’d always be too busy racing to the end of the latest Harry Potter.

Where possible I buy books from second hand shops or Hive. Hive gives independent bookshops a chance to be seen online and stay on our high streets. You can order online with Hive and choose which bookshop you want to support, or search for your local bookshop and physically pay them a visit. Their prices match or are sometimes better than Amazon, and their deliveries are super quick! My latest Hive purchase was HRH The Prince of Wale’s ‘Climate Change’ Ladybird book. Great pictures and a great message.

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So, as you can imagine, over the years I’ve created some collection. About a month ago I decided my bookshelves were too full and to donate those I knew I’d never read again to charity and get myself a Kindle.

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For years I had toyed with the idea of getting a Kindle. Even just for the ease of going on holiday, some trips I’ve taken I’ve ended up carrying back 4 books all dog eared and crispy from getting wet and then drying in the sun. But to me there was always nothing like a proper paperback book. Reading it, then placing it on the shelf, like some sort of trophy.

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Finally last month I caved. And it has to be said, I do not regret it. Since getting my Kindle I’ve started using Good Reads, joined online book clubs, found out what my friends are reading and set myself a 2017 reading challenge. So far I’ve polished off 4 books, and the battery is still half full.

I am sold. Having finished Shappi Khorsandi’s ‘Nina is Not OK’ yesterday on the train back from Manchester (I kinda shed a tear in public at the ending), I’m now looking for my next read. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear from you!