Thursday 30 April 2015

My Skincare Routine

If you have met me you may be wondering why people might be interested in learning my skincare routine, I'll be honest, my skin doesn't look great, it's not especially smooth (I am 31, there are wrinkles) and I get the odd spot.  But the reason I wanted to share it with you is because for years I suffered with terrible eczema, particularly through my teenage years, it's sensitive, flare-ups of eczema still happen from time to time, but I know how to deal with them now without a load of toxic chemicals and I wanted to share my routine and the products that I use so that if you, or your child has a tendency towards eczema you can have some ideas of how to treat it without the use of prescription medicines.

It all began a few years ago when I read a book called Skin Deep by Pat Thomas.  Until then I had been using Nivea soft as my main moisturiser and rather shockingly (but at the time I didn't think that much of it) after applying it my skin would burn (why did I think this was ok?!)

After reading the book I realised the damage I was causing to my skin and body by slathering it with chemicals, and not just my moisturiser but also toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo.  I immediately switched to using natural oils on my skin and gradually changed all my other toiletries to more natural products too.  There was definitely a transition period with my skin where it felt dreadful, it lasted about a week but once I got through that, I haven't looked back.  

Commercial skin care products contain many ingredients that can be harmful to the body.  One of the most commonly occurring being mineral oils such as paraffin oil.  According to Pat Thomas mineral oils can "Impede the skin's ability to breathe, attract moisture and detoxify.  It can also slow down cell renewal and promote premature aging".  This is just the tip of the iceberg, and moisturises that claim to access deep layers of skin contain chemicals that drive the moisturisers further into the skin which therefore drives the nasty, sometimes carcinogenic chemicals further into the skin (and the body) too.  And that's before we even start to talk about ingredients like perfumes, preservatives such as parabens and foaming agents like Sodium Lauryl Sulphates which can all be harmful to the body.

So I began by using natural oils on my face initially olive oil, then wheatgerm and jojoba oil.  I found a fantastic website called Akamuti that sold natural oils and moisturisers made from natural oils that suited my skin perfectly. I also found you could buy some natural oils in bulk such as shea butter (which is fairly traded with Ghanaian women)  and coconut oil.

Before I shower in the evening I do a quick bit of body brushing, it exfoliates, gets the lymphatic system moving, it improves circulation and releases stress.  I wash with just water and a bit of organic soap where I need it.  I wash my hair about every other night.  I have had about as many problems with an itchy scalp as I have with eczema and have tried many many shampoos.  At the moment I am using Avelon organics scalp normalizing shampoo and conditioner, and inbetween I am treating my scalp to an overnight coconut oil mask which also includes a few drops of lavender oil, eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil.  All of which have anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.  I wash it off in the morning with the shampoo.  It has really helped a lot, though I don't feel like my scalp is totally normal it is much better.

Sometimes I have a detoxifying bath using pink himalayan salt (or epsom salts if I am out of the pink stuff), bicarbonate of soda and fullers earth clay.  This treatments is really good for drawing out toxins and heavy metals and soothing irritated skin.  It's also really relaxing and just feels like such a treat.

After my shower I use the Akamuti Avocado Night Cream on my face and coconut oil on my chest where I also get dry skin from time to time, which I buy from a website called Real Foods. Coconut oil is an excellent moisturiser because it is the most similar to the skins natural sebum, the small molecular structure of coconut oil allows it to be absorbed easily into the skin.  I also use Shea butter on particularly dry areas such as my heels and lips.  Shea butter is a rich, creamy, hard moisturizer when unrefined and melts into a smooth oil on the skin, is rich in vitamins A, E and essential fatty acids.

I begin my day using Akamuti Evening Primrose Day Cream on my face.  If my skin is going through a bad patch I might use some of their Replenishing Rose Face Cream or another natural oil such as Pomegranate Seed Oil. I also use some organic unrefined coconut oil as a moisturiser on my chest.

As for deodorant, I stopped using them years ago in favor of a deodorising crystal.  Weirdly I don't get too much body odor now, compared to when I was teaching anyway.  I think I am a bit like a skunk; if I am put in a particularly stressful situation my body reacts like a skunk does in the presence of a predator and releases a ghastly odor from my arm pits to scare off the predator.  I don't face the same stresses as a fulltime-mother as I did a teacher (still stressful but different types of stress) so I find I don't even need to use the crystal deodoriser.  I do use some coconut oil and if it's a special occasion I might use a dab of essential oil such as lavender. I also use a bit of coconut oil on my armpits in the evening before bed.

Millions of plastic toothbrushes end up in landfill every year here in the UK, so my teeth are now brushed with natural bristles held a bamboo tooth brush (I bought this one) and I brush with a non-foaming (slight phobia of bubbles) fluoride free toothpaste called Sarakan which I also buy from Real Foods.

So there you have it.  That's how I roll as far as my skin goes, it's working for me at the moment, and I feel good about the fact that I am not using nasty chemicals, which are harmful to me and the environment, they are also all vegan.  I highly recommend switching over to more natural skincare products, many of which can be made at home which also minimises packaging. Check out Trash is for Tossers' home made tooth paste and whipped body lotion.  By the way I am not affiliated with any if these products. I just genuinely love them.

Monday 27 April 2015

Home Preschool themes - Dinosaurs part 1

So I have a pre-schooler!!  When did that happen?  Boris is three now and is absorbing information from all around him, he is learning so much; how to think, how to make decisions, how to use materials, how to move, how to make, I could go on and on, it's amazing the things he picks up and remembers, (his memory is much better than mine!)

So as a three year old Boris could be taking advantage of his 15 free childcare hours.  Although we haven't actually made a decision not to send him to preschool, we kind of just haven't.  I am not sure what the point would be, we are planning on home educating the boys so there is no need to prepare them for school as such (how to stand in line, put his hand up to ask to go to the loo, follow instructions without question that sort of thing - only joking...or am I?).  He has plenty of opportunities to socialise with children of his age with friends and at toddler groups, and with children of all ages at home education groups that we have joined.

So with the fact of him being preschool age in mind I have been feeling like I should start making a bit more effort to facilitate his learning. Of course he is learning in everything we do every day, on the walk to toddler group, as we bake in the kitchen, through reading stories, playing in the garden etc, but it is nice for him to be exposed to as many new ideas as possible. We have done a few themes already over the last year or so and have enjoyed this approach so for now, because it seems to work well for us and we enjoy it, that's how we are approaching "home preschool" (as I am going to call it).

This last couple of weeks we have been loosely exploring the theme of Dinosaurs.  It began with Boris and his Dad watching the Dinosaur Zoo Live show which was on in the Hexagon Theatre in Reading, it sounded really great, highly recommended (though I am not sure it is on anymore)  according to my husband Boris wasn't sure what to make of it all, I don't think he realised the dinosaurs were puppets, and he was afraid of the very big dinosaur at the end, and it was also very noisy which unsettled him, but it sounded very exciting.

The first week was off to a slow start because we were very busy with our usual activities, but I managed to pick up a few books from the library and found this cool dinosaur sand mold set in ASDA, (there were legs, arms, ribs and a tail too.) so we had a bit of fun with that in the garden enjoying the glorious weather we have been having recently.

Playdough is always a win in our house so I rustled up a batch in dino colours and we played with it with some dinosaur cutters that I picked up at the Natural History Museum in London when we visited there a few weeks ago.

The playdough is: 2 cups plain flour,
                              2 tbsp glycerin,
                              1/2 cup salt,
                              2 tbsp cream of tartar,
                              1 1/2 cups boiling water.
I cooked the dough in a pan, then kneaded in food colouring and poster paint to achieve the required tones.  I think I cooked it a bit much, or else used a bit too much flour because the dough was quite dry, but it did give a nice wrinkly texture which I felt added a life like element to the dough.

We also stomped dinosaur footprints into the playdough with some model dinosaurs we already had.

And finally of course I had to have a go at making a little model of a dinosaur.  I call this one a imperfectlynaturalosaurus.

We also took a visit to Wellington Country Park, which is a really fun place to spend the day with lots of playgrounds and a little farm and things, but more importantly has a dinosaur trail!!  Here I am hamming it up with a T Rex. (Boris took this photo, hence the slightly dodgy angle) I actually hurt myself on one of those teeth. 

I have more dinosaur activities to share with you in the next few days so stay tuned.  Please share, pin, tweet and like and visit again soon x

Sunday 26 April 2015

Margam Country Park

We visited my mum and dad in Wales a little while ago and decided to visit Margam Country Park in Port Talbot, we had a really lovely day and we had absolutely fantastic sunny weather, if a little windy. 
It was free entry, just had to pay for parking which is a bonus, there are acres of land to explore and many beautiful vistas.  The site once housed a Norman Abbey, of which the remains are still visible to explore.  I am sure we would have explored the ruins more but you know...children. We had lunch there jacket potato with beans and salad and an eccles cake after (amazingly it was suitable for vegans!)  Eating out is becoming more tricky now that I am pretty much only eating a vegan diet but most places to jacket potato with beans so not too much of a problem, just gets a bit boring. 

We went on a little train ride around part of the park which was fun and allowed us to see some different viewpoints and part of the park including a little farm area (which we didn't visit on foot) and a lake.

Some really beautiful ruins, I could have taken a ton of photographs but only managed to snatch these two. 

We visited the orangery which had the most wonderful smell ever. Such a beautiful orangey scent, it was stunning. Could have stayed in their for hours, it was so lovely and warm, very much enjoyed a bit of light therapy. 

Me with my beautiful mum and sisters.

Boris enjoyed all the attention from the family and loved running round.  There was a really big playground there for the littluns which had little houses in it, each one representing a different nursery rhyme with a little display inside.  It was cute. 

Ahhh spring!

So all in all a great day, highly recommended if you are ever in that part of the world. 

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Musings on recycling on Earth Day.

As you may or may not know, today is Earth Day.  I seem to recall turning off the lights for an hour last year, or was that just me?  (trying to read stories to my son with a wind up torch, lol).  We haven't done anything special this year, but the fact of it being Earth Day reminded me of a visit we took recently to a local amenity site.

We were taking some garden waste for green recycling and some other bits and pieces, and for the first time ever we saw them moving some of the general waste rubbish (that's the stuff which is picked up on bin day and would normally go to landfill , but here in Berkshire we are lucky (not sure if that's the right word or not) enough that it all goes to a waste to energy incinerator)

It was a truly epic site, quite apocalyptic.  There were two or three enormous diggers with huge scoops that were scooping up great mountains of rubbish and moving it around. The scoops were so big that one of them had a double mattress on the arm which must have flipped up, it was just casually lying there.  It felt like some kind of post apocalyptic dystopia, or a scene from the film Wall-E.  The amount of waste was astonishing and I just couldn't get over the fact that it was all being thrown away.  There was just so much, and so much that looked like it could have been re-used.  Plastic bags torn open and their contents spilling everywhere, household food waste, bits of fabric, and a hell-of-a-lot of plastic packaging.

I left with mixed feelings.  I was torn between feeling like I would never throw a single thing away again EVER because I just didn't want to partake in this entropy any more; and feeling like really what was the point, what was the point in washing and sorting and recycling all our waste when the impact our family would be making was so microscopic it was almost negligible, it seemed futile and it was completely impossible to live in this day and age without producing eipc amounts of rubbish.

However I then stumbled upon a wonderful blog called Trash is for Tossers and I was like "oh, it is possible".  The blog's author Lauren Singer lives a zero waste lifestyle which I find so inspiring and beautiful. I can definitely do more to reduce the amount of waste I and my family.  I don't think we would be able to go totally waste free because it seems we don't have access to the sorts of amazing food places that she has where you can take a load of glass jars and cloth bags, fill them up with food and leave with no plastic (that's never going to happen at Tesco)  but I can certainly try and reduce our impact. It's a similar mindset to veganism/vegetarianism, the difference we make to the big picture is probably very small but it is still something, and I believe that our actions, however small send out positive vibrations into the world which can transform into something much bigger.

So here is to small acts, on Earth Day, maybe we can't save the world ourselves, but each person taking little actions adds up to something truly epic.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Easter Activities

Slightly out of season now but I wanted to share a few of the Easter activities we did, I actually had a load more Easter activities planned but was really ill over the period I had them planned for so many weren't executed, oh well, maybe next year.   

As a Christian family Easter is a really important time of year for us.  I love it, it is absolutely my favourite Christian festival.  It has all the excitement and joy of Christmas without the stress of buying presents and touring the country to visit family.  

Therefore it is essential to me that we get the children excited about it in as many ways as possibly to help them to understand the significance of the occasion. 

We began with a sensory box of mixed bird seed with plastic eggs and fluffy yellow chicks.  The seed, chicks and eggs all represent new life which is what we get in Christ and which is happening all around us at this time of year. 
Boris enjoyed scooping the seeds, filling and emptying the eggs with the seeds, sweeping the seeds around the box and making shapes in it with his hand.  Together we did some imaginative play with the chicks.  Biscuit liked pouring the seeds and scooping them with the eggs. 
The improved their fine motor skills, learned about volume and the qualities of materials, they also benefited from the therapeutic experience of feeling the seeds between their fingers.

We loved making this Easter garden.  The boys raced around our garden pulling up patches of moss (of which we have plenty!) and flowers to decorate.  Boris was really motivated to gather bits and pieces for the garden and understood that we were making a tomb which was where Jesus' body was laid and the cross where he died.  The activity was a bit advanced for Biscuit who mostly enjoyed pulling up plants round the garden then destroying out Easter one every time our backs were turned! On Easter morning we rolled away to stone to show that the tomb was empty.  Amazingly after a few days little seedlings began to grow all over the garden which must have come from seeds left in the compost we used (which was from out compost bin) they are tomato plants I think, they felt really significant and meaningful. 

Another sensory play experience using one of our favourites - water beads. (HERE are some more water bead activities)  I used the plastic eggs again which I bought off ebay I think (but found some cheaper in The Range) with the water beads and a bit of water at the bottom of the plastic box. The boys scooped and poured the water beads with the eggs, also filled the eggs with beads then emptied them.  This activity was a bit too exciting for Boris who decided ultimately to pour all the water and beads that were in the tub over the carpet, then to stamp on the beads to make them break into a million pieces for me to tidy up.

And of course the all-important Easter egg hunt.  I can't tell you how excited Boris was EVERY time he found an egg.  He ran up to us showing us then egg with great enthusiasm shouting "I found an egg".  Loved how he didn't realise I had hidden the eggs there just minuted before (tee hee). 

Biscuit, bless him, found half the amount that Boris did.

Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Easter, I am sure you still have a stash of eggs at home that your children are slowly munching through (and maybe, like me, you are giving them a little help with that). 

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Monday 13 April 2015

Delicious vegan pizza

A little while ago I joined a local vegan group on Facebook.
One of the highlights of my week is Friday night Date Night, which basically consists on my husband and I having a takeaway whilst sitting on the sofa and watching a film on Netflix (we really know how to party now we are in our 30s and have children).  So since transitioning to a vegan diet I decided to ask on said facebook group, where I could get a decent vegan takeaway locally for my Friday night indulgences.  The first response was telling me that a Dominos pizza is vegan if you ask for it without the cheese.  My response?  If a cheeseless pizza is all I have to look forward to on a Friday night then I might just cry (First world problem I know but hey, a girl needs her junk food every now and again)  So I set about finding a way to jazz up a pizza to make it suitably slob-out worthy.
After reading the fabulous Keep it Vegan by Aine Carlin, I discovered a delicious alternative to sour cream made with cashew nuts and found that this, combined with a few blobs of dairy free pesto and a selection of pizza-worthy vegetables made a tremendous pizza that the cheesiest of cheese lovers would find appealing.
It really does hit all the right buttons and served with some chips a glass of wine you have a Friday night that any takeaway lover would fall for.
Here was my most recent offering:

Ready made pizza base (I used Nappolina pizza bases)
1 tbs ketchup,
1 tbs tomato puree,
1/2 tsp harrisa paste,
1 chopped mushroom,
1/4 sliced pepper,
1 piece sun-dried tomato,
1 marinated sweet pepper,
5 tsp dairy free pesto,
Cashew sour cream (recipe here)

Spread the sauces over the pizza base, place veggies on and dollops of cashew sour cream and pesto, cook at about 180 for 10 minutes, enjoy. 

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Beautiful Easter Weekend

Really been loving the weather these last few days, haven't you? I was in need of some serious light therapy and it is doing no harm at all.  We lapped up the sun on Monday after a very chilly Easter Saturday hunting Easter eggs at Clandon House in Surrey and nondescript Easter Sunday. 
We spent the afternoon walking through the woods and lounging on the lawns of The Vyne, a National Trust property in Henley-Upon-Thames.  We are frequent visitors, but the light was especially beautiful this last Monday, it was so bright and made everything look really vivid, the green of all the new shoots coming up contrasting against a brilliant blue sky was stunning. 

These smelled absolutely amazing, it really pays to take the time to bend down and smell flowers.  Heavenly. 

A bit on impromptu breastfeeding, I don't often carry Biscuit on the front because I find it a bit of a strain on my back, but for the sake of some mobile breastfeeding I am willing to give it a go.

New blades of grass shooting through the layer of beech leaves,

It's really important to us that the boys get out into nature as much as possible, they learn so much and benefit from it is so many different ways. We love letting them get their hands (and knees and bums) dirty on a regular basis, and they seem to love it too. There was so much to explore in the woods, here they are examining a tree stump, Boris takes a particular interest in fungus. 

Hope you all had a gorgeous Easter weekend.