Tuesday, 30 December 2014


I don't really make resolutions as such any more; I never stick to them (currently listing loads of running clothes that I bought when I planned to become a regular runner. Everything still has labels on) so I've decided that instead I'm just going to make plans for the year instead. Plans are the more flexible, friendlier relative of resolutions; they can be changed, moved or postponed with no guilt whatsoever - so while I'm planning to do some yoga at some point, it'll be totally fine if I put it off for a while and sit on the sofa eating biscuits instead. Genius.

I've made a new Pinterest board to keep track of all the things I want to do, which range from learning ancient craft skills to visiting places I've never been to before. The ones I'm most looking forward to are:

  • Finally learning to sew properly. At the moment, I can make an envelope cushion cover, bunting and, err, that's it. I want to be able to whip up tops and dresses, clothes for the kiddos and proper cushion covers with actual zips. I want to be able to nod sagely when someone talks about the benefits of different feet for your sewing machine, and to easily pleat, dart and seam my way through patterns. I do not want to have to cross my fingers whenever I press my foot down on the pedal, nor do I want to spend hours swearing at the machine when it chews up yet another length of my best fabric. 
  • 2015 is going to be the year that I master knitting. It is, it is, it IS. I realise that I've said this every year for the past three years, but this year it's going to be different. Because my God, if it kills me, SOMEONE will be getting a scarf for Christmas next year.
  • I wrote an article a while back on lost crafts for Pretty Nostalgic magazine, and ever since then I've been fascinated by ancient and traditional craft skills - you know; dry stone walling, making wooden spoons and that sort of thing. One thing that I keep reading about is basket weaving though, so I'd really love to have a go at that - even if only to stop me having to buy so many of the things from IKEA.
  • I want 2015 to be the year that we really embrace visiting places around the UK that we've never been to before; we're planning a trip to Cornwall in the summer, and various little weekends and overnights to places like Yorkshire, Cumbria and Wales. Oh, and I am desperate to visit Bristol!
  • I need to learn to cook properly this year; I don't want to just recycle the same pasta-pizza-bolognese-shepherds-pie routine over and over again for the rest of my life. It's boring to eat and I'm bored of cooking it - I'm thinking that maybe starting with some decent utensils might help. Mostly because I've melted all of our plastic ones. 

To see what else I'm planning, check out my New Year, New Plans board over on Pinterest; I think of things I want to have a go at almost every day, so it's pretty regularly updated!

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


Saturday, 27 December 2014

and so, that was christmas

I had some posts lined up before Christmas about our decorations, handmade presents and whatnot, but as usual, I ran out of time, so I've put it all into one long festive post; the days spent in the woods gathering greenery and berries for our mantle, the (slightly messy and disasterous) gingerbread making in our warm kitchen listening to radio 4, decorating the tree... all of the usual festive wintery stuff. And a slightly shaky, fairly badly edited little video at the end - hurrah! I didn't actually manage to take any photos on Christmas day, because I was too busy eating, reading or napping - I have to admit though, it was nice not to have a camera strapped to my hand the whole time!

Whatever you did, I hope you had a fabulous time, and enjoyed the solstice and festivities - I'll probably be back once before New Years Eve with a post on resolutions and plans, unless I eat myself into a post-Christmas coma!

Monday, 22 December 2014

a very indie christmas: napiers herbs

While a lot of people like to give bath-and-body related gifts over Christmas, I've never really been a fan; choosing on behalf of someone else is always risky - will they like the smell? Will they use it? Are they a bath or a shower person? Will it bring them out in a hideous rash on Christmas morning? Lush is one safe bet - not only is everything natural and earth-friendly, but it's great fun and the packaging is ace - and also my new favourite, Napiers the Herbalists.

I actually discovered Napiers quite by accident on Twitter one day; somebody I followed was having a conversation with them about creams, and I joined in and mentioned that I suffered with awfully dry, cracked and sore hands in winter. The kind folks advised me on what would work best (calendula, if you're interested, because of its healing properties), and then generously sent me a tube of their Calendula Cream and Calendula and Marshmallow Salve in the post.

I've tried almost every cream know to man to help my sore hands in winter; off-the-shelf tubes full of chemicals and nasties (which, surprise, just burned when applied), E45 and Aqueous cream from the chemist (more burning) and more gentle 'organic' creams from places which did pretty much nothing, but did come in nice packaging that looked good on the bathroom shelf. The first thing I noticed about the Calendula cream was that when I rubbed it in, not only did it not burn, but it also soothed the stinging and itching - something that none of my other creams had ever managed. When I woke up the next morning, my hands were still dry and cracked but much less so; after a week of daily applications, they were almost back to normal, and I was overjoyed.

Napiers are different from other organic bath-and-body ranges simply because they come with over a hundred years of history; founded by Duncan Napier in 1860, the company began with a small herbal shop which provided cures for various ailments, and after a while was sold as far away as New York. Today, as well as stocking a variety of beautiful soaps, bath soaks, creams and balms, Napiers also supply tinctures, vitamins, aromatherapy oils and nursing teas, all of which are completely natural. The website itself is really informative as well; there's a section on health information, and you can also read all about the man behind the brand on the history pages. I can't recommend Napiers enough; all natural and herbal, the products contain no chemical nasties and have a minimal impact on the planet, and most importantly, they work. Which is what counts, after all!


Sunday, 21 December 2014

a very indie christmas: ernest journal

While they might not be exactly personal, I always think magazine subscriptions are quite a nice idea for Christmas gifts; the recipient gets a nice, crisp magazine to open on the day, and then another few issues throughout the year. My personal favourites are Another Escape, Cereal and Oh Comely, because they're a really good read; I always come away knowing new things, and with a huge list of different blogs and websites to explore.

In the same genre, the marvellous Ernest Journal is a relatively new magazine which is printed biannually, and is also available on the iPad - there is also a daily blog which provides a good Ernest fix in between issues. The content varies brilliantly, and covers subjects such as craftsmanship, curious histories and adventures (all of the best things in life!); in the fourth digital edition, for example, you can read about the history of the humble duffel coat, discover various tea rituals from around the world and finish off with an article on the world of bone collecting. If you know someone who's interested in the world, the past and the curious, Ernest Journal would make an ace Christmas present (hint, hint, Husband....)


Friday, 19 December 2014

a very indie christmas: decorator's notebook

For the next of my indie business posts, I'm mightily happy to introduce another online store with a sustainable ethos at it's heart. Decorators Notebook is run by brother and sister team Joe and Bethan, who stock items for your home which are not only beautiful and unique, but also fairly traded and ethically produced.

From the exquisite kantha quilts to the sisal woven baskets, products are made by artisans across the world who set their own prices, and are subsequently provided with a decent, living wage. Joe and Bethan particularly support women, people with disabilities and ethically marginalised groups; there is a section on the website where you can read about the projects from across the world, and who benefits from sales of different items.

I can't speak highly enough for Decorators Notebook; I think in an age where the high street stocks carbon copy items, manufactured in unknown places by faceless employees, this marvelous online shop is a breath of fresh air. Each product is handmade by artisans with specific skills, meaning that they're not only beautifully and expertly produced, but also totally unique and a complete one-off - and I love, love, LOVE the fact that you can read about where your money is going, and how you're helping to change peoples lives. Shopping with Decorators Notebook means that you can add individual touches to your home, help improve the living conditions of disadvantaged people across the world and limit your impact on the environment in one single transaction - what could be better than that?


(almost) totally free festive foliage extravaganza

If you follow me on Instagram (*points over to the sidebar*), you'll have seen that we've been spending looooads of time in the woods lately, enjoying the cold, crisp days and gathering supplies for decorating. I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to use more of natures goodies for decorating this year, keeping it simple and less...chaotic, and hit the jackpot when I discovered that our local country park had a pile of trimmed Christmas tree branches that were destined for the shredder. We struggled armfuls of them back to the car, mixed with some ferns and other evergreens, and I drove home thoroughly pleased (if a little squashed).

I knew I wanted to do some sort of green-arrangement-thingy (technical term right there, folks), but didn't really know what. Then the lovely people at Funny How Flowers Do That got in touch to direct me towards the video below: (do watch it, it will change your flower-arranging life forever, I promise!)

So simple, but at the same time ABSOLUTE GENIUS. WHY have I never thought of using a sellotape grid to hold everything in place when I arrange my flowers? I grow a lot of cut and wild flowers in the garden in the summer, and always end up having a giant huff when they don't stay where I want them to in the vase. But now, no more - because I have the Sellotape of Control! Ha! Ha ha!

In the end, I decided to just go for it with the greenery, and as the arrangement built up it actually ended up looking a little bit like a miniature Christmas tree. This made me stupidly happy, because our tree is older than Ben, and made of plastic - we wanted a real one, but couldn't justify the cost when we had something that was fit for purpose in the loft. *Gives tree the side-eye.* So now we have the best of both worlds. Fist pump!

The sellotape trick is literally amazing; I'd put branches and twigs in place and then turn round to reach for something else - and when I turned back, they HADN'T MOVED. Once I'd finished, I popped in a few sticks of berries from Wild Damson (amazing, amazing shop in Petersfield that sells all of that rustic-country style stuff I love), stood back and admired it. Nothing moved, nothing fell over and there's plenty of room to hang a few decorations from the branches (once, err, I've finished making them....). I couldn't be more pleased!

The leftover greenery is going to go into jugs and pots, and smaller pieces are going to be tied onto garlands and around jam jars to create simple tealight holders. There will hopefully be a post before Christmas day, but I seem to have more posts than I do days to publish them at the moment!

This is a collaborative post.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

a very indie christmas: riyka

In the second installment of my series on great indie businesses, I'm honoured to feature the wonderful clothes label Riyka. I was contacted by Rebecca, who founded the company with her husband Vedren, and she told me a little bit about their love of great design combined with sustainability, and how that naturally led to the creation of their clothing line.

Working from their East London studio, the duo use jersey, denim and leather offcuts and other recycled materials to create beautful clothing which is a mixture of geometric shapes, simple lines and clean finishes. They believe in environmentally conscious practises, fair wages for all employees, and the garments are all manufactured within the EU - not only that, but the price point is comparible with other high-end retailers such as Toast, People Tree and Lowie, making them a new favourite in the ethical clothing category.

Throughout December, anyone who spends over £100 with Riyka will receive one of their dustbags as a bonus free gift. Usually priced at £10, the dustbags are sewn by Elizabeth, a 27-year-old woman living in Gambia; after her father died when she was thirteen, she went to live with a family friend but when money became an issue, the GETS charity stepped in and sponsored her final two years at school. She was awarded the title of 'Best Seamstress' when she graduated, and is now working towards living independently; every dust bag sold or included with an order of £100 or over not only contributes to Elizabeth's future, but it also makes the perfect (re-usable!) packaging for Christmas gifts.

I'm so pleased to be able to highlight this wonderful company who place sustainable practises so high on their list of priorities, and I hope that you like their clothing as much as I do; personally, I've got my eye on that denim shirt. Check out that collar!


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

five top tips for a green 2015

Although we haven't actually had Christmas yet, I'm already thinking about the things I want to see and do next year; places I want us to visit together, books and magazines I want to read, things I want to learn more about; ways to really make the most of our time during the evenings and weekends. One thing I am really intent on, though, is stepping up all of my eco-efforts - we already do all the usual stuff, but I'm really set on looking into gardening and growing more effectively (no more shrivelled courgettes, arrghhhhh) and I want to look into rainwater harvesting, even if it does only end up being a large bin in the back garden!

I know a lot of people are keen to be a bit greener, but aren't really sure where to start, so I thought I'd do a little post on my five top ways to help limit your impact on the planet - and the best thing is, they'll all cost you next to nothing. High five!

1. Get composting
I tried to think of a reason why you wouldn't want to compost, and I just couldn't; by either buying or making a simple composter, you can reduce your daily waste and give your plants a little treat in one easy move. You can compost almost everything from your kitchen that isn't cooked; fruit and vegetable peelings and offcuts, tea bags, cardboard, eggshells.... there's a great guide to what you can and can't put into your bin at Get Composting, which is where we got our compost bin from (it's a beauty, and it got us off to a great start). If you're a bit handy with some chicken wire and a hammer, there are plenty of tutorials online that show you how to make your own - my  own adventures in construction came to a pretty abrupt end when I dropped a paving slab on my foot. Eye-watering.

2. Limit your consumption
This is something I get pretty irate about, especially at this time of year; people buying tonnes and tonnes of stuff that they don't need, just because society has told them to. I've always championed buying second-hand and making things myself, so I was pretty pleased to stumble across Sarah Lazarovic's 'Buyerarchy of Needs' on Pinterest; based on the psychologist Maslow's 'Hierarchy of Needs', the buyerarchy is a good tool to use when you suddenly decide you need something new. Another good resource to learn about massive, continuous production and consumption is The Story of Stuff - an ace video which tells what our yearning for more, and bigger and more often is really doing to our planet. 

3. Give up plastic bags
When I see people loading their shopping into those flimsy plastic bags at the checkout in the supermarket, it makes me want to run over and smack them - especially when they're only putting a few things into each one. It's really not hard to buy a few of the bags-for-life, which are stronger and last longer, can hold more, and can be recycled when they eventually wear out - if you take them back to the shop, they'll even swap them for brand new ones at no extra cost. If you want to ditch plastic completely, there are so many great reusable bags for sale, and if you're crafty there are some great knitting and crochet patterns for traditional string bags online. If you have basic cutting-and-sewing skills, it's fairly easy to make your own tote-style shopper, and I love this ace tutorial on how to turn an old t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag. Down with plastic! (If you need any more incentive to give up plastic and plastic bags, check out the films over at Journey to Midway. Horrifying.)

4. Change your laundry habits
Until recently I was part of  frugal group on a certain popular social networking site, but I left when I discovered that most people washed their laundry at 60 degrees, and their towels at a whopping 90 degrees. NINETY DEGREES. Holy moly. The easiest way to make your laundry habits more earth-friendly is to simply turn down the temperature on your washing machine; we usually use the eco-cycle which operates at 30 degrees, and then for wool we use the cold wash. Next year, I want to seriously look into making my own washing powder as well; this is something I experimented with over the summer, but I couldn't quite get the mix right - there are absolutely LOADS of recipes on Pinterest, designed for all types of water and all fragrance preferences.

5. Help the bees (and butterflies)
Bees and butterflies are an absolutely essential part of nature; they're largely responsible for pollinating crops and plants, and reports have shown that they're seriously dwindling in numbers. A lot of people don't realise how terrifying this is; put simply, if there are no bees to pollinate our crops, there will have to be alternative manual methods, which will cost more and impact on the environment, and also raise the price of food significantly. Bees are vital, and it's pretty easy to encourage them into your garden; we plant mostly bee-friendly plants and flowers (there are heaps of resources online which list the best things to plant - they LOVE lavender), and we also have a bee-hotel, which provides lone bees with all-important shelter.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

This is a collaborative post.
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