Monday, 29 February 2016

#beautysleep with holland and barrett

A few weeks ago, the lovely folks at Holland and Barrett got in touch and asked whether I'd like to take part in their #beautysleep campaign - as someone who a) loves all things herbal and natural and b) hadn't been sleeping particlarly well for a while, I obviously jumped at the chance. The lure of eight hours restful kip was too strong to ignore!

As someone with anxiety, I've used a few of the products in the box before; I'm no stranger to chamomile tea, and I've already practically got shares in lavender oil, but there were a few surprises in there. I'd not heard of the powers of Valerian tea before (apparently it causes drowsiness - there's even a 'no heavy machinery' type warning on the box!), and I loved the idea of the Miaroma lavender bath oil - is there really anything better than sinking into a warm, headily fragranced bath with a good book on a cold evening?

I thoroughly tested all the products (all in the name of science, you understand...), and had a few absolute favourites, including the amazing, wonderful, fantastic room spray (I can't tell you how much I love this stuff!).

Treets Velvet Vanilla and Lavender Massage Candle, £11.49
Until I was sent the Treets candle, I had no idea that any such thing as a massage candle even existed - I'd accidentally tipped wax on myself before, but that definitely couldn't have been rubbed in! The description on the box said that as the candle melted, it turned into a smooth massage oil; this immediately made me think I was going to hate it, because I can't stand anything greasy - but I was pleasantly surprised. The consistancy is slightly drier than a traditional oil, but it still goes a long way - and there's also the added bonus that it's obviously already warm! Lucky Ali got to road test this on my feet (I walk a lot and always have painful feet and calves), and I promptly fell asleep on the sofa - I can't say that it was entirely due to the massage candle, but it certainly helped!

Miaroma Relaxing Lavender Temple Balm, £8
Man alive, this stuff was good. Marketed as a relaxation aid, it certainly lived up to the description; the instructions said to rub it on your temples, wrists, behind the ears and on the back of the neck, and as soon as I did, I started to feel instantly less tense. Life has been a bit stressful lately; Ben's currently being assessed for Autism Spectrum Condition, Daisy has tantrums that could raise the dead, they've both been ill with Chickenpox, worms and headlice (bleurrgh!) and Ali's work hasn't been particularly stable - so when bedtime rolls around, I find it HUGELY hard to switch off. While the temple balm didn't put me to sleep, it did definitely make me feel more relaxed - which is definitely the first step towards good quality sleep. Oh, and because it contained lavender, sandalwood, chamomile and patchouli, it smelt amazing too.

Miaroma Relaxing Lavender Sleep Mist
I think this stuff must contain some sort of magic or something - this, for me, was the absolute number one, standout, top product in the box. It contains lavender, chamomile and honeysuckle, and the idea is that you spray it around the room, or on your pillow for a more intense experience - I decided to do both because I'd not slept properly for so long, and that night I slept from 9pm until 6am without waking. At all. Not once. Not even for the loo. I'd taken my book to bed (currently reading Labyrinth by Kate Mosse - anyone else?), and Ali had come upstairs half an hour later to find me asleep with it on my face, so it was quick work as well. I've used it every night since, and have definitely been sleeping much better - I can't tell whether it's solely down to this, because I can't bare the thought of going without it for a night!

Heath and Heather Organic Chamomile Infusions, £2.25 for 20 tea bags
I've tried chamomile tea before, and always found it tastes a bit how I imagine grass to taste; no matter how hard I tried to like it, it always made me wrinkle my nose and gag a bit. I brewed up the Heath and Heather tea bag expecting the same experience, but on the whole, it was more pleasant - there seemed to be less aftertaste and less 'grassiness'. I wouldn't say it made me overly sleepy, but I definitely felt more relaxed while I was drinking it - plus, I always think that the ritual of making tea in itself is pretty therapeutic!

Aside from using herbal sleep and relaxation aids, there are several other things you can do to help sail off to the land of nod at night:

Have a Bath - Dim the lights, get some candles going and ease yourself into a bath full of essential oils. Nowt more relaxing than that!

Read a Book - We all (well, most of us) like to watch a bit of TV in the evening, whether it's that series that's got you hooked on Netflix or the latest ITV crime drama - but television is known to stimulate the senses, so try to turn it off an hour earlier and read a book instead. The latest episode of The Walking Dead is not going to help you sleep.

Meditate - I keep meaning to try out meditation and mindfulness exercises, because they sound amazing, but I've not got round to it yet. It has been proved, though, that it's a great way to wind down for bed - there's a super simple exercise here, if you want to try it out.

Leave the Phone Alone! - I'm utterly guilty of it, but looking at your smartphone in bed has long been declared a no-no - it stimulates the senses and the LED display is lit in such a way that it sends messages to your brain, declaring that it's time to wake up rather than go to sleep. Once you decide to go to bed, go to bed - no more e-mails, no more Facebook posts and no more Buzzfeed quizzes!

Listen to a Podcast - if you're not much of a reader, try an audio book or Podcast. There are literally gazillions on the Apple podcast store - I like Lore, which delves into scary tales and legends, and While She Naps. I'm also a huge fan of anything from Radio 4 - the plays and dramas are brilliant, as are the science and countryside programmes. Oh, and I love a bit of The Archers!

I was sent the products from Holland and Barrett free of charge for review purposes, but as usual, all thoughts and opinions are my own. You need some of that Miaroma room spray! 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

the ideal home

I've been so rubbish with blogging this year so far, and now that we're halfway through February, I can hardly even use the excuse that it's post-Christmas blues either! In my defence, we've been overrun with chickenpox for the last two weeks, and I've been creating lots of lovely things for the craft section of Roost, so keep your eyes peeled for those!

I've been reading LOADS this year so far - at the moment I'm working my way through The Year of Living Danishly, which is absolutely brilliant. I just finished the chapter where the author and her husband arrive in Denmark, and they're talking about Danish and Scandi interiors; everything is pristine and lovely, there are white walls and whitewashed floorboards and most people are utterly in love with their homes. It made me think about how even though we rent, I'd like to be able to say that there's nothing I'd change about our house; I love the size (I'm not keen on huge houses, they just take longer to clean!) and it has a lovely, homely feel, but there are three things I'd definitely alter if we had the money.

Convert the attic and add a skylight
I love this house, despite all the shoddy DIY that we're slowly fixing, but there's one major downfall; it only has two bedrooms. At the moment, the kiddos are sharing, but as they get older, I can see that they'll probably end up throttling each other if they don't have their own space. If we had the money (and we owned the house, obviously!), I'd convert the attic and add one of those wonderful VELUX skylights or balconies - I'm a big space geek on the quiet, and love watching the sky at night, so to have somewhere to set up a telescope would be ace!

Change the exterior
One of the things I hate the most, and can't do anything about, is the outside of the house. The front garden is teeny, and is also made up largely of a hill - oh, and there's no fence, so I can't plant anything as all the cats and dogs in the neighbourhood would be doing their business up against my begonias. I'd love to put up a fence and level the whole thing out, but I think we're going to make do with adding some window boxes (utterly in love with the ones from My Window Box!) and planting some climbing roses and wisteria to cover the ugly wiring across the front of the house. Oh, and I think we're finally going to get rid of the rusty aluminium shed in the back garden as well. At last!

Change the flooring
It's no secret, and I might have mentioned it a few (hundred!) times, but I loathe the carpet that runs through the lounge and up the stairs. It's mottled, it's brown, it makes the whole place look even darker than it already is... but the landlords love it, and don't want us to change it. If I had my way, I'd rip it up and replace with with engineered wood from Carpetright, but unfortunately we can't - so I'll have to make do with finding a bloody big rug instead!

This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

instagram love - nature and craft

January was a bit of a nothing-month for me; I've struggled with energy and motivation, Ben has been ill almost constantly (we're now in the depths of chicken pox hell!) and the rain has been incessant. I like the outdoors, but I absolutely can't stand getting wet, so we haven't been out as much as I'd like either. 
On the plus side, all that hibernating has given me plenty of time to read some amazing books, watch some great stuff online and potter about on Instagram finding ace new people to follow. I've got a few posts on books, magazines and TV coming up, but today I thought I'd do one of my Instagram Love posts - these five accounts are my absolute favourites at the moment, so I thought I'd pop on and recommend them.

Kat Goldin
I discovered Kat a few years ago in an issue of Mollie Makes, and have followed her blog and Instagram ever since; she's my ultimate crochet hero, and creates some seriously good things. She also lives in a remote part of Scotland in a beautiful old house, bakes amazing bread and cakes, and takes utterly beautiful photographs.
Instagram // Blog

Leighside Knits
I've not been following Leighside Knits for very long, but she's already my favourite knitter on Instagram; she uses earthy, muted colours which I love, and makes the most amazing things - if you love Fair Isle knitting and a calm feed, this is definitely one to follow.
Instagram // Blog

Chasing Wilderness
Laurence, who owns the fantastic Chasing Wilderness blog, is my kind of outdoorsy person - currently taking part in 31 Days of Wild, he promotes the idea that you can live in a city, and still take part in plenty of wilderness adventuring and outdoor activities. He also has a pretty great shop, which stocks t-shirts he's designed with his own fair hands.
Instagram // Blog

Salty Sea Kat
Kat lives in Cornwall and loves birds (I think possibly more than me!), so her feed is full of beautiful nature photographs and spectacular beach views; the sun glistening on the ocean, breathtakingly close up shots of blue-tits and robins and colourful Cornish cottages. There are also a few peeks inside her beautiful home. A definite favourite.
Instagram //

Bobbi Mac
Rob is hands down my favourite photographer on Instagram; his style is simple, beautiful and natural, and he creates the most incredible images. His pictures inspire me to get up, get outside and look for the beauty in the world; check out his feed and revel in spectacular landscapes, hauntingly misty mornings and wonderful wildlife. An endless joy.
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