The best product for very dry, irritated skin: Aveeno Skin Relief Lotion

I suppose two years into a pandemic isn’t really the ideal time to share my holy grail moisturiser for very dry skin – but better late than never, right? The thing is, this product was first recommended to me by my dad, who had the driest hands of anyone I’ve ever known, and every time I thought about writing about writing this blog post, I would think of him, feel sad and then not want to write anything anymore. Not sure what it is about today, but I finally feel like I can get it done – so if you’re currently suffering from unbearably dry hands, whether pandemic related or not, today is your lucky day.

Aveeno Skin Relief Lotion has completely saved my skin on more occasions than I can count. In harsh winters my hands would previously get to the point of splitting from being so dry, and ever since I was young I’ve been plagued by rough red patches on my skin all year long. I genuinely think at this point that I’ve tried every product in existence – from steroid creams to natural oils and prescription emollients, but the only thing that consistently gives me relief is this miracle product. An unassuming, medium-thickness, fragrance-free cream, it sinks in after just a few seconds of massaging – which is really impressive for a product as nourishing and moisturising as this one. When used on dry skin, it sinks in wonderfully well, and when used on irritated skin, the soothing power is simply incredible. While on the surface it might just look like any other body lotion, this one really is different, and that’s for a few reasons…

OAT-BASED PROTECTION

Firstly, let’s talk about the oat ingredients in the formulation – oat flour, oat extract and oat oil combine to help protect, soothe and calm the skin. Irritation is an immune response – it’s your body noticing that the skin has been compromised in some way, and increasing blood-flow to the area to supply white blood cells to fight off potential threats. Protective skincare products are applied at this stage because once the skin realises it is protected, it will send a message to the body that the immune system can stand down because things are under control – and then the skin’s incredible healing processes can get to work repairing the area, beneath the protective umbrella of the skincare product. The reason that oats are so effective at soothing dry skin is surprisingly simple – oat binds to the skin, creating a natural protective barrier. No product actually ‘heals’ the skin – all they do is create that protective barrier on the skin so that it can heal itself, and oat is one of the most effective ingredients for doing that. There are many different compounds in oat that help the skin, such as beta-glucan, fatty acids and avenanthramides, which are anti-inflammatory agents, and Aveeno’s combination of three different types of oat ingredients ensures that those compounds are delivered as effectively and in as high concentrations as possible.

MICROBIOME SUPPORT

The formulation also has a pre-biotic effect, meaning it supports a healthy bacterial ecosystem on the skin’s surface. Pre-biotics have been shown to help soothe and calm the skin by increasing the population of ‘good’ bacteria. Many of the cosmetic products we use daily – shower gels, serums, lotions and so on, can destroy the microbiome because they contain powerful preservatives to keep them stable once opened – but those preservatives also kill bacteria when applied to your skin, thus affecting your microbiome, and inhibiting your skin’s ability to protect itself, leading to dryness and irritation. It’s a bit like how when you take antibiotics you’re supposed to introduce a probiotic into your diet, because the bacterial imbalance created by the medicine can wreak havoc on your body’s ability to digest food. Aveeno Skin Relief uses potassium sorbate to keep the product safe and useable, which is a totally different kettle of fish to the cheaper, more mainstream preservatives – it’s actually food safe, and is used in all kinds of food and drink as well as high-quality, skin friendly cosmetic products. Several years ago I started using facial skincare products with potassium sorbate, and the difference it made was extraordinary, so it made sense that a hand and body product preserved in the same way would be just as good.

TAKE MY WORD FOR IT

It’s all well and good me explaining the science behind the product, but let me give you some examples of a few specific times when Aveeno Skin Relief has saved my skin.

My dad was admitted to a palliative care ward for two months in the middle of the pandemic, and while I was in and out of the hospital visiting him, my hand washing habit (which was already a bit over the top before the pandemic) reached a new level of extreme. But my hands didn’t just get dry – it got a bit scary to be honest. They’d do this thing where they turned bright red, the skin was stretched, my fingers would swell up, and my palms would get hot and itch. Aveeno Skin Relief Lotion was the only thing I tried that actually helped. I was getting so scared because I started to think my hands were beyond repair – they were so uncomfortable that it hurt to use them, an added stress that I could have really done without at the time. No other product worked – I tried so many different ones. And then I picked up the bottle of this miracle lotion – the instant soothing effect was incredible, and so I kept using it. Before long, the reaction totally stopped happening.

When I first started taking my antidepressant, I broke out in a rash. This is apparently normal as long as it doesn’t become too severe, but it was uncomfortable. Teeny tiny red bumps from my neck down to my belly button – hot, itchy and very annoying. I slathered myself in Aveeno Skin Relief Lotion, and while it’s impossible to say whether it was my body adjusting to the medicine, or the product getting to work, the rash was immediately soothed and gone the next day.

Sometimes, I get dermatitis around my eyes. This can be from using unsuitable skincare products, but it also happens when I’ve been crying. Yes, my ridiculously sensitive skin is allergic to my own tears – causing bumpy redness and irritation. A thin layer of Aveeno Skin Relief Lotion takes care of this very nicely – which I’ll be forever grateful for because, to be blunt, the last thing you need when someone you love dies is an allergic reaction to your own grief.

My last example is about a different product from the same range – Aveeno Skin Relief Cica Balm. I hadn’t found much use for the Balm before this happened because every other problem I’d had was solved with the Lotion, but my god did it save me from a situation here. A few weeks ago, I woke up with an absolutely horrible irritation under one of my breasts – bright red, unbearably itchy and really distressing because it felt like the skin was ripping – and when I looked closer, I was horrified to see tiny little tear wounds along the area of irritation. It must have been some kind of contact dermatitis from the bra I had been wearing, because it was in a crescent shape on my chest, directly underneath the breast. Anyway, after I was done staring at it in horror in the mirror, I realised the Aveeno Skin Relief Cica Balm was on my bathroom shelf so I grabbed it and applied a thin layer. The effect was so wonderfully soothing – the painful itch started to abate immediately, and within a couple of days it was totally back to normal. I wish I could remember which bra I had been wearing so I can set it on fire, but at least I know if it happens again I’ll have a solution!

Aveeno Skin Relief Lotion comes in two different sizes – a 300ml pump bottle which costs £7.99, and a 200ml tube for £5.99 on Boots.com – they seem to be more expensive on other websites which is strange, but I suppose it’s each website’s choice. The Cica Balm is £6.99 for 50ml (remember that it’s a more concentrated formula), and when I was on Boots getting the links to share I realised they also have a Shampoo and a Body Wash in the Skin Relief line too! I’ll definitely be trying both of those soon. The Body Wash is £9.99 for 500ml, and the Shampoo is £9.99 for 300ml. You can also shop the full range of Skin Relief products here. This range is in my opinion extremely well priced – for the quality of the products and how little you need to use, I’m consistently impressed by the incredible value. I hope you have as much luck with it as I have!

What we’re getting wrong about nature and mental health

The May rain is warm, pattering gently on the roof of the nearby greenhouse. As I tip the seedling out of its pot and into my hand, small water droplets land on my skin, and the smell of wet ground fills my nose. Nothing else exists but me, this little marigold, and the freshly dug hole that is about to become its home. The usual cacophony of negative voices that live in my head – panicking, criticising, doubting, ruminating – they are silent, watching the plant as my hands tap it down and smooth out the soil around its stem.

There is so much discussion about the healing power of nature, how houseplants boost your mood, how gardening can help with depression, how nature walks can ease anxiety. I don’t disagree with any of it (obviously…) but I do think we’re missing some important issues in our conversations about nature, plants and mental health. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought now would be the time to share some of these thoughts.

(Dressing up as Mother Nature to add authority to my point)

So, what is it that we’re getting ‘wrong’ exactly?

When you read articles about the impact that spending time in a forest has on your stress levels, there’s always something else lurking in the same sentence – the concept of productivity. Everything circles back to the idea that we are only worth what we produce, and what our money can buy. It’s not just workplaces that push this idea – so much advice I read, articles extolling the virtues of nature, they all seem to come back to this idea that the primary benefit of nature is that it makes us more productive. This couldn’t be more wrong. We should be looking after our mental health to become happier, calmer, more at ease, more joyful – not because these things make us more useful, but simply because that’s how everyone deserves to feel. Even when it isn’t mentioned explicitly, it’s almost always implied – employers don’t set up gardens for their employees for the sake of being nice – the expectation is that productivity will increase as a result. And if it doesn’t? That groundskeeping budget won’t be coming back next year! Not only is this a sign that our attitude towards mental health and nature is flawed, it’s also a sign that our understanding of nature itself is completely disconnected from reality. We’re ignoring the message that the natural world spells out for us every single time we engage with it – living things have needs, and if they’re failing to thrive, their needs aren’t being met.

Every single living organism experiences life differently. Some plants will grow anywhere, even literal concrete – others need special soil before they’ll even consider growing a millimetre. Some plants need protection from the wind, others will forget how to grow if you don’t expose them to a good breeze. It doesn’t matter what we think about their growing requirements – if we want to enjoy that plant, we have to respect its needs.

Put a plant in the wrong soil and the leaves will turn yellow. Don’t give it enough light and branches will die off. Forget to water it enough and it won’t flower. Neglect to give it the right company and won’t produce fruit. You mess with a plant, and it makes its dissatisfaction clear. That’s not to say that plants can’t be grown in inhospitable conditions, but if we want a plant to do something that it wouldn’t usually be able to, we have to put a LOT of effort into making it happen. The work that goes into forcing early rhubarb, or producing chrysanthemums for bouquets, or keeping desert plants happy in a dark home is enormous, and its necessary – a plant is a product of its environment, you get out what you put in. And this can be extended to larger natural examples too – gardens, forests, meadows and so on. You get the picture.

So what does this have to do with us?

Hopefully the analogy I’m making is clear. When you’re given an unrealistic deadline at work, and stress yourself out to meet it, what is your employer doing to help you to make that happen? When we grow plants, if we want to benefit from whatever it is that they produce, we have to take away every possible stressor so that the plant can do its thing. Why do we think we’re any different? We constantly expect ourselves to be up and about at the same time every day, as productive in the morning as we are in the afternoon, as energetic on Thursday in December as we are on Saturday in July. We’ll skip a meal and then be shocked when we can’t concentrate. What part of our bodies are so different to a plant’s that we can somehow pour from an empty cup, when we have endless examples of plants resolutely not being able to do that?

Capitalism is the reason that we constantly expect ourselves to be consistently over-productive. Our society is obsessed with more, more, more. Massive, endless productivity. The concept of ‘doing less’ is almost heretic. Employers will tell you they care about your mental health, but pay you a wage that means you can never truly feel secure. For those of us who are doing ok, the threat of poverty hangs over our heads as a stick that capitalism beats us with – but imagine if you told a plant “I’m not watering you unless you produce another flower”? And for those who are struggling, under or near the poverty line, capitalism tells them it’s their fault for not working hard enough – “If you’d made nicer flowers I would have given you more water”.

We need to take this into account when we talk about nature and mental health, because nothing will ever truly change if we don’t address the way society is currently set up. Being burned out and stressed, constantly being bombarded with advertising for things that will ‘make us happy’, being told over and over again that it’s individual, not corporate or governmental responsibility that will make a difference in the world. This is what needs to change for us to finally have a chance at realising our potential for love, happiness and satisfaction. Humans are resilient little plants, doing our best to grow in the wasteland of an unsustainably consumerist system, which tells us that because we’re just about managing to grow in their hellscape, we’re responsible for perpetuating it, and we’re responsible for how well we do in it. If one of us says “Actually, this wasteland is making things really hard for my roots to grow” the capitalist farmer will tell us “Well the plant next to you is fine, stop being pathetic.” Of course, we all know that the plant next to you is probably struggling just as much.

Humans are not here to be farmed for their productivity. We cannot repackage nature into a neat little ‘apply to the affected area’ salve for employers to use to make us work better. That is not what our existence is about. Let’s embrace more than just our ability to nurture, protect and grow plants, and apply that phenomenal human skill to ourselves too.

AD// Handmade gifts to spread joy this year

Well, it’s been quite the year. Whether your 2020 has been stressful, monotonous, emotionally devastating, or all of the above, we’re all in desperate need a bit of joy to lift our spirits. This gift guide is all about unique items that will surprise and uplift your loved ones – it’s an eclectic mix, for sure! But the idea is that when they open one of these gifts, they won’t be expecting what they find, and they really will be delighted.

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Adventurous foodie gifts

Anyone who loves to try new foods and explore different cuisines is bound to be taking 2020 pretty hard, with cancelled travel plans and closed restaurants. So give their palette the treat it deserves, with this glorious 9 World Spice Blends from Spice Kitchen (£24.95). Chilli honey is probably one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted, so this Welsh Hot Honey (£8) has truly got my mouth watering. This Ultimate Cheese Board (£45) contains deliciously unusual British Cheeses, including ash-rolled goat’s cheese and truffle cheddar. Lastly, for the plant-based foodies in your life, how about this gorgeous Vegan Chocolate Discovery Box (£14.99)? With unusual flavours like coffee & cardamom and almond & rosemary, this is guaranteed to delight anyone who loves gourmet chocolate, vegan or not!

Hugs in mugs

Did did you know that studies have shown that drinking hot drinks actually reduces stress and releases endorphins? Amazing right? Whatever their drink of choice, these selections are sure to delight. For coffee lovers, this Deathly Strong blend (£10) will undoubtedly raise a smile (and a heart-rate), or for something equally as impactful but substantially more mellow, what about this 5 Bag Organic Coffee Gift Box with personalisation options (£39.95)? I also love the idea of these Flavoured Sugar Spoons (£8.50), which I imagine you could use in tea and hot chocolate as well as coffee! For tea lovers, I think this blossoming tea (£9.99) is a fantastic idea, it’s so unusual, and so, so pretty! However, this Wild-crafted Tea Taster Set is also bound to astonish any tea-enthusiast. Using ingredients native to the Scottish Highlands, these teas also help support a woodland regeneration project.

A nature lover’s dream

So many of us have spent 2020 finding solace outdoors, surrounded by nature. Help your loved ones bring nature inside in a sustainable, effortless and beautiful way with a dried flower bouquet. I got a couple for my birthday this year and I’m honestly obsessed. They bring colour into your home without looking artificial, and it’s so easy to find dried flowers to fit in with any decor style! From left to right, shop these gorgeous bouquets here: rustic maroon and orange (£26.70), beautiful browns (£16), festive colours (£15.95) and pretty in pink (£15.95).

Gorgeous gifts for gardeners

Whether your loved one has a whole open space to grow plants in, or just a sunny windowsill, a gardener is a gardener, and these gifts will delight anyone with a passion for plants, nature and growing things. A Bug Hotel (£34) is essential for any garden. This one is particularly gorgeous, and can be personalised if you act fast! These Slate Plant Tags (£5.29+) are a fantastic gift because most gardeners will go for something much cheaper, much uglier for marking up their plants – treat them and make their garden that much prettier! When it comes to houseplants, air plants are some of the hardest to get right, so when one thrives, it needs to be celebrated. This Cork Panel (£15+) is a fantastic way to display air plants, and is a truly unique gift for anyone who likes to grow unusual plants. And here’s another brilliant gift for an indoor gardener – a Cactus Wax Burner (£10)! How adorable! Pair it with some all-natural, botanically scented Wax Melts, and you have a thoughtful gift for a plant lover, that doesn’t require you to actually know anything about plants!

The ultimate relaxing gift

Bloomtown are one of my favourite skincare brands, with absolutely wonderful, unique scents and incredible product formulations. Their products are vegan, natural and palm-oil free, and I can’t think of a more perfect gift for anyone who enjoys a good self-care sesh. These gift sets have different scent options, all of which smell wonderful – natural, subtle but really impactful. My personal recommendation would be The Meadow but you honestly can’t go wrong. These pictures are obviously quite ‘feminine’ looking, but if you’re buying for someone who wouldn’t like that, go for The Grove which is citrusy, or The Woods which is fresh and woodsy. Get the set on the left here, for £33.50, or go all out and really treat them, with the pamper box on the right here, for £70.

A crafty gift without the faff

Starting a new hobby is undoubtedly exciting – researching, buying all the bits, waiting for it all to arrive. But sometimes that part can be overwhelming and off-putting. So do your loved one a favour and cut out the prep with a craft kit! Etsy is full of options, from a lovely beginner’s embroidery kit (£19.95) to a brilliant DIY lipbalm kit (£25), or an absolutely adorable pottery kit (£30). I also love this polymer clay earring kit (£19.50+) and this macrame plant hanger kit (£15).

What about the kids?

One thing you may have noticed while browsing this post is that I haven’t really included anything for kids – and there’s a reason for that… I have no idea what they like! I don’t have kids, don’t know anyone who does (I know a few babies, but no one older than a year) so I decided to defer to the experts at Etsy for that side of gift buying – if you’re looking for gifts that will delight the children in your life – click here!

Wishing you a safe, calm and joyful time this festive season.

AD// A Gift Guide for New Gardeners

If 2020 has proven anything, it’s that a connection to the natural world is essential for our wellbeing. From the the satisfaction of weeding, the hard work of ground prep and the tenderness and attentiveness required when raising seedlings, gardening is such a perfectly human activity, allowing us to make a connection to the earth that benefits us in ways I don’t even have words for. If someone in your life has discovered a love for plants and growing things during the pandemic, this guide will help you find gifts that’ll delight, encourage and inspire them, even if you aren’t much of a green thumb yourself!

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The gift of essential reading

Every gardener should have a copy of the RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers and the Encyclopedia of Gardening. These reference books are incredibly helpful resources, providing more or less all of the information you need for a successful garden. However, they can be quite overwhelming for beginners, and personally I think they’re more helpful for established gardeners rather than people who are just starting out, so keep reading for the best suggestions for beginners!

Gardening crash course books

The Principles of Horticulture is a textbook for Horticulture students, and basically teaches everything a beginner could ever need to know about plants and gardening. It’s very easy to read, and sure, it’s not a pretty gift, but it’s undoubtedly incredibly useful for a new gardener. If your loved one is a bit more of a ‘chomping at the bit’ type person and just wants to dive in head first (are they me?) then the RHS Complete Gardener’s Manual, will do the trick. It isn’t as in-depth, but it’s gonna take them where they need to go. And if its a small space they’re working in (I personally love this book as I’m a balcony gardener) then the RHS Little Book of Small Space Gardening is perfect. If they’re keen on growing veg, yes, it’s yet another RHS recommendation, the RHS Grow Your Own Veg Year Planner!

The pretty coffee table books

To provide a bit of wow factor on Christmas morning, you can’t do better than this series of beautiful books from the RHS – Botany for Gardeners, Practical Latin for Gardeners, Genealogy for Gardeners and Secrets of Great Botanists. Although they all have a similar design, they focus on vastly different areas of our understanding of plants – science, latin, plant families and history, all geared towards the knowledge, priorities and interests of hobby and professional gardeners. These are the perfect gift for the lover of knowledge, the theorist, the person who wants to know everything.

Seeds, seeds, seeds

Raising plants from seed is one of the most satisfying aspects of gardening in my opinion. Planting something that someone has already grown is a joy, but planting your own babies, seeing them grow from a speck of dust into a stunning plant? It’s incredible. And a nicely gift-wrapped parcel of seeds is an absolute delight – it’s so exciting to see all that potential! Of course it can be tricky to choose seeds for someone else, but if you know that they have a favourite flower, specific interest, or a vegetable they’ve always wanted to grow, see if it’s available as a seed, otherwise, think about what colours they like, or buy them a selection of seeds like some of the wonderful Kew Gardens Seeds Series pictured above, from Thompson & Morgan.

If you’re really unsure on what kind of seeds, then go for one of Thompson & Morgan’s kits. They have a huge variety of options including an Exotic Fruit Growing Kit, Blooming Bouquet Growing Kit, Rainbow Veg Growing Kit, Hot Chilli and Sweet Pepper Growing Kit, a Sweet Pea Growing Kit, and more. Check out the whole list here.

A flower press to preserve their achievements

I mentioned this flower press in my Cottagecore Gift Guide too, but I think it’s a really lovely way to celebrate someone’s newfound passion for gardening – pressing flowers that you’ve grown yourself is one of the most wholesome activities imaginable, and it will allow your loved one to keep beautiful mementoes of their gardening journey.

You could also pair it with one of these clear glass hanging frames, so they can proudly display their homegrown pressed flowers! Get one here.

A cold frame to protect their plants

Ok I know this is a bit of a leap in the price-point stakes – but if the gardener in your life is someone you’d like to splash some cash on, this is the perfect thing to get for them. A cold frame is a place to put tender and half-hardy plants to ‘overwinter’. It protects them from frost and is essential for several different plants, who come from places with milder weather. It also allows a gardener to get certain flowers earlier in the year – lots of seeds that would need to be sown outside after the last frost can be started off indoors during the frosty season, and then once germinated, transferred to a cold frame until its safe to put them outside, meaning they will be ready to flower much sooner than if the plants were sown outside after the last frost. A cold frame is a brilliant investment in your gardener, and this one is small enough that it won’t intimidate a newbie, but big enough that they can grow whatever they like. Plus, at £125 it’s actually very reasonably priced for a structure like this. Get it here.

Personalised garden tools for a functional bit of beauty

I can’t think of a sweeter gift to be honest – these personalised garden tools are tasteful, simple, practical, and beautiful. Get them here.

I hope this helps inspire you!

AD// The Cottagecore Gift Guide

Not much good has come out of 2020, but the development of ‘cottagecore’ – a wholesome, whimsical aesthetic focusing on a romanticised ideal of a cottage garden lifestyle – has got to be a highlight. Cottagecore is floral skirts worn with walking boots and hand knitted cardigans, it’s pressing flowers you grew yourself, it’s embroidery on a Sunday afternoon, it’s foraging for mushrooms and baking them in a pie. It’s delightful, calm, simple. Everything that 2020 is not. If, like me, someone in your life has discovered this year that there’s a cottage-dwelling hedgewitch inside them, aching to be let out, then read on for some suggestions of gifts they’ll love this season. To be clear – this gift guide is just a bit of lighthearted fun… don’t take it too seriously, just enjoy the inspiration!

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There’s so mushroom for treats

Mushrooms and flowers will be a recurring theme throughout this gift guide, which makes sense, considering cottagecore is all about celebrating the beautiful world we live in. Here are a few irresistible fungi-themed items, all, naturally, created by small business owners…

I’m honestly squealing with how adorable these all are. Get the earrings here, the mugs here, the ornaments here, the British mushrooms print here, and the grow your own kit here.

Cosy up with a good book

Books are unmatched when it comes to their ability to transport you into another world or another life – essential escapism for these times. One particularly wonderful suggestion I have for you is Hag: Forgotten Folk Tales Retold, which is a collection of modernised retellings of British folklore. I recommend it because the short stories are not only absorbing, gripping and highly entertaining, they are all based on local folk tales that we don’t really hear about. We’re all familiar with many European folk stories, but ones from our own isles don’t usually make the cut, and it’s so interesting to learn about them.

And because, of course, cottagecore is all about embracing the nature in our own world, non-fiction needs a mention too. How about Wilding by Isabella Tree, in which the author shares the journey of her and her husband letting nature take over their farm. Or what about Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This is a beautiful book in which she shares the importance of reconnecting with the natural world, and the lessons we learn when we do.

The links above will take you to Waterstones, but if you’d like to support independent bookshops instead, head to my Bookshop.org Nature and Folklore list, where you can find links to all of these and more.

Plus, if you’re buying a book, why not dial up the nature-factor with handmade pressed flower bookmarks? They are absolutely adorable, made from upcycled paper and only cost £2.50 for three! Get them here.

A floral embrace

As I mentioned above, the cottagecore aesthetic is all about flowers and fungi. So here are a few beautiful options for floral-inspired gifts, again, all created by independent makers and small businesses.

A beautiful flower press

My partner actually got this for me for my birthday, so you can thank him for this idea! If the person you’re buying for has taken up gardening during the pandemic, this is the perfect way to celebrate their newfound love for plants, because it will allow them to press the flowers they’ve grown themselves, and keep them for years to come! It was also a finalist in the 2019 Etsy Design Awards. Get it here.

Dried flower bouquet

Dried flowers are a lovely eco-friendly, sustainable option for bringing the joy of blooms into your home, especially during the winter months. I am obsessed with this like this absolutely beautiful one from BloomPost (which was another birthday present for me, thanks James!) Get it here for gorgeous florals all year round.

The most beautiful floral earrings

Sabi Studio creates these breathtakingly beautiful earrings, all hand painted on polymer clay. I simply cannot get over the stunning designs. Don’t hate me, but the designs you’re looking at are currently all sold out – that’s the nature of shopping small! BUT, on the 29th of November at 5pm she’ll be restocking with 200 more of these beautiful nature inspired designs, so be sure to set a reminder, because any flower lover will have their day made by a set of these beauties.

Resin flower earrings

Forget-me-nots are the perfect choice for pressed-flower earrings because they are tiny enough to make subtle pieces, but their rich purple colour makes them stand out. I love this set from Nordic Flowers on Etsy, and they do all kinds of other flowers too, take a look here!

Boldly adorable cottagecore wall art

Yes, I am so obsessed with this print that it got its whole section all on its own. Can you blame me? It’s gorgeous! I think it would transform even the most modern city apartment into a kitschy cottage. The price starts at £18 for a 30x42cm paper print, and there are three larger sizes to choose from, with the price going up to £61 for a 60x84cm cotton canvas print. Get it here.

Eco friendly whimsey

A key tenet of cottagecore is low-impact living. A lifestyle aesthetic that revolves around nature and slow living means time to embrace plastic free reusables, but giving them as gifts can often seem a little utilitarian, so I’ve hunted out an item that combines prettiness with eco-conscious practicality. It’s always been amazing to me how quickly handkerchiefs fell off the radar – when I was little, they were just going out of style. All of those beautifully embroidered hankies your granny had were slowly making their way to the back of the cupboard, to be replaced by plastic wrapped travel tissue packs. There’s a lovely seller on Not on the High Street who makes absolutely gorgeous hand-embroidered and printed hankies, every bit as delightful as the old-fashioned kind, but with a lovely modern twist. Check them out! Click here to take a look at the mushroom hankie and here for the set of three floral ones. Or you could just visit the shop, because there are all sorts of gorgeous hankies on there, these are just my personal favourites!

Eclectic handmade wearables

I haven’t included clothes in this list because honestly, I think clothes are tricky to buy as gifts and even tricker to recommend as them! But these gorgeous handmade items are sure to delight, without being reliant on sizing or fit.

Get the socks here, the choker here, and the beret here.

I hope you enjoyed this gift guide! The cottagecore aesthetic isn’t a serious thing or anything, it’s just a bit of whimsical fun, and I hope reading through these gave you a big of inspiration. Much love!

The Harris Tweed Gift Guide

The Isle of Harris is one of my favourite places in the world. Although during my lifetime my family lived on the neighbouring Isle of Lewis, Harris is where my Granny grew up. So I’ve been lucky to have received more than my fair share of Harris Tweed gifts in my lifetime (and have furnished my home with plenty of my own purchases too). I thought I’d share a few ideas for high quality, long lasting and thoughtful gifts made from this historic, sustainable fabric.

Before we begin, I just wanted to point something out – Harris Tweed is the name of the fabric, not the brand that makes the product you’re buying. You’ll know that the product is made with genuine Harris Tweed fabric because of the logo on it, so look out for orb logo, and you’ll know you’re getting the real deal. The great thing about Harris Tweed is that it’s available to anyone, from big brands like Nike to old ladies on the island who only sell at craft fairs, so you can support small businesses and independent makers, with the guarantee that you’re buying a super high quality product. Because of the cost of the fabric, you don’t get people buying it and making rubbish out of it. Harris Tweed products are made with serious love and care. I’ve bought from many, many makers and all of the products have been amazing quality!

Harris Tweed Weekender/luggage/holdall bag – £150

This is one of the first Harris Tweed items I was ever given, and it’s been going strong since I was 17. You can get one in just about every colour under the sun, to suit your loved one’s personal style. Get one here for £150 – there are many places you can buy one of these bags but this is the place I got mine from (you can see it in the first image, it’s the exact same make, just 13 years old!) and has a MASSIVE array of colours to choose from!

Harris Tweed Cushion Cover – £29+

There are some absolutely brilliant makers on Etsy who have really lovely cushion covers, depending on the style and the colour scheme of your recipient’s home. The first I’ve chosen is CoverandShade, who make a range of gorgeous front fold cushions for £29, and the second is TillyTreeMouse who makes ones with zips across the seam, for £29.99+, depending on the size you want. Both come in a variety of colours. But the third… oh my god I can only dream of these. Hand embroidered thistle and Highland coo (cow) authentic Harris Tweed cushions by TallaTweed. How delightful are they?! Shop here.

Harris Tweed Teddy Bear £58

There are lots of teddy bears out there made purely from Harris Tweed, but I do wonder if the hardy fabric would be a bit too scratchy to cuddle with. I think much better is a normal fluffy teddy with a Harris Tweed jacket – it also means that the parents of the kid you’re buying it for can protect the pricy fabric on days spent playing in the mud! And again, this one comes in loads of colours. See the range here.

Harris Tweed Tea Cosy – £28.50

I couldn’t find the exact version of the blue tea cosy that you’ll see in the photo at the very top of this post – but such is life, we’ve had it for years so hardly surprising! Here is a similar version, with an infamous Scottish midgie on it (be sure to check the dimensions for your teapot). But I also wanted to share this very lovely patchwork number from Etsy seller PoppyMallow. It might not be as whimsical, but it’s nice and tasteful, and guaranteed to keep a teapot warm until the end of time. Get it here!

Harris Tweed Dog Collar – £10+

Etsy is definitely the place for Harris Tweed dog accessories, and there’s a shop called Itsallaboutdog, who have leashes, bows and collars in pretty much every colour you could ever want! The gorgeous colour collection I’ve shared in the photo can be found here.

Harris Tweed Tie – £29.95

This tie makes me wish I was the kind of person who had to wear a suit to work. I love it. Nevermind your friends and family, buy this for me!!

Harris Tweed Coin Purse – £14

This is a lovely small gift, great for a friend or colleague. I have one and actually I’ve started using it as my normal purse, as I love how simple it is! It’s also great because this one comes in a million different colours, so no matter what their style, you can find one for them.

Harris Tweed Washbag – £34 – £41

These absolutely gorgeous washbags from Etsy seller faithmonsoon are the perfect example of a Harris Tweed toiletry bag if you ask me. I’ve wanted a tweed washbag like this for ages and haven’t found one in a colour I like, but my eye is firmly on the herringbone pink one! Get one here.

Harris Tweed Slippers – £49

A pair of slippers is always a safe bet for a gift if you ask me. Unfortunately, the pink ones in the first photo, which we bought in Sainsbury’s and are by a brand called Totes, are already sold out on Sainsbury’s website (though you could have a look in store!) so I thought I’d put up a different recommendation, which are these gorgeous £50 ones from House or Bruar. I love the thick lining and proper soles, you just know those are going to be amazing slippers.

I hope you found something you like in this list! There’s an almost unlimited amount of stuff that can be made with Harris Tweed, but these are some that I either really love for myself, or firmly have my eye on for the future…

Foodbank (Black) Friday with Ethical Superstore

Everyone loves Black Friday. We all love a deal, we all love stuff. It’s natural, and when you’re not as well off as you’d like to be, it can be a fantastic chance to get Christmas presents for people you love. I also understand that for a lot of people, it’s their only opportunity to afford things that other people can afford any day of the week. However, one thing I absolutely HATE about Black Friday is corporate greed. Many companies see it as an opportunity to exploit their customer’s trust, employ every trick in the book to get you to buy, without offering anything of value (or any particularly good savings either).

But not Ethical Superstore. This company is fast becoming one of my favourite places to shop, for their amazing customer service, fantastic, eco-conscious, low plastic, sustainable products, and now, for their brilliantly compassionate approach to Black Friday.

Ethical Superstore are offering 20% off for Black Friday, but in addition, they are also donating grocery items to their local Foodbank with every order over £30. No one should need to use a Foodbank, but unfortunately in this country, many many people are forced to turn to them. I’m 100% behind any initiative to help get more food to people in need, and I think this is such a refreshing way to do it. I thought I’d share some of their most ingenious sustainable swaps and ethical alternatives, to inspire us all to have a better Black Friday. I’ve done two different sections, an Ethical Festive Bits section (’tis the season after all) and a Sustainable Household Swaps section.

Ethical Festive Bits

Ethical Superstore have some beautiful Christmas products, so I thought I’d kick off with a few of my favourites.

I love these candle holders – they have a 100% traceable supply chain, which means they’re guaranteed to have been made in fair working conditions. I think two of the 2D stars and one of the 3D stars would make a perfect Christmas table centrepiece. Get the flat/2D one here, and the 3D one here. The brass wreath is from the same company and I love it too. You could tuck sprigs of pine and fairy lights into it, or keep it simply for a tasteful, minimal look. Get it here.

I love star lampshades but they usually come in bold colours which don’t really suit my decor. This silver one is perfect, and what’s more, it’s made from cotton waste instead of paper, which means their production doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment where they’re manufactured. Get one here. And aren’t these baubles gorgeous? I really want to move away from plastic baubles and these are made from recycled glass. Perfect. Get them here.

This stunning wrapping paper is ethically made in Nepal from lokta paper, which is much more sustainable than normal paper, and a percentage of the sales go to a Nepalese charity Children’s Rescue Nepal. Get it in black here, white here and red here.

Sustainable Household Swaps

I know most of us use Black Friday to treat ourselves or others, but since its on offer, I think it’s the perfect chance to try a few sustainable swaps!

Ocean Saver Refill Pods are brilliant, bottle free home cleaning products. You simply put the sachet into a reusable spray bottle and fill with water – and you never have to buy any more plastic bottles ever again! Get the pack of five different cleaning products for £5.59 (was £6.99) here. Ecoliving Solid Dishwashing Bar – I have been looking for a solid washing up product for months! It’s completely plastic free, and all you do is wet it, rub your sponge or brush on it, and then wash like normal, I can’t wait to give this a try, as we seem to go through so many bottles of washing up liquid in this house, it’s awful seeing all that plastic going in the recycling! Get one here for £8 (was £11). I’ll also be buying this lovely olive wood soap dish to keep it on!

Carrinet mesh produce bags for putting your fruits and veggies in at the shops, made from recycled plastic bottles, £5.59 for 5 (was £6.99). Or if you prefer cotton, these A Slice of Green bags are £5.56 for 3 (was £6.95). If you’re looking for ways to store food more sustainably, try some vegan wax food wraps like these Vegan Food Wrap Company ones for £19.99 (worth £24.99) or if you can’t quite get your head around reusable food wrap (like me) then try these If You Care sustainable sandwich bags for £3.56.

Bio-D Washing Powder comes in an eco-friendly paper bag. I use this and love it, my clothes are super clean and fresh, despite it being fragrance free, enzyme free, and biodegradable. It’s also really affordable at £3.48 for a kg (link), but this Black Friday I’m taking advantage of the 12.5kg box and going all in.

Patch Bamboo Plasters are another brilliant product that we love in this house – they’re just like normal plasters, but plastic free! Get a tube for £5.59 (was 6.99). I was going to share some suggestions for reusable cups and straws, but Ethical Superstore have one of the biggest online selections you’re ever going to find, so I thought it would be better to share the link to their cups/straws page and let you find your own! Not all of it is in the Black Friday sale, but it looks like most of it is. Check it out here. Though I have to say, my personal recommendations are a Stojo cup and these ecoLiving silicone straws (both in the sale!)

Hope you found something that catches your eye in my list! And if you want to learn more about what Ethical Superstore are doing for Black Friday, click here.

30 things I’ve learned in my first 30 years of life

I turned 30 last week, and honestly, it feels great! Saying I’m 30 feels pretty surreal, but I don’t feel any dread or anxiety, which I honestly thought I would. I’ve put together a couple of posts to celebrate making it through this most tempestuous of decades, and this is the first, 30 life lessons I’ve learned in my first 30 years! Enjoy!

1. Life isn’t a climb, it’s a hike. It’s not about getting to the top, it’s about making your way along, at your own pace, seeing what’s there, being curious and enjoying the journey.

2. You’re way more competent than you think you are.

3. Your hair will NEVER do what you want, so you may as well let it do whatever it’s gonna do and enjoy yourself.

4. You are stronger – both mentally and physically – than you give yourself credit for. Like, A LOT stronger.

5. Don’t get into fights on Twitter.

6. You don’t have to finish every book you start – dump the ones that do nothing for you.

7. Showering before bed makes your sheets last longer between washes.

8. Some people don’t like you, and that’s fine (fuck ’em).

9. You also don’t have to like every single person you ever come into contact with.

10. When you start to notice signs of early depression, pay attention.

11. Embracing the seasons, surrounding yourself with nature and generally being more connected to the world is essential for your wellbeing. It’s not a cure or a treatment for anything, it’s a basic need.

12. Shaping your life around other people’s judgemental attitudes will not make you happy.

13. Be as feminine as you want, it doesn’t make you less intelligent, feminist, or queer.

14. There is such a thing as love at first sight ❤

15. Sort out disagreements openly and honestly – no games, no repressed feelings, no sulking.

16. Hiking up a mountain is one of the best feelings in the fucking world.

17. Grief is the most painful thing in the world, there is no cure and no escape, but it won’t kill you.

18. Puy lentils are the best replacement for beef mince and are perfect in shepherd’s pie, bolognese and tacos.

19. Add marmite to vegan stews, lentil dal and shepherd’s pie, and add a dash of red wine vinegar to pasta sauces to go all the way to flavourtown. Add both to bolognese.

20. When you start being able to keep a houseplant alive for longer than a few months it will become your child.

21. You will never get ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ right the first time.

22. Your judgemental inner voice has the capacity to completely ruin your life, so learn to ignore it once in a while.

23. Having a tidy house makes you feel relaxed.

24. Doing the washing up actually helps you de-stress, stop pretending like it doesn’t.

25. Travelling is wonderful, fulfilling and educational, but it is a privilege, not a moral imperative.

26. Being stung by an Amazonian bullet ant F U C K I N G H U R T S.

27. Having problems you can’t overcome doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of happiness.

28. Having wonderful parents, a partner who respects you and friends who adore you makes you one of the luckiest people in the world.

29. You need to work harder on staying hydrated.

30. You aren’t doing anything wrong by being angry at the state of the world. Don’t let your anger hurt you or others, but hold onto it, and use it to fight for better.

5 Ways You Can Reduce Your Microplastic Waste

My head was left spinning the other day when I heard the news that microplastics were being deposited in the arctic by snow. I mean, WHAT? I know that a big part of people’s worry about the climate/environmental crises is that we all have absolutely no idea what, specifically we should be doing. So here are 5 things you can do that will have a direct impact on microplastic waste.

CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES

1/3 of all microplastic pollution comes from washing synthetic textiles like polyester, nylon, viscose, acrylic and elastane. This is because sewage treatment stations cannot filter them out (and when you imagine the kinds of things that sewage treatment CAN remove, that’s a pretty scary thought). It’s imperative that we stop buying synthetic textiles. Ideally, when we buy clothes, they should be made from natural, biodegradable fibres instead. It’s also important to note that a lot of ‘eco/sustainable’ fabrics like tencel and bamboo fibre may also contribute to the microplastic pollution – they are made from a type of cellulose that might not biodegrade. Fabrics that are guaranteed to biodegrade include linen, cotton, wool, hemp and silk.

Manufacturing any new fabric puts a huge strain on the environment in other ways, including chemical pollution and carbon emissions, so please don’t chuck out all your synthetic clothes and buy a whole new wardrobe (and don’t sweat if you simply can’t afford to buy natural fabrics, or have a uniform for work that you can’t change). For the synthetic clothes you already have you can buy a Guppyfriend Laundry Bag from Ethical Superstore (link) which will catch some of the microplastics, and allow you to dispose of them in a way that will pollute less – instead of directly into our waterways, they’ll go to landfill instead.

WASH SMARTER

Am I talking about your clothes or your body? Actually I’m talking about everything. The less water you put down the drain, the less microplastics end up in our water. Wash your clothes less, and don’t tumble dry as this wears the fibres down making them release more fibres when you next wash them. Wash your body less (use a 100% cotton cloth to wash your bits every day if you need to) and don’t use a plastic shower puff or sponge – use a soft ramie puff (link) instead. Ditching flushable wipes is another big one – there are alternatives like sprays you can use with toilet paper. Also, wash your dishes in a dishwasher or switch to a biodegradable loofah (link) or natural fibre brush (link) instead of a plastic sponge or brush to do the washing up. Finally, microfibre cloths, plastic brushes, cleaning sponges and even cellulose sponges all produce microplastics too (when you rinse/wash them after use), so switch to cleaning with a cotton or hemp cloth (link), and for heavy duty cleaning, use a coconut scrubber (link).

REDUCE AND REUSE

As I mentioned above, the manufacturing industry is hugely culpable in the microplastic crisis, and the best way to stop industrial pollution is to stop increasing demand for new goods. Repair your socks when they spring a hole, repurpose an unwanted dress into a top or a bag, buy secondhand, cut up old sheets for cleaning – quite simply, before you buy something new, try to think of an alternative way of getting what you need first. It might not sound like fun, you might think I’m suggesting a return to the housewives and domestic servants of days past – but no. People of all genders should be doing this, and unfortunately, its the convenience culture that we rely on to make life easy that got us into this mess in the first place. If you aren’t a DIY-type person, you can ask for my hourly rate and I’ll fix your socks for you instead.

STOP BUYING BOTTLED

Bottled water is obviously an un-environmentally friendly choice, but if you’re concerned for the effect that microplastics could also be having on your health, steer even clearer of them than you were before, because 90% of bottled water contains microplastics that you will ingest.

If you want to learn more about the ways in which microfibres are destroying the planet, here are some resources:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/14/microplastics-found-at-profuse-levels-in-snow-from-arctic-to-alps-contamination

https://www.whatsinmywash.org.uk/the-microfibre-issue

How to make staying in a hotel for work easier and enjoyable

I’ve travelled for work a LOT in my life. For PR events, marketing activities, training, head office visits with companies based abroad or in different parts of the country, and even for companies that liked to hold their annual meetings abroad as a ‘work perk’. I’ve stayed in luxury hotels, I’ve stayed in Travelodges, I’ve shared hotel rooms with colleagues, and I’ve been unexpectedly upgraded to suites. After all this time I’ve pretty much perfected the art of the stress-free work hotel stay, so read on and hopefully you’ll find some useful suggestions!

Pack weather-versatile outfits – When travelling within the UK and Ireland at least, no matter what time of year it is, never ever leave for a work trip without a pair of shoes you can wear in the rain, and clothes that can be layered and removed as needed. Bring tights and a cardigan, and clothes that can be worn with or without them. It’s a horrible feeling to underestimate the weather and be cold/damp for your whole trip!

The do not disturb sign – Not just for people having a lie in after a heavy night. If you put this on your door in the morning, the hotel staff won’t come into your room to make the bed or replenish the toiletries. When you’re on holiday there’s something nice about coming back to a straightened up room, but personally when I’m travelling for work, I’m not at my most relaxed or easygoing, so I really don’t want someone in my room moving all my stuff. I have utmost respect for hotel staff because damn that’s a hard job, but it’s just that when I travel for work I really want my hotel room to be my own space. Sometimes when you use the DND sign, they even leave you an extra towel, toilet roll and shortbread packets outside your room for you to pick up on your way back in.

Bring your favourite tea with you – Come on now, does anyone really enjoy that vile Twinings Breakfast Blend? The best hotel room I’ve ever stayed in had a little bottle of complimentary fresh milk in the mini fridge, big chunky mugs instead of measly cups, and bags of Yorkshire Tea. It was heaven to come back to that in the evening, and so now I always bring my Clipper teabags (I’ve switched because they’re plastic free and taste just as good as Yorkshire Tea) with me so I can have a comforting cuppa when I get in, just like I would at home. Of course this only works if you’re travelling within the UK where we have kettles in hotel rooms, but then, who drinks tea when they’re abroad anyway?

Spend the evening doing your ‘self maintenance’ – I strongly do not recommend working in your hotel room, but even if you don’t work, it can be tricky to fully switch off when you’re in work trip mode. I often can’t concentrate on a book, or even crap TV. So instead, make a list of all the ‘body chores’ you’ve been meaning to get around to doing – your self tan, cutting/painting your nails, dying or deep conditioning your hair, shaving your legs, face masks… and spend your evening doing it all!

Laundry bag routine – If you’ve ever bought anything from Aesop, or received fancy pyjamas as a gift, you probably already own one of these nice drawstring cotton bags. They are perfect for keeping on top of your laundry, because you can hang it off the side of the desk chair, or on a wardrobe door handle, and every time you take off your socks and underwear for the day, you just conveniently stuff them in the bag. It means you never have to worry that there’s a forgotten pair of knickers under the bed when you leave, and you won’t be picking up stray socks from the floor when you’re supposed to be checking out to catch your train home. Also, it eliminates the need for a plastic shopping bag, which is what I used to use before, and, well, would never dream of using now!

Be wise about your skincare products – The key with skincare is to make it as fuss-free as possible, because you never know what kind of bathroom facilities you’re going to be confronted with. When I travel, I always bring a travel size of Caudalie’s Cleansing Oil instead because it dissolves makeup on its own and then rinses off. It’s the most convenient makeup remover ever! I also bring my bar of facial soap for a second cleanse/morning cleanse. Then I bring a small slice of soap to wash my body with too, because unless its a nice hotel, I know I’ll hate the shower gel they have (recently I’ve been trying to move away from plastic wherever I can, hence the bars of soap!). Some people recommend bringing skincare sample sachets along on a trip, but I wouldn’t recommend trying new skincare while you’re travelling for work – you never know if something will trigger a reaction, or make you so greasy that your foundation slips off your face by noon. I usually just bring my full size serum and cream because I don’t want to take them out of their normal packaging (for example, you don’t want to dip your fingers into a product that is designed to be squeezed out of a tube because the preservatives won’t work).

Fluffy slipper socks – It’s very difficult to fully relax when you’re on a work trip, but a pair of comforting fluffy socks certainly helps me.

Always be lovely to the staff – There’s no excuse for being rude to hotel staff, and it’s something I’ve seen a LOT of from people on business trips. No matter how tired, stressed or irritable you are, there’s no need to make someone feel like crap just because you do. And you never know when you might need them. If the TV broke in your room, I certainly wouldn’t rush to help you if you’d been a dick to me two hours earlier.

And lastly, a few things to never ever forget:

  • Ear plugs. As my dear favourite fictional character, Dale Cooper once said: “Once a traveler leaves his home, he loses almost 100% of his ability to control his environment.” (if you aren’t familiar with Twin Peaks, this is said while he is being kept awake by a huge group of other business people who are combatting jetlag by getting drink and singing all night. Now I’ve never experienced that, but I would have been grateful for earplugs while staying in a room next door to a very amorous couple… and now I’ll never forget them (the earplugs that is, I’m trying desperately to forget the couple).
  • Pyjamas. I’m just putting this here because I DID once forget pyjamas and it just so happened to be in the one hotel I’ve ever stayed in that didn’t have over the top central heating. I had to tear around a Primark between meetings and ended up buying the crappest pjs ever because they were ‘between deliveries’. Never again.
  • Pillow spray. Not only will this help you to calm down if you’re nervous about something big going on during your trip, it also means you don’t have to worry about any weird smelling hotel rooms!
  • A long charging cable. Even modern hotel rooms with plug points by the bed are sometimes too far away to charge your phone and FaceTime your SO (or play a game) at the same time, so make sure your cable can handle it!
  • Your takeaway coffee cup. Be environmentally responsible and don’t use travelling as an excuse to fall back on disposable cups. Plus, having your cup with you means you can fill it with filter coffee at the hotel breakfast to start your day with WAY more coffee than you’d be able to drink in one sitting!