Tag Archives: london

Balance Festival

Just so you know…this post isn’t sponsored and I wasn’t gifted any tickets to the event or items (although there’s lots of free samples of yummy goodies to be had at the festival)! I just enjoyed myself, so thought I’d share. 

If you’re in London and looking for something to do this weekend, why not stop by the Balance Festival at the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch. I went with a friend today and we took the kids and had a great day out.

I thought I’d mention some of my favourite vendors we chatted to today. They had no idea I was a blogger, so extra points for just being lovely, generous folks…especially the vegan brownie people who tolerated my daughter eating basically all their brownie samples.

And kudos to whoever hired the DJs. The chill out vibe was awesome and my daughter was dancing like a reckless hippy to all of it. Especially the Avocado & Chill station.

1. First we stopped at Escape & Bake, a healthy bakery who bake delicious refined sugar-free, gluten-free and dairy-free treats. Lots of the treats (maybe all, I’m not sure) were vegan and I bought a delicious millionaire’s shortbread.

2. Then we stopped by Soupologie who had hot soup machines pouring out cups of delicious vegan soups. I had the squash soup which I think had turmeric in it and it was delicious. They also have a new range of drinks made with fresh juice, probiotics and apple cider vinegar – the strawberry basil was delicious and I can highly recommend it. Though in honesty, I have a great juicer and a bottle of Bragg’s at home so will probably do my own DIY version as a daily drink. But these are great for on the go when you don’t want to buy anything sugary.

3. There were a lot of cold-pressed juice vendors at the fair. I mean a lot. And the juices were all pretty nice. I know that because I sampled ALL OF THEM. But I think my favourite was Daily Dose who had really beautiful blends with nutritious phytonutrient powerhouses added in like turmeric and ginger. Their strawberry juice was amazing. They also do little shots of more therapeutic blends. What makes them special is that they make their juices from wonky fruit and veg right here in London – in Battersea, while most of the other companies are having theirs made in Eastern Europe and shipped here. There was also a company called Revolicious which makes pre-made smoothies which I admit I don’t entirely understand, as someone who makes their own smoothies everyday. But they were super delicious.

4. We stopped for bags of snacks crisp type treats at Emily’s Crisps and Ape snacks, both of which I know because I’ve had them in my Vegan Kind box before. The Emily’s Crisps are nice, although still deep fried , but my absolute favourite are the Ape Snacks which I could probably live on. They were kind enough to give my daughter a bag of their coconut puffs and me a bag of the coconut snacks with sesame seeds which I love. They totally satisfy my sweet tooth cravings for some reason, despite not being that sweet. Hippeas were there too and I also really enjoy their snacks too. But not as much as Ape. Love those guys and their addictive little balls/dics of coconut deliciousness.

5. Califia Farms were there, although I didn’t talk to them. Their stand was pretty busy. But I am addicted to their Cold Brew Coffee made with almond milk and make a concerted effort NOT to buy it every week at the supermarket. After hearing so many cool things about Califia Farms from my fav YouTube channel Happy Healthy Vegan, I was so stoked when they first came to the UK. At first I found them at Whole Foods and it was something stupid like £6.99 for a bottle of almond milk, but now its a far more reasonable £2 (they have a much higher nut content than other brands and are carrageenan-free) at Sainsbury’s and probably Ocado too.

6. The lady at Urban Fruit gave my doe eyed daughter a bag of dried strawberries – little knowing they are her favourite on the go snack. So thanks Urban Fruit people! She ate them while having a chill out session by the DJ.

7. I stopped by Riverford Farms as I have been thinking about switching to a veg box delivery to make the whole plastic-free thing just a little bit easier. I was impressed that for £21 they do a mega huge weekly organic veg box, although they do smaller and cheaper boxes. They are also giving away a lovely cookbook to folks who sign up at the stall this weekend. I didn’t sign up right away, as I have enough cookbooks, but the vendor gave my daughter a cob of popcorn which we made up in the popcorn maker at home and which she is eating right now while watching The Good Dinosaur. It was really good popcorn. (I was allowed to try one piece. Just one.)

8. Having drank my last portion of vanilla protein powder this morning, I was totally out and am trying out all the vegan brands I can. Free Soul isn’t a vegan brand but they do a vegan line and its all clean ingredients. Its normally quite pricy at £24.95 a bag (as they told me) but they had a show special of £15 a bag, so frankly I wish I’d bought two. Meanwhile, as I was chatting to the ladies at this stand, my daughter was next door with her little friend cramming down all the vegan brownie samples at Superfood Bakery who sell brownie, cookie and pancake mixes – all clean ingredients and gluten free.

9. Finally in terms of non-food items, there were so many activities to do at the festival. I wasn’t able to take advantage of them because I had my daughter with me, but there were yoga classes and there was a TRX session in full swing as we went by and I must admit, I really really wanted to try out that workout as it looked pretty intense. But instead I put my name in to win something or other from one of the great workout clothing brands there – Every Second Counts and I really want one of their running sets, frankly. And lots of skincare and make up companies designed for people who like to be fully made up when they exercise I guess. If that’s your thing.

10. We finished off the show by stopping by at Optiat, a company which uses used coffee beans from London coffee shops to make a delicious-smelling range of body products. I bought some vanilla coffee bean body scrub. I mean, why did people stop making vanilla scented body products in 1998? I love vanilla and am so excited to have this. I’m kind of all stocked up on face care at the moment but am going to try their coffee face serum at some point. I also made one last spur of the moment purchase, getting this lovely glass flask from Noble Leaf to make tea with loose tea leaves. Perfect for taking to school and student clinic.

I lie. I forgot about the vegan Baileys. We stopped and I did try the vegan Baileys. And it was delicious.

Anyway, the event is on for the rest of the weekend, so stop by for a couple of hours, load up on free samples of yummies, chat to some of the lovely vendors and stock up on healthy goodies. And if you’re not in London, but in the Netherlands in September, they’ll be holding a second Balance Festival there. Just check out their website for details.



 

Travelling with Kids

I don’t write as much about travel as I would like to. I usually plan to do amazing YouTube travel videos which never get edited or posted and I take lots of photos which I think would be great here on the site…but rarely does a travel post I’ve planned or started ever materialise. Which is a shame, because my husband and I travel A LOT and we’ve learned tons about travelling with kids. So that’s what I am going to share with you today. (If you’d like some general zero waste travel tips, check out this post I wrote a couple years ago.)

1. Planning & booking your trip

My husband and I love planning our trips. We think about where we want to go and then read lots about it (not just Lonely Planet* guides, but relevant novels, poetry, historical literature, etc. about the area) and really draw the process out with a sort of childish delight. If you have no children you can spend hours doing this during weekly date nights, but if you have a child, like we do now, all I can say is good luck. (I’ve been trying to read a Costa Rica guide for like a year now.) Once you’ve decided where you want to go and when, try to find a child-free hour when you can book your trip with a clear head, free from distractions. Your flight schedule, free time from work and school, and accommodation availability all have to align and stupid mistakes are so easy to make at this stage. I’m not being patronising here, but this is one area where multi-tasking is fairly risky.

If you’ve booked a package holiday, life should be simple – you’ll get collected as per whatever arrangement your package holiday company has made and you get taken straight to your hotel. We do very little package holiday travel (although we have done so occasionally) and have found its not always the best when travelling with small kids.

Its easy to get lured into the belief that you’ll have loads of kids clubs to watch your kids all the time and you don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning. The reality is that unless your kids are older, they’re often too small for kids clubs and you end up having a screaming hot baby/toddler with you on the beach/poolside while everyone glares at you. When dinnertime comes you can either eat ridiculously early at 5 or 6 o’clock or wait until later and take your cranky/hyper kids with you to dinner at 7.30 or 8 and watch in horror as spaghetti is flung onto the lady at the next table (it happened). Or you can book a babysitter every night and have a peaceful dinner with your partner, but that gets pretty expensive pretty quickly. You’ll probably also be sharing a room with your kid(s) and bedtime can be just…um, awesome when you’re away from your usual environment and routines. Evenings with your partner will be spent huddled on the balcony, whispering and playing Uno whilst sneaking up all-inclusive cocktails from downstairs, and being extra quiet while your kid(s) try to get to sleep. But don’t worry, they’ll start getting used to the new routine just by the time you’re packing to leave and go home. So yeah, I’m not really recommending the package holiday that much. Maybe once they’re teenagers?

I do have one caveat to this. If you can afford to book a villa at a resort, you can get many of the advantages of having an apartment with a kitchenette and separate bedrooms, with the conveniences of being on a resort (including access to resort babysitters and kids clubs for older kids, etc). I’ve not done this, but my friend Katie swears by it and for her family of 4, its the preferred way to travel. Its definitely not an inexpensive way to go, but I wanted to share as many options as possible.

Another friend of mine travelled in a minivan from Glasgow to the Peloponnese with her husband and 3 children (all under age 6) and they stayed at a range of types of accommodation ranging from bizarre British guest houses to luxury spa resorts, but they enjoyed the private apartments and houses they rented the most. It gave them more freedom to enjoy their destination and a more relaxed experience while travelling with their young children.

Personally, I prefer independent travel because I happen to like going to local shops and markets and experimenting with the local foods, and in some small way, ‘living like a local’…or at least pretending to.

If you are doing independent travel (which is what we highly recommend when travelling with babies and smaller children), you can rent your own house or apartment with Airbnb. This can range from fairly basic and simple accommodation to extreme luxury. It provides all the reassurance of booking a hotel, but you get your own house or apartment wherever you want to be. This is great because you can keep your home schedule (nap times, meal times, etc…) with your children and you can make meals and packed lunches that you know they will eat and best of all you can pack your little ones off into their own beds before having a leisurely evening with your partner with the full run of the house/apartment and its garden, pool, hot tub, etc.

I’m not affiliated with Airbnb, but feel free to click here and you can save £25 or $31 off your first booking.

Make sure you read all the reviews for the Airbnb accommodation you’re considering. Make sure its suitable and safe for children. Often they will be able to provide travel cots so you don’t need to schlep one around with you – just make sure you check in advance if your hosts can provide this for you. You can even arrange for a cleaner to come in periodically at some properties, for an extra charge.

If your accommodation is fairly far away from the airport where you’ll be landing and your flight gets in late at night, it might be advisable to just book a hotel near the airport and crash that first night you get in and worry about picking up car rentals* or travelling long distances by car/train/boat the next morning. This is what we do. It keeps the continuity of domestic bliss – travel-related frustrations are a prime time trigger for spats and domestic arguments.


We like using Lonely Planet* guides when we travel, and highly recommend them for researching interesting things to do in the area where you plan to travel. Most libraries have them, so you don’t necessarily even need to buy them. Trip Advisor* can also be very helpful.

2. Packing

Pack Light – You’ll know best how to pack for your family and for what you plan to do when you get to your destination, but I do recommend that you pack fairly light. You’ll all usually end up wearing the same 3-4 outfits over and over and if you’re staying at an Airbnb you’ll likely have your own washing machine (and perhaps dryer) so you can wash your clothes as often as you need to.

Layering – Bring clothes you can layer. I’ve gone to ‘cold’ destinations to find I was boiling in an unseasonal heatwave and have gone to sunny destinations where it was colder than London (and I only had a beachy sort of wardrobe packed).

Two Pairs of shoes (max) – Keep shoes to a minimum. I often waste suitcase weight/space on shoes that we simply never end up wearing. You’ll have much better memories of your holiday if you and the kids all have comfortable shoes that keep your feet pain-free after lots of walking around and sight-seeing.

Compact Toiletries – I do travel with all the toiletries and make up I need, but my rule is that it all has to fit inside my size medium LL Bean toiletries bag. (As a former Vermonter, I do love my LL Bean!) My husband has one too for all his toiletries and shaving gear. I did lots of online research and read lots of reviews on these toiletries bags before deciding on this one. Some people have had theirs for 15 years plus and they are still in top shape. They also unzip and have a little built in hanger so you can hang them off a towel hook and keep everything tidy (and above toddler reach). I’ve recommended these to so many people, I should be getting a commission on these things! When my daughter gets older, she’ll get her own, but meanwhile she just shares with one of us because all she really has is a toothbrush, a tangle teaser, some Owie* for bumps and bruises (which you can order wholesale here), a couple of bandaids and a small bottle of Calpol (just in case).

By packing light, you’ll have room to bring all the things that really matter – enough eco-disposable or cloth nappies (if your little one is still in them) and any food items you know that you or your kids couldn’t do without. I’m vegan, so I always pack a few chocolate chip Cliff bars so I know that I have something protein-filled to snack on, some Ningxia Red* packets (to provide antioxidant support after the radiation exposure on the flight) and I also bring a small box of UHT plant based milk, for my tea/coffee on that first morning we are at our destination. My daughter is a huge fan of strawberry Yoyos, a natural version of a Fruit Rollup they sell here in the UK. They come in paper & card packaging so aren’t the most zero waste of snacks, but they aren’t too bad and they travel well in both hot and cold climates. This is also your chance to pack the ‘right shape of pasta’ or whatever your kid’s particular non-negotiable foible is. (For us, its porridge oats which are milled to our daughter’s exacting specifications – not too flaky, not too jumbo.) Don’t overdo it, but just be prepared.

3. Getting to the Airport

If you live in an urban area near your airport (and don’t have a kind family member to drop you off) its probably just easier to order a cab to collect you, but make sure its a very reputable firm you trust to show up on time. I’ve had local car companies let me down before. Companies which specialise in airport cars are more reliable in my experience and you can pre-pay for them. Give yourself more time at the airport than you think you will need – if you have an extra 45 minutes hanging out past security, big deal. Go to Starbucks or Pret (with your reusable cup) and have a coffee, or peruse the duty free shops. Whatever floats your boat. Its so much better to be a bit early.

You can also pre-book airport parking which is usually a really cheap option if you do it far enough in advance, but be aware that the transport vans which take you from the car park to the airport terminal are sometimes not too spacious (think tiny babies in bulky car seats) and don’t have safe booster seats for toddlers travelling – its a short distance, but still usually is about 10-15 minutes of driving from the offsite car park to the terminal and its often on a stretch of busy road.

If we have an early flight from Gatwick we pre-book an overnight at the Premier Inn at the North Terminal. (I’m not a budget hotel gal, but this chain is so so clean and comfortable in my experience.) They have a SleepParkFly package* which includes up to 15 nights of free parking when you stay overnight there (with free meet & greet parking upon your return), so the cost of staying over is negligible (often the whole package is cheaper than the standard car parking package) and your car is waiting for you at the airport when you get back. Check if your local airport budget hotel does something similar. For us its amazing waking up and simply walking our sleepy toddler across the zebra crossing to the airport entrance – no early morning panic.

There is also the option of taking public transport which I find is just all too much for me when throwing a child and luggage for three people into the mix. But if you know your public transport is reliable, there’s no planned delays or works on the line, and it will get you there quickly without too many changes – then go for it.

Oh yeah…and before you leave for the airport, just make sure you have your kid’s stroller packed. I’m not kidding…this has happened to us before and we ended up having to find a stroller rental shop at our destination.

4. Flying to your destination

This can be really hard, especially if you’re flying with your little one(s) on your own, as I often do. When my daughter was a baby, I’d simply nurse her during take off and she’d fall into a deep sleep which would last most of the flight. Now that she’s three, its a bit harder to keep her happy on long flights. Some kids seem to get locked in to the inflight entertainment or an iPad, but that can often frustrate my little one and it makes her edgy, cranky and eventually ends in total melt down. We’ve found that old school entertainment like magic painting books (only water required!), a few dinosaur toys,  and some crayons and colouring books work well. I don’t usually buy disposable literature, but its become a bit of a tradition (and a treat) for my daughter to get a Cebeebies magazine at the airport before each flight and it is worth every penny for the hours of entertainment it provides. It also includes a couple of toys which won’t induce a lifelong trauma when they inevitably get lost. (But if you know that the iPad or Kids Kindle will make your flight a harmonious one, then just go for it – just put it away when you get to your destination and don’t let it dominate the whole holiday.)

There won’t be any food served on budget airlines, so I usually go to Pret a Manger or Leon at the airport and stock up on some yummy sandwiches and snacks to keep everybody happy during the flight. I love starting my flight off with a coconut cappuccino!

If I’m really super organised I’ll have prepped a meal at home, at least for our daughter. I pack it in our eco-lunchbox which is also handy to have at our destination for making snack boxes to take down to the beach or on day trips. (Even if you’re staying at a hotel, you can load it up at the breakfast buffet to create a snack box for your toddler who will inevitably want to eat at the most inconvenient time imaginable.) Its never been something I consider a mistake to bring or a waste of space and it saves us a lot of money buying expensive, junky snack food while we’re out.

We also try to keep things reasonably zero waste, so I usually choose to have no in-flight meal for my daughter and myself (my husband always gets one) if its a flight under 7 hours. I find the amount of waste produced by in-flight meals really distressing and its not like the food is that great anyway. Just pack lots of yummy things from home supplemented by a few special treats picked up at the airport (if that’s your idea of a treat). My daughter loves the reassurance of having food that mommy has made and it makes the trip far more peaceful for her and for us. As long as any liquid or soupy consistency foods are kept under 100ml in containers which hold no more than 100ml maximum, you’ll be fine. Bring water bottles for everybody and fill them up at the filtered water fountain after you pass security. This way you won’t have to drink the plastic bottled water on the plane – at least until you exhaust your own supplies.

For babies drinking formula, you should be fine getting those past security. Be aware that you are entitled to bring a reasonable amount of formula to meet your baby’s requirements for the journey and the 100ml limit does not apply here. If you are travelling with a formula fed infant, you’ll find it far more comfortable to bring enough of your own supplies with you in your checked luggage rather than relying on buying formula at your destination. Babies can be so funny about tastes and brands and although the formulas being sold in other countries are likely to be safe and fine, you might not be able to read the ingredient list, and you’re really best off having an adequate supply of the product you know brought from your home country. For more details, check out this article from Hipp Organics which sets out all your rights and has some good advice.

When it comes to pumped breastmilk, you never know what stupidheads you might encounter though, and many a mama has had to dump her precious stash. Although the rules vary from country to country, in the UK, US and Canada you are entitled to pack breastmilk in your hand luggage. Here are the UK, US and Canadian rules for travelling with pumped breastmilk in your hand luggage, as they vary on quantities allowed and how the milk will be screened by security.

5. Once you get there

If you’ve gone for the Airbnb or private home rental route rather than a resort or hotel, sometimes your host will meet you at the property, but most hosts simply install a key safe and will email you the necessary security codes to access the keys. (Write these down somewhere just in case your phone battery dies or you lose your phone.) Your little one(s) might be exhausted when they get to the property (or hyper and overtired). It might be a good idea to encourage a nap or some quiet down-time while you unpack and get yourself situated into the property.

This is a good opportunity to look at the information folder your host will have left you and see if there is a local supermarket they recommend. Otherwise, you should be able to find one on Google. Personally, I love grocery shopping in foreign countries, seeing what the local foods are like and trying all the local vegan brands. I always pack a couple of lightweight reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags in case we’re lucky enough to come a farmers market.

We don’t like to over-schedule or over-plan when travelling with young children. Its actually no fun for anyone if you try to cram too many activities into each day, as you’ll end up dragging screaming, overtired children out of museums or attractions you’ve spent a fortune to see. But you also don’t want to find you’ve left your destination without having done any of the activities or having seen any of the sights you wanted to. We sketch out a rough schedule (we’re talking back of an envelope here) of the things we want to do and build in a few relaxation days or unplanned days. This allows for spontaneity and in the mornings we can wake up and check the weather before deciding to spend the day at the beach or going on a hike or seeing a cultural site. You definitely can do all these things with kids, but just don’t push it. Remember its their holiday too. We always plan in a special day of stuff just for our daughter, even on short breaks. It often ends up being our favourite day of the holiday.

Let snacktimes and mealtimes happen as usual – pack enough food, snacks and water for yourself and the kids for day trips or outings and if it looks like the kiddos are getting sleepy, try to allow time for a bit of a snooze – in the buggy, on a picnic blanket in the shade after lunch or in the car while you’re driving. Remember, they’re little, and seeing all new things and their little brains are working hard assimilating a lot of new information and maybe even hearing a new language. They deserve a little down time and you’ll probably even find its good for you too.

There are a couple of affiliate links here to help support me keeping this blog going.  They’re marked with an asterisk  By using my affiliate links you don’t pay any more and I get a small commission. I’ve also included an Airbnb discount code for you, but most of the links are just stuff I wanted to help guide you to find easily.  Nothing is sponsored, gifted or guided by a particular brand’s influence – its all just stuff I like and use.  



 

Yoga Inspired Tips for Keeping Cool

This week we are featuring a guest blog post from another mama in my local area, Meredith Gunderson.  Not only is she another expat living in London, like me, but she’s also an essential oil lover and is a full-time yoga teacher at Meredith Yoga & Mindful Living.

 

OLOL Yoga August 2016

 

We become more free-range, finding ourselves at the seashore, in a field, by a fire, among friends & family. Yet, we also still have laundry to do, phone calls to be made, people to get along with and so forth.  Also, going free-range often involves long journeys on planes, trains and automobiles and time spent away from our home, bed & predictable conveniences.

So as we quite rightly are drawn out to make the most of the seasonal light, warmth, landscape and bonhomie spirit…it’s useful to be aware – summer life can get a little overheated. Sunburn, hot sweaty agitated faces…we know them well.

With overheating comes a drain of joy, stubbornness and irritable fatigue. The key is to keep your cool, don’t go 110%…seek a cool-girl 80% effort vibe. Show up, chill out and keep your cool with these 9 ayurvedic and yogic inspired tips…

How NOT to overheat your summer:

1. Don’t over commit. Give yourself the compassionate gift of ample time for tasks and transit – rushing sucks.  asic, I know, but mantra worthy too. Get real about how long things take and what is and isn’t important and you will have plenty of time to enjoy your summer.

2. Listen more, talk less. Talking is heating and listening is a free gift you can give that is always appreciated and often healing.

3. Exercise your eyes in wide open spaces, look deep into the distance – into sea, sky and stars – this creates a magical mix of humility and wonder.

4. Stay out of direct afternoon sun, take your sunbaths in the morning.

5. Keep cool with essential oils – a few drops or lavender & peppermint with water in a little spray bottle feels unbelievably delicious and cooling plus the bugs don’t like lavender.

6. Chill out with some meditation…even if it’s just for a few minutes or a few breaths – place your awareness on your breath. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, that what minds do…just gently, with as much kindness as you can muster up, escort your attention back to your breath. Don’t worry whether you are doing it “right”.  Suspend judgement and just do it and it will work its magic.

7. Practice self care. Make time for quiet me-time so you can be grounded & fully present with others.

8. Take it easy on the yoga mat. Your presence there is much more important than an instagram-able yoga pose. For a quick happy body yoga sequence, try out my free 12 minute guided yoga practice recording HERE.

9. If you don’t automatically link your movements to your breath in your yoga practice, NOW is the time to start. Inhale to create space, exhale to use the space and cozy into the space. This will create an internal flow of energy and also totally refresh the mind.

 

What’s The Best Natural Pillow?

When you think that we spend a third of our life sleeping, furnishing our bed shouldn’t be an afterthought.  It should actually be a place where we invest in quality.  Unfortunately most pillows and mattresses are covered in serious amounts of toxic flame retardant (filled with hormone disruptors) and formaldehyde.  And as if that isn’t bad enough, no matter how much chemical they slather onto our pillows, that doesn’t prevent them from immediately starting to accumulate fungi, dead skin cells, dust mites, their carcasses and their faeces.  In fact, over time (as little as 18 months), up to 1/2 of the weight of your pillow can be attributed to this delightful cocktail.  So yeah…I wash my pillows pretty frequently and spray them 4 times a year with Norwex’s enzyme based mattress cleaner which breaks down dust mite faeces and eventually metabolises the substrates into carbon dioxide and water (which evaporates out of the pillow).

Over the years I’ve slept on pretty much every kind of pillow going and before I go into why I have settled on my pillow of choice, let me run through the pros and cons of the other pillows I have used (and a couple which I haven’t).

Synthetic Pillows

In my first apartment I had the artificial polyester hollow fibre pillows.  They can be inexpensive, but they don’t last particularly well, as they go flat quickly and when you throw them into the washing machine to clean them, they separate and clump up.  Even a trip through the tumble dryer doesn’t quite put them back to rights, and these misshapen, unsupportive pillows can cause neck pain.  They generally have a life span of about 6 months but should never be kept longer than 2 years.  So you can start to see how investing in a good pillow can make a difference.  I’ve also tried memory foam pillows which I personally found to be awful.  They sound fancy, but they’re just made from polyurethane with other added chemicals.  They gave both of us aching necks (when they were supposed to ease them!) and the smell of them gave us headaches.  They also don’t ventilate well and they can make you sweat quite a lot.  They quickly made it on to the guest bed of unwanted pillows.  Not money well spent.

Feather Pillows

I’m not a fan of feather pillows.  Like the synthetic pillows they can go clumpy (even more so) and I find that the sharp bases of the feather soon start to poke through the pillow, making the pillow a bit spiky and cactus-like.  I also have allergies so I find these pillows exacerbate this problem.  And then there is the issue of the ethics of these pillows.  The feathers often come from birds kept in terrible living conditions which are then plucked alive.  I know John Lewis department store has expectations of animal welfare for the birds which are plucked to fill the feather and down bedding they sell.  In other words, these feathers are by-products of the food industry.  Either way, its not pretty.  Personally I have not found an ethically satisfactory source for feather pillows so I would not recommend them from a comfort, care or ethical standpoint.  However, my husband came with a set of these nasty pillows included…so if you are ever staying in our guest room, all I can say is sorry.

Down Pillows

Now while down feather pillows may face the exact same ethical issues as feather pillows do, they are made from the soft, under-feathers of some types of birds – usually ducks and geese – and they are extremely, deliciously comfortable.  They’re also quite expensive, so you’ve got to watch out for companies selling pillows which are a blend of down and feather.  They’re a long lasting pillow and you can wash them in the washing machine, so long as you don’t try to air dry them.  They WILL MILDEW inside the pillow if you try to air dry them, so be sure to tumble dry them until they are beyond bone dry.  They will once again become fluffy and plump after this process.  My husband uses down pillows on his side of the bed, and I find them easy to care for.  I have not found an entirely ethically satisfactory source for down pillows or duvets, so I make sure I look after the ones we already have very well with regular washing, airing and maintenance.  (See Kapok Pillows below for a great vegan-friendly alternative).

Wool Pillows

Okay, I love wool pillows.  Its incredibly easy to source organic wool pillows and duvets which are locally and ethically made here in the UK as well as in Canada and the US, and they are so comfortable and soft.  I know vegans aren’t meant to be too happy about wool, but the fact is that modern sheep breeds need to be sheared, so as long as its a nice organic farm where they love their sheep, I’m okay with that.   Wool pillows don’t go clumpy or lumpy and they don’t go flat.  They’re naturally hypoallergenic, they deter dust mites and wool is a very breathable material.  They’re also super easy to throw in the washing machine on a regular basis too.

Buckwheat, Millet & Spelt Pillows

I have to admit I haven’t tried these, but they may be worth investigating if you like a really firm pillow.  I’m assuming that anyone with coeliac disease or a severe gluten intolerance should probably avoid the spelt pillow and opt for the millet or buckwheat instead, as they are gluten-free fillings.  The millet is smaller and more sand-like, whereas the spelt husks are bigger and have a more massage-like effect on the body.  They also have a high silica content and are considered to help prevent muscle aches and pains.  The buckwheat pillows are robust and supportive while still being light and airy.  They are a great option for anyone who tends to sweat up a storm at night, as they allow moisture and heat to evaporate quickly.

Natural Latex Pillows

I have also not tried natural latex  filled pillows, but they offer a firm support and are a bit bouncy.  They’re also good for people who suffer from dust allergies because they cannot support the growth of bacteria, germs and moulds.  They’re not for people with chemical sensitivities though (lots of people have latex allergies), and some people can detect a slight smell of latex the first few times they use the pillows.

Horsehair Pillows

I’m just gonna say it.  I don’t see myself sleeping on a pillow filled with Black Beauty’s tail.  I don’t care how ethical the sourcing is.  But the advantages to a horsehair pillow are that they provide a medium firm support and are another great one for anyone who gets the night sweats, as they regulate moisture well.  They are warm and dry and the horsehair is said to have anti-rheumatic qualities.

Kapok Pillows

So I’ve saved my absolute favourite for last.  These pillows are incredibly luxurious. If you didn’t know you were sleeping on Kapok you’d swear you were sleeping on the softest down pillow ever.  And its vegan friendly, so if you don’t use animal based fibres in your home, then kapok means that you don’t need to resort to using synthetic fibres. So what the heck is kapok?  Well its a sort of silky fluff which comes from a tree which grows wild in tropical forests.  So while they’re not ‘grown organically’ there’s never any pesticides on them.  These trees are an important part of local economies and therefore are always very well looked after.  The kapok fibre itself contains naturally bitter compounds and that makes it really unattractive to dust mites and other creepy crawlies in general (that was a win for me!) and the fibres are also covered in a sort of wax which cannot absorb or retain moisture, so your  kapok pillow or duvet will always be dry, no matter how damp the weather outside.  Kapok pillows can be washed and tumble dried, but what I love about the one I have is that the organic cotton quilted cover and inner cover can be unzipped, and the soft, downy kapok filling removed while the fabric is being washed.  So if you only want to fluff and ‘air out’ your kapok filling from time to time, its much easier to do so.

OLOL Kapok Pillow

Conclusion

So whatever pillow you opt for, try to find one which provides the right level of support for you, one that is easy to clean on a regular basis (remember the mite faeces & carcasses I mentioned earlier?) and which comes from ethical and environmentally sustainable materials.  Remember that you and your partner don’t necessary need to have the same pillow – one of you might benefit from a firm buckwheat pillow, while the other luxuriates on the softness of kapok.  Personally I love supporting small, local producers and manufacturers.  My organic wool and kapok pillows are simply the best pillows I have ever had.  I can’t remember where my wool pillows from Canada were bought now (somewhere in Canada, obviously!), but the kapok pillows came from Greenfibres, a shop based down in Devon which also produces organic wool, buckwheat, spelt, natural latex and horsehair pillows in the same nifty design where you can remove the filling for airing, cleaning and to adjust the height and density of the pillow.  I’m just going to big up this shop a bit because they were incredibly helpful in talking me through the process of finding a new pillow – in fact I’d have never known about kapok pillows if it weren’t for them – and they’re on Etsy as well, so if you can’t find a local supplier in your own country, you can order them internationally as well.

And because I care about you guys and I really  hate the thought of you sleeping on dust mite poop, I’d also like to share with you this great, short video from Clean My Space which I discovered during the ‘nesting phase’ of my pregnancy and its where I learned how to clean and maintain my pillows and duvets:

Green & Sustainable Style Edit – July 2016

This month I’ve pulled together a sophisticated, but bright and summery capsule wardrobe featuring clothing from eco clothing brand, Komodo.

I’ve paired up a black SENS t-shirt made from 100% bamboo with a pair of lightweight, sulphur coloured ADAM tencel linen shorts.  In case you’ve not heard of tencel, its a very sustainable fabric made from wood cellulose, and is one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics on the market.  I’ve also opted for this 100% organic cotton gathered tie dress  in black from People Tree for more formal occasions and to take the look into the evening.

OLOL July Style Edit Clothing

Both looks go equally well with the accessories I’ve chosen.  I know there are plenty of 443512-290be77a2dd24ddeb0bb7aeb43bc27adother eco-brands of shoes on the market now which probably have better eco credentials, but I’ve been wearing Birkenstocks since I was about 15 and I’m not going to stop now.  I always make sure I get the most out of each pair by caring for them well and getting them resoled as needed.  These gold crackle effect sandals look great paired with a cork & gold oversized clutch from Etsy and this simple gold layered necklace from Komodo or a pair of Brazilian paxiubinha seed earrings from LauraBijoux.  With 20 years of jewellery design experience, Brazilian expat Laura Torster now lives in Portugal and she ships her eco creations worldwide.  She’s also very happy to work with you to create something bespoke for you and at the moment I’ve commissioned her to create a pair the same earrings pictured above for me, but with a spring loaded loop, as I am one of those rare individuals without pierced ears.

OLOL Style Edit Accessories

When it comes to sunglasses, I’ve always slightly struggled with the eco options.  They’re often made from bamboo and are probably great if you have one of those faces that looks good wearing classic RayBan wayfarers.  But I don’t have one of those faces.  And I was so happy to find these stylish and feminine black & honey MARINO sunglasses from Antonio Verde, made from recycled plastic and bamboo.

AV1608_004_black_honey

I always would encourage anyone to shop sustainably by going to charity shops and second hand clothing stores, however sometimes its hard to get specific pieces you might need when shopping this way, and so I want to share these style updates as a regular, up to date resource guide for you to find out what is out there in the eco fashion world.  I have done style edits in the past, but as I’ve started to research and connect with all the wonderful companies out there producing green and sustainable fashion, I want to get a chance to feature as many as I can. In particular, UK-based companies. There has been a great response from nearly everyone I’ve approached so far.

I have not been compensated (financially or in kind) for featuring any of the brands listed in this style edit.  I just genuinely like them. Komodo have, however, been kind enough to provide me with some lovely high res images to use in this feature and they’ve also tipped me off with some insider information that their summer sale is due to start later this week on their website: www.komodo.co.uk.

I hope this inspires to you to check out some of these eco brands when you’re updating your wardrobe this summer.

Product Review: Karma Cola

Okay, so although I’m not a habitual drinker of sweet drinks, I think all you guys know I like the occasional cola with a veggie burger or pizza. I don’t drink Coke or Pepsi because they are…well…Coke and Pepsi. I don’t need to patronise you by explaining the dangers of the GMO high fructose corn syrup and aspartame that sweetens most sweet tasting drinks on the market, but in case you need reminding why its so dangerous, or if this is news to you entirely, just have a quick read of my article from last summer on Alternative Natural Sodas.

I know a cola addiction is a real problem for a lot of people. Even for some people who know enough to know better. You already know they’re not great for your body and health.  The colas on the market aren’t organic, so they’re not great for the planet. And they’re not fair trade, so they’re not great for the people producing the raw ingredients.  Until now.  The folks over at Karma Cola have made the first fair trade (real) cola in the UK and they were nice enough to send me over a selection of their fair trade, organic sodas to try out.

I want to say at this point, that 99% of the time you should JUST DRINK WATER.  Yes I am reviewing a soft drink today, but that does not change my view that sodas are meant to be a treat.  And I think the people at Karma Cola get that, which is why each of their drinks is quite special – in taste and packaging – and they feel special to drink.

So here’s what I thought of what they sent me:

Karma Cola

My 5 minute review in the video below pretty much sums up my views on this drink. But to recap, this cola has a satisfying mouth feel because its made with real cane sugar and it has the right amount of carbonation. There are distinct spicy and botanical notes that come from the nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, lime and orange oils used in it (and presumably the cola nuts themselves…though I have no idea what a cola nut tastes like). There is also a clear citrusy-ness to it that reminds you of when you order a Coke while holidaying in Europe and it comes with a slice of lemon in it.  But this is nicer because the flavour comes from the Sicilian lemons they use. In short, I like it. I think its the best tasting natural cola on the market.

Lemony Lemonade 

Okay, first off, isn’t the bottle adorable?

9ff086d961350842fb93ca6ef94170ba

Who can resist the charms of a nonchalant lemon?

But lets talk about the taste. I hate to be London-centric, but if you are a Londoner, maybe you’re familiar with a chain of restaurants here called Franco Manca. They just do sourdough pizzas. That’s it. Pizzas, organic wine, fantastic coffees and a homemade sparkling lemonade they bottle themselves. I order it every time I go there. And that is what Lemony Lemonade tastes like to me. Its those big old lumpy Sicilian lemons that do it. They have a heady, floral quality to them. But there was something else there…a slight but pleasant bitterness. What was it…what was it….ah…yes, a hint of Fresca. Lemony Lemonade has a trick up its sleeve…grapefruit! So, Karma Cola had another win with me.  But could they get top marks for 3 out of 3 flavours?

Gingerella

This is where Karma Cola could lose me. I’m kind of funny about ginger beers, ginger ales, etc.  I just don’t like the aftertaste.  Up until now, its been the bottle I’ve left in the fridge and I’ve not tasted it.  So here it goes, as I write this.  (I take a sip.)  Okay, my first thought is that I think it would be better over ice with some pineapple juice, Brugal and a small paper umbrella stuck in the glass…served poolside. But…as far as ginger drinks go its pretty good.  If you like fiery Jamaican ginger beers, its a bit like one of those, but not as cloyingly sweet.  It does have lemon in it, but if I were designing the perfect ginger ale or ginger beer to suit my own tastes, it would have more lemon in it.  As it is, its like a lightly carbonated honey and ginger tea.  Definitely natural tasting and less carbonated than the other two flavours I tried.

So, this was fun.  Thanks to Karma Cola for the drinks.  And thanks to you for reading what I’ve had to say about them.  And if you’re after any of these fair trade organic sodas, I believe they’re available at Waitrose in the UK.

 

 

Real Food Organic Groceries on a Budget

We’re a family of 3 living on a single income and that’s not always easy when you don’t eat processed or GMO foods and try to buy mostly organic.  But, you know, it can be done.

I do a video each month on my YouTube channel showing what I’ve received in my real food organic grocery order (and yes…the odd pizza might sneak its way in there!).  My grocery order has to accommodate myself (pescatarian and mostly gluten-free), my husband (full on meat eater) and our baby (can’t decide what she likes/doesn’t like from one week to the next!) as well as our dog.

We budget around £45-£75 per week (depending on whether its a ‘big shop’ or not) and I’ll let you know how we do it in 3 easy ways.

1. Meal Planning

This is the most important thing I do to save money and still buy the food I want to buy for my family.  There are many ways to meal plan.  There are meal planning services you can use for only a few dollars/pounds a month and this is great when you’re short on time.  If you can find 15 spare minutes per week though, you don’t need to use a service.  I’ll tell you how I do it.  I have a Pinterest account and keep a folder of favourite family meals that are tried and true.  If I’m short on time, I’ll choose 5 or 6 at random, check the ingredients list and add the required items to my grocery list.

2. Online Shopping

This isn’t an option for everyone, as not all areas offer online shopping, but if you are able to do this, I highly recommend it as it helps in avoiding making any ‘impulse buys’.  I just go online, stick to my list and check out.  A lot of grocery stores have delivery plans which are just a few £££’s a month you can do unlimited grocery orders without additional delivery charges.  I find I’m able to get the best variety of real food products and organic groceries at Ocado and if you’re a new customer, they’ll offer you £20 off your first online grocery shop (email me at ourlittleorganiclifeblog@gmail.com for your voucher).

3. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Box or Organic Delivery Box

Many rural areas run CSA schemes which support local farmers and are great value.  You will have to meal plan according to what’s in your box – so sort of reverse meal planning.  There are also non CSA style organic delivery boxes here in the UK such as Abel & Cole and Riverford Organics.  I get my organic fruit, veg & salad box with my Ocado order from a company called Wholegood.  Their fruit and veg are really good quality and they’re very generous with the volume of produce in their boxes.  They also let you know what you’ll be receiving in your box a couple of weeks in advance, which is helpful for meal planning.