Tag Archives: uk

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.

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 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:

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 (if you click here).

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.

pescatarian paleo

Okay, like soooooo many others, I’ve jumped on the Paleo bandwagon this January.

But here in the UK the Paleo diet is not quite so much a ‘thing’ yet.  In fact, if I had a nickel for every blank look I’ve received when I’ve said I’m doing Paleo, well, I’d have a few nickels at least.  (But hey, I live in the UK, so what good are nickels to me?)

So, what IS the Paleo diet?  Well, its based on the premise that our guts haven’t really evolved much in the last 15,000 years so we’re really better off eating what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, including fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, eggs, vegetables & fruit, fungi, roots and nuts.  Things you can’t eat are grains, legumes, dairy, (white) potatoes, refined salts and sugars and processed oils.  (Processed oils?  Yeah, I know, all oils are processed.  I use common sense here:  pasture-fed butter, organic raw coconut oil and olive oil are the only cooking fats I keep in the house.  If I ate red meat, lard would be on that list as well.)  This way of eating isn’t just about weight loss.  Done properly, its helped a lot of people with autoimmune issues (Crohn’s, Coeliac, etc) and leaky gut, as well as people with inflammation issues caused by food intolerances they may not even have been aware of before.  

The thing is, I’m pescatarian.  I don’t eat red meat or poultry, but I do eat fish, so I can’t strictly be called a vegetarian or an omnivore.  So I contacted Dr Loren Cordain, an expert on the Paleo diet about whether I could adapt this diet as a pescatarian.  I received a fairly prompt and unhelpful response setting out that in no uncertain terms would they advocate not eating meat.  It threw me a little bit, but only for about 2 minutes until I thought about it logically.  Whats not to love about this way of eating and why did I need commercial validation to do it anyway?  My diet is now filled with brightly coloured vegetables and greenery, fresh organic fish, organic free-range eggs and healthy fats & nuts – lots of unprocessed foods.  All I have eliminated from my diet is a vast amount of sugar – by this I mean sugar in the form of bread, pasta and grains, not just refined sugar.  So, I say boooo to Dr Cordain and I’m just enjoying doing Paleo the way that works for me.

So, have I lost any weight with the diet?  Well, its only been 3 weeks and as I don’t have a functional set of scales, I honestly couldn’t tell you.  What I can say is that my stomach is much flatter, I feel overall much more toned and my energy levels are much higher than they were.

Have I cheated?  Well, yes.  I have.  Several times.  And I’m okay with that.  There have been a couple of mornings when I have really missed my oatmeal, cooked with coconut cream and sweetened with apple and raisins – so I made it.  I didn’t feel the worse for  having it.  I’ve also continued to have a bit of organic milk in my tea and the odd bit of sheep or goat milk cheese.  For me its not a competition about being ‘right’ – its a process of finding out what works best for my lifestyle and what makes me feel the healthiest.  I lived a low-fat lifestyle for years, but now my diet is full of plenty of healthy fats – yes, including some saturated fats – and as a result, I’m staying full throughout the day and my usual mid-afternoon hypoglycaemic episodes appear to have disappeared.

What do I eat?  You know, its much MUCH easier than I thought it would be.  For lunch I might pack a tupperware box filled with organic baby spinach, a small baked sweet potato with a tad of feta crumbled on top, a grated carrot salad with raisins, a small bag of nuts as a snack and a couple of pieces of fruit.  Or a half an avocado on a bed of quinoa with some greens on the side or cooked kale with a lemon wedge to squeeze over it all.  Because I work in an office, I tend to save eating fishy things for dinner at home or restaurants – at the moment I’m really into Alaskan wild salmon, though also am trying to eat more local sustainable fish and also sardines.   I’ve also found a fantastic recipe for cauliflower pizza that I have adapted by putting sheep feta in the crust and grating some St Helen’s hard goat cheese (a version of cheddar) on top.

Because I have a sweet tooth, I also sometimes make an um…healthy(ish) sundae for dessert.  To do this, I whiz up 1.5 frozen bananas in the food processor with a tablespoon of maple syrup.  If it needs more liquid to get creamy, add a tablespoon of coconut water or coconut milk.  That makes the ice ‘cream’, which is like the texture of soft serve.  To make the chocolate sauce, you’ll need to open a can of full fat coconut milk which has been in the fridge for at least 24 hours (I always keep a few in the fridge now – the coconut cream rises to the top of the can and hardens and delicious coconut water remains at the bottom of the can, so you can use both) and scoop a heaped tablespoon of the coconut cream  into a small saucepan.  On a low-med heat, melt the coconut cream and whisk in a couple of teaspoons of a dark cacao powder along with enough maple syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten.  It will make a thick, fudgey hot chocolate sauce to pour over your ice ‘cream’.  Delicious!

There are some wonderful bloggers out there who inspire me with a regular dose of Paleo friendly recipes for meals, packed lunches, cakes, cookies & muffins.  Here are my favourites!  (And please don’t knock the Mommy Bloggers – these women channel their energies into creating delicious food for their amazing websites and have a better grasp on social media than most FTSE500 companies!)

Against All Grain

Primal Palate

Coconut Mama

Elana’s Pantry

Nom Nom Paleo

The Paleo Mama

The Paleo Mom

Paleo Newbie

In general, I guess while there is a lot I’m enjoying about this way of eating, I’m a little cautious about cutting significant food groups from the diet and probably lean a bit more toward the Weston A Price dietary guidelines than strict Paleo, but we’ll see how it goes.  By my next post I may have eased off the Paleo thing a bit.  Its not everyone’s cup of tea, but rest assured there are some tasty recipes in the wings and more adventures of dining in London to come.

Keeping It Real…in London

This is the desk of a Londoner at 7.45am.

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This could be the desk of any Londoner at this time of the morning. Inside the bag could be a bacon roll, possibly porridge or ham & emmental croissant. Most likely a bacon roll. Londoners LOVE bacon rolls, especially oozing with brown sauce. Personally I don’t eat bacon or rolls, so this particular bag contains a pot of porridge with slices of banana and maple syrup.

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So you may hear me wittering away from time to time about blissful mornings at Borough Market, perusing tables of fresh baked goods & organic cheeses or I may even claim to the odd morning of waking up with the birds to whip up some fresh muffins.  But during the week – this is how I eat.  This blog is called Eating London and believe me, this is how London eats.