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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

December 30, 2018

Getting Clutter-Free for 2019

Heading into a new year is always a good excuse to wipe the slate clean and start afresh in my opinion. So many people are made fun of as each year comes to a close for having plans, resolutions, promises they want to keep for themselves but is there any harm in them? If people use the start of a new year happening as an excuse to give themself a kick up the butt in some shape or form, I will be the last person to shoot down that kind of positivity. I like to set myself some goals each year that I know are attainable (and a couple that are designed to make me push myself out of my comfort zone) but I've realised over the last couple of years that it's really quite hard to just wake up in this fresh mindset, ready to face all of these new challenges you have set for yourself. That's why this year I'm doing a few things to shut down 2018 and bring it to a healthy, obvious close in the hopes that I can move forward with more clarity and certainty.

I don't believe having this sort of attitude requires too much from an individual, but by already doing some of these things, I feel like I am preparing myself for the future in a good way and starting things off on the right foot - it's helping me provide the best environment possible to reap the best benefit as possible. I've just got my fingers and toes crossed that I can keep this motivation up! So here's some of the small last-minute changes I am making to my life and world around me in order to start January 2019 in the best light (and simply some other suggestions that might suit some more common NY resolutions!):

Sort out your bookcase. If your household is anything like mine, your bookshelves will be bursting at the seams with a wide variety of literature that doesn't always get the attention it all deserves. Bookcases seem to have a knack for collecting clutter because we tend to place things there then forget about them so I'm making an effort to tidy them up heading into the first week of January. I know for a fact our bookshelves have doubles of some books and there's things there that I don't even care about owning anymore therefore, having a declutter and knowing I can donate some nice books to my local charity shops is a positive way to head into the new year.

Sort out your spice rack.... and your kitchen cupboards in general. Another place that hordes clutter for me is our kitchen. There's lots of tins, jars, half-opened items etc. that seem to linger in the kitchen for months on end and it brings that positive environment rating down. Something I am doing as the year draws to a close and the new year starts is using up this clutter in new recipes which means not only are food items not being wasted, but I'm testing and trying new recipes, cuisines, and meals I otherwise wouldn't have experienced or researched for. The big major tidy-up in this area for me is the spice cupboard. I am very much a spices and herbs kinda gal when it comes to cooking so it should be no surprise that one whole cupboard is dedicated to just these ingredients alone, but when your 5ft 2 on a tall day, you can imagine the dilemma I have trying to find anything in there without everything coming crashing down around me. Having a system, some organisers, and just a general clear out of this space is going to vastly improve my kitchen and minimise clutter!

Get rid of food that might hinder you. Before anyone berates me, I am very firmly situated in the camp "eat what you want and do what makes you happy" but I know for many people heading into the New Year, a goal of weight loss or gain, fitness, health etc. is often on the cards so setting yourself up for the start of the year the right way is the best way to kickstart it all. After Christmas my house tends to have a lot of junk lingering around in the form of chocolate, excess booze, savoury snacks... you get the jist. By donating anything to food banks, neighbours, the local church, or simply using it up before 2019 rolls around can be helpful for those of you who might have goals in mind which rely in some part on your eating/drinking habits. Particularly those of you who are trying Veganuary this January (well done to *any* and all of you who are trying this - I really wanted to this year but can't due to some health reasons!), ensuring your kitchen cupboards and fridges are only stocked full of vegan foods etc. can make the transition easier as there's less temptation and less opportunity for you to be swayed by other items.

Get ready to donate! I mentioned donating food earlier if you can, but something I think people wildly overlook after the Christmas period is donating unwanted Christmas gifts. Now, that's not me saying that anyone is ungrateful, but receiving gifts that you know you are not going to use or don't suit you, aren't your cup of tea etc. is commonplace during Christmas and seeing those things just cluttering up your home and gathering dust when someone else may absolutely *love* them is reason enough in my book to get donating. It's never too soon to donated unwanted gifts and of course, your local high street charity shops will take more things gladly. However, also investigate things like your local homeless shelters, women's shelters and children's hospitals in case they are in need of anything. Items like clothing and accessories are easily managed and moved onto loving homes but organisations such as Toiletries Amnesty help share unwanted toiletries and cosmetics with those who may need them most. Even if you've opened something and tested it out or you're sat there with 8 Lynx Africa gift sets and at your whits end, places such as Toiletries Amnesty can take it all off your hands and help you put it to good use elsewhere.

Get back on that capsule wardrobe wagon. Back in September, I pledged to minimise my spending habits when it came to fashion once again and revisited the idea of sustaining a capsule wardrobe. I honestly believe that even if you're not interested in a minimal lifestyle, having a basic capsule wardrobe to build on can be extremely beneficial - even if you find it difficult to stick to like me! I find I give myself a hard reset with my wardrobe at certain points throughout the year and always follow my capsule wardrobe rules to achieve this. Having a big clear out can be very cleansing for the soul and the act of organising this part of my life always impacts me positively which has a ripple effect into other areas of my life. Get organising, get donating, and get bettering yourself via a clean and tidy wardrobe and I promise you'll see some benefits.

Hit that budgeting and/or planning hard. Something I'm very keen to do from the get-go this year is plan plan plan. I'm quite an organised person generally anyway, but when I can efficiently plan things out, I always feel so much more collected and also more confident with what's going on in my life and managing any hurdles that may come my way. One thing I always struggle with however is budgeting and thus, this is one of my big focuses and motivators this year. I find I can budget really well when I know I have something particular to save towards and whilst I know I have some big things planned this coming year that definitely need some savings behind them, creating smaller, more monthly budgeting goals is also going to help me keep that focus. I've already pledged to only buy a small number of fashion items that I need this year and not to buy anything else other than the items of that very concise list. Another way I'm aiming to budget is to plan and prep meals thoroughly so I can try to minimise expensive meals - both in and out the house - to see how much of a difference this makes. Planning can often get a bad rep as people see it as "boring" and try to take the mick out of those who do it but when you see just how much you can achieve with a little bit of organisation to back you up, it should only ever boost you and your life in a good way - ignore the Negative Nigels!

Shut down any and all negative relationships. Lastly, something I wanted to touch on is something I have thought I needed to do in the past but never did, only for things to blow up in my face further down the line anyway. Decluttering your life doesn't need to include just physical objects or materialistic things, it can also relate to any relationships you have. These can be with family members, friends, partners... if you're not happy parties on both sides of the fence, then it may be time to step back and ask yourself why and also question whether things can improve or not. I'm not suggesting here that if you're going through any sort of difficulties with a loved one right now that you just completely stop speaking to them - that's often not the right course of action for anyone and doesn't always result in the right response. However, if you feel a relationship of any sort has run it's course, it's feeling like a lot of effort (and not the good kind), or it's simply turning toxic, don't bring that bad energy into your new year that you're shaping with so much promise. Relationships of all types can be tricky to manage and sustain but those that are genuine and reciprocated can get through a lot. Those in which an individual (which could be them or you) is toxic where it is effecting the happiness of either party or the relationship as a whole may not be the best idea to drag into your new year which could hold so much for you. Cutting ties isn't a sign of weakness or heartlessness, but this sense of "decluttering" could be so rewarding for you.

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December 27, 2018

Looking Back on 2018

2018 - what a year it's been huh? I feel like I can speak for most of us and say that it's been one hell of year; one which has been pretty negative and that just seems to be a general consensus. I don't know why that seems to be the case, but it seems this year has been hard for many of us - myself included - for a number of reasons and most of seem happy to say goodbye to it ASAP so we can move onto new ventures and hopefully more positive things. In terms of NB, blogging has been a huge positive for me this year as I've not put pressure on myself to post regularly, to post things I don't want to etc. and that has definitely helped in the overall quality of my posts and how pleased I am of the content I've put together. My photography has improved over the past 12 months, my writing is something I take more time with to ensure it's as true to me as possible and comes across as passionate and thoughtful, and my interests are shared more openly across this safe space because if blogging isn't for your own benefit, then is it really worth it?

As this awful year draws to a close, I thought I'd compile some of my favourite posts I've written during 2018 to prove to myself that not every aspect of the year has been negative or bad and that actually? Northern Blood can be a gem sometimes and I'm very proud of the work I produce with this wee hobby of mine:

Me & My Other Interests: Serial Killers I'd have a Cuppa With
Back in 2016, I started a series discussing all of my different interests that I may have not spoken about on the blog before but for some reason, this year I didn't really write many of this kind of post - except these ones about serial killers. I've always had a strong interest in serial killers and true crime but I've always felt like it didn't "fit in" with my blog content. It took until 2018 for me to realise that that's ridiculous and I can post about whatever I want on this wee blog and so, I did. After writing the first post I quickly realised that I could write essay after essay about various different serial killers I've shown an interest in researching and knowing more about over the years so Part Two and Part Three were born out of this "hobby". I had *so* much fun collecting information for these posts and writing them (and loved the fact that you guys enjoyed reading them so much too!).

Sustainable Sundays: Making an Eco-Friendly Home
2018 saw a continuation of the sustainability posts here on NB. Becoming more eco-friendly, ethical, sustainable etc. has been a huge passion of mine and I've definitely been learning and growing more and more in these realms over the last few months and documented this along the way. One post in particular that I enjoyed writing (and photographing) was some tips on how to have a more eco-friendly home that might not be initially obvious to anyone making a more conscious effort/switch to be more sustainable. Finding ways to make it easy for myself and others to make better decisions which have a better, more positive impact on our planet will always be something I enjoy publishing on this blog.

Astrology for Beginners - a Little Guide
One hobby/interest of mine that I talk about a lot over on my Instagram stories is astrology and horoscopes/birth charts but for some reason, I had never really discussed here on NB. So I threw together this introductory post into the world of astrology and what it all means, how it can be used, and why I have such an intense fascination with it all. I am 100% *that guy* who asks new people I meet what their sign is and boy oh boy, does it get some reactions. But, I absolutely adore exploring people's personalities and traits based on their signs and simply wanted to share the love in a fool-proof way. I also really loved the photos from this crisp and clear post!

Go Outside
Another big passion of mine is nature. I adore being in the great outdoors whether it takes the form of the woods, the seashore, the mountains - I love it all and honestly believe it is a form of medication, spirituality, and more. Nature is incredibly important to me and often, like so many of us, I can take it for granted or simply overlook how wonderful it is. Discussing how beautiful nature is and all of what it has to offer for us all was a nice breath of fresh air on my blog and I look forward to bringing more nature into my blog in 2019.

Sustainable Sundays: Stop Suppressing Sustainablity
Another Sustainable Sundays post I have to mention in this round-up is a bit of a rant I had. Sustainability definitely had it's moment in the spotlight in 2018 and I hope it continues well into future years, but it's not necessarily an easy decision and lifestyle for people to fully delve into as it can be expensive, reliant on external factors, and expectant of good health/dedication amongst many other things. Having an outlet to talk about the stigmas of sustainability and the struggles it can produce was healthy for me because I feel that it's very easy to promote such a clean and kind lifestyle but as someone who actively encourages such a lifestyle, I see myself as being extremely responsible to also be completely transparent so sharing the negatives of sustainability is also important, y'know?

Real Talk: It's just Nipples
Although I didn't post many Real Talk posts this year, I did post on topics I had a lot of feelings on and therefore I'm quite proud of. One of those topics was the oppression we are still facing with "Free the Nipple". I, as much as the next person, don't see the issue with nipples, regardless of the gender attached to them and find that the rules and regulations of the autonomy of our bodies - in both real life and virtually online - is sad to still see in 2018. I can only hope it carries on changing in 2019 and we see more and more freedom, but having a good ol' rant about those changes I would like to see happening was very therapeutic.

How to be a Fashion Revolutionary & Ask #whomademyclothes
Back in April, it was Fashion Revolution Week and people were asking #whomademyclothes. I think FRW is extremely necessary as I'm a firm believer that fast fashion brands, particularly those big names on the highstreet, should be held accountable for how their products are made and sourced and should be completely transparent. It's important for people to know where their clothing, shoes, accessories etc. come from, who made them, and in what environment. By asking these brands #whomademyclothes, they can see how interested people are in ethical work environments, equal pay and rights etc. and that many feel more strongly about these things than they do about the latest fashion trends. So if you are someone who wants to know more, this might be the post for you.

Reasons to Thrift & Shop Second Hand
Following the clothing theme, another post I loved preparing and posting was the reasons why you should thrift/shop second hand more because boy oh boy, do I love a good charity shop rummage. Being someone who has been consciously avoiding fast fashion for the past year and a half, writing this post was so much fun because it gave me a chance to share the love and explain just how beneficial secondhand shopping can be on the environment, for charity, and even on your bank balance!

Real Talk: You are Enough
The last post I wanted to mention is the only other Real Talk post I published this year. Self love is something I always struggle with - I'm very good at convincing others that they are worthy of all the love in the world (especially their own) but not so good at practicing what I preach. It was very calming to compile this post and just completely write from the heart and convince myself that I'm worth some self love. I'm going to make sure I read it when I feel I need a pick-me-up and ensure I practice little forms of self love whenever I can.
* * * * *
I'm excited to see what 2019 brings for me in terms of Northern Blood, my life generally, my career, and family. 2018 has certainly been a hard one and there's many things that happened and many feelings that were expressed that I am more than happy to be saying goodbye to and hoping that I won't ever see again. But now that I'm heading into 2019, I'm *so much* happier than I'd ever thought I could be - within myself and also with decisions/plans I am making - but I'm also much more optimistic. It's easy to slip into a nostalgic stupor as the year draws to a close or you can take the reins and steer that close into a positive ending and ensure you start January right. I'm definitely backing that latter mindset.

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December 05, 2018

Have Yourself a Sustainable Little Christmas

It's just 20 days to go until Christmas Day and who is as excited as me?! As you may know if you are a regular reader or if you follow me anywhere on my social media, I am trying my best to be a little more sustainable and thoughtful this Christmas (check out this post for sustainable gift ideas). Aside from the gifts I have chosen, I've realised there's lots of other little things you can do this Christmas to still keep the festive spirit very much alive but also ensure that you're not costing the planet - so here we go!

Use brown parcel/kraft paper for wrapping your gifts. A really simple switch to make but completely overlooked. I only just found out this year that many wrapping papers are not actually recyclable due to the coatings and treatments they have had (even if they seem like ol' regular paper!). Therefore kraft paper or parcel paper is a fab alternative that keeps your gift wrapping completely eco-friendly. This also gives you the chance to be really creative as you can paint, draw, or stamp your own designs onto the paper or buy some recyclable twine or reuse any ribbons you may have already from previous parcels and do some simple ribbon work around your parcels. Kraft paper is really cheap and you can often get quite a few metres of it in one lot. If you don't fancy using kraft paper, why not try plain and simple newspaper instead and use colourful ink and stamps to make it look festive? You can add brown paper or card gift tags too!

Try fabric wrapping too. So, this is a new one for me, but hear me out. Furoshiki is a Japanese knot wrapping technique and I am obsessed. There's lots of instructional how-to videos on YouTube for this technique and I'm really keen to give it a go this year. Lush are always a brand that have done the scarf wrap really well with their bathbomb gift sets, but I never thought of doing something like that myself. This is a great way to use up any old fabric you may have lying around or if you are inspired by the likes of Lush, you could totally buy a bandana or scarf to try this idea out. This is a particularly good idea for anyone in your life that may use the scarf too as it's technically an extra gift!

Buy things in bulk and spread them out. Something that is a great way to be more eco-friendly but that will also save you some pennies is bulk buying an item then spreading it across many recipients. For example, you could buy a really large bag of bath salts, a large bottle of body lotion or bath oil etc. and a set of smaller jars or bottles (or even get them secondhand in a charity shop!) and spread the product out amongst the smaller containers. This may seem cheeky to some people, but this is a great way to make little stock fillers or an extra small gift to go with other things. You can then decorate the containers however you wish (with twine, ribbon, artwork etc.) and give it a handmade feel. This also gives you a chance to experiment so you could mix together bath salts and bath petals for example and make your own concoctions for others to enjoy.

Make things yourself! In-keeping with what I just mentioned, if you're crafty or a good baker, why not make things?! I probably should have included this in my gift guide but, if you have a natural flare for something, definitely utilise it at Christmas time as not only will it save you some money, but you can also make your gifts more personalise and sentimental to the person you're making the present for. An example of this for me would be the fact that I could make someone an embroidery hoop, some cookies, or a natural face mask. There's tons of things out there you could make whether it's a drawing, painting, a homemade candle, a room spray, a cake, Christmas tree decorations for the next year, jams or marmalade, knitted gloves scarves and hats... the possibilities are endless.

Create your own hamper. Who out there has someone tricky to buy for each year? I know I do but, a great way to get around this is by creating your own personalised hamper for that person. Of course you can buy a variety of hampers and gift sets/boxes, but by creating your own version, you can make sure that every single product included in it is something the receiver likes and will use. You could include food items, drinks, beauty products, jewellery, home decor... there's so many great things you can throw in a hamper! You can also make them very specific to a particular hobby (gardening, favourite movie, sport, music etc.) so you have so many potential avenues to go down. Although the individual gifts may not be necessarily sustainable, you absolutely can try to make the hamper itself purse-friendly and sustainable instead. Scouting out baskets and boxes in charity shops is the best for this and it means you can display the items you've hand-selected for this gift in the best way possible.

Don't just stop there with charity shops. Think decorations, too. If you're on a budget or simply want to source things second-hand so you're not buying into a high street Christmas, charity shops can be goldmines for second-hand Christmas goodies - especially decorations. Things such as garlands, bunting, baubles, and tinsel can be found in charity shops if you check regularly and closely during this time of year - even whole Christmas trees can be found in some of them!

Use what's naturally available and completely free! If you're really struck for cash or you want to really try to be zero waste and eco-friendly, use what nature might be available to you to create a festive home and gifts. You could collect pine cones from the local park and sprigs of Christmas tree if your local flower shop sell them or if you have a real tree in your home. These pine sprigs could be used in your gift wrap decoration or could be added to decor around the home. They can also be plopped into some hot water to create a lovely room fragrance if you have people visiting. If you have time before Christmas, you could also dry out and press some flowers and leaves to use for decoration or even for gifts - placing pressed plants in photo frames can make pretty gifts.

Up-cycle the old to make it the new. Lastly, I wanted to mention another thing that we can overlook and that is upcycling some of our old Christmas decorations to refresh them and give them a new breath of life. Using the same decorations can get boring and they can begin to look tatty and tired, but by giving them a makeover you can save yourself some serious money and minimise your waste as you won't be tempted to throw old decorations out. An easy way to do this is by buying spray paint or glue and glitter and transforming your tree decorations. This year is seeing a grow in the popularity of very garish bright decorations as well as the classic millennial rose gold, so you could always spray old baubles a fresh new colour or even dip lightweight toys you might have (such as small dinosaurs, army men etc.) in glue and glitter to make your tree very Paperchase-chic. You could cover old pillar candles in glitter too to make them more festive looking or add one to a large bowl with some old tinsel or pine cones to give your dining table some Christmas spirit. Another favourite of mine is using old books to create new pieces - Matt made some beautiful flowers from pages of old books and you absolutely could use the same resources to make a garland of stars, snowflakes, or other festive shapes for your fireplace (or use that leftover kraft paper from your gift wrapping to give it some variety!)

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November 30, 2018

Cost Per Wear: Ethical & Sustainable Fashion & the Blogging Clash

Back in April 2018, we saw a surge in people asking #whomademyclothes as it was Fashion Revolution Week. This week each year sees many of the most popular brands being challenged to be more transparent about the process their items go through from who collects the natural fibres, to how the items are made in factories, to the shipment of the finished articles across the globe. This, alongside many other reasons, is why I opted out of buying into the fast fashion industry as much and why I'm still trying to create a fully slow/sustainable/ethical wardrobe for myself now. Whilst I find it really important to ask brands about their production etc., Fashion Revolution Week naturally sees a surge of interest in this big ethical question which isn't maintained throughout the year. This isn't the fault of the movement of course, but it's interesting to see how little interest is shown when the topic isn't in the spotlight.

Which brings me on to the real topic of today's post. You've probably all guessed that it might be a bit of a rambling rant of a one already, but I just had some things I had to get off my chest (no surprises here for regular readers). Being more sustainable and buying more into slow fashion has gained a lot of popularity, especially during this past year, and it's such a positive thing. There's been a huge growth and popularity in sustainable bloggers and YouTubers, people advocating a more minimalist, less consumer-led life, and lots of people showing you how DIY things from beauty products to cleaning to clothing alterations and everything in-between. More awareness is being raised which is obviously a great step within such a consumerist society, but is it just a phase?

Over this past year I've made a switch in the content I consumer for entertainment. I mainly watch recipe, zero waste, slow fashion/thrift YouTube accounts now and I find that it has completely altered my purchasing and "need" for things for the better. Some of the "big name" YouTubers I still watch now and again have seemingly started to dip their toe into the ethical/sustainable fashion world and again, whilst that's a fantastic thing to see, it's all falling a little short for me. I've genuinely watched a YT video of a quite well-known influencer review an item of clothing from a more sustainable brand (thumbs up) but literally - as in physically - wave away the explanation of sustainability and ethical fashion with a flick of their wrist and that was that. I fully understand that the majority of this particular person's audience might not give a hoot about the background to an item and just want to see on trend pieces, but plopping the word "sustainable" into a video just doesn't cut it for me. It's not benefiting anyone if you discuss it in such a sweeping way. It needs an explanation.

Although ethical and sustainable clothing is becoming more of a popular choice, the true benefits of purchasing such items are glossed over with "it's good for the planet" and that's that. It was not that long ago that everyone and their gran were talking about that Stacey Dooley Fashion Industry Documentary and rightly so, so many influencers, bloggers etc. shared their horror over the truth of fast fashion via their social medias. Fast forward a week later, they're throwing out "AD" after "AD" for those exact fast giants they were horrified about just a matter of days ago. Of course, it's an influencers job and income at stake if they suddenly stopped doing this, but I'd almost prefer sustainability to not be mentioned at all by such big names if it's going to be just a trend to get them some more views, readers, or subscribers.

I feel like a cynical wee bitch writing that because I know, every little helps - even in this situation - but I can't help but feel the lack of detail is a massive error. Often individuals with the best of intentions can decide to start shopping more sustainable and ethical clothing only to find out how expensive it is. This can be a huge turning off point for many and can cause many to turn away from the idea. And you know? I totally get it. Ethical brands are *definitely* more expensive but if there was more explanation behind why this is from influencers who undoubtedly influence their audience, then it would certainly help.

Ethical and sustainable fashion is more pricey because you're paying for every step of that garments journey. You're paying for natural and sustainable materials which can be grown in bulk, which don't damage the planet in anyway, which are paid for fairly by brands paying those who farm the fibres. You're paying for the dyes and treatments used to not damage the planet so much; to cost a little extra because the individuals completing this step are paid fairly and treated with the respect they deserve. You're paying for the individuals who sew those materials and fabrics together to create your items to be paid a good living wage, for them to have safe and clean working conditions, and to not be mistreated like sweat shop workers are. You're paying for more environmentally-friendly ways to ship garments around the globe amongst so much more. *These* vital points are what are often missed out or forgotten about when advocating sustainable slow fashion.

Many sustainable brands aim to have less of an impact on the planet but of course you as a customer have a part to play in that too. As I mentioned earlier, I am the first person to agree that sustainable clothing can be damn expensive but the reasoning behind this and what it means for you as the consumer has method in its seeming madness. Many bloggers and YouTubers in the fashion industry will talk about "cost per wear" to justify purchasing an often expensive garment or item. This exact philosophy should be applied to sustainable clothing because not only are you buying into brands and an industry that cares wholeheartedly along the journey of their productions, but also once they've been passed over to you after purchase. Sustainability is not only about being kind to the planet and others but also about proving that you don't need as much as you think you do. That's not me saying that you have to be minimalist if you're trying to be sustainable (lord knows I'd call myself anything but), but if you've bought a well made white t-shirt that is made from sustainable fabric that is high quality, that t-shirt should last you for years and not need to be replaced or repurchased for some time. Compare that to £3 basic tee from the likes of Primark and I guarantee after a few washes it loses it's shape, crisp white shade, and it will have almost certainly have started to bobble.

I know you're all sat there thinking "Jesus Christ Amyleigh get off your high horse" and you know what? I wouldn't blame you because I'm as lost as you are at this point as to where this post was going. But, I want to leave you with some food for thought:

If you buy a dress for say £30 (usually what I used to consider the top-end of my budget when I used to buy *way* too many clothing items from fast fashion high-street retailers), divide that by two. You've now got £15. That £15 is probably the wholesale price (it's assumed that some retailers will mark up items up to two times, some mark up for as little as 20%, but many mark it up more than that). Now half that wholesale price of £15 - we're left with £7.50. That £7.50 is the price of the fabric, the labour, the machinery, the factory rent, the additional items such as buttons or zippers, the packaging for the item, the cutting and sewing of the fabric - all for £7.50? £7.50 is just over the top-end of the National Minimum Wage per hour in the UK. Therefore that £30 dress may have been a "bargain" for you, but at the drastic cost of someone else. It's overlooking the livelihood, rights, and just general human kindness that each and every person deserves. I know that a £3 tee in Primark might be all you can afford and I've been there. I understand. All I ask is that you think twice when you see a sale or you only buy what is needed because your wardrobe bursting with stuff has blood sweat and tears sewn into each seam.

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November 26, 2018

My 10-Step Cruelty Free Korean Skincare Routine

It's been a wee while since I did some real beauty chat on NB, so I'm coming at you all with my evening skincare routine that just so happens to be heavily influenced by Korean skincare products and practices. Over the last couple of years, the "X Step Korean Skincare" routines have swept through the online beauty community so surprise surprise, ya girl got sucked right into them. If there's one thing I feel like Korean's are known for, it's for caring for their skin and being observant of their skin needs. Having shared my morning skincare routine a few months ago now, I thought it was about time I shared what I do in my evening routine because if there's one thing that really helps out my oily, acne-prone skin, it's having this quite heavy routine but oh my my, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it.

Before I get into each step and each product I like for them, I have to mention here that these step routines aren't for everyone. Some people find them great for their skin whilst others find it just makes them break out more so take everything I say with a pinch of salt. What works for one person and skin type won't necessarily work for another. It's also worth noting here that some people do a 4-step routine, some do 10 - and some might do something in between. I typically do around 9 steps most days but not every evening as it really would be overkill. So here, let me show you:

Monday: 6 steps (no exfoliation, no face mask, and no sleep mask)
Tuesday: 9 steps (traditional face mask, chemical exfoliation, and sleep mask added)
Wednesday: 7 steps (traditional face mask added)
Thursday: 8 steps (solid exfoliation and sleep mask added)
Friday: 7 steps (traditional face mask added)
Saturday: 7 steps (traditional face mask added)
Sunday: 10 steps (solid exfoliation, sheet mask, and sleep mask added)

Although the use of traditional wash off-style face masks aren't usually included in a Step Korean skincare method, I really enjoy doing a face mask most evenings and find that it helps my skin out a great deal so I slot them in between steps 2 and 3. I typically listen to my skin though and if it's looking and feeling fine (and more importantly, I'm feeling damn tired) I will skip the traditional mask as it's not a necessary step anyway!

Step One: Oil-based Cleanse
Heimish All Clean Balm | 120ml | £13.0o -This cleansing balm is my absolute favourite skincare product. It's a really luxurious feeling balm but it's incredibly gentle and fuss-free too. I take a gumball-sized amount on the spatula provided and rub gently all over the face. I find it breaks down products like my mascara and eyebrow gel really well and just makes sure I've definitely removed all traces of makeup. It's not a heavy product at all but, it will still leave the skin feeling soft and nourished.

The idea of the the oil cleansing step is to remove the grime of the day. If you don't want to buy an oil-based cleanser, you can absolutely make your own. Some people believe natural oils to block the pores but, I've never had any issues with any natural oils I've used in the past. Natural cold-pressed coconut oil is a great option as it melts in a similar way to this balm. If you're more oily-skinned or acne-prone, I'd recommend mixing 1 part olive oil with 1 part castor oil. It will help neutralise your oil production levels whilst also leaving the skin soft and melt away makeup - nice and easy zero waste option!

Step Two: Foam/Water-based Cleanse
Superdrug Naturally Radiant Complete Cleanser | 150ml | £5.99 - I don't use a specifically Korean brand cleanser for this step, purely because this Foam Cleanser from Superdrug has become a ride or die product for me over the last couple of years. Again, it's gentle on the skin but it leaves my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and my skin is never as radiant or clear if I don't use this product in my routine.

Using a foam cleanser after oil cleansing at night helps lift any excess oil residue and just leaves your face feeling thoroughly clean and ready to soak up any products you want to lay on it overnight. I only use my foam cleanser in the mornings and miss out the oil cleanser as I just feel I need a refresh and a foam cleanser has a great way of waking up the skin.

Step Three: Exfoliate
Skin Food Black Sugar Scrub or Pixi Glow Tonic | 250ml | £18.0o - Exfoliating is a vital step in skincare for keeping skin looking healthy and getting rid of texture and lord knows I need help in that department! This step should only be done a couple of times a week as over-exfoliating can actually damage the skin so don't over-do it! My current go-to's are the Black Sugar Scrub from Skin Food (sadly Skin Food are ending!) or the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening Micro Polish. Both of these products are your classic grainy skin polish that buff away dead skin cells and I thoroughly enjoy using both of them - particularly on my chin and forehead. I also use the highly coveted Pixi Glow Tonic once a week too. I know some folk like to use this everyday as a toner but it's just too much for my skin to handle. Instead, I use it once a week as my exfoliation step to get rid of any dry/flaky skin and dead skin cells by popping some on a cotton round and spreading it across my face.

Exfoliation can be either a gritty scrub formula or a chemical one so just use whatever you are most comfortable with. I tend to use a scrub at the weekend as kind of a deep reset for my skin and half way through the week as a pick-me up whereas my chemical exfoliant is used at the start of my working week to try and keep some glow and healthiness locked into my skin.

Step Four: Toner
Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner | 150ml | £16.0o - Toner isn't usually a product I stay particularly loyal to, so I tend to try a new one each time my current bottle runs out. Recently, I've been using the Cosrx AHA/BHA Toner and I'm quite enjoying it. It's a lovely gentle toner that secretly packs a punch. I find it balances out my skin really well and isn't harsh or stripping on my skin which is always something I'm weary about being an oily-skinned girl (as I don't want it to send my oil-production into overdrive!). I also like this one for my morning routine too as it's very cooling and calming on the skin and the convenient spray bottle means I don't overuse or waste product.

Toner is a great step that can often be overlooked. When I was younger I never used to tone and I really notice a difference in my skin's condition nowadays if I miss out this step. I find toner helps balance my skin a lot and it can help prevent me from getting too oily everyday which is always a welcomed aid! Depending on your skin needs whether you're acne-prone, oily, dry etc. toner can be helpful to manage and improve all and any issues.

Step Five: Essence
Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence | 60ml | £24.0o - Ah, the step that confuses everyone: essence. My understanding (which please note could be entirely wrong,) is that essences are almost like serums but seem to be runnier/thinner liquids and possibly more intensive for the skin. I love this Snail and Bee Venom essence as it feels feathery light on the skin and sinks in rapidly. It's great for hydration and plumping up the skin and it really helps me fill in my laugh and frown lines.

If you don't want to use an essence or you can't get your hands on one you like, you can always just try an additional serum of your choosing. I'd definitely recommend trying essences however as I honestly feel they are little miracle products and there's a wide variety of them out there.

Step Six: Serum
Boots Botanics All Bright Radiance Concentrate Serum | 25ml | £8.99 - Back to one of my western products of choice. The Botanics range is one that I love and I always use this serum every evening and morning without fail. It's a lightweight serum that really hydrates my skin and leaves me looking glowing. The glow I get from this product is healthy and radiant without being greasy or too sparkly/unnatural. It doesn't irritate my skin at all and my skin seems to love it.

Serums are another step that I used to overlook when I was younger but can really see the benefit in them now. This step is a great chance to add in any intensive treatment for whatever your skin needs. Although I still suffer from acne and could sometimes do with using a more acne-fighting product, I never miss this product or step out as getting healthy glowing skin is my top priority and other than exfoliating, I feel that serums manage to reach this goal the best.

Step Seven: Sheet Mask
Skin Food Masks or Love Beauty and Planet Masks | 1-use Mask | £4.99 - Okay, confession time. I typically do a face mask everyday. I love them and can't get enough of them. However, when it comes to sheet masks, I find them to be quite intensive and so I typically will only do one once a week. I *love* the Skin Food masks but unfortunately, these guys are shutting down shop so I've been trialling alternatives and I've fallen hard for the Love Beauty range. The Love Beauty and Planet masks smell delicious and are so good for plumping up the skin and leaving your face feeling soft and supple.

It's recommended that you use sheet masks only once or twice a week - some individuals seem to use them everyday but I find that's just too much for my skin to handle. Always pay attention to your sheet mask's instructions, particularly the time, as if you leave it on longer than the recommended time stated you could actually make your skin worse as it will start to dehydrate your skin and rehydrate the mask.

Step Eight: Eye Cream
Mizon Collagen Power Firming Eye Cream | 25ml | £20.33 - I don't have any loyalties to any specific eye cream, but one thing I always look out for in any eye cream I choose is that it has to hydrate my undereyes and lids but also not irritate my eyes at all. Despite my super sensitive eyes, the Mizon Collagen eye cream does a grand job of keeping my skin soft and hydrated without causing my eyes any distress. I picked up a sample/travel size 10ml tube of this stuff and I definitely think I'll be picking up the full size tub once I've finished this.

Eye cream is incredibly important in a skincare routine no matter how long or how little time you spend completing your routine. Eye creams are usually specially formulated for the delicate eye area and will avoid particular ingredients that might be in other skincare products. It's always best to gently apply eye cream with your ring finger and pat it in. This keeps the eye area happy!

Step Nine: Moisturiser
Superdrug Naturally Radiant Renewing Night Cream | 75ml | £5.99 - Surprise surprise, another product from the Superdrug Naturally Radiant line! This night cream (which is the combo/to oily skin version) has been a firm favourite for some time. It's thick and nourishing for bedtime but also somehow doesn't feel heavy and has an almost jelly type of texture. I feel like it does a fab job of locking in all the products I've used in previous steps and makes my skin look healthy the following morning.

Just like eye cream, moisturiser is such a significant step in any skincare routine. It not only keeps your skin hydrated, but it can protect your skin from UV rays, sun damage, pollution, and more. Always have a good reliable moisturiser to hand and you won't go wrong.

Step Ten: Sleep Mask
Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask | 80g | £12.50 - Okay, I promise this is the last time masks will be mentioned in this post. For Korean skincare routines, the last step is usually sunscreen but as I only do my routine in the evenings, I switch out that product for a sleeping mask instead. My favourite one to use at the moment is this Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask as it's brightening and smoothing. I honestly notice such a difference in the appearance of my skin, in it's texture, and how generally healthy it looks if I don't regularly use this product. Using just a pea size amount, I smooth it gently all over my face, avoiding the eye area, once my moisturiser has finally dried down.

Sleep masks are certainly not essential, but if you ever feel like your skin needs a bit of a boost, using one of these is always a sure-fire way to make your skin happy again. They tend to be quite intensive as you leave them on overnight and you really do reap the benefits the following morning. I typically like to use a gentle but heavy-duty sleep mask so it can work lots of magic overnight but not irritate my sensitive skin. If you need a quick fix, particularly for things like dry skin, dullness, or blemishes, a sleep mask is definitely the way to go.

So you guys, you can breathe now. It might seem completely excessive to some people to have a skin routine this long and intense, but it's genuinely done my skin the world of good and I've seen some undeniable improvements in my skin's condition in the few months I've kept this routine up. If you haven't tried out the Korean step skincare routine yet, give it a go - you might be pleasantly surprised with just how well it all works!

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November 22, 2018

Sustainable, Zero Waste & Eco Friendly Christmas Gift Guide

Here it comes - the start of some Christmas content! I'm not usually one for blogging about specific times of the year all too much, but one thing I knew I wanted to talk about this Winter was sustainability at Christmas time. I've got a post coming in a couple of weeks that will delve into how to be more sustainable with things like your gift wrapping and gift making (for those on a budget or would like to make something a little more handmade and/or zero waste), but before that I thought I needed to talk gifts generally. I'm usually someone who buys gifts rather than makes them as I usually simply don't have the time to put into a variety of gifts for all the different people in my life. I also struggle with some people and wouldn't even know where to begin making them something - buying can be hard enough! So I like to think I'm quite savvy when it comes to buying gifts, making my money stretch, and getting more "unique" gifts that other people wouldn't necessarily know where to buy them themselves.

Although I've always enjoyed the gift-buying aspect of Christmas, something I'm consciously trying to do this year is buy things which are more sustainable, eco-friendly, or zero waste so each gift I hand out reflects my beliefs more. This is a lovely way to still stay true to yourself and your ethics, but without pushing it down other people's throats. There's so many great options out there and so many wonderful small and indepdent businesses which really benefit at Christmas time. One thing you truly have to remember at this time of year is that many small and indie businesses are either one individual or a small team who are working behind the scenes - it's often a hobby-turned-business and can be an individual's livelihood and only source of income. They're not multi-million corporations and they often have good ethics behind their products and services because they come directly from the individuals who set the businesses up in the first place. No corruption, no middle man, no issues. Therefore I wanted to mention so great gift options you could use this year that vary from gifting second-hand to buying something new.

I've purposefully published this post now so it hopefully gives you all a chance to order anything you like the idea of before Christmas cut-off dates. Due to Christmas deliveries, small businesses often have stricter deadlines for orders to ensure they get to you on time. So let's stop rambling and get to it!

Non-physical Gifts
Donating to a charity which is important to your gift recipient is always a thoughtful alternative gift. Not only does this mean others benefit from this gift, but it is fuss-free and has no physical waste is created. If you wanted to, you could print the evidence of your pledge/donation which could always be recycled at a later date. Sponsoring or adopting an animal is also another great alternative as this again has benefits for more than just the recipient and they usually have a certificate/gift as part of the sponsorship/adoption. Of course this doesn't make the gift exactly zero-waste, but it does create something that an individual would like to keep forever and it benefits are friends we inhabit the planet with.

Another option which has minimum physicality to it is buying a star. Over the years I have somehow accumulated two stars which people have named for me and honestly, it's such a thoughtful gift that I know this astronomy aficionado loves. There are a number of places that "sell stars" and there are then various options depending on how much you want to spend or how big of a star you want to purchase. Whoever you buy the star for will then usually get a certificate and a star chart, detailing exactly where their star lives in the night sky. A very thoughtful and heartwarming gift that doesn't create too much waste!

One last mention here I have to make is services. There's lots of services you could tap into for Christmas gifts - pay for yoga classes for someone, pay for a gym membership, pay for a creative DIY class or a chocolate tasting session - there's all sorts! One service I *have* to give a shoutout to is Holly Cassell's Witch Services. Whether it's a tarot reading, crystal programming or a beautiful candle, Holly should be your first port of call for all witchy goodness that doesn't cost the earth (in more ways than one!).

Ethical/Sustainable Clothing
An obvious option for those loved ones who love fashion is definitely an item or gift card for an ethical and/or sustainable fashion brand. This could be one of the more "big name" brands out there (check out some of my favourites here) or smaller handmade brands. Etsy is a great place to start if you want to explore sustainable/ethical small-biz and many offer gift cards so if you don't know what to buy in particular, you can play it safe. Buying ethical and sustainable fashion for friends or family members at Christmas can be a wonderful way to introduce them to slow and sustainable fashion if they're not into it already.

Some of my favourite small business brands (that I haven't already mentioned here) include:
- Ragtrade Clothing Co: beautiful linen capsule wardrobe pieces created by an equally beautiful and hardworking woman
- Rawson Chicago: The no.1 place for the best pants and vintage tops and tees
- notPERFECTLINEN: lovely linen pieces that fit like a glove

If your loved one is really into shopping second-hand or vintage pieces, there's absolutely no reason why you can't use this joy for their Christmas gifts. Not everyone is comfortable with receiving something second-hand as a gift, but if you know someone who is all for it - do it. Etsy can also be a a good starting point for this if you want to shop online, amongst other fab online options.

Eco-friendly Items
There's *so* many fantastic eco-friendly products out there that can help someone because more eco-friendly or less wasteful in their day to day life that would make awesome gifts. You could try some practical items such as Bees Wax Wraps for keeping food fresh or an alternative to store your lunch-on-the-go in, Reusable Cotton Pad Rounds for the beauty lovers in your life that want to make a better impact on the planet, or a fresh new Bamboo Coffee Cup or Water Bottle for everyday sustainability and reducing plastic pollution.

If you want to branch out even further, curated sustainable gift boxes are perfect as items have been hand-selected and come together in one great package that is bound to be a show-stopping gift. Brands who do this really well are The Sustainable Box and Low Tox Box. If you're looking for more specifically beauty or skincare related gift boxes, definitely check out Green Tulip too!

Plants, plants, and more plants
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know by now that I bloody love plants so so much. House plants are very "in" right now so they're an excellent gift idea as they're so readily available. Not only that, but I am a firm believer that a house plant has a thoughtful vibe to it and can boost people's moods and elevate a home's atmosphere too. They have so many health benefits and can be something someone will treasure for years. Of course you can pick up house plants anywhere and everywhere these days - even in your local supermarket - but my favourite more independent places to shop plants are definitely:
- The Watered Garden
- Stupid Egg Interiors

Handmade & Re-gifting
Handmade DIY presents are often overlooked but have so much love and time poured into them, it's rather silly that they're not given more attention. Baking some cookies, making a candle, or making your own shower scrub/bath salts is a lovely way to tick off one of the gifts on your "to-buy" list and make it a little more personal. Not everyone has the time or abilities to be creative and do things themselves, but if you're feeling comfortable and confident, I say go for it and make whatever your heart desires. By making something yourself, you can ensure that that outcome is ethical and you can also consider if the ingredients are natural, zero waste, eco-friendly etc.

Lastly I want to mention something that some people deem quite distasteful but, hear me out! How many of us end up with unwanted gifts each Christmas because people go a little consumer crazy? I personally see no issues with re-gifting these items to others as long as it's something you would genuinely gift to that particular person anyway and if that person wouldn't mind. A great re-gifting option to minimise the backlash of this is definitely books and cookbooks. I know that my kitchen has an awful lot of cookbooks in it and many don't get used regularly at all so passing these on to others who would lovingly use them is not only cost-effective, but sustainable too. If you have a favourite page-turner that you've absolutely loved reading but you know you won't read it again, pass it on to a friend or family member too!

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November 06, 2018

My Favourite Apps for my Inner Astrologer & Mystic

Hey folks, I thought it was high-time we talked a little bit more about the stars and predicting our futures - just kidding. We all know here I am a massive advocate for horoscopes and learning more about starsigns, but I always like to use them as a way to navigate life and assign things that might happen to me which don't make sense or stress me out etc. as horoscopes help me to give that particular incident a purpose so I can then think "what should I do about that? What should I do next?" and I find that really helpful. I also just like them because I think they have a lot to do with our personalities and who we are as people. As my first post delving into astrology went down well with you all, I figured I would share with you the apps I enjoy using and would highly recommend for those tech-savvy mystics out there:

Daily Horoscope: One of the first ever horoscope/zodiac apps I downloaded and I still swear by it. This is my favourite app to look at not only my daily horoscope, but also my weekly and monthly. This app has a nice little level of customisation for the colour palette, the font size, the readability etc. of the app so it fits your style, but really it's the content of this app that always wins me over. You can scroll back and forth between days so you can read ahead of time future horoscope predictions if you so wish or if you missed yesterday's, you can scroll back to see if it was accurate or not. Daily Horoscope also has a nice addition of the Chinese birth years which you can read for each sign and Druid tree signs that you can educate yourself on. You can also check other horoscopes so it's not just fixed on your own and have an annual overview or traits read of each starsign so there's a lot of flexibility with this app. My favourite thing about this though is that I just find it to be the most accurate out of all I use and have tried in the past. I find I can apply most of what is said really easily to something going on in my life and it helps me process what might have changed or what I'm currently experiencing as it gives it a purpose and correlation.

Golden Thread Tarot: If you are interested in tarot but you just don't know where to start, get Golden Thread Tarot downloaded as soon as possible. This visually pleasing app helps explain how to read and interpret tarot cards and tracks a lot of information in the mean time. This app will track what cards you pull over time and the affect they, or the things the cards may be hinting at, have on you and your feelings. I really like this app as it's kind of like a spiritual toolkit so it not only educates me but can be used for support and insight into my more spiritual side. If you really want to, you can also purchase a physical tarot deck of the same cards that are used in the app's beautiful artwork so you can feel like you've really got all of your shit together.

Celeste: If you're someone who wants to get more into very specific astrology and get down to the nitty gritty of birth/natal charts and what they mean about you and your interaction with others, then Celeste is the app for you. I've talked about birth charts and the beginners guide to understanding them before and also recommended helpful reading on the topic but if you're more techy and find it easier to understand when you actually just get stuck into it, Celeste maps out your birth chart based on the information you input. Therefore it's a great starting point for those who are wishing to map their birth charts or if you simply want to be nosy and check out someone elses.

Co - Star: Okay so, if you own an iPhone, you need to get this app. Co-Star gives you the opportunity to not only track your own horoscope and gain familiarity with your birth chart, but you can add friends and family members who also have the app to explore their charts in more detail and also look at your compatibility. I *really* like this one for that reason the most - I can read about my friendships and relationships and it's helped me make sense of some things and prepared me for others. I find it be yet another app that is very accurate and its got nice imagery and a nice interface too. If you're someone who has started to get into your birth chart and horoscope but you're still learning what it all means, this app explains things simply and clearly.

Time Passages: Another app similar to Co-Star, Time Passages allows you to map your own birth chart and others, understand your sun, moon, and rising signs in more detail (if you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about, check out this post), but also updates you on moon phases and upcoming mercury retrograde periods if you want to prepare yourself for their effects. Just like many of the other apps mentioned in this post, this one is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate but also utilises GPS on your phone really well to give you an as accurate chart and reading as possible. In-app purchases are available and you can also buy a more detailed version of the app, but I honestly think the free version and it's freebies deliver more than enough.

Astrolis Horoscopes & Tarot : This app allows you to look at both your horoscope and tarot cards and both can be looked at daily. The horoscopes are short and sweet and include little snippets in relation to the planets now and again which I like (it always feels a little more authentic when this is the case!) and you can check just a regular daily update, weekly, monthly, annually, and everything in between! If you're having money worries, you can check that out specifically. If you've recently fallen head over heels, you can check out "Love" and see if it tallies up with reality. I like that this app gives you a daily compatible sign, lucky numbers, and also daily outlooks focusing on your mood, love, energy, and money - most of which I find quite accurate day to day. My favourite part of this app though is the daily tarot pulls you can do. You can flip three tarots - past, present, and future - and read a little about them and what they might be related to. Again, these readings are short and sweet, but I find them quite insightful and they help me navigate changes and negativities in life.

iLuna: I make jokes about "mercury in retrograde" as much as the next millennial, but the way the moon affects the planet is something I will always argue and stand by. The moon has an effect on the ocean and the tides so in my mind, it's foolish to think that it doesn't have an effect on us as human beings. iLuna tracks the moon and it's travels through the 12 signs of the zodiac. During this tracking, it suggests ways in which the moon's movements could affect us and you can also search ahead of time to find out what phase the moon may be in on a specific date (if you want to check special date and plan accordingly). Again, this is another visually pretty app to use and is simple to navigate so it's just a joy to use.

Mystic Mondays: I love the whole aesthetic and pay off of this app. Mystic Mondays pulls a daily tarot card for you and I often find it to be scarily accurate or applicable for my day or recent mood. I like this app because it's simple and fuss free but the artwork/design of it is still gripping and visually stimulating. Although, of course, you get some repetition with it (as there's only so many options you can possibly get from a tarot deck each day), it still feels individual and unique to me and the words are just as good as the artwork. It's definitely a full package kind of app. It's also a good one for those of you who might be getting into tarot reading as it has a library section of all of the cards and what they typically refer to.

Skyview Lite: Skyview is a great app not just for those of you who are into your astrology or spirituality, but for anyone who just wants to look at a beautiful app and potentially wow others. Skyview allows you to point your camera at the night sky and will map out the stars for you, constellations, and satellites. Skymapping apps can get quite pricey, but this one is free for the most part and has a nice interface to use. It's educational and a must-have for stargazing advocates as you can check out local stargazing events too!

Dreamboard: Last but not least, if you're someone who remembers their dreams or remotely likes to sleep track etc. then Dreamboard is a must. It is a dream journal app which you can use for tracking, analysing, and recording your dreams. A bit like a fitness app, Dreamboard will collect whatever information you store in it so you can visually see how often you may have nightmares, lucid dream, if you haven't dreamt for a long time - even if you've had a good night's sleep. I like to look back at the narration I can input to see if any themes crop up or if I have any recurring dreams.

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October 28, 2018

Having a Sustainable Halloween: Recipes for Using up your Pumpkin

Halloween is one of the best parts of the year - don't @ me trying to tell me any different. But guess what? This goth for life has never carved a pumpkin til this year. I know, you're all utterly horrified but, it's just the way it's always been! I remember carving a turnip when I was younger (shout out to fellow working class folk who grew up doing this because it was the cheaper alternative) but, this year I wanted to finally sit down and complete this main Halloween tradition properly. Something that I wanted to make sure I did whilst carving though is make sure I used up as much of the pumpkin as possible. Many times I've witnessed pumpkin carving going on and all the good bits inside have made their way swiftly to the bin. What a waste. Pumpkin is *such* a comforting and nutritious food - here's just some of its benefits:
- high in Vitamin A
- also full of various other vitamins for improving immunity
- nutrients that promote healthy skin
- high anti-oxidant content for reducing risk of chronic illness
- full of nutrients that can protect eyesight

So, I think we can all agree that pumpkin can really pack a punch. With all the benefits of it in mind, and the fact that I didn't want to waste any perfectly good food just for the sake of a carving, Matt came up with the idea of posting about a sustainable Halloween. And that was that. So, I came up with a couple of recipes for both the inside and out so I could truly benefit from ticking this tradition off my list of things to try. If you want to eat some scrummy food and also pamper your skin for a low price and to make your Halloween carving time a little more sustainable and waste-free then just keep on reading! (Please note: one of the best things you can do is carve out as much pumpkin flesh as you can before doing your actual carving. This will a) give you some flesh to work with during your pumpkin being used for Halloween and b) make it easier for you to carve. It's also worth noting that one of these recipes requires chopped pieces of pumpkin so cutting up your jack-o-lantern before it goes bad is worth it for that particular recipe! And shout out to Matt for being a source of grand ideas. You can all thank him for this. )

Curried Pumpkin Soup & Curried Seed Crunch - Vegan & Low Calorie
This recipe is a fool-proof option and a great autumn warmer. Pumpkin doesn't hold a lot of taste on it's own which makes it a great base ingredient for soups, stews and curries. I use US "cup measurements for this as it's easier to keep track of the ratios of ingredients. This soup is packed full of veggies and great flavouring that tallies up to just 161 calories per portion and uses up the flesh and the seeds of the pumpkin!

Calories: 161 per person | Serves: 2 (generously)

For the soup:
- 1 tbsp of oil of your choice for frying
- 1 regular-sized yellow onion, sliced
- 3 cups of pumpkin, chopped or carved out
- 1 cup of carrots, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp of fresh ginger, minced (ground ginger or paste works too!)
- 1 tbsp of curry powder
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- salt & pepper
- 1 litre of vegetable stock (or chicken if you're not veggie/vegan!)

For the seeds:
- 1 cup of clean pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 tsp of oil of your choice
- 1 tsp of curry powder
- 1 tsp of fajita seasoning or cayenne pepper
- salt & pepper

For the soup:
1. Add some oil to a deep pan on a med-high heat ready to saute the onions. Cook them through until they start to go translucent (about 5-6 mins).
2. Add the garlic and ginger and carry on cooking for a couple of minutes.
3. Now add the carrot, pumpkin, curry powder, and cumin. Stir through.
4. Pop in the vegetable/chicken stock and bring to the boil. Now reduce the heat and leave it to cook through with the lid on for 20 minutes.
5. Once the vegetables have softened, pop it all in a liquidiser or use a handheld one to whizz-up the ingredients. Pulse the ingredients to a texture of your liking for soup (I like mine quite liquid rather than chunky!) and add salt and pepper to taste.

For the seeds:
1. Preheat the oven to 190c.
2. Toss the seeds, oil, and spices in a bowl.
3. Place some baking paper on a baking tray and lay the seeds on it in one flat layer.
4. Bake for around 8-10 minutes. Check on them occasionally and move them around if need be until they are browned and smell delicious! You can also pop them under the grill to get them really crisp.

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Pie with Maple Cream - Easy & Vegetarian
This one is a new one for me as previously, I had never tried pumpkin pie! It's a very rich and indulgent dessert but is a very autumn/winter appropriate sweet option that has a festive feel. I've made it easy with ready-made pastry and I didn't even have a proper tart cake tin - so this is proof that you can make do with what's in your cupboards (including making it vegan if you can find good single and double cream substitutes!)

Calories: 585 | Serves: 6-8 (depending on serving size)

For the pie:
- Ready-to-roll shortcrust pastry
- 6 cups of pumpkin, peeled & chopped/carved
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup of butter, melted
- 150ml of single cream
- 1 cup of muscovado sugar (light or dark - I only had dark in stock!)
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ginger
- 1 tsp of nutmeg

For the maple cream topping:
- 1 small tub of double cream (I used Emlea 284ml size)
- 3 tbsp of maple syrup (I used maple-flavoured agave as I didn't have any!)

For the pie:
1. Unroll the pastry and leave to thaw according to the packaging instructions (mine suggested 60 minutes). During this time, cover the pastry in a sprinkling on cinnamon.
2. Put the pastry in a 20cm tart/cake tin if you have one, if not, try and find a similar-sized square tin with high sides. Trim off any excess pastry as it should come up to just above whatever tin you've put it in.
3. Pop the pumpkin, cream, muscovado sugar, nutmeg and ginger in a pan to simmer through. Simmer on a medium heat for around 20 minutes or until the pumpkin starts to soften (if you have a lot of carved out pumpkin rather than chopped up pieces, this is perfect for this recipe as it will all be blitzed soon anyway).
4. Pour the mixture into a blender and whizz it up until smooth. Leave the mixture cooling and go back to your pastry.
5. Heat your oven to 200c and cover the pastry with baking paper of foil. Pour baking beads in on top of the paper/foil and bake the pastry for 15 minutes (pro tip: if you don't have baking beads, dry rice works just as well and can be put back into packaging once used!)
6. Remove from the oven and remove the baking beads and paper. Bake the pastry once more for 5 minutes longer.
7. Pour your pumpkin puree mixture into a bowl and beat in 3 eggs and the melted butter.
8. Turn the oven down to 180c and pour the mixture into the pastry case. Fill it almost to the top but leave some crust showing! Cook for 30-40 minutes. You'll know when it's done if it wobbles like jelly in the middle.

For the cream:
1. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it stiffens.
2. Beat in the maple syrup/maple syrup substitute. Spoon onto the top of a warm slice of pie and enjoy!

Pumpkin Seed Energy Balls - Vegan & Healthy Snack
Date energy balls are a firm favourite when it comes to snacks. I really enjoy making them with oats and almonds with some cacao powder as they're a good healthy alternative to having a chocolate biscuit with a cuppa, but these ones have a hint of festive spirit to them thanks to the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Calories: 80 per ball | Serving: 10-12 (depending on size)

- 12 medjool dates
- 1 cup of pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- cacao or cocoa powder to roll balls in if you've got a sweet craving!

1. Remove the pits from the dates and put them in a food processor.
2. Add in the pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Blitz the whole lot until it starts to combine and spin around the blender as a whole lump.
3. Separate the mixture into small handfuls and roll in the palms of the hand to make small balls.
4. Leave as is to chill in the fridge or roll them in some cacao or cocoa powder if you want some extra sweetness!

Pumpkin Enzyme Face Mask & Scrub - Vegan & Brightening
On top of the benefits I've already mentioned, pumpkin is great for the skin's surface too. The enzymes in pumpkin and the AHAs can increase cell turnover, smooth the skin and soften it. It is full of the antioxidants Vitamin A and Vitamin C which not only soften the skin but can also boost collagen production and thus, help with anti-ageing. This recipe is lush to put on when your skin is angry too. As it's a fresh natural face mask, you need to keep it in the fridge and use it within a week, so small batches are best. It's very cooling and will feel gently tingling on the skin as it helps blood flow to the surface of the skin. Add in some granulated sugar if you want to give it a scrubbing property too!

- 1 large tbsp of pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ginger
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tbsp of honey (or agave to make it vegan)
- 1 tbsp of white granulated sugar (if making it a scrub!)

1. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl/jar and mix well.
2. Apply to the face and leave for 10-15 minutes.
3. Rinse and enjoy your baby-butt-soft face and glow!

Remember that if you're sat there with a whole lot of pumpkin on your hands, if you roast it for 1 hour on 180c and then peel away the skin, you can pop it all in a blender/liquidiser and make puree. Puree can then be used for *so* many recipes but best of all, it can be sealed in a container and kept in the freezer for a good 3-4 months so if you think you've got too much to use up fresh, freeze the rest for use during winter.

Lastly, if you've somehow got through this whole post and thought "hang on a minute, I don't even like pumpkin" or you are worrying about what you do with your carving once it's starting to collapse then, don't you worry. Popping your pumpkin outside whether it's at the bottom of the garden or even in your local park or woodland is a great, sustainable way to get rid of it because the animals love it. Whether we're talking about birds, badgers, squirrels, foxes... you name it, they'll wanna eat it. If you happen to have any of the seeds leftover, pop them outside too - there's no reason it's only the humans who should get to enjoy this time of year.

Happy Halloween!

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