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

March 24, 2019

Sustainable Sundays: DIY Low Waste Cleaning Recipes

Can you believe there hasn't been a Sustainable Sunday post since January?! I know, I'm reeling too, so let me resolve this issue by sharing with you some of the easiest, most eco-friendly, low waste recipes for creating your own cleaning products for your home using that very basic kit I discussed back in January. Over the last three/four years, I've become more and more conscious of what I'm using to clean my home and whether or not it's cruelty free and what unnecessary chemicals might be lurking in the ingredients (check out this post for more information on this!). Don't get me wrong, I still use a few home cleaning products that are shop-bought because I feel like they do a great job of doing what I need them to do (plus they're CF and vegan so I trust them), but there's some products that you can totally make at home instead.

Before we get into the recipes themselves, I need to quickly mention something here (alongside some of the pointers I may have mentioned in my last post) just so you can get the most out of these recipes and using DIY cleaning products in general. Obviously as these cleaning products are natural and homemade, they have no added preservatives in the recipes so ideally you want to make smaller batches of each cleaner. The recipes provided below are all fine to use as is but I would suggest that you don't double them up etc. unless you really need to. The amounts listed below are tried and tested by yours truly and are just right for keeping the overall product fresh and effective! These recipes I'm going to share with you are not only affordable, but minimise your plastic pollution and the best bit - they actually keep your home fresh and clean! Just remember to give them a good shake before use and they'll be good to go. So let's get into my homemade DIY low waste cleaning kit:

Multi-purpose and Multi-surface Cleaner
You might remember back in my switching to zero waste/natural cleaning products post that I said it's a myth that you needs lots of different cleaners for different rooms of the house and I still fully stand by that. This multi-purpose cleaner can be used on all sorts of surfaces and in each and every room of the house. If you want to be extra minimal, this cleaner alone should meet most of your needs! Also if you only have one of the base cleaning agents to hand, I have altered the recipe to suit both vinegar and soap options and if you don't have essential oils, simply opt for lemon juice instead.

Castille Soap option:
- 1 cup of water
- 3 tsp of castille soap
- 15-20 drops of essential oil or juice of half a lemon

White Vinegar option:
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of white vinegar
- 15-20 drops of essential oil or juice of half a lemon

To make: simply combine all the ingredients in your glass bottle, pop on the spray nozzle and give the bottle a good shake! The only surfaces I wouldn't recommend you use this cleaner on are wooden surfaces or anything stainless steel/chrome as the water is not good for wood in case it expands and the lemon/essential oils can cause more harm than good to steel/chrome. But everything else? You're good to go.

Window and Mirror Cleaner
Although I am a firm believer that you don't need lots of different cleaners clogging up your cleaning cupboards, a good additional cleaner to have at hand is without a doubt a one specifically targeting windows and mirrors. We all know what it's like when you try to clean your shower cubicle screen or your mirror with a cleaner not designed for those types of surfaces and the sheer frustration that ensues because of the streaks, fog, and mess they can create when you try to remove them. This cleaner completely prevents this from happening and cuts through watermarks like non one's business! Unfortunately, you've got to use some vinegar in this one, castille soap chaps! Vinegar is just too good when it comes to making those surfaces shine.

- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of white vinegar
- 10-15 drops of lemon or tea tree essential oil

To make: Add all the ingredients to your bottle and give it a good shake. Lemon is a good option here if you want to make your all-purpose cleaner your window/mirror cleaner too but I find tea tree to be the best for getting rid of any streaks or residue so making an extra batch with this in where possible is always a good shout.

Mould and Mildew Cleaner
Next up is a more heavy duty cleaner for stubborn damp bathrooms. I know I know, I said you don't need multiple cleaner but, if you're someone like me, you might find that even when you used the very toxic hard-hitting chemical products back in the day that you still had a lose-lose battle with mould build-up in your shower/bath area. My bathroom gets extremely damp so the build up of mould and mildew can be horrendous if I don't scrub at it on a weekly basis. I find a blend of oils work best for me in this instance, but below I've also listed some additional ingredients that could help instead if you haven't got a choice of essential oils to work with.

- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of white vinegar
- 2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda or 15-20 drops of a blend of essential oils (this is when I use my cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, rosemary, and tangerine blend discussed in my previous post)

To make: You know the drill - add all your ingredients to your bottle and shake. The reason I make a blend for this spray is because the oils I use are great for fighting mould and mildew as well as disinfecting surfaces and aids your immune system in the fight against seasonal and environmental bacteria. By keeping the bathroom area so squeaky clean, I notice a huge difference in the quality of the air in that room after cleaning (which lasts for a few days which is always nice to see a product perform so well), and I feel confident that I'm doing my best to fight some nasty germs that can build up in damp conditions.

Furniture Polish
The last recipe I wanted to throw into this post is a fail-safe furniture polish which can get those wooden surfaces looking fab because the all-purpose cleanser just won't cut it here. As I mentioned earlier, a water-based cleaner isn't always the best option for wooden surfaces but if you want to clean up and polish some wood, in steps some trusty olive oil in water's place. Yep, you heard me right.

- 1/4 cup of white vinegar
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- juice of half a lemon

To make: Simply add all the ingredients together in a spray bottle once again and shake it up. The olive oil gets such a good polish on wooden surfaces whilst the white vinegar and lemon helps cut through dirt and grime like any other cleaner.

These basic cleaners should hopefully demonstrate just how simple cleaning can be if you have the basic ingredients. Not only are they effective but they cost so little each time you make a batch, you can bulk buy the ingredients to create less waste overall, and they will keep your home clean and your mood lifted. DIY cleaning recipes aren't for everyone as some people can't get on board with the smell of white vinegar (including me), but I find that the smell soon disappears and that there's always ways to eradicate the smell. If you'd like to see some more low waste recipes including carpet cleaners, toilet bombs, and sink unblockers, just let me know!

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March 17, 2019

Book Club No.19

Gang, it's time for another Book Club post today and things are just ever so slightly different. I've gotten into the habit over the last few years of sharing 3 books in each Book Club review post because that tends to be a "nice" length post. But today's post has just two because oh boy, I had some thoughts to share lemme tell you. No, really. Let me tell you:

The Ask and the Answer: The Second Novel of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
If you read post No.17 in my Book Club series you will already know *just* how much I enjoyed the first book of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness. But are you truly prepared for just how much I loved this second book? Strap yourselves in because I have so much to say. The Ask and the Answer picks up right where book one left off (spoilers are going to have to happen at this point if you haven't read the first book guys so all I can stress at this point is: go pick it up immediately!) with Todd and Viola being met by Mayor Prentiss in the empty town square of Haven. The two are subsequently separated under their confusion of him being here and beating them to the destination and thus the split-narrative of this book is born. I loved that this second book had a split-narrative between the two main characters as I feel Ness did such a stellar job of fully developing both Todd and Viola as characters that you don't even need to check the start of the chapter to know who's side of the story you're getting - you can just tell by the tone, language, emotions, and views.

The one thing I wanted to stress about the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, is that Ness masterfully created such a harrowing story that it's blew so many other plots and stories well out of the water for me and The Ask and the Answer is no different. Whilst the first novel sees a small town with almost cultish/religious undertones and dictations, The Ask and the Answer sees that spread and develop into colonialism and the idea of war, peace, co-existence and more. It grows on a scale that is unfathomable and as a reader you can't help but get swept along. There is *so* much development in this book that I could feel myself growing with each and every character. We see Todd truly grow from a boy to a man and you can feel the time lapse through the pages in such a palpable way. I feel like Ness does an excellent job of excelling the story along on the timeline to it's end destination but he manages to not gloss or skip over anything so you truly feel the journey. But? It doesn't drag. Never at any point during the time I read this did I think "come on, get on with it!" and instead was left as shocked, horrified, manipulated and moved as I predicted I would be.

I honestly didn't think this book could possibly be better than the first, but it absolutely is. The thread of "faith" throughout the whole novel that Todd and Viola share in each other is a bond you truly feel and oh my days, do you feel it when that faith is tested or shook. It brings layers and layers to their friendship and could possibly be setting them up for a romance in the future (who knows, I don't care I just want to carry on living in this world vicariously). The sacrifices and twists and turns in this novel are so gut-wrenching at times that those made in the first book seem like mere drops of rain in a vast sea. After reading this I had to take a break and read something else because I'm terrified to pick up the last remaining book in the triology - half because I don't want the thrill-ride to end and half out of concern that the ending won't top this amazing middle section. In true Ness style, The Ask and the Answer ends on another cliffhanger that would put the likes of Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones to shame and my goodness, I can't wait to find out what happens next. Grab a copy of The Ask and the Answer for £7.18 here

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
Now for something just as harrowing but in an entirely different way. My Christmas reading gifts from Matt were a hilarious mismatch of YA fiction, true crime non-fiction, and then, this. My Absolute Darling is a Sunday Times Bestseller and appeared to have rave reviews from authors and book critics alike so I was instantly intrigued as I'd not heard of it before I'd ripped the Christmas paper off of it. Described by some as a "psychologically difficult journey", "brutal and harrowing", and "violent, gut-wrenching, and terrifying", I felt instantly sold because if a book has a dark gritty story to it, you can count me in.

So, the plot (trigger warning: rest of review will talk about physical/emotional/sexual abuse in a parent/daughter relationship). My Absolute Darling centres around a 14-year-old girl called Julia (also referred to as Turtle, Kibble, Ninja...) who lives in a very basic and isolated home with her father along the Northern California coast. She's struggling at middle school, teachers are concerned, her dad drinks as does her granddad who lives in a dingy little trailer out the back of their land, and she spends most of her time conflicted with how she is supposed to feel and how she is actually feeling. Her whole life is her daddy. Since her mother died when she was younger, it has been Turtle and her father, Martin, struggling to get by. He has taught her how to hunt, camp, shoot guns, and look after herself. He has a feverish fear of the world coming to an end and is extremely eloquent and informed in the way that people who read the horror stories in the news seem to be when they regurgitate that learned information. During this hormonal teenage time of uncertainty and self-doubt and questioning, Turtle happens to meet another teenager, Jacob, and his friend, Brett, and she gets her first glimpse as to what friendship could be (and of course, her first crush). She spends all of her time isolating herself from everyone except her father but meeting Jacob and Brett makes her start to question everything - including how her father treats her - and this sees Turtle develop into her own person.

Initially when I started reading this book, I popped it onto my Goodreads and my heart sunk. I saw a number of split reviews of people either loving this book or people rating it one star at best due to it's graphic story telling and how it approached abuse. I ignored the reviews in fear of spoiling the plot for myself and read through the first few chapters and thought that this might be the first book of 2019 I had to truly give up on. I found the excessive description of things such as the foliage so detailed and flowery (excuse the pun) with the choice of words that I couldn't keep up with the plot. It distracted me from what was happening and as a slow reader, I found this was setting me back from the get-go in terms of the story's pace. Then we get to the graphic-ness of this book and boy, do I see where so many reviews are coming from. As I said earlier, I love a book that will push boundaries and go into the details others might not, but when a father has raped his teenage daughter and the author uses the phrase "engorged pussy" at one point to describe that act, I felt myself recoil from a book for the first time. I remember turning to Matt after finishing the chapter and saying I really wasn't sure if this book was going to be for me. I carried on reading it to see if this was just a blip in the language and if the story could win me back around and thankfully, it kind of did (but only kind of).

I eventually got used to Tallent's writing style and I actually found the airy fairy-ness of the descriptions quite well suited to the plot as it provided a sense of how isolated Turtle is not just in her situation with her father/school/peers but, also in her location and the scenery/environment around her. It kind of reminded me of one of those slow burning indie movies about teenagers in a warmer climate than the UK where everything little detail seems romanticised. However I still believe the overuse of the adjectives made it a challenging read for me, cover to cover. Martin, the father, is such a despicable character because he is portrayed with so much charisma yet is nothing short of disgusting, toxic, and manipulative but I do understand why that is done - that's exactly the sort of stereotype we see in so many abuse narratives. My real problem was more the choice of violence and acts shown in this novel that appeared to push boundaries but not in the desired way. It felt like a lot of the incest and abusive acts were written in to shock the reader - they often seemed unprovoked and alien in the story despite it being about an abusive relationship throughout. I think the reason for this is because Tallent writes the majority of these plot points with a sense of romance and it's just nothing short of bizarre? Turtle struggling with what is happening to her and struggling with her feelings towards her father is understandable in that "but he's my daddy and therefore I should love him" way, but there's times when Tallent makes it seem that Turtle wants her father to touch her, that she welcomes his advances and it just completely threw me and made it unbelievable. Not to mention the use of "pussy" throughout, sometimes at seemingly random intervals, to then be exchanged with "cunt" later in the novel - I just didn't get it.

Overall this book did create a sense of suspense for me because it was a harrowing story and thus, I wanted to find out what would happen next. The problem for me though was the language and the overriding feeling that this was a middle-aged male author trying to write as a 14-year-old girl in this situation. Little things like the description of Turtle's appearance and body made me roll my eyes because, of course, she was "ugly but in a pretty 'she doesn't realise it' way" like all girls seem to be in these sort of stories. There were *so many* threads throughout the plot that were just left unfinished or characters dipping in and out that served no true purpose that it just further highlighted how under developed the main characters were. There were concerned teachers at the start who seemed to disappear when Turtle stopped attending school yet reappeared at the end. There was a young girl just randomly added into the mix that acted as some sort of "wake up call" for Turtle in her feelings towards her father but that "wake up call" had already happened many chapters earlier. Martin is sadistic and needs help. We get it. Turtle spends literally all of her free time roaming the woods or cleaning her gun - you don't need to write it into every chapter, multiple times, like it's her diary entries. The sheer amount of combined pages that must have collectively been used just to state gun types or how to clean a gun, or conversations that literally read "Turtle?" "Yeah?" "Turtle?" "What?" "Turtle?" was baffling. I'm coming off as so negative about this book and all in all, I did think it was a pretty good read and certainly one to check out if you're into grittier tales (especially given the seemingly clear divide between readers as to whether it's a showstopper or not), but there were so many flaws, I had to mention some here.

The chapters leading up to the last few were some of the best for me because the suspense written into them were great. You're suddenly thrusted into this terrifying situation and you can feel the horror Turtle and others face. The problem with it though is that the story had been so lacklustre in the lead up to this point that it comes at you completely left-field so it feels so unbelievable and over the top. The suspense then bluntly subsides and we're left with a few chapters detailing how Turtle deals without her dad around months after that suspense and unfortunately, it was a handful of chapters that just went back to the wishy-washy writing without a lot of plot. As a reader I was left curious as to how many characters are. I was left with questions but not in a "wow, I hope there's a book two!" kind of way but more of a "this book is utterly frustrating" kind of way. Despite my middle-of-the-road review, you might want to check it out still because it is dark and it does draw you in. You can pick up My Absolute Darling here for £6.47

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March 01, 2019

Milestone Myths - One Size Doesn't Fit All

Next month, I'll be 28. When I was a teen I thought I would be married, with kids, with a car, with a dog, and a house by now and I'm currently sat with only one of those things ticked off. I also thought I would be earning more money than I do, have a different job to what I have right now, and I certainly thought I would have travelled a lot more than I have. I thought I would still be living in the north of England, close to family and friends, having studied something else entirely at university. Does that mean I've failed because I didn't stick to this master "plan"? Failure is so far from the truth.

When we're 16, everything can seem so promising and certain. You can think that 25 sounds so old and that by that age, you will have your shit together and having now surpassed that age, I wish I could step back in time just to let 16 year old Amyleigh know that 25 is not the pinnacle. 25 is far from having everything sorted out. But it's not a bad thing. It's not a negative thing that my life didn't pan out as I expected because actually? It's pretty damn good as it is. It turned out that I have no real use for a car, that I work 9-5 hours that mean having a dog would be unfair on the animal, that buying a house is great but my goodness is it expensive and hard to do much else around renovations and savings. Marriage will come and it doesn't matter if that happened at 23 (I'm so pleased it didn't happen that young?!) or when I'm 53 - because it'll be right - and the same applies to kids.

Although it's easy to sit here as an adult (a term I still use very loosely in reference to myself,) and think "silly 16 year old - you had no idea!" the unfortunate truth is that many people will compare and contrast your life, how your timeline is panning out, to theirs and others and this general expectation we all seem to have. We seem to collectively have this niggling idea of what we're *supposed* to be doing at certain points in our life cycle and it can be tiring to see and feel the pressure of it all. How many times have you caught yourself comparing your progress and life to those who you attended school with for example? "Everyone is getting married or having kids and I'm sat here eating ice cream in my PJs at 8pm on wild Saturday night lmao" - the rhetoric needs to stop. There is no strict timeline that you have to follow and you should only analyse where you are in life if you're feeling dissatisfied because it's not what you want for yourself; not what other people expect or want for you or what you think you *should* be desiring in comparison to others.

It's a hard trip though. Your twenties? Fuck me, it's a minefield of awkward questions that are invasive that you usually have to politely joke about - and even more unfortunately, they seem to come from your family and loved ones more often than not.
Why don't you have a boyfriend?
When are you getting married?
Have you heard the pitter patter of tiny feet?
Wait - you're in a job without any chance of promotion?
Careful now, your body clock is ticking!

You can be single, extremely happy and content with your life and someone will still observe your life with a view that you're longing for other things or you have voids that need to be filled - it could be so far from the truth but it seems to be ingrained that there's milestones we all need to hit and if you're choosing not to pass those by and tick them off your list, there must be a reason behind this delay that's holding you back. It can be commonplace for people to ask these questions as if they're no big deal but, they're so incredibly invasive and shouldn't be normalised. Being asked these questions never makes me feel good. I am yet to meet someone who feels completely indifferent and unaffected by them.

I'm massively guilty of this over-analysing of others life decisions too, though. I've caught myself numerous times seeing an acquaintance move in with their significant other and thought "whoa, that was quick" (like I didn't do the same over 5 years ago,) or had some sort of negative thought about how someone's spending their free time or how many children they've decided to have. I've realised more and more over the past couple of years that I'm just adding to this stigma I say I'm so feverishly against and to be frank, I needed to cut it out. Everyone has their own timeline that suits them, their situation, their needs and wants. There isn't a right or wrong way of doing things. There isn't a particular order you have to stick to in your timeline and you can pick and choose what that timeline includes. Hell, you can completely scrap a timeline and start a fresh new one or branch off in different avenues in the search of happiness - do what you want, always.

It's important that we stop putting this pressure on ourselves as society because not only do we need to face people being nosy and asking questions that they have no business asking and certainly don't warrant a polite response from us but, we are then reflecting those questions onto ourselves and doubting our decisions and asking if we shouldn't be doing more in our lives. Of course pushing ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves is a good thing and wanting to better yourself is never a negative but when that enthusiasm and drive and motivation are fuelled by "maybe I should be doing this" or "*this person* is at this point in their life so I should be too" - that's when it becomes damaging. That's when we're not celebrating our lives and what we have accomplished because we're too blinded by and ideal that might not even be your ideal.

One size fits all is a lie in most capacities it is peddled within and life is certainly one of those capacities that that phrase simply doesn't fit into. Putting unnecessary pressures on ourselves means we are holding ourselves to "goals" that we might never reach nor even want to. We can be setting ourselves up to feel like failures when a few weeks, months, or years later, we could look back on a specific "failure" and realise it didn't actually make a blind bit of difference to how we've progressed or how content we are with what we have. Opportunities in life can lose a bit of their sparkle and shine if you don't approach them with the excitement and fresh eyes of just being present and wanting things at that time. If you're deciding things based on sticking to a predetermined agenda, aren't you worried you're going to miss out on the fun life has to offer?

Take all the time in the world with your life decisions. Choose what feels right and when it feels good and never compare it to what could have been or what others are doing. Stay in your lane when it comes to judging others life choices but by all means dip, swerve, and change up your own lane as often and as much as you want when it comes to your timeline. Make it work for you and don't worry about what's working for others. I'm going to finish up this post because I've already been on my soap box for quite long enough but, to coin some cliché phrases: you do you. Be happy. And just be the best version of yourself. You've got this, this thing we call "life".

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