Natural cleaning

In 2018 we made the switch to more natural cosmetics and really felt happy about banishing some pretty nasty chemicals from our home. 2019 has seen us made the switch to natural cleaning products and the difference it has made is quite startling. The main benefit for me personally is in my skin, particularly on my hands. Usually by this point in the year my hands are extremly dry, cracked and painful. Since switching our cleaning products to natural alternatives they are soft, not irritated and not cracked. It’s so lovely!

My reason for switching to more natural products is two fold. The first is for environmental reasons. The second reason is for health. I am increasingly concerned about the ingredients used in cosmetics and cleaning products that have been linked to cancer and blamed for interfering with the endocrine system in humans and animals. We have all been healthier since we made the switch.

Today I thought i’d share the first thing I made, a multipurpose cleaner I use on the tub, tiles, sink, stove, pots and pans. It can be used to pre treat laundry stains and on carpet stains too. I am very pleased with it.

Multi-purpose cleaner

115 ml castile soap

105 grams bicarbonate of soda

5-10 drops of essential oils

Mix the ingredients to a smooth paste and store in a glass jar. Clean surfaces with the paste using a soft cloth (I like eco egg re-usable bamboo towels). For stain removal apply the paste and spray with hydrogen peroxide before laundering.

Depending on where I am using this cleaner I vary which essential oils I use. I like lemon for the kitchen for its fresh scent and antibacterial properties. For the bathrooms I use organic defence by Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s a blend of lemongrass, niaouli and thyme and has antibacterial and anti-viral properties as well as supporting the bodies immune system and purifing the air. It has been specially blended with cleaning in mind.


October favourites

October is a beautiful month that I sometimes struggle to fully appreciate because I dread winter so much and October reminds me it’s coming.

After what was a lovely summer where I’ve barely needed a cardigan for months on end and we seem to have lived out of doors it was nice to feel the weight of a thick jumper again and enjoy hearty comfort food.

We have baked too and made Gingerbread autumn leaves during half term. The perfect snack to enjoy on returning from a visit to the Pumpkin patch.

We gathered Conker’s and the children enjoyed filling their pockets, and subsequently my washing machine with them. Now conkers in your washing machine are usually a nuisance but i’ve read you can use them to do your laundry so we are planning to try it with our foraged conkers. The conkers need breaking up, drying and soaking to make a detergent so it’s bit fiddly but hopfully a local grown and green alternative to washing powder and soaps.

Speaking of home produce we were gifted some quinces, they look lovely in a big wooden bowl and fill the house with their perfume.

DIY shower jellies

I have two daughters and they LOVE a certain shop full of multicoloured bath bombs, shower jellies and candy flavoured lotions – you know the one I mean.

I can see the appeal, I really can and there are MUCH worse cosmetics out there but there are still ingredients in their products that i’m not happy about my girls using. Ingredients that have been linked to fertility issues and cancer. In reading a lot of their ingredients lists it occured to me I could make these products quite easily at home and so without further waffle from me I give you DIY shower jellies.


240ml water

120ml Neal’s Yard Create hair and body wash (£6.50 for 250ml)

1 sachet Gelatine or Aggar if you prefer a vegan option

Essential oils of your choice (again I choose Neal’s Yard for their quality)

Food colouring (optional)

Silicone moulds/clean plastic container/jam jar

In a ban Marie begin to warm your water when it is just starting to bubble add the create wash and stir.

Add a few drops of your chosen essential oils (I recommend you do a little research about these super oils, their properties and dilution guides this book is extremely helpful).

Stir well and then add a tiny amount of food colouring – don’t use too much or you’ll colour yourself in the shower. The soap will cloud slightly this is normal.

Stir well whilst continuing to warm gently.

When your ingredients are well mixed and heated but not boiling remove from the heat, pour into a measuring jug and sprinkle in the gelatine (follow the instructions the pack).

Mix well and pour into your chosen moulds.

Allow to cool to room temperature and then put in fridge to fully set.

Turn out of the moulds and store in a jam jar or similar container. You may want to avoid keeping your jellies in a warm room such a the bathroom in case they melt before you want them to. Enjoy!

DIY lime wax

I’ve been on the lookout for an old pine farmhouse table FOREVER and earlier this year I finally found one on a local selling site for £30 hooray! It was heavily varnished and extremly…orange but well built by a local company and just what I was looking for.

Here is the before

I set to work stripping the layers of varnish back and sanding the legs. I painted the lower half of the table and legs in a country cream but wanted to leave the top to look like stripped pine.

Even after two coats of stripper and a good sand the wood was still too orange for my tastes so I decided to lime wax the top but I didn’t have any lime wax so I decided to try use what I had to hand. It worked brilliantly so I thought i’d share my “recipe” here with you.

Mixed 1 table spoon of finishing wax with a generous table spoon of chalk paint in a clean container – reuse a plastic food conatiner or take away cup.

Apply this mixture this with a brush (I have an ordinary household paint brush that I use specifically for applying wax) to your prepared wood surface. Go with the grain of the wood and let is sit for 10 mins. You can leave it longer depending on the effect you want.

Then using an old cloth – I used a child’s vest from my rag bag that had sprouted holes. Rub the wax into the wood removing any excess to achieve your desired effect. Again go with the grain of the wood at this stage.

Allow to dry thoroughly. Keep adding layers, waxing on and off until you are happy with the effect. Leave to dry. Once thoroughly dry apply a final coat of just wax with no paint added and buff with an old cloth until you have a slight sheen. Leave to dry and your done.

And so here it is. I found some chairs also second hand and painted them to match. All in all this project came in under £100 and i’m pretty pleased with it. My next job is to tackle our ugly kitchen lino which was here when we moved in and we all hate.

Plastic waste

Single use plastic is THE environmental issue of the moment and apparently everyone is quite up for this challenge. I’ve been asked quite a lot what switches we’ve made in our home. So here is my attempt to write them all down. It’s not that I claim to be an expert on this matter I am simply a concerned citizen trying to do my best. We, as as a family, have been at this quite a long time and we are still far from perfect or finished with making changes. We have been gradually making changes and looking for alternatives to plastic when things around our home have broken and need replacing for a few years.

Be encouraged It is better to start somewhere and change one thing than to be overwhelmed and do nothing. Also (not to add to your load) but plastic is not the only environmental issue our planet faces If your not ready to go plastic free or feel inspired to act in another way go for it, blaze your own trail! But I hope you’ll find something on this list that makes you think “i could do that”. I’m certainly not claiming we have it sorted, we definitely don’t but we have made made a start. So find a comfy chair, make make a cup of tea (loose tea preferably) and read on.

Kids parties – I know this sounds an odd place to start but it’s where I started. 10 years ago when I had my first baby and we started going to kids parties. I was really struck by the amount of unnecessary plastic rubbish kids parties bought into our lives – I found it quite troubling and began to question this whole plastic thing. I started with paper party bags and wooden toys as party treats (yoyo’s, mini wooden spinning tops, cardboard puzzles or books – I find our local fair trade shop or oxfam good for these little things). Other things to think about balloons, single use cups, plates, cuttlery, straws, decorations, wrapping paper and cards.

Carrier bags I think we’re all onto this trick now. I love the kind that fold down or scrunch into a drawstring bag. I always have at least 1 in my handbag and some in the boot of the car too.

Laundry a year ago we started using an eco egg * and are really pleased with it. To be fair I was buying laundry powder in a cardboard box but now my laundry is waste free and i’m saving so much money on detergent. The plastic egg is refillable. I use wooden pegs to dry my laundry

Baby wipes if i’m being 100% honest I gave up baby wipes completly last spring and I still miss them. It’s one of the few things I do miss. However a flannel is much kinder to the planet and our skin so i’m sticking to my guns. When my children were babies I used cotton wool and water to change them – even when out and about but as they became toddlers a packet of wipes for mucky faces and hands was added to my changing bag.

Sanitary towels this is a switch i’m about to make. With an almost teenage girl in the house who I NEVER want to use chemical laden sanitary products (google it you’ll be horrified) I’ve decided to start a subscription with TOTM.

Toothbrushes the children and my husband have made the switch to bamboo brushes. I’ll be honest I use an electric toothbrush on the recommendation of my dentist and a perscription toothpaste – I did not luck out when it came to teeth sadly.

Razors My husband has just made the switch to a metal safety razor and when my current plastic razor needs replacing I will to. The first few attempts were messy I won’t lie but he soon got the hang of it. We’ll be buying replacement blades from this company because the blades come wrapped in paper and in a cardboard box.

Toilet brush recently my toilet brush started malting nylon bristles every time I cleaned the toilet – imagine my horror. I’ve replaced it with a wooden brush with natural bristles and a metal pot.

Pan scrubber something else I’ve replaced with an FSC wooden brush and natural bristles – TK Max is an affordable source of these.

Toiletries i’m a consultant with Neal’s Yard Remedies and buy my toiletries from them. They are all packaged in glass or plastic that’s made from 100% post consumer waste sourced within the UK. I could talk all day about this companies green credentials and beautiful products. As you can probably tell living an environmentally conscious lifestyle can be a little extra work sometimes (but not hard). It’s great when you find a company you can really trust, who are thinking of the details even you wouldn’t think of. If you want to make a small change in this area switch to using a bar of soap instead of of a bottle.

Cleaning I’m in the process of overhauling our cleaning products and I hope to share more on that with you soon – for me it’s more about using natural cleaners than going plastic free but it’s a happy coincidence that it’s helping reduce our plastic consumption too. This week I’ve discovered you can use a bar of natural soap (i’m experimenting with pears because it’s readily available) to wash dishes. I just put the bar of soap in a cup. Run hot water into the cup and let the suds run into the washing up bowl below. Consider also your cleaning cloths – ours are made of bamboo fibres and plastic free.

Packed lunches we have ditched sandwich bags, yoghurt pots (i make my own yoghurt) and i’ve challenged the kids to find and plastic alternative to crisps and snack bars this year. We all have a reusable water bottle which we take wherever we go and I have and reusable coffee cup in the car for trips out.

Toys buy less and buy wooden that’s always been my moto. If your child is desperate for a particular toy (we had a year where rollerskates were top of everyone’s christmas list) buy second hand.

Straws supper simple just don’t use them

Groceries wherever possible I buy loose vegetables and seek alternatives to plastic. Having milk delivered in glass bottles for example. It’s definitely not easy and I think our food shopping is still our biggest source of plastic into our home. It’s possibly the biggest source of hidden plastics too (tea bags and chewing gum for example) I hope it will become easier to shop plastic free as more and more people seek alternatives. We are really fortunate that our council will recycle most plastics but I avoid polystyrene, which is not recyclable at all costs in food packaging.

Another tip is to make your own foods from scratch – cooking fresh is not only healthy but less wasteful than pre prepared foods. Making your own jams and preserves is is a fun way to reuse your old jam jars. I don’t buy any drinks in plastic bottles but make some homemade cordials occasionally as a treat. If you buy a lot of dried fruit it may be cheaper and healthier to buy a dehydrator and make your own. My husband brews his own beer and as I”ve already mentioned I make our own yoghurt. Food storage is another area to consider you can buy bio degradable cling film and wax wraps are very popular and easy to make at home.

The Garden I have a metal watering can outside and I’m asking for a glass plant sprayer for christmas to replace my plastic one which I use to water my indoor plants and has just split.

I reuse plastic garden pots for sowing seeds and taking cuttings. I also reuse toilet rolls and make newspaper pots for seed sowing. Rather than using plastic seed trays I use foil roasting trays to hold my paper pots. These can be recycled at the end of the season. I use wooden lolly sticks for plant labels.

We also frequently engage is is a bit of “plogging” That’s walking and going about your daily business whilst litter picking in our local area (of course we recycle whatever we can) and seed bombing too. We make our seed bombs with native British wild flower seeds and natural mud or other compostable material. We are secret flower fairies.

Clothes I try to buy natural fibres whenever I can and most of our clothes come from charity shops, generous friends or are home made. If you have a lot of synthetic fibres consider washing less often and using guppy bags. Also I know it’s dull but look after your clothes and repair them when they break – my least favourite chore. The fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries on the planet and we all need to play a part in slowing down how fast we consume these items.

Car maintainance we buy Engine oil in wine box style cardboard boxes – search on e-bay.

Pet care – we use litter for our house rabbit that is made from recycled newpaper and comes in a paper bag. We also buy his food in a paper bag. He eats our vegetable scraps and keeps the lawn down – so he’s a pretty low waste pet.

Wow, its quite quite a list congratulations if you read this far! Like I said way back at the beginning it’s been a series of small changes over several years. My husband and I have have a healthy competitiveness over who can find the best plastic alternative and I like to involve the children too – they have really taken this on board and are challenging their school friend to recycle and use less plastics too and making good consumer choices. Other than the baby wipes which I miss (such a first world problem) it’s actually been fun to find alternatives and think a little outside the box.

*None of the links above are sponsored they are quite simply products I’m happy to recommend.

September favourites

September is a funny month I like to keep telling myself it’s still summer for as long as possible (summer is my favourite season) but as the nights draw in and the mornings become chillier it becomes harder and harder to keep kidding myself. By the end of the month autumn has properly arrived and there is no denying it.

This September was a blur of frenzied activity. My daughters returned to school and one short week later their brother (my baby) joined them.

He and I made the most of this last week just the two of us and visited Wimpole hall and garden. My son adores gardening and has developed a real enthusiasm for walled gardens so that’s what we checked out first. I won’t lie my heart felt heavy at the prospect of sending him to school just 1 week later. It marks the end of an era for me of having a small person at home with me for over a decade. It’s been hard work, always busy, never a moment to myself but genuinely some of the best years of my life. I always feel like I’ve lost a limb when I send one of them off to school for the first time.

As the weather cools it always sends me into a frenzy of squirreling away winter provisions. This month I made Dumpsy Dearie jam a lovely jam made of Victoria plums, pears and apples that’s proven very popular over the years. We’ve been baking too and made our first batch of pumpkin spiced doghnuts and this trusty peanut butter cookie recipe that’s quick easy and gluten free.

  • 150g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180’C and line your trays with baking paper.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl to form a sticky dough.

Drop 1 tbsp of the mixture into your prepared baking trays and press down with the back of a fork. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the trays and allow to cool on a wire baking rack.

Not the most elegant or pretty cookies in my repetorire but tasty, satisfying and very easy to make.

Next month I have plans to begin to make our own natural cleaning products in a bid to have less nasty chemicals in the house and reduce our plastic use too. I hope to be able to share some successes with you in October.

August favourites

August was nearly over – the month of apples and falling stars, the last care-free month for the school children. The days were not hot, but sunny and limpidly clear – the first sign of advancing autumn.” Victor Nekrasov

August started very hot and we struggled to stay cool and to sleep at night. We created this very refreshing aromatherapy blend for the aroma diffuser and it soon became a cooling summer favourite. I think I might pop it in the diffuser again when I want to be transported back to those lazy, hot summer days.

We visited Caistor beach this month. It was beautiful, sandy with bands off pebbles and breathtaking views of an offshore wind farm.

There is a little life boat museum at the entrance to the beach and on the outskirts of Caistor town the footings of an old Roman sea fort which we enjoyed exploring and having all to ourselves. We always tend to go to the same tried and tested beaches over and over again. It was nice to explore somewhere new and the children certainly did A LOT of exploring.

This month we also enjoyed outings to Felbrigg Hall which we want to return to and explore further and our favourite Houghton Mill where we have swam and punted and picniced to our hearts content.

I harvested elderberries and made a batch of elderberry syrup using this recipe by lavender and leeks. Elderberry syrup is an amazing tonic for preventing and treating coughs and colds. It’s packed full of vitamin C and antioxidants. I can’t wait to try it.

Those are just some of our highlights from August. It hardly seems possible august is over and yet I can feel the bustle and chaos of September beginning already. It’s going to be a big month for us with my youngest starting at school and my eldest entering her final year of primary school.

Menu planning

I thought i’d share with you a system I use that really has been such a time saver when it comes to doing our weekly shopping and meal planning. I won’t lie it takes some setting up BUT once done it will save you so much time.

I have 12 weekly menus. 6 for winter months and 6 for the summer. Each menu has on it 7 evening meal’s, 1 soup (for lunches) and 1 tray bake (for after school snacks). On the back of each menu is a shopping list for that week. I have a seperate list for items we buy weekly milk, bread, cereal, lunch box items etc.

Sitting down in one go and planning 84 different meals is quite a task. You may prefer to do one a week for 6 weeks and file them away MUCH less laborious!

Here are some hints and tips that might help your planning.

  • Consider regular weekly activities that mean you don’t have much time to cook (e.g after school clubs or days you work late). Plan to use a slow cooker on these days or put jacket potatoes in the oven on a timer.
  • Theme your days. I find this helps me come up with ideas better. For example meat free Mondays, jacket potatoes on Wednesday’s, world food Saturdays, freezer Friday’s.
  • Cook in big batches and save either for later in the week or in the freezer for another week. I like to do this with bolognaise and chilli using the slow cooker.
  • Have a frugal week up your sleeve. There’s always times when you have an unexpected cost (the car breaks down or a household appliances breaks) and you need to tighten your belt for a while. To have a menu you can wip out with a super cheap shopping list ready prepared can ease the stress just a bit.
  • It’s old fashioned but cooking a roast dinner on sunday and planning to use left overs throughout the week really is an efficient and frugal way to feed a family.
  • Some meals are quite time consuming to prepare. Lasagne for example but here is how I do it. I make a double batch of bolognaise in the slow cooker on Saturday. We have spag bol for tea and I put half the bolognaise in the fridge. On Monday I make cauliflower cheese and make double the amount of cheese sauce I need. With my left over bolognaise and extra cheese sauce I assemble my lasagne. Pop it in the fridge (it’s better made a day in advance some how) and on Tuesday I have a ready made lasagne that just needs baking.

If you need some inspiration for your menus here are some if my favourite sources of inspiration.

  • BBC good food – such a treasure trove of great recipes. I have a note on my phone with links to some of our favourite recipe’s for quick access.
  • I picked up some great modern recipe books at my local library.
  • If your a fan of slow cooking i can’t recommend this book enough. Slow cooker favourites by BBC good food.
  • Nigella express was one of the books I picked up at the local.library and have since bought a copy.
  • If you really get stuck suggest an recipe swop with a friend. You give her one of your family favourites and they give you one of theirs – everyone is a winner.

Now all I have to do it sit back and enjoy the fruits of my hard work. I am enjoying cooking our new menu’s and feeling excited to try some new recipes each week instead of the same things over and over and the hard work of planning our meals and writting a shopping list is done.

Natural insect repellent

It’s certainly been a hot summer. I’m not complaining I love the sun but with sunshine comes insects. My eldest daughter and I seem to be particularly tasty to mosquitoes and so I wanted to create a natural insect repellent and bite soother. Both have been incredibly effective and smell delicious! It feels so good to not be covering our skin in nasty incectisides.

I feel it’s important to say I am not a qualified aromatherapist but a keen amateur who uses essential oils daily on my whole family but I do my own research first and it’s important you do the same.

Cooling insect repellant

  • Coloured glass spray bottle
  • Witch hazel
  • Essential oils

Firstly think about what insects are a particular problem to you and about the ages of those you want to use the spray on. I found the following chart extremely helpful.

We chose citronella for mosquitoes and lavender for house flies and a little peppermint . I used 80ml bottles and filled them with witch hazel. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and therefore powerful and must always be diluted before putting them on your skin. In this instance I used a 2% dilution – a drops dilution chart is extremely useful.

From the chart above you’ll see 2% dilution means adding 6 drops of essential oil per 10ml. So for 80ml you would add 48 drops.

We used 20 drops of lavender essential oil, 20 of citronella and 8 drops of peppermint in our spray. Add the oils and replace the spray top. Either shake or gently roll your bottle to blend.

Now remember I said you need to do your own research here is a good example of this. Peppermint is a powerful oil (and it tends to dominate the smell profile of a blend) but it should not be used in dilutions over 1% and you’ll see here u have used less than 1% in our blend. I recommend the following book if you’d like to start using essential oils at home.

This spray has not only kept the bugs at bay it’s very cooling too and lovely to use. Store out of direct sunlight.

For those times when you do get bites or nettle sting this soother is brilliant. I got the recipe from this great website called using essential oils safely

I used whitch hazel as my carrier again as I didn’t have anything else but sunflower oil or grapesead oil would be great too. I bought 10ml aromatherapy roller bottles on e-bay – they are so handy to have. I keep this in the fridge so it’s always handy and extra soothing.

I had my doubts about weather this recipe would be enough to calm bug bites and nettle stings but it’s worked better than anything else I’ve tried.

Those who know me or have been following my blog for a while will know what a fan of natural remedies I am. In January I joined Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic as a consultant and rekindled my love of essential oils – which I have dabbled in since my teenage years. In June I was fortunate enough to attend an introduction to aromatherapy course at Neals Yard Covent garden. Neal’s Yard are the first UK supplier of organic essential oils and i’ve loved learning more about this super ethical company. Do beware of cheap essential oils they are likely to be synthetic and not the real deal. If you would like to order oils through me or discuss the opprtunity Neal’s Yard offers please do get in touch this further. I’m also up for general chat about essential oils and what you love too so do please leave a comment.

New years resolution 

It’s taken me a VERY long time to find my 2018 feet. Christmas and new year were consumed by poorly children and we welcomed in the new year to the dawning realisation that we can no longer deny my son’s asthma is severe and that I need to make adjustments to the pace of our family life to accommodate this. It’s meant a slow start to the year and for me laying aside some of my hopes and plans. Which at times has made me sad.

However, I did start a pilates class (having a husband who commutes vast distances every day is not very conducive to getting out in the evenings). I was nervous my first class but kitted myself out by sewing myself a new yoga mat bag. I love the results. I was delighted to discover my class is a real mixed ability afair and everyone is very down to earth and friendly. Also that my constantly interrupted and somewhat sporadic home work outs (the kind where trucks are driven over my mat and tea parties held underneath me as I plank) had been more effective in maintaining my fitness than I had thought. I’ve done 4 weeks now, I am loving it and really starting to feel the benefits. My bag is greatly admired too.