How Green is Your Kitchen?

Keeping my kitchen clean and hygienic is a top priority. Our kitchen is essentially the hub of our home. We cook, eat and craft in the kitchen. People are constantly coming in and out! So I like to keep things clean, and where possible tidy. (I’m less good at tidy, but I try!). I try to keep things in our home as eco-friendly as possible. But it is sometimes hard to avoid plastic or harsh chemicals. Recently though, I think I’ve started to find a balance.

Switch out kitchen sponges!

Kitchen sponges are generally made of plastic and they come wrapped in plastic too. I’ve switched to none sponges from Tabitha Eve. They are a plastic free alternative to your traditional kitchen sponge. They look pretty and work well, oh…and you can wash them and reuse them!

A greener cleaner?

So, lots of people make their own cleaning products. I have tried with various degrees of success. I love using natural ingredients for cleaning my oven, it’s cheap doesn’t smell and works well. But, I prefer a shop bought cleaner for cleaning surfaces. I started using Method a few years ago, as they had greener credentials and most products could be re-filled. Now, I seem to be struggling to find the refills, and I’m frustrated with the number of plastic containers I’m ending up putting into ‘recycling’. So I may need to rethink again.

Laundry

I used to use Method as I liked the refills. Since struggling to find the refills I’ve been searching for a replacement. This is difficult as the children have sensitive skin, so some products don’t work for us. I tried a laundry egg, I wanted to love it, but it just didn’t work for us at all. So, we are going to try Smol. Smol has green credentials, but is it green enough? I’m not sure – watch this space!

Kitchen towels.

I’ve never been keen on kitchen paper. Yes it is easy to use, but it has always seemed odd to me to spend money on something non essential that we just throw away. I use old tea towels to mop up spills or do anything I may use kitchen roll for. (NB: The cleaning tea towels are kept separate to my normal tea towels and get hot washed separately too.)

So, that’s how green my kitchen is so far, how green is yours?

*some items previously gifted*

Grow your own herbs.

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I am lucky enough to have a great garden, and I love to grow my own fruit and vegetables. This year I’ve not grown as much as I would like, as with a young baby last year I struggled with the preparation. So I’m carefully planning what I need to plant over the winter months for crops next year.

Even with my limited growing this year, we had plenty of fruits, I was delighted with my blueberry crop!

If you have a limited garden space, or just a windowsill, you can still grow your own! Herbs are easy to grow, and they can be grown on a kitchen windowsill or a container outside. The joy of growing your own herbs is they taste so much better freshly picked. It saves money and avoids single-use plastic on buying freshly cut herbs at the supermarket.

Trago have produced a great guide of when to plant and harvest your herb garden. A little bit of effort to plant herbs can provide months of herbs for your kitchen!

Growing your own herbs is a great way to start gardening, and an ideal way to encourage children to get involved too. My children love growing herbs to use on homemade pizzas! It has really helped my fussy eater to want to try eating a few new things!

If you’re lucky enough to get a bumper crop of herbs, you can easily freeze herbs to store them for use at a later date. I like to freeze them in olive oil in an icecube tray! You could also dry herbs out, or make infused oils if you are limited on freezer space.

I think that herbs smell beautiful, and if you’re looking for an easy to grow, fragrant way to fill a garden or container growing your own herbs is a great choice. Do you grow your own herbs?

Getting Autumn Ready…

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It may still be summer, but I am already preparing myself for Autumn. I think perhaps it is the grey, wet days we have had the last week. I’ve started thinking about the shorter days, longer nights and colder temperatures. There’s always the annual winter preparations, and ways to stay warm in winter, but this year I’m taking time to prepare a few Autumnal luxuries too.

Candles

Inspired by reading about the Danish concept Hygge, I’ve been carefully selecting candles to light the lounge. I’ve a few beautifully scented candles to pick and choose from each evening. I suppose you could say I can pick a fragrance to suit my mood!

Socks

After the a summer of wearing sandals, a new cosy pair of socks always feels like quite a luxury! Like buying the children school uniform, I always buy myself new socks. This year I’ve indulged in a pair of Cashmere socks, thanks to UKTights.com. They are super soft, and extremely indulgent. Perfect for those evenings curled up with a good book! You may ask why I want cosy socks rather than slippers, my answer is – I can’t cosy up in slippers! So, when I’m curled up on the sofa socks are essential!

Books

I have several books on my to read list. I try to chat to friends about books they have enjoyed as it helps me to find new authors. Autumn is a great time to get reading, and have gathered a few books ready to keep me busy as the weather turns cooler. It’s also a handy way to encourage my children to keep reading too- if they see me reading they are always keen to read themselves! By buying books now, I can build up a little collection so when I can’t get to the Library, I still have books to enjoy!

My walking routine…

The summer holidays have thrown me into chaos. Ignore the break in the children’s routine, my routine is lost! During term time, I try to make time to walk every day while the children are at school. It’s a good way to spend an hour, and N is quite happy as I either push him along in the pushchair or carry him. Yes, he could walk to but generally I’m wanting to walk briskly and he’s not quite up to keeping up yet! (Soon…)

The holidays have brought lots of fun of course. No school runs means less stress to the day, and no sudden realisation that all the uniform is dirty. The children wear what they like, and it’s only taken 3 weeks for my daughter to stop insisting on a change of outfit every couple of hours… The other thing the holidays has done is limit my walking time. My children do enjoy a walk, but there’s so many other things they want to do too! However…

Pokemon helped get us walking…

Well there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use. But seriously, Pokemon go has made the more reluctant child be quick to suggest a walk! Whether it is raining or not, Pokemon Go seems to encourage the got to catch em all mentality and the more walking you do, the more you can catch. So, actually the most reluctant walker has perhaps been the most enthusiastic this summer!

The Activity Tracker

Eldest has his own activity tracking watch, and being the competitive sort of family, he and I will always try to ‘out step’ each other. I confess I rarely win.

Walking is free and a great way to fill a few hours of the summer holidays. Inevitably you discover new places and see things you wouldn’t see if you weren’t walking e.g. along the woodland foot path! In the rain there’s the fun of puddle splashing. In the sunshine we will either aim for somewhere to buy an ice cream or pack up a picnic! (Read picnic as a couple of sandwiches and a drink..!)

So, while my walking routine has been thrown into chaos. I will miss my brood once they’re back at school and I am back to my brisk walks slotted into school hours.

How Couples Can Add More Romance to Life

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Being part of a couple that is in a secure and loving relationship can be great. However, when you are in a long-term relationship, it is easy to become complacent when it comes to matters such as romance. This then leads to all the romance side of things becoming virtually non-existent which can take some of the mafic away from your relationship.

As a loving couple, it is important to make an effort to keep the romance alive, as this is something that can impact on other areas of your relationship. If you find that the romance has already started to wane despite the fact you both still love one another, you can take steps to add more romance to your life. In this article, we will explore some of the ways in which you can do this.

Helpful Hints to Restore the Romance

These days, people go online to get all sorts of help with various aspects of their love lives from looking for the best sex toys to bring back some passion to finding advice on how to restore romance in their relationship. When it comes to the latter, there are various steps you can take in order to be more romantic and to add some of that original magic back into your relationship.

One of the simplest things you can do, which is also a very effective romantic gesture, is to simply whisk your partner off for an afternoon picnic to an attractive part of local beach. You can enjoy strolling together and taking in the surrounding beauty, you can sit and enjoy your picnic with some wine or beers to wash it down, and best of all, you get to jut sit back, relax, and spend time with one another. This is something that is ideal for those that cannot afford to take a lot of time off from other commitments and those who are on a limited budget.

Another thing you can do without spending a fortune is cook up a surprise romantic meal for your partner and really go to town with the setting. If is the height of summer, you can enjoy taking the meal outside to the patio, putting up some fairy lights, setting up a bistro table, and creating an enchanting outdoor space where you can dine al fresco. If the weather is cooler, create a romantic ambiance indoors with soft music, candles, and a beautifully laid table with fresh flowers.

For those that can afford to take a couple of days off, you could always look at taking your partner away for a weekend or a mid-week break to a romantic destination where you can enjoy spending time together along with a change of scenery. You can spend quality time together during your break and forget about the stress and routine of everyday life for a short while.

So, if you want to get some romance back into your life, try out some of these methods for yourself.

Looking after yourself.

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For years I’ve tried to be careful with my diet. I try to look after myself by exercising and always turning up to routine medical appointments. But sometimes I forget that I need to look after my mental health too. It’s not something anyone talked about when I was growing up. But, with day to day life getting busier and busier, it is sometimes hard to find time to relax.

Breathe

I’ve noticed on the days when I take things a little slower, I am more able to deal with stress. It’s not always easy to go slower though! But I make time to just breathe in and out slowly, I use RELAX on my fitbit for guided breathing! It felt a bit strange when I first started using it, but I’ve found it really does help centre me. I try to find a little time to just pause each day. Taking a few minutes to focus on my breathing and not think about the stress of the day really helps me relax.

Talk

Talking about worries I think is the most important thing I can do. It’s also often the hardest. If I’m feeling upset by something, or stressed, I sometimes just want to sit and try and work it out by myself. But I was always told that a problem shared is a problem halved. I’m lucky to have a couple of really close friends to turn too for a chat when I need it most. But I have in the past spoken to my GP and she has pointed me in the direction of where to look for help. Some people find talking therapy really helps.

Get Outdoors

Spending time outdoors really helps me especially in the winter months. If I’m stressed heading out for a walk in the woods or the seaside really helps me. There’s actually some research going into the thought that being near the sea is actually good for your health. I have to say, I really believe that the sea does have healing powers for me.

Self-Care

I think self-care is a bit of a strange term, but I’m not sure how else to phrase it? I don’t mean taking a long bubble bath, or making time to read – although those are vital too. I mean, I think it’s really important to learn to say no, to people who make a bad situation worse. When you have stressful things to deal with in your own life, you can’t always be there for everyone else. Someone once described me as trying to be a lighthouse, i.e. always there trying to shine the way while weathering the storm alone. I hadn’t noticed that it was always the same people who made me feel like I was weighted down while trying to deal with stress. It’s hard to say “no, you are making a situation worse”, but sometimes I think it’s important too. I’ve also found that pointing them in the direction of someone else to talk to, and even whether maybe a therapist could help?

BIC YOUNG ARTIST Award 2019!

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I’m not sure about you but my kitchen is covered in artwork! Whether painted at school, or drawn at home, pictures multiply daily!

According to research on behalf of BIC, “three quarters of parents have kept the first arts and crafts item their child ever created for them and 70 per cent are keeping a box of their children’s arts and crafts items to give to them when they are older.” So if you’re a hoarder of your children’s art you are not alone!

If you have a budding artist aged between 5 and 11, why not encourage them to enter the BIC Young Artist award 2019! But hurry as entries close 4th August!

To enter, grab your child an A4 piece of paper – in landscape! Get them to draw using pencils, crayons and felt tip pens. Encourage your child to use plenty of colour and make sure that they show off their skill! Once they’re done you need to enter via www.BICKIDS.co.uk/YoungArtist – (You can learn about the great prizes there too!).

Just imagine, if your child won you may even get to see their work of art up on a billboard!

Do I have too much screen time?

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I was posed the question by Vizulize eye care, do you think you have too much screen time? I hadn’t really thought about this before, but it made me think! My children would say – yes. Every quiet minute I am using my phone to capture photos, or staying in touch with texts. And thinking about it, maybe I could use my phone less?

Here’s the thing, with email, social media and text messages, keeping in touch has never been easier. Information is easy to get on the go, and there’s a temptation to stand and read the news or even play a game on my phone while standing waiting for a bus – or to collect the children from an after school club.

Then there’s another dimension to this, being able to use your phone for keeping in touch with work. Yes, how many people send work related emails from their mobile phone? More than even I’m imagining no doubt! I know that much of my screen time is spent looking at Instagram – I can lose an hour scrolling through pictures of peoples homes or fashion posts. Yes, I really do love Instagram!

I try to limit my screen time, but if I don’t, I find myself with tired eyes. Vizulize recommends practising screen mindfulness:

Attending sight tests, taking steps to reduce blue light and minimising device usage before bed are all effective ways to prioritise your eye health without sacrificing your lifestyle – just make sure you let your optician know if you notice any changes.

I have recently had my eyes tested and I’ve ordered new glasses. I’m trying to make sure I limit my phone time over the summer holidays, that means turning off alerts from my emails and apps! And making sure I make time to relax my eyes!

Keep organised at home.

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The end of the school year is here and we are at the peak of excitement about the summer holidays! The end of the school year always makes me look ahead to what the new school year will bring. September is always the time for new starts. Whether it is new classes, teachers or places of learning. I always found myself keen for a fresh subject learn or a new job!

With new starts comes new paperwork, and lots to remember. As a household of six, this means a lot to organise at home! And, unfortunately I’m not the best at organising paperwork!

Home organisation.

This year I’ve got plans to start organising myself a little better. I need to have a better filing system for our family paperwork. Currently all the important documents are housed in a box. It’s not the best filing system as it takes ages to sort through! I quite like the idea of getting office lockers and allocating one for every one! An elaborate but easily workable way to keep all the important stuff organised – and safe for each of us! Plus I have to confess I quite like the industrial look and adding lockers may allow me to really explore that trend in my home office!

Keep on track

I used to keep track of calender events with a simple calender on the wall. However, I’ve discovered it is easier to work with a large whiteboard instead! A whiteboard enables me to update any changes to the weeks plans quickly and easily. It’s my top tip to helping stay organised!

Make time to plan.

Every week, I make time to organise myself. So even though my calendar is busy and hectic, I keep control by allowing myself half an hour planning for the week on a Sunday afternoon. This means I don’t miss that dentist appointment which has been in the diary for months but slipped under the radar! It also means Monday morning is as calm as it can be, no matter how busy my day is!

Do you have any ways you like to keep organised?

Hape Sand Toys Review

Summer holidays are coming! We love time at the beach, paddling and building sandcastles! We always try to pack our sand toys to take with us as I don’t want to waste money on plastic toys which will break easily. My children have several beach toys which I remember buying with my parents in France as a child. So, buying with care means any toys we do buy, can be handed down.

I was asked if we’d like to review some sand toys from Hape, we already own a couple of their wooden toys, so I was keen to see what their sand toys would be like.

The sand toys we received are made from thick plastic, and they look very durable. As well as feeling quite comfortable to hold.

Robust sand toys.

We were sent a bundle of three toys to try out. Initially we tried the Hape dune buggy in the sitting room.

It was an instant hit, the handle makes it easy to manoeuvre for my 17month old. He loves being able to take charge of steering it around the house. It’s been very cleverly designed so it is very easy to steer. The large wheels make it easy to push through uneven surfaces – e.g. sand!

The Power Paw was popular with my 4 year old, she said it was easy to hold and spent ages digging with it. It is easier to use than a conventional spade so great for younger children.

My favourite item was the rain shovel. This is versatile for play in sand or water. It could be used to dig with or create a shower with water poured into the handle. It has been hours of fun! Cleverly designed so it fits comfortably in little hands, it is great for use in the sand pit too.

We can’t wait to take our Hape sand toys to the beach this summer!