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Giving Tuesday

  

Today is ‘Giving Tuesday.’ After the madness of Black Friday (I experienced it at an American mall this year…!) and the crazy online shopping of Cyber Monday, today is a day to step back and think about giving. 

Gifts is my love language, I love to give and to think of things to give. Christmas shopping is a great time for me to think about the people who have been significant in my year and think about  ways to bless them. Equally, a few things in recent weeks have challenged me about my attitude to inequality and my responsibility to the oppressed so I have tried to make today a chance to think about that.

So what could you give today? I have come up with a few suggestions.
1. CLIC Sargent.

Yes, it’s the charity I work for, but I see every day the impact it has. Every day in the UK, 10 children and young people will be told the devastating news that they have cancer. CLIC Sargent is on the forefront of supporting those families, practically, emotionally and financially. They have social workers in every principal treatment centre in the UK, they provide grants to every family at the point of diagnosis, they have homes from home at hospitals for families who have to travel long distances for treatment, and they walk with families through their cancer journey, wherever that goes. 

You can donate to them here CLIC Sargent. Alternatively made a donation to a charity that is close to your heart. 

2. Giving and Getting

If you’ve got Christmas shopping to do, it can be hard to work out how to prioritise giving to loved ones as well as giving to those less fortunate. So how about buying stuff as Christmas presents that also gives a donation? Agree with your family that all your gifts will come from charity shops? Or buy from one of these places that gives something for everything you buy

Toms will give a pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair you buy
Warby Parker sell awesome sunglasses and they give a donation from every pair of glasses to train people to provide better eye health care in developing countries. They will also ship the glasses for you to try on before you buy! (thanks to the lovely Laura for blogging about this today)
Baby Teresa do the same thing with baby clothes, one for one. Shipping to the UK ain’t cheap but their clothes are lush! 

  

3.Giving closer to home

As an alternative to giving to charities or companies, why not think of ways you can bless the people around you. Who do you know who needs some love today? Or who in your world is struggling to face the Christmas season for whatever reason? Put yourself out, give them some money, buy them some groceries, invite them to your home for some part of Christmas.
   

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Keeping it bright

Well, friends it’s been a long time. I’ve been busy getting married and Becca has been busy starting a family! But we figured it’s about time we rekindled the Hugo and Ru love and I’ve got a few posts ready to share whirring around my brain. So let’s start with this one!

Life may have been changing recently, but one thing that hasn’t is my commitment to being as natural as possible with my beauty regime. Lush is still my ultimate fave and coconut oil is still a Godsend! I’ve been seriously considering my attitude towards natural beauty, not just in terms of the products I choose to use but in what God naturally gave me, and others, both inside and out. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I truly believe that beauty is just everywhere and it’s all about the attitude you choose to have. Anyway- slightly off tangent! 

Regardless of this, I have an inner battle with some of those things God naturally gave me. Like my teeth! My teeth just aren’t the epitome of sparkley whites. And this has always bothered me. Sure, I know the celebrities gleaming grins aren’t real! But that doesn’t stop me from wishing I had one too! Should I stop drinking so much tea to get there? Yep- probably. Will I? No! But there is something that Pinterest taught me that I am willing to try…
Coconut oil pulling

  

So I admit, the first time I heard about this it sounded totally gross. Swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth and through my teeth for 20 minutes? Gag! But I decided to be a big brave woman and at least give it a shot. Realisation number one: coconut oil does not taste as gross as you think. It’s actually pretty inoffensive and a little tasty! Realisation number two: not being able to swallow for 20 minutes isn’t easy. And it really makes your mouth hurt. Realisation number three: 20 minutes can feel like an absolute decade. All the Pinterest pins told me to swish it for 20 and then spit it out, followed by a swish of warm salty water and after 4 days of doing this twice a day my smile would be gleaming. My only issue with this has been sticking to that whole twice a day everyday thing, but after the first try my dear husband (DH) did announce that not only did my teeth look whiter but they looked whiter than when I tried a “professional” treatment. I will keep oil pulling and let you know my end results- but so far, so good!

Another battle I have is with my hair. Those who know me know that I change hair colour A LOT and can’t help but change up the cut more often than is probably reasonable. DH is a fan of long hair and was totally devastated a few months back when I chopped it into a bob. I love it and love the change, but also love it long and decided to grow it again (typical indecisiveness). Lead on to:

Lush New hair shampoo bar

  

Lush quite literally have a new shampoo bat. Called New! A dear friend of mine has recently got on board with Lush in a big way and bought this little treat for herself. Upon testing it, I decided to also give it a go. Containing cinnamon, clove and peppermint, it is claimed that this bar promotes healthy hair growth as the ingredients stimulate the hair follicles and boost blood flow. I’ve only used this for a few days but so far LOVE it and will let you know my findings 😊.

The final thing that I have been battling with isn’t just about natural ingredients. It’s about my own attitude towards myself, my life and what I fill my life with. I’d like to think of myself as an optimist but know this isn’t always true. Like most people, I battle with a negative attitude, especially towards myself, and where I suffer with anxiety on a daily basis, I’m discovering quite how much a negative attitude (both myself and other peoples) can quickly poison life. They say if you chase happiness you will never find it, because you need to find happiness in what you already have. So finally:

Keep It Bright

  

I’ve recently discovered a brand that aim to promote a “positivity movement” as a way of living and as a mindset. Now that is something I can get on board with. Loving yourself, your life and others. Completely and positively! Keep It Bright sell some fantastic clothing and jewellery all with the ethos of strength, love and happiness. And let’s just take a moment to appreciate the gorgeousness that is this sweatshirt:

  
If but I had a spare £44 this close to Christmas!!

And so that’s enough of my blathering for today. It’s been kinda liberating to write again! I feel that at the moment I’m on a real journey of self discovery and am excited to share that with anyone who cares to read and I hope that some of you may join me in my crusade! I’ll leave you with one final positive promise that I am holding on to. Until next time friends!

  
Hannah xo

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Mexicagne!

Yesterday I was a bridesmaid again. I worked out that it was the 10th time, if you count twice as a flower girl when I was teeny, and that one time I was a ‘groomsmaid’ or ‘best woman.’

So I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about weddings. And if I know one thing it’s that the night before the wedding is often so crazy that no one has thought about food, and I do NOT do well if I haven’t eaten. So for this wedding I decided I would sort out some food for everyone, to look after them, and to avoid them having to see Hangry Becca! Lasagne seemed like an easy option to prepare ahead of time, but as I had decided to make two lasagnes, I thought maybe I would make one regular and one a little different.

I had a ton of pulled pork left over from dinner earlier in the week, so thanks to Pinterest and a bit of imagination, I created a pulled pork Mexican lasagne, or Mexicagne!

So the base is fried onion, garlic, pulled pork, a tin of tomatoes, a tin of sweetcorn and a tin of  kidney beans, with some fajita spice (I had some in the cupboard). I layered that up with regular white sauce like any other lasagne (I’m wondering if next time I could incorporate something more sour cream-esque here) but instead of lasagne sheets I used corn tortillas. 

  
And it was good!!! Really tasty, and the tortillas didn’t go as soggy as I feared they might. They didn’t have the same consistency as lasagne sheets but they were sturdy enough for the lasagne to hold its shape. 

  

I won’t write a recipe because to do so would be to pretend I have a clue how much of anything I used. I made it up as I went along, but it was good.

  
(Yep, crisps seemed like the logical accompaniement)

Lasagne is a great vehicle for putting together different food combinations and covering them in cheese, win win win!! A friend of mine has given me a spinach and Stilton lasagne recipe that I am going to try next. It helps that we have some Stilton in the fridge left over from yesterday’s wedding, it would be waste not to use it! 
What is your favourite lasagne? Or do you think the original shouldn’t be messed with? 

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June natural faves

So, confession time, I’ve not posted since April… That’s 2 whole months!!! And even worse, I’ve had things stored up to say but just haven’t managed to get there. So, my biggest apologies for this serious neglect! Life is somewhat chaotic at the moment, what with a *very* imminent wedding, family visits and house moves, but I’ve managed to stop for a 5 minute breather just to share with you some of my most recent and favourite natural beauty and fairtrade fabulous buys! Let’s start with some products from my classic fave: Lush.

1. H’suan Wen Hua hair treatment and Powdered Sunshine 

After a lifetime of hair dying, hair stripping and bleaching, I have to confess- my hair is a little more on the damaged side than it used to be. To be frank, I’ve probably gotten away with more than I should have been able to having been blessed with pretty decent hair all round but it’s finally starting to take its revenge!! I thought I’d give this hair treatment a try after a friend recommended it in the States. Stuffed full of protein rich egg, banana and avocado, this treatment literally brought my hair back to life. And it smells like CHRISTMAS everyone! That’ll be the cinnamon. I was a wee be sceptical about this one at the start. Powdered sunscreen?! WHAT??? How does that even make sense? But more the fool me. I thought I’d give this a test ready to take on honeymoon and was seriously pleasantly surprised. On a trip to the beach, I gave this a go. It’s not the easiest thing to apply and has a more sticky texture than a regular powder, but the protection it gives is fabulous. As a pale skinned lovely, this certainly did the job- and Luke’s sunburn will certainly attest to the fact that it was crazy warm that day (hear his cries of “I’ll be fine without sunscreen thanks”). As someone who hates that slick feel that suncreams give, this was a brilliant alternative and in a cute dinky bottle too, perfect for carrying around for a top up. Get ready Rome!

2. Natural Health magazine  

So I’ve probably been living under a rock to have not discovered this, but I’m not much of a magazine buyer and it was only when I needed change on the beach trip for parking that I found this treat of a read! Natural beauty from the inside out, with lots of great tips on eating better, having a healthier lifestyle and TONNES of advice on organic products. A fabulous little read!

3. ASOS Green Room ‘Eco’ edit 

I’m a regular online shopper and often search for new companies that provide ethical fashion. I think on this day I was searching for Fairtrade Leggings (the Eco warrior gym staple) when I discovered that ASOS have an edit of ethical products and companies all tied up in a neat bundle! I was mostly excited that ASOS have recognised how important this is and decided to draw more attention to what they provide, as otherwise it could be pretty hidden. Packed full of Fairtrade jewellery, ethical fashion and great vintage finds!

4. Eighteen Rabbit

So technically, this isn’t a new find as such. I’ve discovered this store in Hay-On-Wye (my happy place) and have always loved rummaging through their items, but recently they popped up on my Facebook newsfeed! So really I’m just gonna share my most favourite items from their online store!   

   

  

  

  

  

How totally adorable are those necklaces? And the swoon worthy dresses?! Just fabulous!

So, friends, fill me in. What are your most favourite recent natural beauty/Fairtrade fashion finds? Share away! Hannah xo

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My obsession with Kombucha

When we were in America last year I got a tummy bug. And I don’t know if it was a particularly bad strain, or if I was run down and in need of a holiday when I got it or whether it was just my lack of immunity to American germs (hey, I work in a hospital, don’t question my medical opinion…!) but I felt dreadful!! I was only properly ill for about 24 hours but for about a week afterwards I didn’t really want to eat, didn’t enjoy my food and felt under the weather. And remember we were in America, the home of food!! I wanted to make the most of it.
So one night Matt and I pottered out to the supermarket (little aside…am I the only one who flipping loves walking round supermarkets in different countries? It’s honestly my idea of a nice evening out on holiday) and I was still feeling gross so I picked up this…

  
I figured ginger is good when you feel sick, and probiotics could only be a good thing so I went with it.

Two things. One; this stuff is DE-licious! Seriously it is so tasty and tongue tingly and I loved it, but two; it actually seemed to make me feel better. I drank a couple more over the next couple of days and I felt 100% better! And an obsession was born.

Trouble is, there are about 5 big brands making Kombucha in the states and it’s for sale in every supermarket, but it doesn’t seem to have swept the UK yet. Seriously, in my Eco, paleo, organic eating efforts I SWEAR America get all the good stuff! So I’ve struggled for a while to find anywhere stocking it here, and making it myself seemed way too much effort!
However, I’ve found a stockist, and their stuff is good! Love Kombucha is based in Newport and ships throughout the UK, and it tastes fantastic! 

  

So what is Kombucha? Basically it is fermented tea. Tea is fermented with sugar and a SCOBY in it, (SCOBY = Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY feeds off the sugar (so the final product has only traces of sugar in it) and makes the tea get all excitable and bubbly. When it’s fermented enough, a second ‘brewing’ can be done with the SCOBY removed and flavour added. One hilarious side effect of the bubbly loveliness  is that you have to ‘burp’ bottles of Kombucha occasionally to stop the build up of gas getting too great, it’s like natures very own Sodastream! (It is also technically a tiny bit alcoholic, but literally like 0.5%. Low enough that they sell it with other sodas in supermarkets in the states!)

And because it’s fermented, it’s full of lovely probiotic goodness. I’ve already been told this week how much of a hippy I am, so I won’t get too ‘out there’ about this, but there are people* who definitely believe that our gut health impacts almost every other facet of our being, and good gut bacteria = good overall health. And this stuff is so so much tastier than those nasty little yoghurt drinks!!
(*just ‘people’ alright? Theoretical people with weird ideas and not me at all. Nope. Ok, fine, I am one of these people)

So obsessed am I, that I’ve even bought a SCOBY online and have some Kombucha of my own brewing in the kitchen. Basically because this stuff is good but buying it ain’t cheap so I’ll be making my own!! I’m excited to try out some new flavours and get healthy all at the same time!

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Spotlight on: The Spicery

Here I am with my promised more upbeat post. I can’t thank you all enough for the beautiful feedback my last post got. There are some very wonderful people in the world.

I wanted to post today to share a website that we’ve recently fallen a bit in love with. Back in October, some friends bought Matt a subscription to The Spicery. I had seen the subscriptions available before, but hadn’t known exactly how it worked, but we have LOVED it. Every month they send all of the spices and instructions you need to put together a meal from some corner of the world, . You have to buy the main ingredients yourself, but the meals we have had have been amazing. It worked well for Matt who likes detailed instructions when cooking (and follows them, to the letter! if that recipe says 100g, he will NOT be using 101g!) and he has loved the chance to do some more exciting cooking.

January

The flavours are just incredible, I have been amazed at how tasty it all is. You know when you want to try a new recipe but you need 10 different new spices to make it, and you know you’re only going to use 1tsp of it and then it’s going to fester in the cupboard for the next 5 years til you finally clean the cupboard out and add it into a bolognese to see what happens?…no? Just me? OK.  But this subscription means you get the right amount of spices mixed together with no wastage. And did I mention it tastes incredible??

Vietnamese

We loved the ‘world kitchen’ subscription we had so much that we have recently signed up for a few months more of the ‘date night’ packs. Tonight we had the Thai date night pack. Thom Kha Gai (Thai chicken and mushroom soup) to start…

starter

Pad Thai for main…this was AMAZING!

main

and then mango sticky rice for pudding!

pudding

I would highly recommend the Spicery if you want to buy a gift for a friend who likes cooking, or likes food. I love subscriptions generally as a gift, as every time it comes through the post it’s like another present. But you can also buy the packs directly on their website http://www.thespicery.com and we have re-bought some of the packs we got in our subscription because they were so good! They also sell some other brilliant bits including chai tea spices, jasmine for making tea and a variety of high quality spices for when you DO need random spices to make a recipe.

Do it! That’s all,

Becca xxx

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A little update…

I’ve lost my voice recently.

Not physically, that’s still going strong. But emotionally, and publicly, I’ve sort of lost my ability to speak. I haven’t blogged in months, you may have noticed I’ve been leaving all the hard work to Hannah, and rather than just pop back up with a recipe or photos of another holiday (which I have been on by the way…) I feel like I need to find my voice and talk a bit about what life has really been like lately.

The last 6 months have been crazy. We moved house twice, lived in a friend’s spare room for a while and eventually actually bought a house (near the sea, yay!). We’ve moved church, been on holiday, bought carpet, and I’ve been to more hen do’s than is normal for most people in a lifetime. And, well, one other thing… On January 3rd we found out we were expecting our first baby. Our long-prayed-for, waited-for and tried-for baby. We were over the moon and had an exciting few weeks downloading apps to tell us how tiny that bunch of cells was, giggling about ridiculous names (William Williams anyone?!) and figuring out due dates and maternity leave dates. It was awesome. But then it came to an abrupt and painful end. Heartbreakingly, I miscarried at 10 weeks.

Of course we knew it was a possibility, everything you read in that first trimester warns you about it, but somehow you can’t live your life that way, you have to hope. So we were shattered. It all happened really horribly and ended up with 2 weeks of doctors appointments, horrible procedures and one awful night in hospital and we were left exhausted, devastated and confused.

I’m quite a ‘heart on my sleeve’ girl, so we did tell the people around us what had happened. I’m not capable of hiding my emotions so I’d rather tell people what’s going on than have them wonder why I’m crying again! However, pregnancy loss isn’t really spoken about much, is it? It feels so intensely personal, that sharing anything about it on social media or with a ‘wider audience’ in any capacity feels really hard. So we didn’t.

Problem is, I’m not ok yet. 2 months on, I think everyone thinks it’s over, and of course it is, but it is still incredibly raw and painful for me, for us. It seems weird really, this thing that we barely knew was there, hadn’t even felt move, but it has impacted us in such a profound way. It wasn’t just the loss of a pregnancy, but the loss of all of the hopes and dreams we had already had for that little life. The loss of the possibility of being ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy,’ the loss of that next step for us as a family.  And as I have started to try to find some relief by reading things written by other people who have been here, I’ve realised that sharing the story is so important. Everyone knows loads of people who’ve had a baby, so they know what that looks like. But you also know a lot of people who’ve lost a baby. I only know this because as we started telling people, so many of them said ‘us too!,’ and statistics suggest that between 20 and 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so it’s happening to lots of people! But chances are, those people haven’t told you what that was like for them. We don’t. Everyone gets told now to keep a pregnancy secret til 12 weeks because otherwise you’ll have to tell everyone if you have a miscarriage. Like that would be the worst thing you could ever do! Even the word ‘miscarriage’ suggests you did something wrong, like mis-spoke, or mis-understood! It doesn’t help! So I feel like I’ve lost my voice. As I go to update my Facebook status, I realise that I daren’t write what I’m really feeling. As I’ve thought about blogging, it has seemed absurd to try to write a segment about cooking or eco-cleaning whilst standing amongst these broken pieces of our life right now. If I had been bereaved in any other way, I would have found it much easier to share, that doesn’t seem right!

I think these stories need sharing for 2 reasons. Firstly, if you’re reading this and you’ve lost a pregnancy, you’re not alone! I feel like it’s vital to know that someone else has been there and you’re not going mad!  That pain and grief is real and noone can tell you that it isn’t. But secondly, if you know someone going through this, or if you ever end up in a situation where someone tells you they’ve lost a pregnancy, you should know what to say.

So first things first, please PLEASE don’t lead with ‘at least you managed to get pregnant.’ Because I’m not pregnant now so that really doesn’t help. I’m really quite a logical person, I know that getting pregnant was a step forward in our trying to be parents, but it really doesn’t help with this. While we’re at it, neither does ‘it wasn’t meant to be,’ ‘there must have been something wrong with the baby that meant it wasn’t supposed to live,’ or ‘it’s really common.’ The point is that we have lost something so precious and whether it was meant to be, or not, we’re broken by it. Common or not, we’re living it right now and we’re hurting. Divorce is common. Death of a family member is common. No-one leads with that fact when someone shares that kind of hurt! Also, so importantly don’t forget about the man. Women are the ones who physically go through miscarriage, but believe me, Matt has needed at least as much love and support as I have. He is just as sad, just as angry, and has lost just as much! If you are one of the people who has said these things to us, or to others, don’t worry, we totally get that people don’t know what to say, and are trying to bring some comfort, but there are more helpful things to be said…!

So when your friend shares with you that this is what they’re going through, just listen, and hold them, and if you can, bring cake! Tell them that you’re so sorry, and then just be there with them.  Let them know that you love them, and if you can bear it, don’t try to make it better! And keep being there. This is not a loss that goes away in a few weeks. I’m certain that even if/when we have a successful pregnancy, we will still feel the loss of this one.

I am so not writing this post to get your sympathy. In fact, that’s the bit I’ve worried most about in writing it, that people will feel they need to say something sympathetic. We’re doing ok, and most days we’re feeling pretty normal. We have some amazing people in our lives who have supported us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We have incredible friends who have held us together through the past 2 months, and I owe them a debt of gratitude, they’ve done the sympathy bit for us (including in more than one case, quite literally showing up at our door with cake!), we don’t need any more.  I’m writing it so you know, and so that people, generally, are made more aware that this happens.  I have one friend who shared really honestly about a miscarriage last year, and when we went through it, I remember immediately feeling comfort that I knew someone else had felt what I was feeling and had managed to keep going.

And also, if I can share this without sounding like I want to tack something trite and positive onto the end, we are fortunate that we have a strong faith which has been our security through all of this. Honestly, it hasn’t been that we’ve felt that ‘it’s ok, it must have been God’s will,’ but rather we know that we are known, and loved and that God is walking with us through this pain.  The faith we have is tangible and gritty and has been our sustenance on the lowest of days. This verse has been my phone background since the day all of this started, and has really helped me.

IMG_4576

So there it is, the broken pieces of what we’ve been living through this past few months. Thanks for listening. I promise next time I post will be far more lighthearted!

Becca