Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Wow. Just finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which I blew through in a few days, and I feel like I've hiked the Pacific Crest Trail right alongside her!
I feel exhausted and exhilarated by it in equal measure and am completely in awe of Cheryl's courage and honesty. She looked her broken life straight in the eye and didn't flinch. It was a pilgrimage borne of grief and confusion that ended in a new human emerging from the trail, dirty and battered but with a new will to live.

In the book, there is a quote from Mary Oliver's famous poem The Summer's Day: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" That stands out for me as the whole point of her journey. It allowed her the space to answer (or at least ask) the question and start again from a place of integrity. We all get lost and sometimes we need to step outside of our lives and do something majestic -- like walking 11,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail -- and sometimes it's enough to read about someone else doing it.

These past few days have removed me completely from the city and my day-to-day life and allowed me to smell the clean mountain air and gaze across magnificent vistas to feel transported and freed somehow to make better choices. My thoughts feel more decisive; there's a clarity I didn't have when I started reading. It was very cathartic to travel those miles through the wilderness and end up precisely where I started, only now my view is different, changed by Cheryl's experience, generously shared.

She uses the word miigwech at the end, which is an Ojibwe word meaning thank you "but more -- its meaning imbued with humility as well as gratitude." It's what I'd say to Cheryl if I ever met her.

Monday, 29 July 2013


I grew up in the era when ChapStick was king. It was waxy, yes, but the flavours so delicious to my eight-year-old tastebuds that I spent many happy hours licking my favourite cola-flavoured one off my lips, no doubt making them much more chapped than they otherwise would have been! Then we became tweens and graduated on to big, fat tubes of Bonnie Bell Lipsmackers, which is fine when you are twelve, but I am a grown-up now. In the intervening years, my obsession with finding the perfect lip balm has seen me go through everything I could get my hands on, but I had never really found "the one"...until now: Hurraw!

Not totally sold on the name, but the balms are divine! These lip balms must be made by real kindred spirits as the packaging, the texture and the flavours are exactly what I would have made for myself if I possessed such skills. Safe in the knowledge that all the ingredients used are organic, vegan and raw, I am currently eating my way through the black cherry -- a nostalgic childhood favourite flavour of mine -- but my first love was vanilla bean.

They go on smooth and creamy and stay put (even with judicious licking!), and for an all-natural product, the balms are incredibly stable, even in extreme heat. These really are worth searching out! I have my eye on the grapefruit next or maybe cinnamon or perhaps even root beer...! With flavours ranging from chocolate to lime to earl grey, which one will you choose?

Friday, 26 July 2013

Guerrilla Gardening

I love wild flowers and I love the idea of guerrilla gardening...taking an ugly bit of neglected land and planting something beautiful on it to lift everyone's spirits, especially in a very urban environment. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover seedbombing!

Author and guerrilla gardener Josie Jeffery has created her own little seed bombs, which I am completely overexcited about! As she says on her website, they are little balls containing everything needed to grow a plant. The concept is that you launch them into any location where you want to add a little beauty: an abandoned lot, an unsightly roundabout or even your own garden.

This idea appealed to me so much that I started doing a little more digging (no pun intended!) and came across project MAYA, an amazing group of people trying to create a more sustainable society. They have applied a permaculture technique used since ancient times to formulate their own seed balls. With bee and butterfly populations in decline, here's your chance to really make a valuable difference!!

"If the bee disappeared from the surface of the earth,
 man would have no more than four years to live."
Albert Einstein 

The ready-made seed bombs/balls are about the size of marbles and there are a variety of different combinations you can buy: ones for bees, ones for butterflies, ones to create a wildflower meadow.... Just pick your combo, place your order and start a little beautifying revolution. I am currently on the prowl around my neighbourhood to identify some good spots for brightening up! So what are you waiting for? Get out there and lift the spirits of your community with some natural gorgeousness!

There is also a wonderful story by Barbara Cooney called Miss Rumphius, which would be great for introducing this concept to younger children. Each illustration is a little work of art and I love its premise: "Alice Rumphius wanted to travel the world when she grew up, and then to live by the sea -- just as her grandfather had done. But there is one more thing, he tells her: she must do something to make the world more beautiful. Young Alice does not yet know what that will be...". Could it be that Miss Rumphius was the original guerrilla gardener...?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Night Circus

As the sun continues to shine and holidays in foreign climes approach, my mind has turned to what to read. Of course, everyone has a different take on what constitutes the perfect "summer read" and I can only recommend what does it for me. I find that the topic/genre is less important than the writing itself. I want a book that totally grips me and transports me into another world; so total escapism, basically, and that can come in many forms. I will try to post some of my favourites from the last year over the next few weeks in the hope that you might find something just right to tuck into your carry-on! In the meantime, I give you The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

This is one of those magical books where the author has managed to create such a complete and believable world that it is hard to re-enter your own each time you put the book down. It is immeasurably beautiful and Morgenstern has cleverly tempered it with darkness to give it an authentic feel. On one level the premise is cruel, but the players have imbued the game with love and so the whole thing is elevated. It is based on illusion and the belief that it is real and possible -- one of my favourite concepts, as it is something I truly believe. I think it is something that we are coming closer to all the time and this is both a love song and a cautionary tale. I defy you not to be enchanted. Finishing it left me bereft. It is a book I want to buy for everyone I love and give as a true gift.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Naked Bee

My kids are out of school for the summer and my blogging time has decreased accordingly! However, I had to give a quick shout-out to this amazing line of products before logging off for the weekend...and I have my mother to thank for it. She has an uncanny ability to find things that I love. This is not easy
as I am quite pernickety, but over the years she has consistently come up
with books, jewellery, products and clothing (not to mention ideas!) that have delighted me and often sent me off into whole new directions. Without her,
I would not be able to make half the recommendations that I do, so
thanks Mom!

She first appeared back from a trip to Florida with The Naked Bee's Hand & Cuticle Healing Salve a couple of years ago and blew us all away. This stuff works on everything and smells delectable. We tried for years to put our finger on it and still haven't managed, but for any aromatherapists out there I came across an essential oil called Litsea on a course a few months ago that came as close as I have ever come to matching it. I'll stick my neck out here and say it's a bit like lemon sherbet, although you may beg to differ. Mom does; she says that's not quite right! However, it heals and/or soothes almost any kind
of skin condition: cracked heels, chapped lips, certain types of eczema, dry hands, flakey cuticles... you name it! And it comes in a perfect little pot just right for carting around with you wherever you go.

As if this were not enough, the following year she came home with the matching Hand & Body Lotion, which is equally divine and equally effective: sinks in quick, smells fabulous and does a great job. What's not to love? We could not get this amazing, all-natural line in the UK for love nor money before, but I am happy to report that Amazon has now started stocking some of the range. I have only tried the Orange Blossom Honey line, but if you are drawn to one of the others, do let me know how you get on. In the US, they still don't sell online direct (other than through Amazon), but check out their stockists here as there is probably a store near you.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Peach Keeper

I am amazed at how good books keep lining up to be read at exactly the time when their  "message" aligns with what's going on in my own life. For me, the past few months have been about authenticity -- trying to be truly myself -- and prioritising what really matters, and friendship is right up at the top of the list. My girlfriends are my lifeblood -- each one tapping into a different aspect of who I am and helping me nurture it so that every bit of me can be acknowledged and allowed to shine.

At different times, different friendships seem to come to the fore, like players on a stage emerging as scenes shift. We all need to know we are loved and we all have different gifts we give to each other. One friend teaches me industry, while another teaches faith; yet another shows me my spiritual path while somebody else mirrors back my physicality. It's so important that we do this for each other and so many of the books I've read recently have been about these invaluable relationships between women.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen has slightly less "magic" than her previous books, but is no less captivating for that fact. There are still little touches, like smells that each person "wears" having a particular meaning (for example, lemon pie = regret), and I love the fact that she has brought in a character from an earlier novel to interact briefly with this story. Ultimately, it's about love and friendship with a good thread of mystery running through it and how, as we become our true selves, we heal ourselves and that affects everyone around us -- even throughout our family history, bringing down the "stories' of earlier generations so that those women, too, can be set free. One line I loved was: "Willa said happiness means taking risks. And if you're not a little scared, you're not doing it right."!

If you haven't read any of Sarah Addison Allen's books before, you may want to start at the beginning and read your way through. (How I envy you!) I absolutely love her writing and the enchantment she weaves into all of her stories. They will transport you to the South and instil a little magic into your life. Sound good? Then, click here for more. My personal favourite is probably Garden Spells, but don't quote me on that...

Monday, 8 July 2013

Poem for a Monday

Dear Lord,
So far today, I'm doing all right.
I have not gossiped, lost my temper,
been greedy, grumpy, nasty,
selfish or self-indulgent.
I have not whined, complained,
cursed or eaten any chocolate.
I have charged nothing on my charge card.

But I will be getting out of bed in a minute,
and I think I will really need your help then.

I clipped this poem out of a magazine years ago because it made me laugh.
I don't have a source for it, but wish that I did as I would like to thank the person who wrote it! We are all fallible and Mondays can be hard, a day when our best intentions slip a little, our enthusiasm wanes, our inner procrastinator takes the helm and things can seem a bit dire. So, I am sending this poem out today because it reminds me that I have a whole week in which to tackle my to-do list, face my fears and accomplish just one little something that I am proud of. I hope you will join me in celebrating any successes, no matter how large or small, and at whatever point in the week they come. Happy Monday!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Favourite Facial Oil

Last Spring, I rewarded myself with a 12-month subscription to the Amarya Beauty Box scheme. Each month, a box of samples arrived with at least one full-sized product and several other testers. My girls and I had a grand time experimenting with all the new products pouring into the house! Obviously, some were better than others and I shall quietly leave the less successful ones to their fate. Among the "greats", however, was AD Skin Synergy's incredible Nourishing Night Treatment aromatic facial oil. 

I tend to stay away from oils at night as they always feel a bit heavy on my skin, but this is very light and absorbs beautifully. It is all natural and organic and lightly scented with an array of heavenly essential oils including rose, lavender, chamomile, ylang yang, neroli, frankincense and jasmine. They
are expertly blended so that no one scent dominates, but instead bring out
the best in each other, which is a fine thing in any instance! As the name suggests, it's also packed with nourishing oils...rosehip, evening primrose
and jojoba amongst others.

I have to admit to being rather slovenly in my evening routine and more often than not do not make it to the facial oil stage. However, when I do, the next morning my skin is always supremely soft and plumped a good way!
I have also noticed that when I do use it, I get compliments of the "you're looking well" variety and, frankly, if a beauty product can deliver those sorts of results then it has earned its keep on my shelf!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Minette's Feast

Minette's Feast by Susanna Reich is based on the true story of Julia Child 
and the "poussiequette" she and her husband Paul adopted while living in Paris. It is my favourite kind of picture book: full of lavish, painterly illustrations to pore over alongside a story pitched at just the right level to appeal to children of all ages as well as any adults roped in to read aloud...
and this is a great book to read aloud. Reich has used short runs of lyrical 
text and repeating phrases to just the right degree, making it as fun to listen 
to as to read.

There are French expressions sprinkled throughout the book and all of 
the snippets of dialogue are taken from Julia and Paul's actual letters to 
each other. I love that detail! There is a short biography of Julia Child in 
the back that really makes the book come to life and makes me want to 
watch Julie and Julia all over again!!

The beautiful illustrations were created by Amy Bates using pencil and watercolour and there is a fantastic sequence, worth the cost of the whole book alone, that shows Minette joyfully attacking a bone. This is an endearing, engaging keeper...or a great gift!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Eating Seasonably: July

Eating food in season is all the rage at the moment as well as being all over
the media -- and for good reason! I subscribe to a brilliant magazine called The Simple Things and last month I came across a feature highlighting a website called Eat Seasonably. On it, they have a calendar you can print off that lists what foods are at their peak each month. I thought it would be fun to post a list on the first of each month and then try to eat as many of the things on it as we can. Care to join us?

Here's the list for July: melons, beans, cherries, courgettes, nectarines, peas, raspberries, cucumbers, strawberries, curly lettuce and beetroot