August – Cruelty Free Skincare Favourites

Hello! It’s another monthly favourites post and this one of about some cruelty-free skincare products I’ve discovered recently.


For years I eschewed the idea of expanding my limited beauty and skincare collection for several reasons: fear it was tested on animals; a general mistrust of trying to look one’s best; and a basic laziness and absence of interest in make up. But since the Leaping Bunny stuff really took off I find I’m happy to put some time and effort into finding reliable cruelty free products. And today I’ll share a few that I’m loving.

Superdrug Oatmeal Vitamin E Exfoliating Facial Scrub: vitamin E, I’m told, is a vital antioxidant that can help to protect my skin from sun damage. This one uses oatmeal to help exfoliate and it does feel good, like I’m working my skin. It smells nice but the only downside it does take a while to rinse it all off.

Superdrug Tea tree cleanser and toner: this has a nice feel and is minty and refreshing. It certainly brightens up my skin and leaves it feeling smooth and with clean pores.

Superdrug Vitamin E Moisturizing SPF 15 day cream: I’m a big fan of Superdrugs Vitamin E range (can you tell?) and having read a bit about it I now find it has horse chestnut extract, which sounds very unusual and interesting. This is a great facial moisturizer and I can still feel that my skin is soft by the end of the day so it definitely does the job. It has added SPF 15 sun protection as well.

 

CCTV in Slaughterhouses – at last

This news has been a long time coming. Animal welfare activists have been campaigning for CCTV in all UK slaughterhouses since CCTV was invented.

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Animal Aid secretly filmed in 13 slaughterhouses between 2009 and 2014 and found evidence of animal cruelty and lawbreaking in 12 of them. Such evidence includes animals being beaten and punched and cigarettes being stubbed out in pigs’ faces. You can find more details if you wish to educate yourself but I don’t really want to dwell on it.

The new environment secretary Michael Gove will be introducing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses in England as part of a focus on animal welfare and environment protection during Brexit. Animal Aid has, of course, welcomed the news, given that they have campaigned for this for so long, but they stressed that the CCTV must be independently monitored and spot checks should be carried out to ensure that the new measure is effective. Little detail has so far been announced but we do know that vets from the FSA will be able to access footage from CCTV used in all areas where animals are handled, kept and killed.

Some abattoirs already have CCTV as a voluntary measure and to comply with requests from supermarkets to ensure compassionate standards are met. Compulsory CCTV should prevent millions of animals suffering such horrifying cruelty behind closed doors as perpetrators of abuse can now be prosecuted.

HOWEVER.

I have some minor points to make about the ethics.

  • Animals are still being murdered so people can eat them.
  • Animals still undergo a long journey in cramped conditions, without food or water, so that people can murder them and other people can eat them.
  • Animals are still being reared in unpleasant and sometimes cruel conditions, subject to cruel practices, so that people can murder then eat them.

Compulsory CCTV will not prevent abuse and cruelty at the other stages of this long and complicated chain. It will not prevent the murdering for food. It is the absolute barest minimum we can do so that these animals don’t suffer in their final moments.

It feels strangely uncomfortable to be pleased about this. Is this really the best we can do? Is this what it means to have the highest welfare standards in the world? That we should feel satisfied that a long, long campaign for the barest minimum protection of animals has finally been granted (under the true motivation of sticking it to the EU.)

I’ll end this confusing post – confusing because of my conflicting emotions of relief and contempt – with some words from Isobel Hutchinson of Animal Aid:

“Although this development is undoubtedly a huge step forward, we urge the public to remember that even when the law is followed to the letter, slaughter is a brutal and pitiless business that can never be cruelty-free.

 

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Homemade Cleaning Products

Finding household cleaning products that don’t test on animals, though much easier these days, is still difficult and time-consuming and requires a lot of research. Sometimes we forget that human beings actually managed to survive relatively free from disease in decent hygiene for centuries before supermarkets appeared.

So how did they do it? Mother Nature provided.

Plus they were probably a little less anal about cooking in a germ-free kitchen.

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Here’s my quick guide to homemade household cleaning products that are natural, cruelty free, fairly cheap, easy to make and readily available.

  1. Vinegar cleaner: white vinegar cleans pretty much everything successfully. Mix with a bit of baking soda and lemon or lavender to scent and essential oils (they disinfect.) You need nothing more than this to clean basically anything.
  2. Scrub: slice a lemon and dip it in Borax. Scrub those hard, baked-on or rusty stains off then rinse clean.
  3. Brass cleaner: dampen sponge with white vinegar or lemon then sprinkle on table salt. Scrub lightly then rinse and dry with a clean cloth.
  4. Deodorizer: for bins, use lemon or orange peel; for carpets, sprinkle baking soda before hoovering; for garages/basements/cellars, leave a sliced onion on a plate for a day.
  5. Drain cleaner: 1/2 cup of salt in 4 litres of warm water and pour down drain. For a stronger reaction, try pouring 1/2 baking soda and and then 1/2 cup vinegar. After 15 minutes pour down boiling water to clear.
  6. Oven cleaner: wet surfaces inside with water. Use 3/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 salt, 1/4 water, mixed into a thick paste applied throughout oven interior. Leave on overnight and remove with a spatula and wipe clean. Use steel wool for tough grease.
  7. Rust remover: salt sprinkled on rusty area, squeeze a lime over the salt until wet. Leave for a few hours then scrub off.
  8. Shoe Polish: mix olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice, apply to shoes with thick cloth. Leave for a few minutes, wipe clean, buff with clean cloth.

 

Happy cleaning!

July Favourites

This last month has been a good chance to get back into the habit of actually reading books again. I don’t know how long it had been but I had lost my bookmark so that probably indicates it was a fair while.

In Books

Recently I read a very interesting book called The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly and even wrote a long book review all about it, which you can read here. It’s an allegory about motherhood through the eyes of a hen called Sprout, one of the most endearing characters I’ve ever encountered. The book by Sun Mi Hwang is a subtle examination of animal welfare on farms so I’m sure my veggie/vegan readers will enjoy it. :)

In Plants

Next up it’s a new houseplant! I spent my weekend at various garden centres and came home with two new house plants, a pilea and a rosary vine. I’ve seen both of these plants on Instagram – they are very Insta-friendly – and have been on the look out. I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at the strange chains of heart-shaped leaves that are now cascading over my mantlepiece.

Finally, another garden centre steal was this gorgeous vintage plant pot that has been distressed. It’s quite heavy but small and I don’t yet have a plant to put in it. Any suggestions?

 


Post contains affiliate links to Amazon. FYI I only recommend and link to products I like.

Recipe: basil pesto 

I have a surfeit of basil. The yield has been too great. 

I’ve had to keep potting and repotting until I had 10 pots of basil. I have distributed some to family and neighbours but I still have more basil than I can use.

So I have made pesto. Quite a simple recipe.

Handful of basil leaves

Handful of pine nuts 

Good portion of parmesan cheese

Olive oil 

Squeeze of lemon

1/2 clove garlic
Mix them all up in a food processor or laboriously smash it all in a pestle and mortar. I would have done this but my pestle and mortar are just too small. 

I used Greek basil.

Suffolk Glamping Trip

Hello! I’ve had a week off from blogging as I’ve been living in a forest. Sorry if I’ve missed any of your posts – I’ll spend some time catching up.

I didn’t want a “big” holiday this year, after having gone to the south of France last year (that’s big for me!) So we looked for something fairly local that involved very little driving or stress or planning, and would still provide lots of nature-based things to do. We booked some camping pods in West Stow (a tiny village near Bury St Edmunds, famous for its Anglo Saxon village) but when we arrived we actually got upgraded to the lodge because some other guests changed their mind. So that worked out well for us and we had a bit more space than we were expecting.

The lodge was quite posh by my standards – nice furniture, massive telly, all mod cons. We used the BBQ most nights and by the final night we were utterly sick of veggie burgers so went into Bury St Edmunds for dinner. I don’t know if you’ve ever been a vegetarian in Bury but no amount of googling yielded any decent veggie options so we went to good old Prezzo, where you know what you’re getting.

On the first day we visited Weeting Heath, which is back over the border in Norfolk. They are known for their stone curlews and we were lucky enough to see one perched on its nest. We also saw a yellowhammer and chiffchaff. Best of all were the swallows that had decided to nest in the visitor centre and were very obliging and must have been a thrill for the staff working there. Somehow I totally forgot to go back and get a photo of them!

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Spot the stone curlew!
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Yellowhammer taking a drink
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Pines near Weeting Heath

Afterwards we popped into Brandon and had a delicious cream tea at Tilly’s tearoom. Very quaint and quirky place and really good, strong tea.

Next day we went to Ickworth House, which is a very impressive country house with a huge parkland. Some Bishop who spent a lot of time living it up in Italy came back to England and built his stately home in an Italian style. The “downstairs” was probably more interesting that the “upstairs” as they had more artifacts to look at. The Victorian owners created stumperies in the garden (they used stumps of trees to create strange and gothic shapes, a sort of fairy garden) and the modern gardening team recreated them at Ickworth. I didn’t manage to spot any fairies but I did see a green woodpecker.

On our final day we stayed local and went to Lackford Lakes, which is famous for its kingfishers (again, didn’t see one, and even if we did it would only have been a flash of electric blue). We spent some time in Bess’ hide watching a reed warbler hopping in and out after a tip off from another birder.

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The evolution of bird

In the afternoon we went for a local walk around the Culford estate – a huge estate that’s now part of a school, but the lake has public access. A very pleasant walk.

 

Fox hunting – still protesting this shit

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2 years ago I wrote THIS blog post about Tory attempts to repeal the Hunting Act and I can’t believe we’re STILL having this argument and I’m STILL having to protest this shit.

It’s illegal. Give it up. Find another hobby. One that doesn’t involve foxes being torn apart and hunting dogs being mistreated and destroyed.

 

Birding Diary #1

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I’m a (very) amateur birder, so it makes sense to record my birding adventures on this blog. It will mean I can remember what I have seen and where I’ve seen it – mostly this will have been in Norfolk, as this is my stomping ground. These ‘birding diary’ entries will mainly be about the locations, the background, and, of course the birds. Don’t expect expert knowledge – I am just muddling through!

Today we went to RSPB Titchwell Marsh, a nature reserve in Norfolk, that houses sand dunes, salt marshes, and a freshwater lagoon. Historically, this is an interesting site because artefacts from the Upper Paleolithic period have been found, as well as military paraphernalia from the world wars. (Yeah, I Wikied it….)

A pair of Montague harriers were spotted nesting on the marshes back in the 1970s, prompting the RSPB to purchase the land, and since then it has been home to all kinds of sandpipers, birds of prey, water voles, plovers, goldeneyes, godwits, oystercatchers, and all sorts.

What I saw:

 

** We couldn’t work out which, but tend towards the opinion that it was most likely a curlew. This video from the BTO has been very helpful in IDing this mysterious bird.

Resolutions for a greener new year

Sometimes we need an excuse to make changes in our lives, and the new year is the best excuse of all.

I’ve been scouring the net for ideas on how to live a better, greener, more eco-friendly existence in 2016 that will hopefully benefit the environment or, at the very least, do as little harm as possible (which is often the best we can do.)

Below are the five changes I pledge to make in 2016!

  1. No more bottled water!

This should be a simple and easy change to make. Plastic bottles are one of the largest contributors to our plastic pollution problem.

2. Unplug chargers to reduce phantom power use

I’m ashamed to realize that I’ve been wasting energy by leaving plugs in sockets when I have finished charging my phone/watching TV.

3. Limit dairy consumption

I’m already a vegetarian, but I can do better by switching to soya milk, vegan cheese and other non-dairy products.

4. Don’t buy anything that contains palm oil

Around 1000 orangutans are killed every year as forests are cleared to make way for palm oil production. I don’t want that to happen. Palm oil seems to be in everything, so this will be a challenging one.

5. Waste less food

Hugh’s programme about supermarket food waste was profoundly shocking. #wastenot