Christmas 2016

I promised myself that I’d post something celebratory in this grey month. My Christmas presents for 2016 seemed a good place to start. Essentially, things that will last forever, pared down and beautiful, and keeping to the tradition of a few chosen categories … clothes, unguents, a single cooking utensil, something to do with yoga, and of course, books. Thus, as pictured, a Cocon Commerz Privatsachen dress (the ethos of the company written about beautifully here), a Dunhill sweater (an extremely lucky unworn ebay find), oodles of organic perfume, an Eric Ravilious calendar, lunch at the River Café (for the greyest of January days), a brush for face powder (of which I can count its use throughout the year on the fingers of one hand, but this brush might make me rethink), liquid Vitamin D (knowing the lack of sun to come in the next few months), a new Microplane to add to my collection and some of my favourite chocolate (but that has disappeared from the shot!).

Last, but definitely not least, the books... I’m often overwhelmed when I walk into bookshops and see piles of modern books stacked up. They seem to come out in a never-ending unthinking churn of production. Perhaps due to this, it’s easy to spot the ‘special ones’, the ones where it’s clear much love and labour has been devoted to the final product. Amongst those in the pile, I can’t recommend highly enough a new yoga book on the legacy of Vanda Scaravelli, Ducksoup’s cookbook, Rococo’s book on chocolate, and Luciano Giubbilei’s sumptuous gardening book, primarily focussing on his time spent at Great Dixter, a garden I’ve been taken to each year since I was knee high to a grasshopper…


The Moon Juice Cookbook, Superfoods, iHerb and Ayurvedic Toothpaste

One of the books I’m looking forward to reading this year is Amanda Chantal Bacon’s The Moon Juice Cookbook out in the autumn. Not because I’m a huge fan of superfoods, powders and supplements with often vastly inflated price tags (my vote is always to prioritise eating the best local organic or biodynamic fruit or veg you can find) but I recognise the place that minute spoonfuls of pretty powders and the cracking open of a glass ampule for an energising elixir can play in kickstarting or supporting a healthier daily lifestyle. If you are spending £££ on a fancy supplement it can inspire you to think more carefully about the rest of your daily intake.

On that note I’d been meaning to try iHerb for a long time. I’d been inspired by these two UK write-ups but it wasn’t until I was nearing the end of my favourite toothpaste, Herbal Crème de Anise by Nature’s Gate, that I was pushed into action. I do stir up batches of my own toothpaste powder, however when I travel, due to spillages, powders give way to more conventional toothpaste tubes. I always look in every health shop I enter but Nature’s Gate seems an elusive brand in the UK, limited in my experience to Uhuru in Oxford and I wasn’t planning on visiting Oxford in the near future, so I turned to iHerb (which seemed cheaper than an online Amazon splurge).

I also turned, inspired by a few flashes of sunny rays, to my trusty guide to all things ayurvedic and was reminded about changing toothpaste flavours for the seasons – the recommendations are fennel for spring, neem or peppermint for summer, liquorice for autumn and cinnamon or clove for winter. In the end I plumped for aniseed, liquorice/mint, neem/cinnamon and neem/pomegranate. All vegan and with varying combinations of fluoride free, paraben free, gluten free, etc. There was one major disappointment as it seems that Nature’s Gate have changed from aluminium tubes to plastic (all the other brands pictured were plastic too). Yuk. Yet more plastic in the world.

The key to iHerb as this guide helpfully outlines (the site itself give minimum information on international shipping) is to keep your order to under £15 (be sure to include shipping too, which is extremely low) to avoid charges on entering the UK. Be especially careful with iHerb discounts of $5 off here or there as whilst these are given (and gratefully received), the full price (from the evidence of my recent order at least) shows up on your shipping label.

Next on my list is vegan vitamins …


Yoga Glow

It has taken until mid-February to truly feel that the year has started. There was a point in January when I wondered whether I would ever stop contemplating the year and actually start moving ahead and living it. The shift came and yoga started (or was it the other way around)? I had to laugh on hearing Kia Miller, via yogaglo, speak about how her yoga practice started with Raquel Welch. I was the same and came across Welch's accompanying yoga book when clearing up (yes, I am still New Year decluttering) the other day. It's amazing to think that my quiet and considered yoga practice started with the hot yoga sequence!


Hard months

Lots of people refer to January and February as ‘hard months’. However, I love their hibernating nature and edging myself into the New Year gently. I treat myself by doing all the things I rarely do during the rest of the year. For example, getting my hair cut (thankfully I have long hair, an understanding hairdresser and hair that doesn’t tend to split), lunching out (a very rare occurrence), going to the cinema (even rarer than lunchtime gallivanting) and generally easing my way into introducing new healthy habits to my routine, so far it’s been a teaspoon of aloe vera each day and a dab-a-day of umeboshi plum puree.

I also draw up my resolutions and determinations (and I really take my time to think about these). This might sound a little strict and indeed ‘hard’, but it’s actually quite pleasurable. For example, amongst my ‘determinations’ I draw up a list of things I want to buy during the year. It’s something I highly recommend to people who want to cut down on unthinking consumption.

If you have a defined ‘wish list’ of things then if whilst out-and-about you’re tempted by a quick buy, just think of your list (carry it around with you if needed, as a reminder). It’s easy to randomly spend here-and-there and not realize just how much you’re totting up.

Are you reading this thinking, ‘My list would be as long as my arms and legs combined’? I felt the same when I first tried this, but trust me, putting everything down on paper focuses the mind. I use ‘quality paper’ to make it seem ‘official’ (in actuality, the back of an old ‘comp’ slip, but it’s a creamy, thick, heavy-weighted one), and select a handful of things using the categories that mean something to me: ‘clothes’, ‘books’, ‘raw ingredients for beauty unguents’, plus a ‘single item’ kitchen splurge. Of course, it’s not just ‘things’ but ‘experiences’ too … For example, next week it's the cinema and A Bigger Splash (I’m a huge Tilda fan).


Fashion for thought

Food for thought? Fashion for thought is equally important. The clothing industry is, after all, the world’s second most polluting industry.

As a postscript to yesterday’s post it’s not just about how much (or how little) we each spend, but about the number of items too. Spending less doesn’t necessarily mean consuming less.*

*In full disclosure mode, my eight years of accounting show years ranging from buying 27 items to 96 items.

All images are via Fashion Revolution, with 'The Buyerarchy of Needs' by Sarah Lazarovic.


£££ and clothes

I stumbled across Becky Earley’s website last year and really enjoyed reading her personal blog. In a similar way, for the last eight years, like some kind of early modern housewife (I’ve read numerous numbers of their seventeenth-century wills and inventories…) I’ve kept a detailed account of the money I spend on clothes, including shoes, bags and underwear, in the tiniest of notebooks.

I buy a lot of clothes from jumble sales and then have the occasional splurge on expensive dresses. My yearly totals for the eight years range from over £1200 to under £200.* Looking back over the entries it’s the emotional impact of buying that interests me. My high from visiting a particularly good jumble sale can last a week or so, but I’m also aware that the years when I’ve spent more on clothes are the years when I’ve felt I deserved to do so. That said, some low-spending years were because I was totally, happily, wrapped up in other projects and clothing took a back seat.

Two photographs in particular from the blog bewitched me (both above). One, of Bridget Harvey’s visible mending because the jumper looks so beautiful with its proud flashes of colour (I’ve been inspired to mend with vigour) and the other, a photograph of Angelica Kitchen, a vegan restaurant in NYC. I’ve never visited but was inspired to buy their cookbook, and then, as a follow-on, the cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by one of their former chefs (given to me as a Christmas present, and pictured here). The latter book (which is easy to adapt to vegan) I heartily recommend, in fact, I can’t stop dipping in and out of it, as do many others judging by the reviews.

*I felt almost shy about revealing these figures. This soon dropped away when a survey covered by The Independent in 2014 suggested the average UK woman spends £1200 a month (!) on clothes, the Daily Mail (urgh) suggested a figure of £4000 per year in 2012, and Good Housekeeping the lower figure of around £600 per year in 2013. Like all analysis, these figures depend upon when, who, why and where you’re asking…


Just wait...

I had been ‘on the hunt’ all last year looking for a vegan bag. It had to be big enough to hold all my junk (books, lunches and an umbrella), nothing precious (I am not known for being particularly delicate) and be easy to keep clean (I have lots of those eco cotton bags from various emporiums but they always seem to need washing and ironing after a couple of uses).

I’d heard about a trader, Treetap, who supplied Hermès with rubber bags. Alas, they seemed to have stopped trading in bags and instead now supply the rubber for Veja plimsolls. I thought I’d stumbled across a contender via Manchester’s Dojo Ecoshop in the shape of a ‘Bags for Change’ bag, but it seems that they too are no longer sold (and Bags for Change is no longer an on-going organisation). However, at the tail end of last year, browsing, just by chance on ebay, the rubber bag of my dreams emerged, made from a recycled tyre (and under £2). The moral of the story? Always … just wait.