Lifestyle

Feature: (Ad) The Selfie Bag from The Cotton Bag Company

Feature: (Ad) The Selfie Bag from The Cotton Bag Company

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It is hard to be a blogger without being aware of the pressure to take perfect pictures. It is something I am working on at the moment, something I have been learning since I realised my blog was going to be more than a casual hobby. 

I remember taking my first selfie in the noughties. The word wasn’t in use then, and I wasn’t aware that, with the rise of phone cameras, half the world was doing the same thing. I took several snaps on a family holiday and showed them to my parents. I liked how I was able to angle the picture myself and choose whether or not I was ready to press the button. 

Years later, selfies are one of the most popular types of photograph. Social media has brought in whole new photography styles and behaviours. 

So what is a selfie bag?

The Selfie Bag was designed by the Cotton Bag Company in time for national take a selfie day in 2017. It has pockets which are designed especially with smartphones and selfie sticks in mind and comes with a fold-out reflective sheet to help the owner capture the perfect light for a photograph. 

What do I love about the bag? 

As a bookworm, there is only one thing on my mind. How many books does a bag hold? Will it put strain on the strap if I overload it with books? The bag is the perfect size for a book haul. A good pile would fit in without damaging the books and the bag is made of strong, durable material. With our increasing awareness of what plastic waste is doing to the planet, there has never been a better time to stock up on reusable bags.

Cotton Bag Company uses eco-friendly cotton and maintains high ethical standards in terms of labour. These include paying a fair wage, never supporting forced labour and ensuring workers are not required to work extreme hours. 

The design is eye-catching and I have already had compliments from family members on my new bag. With cotton bags increasingly seen as things which are shoved into handbags and kept out of sight, it is lovely to own one which I would wear with pride. 

Where can you buy a Selfie Bag?

The Selfie Bag is available direct from the Cotton Bag Company via their website. It retails at £9.99 and two designs are available. 

My Selfie Bag was provided in exchange for an honest review, but all opinions remain my own. Thanks to Tilly Varn and The Cotton Bag Company for my bag. 

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Bath · Lifestyle

Soap And Glory product selection – my ultimate evening treats.

Soap And Glory product selection – my ultimate evening treats.

Winter brings dark days and long evenings and bubble-bath. 

With the cold and the dark, it is only natural that we should use nice bath products to give ourselves a lift. And with a Christmas haul to explore I was able to do just that. Someone who knows me very well bought me a tin of Soap And Glory wonders. It is round as a drum and lined with tissue-paper and contains a whole selection of treats. 

So how have I been getting on with the products?

Like a dream. I haven’t sampled everything yet, but those have opened have become integral to my evening routine. Soap And Glory is just a bit special. It fills the niche between luxury bath stuff and day-to-day regular products. The vintage feel to the labels is instantly recognisable and I am a fan of their pinks and oranges and unashamed love of all things peaches’n’cream. 

Here are my thoughts on four Soap And Glory products. 

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img_8122Clean On Me – creamy shower gel 

If you’re looking for a pre-bedtime shower treat, this one is for you. 

Clean On Me is like a shower-gel with extra moisturising cream. It feels smooth as it rubs on and bubbles up into a perfect lather. Once rinsed, it leaves my skin silky-shiny. The gel has a gentle orange smell which is more like orange-oil mixed with vanilla than a full-on tangerine. It only takes a few squirts in the palm for a full massage. 

A lovely day-to-day treat. 

 

img_8120The Scrub Of Your Life – body scrub

A body scrub which doesn’t take your skin off? Sign me up. 

There are two types of body scrubs – the heavy duty and the daily helper. This is a daily, a body buffer rather than a scrub, but I love it for that because it allows me to add a different texture to my daily routine. It comes in a handy squeeze tube (yay to no extra plastic toppers) and comes out as a thick gel layered with orange beads. 

The scent put me in mind of a walk through an orchard. Think mandarin and strawberries and vanilla and amber. It is a dreamy, fruity scent which is much stronger than the Clean On Me shower gel. 

Afterwards I felt fresh, much more so than after an ordinary shower, and that feeling lasted for hours. 

 

Hand Food – Hand Cream 

img_8124A scented hand cream which keeps my hands soft. Magic. 

I have the kind of skin which throws up a reaction to the tiniest hint of artificial ingredients. Especially on my skin. I use olive oil soaps, unscented hand cream and even have to buy a specific brand of washing-up liquid. 

This is why Hand Cream is such a revelation. It not only keeps my hands in a reasonable state, it actually hydrates them. It is so light too, and not the tiniest bit greasy. The scent is described as marshmallow although it put me in mind of strawberry ice-cream. 

 

img_8125Melty Talented – Multi-use balm

This is a multi-talented pot of glory. 

It looks like wax but is more like oil to the touch. On application, it is light and shiny and nourishing. I use it on my cuticles most of all, but it is also there for dry elbows, scaly-skin, and emergency lip balm. 

The almond and mango scents come out above all the others, although there is a hint of coconut. 

The tin is really useful to slip into a handbag or travel case. It would be a great product to carry around for any little irritation. 

 

All products featured were Christmas gifts from family members and I have no affiliation with Soap And Glory.

 

Chat · Lifestyle

Chat: Adapting Marie Kondo’s principles for a book collection

Chat: Adapting Marie Kondo’s principles for a book collection

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Meet my middle-grade shelves. 

One name has been all over my Twittersphere of late: Marie Kondo.

 Tidying Up With Marie Kondo is the latest hit on Netflix. Every episode follows a household as they de-clutter their home according to Kondo’s principles. We are in the age of Instagram where everyone is conscious of how they look and how their homes look and basically about the image they are putting across, so maybe it is no surprise that the programme has been a hit. What is surprising is how so many people seem to have been affected by it on a deeper level. Kondo’s basic principle, that every item you own should spark joy inside you, has been revelatory.

It is like one woman has given us permission to clear stuff out.

As a lover of objects and collections, I was certain the programme wouldn’t be for me. Ten minutes in and I was hooked. What sold it to me was Kondo’s respect for every object. She encourages her clients to take time to acknowledge the function every object has played in their lives, and to be grateful for what they have. Tidying out doesn’t have to be depressing. It doesn’t have to be a sad parting. It can be about letting things go to a person who can use them better.

Even with my acceptance of Kondo’s central principle, I wondered how her methods would go down in the book community. The fact that she owns no more than thirty books at any one time particularly seemed to go against the values of many of my bookish friends. When I logged on to Twitter, I expected riots. I expected full-scale rebellion.

Everyone was having a tidy out. Myself included.

So what’s different about sorting books?

I didn’t apply Kondo’s rules to the letter and that was what inspired this post. Maybe they need tweaking for bookworms. Sparking joy is a dubious principle when you spend more time with books than you do with actual humans. You learn to value books for different reasons. Books may be objects, but we need to respect them as tools of communication, art forms and gateways to empathising with whole new sets of people. By tweaking the rules to recognise this, you will make the job less of a battle.

Here are some of the reasons I came up with for keeping a book:

 

It is a great example of a genre or writing technique:

the work that goes into constructing a piece of fiction is vast. Behind every book is years of practice, years of trial and error and pieces of writing scribbled in notebooks. An author’s first book might be their fifth manuscript. Over this time the author accumulates knowledge of writing, and this makes existing texts the best teachers an aspiring writer can have. I am forever looking for strong examples to emulate. From genre conventions to character development, I could never improve my writing without learning from other people’s work. This is a valid and totally acceptable reason to keep a book. It is another way of accessing and appreciating the author’s work.

 

There is a specific memory attached to the book:

As I was sorting my adult mass-market fiction, I realised there was a specific sub-group of books to consider. The books which had a specific memory attached to them. The characters and worlds we read don’t end when we close the book. We can spend weeks, months or lifetimes thinking about them. Maybe a certain book helped you through a hard time. Maybe a book gave you the courage to confront your feelings and move forward. When I was sorting my shelves, I piled these books together and tackled them as a separate group. Certain books just couldn’t go because they are part of my make-up. Part of my human experience.

 

You may yet read it:

Many of us can name a book which has sat unread for too long. Those books become a running joke among book bloggers. Book blogging is so heavily about promotion that, consciously or not, we are often keen to move on to the newest thing.

My advice? This is the point at which to take Marie Kondo’s advice. Instead of holding the book to see whether it sparks joy, open it up. Read the first page, then read a couple of random pages from about a quarter of the way into the book. Do you like the prose style? Did the subject hook you? Are you intrigued by the characters? Personally, I think we have a strong intuitive feeling for whether or not a book is for us. Take time to try these books out and don’t feel guilty for hanging on to something which has been unread for too long.

 

There are currently stacks of books on the landing awaiting my final verdict. One last look over is fair because distance gives you time to feel the absence of the books you have sorted. My tip – before you have that final look, close your eyes and name any of the sorted books which stand out in your memory. This will give you a good indication of anything you may not be ready to part with.

I am still sorting my books, but my newly tidied picture-book shelf and middle-grade fiction bring me nothing but delight. I can find the books I want, access my collection to browse and most importantly there is room for growth as I choose to keep books from my review pile. It is easier to dust, the #shelfies make better pictures and it is once again a pleasure to sit in the study and read.  

 

Have you been watching Marie Kondo? Can you think of any great reasons to keep a book? How does tidying-up enhance your life? I’m here to chat in the comments below.

Lifestyle

All about the Hansel And Gretel candle from Bookworm Candles (Plus discount code)

All about the Hansel And Gretel candle from Bookworm Candles (Plus discount code)

With the Christmas lights down and the scents of the festive season a memory, the first months of the year can feel like a dark and miserable time. I was sent a candle by the lovely people at Bookworm Candles, and it turned out to be just the thing to brighten the dark days. 

Regular readers know how much I love fairy tales, so this was the perfect choice for me. I am always looking for bookish bits and pieces and this candle sits so nicely next to my fairytale collection. 

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What do you think of when you think about Hansel and Gretel? For me it is the sweetie house. This candle smells of buttery-biscuits and is sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. It brings to mind those biscuit walls all studded with sweets and decorations. 

The candle is a generous size and it is 100% soy. (Great news to a veggie like me.) The tin is beautifully decorated with images and phrases related to Hansel and Gretel, and I love the ribbon decoration tied around the lid. 

This would make a lovely gift for all your bookish friends. 

img_8062Bookworm candles have a great range, with candles inspired by stories as diverse as myths, fairytales, superhero narratives, classics, and contemporary favourites. 

Interested? I’ve got a discount code for you to use if you want to treat yourself and add an extra dimension to your reading. Just enter BLOGGERS20 on any order for a 20% discount. 

 

Thanks to the lovely people at Bookworm Candles for sending me a candle to try.

Lifestyle · Round-Up

Wishlist: Literary Mugs

Confession time. I have a cupboard full of mugs, a box full of mugs and mugs acting as pencil holders. That doesn’t stop me from buying another. Print something I love on the front and I’m a sucker. 

One thing I’m short of is bookish mugs. I have a Shakespeare mug from when I won the English prize at secondary school but one hardly does justice to my infatuation with the printed word. It seems a pity, especially because reading goes hand-in-hand with tea-drinking. (Well. Mug in one hand. Book in the other.) 

A quick scout of the internet brought up literary gold. Here is my literary mug wishlist. (And a unicorn, because people who read books believe in unicorns.) Do you have any literary mugs? What do you drink when you are reading? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

(L-R, Top to bottom – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory * The Secret Garden * Penguin Books * Unicorn * Literary Cats * Library Slip * Books * Moomin * Alice * Reepicheep

Lifestyle

Five Things I Haven’t Done Since September

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Spring has sprung. Or at least it is springing. The nights are getting shorter, the mornings brighter and Marks And Spencers are selling cute raspberry-flavoured miniature biscuits. However much I like the crispy days of early autumn, by the time spring rolls around I am as ready as the next person to kick off my winter boots and sit back in the sunlight. Lambs! Blossom! Spring is a time of new hope and good feelings.

It feels like a long time since September and sunlight. Here are some of the things I haven’t done since September which I am welcoming back into my life. birdRead a Book Outdoors:

I am the kind of person who will make an office out in the garden. A mug of tea, a couple of pillows and a stack of notebooks. There is nothing like reading and writing outdoors. Birdsong and fresh air and a natural breeze. The second we have three dry days in a row I will pull out my tent and set up camp in the garden. 

 

Worn shoes without socks:

When autumn came in I was pleased to get back into my winter boots. Right now I would be glad to kick them off. Socks no longer feel like a hug for my feet. They are starting to feel more like a prison. Time for a good pedicure and some vitamin-D. I can’t wait to feel the grass between my toes. 

 

Woken up in a good mood: 

Dark. Wet. Really dark. Waking up in the dark plays havoc with my body clock. How am I supposed to get up when my internal alarm-clock thinks it is the middle of the night? More to the point, how am I supposed to keep my eyes open? Never mind those smiley-happy people. In the winter I am not myself until I have had two mugs of caffeine and a kitty cuddle. Roll on dawn chorus at 4am. 

 

Eaten Cold Spreads:

Avocado slices, and homemade hummus and pitta bread chips. Cheeses and quince jelly and pomegranate seeds. Childhood holidays in Greece have given me a lifelong love of rolling feasts. There is nothing better than a table covered in salads and dips and miniature pies. 

 

Fussed over baby animals:

The lambs are back. Skipping on the hillocks and sleeping under the hedges. There are a group of sheep in the field to the side of the village green. Currently there are four lambs, all button-eyed and lively. I defy you to feel miserable when faced with a lamb. 

 

Chat · Lifestyle

7 things which brighten my February

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The tinsel is back in the loft but we’ve still got six weeks of winter. How does that even work out? Like many bloggers this week I am asking myself what is the point of February? Dark mornings. Dull skies. Rain. Endless rain.

We talk about seasons as if they are places we arrive at, fixed destinations when in fact the world is always turning. February is part of that cycle and it seems a pity that so many people want to put it on fast-forward. When I look past the rain there is really quite a lot to love about February. There lies the trick. The sun may not be shining right now but that doesn’t mean we create our own warmth.

This list is by no means exhaustive but here are some of the little things which brighten my world. What’s making your day brighter?bird

String lights: One reason January and February hit people hard is the post-Christmas blues. As winter rolls in we string up tinsel and fairy lights. Our houses twinkle and glitter throughout December. Why is it tradition to take those lights down in the darkest weeks of the year? 

String lights are cheap and cheerful and they bring back some of that festive glow. Suggestion: add string lights to a glass jar.

img_4807Book Post: Publishing people. I love you regardless of whether you send me post. You turn manuscripts into stories, you turn stories into masterpieces and you create something which genuinely makes the world a better place. You’re fantastic guys. BUT. When book post lands in my letter box it brightens my day. Every. Single. Time.

Migratory Geese: I live near a salt marsh. From October through to Spring we share our local area with migratory geese. Twice a day they fly past my house – on their way to feed and as they come in for the evening roost. Right now the geese are gathering ready for migration. This afternoon the sky filled with geese and it was the most beautiful sight.

img_3882Kitty Snuggles: Maisie comes to me when the house is quiet. She’s a Heffalump of a cat who rolls around when she wants a tickle. Willow is Little Miss Dainty Paws. She is a hunter, a burrower. Her favourite thing is to crawl beneath a blanket or dressing gown and snuggle right up to her chosen human. There is no doubt my girls play a big part in my life.

img_4881Cosy Boots: I don’t care what they look like on my feet. My booties are like a hug for my calves and feet. Cosy anything sounds about right. Onesies, leggings and bobble hats are all welcome here.

Bath stuffs: The Body Shop outlet sold off Christmas bubble bath in bundles. I kid you not. Our bathroom is all about frosted plum and vanilla chai. They smell so nice it is a wonder we ever emerge from our bubbly kingdoms.

 

Monty Don:  As much as I love the Solway it isn’t the sunniest place in the world. No worries – Monty Don is bringing paradise gardens right to my living room. Did you know pavilions came into being because nomadic people based them on tents? Dream fodder. 

 

What is brightening your world? Perhaps you enjoy the long, dark nights? Let me know in the comments below.