Mrs Williams

The other side of the coin

So if yesterday’s post was ‘the bad’ of trying to go eco, im trying to decide if today’s should be ‘the good’ or ‘the ugly.’ Yes ladies and gentlemen, what follows is a post about my bowels, so if you’re squeamish, look away now!!

About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Having been told for a couple of years, like just about every young woman in London (which is where I was at the time) that I had IBS, a particularly grim experience, involving cameras where they definitely shouldnt be, confirmed that I in fact had Crohn’s.

I’ve been incredibly lucky because, in that four years since diagnosis I’ve generally been very well and only had to go into hospital a couple of times and neither time for very long. I have a couple of friends who are just SO ill with this condition, and I know that my experience of it has been very fortunate. However, it has had some grim moments, and some moments of serious embarassment…no-one wants to talk about an inflammatory bowel condition in the early days of a new relationship for example! One of the things I struggled with most was that my immune system seemed to be absolutely bashed to hell by it. I wasnt sure the two were related, but my GP and consultant assured me that this was just one of the side effects I would have to live with, probably due to my gut not absorbing as many nutrients as it should, I just got ill ALL the time. Not always tummy stuff, although that was prevalent, but every cough, cold, throat infection, ear infection, infected insect bite, conjunctivitis, labyrinthitis…you name it, I seemed to pick it up. And I’m actually relatively hard with a pretty high pain threshold, but I just kept getting wiped out and feeling like proper crap.

However, this week, I had a consultants appointment where, because I’ve been doing so well lately, they as good as discharged me!! I have to stay in a ‘virtual clinic’ and once a year I’ll have to go for a blood test and do an online questionnaire to check up on me, but aside from that, or if I get really poorly, they dont want to see me again! I am just so chuffed and feel very lucky, as I mentioned before, I know lots of people arent ever that lucky!!

I am, however, convinced that my recent lifestyle choices have a massive part to play in this success. Since November Matt and i have moved to eating almost solely organic food, and I have seen a big difference both in the way my gut reacts to the food I put into it, AND in my general health. I am a real foody, I love food, but the problem is, i love ALL food. Im as happy with a greasy kebab off a stand in a b&q carpark as I am with dinner in a swanky restaurant. I love salads, but I also love cake. Call it edible and i’m happy to give it a go. When first diagnosed with Crohn’s, I did try to cut out foods that made me ill, particularly red meat or really fatty food, but still seemed to have trouble. However, beginning to think about the impact food has on the environment has made me really think about what I buy and what I eat, and in the last 5 months, I’ve eaten far higher quality meat and vegetables, and have noticed a real difference. It also tastes about a million times better, which makes it a winner for me!!

As well as this, I started taking a couple of supplements. I now take evening primrose oil to keep all my girly bits ticking along nicely, and fish oil and a hideous supplement called Spirulina. Spirulina is a pure, natural wholefood with just MASSES of nutrients (check this out). Having read rave reviews of it, I popped to holland and barrett and bought it in its powdered form, rushed home, diluted it and…ARGH!! Genuinely the most hideous tasting thing I’ve ever experienced. Imagine drinking rotting spinach leaves, thats the best comparison I can make! I tried a couple of times and just couldnt drink even half a glass without gagging. BUT then I discovered the tablets! Still pretty grim tasting, but much easier to swallow and just as good for me! So now I whack 3 of these bad boys down my gullet every morning.

I really believe that taking time to think about what I’m putting into my body is the key difference to my health, and I am absolutely convinced by organic food. It does cost us a little more, and some weeks i’m tempted back to the bargains of the supermarkets, 3 packets of meat for £10 etc, but each time i’ve really noticed the difference in taste, and even in size…lots of supermarket meat disappears when you cook it cos its full of water!! The consultant gatrointestinal person I saw this week agreed that making these kind of choices was wise, and that because my Crohn’s disease is so mild and the damage done to my gut is minimal, it’s worked really well. We were both very pleased to have no plans to see each other again!!!

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The Truth

I feel like if I’m going to be honest about my eco-journey, I have to share the bad as well as the good in the experience.

This week I am experiencing the bad!!

I need to explain at this point that I have the most awful hair. I know all women everywhere think theirs is the worst, but they’re wrong, mine is! Seriously, it’s SO fine, like actual baby hair, with crazy amounts of static if you even touch it. I have NEVER, even as a child, been able to have long hair because its so fine it just looks straggly and horrible if it gets past my chin!! Its also a horrible mousy brown colour, or at least I think it is because I havent seen my natural hair colour since I was 14! Basically, my hair in its natural unbleached, washed with normal people shampoo state is not a pretty sight!

So I’ve been having it highlighted for years, and then, as soon as I had a saturday job, I started using salon shampoos and styling products to try and give my hair some oomph. Spending £16 on a bottle of shampoo barely raises an eyebrow now, and I’d settled pretty happily on Redkens ‘Body Full’ shampoo used in conjunction with Bed Heads ‘Small talk’ pre-blowdry.

I read the ‘gorgeously green’ book back in November, but as I’d stockpiled products, it’s taken until now for me to be due for new shampoo and new styling product. As I’m used to paying through the nose, price wasnt a massive issue, I just wanted to still be able to have normal looking hair and to stop washing toxic chemicals down the plughole. So, with some birthday amazon vouchers, I invested in these two.

I was promised such good things

But it is NOT going well. The shampoo is just awful, and I’m so sad because I had high hopes. The reviews I saw were excellent, but having looked a bit deeper it seems that anyone who has bleached hair has actually had trouble with this shampoo. It has completely dried my hair out, it’s just like straw!! I’ve used conditioner with it a couple of times, and that makes it a little better BUT conditioner weighs my hair down so I really dont like using it every time I wash. And the thickening stuff is no better, it DOES smell lush but my hair is staticky and unmanageable. I think MAYBE with a decent shampoo i could manage the ‘freak of nature’ thickener, but the combo is awful. Serious bag-on-the-head stuff.

Now Lucy is currently embroiled in a no-poo experiment whereby she’s not washing her hair. I KNOW!!! This has my ultimate respect, and one day, maybe…but I’m not there yet. I am however sold on trying to be eco-friendly, so I’d REALLY like to find a decent shampoo. Despite being used to paying for it, I cant KEEP buying shampoo every week!! Has anyone used anything that works well? Even just a range that is good might have a good volumising shampoo! Alternatively, who’s up for shaving their heads with me?!

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Thrifty Thursday: Food Co-Ops

So, this week I’ve been feeling a little unqualified for Thrifty Thursdays…not sure I’m doing enough thats thrifty.

However, one thing that I do pride myself on is cooking and baking most of our food from scratch. I dont think I realised that that is actually pretty rare, but I basically dont use ready made foods, and dont even use many (I’d love to say any, but i’d be lying) packet mixes or jars of sauce.

We’re moving house next week, and will be just a bit too far to keep shopping at the farm shop we usually go to, so I’ve been looking around for alternatives…and that is how I discovered food co-operatives. The concept being that if people get together, and then buy in bulk, they can get lower prices direct from suppliers. For people who want to buy organic foods, this is a good way to be able to do it in a…wait for it…yep THRIFTY manner!! These co-ops are run by the community for the community and operate on a not-for-profit basis

http://www.sustainweb.org/foodcoops/

This website contains a list of local cooperatives, including a few in our fair Southampton. Im not sure there is anything here that orders as regularly as we might need for lots of things, but bulk items and baking stuffs might well be doable. If not, we may have to look at starting our own.

Im so convinced by the concept of organic food, but Im also assured in my hatred of supermarkets. Selfishly I think this would be an excellent way for me to keep my tummy, pocket and conscience happy. But I also think there is something beautiful about people taking control of their food needs and know a little more about where their food comes from, and what a great community activity, getting together to box up your orders, or to split a massive bag of rice amongst five of you. wonderful!! I’ve contacted a couple of local people to see how we can get involved in this so will keep you posted…

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Thrifty Thursdays : 5 uses for Coconut Oil

I dont like to be too much of a copycat, but my friend Mel (melwiggins.tumblr.com) and recent blog find and person i sort-of-know-through-other-people Lucy (lulastic.wordpress.com) do something on their blogs called Thrifty Thursdays, and I have found them to be super inspiring, challenging, and sometimes pretty funny…its amazing what we’ll try out to save a few pence.

However, in the name of trying to be eco-friendly, as well as being a student and needing to be bank account friendly, some of these thrifty tips have come in useful, and the whole idea of ‘make do and mend’ as well as making my own things appeals to me greatly!!

So, my very first Thrifty Thursday tip is…

I have only just discovered coconut oil…having seen it for sale in our lovely little farmfoods store, I finally bought some last week to make my own toothpaste (4 tbsps coconut oil, 4 tbsps bicarb, 10 drops peppermint oil). I mentioned it on twitter, and suddenly got a new follow notification from a wonderfully bonkers account devoted to promoting the wonder and usefulness of this creamy goo!

A jar of coconut oil is not going to be the cheapest thing on your shopping list, but boy is it handy. So far, these are the things I’ve either tried or had reccomended (not just by the bonkers twitter people)

1) Making toothpaste. This takes a bit of getting used to as it doesnt froth like normal toothpaste, but my chompers DO feel clean and my breath hasnt yet caused comment from Matt so I’m seeing it as a winnner

2) Hair conditioner/air freshener. My very cool and highly gorgeous friend Chloe whacks some of this stuff on her hair in an evening, sleeps with it on (you def need to put a towel over the pillow), then wakes up and washes it out to reveal beautiful shiny and strong tresses. Her hair is serious envy-fodder so as I write, I have a head covered in oil just waiting to be rinsed. Its not a great look while its oily, but it did make our bedroom smell gorgeous!!

3) Diet aid. There are a few people I know who swear by this. Basically, coconut oil is the good kind of fat (I dont know enough science to explain it properly) so eating a couple of spoonfuls of this oil a day can actually help you lose weight, and can cancel out your cravings for other stuff. Its also proven to lower cholesterol so sounds good to me.

4) cooking/spreading. It can basically be used as an alternative to butter, and with all the health benefits listed above, get it in your cakes/on your toast. Im not yet convinced it’d be a winner on a corn on the cob but apart from that, I’m willing to give it a try

5) Skin care. Its just a great moisturiser. I whacked a bit on my lips this week instead of skanky chemically lip balm. Its actually sposed to be really good for eczema, and totally safe for use on babies bums

Seems like miracle juice to me

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

So, lately I’m this guy.

 

Pre-Christmas, I did a classic-Becca and got myself super excited about the whole green-living malarchy. I threw myself into every possible eco-friendly option I could come up with, and decided I would be some kind of green goddess.

However, 2012 has brought with it a sense of reality, and I am finding it more difficult to sustain an eco-friendly way of life. I’m pretty pleased with some of the things we have started to do, but I am also finding it difficult to find reasonable alternatives for a lot of things.

Things that have worked

We are still doing all of our weekly shopping at Sunnyfields farm, and I honestly dont think we’ll go back. The food tastes amazing, and I love not having to go to a hideous massive supermarket. Now that we’re into the swing of it, it doesnt cost much more, and Im enjoying it a lot.

We managed to buy almost all eco-friendly Christmas presents for our friends and family, and felt that we had done well at finding gifts they would like.

I have converted to eco-beauty products in everything I have bought recently. I asked for ‘Liz Earle’ stuff from my Grandma for Christmas, and my brother bought me some gorgeous Neals Yard moisturiser. I love them both and feel better using them.

I’ve gone for Sophie Uliano’s suggestion of supplementing my diet with fish oils, evening primrose oil, flax oil and greens (if you ever look into this, do NOT try greens powder, always go for tablet form!!!) and I feel healthier than i have in a long time. In fact, i’ve had virtually no stomach hassle in the last couple of months, so I feel like putting some good natural oils into my body is working well.

Im loving cleaning my bathroom with vinegar…it just works so well, and everything is sparkly!! Ive also found that putting a drop of essential oil onto the lightbulb after cleaning, and leaving the light on for a couple of minutes gets rid of the stink. I tried using some dettol stuff this week as it was in the cupboard and I thought it needed using up, and BLEURGH, after not using it for weeks, the smell was hideous and I was glad I dont usually put those chemicals in my lungs anymore.

Things that have not worked

Soap Nuts – Raved about in the book i read, these natural ‘nuts’ are for washing clothes. You put a few of them in a small bag and put them in the wash with your clothes. They are supposedly shells of natural soap (ok, so I dont even totally understand what they are) and have some good reviews. The first few washes were ok…ish, but after a couple, things just didnt seem totally clean. So i’m back on ‘surf’ for now. I am pretty obsessed with being clean, so the idea of my clothes stinking isnt good for me.

organic toothpaste – the one we tried just didnt seem fresh enough for me. We started to get used to it, but it was never quite right, and when I used my grandmas regular aquafresh shizzle while we were there at Christmas, I realised what I’d been missing.

Organic clothing…it is just not doable!! I looked around loads at organic stuff, but most of it is weird, and all of it is extortionate. I wanted a new dressing gown for Christmas, but having looked into organic cotton/bamboo cotton ones, they were over £100. As I’m a student…in fact thats irrelevant…as we’re not the Beckhams, paying that much for a dressing gown seems ridiculous. So I didnt get one for Christmas, but i did get a nice non-organic fluffy dressing gown of wonder from John Lewis in the sale…but then I had eco guilt.

So we’re getting there…slowly but surely. But there aren’t, in my opinion, great alternatives for some stuff. I am not quite ready to sacrifice hygiene for green-ness (Im not sure i’ll ever be ready), and I dont think I can ever imagine using recycled toilet paper! Sometimes it feels like a drop in the ocean, but I do think that at least we’re doing something.  I do feel better about the choices I’m making, and I think i am making choices, thinking about what I buy and what I use. Not quite gorgeously green, but trying!!

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2012

So, if I dont write this today, it’ll be redundant as I’ll probably have already failed at one of them….wow, positive attitude… but I wanted to write a bit about my New Years Resolutions. I love a fresh start, and like the idea of resolutions, but wanted to make this years a little more realisitic than my usual ‘be someone other than who I am’ resolutions. Certainly, in work we do target setting with the young people and the targets have to be SMART, meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Obviously all of the resolutions are time-bound in that I hope to achieve them this year, but I’ve tried to make them fit the other criteria too.

1) I am going to read the bible in a year

Matt and I are attempting this one together. Neither of us have ever read the whole of the bible, which seems silly as we profess to believe in it. We also both know that we want to go deeper in our faith, and reading all of the bible this year, along with the natural need to make time in every day to explore our faith, seems like a good way to start that. We have found a plan which gives a bit of Old Testament, a bit of New Testament, a Psalm and a bit of Proverbs every day, so we’ve started that.

2) I am going to read more

I want to read at least 12 books this year. I often find I dont sit and read enough because I always feel like I should be doing uni work if I’ve got time to sit and read, but I need to read for pleasure as well.

3) I am going to learn to cook more interesting stuff

I am going to attempt at least one new dish per month. I’d like to do one per week, but there are some weeks where thats not realistic, but by the end of every months I should be able to report a book I’ve read and a dish I’ve attempted (although most interesting new food discoveries appear on http://www.muchadoughaboutmuffin.wordpress.com)

4) I am going to exercise properly

Last year, I got into decent shape for the first time in my life, with some intense aerobics efforts in the lead up to our wedding. I lost over a stone and felt really good. However, despite not having put on much of this weight, I have done no exercise since, and I realise that my future health needs me to do exercise not to lose weight but to be fit. Initially I plan to do the aerobics again for a few weeks to try to get toned up again, and then try to do a combination of regular walks, yoga and maybe some cycling if I can decide to get myself a bike)

5) I am going to be greener

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that lately I’ve read a book about being eco-friendly. This year I want to make sure that I keep learning, questioning, and trying to change the decisions I make to ensure that they make for a more sustainable life. I am so happy with some of the things we have been trying to do, but I want to do more, and I want to feel that I can actually make a difference.

6) I am going to continue my quest to make things.

Until 2011 I had never attemped anything remotely craft-like, believing wholeheartedly that I couldnt do it. But then my lovely mother-in-law encouraged and helped me to make my own wedding invitations which I was incredibly proud of. My making went from strength to strength in the lead up to the wedding, with me making 100 mini jars of chutney, 85 cupcakes and our table plan. I then learned to knit, although only the very basics, and made 9 scarves for friends and family for Christmas. I also made Matt a handmade advent calendar which was, frankly, pathetic, but at least I tried. This year I want to do more knitting, and also want to crochet a blanket for our new niece/nephew due in June.

7)  Pass my degree

8) Get a job

I will, obviously, update with how all of this goes.

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Gorgeously Green

A couple of weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends wrote a blog post about the above book and said that she was going to give it a go. As she is someone I have always thought was fairly sane I thought I’d download said book onto my kindle and have a look.

The book has a foreword (as you can see) by Julia Roberts, my very own rom-com heroine. So it seems pretty kosher (or vegan, whatever). The premise of the book is that you can live your life in a way that is good for the earth without becoming a hemp wearing, hairy armpitted hippy. I like this. The book also suggests, knowing that it is a generalisation, that women often make alot of the decisions in a household about shopping etc, and so seeks to educate them about where they could be doing things better.

These kind of books, I would usually steer clear of. I’ve basically heard lots about how we should all be out to save the planet. Especially as someone who is a Christian, I have seen an increased awareness within the faith community that we ought to be doing our bit to take care of what God has given us, and preserve it for future generations. I have also heard some pretty scary theology that suggests that heaven will, in fact, be right back here, living on the planet God gave us. If we’re spending eternity here, that should be an incentive to take some better care of it. However, I tend to avoid this kind of teaching, or indeed anything that suggests I should be doing more about this stuff as it all seems mighty inconvenient and a bit scary.

This book, however, is a bit different. It seems more achievable somehow and has really got me thinking, in a way which just seems logical and sensible. Matt thinks that it is a little OTT, and I have to be honest and say that some of it seems a little implausible. However, the basic premise is so sensible.

For example, according to the book, lots of the chemicals used in make up/shower gel/moisturiser are actually pretty darn toxic and yet we slather them all over our skin…the largest organ in our body! This stuff is a little confusing for me as I dont know alot about Chemistry, but, again, the concept makes sense. According to Sophie, nail polishes contain a kind of formaldehyde (thats enough to leave me bare nailed…) and some tampons contain Asbestos, literally because it makes you bleed MORE and therefore need more tampons. That is pretty scary stuff!!

She also goes on to talk about the chemicals in household cleaning products, and the impact not only on inhaling them in your own home, but also on washing them down into your water supply. Again, much of it makes sense (think about how your oven cleaner smells, its not a nice thing to breathe in is it?!)

The best thing is that she doesnt just tell you the problems. She has a list of products in each section that are just GOOD!! There are so many companies making things in organic and ethical ways now, and she has tried them. Shes not recommending crappy alternatives, she’s talking about products that smell good and do the job!! The book is American, so some of the stuff is not yet available in the UK, but equally, using the names of some of the stuff she’s recommended, I’ve found some amazing UK websites with some great stuff she hasnt mentioned!!

I am only half way through the book, I’ve read the chapters about beauty products, cleaning products, exercise and food. But I have already done some stuff I feel really happy with. My concealer ran out so I bought a new, organic one. Its gorgeous, thick, creamy, just the right colour and smells of lavender. objectively, without any ethical or eco friendly agenda…its better than my old one!! Matt and I also decided to try and go eco-friendly with our Christmas presents…its somehow easier to choose gifts when you have a theme, and although I cant mention WHAT we’ve bought in case any of the intended recipients read this (I can tell you my father-in-law is getting an excellent selection of organic jam, i KNOW he wont read this) I feel really happy that I’d buy the stuff we’ve bought even if I wasnt looking at being eco-friendly.

Finally, today we went on our first all-organic big shop. Amazingly, just 4 miles from our house is a small farm shop which is organic heaven. It not only sells a wonderful selection of fruit and veg and meat, it has a ton of other organic food AND a selection of both toiletries and cleaning products. We got everything we need for a week, plus some tasty tea-tree soap, some ginger fudge (to convince Matt is was worthwhile) and…dare I admit it…yeah we’re among friends…organic tampons!!! It cost a tiny bit more than usual (about 5%) but was such a happy experience. We nattered to the shop keeper, he loaded our stuff into boxes rather than bags, and we came away feeling good about ourselves. There wasnt quite as much selection, but frankly that made the whole experience easier for me!! Plus I know they’re not throwing loads of stuff away at the end of the day.

I suspect I’m a gorgeously green convert!!

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