Sunday, 23 June 2013

Our Groovebulb Upcycling Challenge – A Masonry Bee House

Regular readers may remember that a few weeks ago I was approached by the lovely people at Groovebulb to see if I’d be interested in an upcycling challenge using the packaging from one of their Groovebulbs. I excitedly agreed and we took up the challenge. After much thought we decided that the packaging would lend itself really well to a masonry bee house, so we set about making one and below is how we got on.

If you’d like to read the original post as featured on Groovebulb’s blog then pop across to their site for a read.

Groovebulb Upcycling Challenge – Masonry Bee House

Looking after our bees is becoming more and more important particularly as bee numbers are under threat and declining due to over use of dangerous pesticides. As a family we thought it would be a great idea to use our Groovebulb packaging to make a masonry bee house and the girls were very excited by this idea and keen to help as much as possible. So how did we do it?
  • Firstly, you will need to get some garden bamboo canes which you may have lying around your garden or you can purchase some from your local garden centre.
  • Cut each bamboo cane to the right length so they fit inside the main section of the Groovebulb container. Pack as many of the canes as you can into the container making a nice tight fit.
  • You will find that each cane will vary in size and some will have bigger inner holes than others. If some appear to have no hole then you can start one by gently pushing a nail inside the cane. Don’t make the holes too big though. The bees will come along choose a cane they like and do the rest of the work themselves.
  • Once the container is packed with the canes, place the Groovebulb top onto the bottom of the container. The top is the bit which will fix onto the fence you are securing the bee house onto once finished.
  • Once you have put the top onto the bottom of the container, take a marker pen and drawer around where the container and the top meet. This line will show you where to papier maché up to on the main container so that the top still fits onto the bottom when finished (see pictures for guidance).
  • Now take an old newspaper and rip it up into small pieces. Place into a bucket and add water. Allow the paper to absorb the water making a nice paper mush. Squeeze out any excess water and then add some PVA glue. Mix together and start applying your mixture to the main part of the container up to the line you drew earlier. Cover the container top with the papier maché mixture too.
  • Once dry, you need to paint your container and top the colour of your choice. We used poster paints for ours. My eldest daughter wanted to paint it yellow and black but we explained that perhaps the bees may see this as a warning rather than a nice place they’d like to live ! We finally decided upon brown and painted our container and top accordingly.
  • Once dry, apply a covering of PVA glue over the painted areas to give a more waterproof covering. We were going to make our bee house a little plastic domed roof from part of a plastic bottle, but ran out of time to make this. However it would make the bee house more weather proof in the long term.
  • Once the glue has dried you are ready to assemble your bee house in the garden.
  • Choose your spot and screw the top section to the fence where you are putting your bee house. Now fix the main section onto the top and hey presto, one bee house !

With time you will hopefully encourage some fabulous masonry bees into your garden to pollinate all those lovely flowers.

We have sent away for some bee friendly seeds to plant in our garden, which we are waiting to arrive. If you would like more information on the “How to keep Britain Buzzing” campaign by the Soil Association, then you can find out more information here

The other day the girls came running in to tell me they’d seen some bees coming out of the bee house. I’ve yet to see them with my own eyes but if this is the case then I’m chuffed to bits. Our bee friendly seeds have also arrived so we will be planting them in the garden to encourage some more bees in. The bee house has endured the rain and wind which is fab news. I was a little worried it may have disintegrated but it’s still intact. Hooray !


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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Little Green Radicals Launch New Skincare Range

Back in March I was chosen to be part of a team of parents to trial a new range of organic skincare products from Little Green Radicals. Many of you may know Little Green Radicals for the fabulous 100% organic and certified fair-trade baby and children’s clothing they sell. They started in 2005 and their range has grown from a series of slogan baby grows and t-shirts with slogans like “I recycle my tantrums” and “wind farm” to a beautiful range of clothing which now includes, baby grows, dungarees, dresses, hats, leggings, baby bodies and much more.

They have recently launched a great range of organic skincare products specifically for babies and children, two of which have soil association certification at 99.9% organic. Their range includes a nappy balm, sleep balm, chest rub and a petroleum-free jelly.

I was given the chance to initially trial the petroleum-free jelly as part of the parent team and then given a further chance to try out samples of the other skincare items. This has given me a great overview of the range and I have to say I’m really impressed. As well as sharing these products and others with you my readers, this journey is also answering some questions about which skincare ranges I would like to stock in my online shop which I’m aiming to launch later this year. Little Green Radicals range of skincare is definitely a contender. I like the fact that the range is not too big, and it covers the main areas you’ll need products for with babies and young children; sleep, colds & snuffles, moisturisation and nappy rash.

So let me share my thoughts on the range:

Petroleum Free Jelly

A natural & moisturising body balm packed with organic shea butter, vitamin E & beeswax. Ideal for those with extremely sensitive skin. 87% organic

*helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil cera alba wax *butyrospermum parkii (fruit)butter *olea europeaea (fruit) oil *arnica officinalis extract*zea mays tocopherol

*Organic Ingredient, **Natural Ingredient

This was the product I initially trialled for Little Green Radicals and I really enjoyed using it. I like the fact that this balm could be used for lips, body, hands; basically any dry or irritated areas of the skin. It took a while to get the balm to soften in the pot but once the balm had been used a few times it was easy to use and was great at moisturising the skin. I also used it on my lips at night and it really worked at keeping them supple and hydrated in the night. My youngest loved putting it on herself too and I had to place the pot out of her reach in the end as she loved using it too much ! The pot was likely to disappear completely especially when she started using it on her teddies !

Nappy Balm

A 100% natural blend of shea butter, sunflower & lavender oils to soothe, nourish & protect against the causes of nappy rash. 76% organic 

*helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil butyrospermum parkii butter cetyl alcohol*olea europeaea oil cera alba wax, lavandula angustifolia flower oil citrus reticulata peel oil calendula officinalis extract *zea mays, tocopherol, **geraniol **linalool, **limonene, **citronellol

*Organic Ingredient, **Natural Ingredient

This balm is a fabulous texture for applying to delicate little bottoms. I love the consistency and it sinks into the skin really well. If you’re looking for a product which isn't a thick cream but a soft balm which protects the skin, then this is well worth looking at. It has a gentle, subtle fragrance so not overpowering in anyway. In fact the whole range smells really natural and full of goodness. The essential oils used come through but are not overbearing in any way. There’s enough essential oil in the products to do the job they’re supposed to do which is really refreshing.

Sleep Balm

The sleep balm is an organic blend of beeswax, lavender oil & valerian Oil to help calm & soothe the mind before sleep. Soil Association certified, 99.9% certified organic

*helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil *olea europeaea (fruit) oil cera alba wax lavandula angustifolia (lavender)flower oil valariana officinalis(valerian) root oil tocopherol**geraniol**linalool**limonene**citronellol

* Organic Ingredient, **natural Ingredient

This is one of the two products in Little Green Radicals’ range which is Soil Association certified and 99.9% organic. This has been really important for the company to achieve and I admire them for this. I wish more companies would look harder at getting their products approved by the Soil Association. Their sleep balm has a lovely familiar aroma of lavender. Nothing overpowering, but gently soothing. Just right for applying to your baby’s skin to encourage a calm, restful, sleep state.

Chest Rub

Their chest rub is a 100% natural vapour rub with a blend of aromatic rosemary oil & stimulating eucalyptus oil to help you & your family breathe more easily. Soil Association certified, 99.9% certified organic.

*helianthus annuus seed oilcera alba wax citrus reticulata peel oil lavandula angustifolia flower oil eucalyptus globulus leaf oil rosmarinus officinalis leaf oil tocopherol** geraniol** linalool** limonene**citronellol

*Organic Ingredient, **Natural Ingredient

This is Little Green Radicals’ second Soil Association certified product in the range. It has rosemary and eucalyptus oils in it and again has just enough of the essential oil to be effective without being overpowering. There’s nothing worse that applying a chest rub to your child’s chest and back only to end up with watery eyes because the smell is so potent and overbearing. Like the sleep balm and the petroleum jelly the texture is more like a butter which melts when worked into the skin. They are not greasy and absorb well into the skin.

The Nappy Balm and Petroleum-Free Jelly are both £8.95 each for a 50ml pot and the Chest and Sleep Balms are £9.95 each for a 50ml pot. The range has had really good feedback from both the initial testing group and parents who have bought the range since its launch in mid May. I would definitely buy the range and have been suitably impressed. I like the fact that it’s slightly different from other ranges I’ve tried out. In fact I’m impressed that there are an array of free-from skincare products out there both for babies, children, teens and adults which are so different. There really is something for everyone dependent on your personal taste and requirements.

If you’d like to find out more then pop across to Little Green Radical’s website for more information on their skincare and clothing ranges. You can also link up with them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Has anyone tried out this new range of skincare yet? If so I’d love to know your thoughts too. Please do leave me a comment. Until next time x


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Disclaimer: I was given a 15ml sample pot of each product to keep, try out and review for this post. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed are honest, true and my own feelings on these products.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Weekend Box - Creative, Green and Healthy Activities for Kids - Review

As you will know from reading the blog my girls love craft activities. They enjoy nothing better than painting, sticking, cutting, making, creating. It’s one of those times when they are at their happiest. The other one is when they are outside playing in the fresh air and having fun.

So when I starting chatting with Andy Stephenson from Weekend Box Club on Twitter about the new Weekend Boxes he was launching for children aged 3-8 years, I just knew that I wanted to be involved in reviewing one for you.

The great thing about this box of activities is that it follows a creative, green and healthy ethos. That gets a thumbs up from me straight away. Every 2 weeks a Weekend box arrives through your letterbox with all the bits you will need for four activities:

  • Something to make – a craft activity
  • Something to cook – a healthy recipe to make
  • Something to Read or Write – a story to write or read and maybe a picture to draw
  • Something Green – a recycling activity or maybe something to grow

Our box arrived and we had:

  • A Sock Puppet Pup to make
  • A Mixed Bean Bake to cook
  • The seeds & compost pellets to grow Lettuce for a ‘Super Strong Salad’
  • A ‘Build a Story’ card about Sammy the Shy Squirrel

Sophia was very excited about the weekend box arriving and the first activity we did was to plant the lettuce seeds. We used glass jars for ours but we had another card in our box which also told you how to make a plant pot from a plastic bottle or an egg box – some great recycling ideas.

Both the girls were able to get involved in this activity and they both thoroughly enjoyed watching the compost pellets expand in the water and then being able to sprinkle the seeds on the compost. The jars were put on a sunny, light window sill to grow and the girls have looked after them by watering them and making sure they are growing well. Children are funny with the competition thing. It was all about who’s seeds have grown the fastest ! Sweet.

Our seeds are now big enough to transfer to bigger containers so I’ll have to report back again on my Facebook page to let you know how our lettuces do.

The second activity we did was the sock puppet pup. Sophia and I made this one alone and had some quality Mummy and daughter time which is always nice. Sophia was very much in charge of all the cutting, sticking and gluing and we had this made in about 30 minutes. As Sophia is almost 7, this activity was probably a little young for her, but she enjoyed it none the less. I think our Sock Puppet Pup looks rather grand, don’t you?

All the bits we needed for this activity were supplied which was great. There’s nothing worse than realising half way through something like this that you've forgotten an integral part of the activity and I think this is where something like the Weekend Box comes into its own. For parents who don’t always have the time or perhaps aren't overly creative themselves but would like their kids to be involved in craft activities, this takes all the hard work out of the equation. Brilliant.

Later that weekend Sophia and I decided to make the Mixed Bean Bake together. The jury was out on whether the girls would actually eat this one. They are good eaters and love nothing more than veggies and fruit but beans can often be a sticking point with kids. Anyway, we chatted about it and agreed that we’d make it anyway because Mummy would eat it and it could also be frozen. Sophia agreed to try some once it was made just in case she liked it. The fact that it had peppers, beans and courgette in it meant I didn't hold out much hope, but you never know.

Sophia chopped all the vegetables herself except the onion and garlic. She enjoyed sautéing everything off in the pan, adding the herb mix that had been provided and combining it all together. It was then left to simmer away for the allotted 30 minutes before being transferred into an oven proof dish, sprinkled with cheese and popped into the oven for a further 10 minutes

We made the dish in time for tea and to her credit Sophia dished it up for Jess and her and wait for it.......she loved it ! I was so shocked but so chuffed too. She loved it so much she had seconds AND wanted some for tea the next day. Wow, what a hit that was. Never underestimate kids. They can truly surprise you when you think you know it all. It will make finding new recipes to make the girls far easier now, knowing that they will eat an array of beans. Fabulous.

For this activity you are supplied with the herb mix but will need to purchase the other ingredients required. As we didn’t have a leek we used a courgette instead.

The last activity was the story and Sophia is still mulling over her ideas for this one. This activity will really make her think about what she is writing and I’m hoping it will get those creative juices flowing. She loves to draw and make up stories so we’ll have to see what she comes up with. We’ve chatted about options from the prompts that are given, and I’m sure she will write a lovely introduction to her story.

The lovely thing with this activity is that the children can email in their stories and then that part is sent to another child who adds their bit to the story. The idea is that the story then develops with lots of children’s input to make a whole story which will be posted onto the Weekend Box Club website for them all to see. What a lovely idea and so much fun too.

All in all we really enjoyed our Weekend Box. 100% of the box contents are recyclable or reusable and 95% of it comes from recycled material. I think it’s a great way to teach children about being more Green, the benefits of eating healthily and the fun of creative pursuits which not all kids get to experience on a regular basis. It also takes all the stress out for parents too.

Weekend Box Club have 3 options if you’d like to give one a go; the first is a one off box at £10 each, then a monthly subscription where you get 2 boxes at £7.50 each, and lastly a quarterly subscription where you get 6 boxes at £7.00 per box which is the most cost effective option. In addition, Weekend Box Club also do 3, 6 or 12 months gift subscriptions to the boxes which would make a lovely present for a child or grand-child.

So there you have it, the super duper Weekend Box. If you’d like to give one a go then I have a promo code for you which will get you your first box for £5 instead of the normal £10. The code is WBCHARLOTTE.

If you’d like to pop across to their website and take a further look then their website is You can also follow them on Twitter and I’m sure they’d love a like from you on Facebook too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this lovely green, healthy, craft idea and also whether any of you have been lucky enough to try one out yet. Until next time xx


24.6.13 - We were kindly given another opportunity to try out and review a second Weekend Box for my other blog, The Mad Mummy Musings. You can find out how we got on with this one here


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Disclaimer: We were given a Weekend Box to keep and review for this post. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are honest, true and my own feelings on the product we tried.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A Taste of China with Lulin Teas

I love tea. I've always loved tea since I was a young child and that love has grown to include many herbal teas too. I’m not a coffee lover. I've tried again and again over the years to make myself love it but apart from the lovely aroma of freshly made coffee, it does nothing for me. So when Lulin Teas asked if I’d like to try some of their traditional Chinese tea I jumped at the chance.

I've always enjoyed a refreshing green tea at the end of a Chinese meal and not long ago I tried Oolong tea for the first time and loved it. So lucky me, Lulin Teas sent me a sample pack of their Gunpowder Green Tea and their Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea.

Lulin Teas specialise in Chinese tea as this is where tea began. They hand select their choice of teas from a number of regions famous for producing Chinese Teas so you really are spoilt for choice.

I tried the Oolong tea first. I remembered how refreshing I’d found it before so one afternoon instead of having a cuppa I decided to be a little more refined and brewed myself an Oolong. A friend had bought me a proper glass tea maker / pot for my last birthday and since moving house it had been put in a box and forgotten about. This was a great excuse to dig it out and sample these teas properly. So off I trotted to the garage to find my special tea pot for its special christening.

As described on Lulin's website:

Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea - “This tea is from the spectacular province of Fujian on the Southeast coast of China famed for its Oolong teas, and is also known as ‘Iron Goddess of Mercy’.

The tightly curled leaves are a striking green colour but this is not a green tea. Oolong is semi fermented and therefore lies between green and black tea. Once brewed the leaves will open to reveal big leaves with serrated edges and the brew will be a forest green colour. Naturally releasing honey scents this sweet Oolong tea contains complex tastes from caramel, orchids and honey suckle. It is a real treat for anyone keen on Oolong teas”.

Once brewed these teas uncurl to reveal beautiful green leaves that look like they've recently been picked. I wasn't expecting this. I felt like I was truly drinking “proper” tea. The aroma of this tea is beautiful, subtle but with lovely honey overtones. It is slightly floral but not too overpowering. It’s a smooth, delicate tea which I found very refreshing to drink. It was a light caramel, green colour and even when left for longer than the recommended 1-3 minutes it was still very drinkable. I enjoyed this tea a lot and it is one of my teas of choice for a refreshing afternoon cuppa.

I saved the Gunpowder Green Tea for when we had friends to dinner. I knew that one of our friends particularly liked traditional Chinese teas so it was a great chance to try this one out on a bigger audience. My traditional glass tea pot came out for another outing and we all shared in some lovely green tea.

As described on Lulin's website:

Gunpowder Green Tea - “Gunpowder tea is a form of green Chinese tea produced in Zhejiang Province of China in which each leaf has been rolled into a small round pellet. It is believed to take its English name from the fact that the tea resembles the black gunpowder that used to be used in pistols.

Gunpowder tea production dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618–907) but it was first introduced to Taiwan in the 19th century. Gunpowder tea leaves are withered, steamed, rolled, and then dried”.

This tea was definitely stronger than the Oolong and other green teas I have tried. It needs to be enjoyed fairly quickly after being brewed. Left too long in the pot it was too overpowering for a second sitting. Therefore it is best enjoyed straightaway and then re-steeped to maximise its enjoyment factor. This tea begins as a light green colour which deepens when left in the pot. Both of these teas can be steeped 3 times in total so a little goes a long way.

There are many health benefits associated with tea, particularly green and white teas. Green tea has been linked with helping to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, liver damage, diabetes and tooth decay. It has been connected to aiding weight loss too. Oolong tea has also been connected with weight loss and is often promoted as a weight loss drink by some.

I have to say that I really enjoyed being given the chance to get back into my teas again. Using my glass tea pot made the experience all the more enjoyable. For anyone interested in purchasing one of their own, Lulin do some on their website along with an array of different teas, gift sets and tea accessories.

If you’d like to know more about what Lulin Teas have to offer then pop across to their website. They also have a Facebook page and you can follow them on Twitter.

Have any of you enjoyed one of Lulin's lovely teas before. Do let me know if you have. 
Until next time x


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Disclaimer: I was given a sample pack of Gunpowder Green Tea and Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea to try out and review. All comments, thoughts and feelings are my own. I honestly enjoyed these teas and would like to try more of their range.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

100% Organics Skincare and Bodycare Range – Review

Back in April I linked up with Satya Fox from 100% Organics through Twitter. Every Friday from 10-11am there is #ConnectFriday, where Green businesses link up and share. It’s a great time to chat with like minded people and make new contacts. If you’re a Green business or blogger and you haven’t joined in yet, then pop across and join in the fun.

Following our chat Satya kindly offered to send me some samples of their range to try out. 100% Organics are exactly as they say; 100% organic. Their range is accredited by the Soil Association and is Vegetarian friendly. Their products are made and supplied by a team of professional health practitioners at the Walsingham Clinic in Cornwall. All the ingredients are selected by an internationally renowned Medical Herbalist who is an expert in skin health. All the products are hand-made on their farm in Cornwall using cold extraction methods.

Their products contain an array of oils, one of which is Madagascan Tamanu oil. 100% Organics products are among the first to use this oil which is rich in essential fatty acid omega 6-3 and calophyllic acid which has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. This oil is healing and nourishing and has been traditionally used by Pacific Islanders for thousands of years as a remedy for many skin ailments.

I was kindly sent one of their lip balms, body balms and their more recently launched surf balm to try out. My husband has a cousin who used to surf on the European circuit so being a serious surfer we decided that the surf balm was a good one for her to try out for us. I've been using the body balm and lip balm and have definitely been impressed with their effects on my skin.

Firstly, I just love the packaging of 100% Organics products. They are colourful, funky and very modern. The packaging definitely draws you in and the tins look great on your dressing table or chest of drawers and are practical too. As someone who goes caravaning, these tins would be excellent to take with me on holiday.

So on to the products themselves; the lip balm smells delicious and is so easily spread on the lips. It melts as it’s put on and the skin just laps up the goodness. I had to keep it out of reach of little people as they were enjoying joining in the lip love far more than I liked ! This was Mummy’s lip balm, not theirs. I need to get them a pot all of their own.

The body butter again is great. My legs have always suffered a bit with all the waxing and I have a tendency towards marks, scarring and ingrown hairs if I’m not careful. This body balm was really good for nourishing my skin, putting moisture back where it was needed and healing past blemishes. It again melts onto your skin and leaves a healthy sheen. My only slight reservation was that this balm has a stronger scent of the Tamanu oil which has a very earthy smell. I didn't hate the smell but if I’m honest it has taken me a long time to accept how different it is. If you Google “tamanu oil smell” you will find that there is very much a ‘for and against’ camp for the aroma. It’s one of those Marmite moments I suppose. However, having said that if you read the comments on 100% Organics FB page they all speak highly of how lovely the face balms smell so maybe it’s just a little more potent in the body and surf balms.

I sent the surf balm off to my hubby’s cousin knowing that this balm had the strongest aroma of Tamanu oil. It would be interesting to see what her thoughts were. This is what she said,

“The 100% Organic Surf Balm is actually pretty good!

The tin is small enough to fit in your board bag and easily transportable. The logo is simple and effective yet some of the surfing advertising on the box itself is a little cliché. The tin is easy to open even in the cold with wet hands from the sea which is always a bonus. 

The Balm itself is nice to touch, soft but maintains its shape in almost all weather conditions. I dislike the smell, although it aromas are all natural and healthy, many of my friends also didn't like the linger that is left on your skin.

It feels soft to touch on your face and was great at combating the salt. It applies thickly although you don't need very much of it. It also has the feeling of protection, both from the sun and other elements.

I like the product but feel the aroma could be greatly improved and to be honest when I come out from a surf I rarely ever put protective cream on immediately. I usually go home, shower and then apply my face creams and this product is not one I would apply at home on a day to day basis readily.”

I cannot doubt the fabulous healing properties of this skin and bodycare range and the feedback I read is really very good. I would definitely like to try more of the range, particularly the face balms. The aroma of the body balm has grown on me over time. My nose has got used to its unique qualities. It’s certainly not like Neem ! Hope that reassures you ;0)

Would I buy the body balm again? Yes I would. And I would certainly buy the lip balm again too. It was yummy. I think the healing properties from all the ingredients in these products are really very good and I’ll definitely report back again once I've tried out some of the face balms. The prices for this range start at £11 for the lip balm, £19 for the surf balm, £29 for the body balm up to £46 for the anti-wrinkle balm.

If you want to find out more about the 100% Organics range then pop across to their website, follow them on Twitter or give them a Like on Facebook. 

Have any of you tried out this range of products or used tamanu oil before. I’d love to know your views so please do leave me a comment. Until next time x
Update: 100% Organic have sadly now ceased trading.


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Disclaimer: I was given a 100ml tin of body balm, a 50ml tin of surf balm and a 15ml tin of lip balm to try out and keep for this review. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are honest, true and my own feelings on the products I tried.

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