30 day challenge ideas

Copperorange Lamy rollerball 1

As we are about to head in to August, I thought I’d share with you some 30 day challenge ideas to get you motivated to make some changes before we head into autumn (or spring, for my upside down readers!).

This year, I’ve been doing my 365 photo a day project, and I took part in 30 Days Wild during June.  I’ve been using a couple of 30 day challenges as ongoing to-do lists as they’re quite handy to refer to, and I think if you’ve never done a 30 day challenge before it’s worth investigating, as they can be very satisfying!

Here are my favourites:

If you search for 30 day challenges on Google there are millions out there, and lots of blogs create free printables that you can use to make to-do lists.

Have you done any good 30 day challenges?  Please share in the comments below!

Product review: Soapnut shampoo bars

I was interested to learn earlier this year that soapnuts now make a soapnut shampoo bar. I’ve not seen anyone making shampoo bars before except Lush (and their bars are wonderful!). Shampoo bars are great because they usually last longer than bottled shampoo (in relation to price), and they get rid of the issue of plastic recycling and use. So, I decided to buy a pack of the sample soapnut shampoo bars to see what they were like.  There were six bars included in the sample set.

Living Naturally soapnut shampoo

I wash my hair every day. It’s basically normal hair, with drier ends and a tendency to be oily at the roots. It’s quite short at the moment, so your mileage with these bars may vary.  However, over all I only liked two of the varieties in my pack of six, and I don’t recommend them.  Shampoo bars are awesome, but buy them from Lush.

Living Naturally soapnut shampoo 3

Beer & Bay soapnut shampoo

I wasn’t sure about the smell of this shampoo, and it took a good minute to lather up. However, it wasn’t objectionable as a shampoo and my hair felt alright afterwards. There was just no wow factor.  I suspect it would appeal more to men as a scent.

Hemp & Patchouli soapnut shampoo

This shampoo smelt earthy and lovely.  It still took forever to lather up, but my hair was nice afterwards.

Ayurvedic soapnut shampoo

I really disliked this shampoo. It smelt smoky and spicy and when I finished it and started washing my hair with nice shampoo again, I could still smell the smokiness!  It lingered for a few days! It also made my hair feel really stiff, like it hadn’t been rinsed properly. Not a fan.

Coconutty soapnut shampoo

All the bars took forever to lather up, but this one was definitely the worst.  I liked the smell, but I was again left with a stiff unwashed feeling.

Dead Sea Mud soapnut shampoo

I really don’t like Dead Sea shampoos, and I don’t know why I keep buying them! They always leave my hair feeling greasy and unpleasant, and this one is no different. The smell however is lovely, which is probably why they always appeal to me!

Lemon & Avocado soapnut shampoo

I like the smell of this bar, but it again left my hair feeling stiff.  I think this bar would make a good soap instead.

In conclusion, I don’t like soapnut shampoo bars and don’t recommend them.  However, I like soapnuts for washing laundry, and have previously reviewed them.

Living Naturally soapnut shampoo 2

Photo a day project for June

Here are all the photos that I took for my photo a day project in June.  Yey!  I now have more than six month’s worth of photos.  Exciting!

PAD June Collage

Most of these photos are related to my 30 Days Wild participation, but a few of them are other things.

I love seeing my life this way.   Taking a photo a day is such a great idea, especially given the prevalence of camera phones.  I actually use a mix of my iPhone camera and my “proper camera”, depending on what I’m up to on the day.

The first patchwork blanket I ever knitted

A very random post for you today!  Earlier this year I found the first patchwork blanket I ever made, and I thought I’d show it to you.

Patchwork knit blanket

I made it by knitting tiny squares and then sewing them together (fountain pen for scale).  I was younger than 10, but I don’t remember exactly how old.  The little blanket was made for my teddy bear so she didn’t get cold during the day!

The yarns used are all scraps.  The black glittery yarn was a gift for me to make a scarf with (I don’t remember the scarf although I have vague memories of it being wonky – I was only a beginner knitter!).  I don’t recognise the other yarns but my Mum was a keen knitter in those days so I assume they are her ends.

I can see that the blanket is uneven and the sewing is great, but it’s not bad given my age and beginner status.  I find it quite inspiring!

If you started knitting at a young age, do you still have your early projects?

Gardening update – July

I thought I would show you what the garden is up to at the moment.  Gardening is one of my favourite tasks, and I can’t wait for the day I have my little house with a big garden for all my vegetables and fruit trees!  These photos were taken over a few weeks, so apologies for the different lighting/filters on the images.  I only decided afterwards to put them all together in one post!

To be honest, this year we haven’t had much of a harvest yet.  We had I think six portions of broad beans before those plants stopped producing – which definitely isn’t enough to live on!  I’m not doing broad beans next year; for the amount of space they take up they just don’t produce enough food.

Potato plants ready to harvest

I’ve had a couple of cucumbers (yum!) and I pinched my first tomato this week, but the main crop isn’t ready yet.  I’ve harvested my first potato plants, but I’ve not eaten the potatoes yet.  Potatoes are still my favourite to harvest!  I love rummaging about in the soil to find potatoes.  The photo above is potato plants.  They start to die back when they’ve flowered and are ready to be harvested.  I’ll pick the rest when I’m ready to eat them.

Onions pulled up

I’ve pulled up all the onions and garlic.  The garlic has already dried and is stored in the garage.  They tend to last all year once picked and dried.  The onions perish eventually (about 6-8 months) so have to be watched.  They’re currently drying outside.

Big onion

Isn’t that a good size onion!  That’s the biggest one I’ve grown this year!

All the garlic from the garden

Beetroot plants

This bed had the broad beans on the left (now cleared), and beetroot on the right.  The beetroot are doing well.  The flower at the front on the right is the new variety of marigold I picked up in spring.  It hasn’t flowered properly yet.  The lavender cutting is my Mum’s.  She loves lavender.

Squash plants

And these are two of the squash plants.  Aren’t they huge!  It’s hard to remember that they once looked like this…

Squash seedlings

And that is the garden at the moment!  Not pictured here are runner beans, which aren’t doing too well as I seem to have a snail problem, and carrots, which I’m trialling in a pot this year and will show you when I finally harvest them.

Orange and yellow lillies

Bonus photo of my lilies.

Are you growing veg this year?  How is your harvest doing?

How I identify the species I find on my walks

Hi all.  I thought I’d show you what books and resources I use for species identification on my walks.  I am a big fan of naming the things I find.  I came across this passage in the book Crow Planet recently, which I completely agree with:

Crow Planet quote

Crow Planet is an excellent nature book by the way, and you should read it.  All the book links below go to Amazon but are not affiliate links.  Obviously your local book store can help you find these books, but Amazon is easiest to link to.  The fold out charts towards the end of the post link to the charity that sells them.  This post is really only relevant to people living in Britain, I’m afraid, as the guides are specific to British species.

Big Spotter's Guide to Nature

The book I use for most of my IDs is the Usborne Big Spotter’s Guide to Nature.  Unfortunately it is out of print now so it’s hard to find, but it is the best nature guide I’ve found.  I came across it by chance in a National Trust book shop years ago, and I’m so glad I did.  It designed for children so is really easy to use, and it covers pretty much everything you can expect to find in the UK.  It has sections on wildflowers, trees, birds, bugs and insects, mushroom and fungi, and animal tracks and signs (including poo!).  Such a great book!

Next up, I have a couple of specific field books for various things.  I like the Black’s Nature Guides the best as I think they have the most helpful images and descriptions of all the pocket nature guides I’ve looked at.  I use the Wildflowers guide the most, but I also have the Medicinal plants guide and Trees of Britain and Europe.  For wildflowers, I also have the Francis Rose Wildflower Key, which is the botanist’s bible. Don’t buy this unless you’ve progressed beyond beginner wildflower knowledge as you’ll struggle with it.

Rummaging around in my flower books to identify a wildflower the birds have seeded in the garden.For birds, I mostly use the internet and the Usborne book, but I do have a copy of the RSPB pocket guide to British Birds if I need it.

Now on to the extra fun bit!  I have quite a few of the Field Studies Council fold-out charts.  If you are a beginner or have children these are excellent and cheap (£3 each plus postage) and they support a charity!  They’re laminated A5 guides that you can stick in your bag and take with you on your walk, and they’re super useful.  I use these guides for things I’m not very familiar with, as they are so great for beginners.

FSC fold-out charts 1

I own day-flying moths, butterflies of Britain, Fungi name trail, common grasses, cloud name trail, woodland plants, plant galls in Britain (I love plant galls!) and lichens on twigs.  I cannot recommend them enough!

FSC fold-out charts 2

Over the next year I’m also intending to buy dragonflies and damselflies of Britain, house and garden spidersurban lichens 1, urban lichens 2, bees of Britain, garden bugs and beastiesmosses and liverworts of woodlands and mosses and liverworts of towns and gardens.  Phew!  Lots of shopping!

When all of the above fails and I am stuck with an ID or need mine confirming, I usually post the image on Twitter and ask someone to confirm (I’m friends with a lot of naturalists) or ask on FB (where I also have a lot of naturalist friends).  In return, I usually help with IDs when I see them pop up on Twitter/FB.

Blog re-design and life update

Comments are now working on my blog, yey!

I’ve been pondering recently whether to discontinue this blog. I hadn’t really made a decision on it when I decided to tweak the design last weekend, but when I broke it and spent hours fixing it, I realised I was still very fond of blogging and didn’t want to lose my blog. So, I’m still here for now! :)  Also, I love my new layout and my new logo!  If you’re reading this in a feed/email, please pop over and have a look.  I designed it all myself!

Happy minion with bananas

In the end, I couldn’t fix the commenting issue myself, but I found a web designer who is lovely and did it for me: Zoe Corkhill.  If you have WordPress issues, I recommend using her. She didn’t charge me anything, but she has a tip jar on her site and as I took up an hour of her time I thought it was only fair that I paid her for helping me. Web designers still need to eat, after all!

In real life news, the car repairs after I blew out a tyre a few weeks ago cost £600 (including the tow I needed). Ridiculous! All the tyres and brakes needed changing.

Then, just to add insult to injury, a leak appeared in the room below the bathroom. The plumber came out on Monday, and when he removed a tile from the shower to have a look at the pipes he discovered the whole wall is damp and rotten behind the tiles. He reckons the shower has probably been leaking since it was installed 14 years ago, and it was such a slow drip that it’s taken this long just for the drip to soak down a few feet of plasterboard, through the wooden boards under the bath and into the room below. It’s a little bit horrifying!

Yesterday afternoon I went on an adventure to the trade store in town to have a look at showers and tiles.  The bathroom will probably be ripped out before the end of the year, and then new things will be installed.  Exciting!

In TV and film news (if you follow me on Twitter you know I watch a lot of TV shows and films!), my Mum has never read Harry Potter or seen all of the films, so I’ve been watching the whole series with her.  We’ve only got the last couple of films left now – I’d seen 1-6 before, but not 7 and 8 so it will be nice for me to see them.  Watching the films with someone who has never read the books, I’ve realised that there are a lot of plot holes in the films that make no sense if you’ve not read the books.  I keep having to explain things to my Mum (especially Snape, who confuses her a lot!).  I think the films work best if you see them as an accompaniment to the books, rather than as a stand-alone product.

In TV shows, I’m currently watching season 3 of Nashville and season 1 of NCIS.  Seasons 1-11 of NCIS are now on Netflix U.S.  This is pretty much the best news ever.  I should get lots of sewing and crochet done while I work my way through all that wonderful TV!

And that is basically my life at the moment!  I’ve been at work (I work mornings) and I have a new boss, which is nice.  I don’t really talk about my job on here as I don’t want people to find me, but it’s busy at the moment and I like it.

Let me know if you like the new blog design, and if there are any changes you recommend (especially if you find something that is broken!).

A wooden cow and an apple

Morning, munchkins!  I have some photos for you today but first; a message! I redesigned the website over the weekend and comments are currently broken.  I am aware of it and hopefully it will be fixed this week.

I visited a new-to-me nature reserve on Friday, and it has some lovely sculptures.  The site in question is Mareham Pastures Nature Reserve, which is a beautiful volunteer-led landfill restoration project.  When I see new landfill planning applications (which I see in my job!), I’m always conflicted about them.  Landfill is very bad, but restored landfill sites can be great community assets and I think it’s important that as a country we force finished landfill sites to be restored and handed over to communities. Just look at how nice this site is!

Old mill chimney

Wooden cow sculpture

Apple sculpture

07.10 Wooden apple sculpture at Mareham.

House crichet, Acheta domesticus

Xanthoria family of lichens

Xanthoria family of lichens 2

I couldn’t resist a couple of lichen photos – I do love lichen!

Have a lovely Monday!

A boring stationery haul

Doesn’t that blog title sound appealing!  I’ve just received a boring stationery order, which I thought I’d share with you.  I had to buy some new erasers for my Blackwing pencil, and some new eraser tips for my Lamy pencil. I told you it was boring.

Ohto smile clip 1

Anyway, because I was doing an order, I thought I’d throw in a little fun and so I also bought some Ohto smile clips.  I got a colour sample pack years ago but there were only five included, which just isn’t enough.  This time round I bought a pack of silver clips. Aren’t they cute!

Ohto smile clip 2

I’ve been using them in my planner to mark pages. Yey!  The blurb says they can hold 25 pages together, and I can confirm that they hold a decent little wad.  They won’t stretch to accommodate a big pile of papers though so just be aware of that.  You don’t want to break any!

I think you should all get some, because paperclips are boring and the revolution is here!

I didn’t get sponsored to write this post. Just spreading the love :)