Archive for the ‘Learn something new’ Category

The weather finally feels like spring could be on the way and its about this time of year when many start wondering what they could be growing in the garden. With food prices continuing to go through the roof the pressure on the purse is also driving many to think harder about getting the most out of your garden.

There are many books for the novice gardener but like most things at the moment there are websites out there which give you the same information without the cost.

My favourites are the BBC Gardening site which lets you pick according to the veg you want to grow and igrowveg where you can download the following guides:

  1. Grouping Vegetable Types and Crop Rotation
  2. What Can I Grow?
  3. Drawing a Plan (you can do this online)
  4. Choose your seeds

The third point may not sound like biggie but we had our first growing season last year and planted everything in the wrong place and paid the price. If you are not convinced this is all worth the effort Which? have a great little tool which shows you exactly how much money you could be saving if you put your back into it.

Veg for kids: There’s no better way to ensure children eat healthily than to let them grow their own vegetables. Tomatoes are an obvious choice, especially cherry types, as children can pick and eat them straight off the plant.

Cucumbers are another candidate. The traditional type is too large, but look for newer varieties which are ready when they’re just 10cm long. Vegetables that produce something to eat quickly, such as radish, spring onion, baby carrot and baby salad leaf, are ideal. They should be ready in as little as six weeks in summer.

Calender: This is from Which? and is a very basic idea of what you could be doing when but gives you somewhere to start:

Feb/March: Prepare the veg plot. Dig it over and work in organic matter (a bucketful per square metre). Stand potatoes in a warm place to sprout. Buy seeds of beetroot, carrot, salads, beans and lettuce. Start veg in patio pots

April: Start potatoes and other veg in patio pots. Be prepared to cover if frost is predicted. Sow hardier veg such as carrots, beetroot and lettuce in a veg plot.

May: Buy in young plants of tender crops such as tomatoes and courgettes and plant outside when the weather is mild.

June: Harvest your first crop of salad, baby veg and new potatoes from the patio. As pots are harvested, start another batch for late summer. Pick courgettes regularly

July/Aug: Pick courgettes and beans regularly when they’re big enough. Keep weeds under control and water in long dry spells.

Sept/Oct: Tidy the veg plot and put crop debris on the compost heap. Empty patio pots and recycle the compost as a soil conditioner or save to use for ornamental plots next spring.


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Most of us use many beauty products on a daily basis, often containing toxic chemicals.  Although the chemicals in any one product are unlikely to cause harm, think about how many products you use in a day, year, and over a lifetime. Small amounts of toxic chemicals add up and accumulate in our bodies through cosmetics and through other chemical exposures in food, water and air.

If you want to side-step some of this and/or save money, here are some natural toxin-free products you can make yourself.  There are no preservatives in these recipes so use within two weeks, and store in your fridge.  If you fancy giving it a go Baldwins (UK’s leading supplier of natural remedies, essential oils and other natural products) is a good place to get some of the ingredients.

Frozen egg & honey mask: Recommended for dry skin, this is particularly soothing on sunburned skin.


  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (manuka if you can stretch to it)
  • 1 cardboard loo roll

Instructions: Beat the egg until frothy. Slowly add the liquid coconut oil and honey, beating until your mask is the consistency of mayonnaise. Take the loo roll and strand it up in a clean bowl. Spoon mixture into the loo roll. Place tube, in the bowl, in the freezer overnight. To use, peel away just the top of the cardboard roll and smooth the frozen stick over your face (think of it as a push-up lolly). Leave on for 5-10 mins, then rinse off with warm water. Return the cream stick covered with plastic wrap and freeze between uses. Keeps indefinitely.

Silky Clay Mask for all skin types


  • 1½ teaspoons green clay (French is preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon kaolin clay
  • 1½ tablespoons aloe vera gel
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater
  • 2 drops rose essential oil

Instructions: Mix clays together. Add aloe vera gel, rosewater and oils. Leave your mask on for 5-10 mns, then rinse off with warm water. Refrigerate mixture for up to four weeks.

Baking Soda Mask to fight acne: This is easy to make and can work wonders.


  • 1 tablespoon baking soda (NOT baking powder)
  • 1-2 tablespoon water

Instructions: Mix a little together in your hands after washing your face and apply gently to your skin. Once you’ve coated your face with the baking soda/water mix, leave for 10 minutes. Rinse the mask off your face and feel how soft and clear it feels.

Banana Mask for oily skin


  • 1 banana, preferably ripe (You can keep ripe bananas in the freezer. Let it thaw before using.)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (manuka if you can stretch)
  • 1 orange or a lemon

Instructions: Mix the banana and honey together. Add a few drops of juice from an orange or a lemon. Apply to face for 15 mins before rinsing with a flannel.

Orange Ginger Warming Foot Scrub

This warming foot scrub is great for the winter, and leaves your feet feeling soft and relaxed.


  • 1/4 cup sugar (white or brown)
  • 1/4 cup sweet almond oil
  • 6 drops orange essential oil
  • 2 drops ginger essential oil
  • 1 level teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper

Instructions: In a plastic bowl, mix together the sugar and almond oil. Add the essential oils and stir. Add the cayenne pepper last and stir well to mix. This is a scrub to do over the bath rather than in it – you don’t want a soak in cayenne pepper! Scoop up a handful of the scrub for each foot and massage vigorously.

Grapefruit Sugar Scrub


  • 1-1/2 cups white table sugar
  • 8 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 1/4 cup jojoba oil
  • 1/4 cup liquid castile soap

Instructions: Place sugar into a large bowl and stir to break up any clumps. Add the essential oil. Add the jojoba oil and castile soap next, a little at a time stirring each time. Mix well and pour into clean container. To use, stand in the bath or shower and massage the sugar scrub onto your body.

Softening Body Oil

Before taking a shower, brush your skin gently. This will stimulate blood circulation and aid absorption. For best results, apply oil while your skin is still moist after a shower.


  • 1 cup (237 ml) sweet almond oil
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) jojoba or hazelnut oil (or combination of the two)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) apricot kernel oil
  • Essential oil (optional) For an uplifting experience, try 3 drops of ylang ylang, 2 drops geranium and 3 drops orange or bergamot. For an exotic experience, try 3 drops ylang ylang, 2 drops rose, 1 drop patchouli and 1 drop geranium.

Instructions: Combine the oils in a sealed bottle and gently turn it several times to mix. Apply as needed.

Bath Biscuits


  • 2 cups finely ground sea salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 2 tablespoons light oil
  • 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil
  • 2 eggs 5-6 drops essential oil of your choice

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Combine all the listed ingredients and form into a dough. Roll it gently in the palm of your hand until it forms a ball (one-teaspoon ball size) and put them on grease proof paper. You can sprinkle the balls with herbs, flower petals, cloves, citrus zest and similar aromatic ingredients. Bake your bath cookies for 10 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Do not over-bake. Allow the bath biscuits to cool completely. To use, drop 1 or 2 into a warm bath and allow to dissolve.

Source – Campaign for Safe CosmeticsThe Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is working to protect your health by eliminating the use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

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I am fairly sure that I have dropped enough hints to guarantee me one of the sweet John Lewis sewing machines previously featured on Mumzine recenty and I am hoping to spend some of the break teaching myself a few new tricks.

Learning to sew is a simple way to breathe new life into old clothes. It’s also a great opportunity to tap into your creative side, whilst learning a practical and money-saving skill. And it’s a more eco-friendly and ethical option than buying high street fashion.

I have been amazed to discover how much is out there on the WWW to get a total beginner started.

There are plenty of online sewing communities and websites selling interesting, quirky materials. Craftster, is an online community for offbeat craft projects that has detailed tutorials on everything from making a prom dress from scratch to transforming a pillowcase into a ra-ra skirt.

And sites such as bootyvintage.etsy.com, borntoolatevintage.com and misshelene.com specialise in selling lovely vintage sewing patterns.
Reprodepot.com offers vintage reproduction and retro fabric, plus hard-to-find Japanese import fabrics. They also stock unusual buttons, iron-on patches, and pretty ribbon and sewing patterns.

Or for tips on hand sewing and the four essential stitches, check out Start Sewing’s Basic Sewing by Hand guide.

If you’re thinking about learning the tricks of the sewing machine, check out StartSewing’s step-by-step, instructional videos for a complete beginner’s guide.

If you feel like you are a bit more of a hands on learner you could try an evening class to guide you through the basic sewing skills. Several local authorities offer classes for beginners and intermediates. Visit your authority’s website for more information.

You’ll need some basic equipment to get you started: thread, tape measure, tailor’s chalk, dressmaking pins and a few hand-sewing needles. Beginner’s sewing kits are available online and on the high street.

If you don’t end up with a sparkling sewing maching for xmas and are feeling a bit broke you can pick one up on freecycle or eBay, buy thread in charity shops and try car-boot sales for any other equipment

Alternatively if you can’t be bothered to do any of that yourself or you have something particularly tricky you could call in green fashion label Junky Styling who promise to give their customers’ old, worn out clothes a complete transformation.

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Mumzine is really into sewing right now and has just found out that John Lewis are selling cute machines in pistachio, pink and vanilla for under £50.  Definitely one to add to the Christmas list!

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Although mumzine have posted a few shopping items lately (it is christmas after all) we know that lot of us are trying to cut back on unnecessary spending and waste.

So, if you would like a bit of help, check out Dr Will Powers on twitter.  A reformed shopaholic, he has dedicated his life to helping shopaholics across the world. Anytime you feel the need to buy anything you don’t really need, reach out he’ll be there. – William Powers M.D.  Just tweet your temptation and he will respond with some sage advice on how to resist.

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