Wednesday, 23 February 2022

What I read in January 2022 { Monthly Reading Round-up }

Another January has past, last year I started reading again after years of not even picking up a book. Now I have a full bookcase and new goal of 40 books in the year! I didn't manage a huge dent in my to be read pile during January but I got through 4 books. Which is a good start since that would keep me on target before the end of the year. 

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - ★★★★★

My first book of the year was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, it was one I had on my wish list for a lot of last year. So when it was a Christmas present I knew it had to be the next read. I was not disappointed!

Do you have regrets? I don't think there is anyone who can honestly say they have never thought 'what if I had done something different' about a time n their lives. Wondered how different their life would be with the changing of one decision. They may range from small regrets, to large ones or even the all consuming kind that we deeply regret. 

Nora is very familiar with regrets, she is living a life that seems to be full of them. She is completely weighed down by the weight of all the regrets she has about her life and the decisions she has made. Nora thought she had reached rock bottom, until her life gets even worse and soon it was her last day on earth. 

At midnight on her last day she finds herself transported to a library. A very strange library full of green books lining the shelves that Nora can't seem to see the end off. Inside the books lay all the lives that Nora could have ever lived. These lives are running in parallel with each other, following the same time line as her original life. Inside each it is midnight of the same night. 

Nora is given a very unique opportunity,  she can chose to undo any regret and jump into a life where she had chosen a different path. She can see what lives she would be living in that very moment if she'd changed just one decision in her life. The question is can Nora find her best lifetime in which to live her life?

This book was incredible! Although I did guess the end from the beginning the path through the book was so wildly unpredictable that I kept second guessing it. That is the beauty of having infinite possibilities to choose from, you can't begin to guess where those choices would lead. Not only was it a roller coaster of wild changes, it's a pretty hefty emotional one too. I cried before I got 10 pages in! I desperately wanted to be Nora's friend, to give her a hug and help her navigate through The Midnight Library. By the time I reached the middle of the book I have felt every other emotion under the sun and felt more like I was Nora Seed jumping through lives to find the perfect one. 

The Midnight Library has you questioning the very way you think about your regrets, your decisions and how even the smallest of decisions could completely change the path of your life. 

While I don't know if there is a real midnight library awaiting us, I do know that the story hidden in the pages of Matt Haig's book is profound and the even the idea of a Midnight Library could be a much needed light in dark times. 

Good As Dead by Susan Walter -  ★★★☆☆

I then went back to a book I'd started in 2021. I had started this book and then got busy with life, Christmas and everything else in between.

Holly lost her husband. She witnessed the whole event and spent some time recovering from her own injuries in a coma. The hit and run is  set to change her family forever. Someone's lawyer has shown up with an offer that holly and her teenage daughter Savannah just can't refuse, given their current situation. 

The offer is everything they'll ever need, a luxurious house, money, a new neighbourhood and a whole new life to boot. The thing is, simply shoing up in a whole new class of neighbourhood without any history isn't as easy as it seems. The neighbours are interested in the new family on the block but they have a whole host of things they are hiding too. 

While I thought this was an okay book, I struggled with a few issues, the story itself was very very slow. I don't think we needed as much detail in the beginning. The initial struggles of the characters after the accident are important to the story but I think they could have been condensed down a bit with the actual exciting bits and current time events having a longer run I was incredibly disappointed with the end and particularly the time jump. I feel the book would have been better had the time jump not happened and this period was instead a part of the story. 

Starry Nights over the Chocolate Pot Café by Jessica Redland - ★★★★★

I am starting this one off a little differently than the rest, This book needs a trigger warning for sexual exploitation, abuse and grooming of a minor. It also includes child neglect, mental health issues and suicide.

That said, I loved this book, it was not what I was expecting, especially the issues I highlighted above. However this book is actually a romance novel which also features a very independent, successful woman. I enjoyed every single page and would 100% read it all over again. 

Tara Porter see's Christmas as a reminder that she lost her family, while new year holds the bitter memories of her marriage to Garth Tewkesbury. The biggest mistake of her life. Each year Tara finds refuge in her flat, alone with her giant house bunny for company. 

However she loves the festive period in her professional life, as a Café owner, it's the busiest time of year. The Chocolate Pot Café is always packed. This Christmas is set to be the biggest yet since The Chocolate Pot will host both an engagement party and a wedding. Things start to turn rocky when Tara's former nemesis Jed Ferguson shows up and threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot Café. Tara is prepared for a fight, her café means everything to her and she's not about to let anyone take it away from her. 

Since her ex-husband turned out to be completely different than she thought, she has struggled with letting others in. She thinks that if she doesn't let them in then she can't get hurt. The problem is she may have also misjudge Jed, maybe he's not really the arrogant, deceitful man she bought the café from 14 years earlier.  Is it possible?

This book is written so well! The events run in one constant flow with some reminiscing of the past and the events which led Tara Porter to her current situation. Some of these periods are guided by the characters and others happen when Tara is reminded of the past from her possessions etc. This really helps to keep the flow and doesn't provide jumpy chapter changes like other books can. I much prefer this flow as it feels more natural and plausible. 

I think the idea of this small seaside town with a beautiful café and the community that can only be found in a rural place is a wonder place to set a book. It feels like you could almost live in the place yourself and meet all the friendly characters around you. The twists, turns and revelations from the past are heart breaking but they really add to Tara's character. They show a past which helps her grow and gives you a really good idea of who Tara Porter is and how she came to care so much. 

If you enjoy romance novels then you'd love this, I would say to be mindful of the trigger warnings I included before you pick it up as I can see how it could be a hard read for some people. 

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel  by Ruth Hogan - ★★★★☆

The final book I read in January was Queenie Malones Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan, It was another lovely book which came with some sadness of child neglect and one area had some child abuse included. 

Tilly has just lost her mother, she is starting the process of going through all her mother's belongings and deciding if she wants to live in her mother's flat. During the organising she finds a chest full of her mother's diaries from her childhood. Tilly's childhood was a little different than most, mainly because she played with ghosts and matches. She was fascinated by fizzy drinks, swear words and the catholic church. 

During her childhood Tilly and her mother moved to a different part of the country to live in Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel. Here Tilly has some of the happiest memories of her life, however her mother shattered her life when she sent her away to boarding school. There had never been an explanation. The cruelty Tilly faced from her mother has had a profound effect on her life. Tilly is now an adult with only her dog Eli as a friend. Can Tilly unravel the mysteries around her childhood through the dairies of her dead mother and with the help of Queenie Malone herself? 

This book was wonderful, full as much excitement as it was sorrow. The story follows more than just the unravelling of her mothers decisions and past. It follows Tilly in the present time and shows how she will change by simply knowing her own past from a new perspective. 

There is so much packed into the pages that I don't really know how to say everything without there being spoilers. So instead I am keeping it vague. The story itself follows along a pattern jumping from present to past quite quickly, although there is always a warning since this is mostly done by Tilly reading the diary entries. There are a few exceptions when Tilly herself remembers her own past. The story runs side by side with the past and present seeming like two separate story lines that will at some point meet. 

I did find myself particularly attached to both Tilly and Eli, these characters are so very loveable and Tilly endures a lot in her lifetime, especially in her early childhood. It is these times when the innocence of a child is most compelling. I highly recommend this book, although it's not one I will likely reach for to reread, simply because I feel the first read through would always be better than knowing what's coming next. 

Final round- up thoughts on January's reads

I managed to read a small but somewhat varied selection in January which was refreshing. I noticed that last year I leaned heavily towards thrillers or swung the complete opposite to romance books. I want to read a good mixture this year. I am pleased that January included some great books and hope that 2022 will hold many more great reads. 

I have also decided that during 2022 I am going to try to choose a favourite book from each month's reads. I think being able to look back and see my favourites would be quite nice. 
My favourite book of the month has to be Starry Skies over the Chocolate Pot Cafe by Jessica Redland. 

What did you read during January and do you have a favourite?

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Our Top Ten Eco Swaps from 2021 that will continue into 2022

*This post contains some products that have been previously gifted to us.* 

*Their inclusion is entirely my decision and not a paid for promotion. Items are marked with a (*). *

 In the beginning of a New Year a lot of people take a look at what they want to change this year. While many people use this time to create personal goals, I think it's important to also make Eco goals. You don't need to make huge eco goals but just changing one small thing can actually help you be a lot more eco friendly.

Last January I set myself an eco challenge to make at least one eco-swap every month. It's been a whole year and I can happily say that we actually made quite a few more, some have been a huge hit while others have been a complete failure. Today I am rounding up our top 10 swaps that I love, use regularly and that we will continue using during 2022. 

1. Biodegradable bin bags*

When I first began the challenge last year I had never come across Biodegradable bin bags. They aren't sold in shops and actually they aren't really talked about. However I wanted to stop putting all our rubbish inside plastic to dispose of it! If you really think about it, we're using new plastic to ditch our old stuff, it's utter nonsense. So I knew finding an alternative was something I needed to do. 

Which is just what I did, I found some biodegradable bags on SaveMoneyCutCarbon from Waste Not, they are very similar to the familiar biodegradable bags for the local composting boxes used in the UK. I loved that we could ditch black plastic bags and use a much more eco-friendly option. Using them over the month we found they can hold the same amount of rubbish as the bags we normally used and so they fit all our bins well too. However we found that they are much easier to tear with normal rubbish, especially any with sharp edges so they haven't been as strong as we are used to. Which is not a big problem but one which we knew wouldn't work for our family life. 

The next month we received another set of Biodegradable bin bags from a new brand at SaveMoneyCutCarbon, which is Eco Zone. These bags are actually very different to the Waste Not bags, they are a white colour and made of a thicker material so I find they are less likely to rip. I also like that the Eco Zone biodegradable bin bags have a drawstring tie, which is the style of bag we used before too. So we will be sticking with the Eco Zone biodegradable bin bags during 2022 but if we cannot get hold of them at any time I know we can fall back on the Waste Not bags too. 

The Eco Zone biodegradable bin bags are just £6.95 for 20 bags, while the Waste Not biodegradable bin bags are £2.85 for 10 bags, both are available at SaveMoneyCutCarbon.

2. Stasher Bags*

Having never heard of Stasher Bags before this year I can safely say they became a fast favourite! The bags are so versatile that they actually helped us to ditch a few products. The biggest being cling film, since the bags do well in freezing temperatures we can even use them to store things in the freezer. The added perk is that we can also use them to defrost food in, then you can cook the food inside too! They are literally perfect for meal prepping or left overs since it's all in one bag so you don't need several dishes, plastic food bags or even Tupperware. Just a Stasher Bag from start to finish. 

The Stasher bags have also helped us to ditch most of our tin foil usage, since the bags can be popped into the oven and used to cook foods inside we find that we don't need tin foil nearly as much. They also come in handy for days out to contain the foods we take with us, everything from sandwiches to pasta dishes and even kids snacks like nut mix or cereal for on the go have been enjoyed from our Stasher Bags this year. 

They also come in a large range of sizes from snack sizes to large family meal sized Stasher Bags. All the Stasher Bag sizes are available from SaveMoneyCutCarbon from £9.60.

3. OceanSaver Eco Drop *

These little drops had been our first swap of 2021, I included them in our original post for the eco swap challenge. It is also one of most used swaps since I have used the OceanSaver cleaning products more than once every day this year! I have loved them, being able to ditch the plastic bottles as well as the carbon footprint from the shipping of water has been great. I am happy with how well they all clean. 

The only downside I have noticed with OceanSaver Eco Drops is that because these products are plant based, they do go bad, eventually. We probably wouldn't have run into this issue if we bought only the specific products we use regularly. However I initially bought a set to try the different products out and the window cleaner sat in our cupboard for over 7 months. Not because we don't clean the windows, I use a cloth and wiper system which works best with normal dish soap and water in a container to dip the device into. The cleaner is handy for TV's etc but unless you use it regularly it will start to mould.

Other than being mindful of the products you will use and the longevity of the bottle of products you do need I highly recommend making the switch to OceanSaver Eco Drops. You find out a lot more about these in my Eco-friendly swaps challenge post from last year.

You can purchase OceanSaver Eco Drops from Amazon, SaveMoneyCutCarbon, Tesco and more

4. Glass Cleaning Spray Bottles

While I made the switch of our cleaning products I had decided I may as well swap our bottles out and eliminate the plastic all together. So I picked up these bottles from Poundland during their new year event where lots of bamboo and glass products seem to be on our shelves. I have not seen these again this year and actually have found they don't hold the amount I need for the eco drops, I have found some amber glass spray bottles online which hold 1 litre so this year we will be moving over to those sometime soon. We will either keep our current bottles shown above or we will give them to a friend/ family member who can use them. 

You can purchase the amber glass 1 litre bottle from Ampulla from £3.35 per bottle.

5. Patch Biodegradable Plasters *

For years I have thought that using fabric plasters was enough to help combat the plastic that most plasters include, so when I found out that actually even the fabric kind are made of plastic I was astonished. I had Patch Biodegradable Plasters on my to swap list ever since then. They are completely plastic free, hypoallergenic and made of Bamboo. They also last so much longer than regular plasters do when they are used. We put them to the ultimate test of a beach day over the summer and they lasted an entire beach day and the only time we managed to defeat the durability was after an entire day spent in our pool. 

I shared a lot more information about these in our post about the 7 Eco bathroom products you never knew you needed back in September. 

The Patch Biodegradable Plasters are another product available from SaveMoneyCutCarbon for £6.75.

6. Soda Stream Spirit machine 

I was really lucky to have won our Soda Stream Spirit Machine this year and it has been put to good use in our house. The machine means we can ditch plastic bottles from fizzy drinks and water without having to give up the fizzy drinks we love. You simply fill up the bottle to the water line on each bottle and you put it on the machine. Once attached you can press the button on top to release the gas into the water and make it fizzy, then you can add in your drink syrup if you wish. 

We have found we use this quite regularly, maybe not daily but at least twice a week It is great for ditching plastic bottles on the go when you prefer a fizzy drink over still drinks/ water. It also reduces the carbon footprint of your drinks since your not trying to ship water around the world for each bottle. 

The one downfall is that of course there is still waste, especially if your using the syrup. However the gas canisters are recycled and filled up again when you exchange them for a part payment on the new canister so your not wasting those. Plus the plastic bottles the syrup comes in are recyclable and reduce your plastic waste considerably when each bottle contains enough to make up to 9 litres of drink when added to your water. A considerable reduction in plastic waste if you bought the regular bottled drinks.

The Soda Stream Spirit machine is available from most retailers including Argos, Amazon, John-Lewis, SaveMoneyCutCarbon and of course SodaStream from £49.99.

7. Period Pants/ reusable pads

Okay so this one I am not as confident with but it is one I plan to really work on more this year. Ditching plastic in your period. is actually really easy, well it is when you have a normal period cycle. There are plenty of options available from reusable pads to period cups that replace tampons. I am not a tampon user so I tried out some period pants and reusable pads. I had planned to try them over the whole year. However I have had hell with my period in the last year. My cycle lasted almost the entire year and I used period products for every day of that. 

Unfortunately it wasn't always the reusable kind of products, however there was actually an advantage to this. Which starts with the realisation that I hate disposable period products! They feel uncomfortable, stick to your body and there was always more blood when I have to use the disposable kind, not to mention the increase in cramps. So I am very sure that this year I will completely ditch the plastic for the reusable options available. 

My everlasting period also gave me the insight into how long some products will last, even being reusable. I was able to see the length of the usage I can get from each, particularly my ModiBodi period pants which are now in a state of needing replaced. I pushed a few past their limits and I know my own flow better than I ever have. I also know that both period pants and pads give you different benefits so I will probably be sticking to both. I shared more information on the ModiBodi Period pants back in 2020 

I also plan to share more about the move to a plastic free period this year. 

You can purchase ModiBodi Period Pants from £14.50

8. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

Another big change this year has been that we are starting to swap out our shampoo and conditioner to use bars instead of bottles. For the most part, we actually had to pause this swap after I found 4 bottles hidden in the back of our cupboard. 

However for the biggest part of the year we had made the switch over to both shampoo and conditioner bars. I choose to swap to The Little Goat Soap Company Goats Milk and Neem Oil Shampoo Bar and the Alter Native Natural Patchouli and Sandalwood conditioner bar. We went with both of these as I have very sensitive skin on my scalp and suffer from Psoriasis. These bars seemed to have the best reviews from other sufferers. 

Everyone else in our house is also trying out one of the Grum shampoo bars, they seem to be finding it very good too. I haven't tried it yet due to my Psoriasis but I plan to soon. I think we have the anti-dandruff bar but they offer bars for all hair types. 

We have all loved these two products and they smell amazing too! Our hair has been very healthy, the conditioner bar has helped give our hair much more nutrients. Our hair all seems to be stronger and in better condition. I have noticed a big improvement in my Psoriasis too so these will both be something that comes back once we have made it through the shampoo and conditioner we have stocked up. 

You can purchase The Little Goat Soap Company Shampoo for £5.43 and the Alter Native Conditioner bar for £5.45 or the Grum Shampoo Bar from £8

9. Bamboo Make Up remover pads *

I've made more than one personal change this year but another of my favourites has certainly been ditching cotton pads to remove my make-up and use skincare products. I did speak a little bit about the benefits in our post about the bathroom swaps you never knew you needed last year you fancy finding out more about these nifty little pads.

The basic jist is that we can ditch the disposable cotton pads by simply swapping them for a washable version which is much more planet friendly! I now have two sets because it's a swap I made near the start of the year with a small business purchase and one which was a product gifted to us by SaveMoneyCutCarbon in a Planet Positive box. I am glad I have two sets as it means I always have a clean set, I usually forget to wash them until I have run out of new pads in the pot I use to store them (usually a weeks supply). So knowing I still have a clean set is always handy for me. 

The other set I have is similar to the Bambaw ones with the same softer pads and rougher pads for better scrubbing of stubborn make up etc. They also have their own net wash bag which I actually hang from out pull out mirror, above the sink in the bathroom for easy access while washing my face. If you do a regular skincare routine or wear make-up regularly then this is a great swap for you to make. The bamboo is super absorbent too.

You can purchase both of the sets I own, one is the Bambaw reusable make-up pads from SaveMoneyCutCarbon for £11.30 and the other is Full Mellow Make Up Remover Pads, I cannot find these available online to customers that aren't retail but I will check back and update when the UK site is relaunched. 

10. ecoegg Dryer Egg *

The final swap included in my top ten swaps of 2021 is the ecoegg Dryer Egg. These two egg shaped devices have changed how we use our tumble dryer. They work by helping dry your clothes faster while also filling the job of a tumble dryer sheet with their little sticks that pop inside the egg with various scents. I have shared a lot more about these in my How to cut down your waste by changing your washing routine.

I love how simple but effective these dryer eggs are, you can just put them in your dryer with every wash and save with your electric use. Plus your washing smells great while being dried faster. What is not to love about that? 

The ecoegg Dryer Egg £9.99 and the Refills £5.95 are available from SaveMoneyCutCarbon.  

Have you made any Eco-friendly swaps in the last year? 

Which have been your favourite? 

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