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Making More Ethical Christmas Gift Choices with Oxfam

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year for anyone, but throw being vegan or low waste or having other strong ethical consumer principles into the mix too, and it gets even more challenging. When you want to only buy ethical products and to avoid fast fashion and sweatshop labour, and you not only have a limited budget but relatives that request not-so-ethical purchases, you start to get your own fair share of holiday guilt weighing you down. Shopping ethically and sustainably is a minefield at the best of times, but there are still ways you can give wonderful (and affordable) gifts and make a positive difference in the world.

I probably don’t need to introduce Oxfam, as they’re one of the most recognisable charities in the UK, and are an organisation dedicated to tackling poverty at a grassroots level, responding to disasters and spreading awareness of the real, human issues surrounding social and economic inequality, climate change and more. Out on the streets, they’re most likely known for their charity shops where you can pick up some cracking second-hand finds, but they also stock a variety of gifts and goodies that all contribute to helping people help themselves out of poverty.

Oxfam were kind enough to send me a selection* of some of the treats they have available this Christmas, as an alternative to the usual mass-produced, ethically questionable products that line most shelves around this time of year.



They’re not for everyone, but one type of gift I love are those that give more than just a physical item, and they’re a perfect option for those relatives or friends you know who have everything they need and insist that they don’t actually want anything. Oxfam offer a variety of charity gifts that skip the item and send your money straight to those that need it on behalf of your loved one, from much needed supplies to contributing to shelter and education. You can even give your friends a pile of poo – but it’s actually a combination of manure, fertiliser and training to allow people to grow their own crops and make a living!  Plus, hello, this is a very amusing card and gift on top of actually being a very good cause to put your money towards.



For the beauty lovers among us, Oxfam have a lovely selection of organic, cruelty free and many vegan skincare, bath and shower items. I first tried Faith in Nature in a VeganKind box a couple of years ago, and I was excited to see that as well as stocking a massive range of Faith in Nature products, they also have little gift boxes like this one, which is full of different flavoured bubble bath minis. This type of gift is perfect for people who are already cruelty free, or as a little taster for those of us who’re dipping their toes in or just starting their cruelty free journey.

Another wonderful vegan option they offer is the Southsea Bathing Hut Vitamin Sea Hand & Body Balm, a multi-purpose product that can be used as a hand and foot cream, lip balm, moisturiser or even a make-up primer. These are all natural artisan products that are hand-made in Portsmouth with the aim of bringing back the city’s heritage as a soap-making city. This one is mint and orange scented, smells incredible (although the mint is definitely the dominating scent) and is deeply hydrating!



What Christmas gift hamper would be complete without cards? Charity Christmas cards are a staple of the season, and Oxfam offers a range of their own. These woodland folk art inspired cards have a super cute Scandinavian vibe, and last year Oxfam's Christmas cards raised enough to fund three years of a project helping children in Niger to recover from malnutrition. They also do a few bits and pieces including gift wrap, tags and things to make your own decorations, like these paper chains made of FSC certified paper (although it would be even better if they were made from recycled paper too).



There’s a selection of gorgeous, handmade decorations and homewares that Oxfam are stocking right now that I’m really enamoured with. This washbag is one of a range of products made in India using cotton and kantha stitch, produced by an organisation called Aspiration that supports local artisans.  Mine is the perfect size for my storing my make-up brushes.  The colours and pattern are lovely, and you can find similar colourful, statement goodies in their shops and online too – I’m in love with this recycled sari bunting, and their gold sequin baskets made in Vietnam from natural seagrass would make an amazing practical and pretty gift (it’d also make one heck of a blogging prop every now and again, in my humble opinion).





If you’re also vegan like I am, you’ll know how tough it can be to track down a good advent calendar that doesn’t cost the earth. You can pick up this absolute beauty by Divine from your local Oxfam shop, and it’s £4.99, vegan and palm oil free. Better still, it’s animal themed! This particular advent calendar was made with the Woodland Trust, and 3p from the sale of every calendar is donated to the Trust to help protect, maintain and restore the UK’s woodland. Each door contains a 70% chocolate little critter, and behind each critter is a daily animal fact. Vegan chocolate that also helps animals and our local environment? Perfect!

If you happen to pop in one day, many Oxfam charity shops also stock a small range of other vegan-friendly chocolates from Divine and a few other brands.



If you want to put together your own hamper of gifts, they even sell this handmade hamper basket to create your own custom selection!

I hope this post helped to give you a bit of an insight into some of the fair trade, ethical gifts offered by Oxfam this year. They have a whole range of items in their online shop, from second-hand clothes to gifts they’ve sourced that help to fight poverty and support vulnerable people around the world. Christmas is an important time of year to reflect on not just the love in our lives, but the privilege we have too. Whether you choose to buy from Oxfam this year or not, there are plenty of options out there for you to make more ethical, sustainable purchases for the holiday season. Charity shops, eBay, indie brands, local artists, vintage markets and more are all wonderful options that can support local people, donate money to worthy causes or lessen your contribution to fast fashion and harmful labour conditions.

What are your tips for ethical shopping this Christmas?

* This post has not been sponsored or paid for, however all of the items photographed in this post were given to me free of charge.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

On emotional walls.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

I don’t have a lot of friends these days. This is partly because of, well, life (I’ve moved so often since starting university that it’s made it difficult for me to make and maintain friendships) and partly my own doing. I don’t talk too much about my mental health on my blog or social media because, frankly, I never feel like I have much of a right to. The struggles I deal with are so minute in comparison to real mental health struggles, that I don’t always feel right using my own voice instead of amplifying others’. Nevertheless, I’ve come to realise that my mental health has played a huge role in my ability to make lasting, fulfilling friendships, and not in the way you’d expect.

I’ve had a few shitty friendships. You know the type; the one-sided ones that drain you of all of your emotional energy, and give you nothing in return. I learned how to read people and whether or not they actual value and respect me as a person and a friend after a while, and my talent at judging others’ characters and my apparently distinctly INFJ distaste for acquaintance-ships and pleasantries have allowed me to swiftly navigate myself away from other potential disasters or unfulfilling relationships. Running in tandem with these experiences though, has been the evolution of my mental health issues, and I knew early on that toxic relationships that take and take and take do not mesh well them.

I’ve had some huge ups and downs with my mental health, and have gone from being utterly terrified of meeting new people to putting myself in situations that I never would’ve thought myself capable of. I’ve pulled myself up from the deepest lows I’ve experienced yet, to being confident, comfortable and steadfast in who I am and what I can do. And yet, you never really ‘recover’ from certain types of mental health issue. You can make improvements, you can manage it, you can live your life sometimes forgetting that it even exists… but it doesn’t mean that you don’t slip up and it doesn’t rear its ugly head again every now and again and send you plunging back into that dark place you thought you’d long escaped.

I realised only recently that this reality has played a huge role in my relationships since I got a firmer grasp on my mental health. To put it simply, I’m selfish. I not only disengage with people that I don’t feel are a good match for me, but I disengage with those who are, but who carry too much baggage or are too dependant on me, too. There is a very tiny, tiny number of people for whom I will happily volunteer to help bear their mental and emotional burdens, while I subconsciously keep the others at arm’s length.

At first, I thought I was just being a cold, distant bitch. Maybe I am – I’m sure it probably comes across that way to whoever’s reading this. But it’s more than that; it’s a defence mechanism.

I’m sadly the type of person who just naturally absorbs other peoples’ issues. Without even meaning for it to happen, their sadness becomes my sadness, their stress becomes my stress, their dark days become my dark days. I willingly transform myself into their therapists or confidants and spend my time apart worrying about them, thinking about them. And, even when the problems are more superficial than that, I find that I have a finite amount of emotional energy that eventually gets sucked dry if the person in question doesn’t deposit as much into the Bank of Emotional Investment as they withdraw.

I’ve worked so, so hard to get myself to the point that I’m at now where I’m happy and self-assured and no longer battle daily with the same demons I used to, and I know from experience how fragile this state of mind is. I’ve slipped before, and it doesn’t feel good. So, I cling to that, and whether I realise it at the time or not, I steer myself away from situations and relationships that might be detrimental to it – needy colleagues with emotional issues, acquaintances that regularly need shoulders to cry on, those friends who always seek advice about the same problems but never actually listen. I might reply, but I don’t fully engage or encourage, because I’m not prepared to be that emotional baggage handler again. I’m not prepared to put my own mental health on the line in order for someone else to lean on me anymore. I’m not prepared to be the person that’s always there for someone, but gets little to no support in return again.

It’s pure and simple selfishness, but it’s self-preservation. When your emotional and mental state, however stable it might appear at the time, is ultimately like walking a tightrope, you can’t afford to keep inviting other people in and shouldering their problems. Take on even a little bit too much, and you risk everything you’ve built coming crumbling down. Of course I try to be there in a crisis and when I’m desperately needed, but I’m unwilling to be privy to every issue or drama or emotional trauma going on in the lives of those I know (save for that select few) when I know all it will do is weigh and drag me down until I ultimately snap and I’m back to square one again.

I’m a bad friend, a bad colleague, a bad family member. I’m absolutely selfish. But, when the consequences of taking on someone else’s emotional baggage or negativity or drama is absorbing all of it and losing your grip on your own mental health and happiness, distancing yourself is more than not having the time or the patience or just not caring about the person. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s simply that I’ve learned through trial and error that I have to pick my battles and decide whether or not I have to prioritise caring for myself instead.

Review / Phee's Makeup Shop Eyeshadow Single in Polilla

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow
Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla EyeshadowIf you’ve been following me on my blog and social media for a while now, you’ll know I tend to be a matte kind of lady – matte eyeshadow, matte lips… the only shimmer I used to like was dewiness on my skin and a highlight as bright as the sun on my cheekbones! Today’s review is about one of those rare gems that brought me around to the shimmery, metallic way of thinking, and is a member of the Phee’s Makeup Shop family that I’ve talked about a couple of times before.

Polilla is sold as an eyeshadow single, and as with all of Phee’s products is handmade in Sheffield, cruelty free and vegan. In some lighting, it looks like a relatively unassuming metallic turquoise in the pan, but once swatched or applied to your lids, it reveals itself as a stunning shade of rusty brown with turquoise reflect and has an incredible level of dimension and pizzazz.

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow Swatch

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow


It’s difficult to do justice to it in photos and even in videos; the colour shift is oh so impressive in person but it simply doesn’t translate with as much vibrancy when you try to capture it! Like it’s sisters from Phee’s Makeup Shop, it’s very opaque, with one swipe of a fingertip enough to give full coverage of the eyelid, and being brown-based it is still considered neutral and can work with a variety of other colours. Even so, I have to admit I rarely – if ever – actually use Polilla with any other eyeshadows, purely because it works magnificently on its own. Blended out, the brown tones in this shade start to stand out more than the blues, creating a beautiful warmth that (I think, anyway) means you can get away without crease colours or transition shades. With the colour packed onto the lid and blended out into and above the crease and under the eye, you get a nice reddish brown frame that diffuses into to a more opaque duochrome with the turquoise shimmer dancing on the lid.

Can you believe that an eyeshadow primer and Polilla are the only things used to create this eyeshadow look?

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow


Polilla can be purchased from Phee’s Makeup Shop either in a compact for £10.50 or pan only for £6.50, both for 3g of product. Like Phee’s other products, that’s much more than you tend to get from high end or high street brands! It’s an eyeshadow that’s well worth the investment, too.  It’s wonderfully versatile and can be used for neutral, everyday makeup or as an exciting addition to more glamorous looks.  A little goes a long way too; it’s one of the most used eyeshadows in my collection, but I’ve barely made a dent in it because the colour payoff is that good.

Phee’s shop has recently undergone a bit of a change, and now only opens temporarily for pre-order instead of being open for orders all year around. If you follow Phee on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to her mailing list, you’ll be one of the first to know when pre-orders are approaching. If you’re really interested, there’s a pre-order window until midnight on 4th November (today!) so if you want to grab this little beauty or any of the other eyeshadows or highlighters from Phee’s Makeup Shop, don’t miss out!

All products used:
Inika Organic Primer with Hyaluronic Acid
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion*
Sleek Makeup Colour Corrector Palette
The Body Shop Moisture Foundation SPF15 in Shade 01†
The Body Shop Lightening Shade Adjusting Drops
Illamasqua Skin Base Lift Concealer in Light 2†
Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade in Dark Brown
Lily Lolo Mineral Eyeshadow in Black Sand†
Barry M Take a Brow Brow Gel in Brown
Phee's Makeup Shop Eyeshadow in Polilla
Pixi Extra Eye Bright Liner
PHB Ethical Beauty Natural Mascara in Black
Ardell Demi-Wispies Falsh Lashes in Black
theBalm Down Boy†
Phee's Makeup Shop Glow Highlighter in Bellini
Lily Lolo Finishing Powder in Translucent Silk
Nabla Cosmetics Dreamy Matte Liquid Lipstick in Sweet Gravity

* Parent company is not cruelty free. 
† Product is not vegan.

The Tipsy Vegan in Norwich

Sunday, 29 October 2017



If you didn’t already know, I used to live in Norwich. I haven’t lived there long term for over eight years now, but I still visit my mum there and it seems like every time I go back, there are exciting new vegan places to try! It was my mum who sent me a link to The Tipsy Vegan as a potential place to try out for lunch when Chris and I were last in town, and after browsing the menu I couldn’t resist giving it a go. We were going at a good time too, because after being open for evening meals about three months, they were only recently opening their doors for lunch too.

The Tipsy Vegan serves good, wholesome comfort food ranging from mouth-watering sandwiches and ribs to carbonara, and offers an incredibly impressive range of bespoke cocktails and mocktails that compliment the restaurant’s speak easy vibe well. Fun, retro music adds a great, cheerful but laidback atmosphere and even the drinks are served in vintage-style crystal glasses!





Given the nice list of cocktails, I couldn’t resist trying one (even though it wasn’t exactly cocktail hour) and opted for the Black Gin Smash, which uses infused gin, beetroot and activated charcoal to give it a distinctive black look. The subtle beetroot and pleasant earthy combination of this and the charcoal was delicious, and it was an easy to drink but nonetheless grown-up tasting cocktail that was beautifully presented with a beetroot garnish. Had we gone in the evening, I definitely would’ve had to try a few more, since unlike most places they serve things like aquafaba and soya milk in their drinks, making everything vegan!




For my lunch, I chose the pepper steak sandwich, served with parmesan dusted chips, coleslaw and smothered in a creamy, cheesy sauce. Don’t worry, ‘pepper’ steak just refers to the seasoning and isn’t a trick – it is indeed a kind of meat substitute and not made out of a bell pepper as I’d been suspicious of! This was honestly one of the most incredible vegan meals I’ve had since going vegan over two years ago now – the ‘steak’ was just the right kind of meaty without tasting or feeling too much like meat, and the sauce was out of this world. Every bite left me wanting more, and the chips were perfectly cooked and seasoned to boot.

Chris chose the half rack of barbeque ‘ribs’, served with coleslaw, potato salad and a corn cob and it was just as delectable as the steak sandwich. The ribs were filling (Chris said he wouldn’t have needed the full rack, although being a glutton I would probably go for full next time…) and the sauce was spot on with a mix of spicy, sweet and barbeque-y flavours. The potato salad and the coleslaw were also so nice that they actually made me forget about my usual dislike of mayonnaise!



I can never say no to desserts when I visit a vegan restaurant, especially when the menu is obviously created by and for vegans. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve seen enough raw cheesecakes and sorbets to last me a lifetime. Luckily, The Tipsy Vegan’s comfort food extends to the dessert menu, and I got to try one of their caramel chocolate tarts. Served with vanilla ice cream, this incredible tart is rich, creamy, and best of all has a gooey, caramel filling! I love the chocolate tarts that I’ve had at other restaurants and at places like Zizzi’s, but this one was by far better than them and was sweet without being too sweet, and wonderfully luxurious and comforting.

My first impressions of The Tipsy Vegan couldn’t be better – the service was wonderful, the food was amazing and the selection on the menu is exactly what more vegan places should aspire to. I can’t wait to visit again in the evening one day; the food is certainly comforting but isn’t overly stodgy and doesn’t just rely on burgers and hot dogs, and it isn’t ‘healthy’ and light like vegan food so often is either. It strikes a balance somewhere in between and fills a gap in the market that I think has long needed filling. The décor feels special and unique, but laidback enough to kick back, relax and enjoy your vegan cocktails and treats in style and know you’ll be looked after well by the staff.

If you’re ever in Norwich, I can’t recommend this place enough! Follow them on Instagram for more tasty foodporn, and grab an extra steak sandwich for me when you go...

I've missed you, autumn.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

There are two kinds of people: the spring and summer songbirds that relish the longer days, the smell of freshly cut grass and the warmth of sunshine on their skin, and the autumn and winter souls that blossom like snowdrops as the cold weather creeps in. I can understand why so many people are sad to see the warmer weather leave us behind (especially given what a short and lacklustre summer we saw this year) but I’m one of the many that spends May through to September just counting the days until the leaves start to change and I can smell the shifting seasons in the crisp, morning air.

Most of the autumnal things that us bloggers like seem so cliché now, but there’s no shame in enjoying the festivities and the comfort of warm blankets, cinnamon-scented candles and curling up with a good book and a pumpkin spiced latté on chilly evenings. Spring and summer and the warmth and buzz they bring with them are so often associated with hustle and bustle, enjoyment and making the most out of life and the ever-fleeting good weather. But, for those of us slipping on our knit jumpers like a new skin, it’s autumn that provides the fresh start and new beginnings. Autumn may be the end of mild evenings sipping cider in pub gardens or spent barbequing with friends and family, but it’s a harbinger of change that brings with it new experiences to enjoy that those of us who appreciate all things hygge welcome with open arms.

I’m never one for restricting what I wear throughout the seasons – I’m a three shades of black kind of gal – but I’m always so excited to greet the cooler weather and the trends it brings with it time and time again. I’ve been loving using darker nail polishes and Maggie Anne’s Inga*, a deep warm plum colour, has been the perfect shade to channel my inner seasonal goddess. Being able to browse shops and finally see colour palettes and styles of clothing that actually suit me and that I adore again is a joy, and in my quest to shop more ethically I’ve managed to find a few good bargains and have been living most of my days in my new favourite second-hand grey and forest green knit sweaters. Ever the blessing when that time rolls around each year, I’ve also been thrilled to finally return to wearing boots with every outfit again.



Dark greens, reds, plums and rusty oranges and yellows inspired by nature are some of my favourite colours; it’s like picking a pleasing shade from a piece of autumn foliage. The most frustrating thing to find as a vegan are the dark, vampiric lipstick shades that come back into style every year, but I’ve already got my eye on some. Nabla Cosmetics do a wonderful range of all vegan makeup products, and this year released their Dreamy Matte Liquid Lipsticks, of which Unspoken is the perfect deep, ruby red and Coco the perfect dark chocolate brown, both of which I’ve been coveting since they were first released. When it comes to eyes, I’ve been enjoying using a wash of PHB Ethical Beauty’s Grape mineral eyeshadow* to add a subtle reddish purple that suits the season to my everyday makeup looks.

Contrary to what many might think of vegans, I’m not much of a salad person – rather I much prefer the hot, wholesome one-pot dishes that are staples of cold weather cooking. Now is the ideal time to live off cheap, filling stews like my smoked paprika, butter bean and fennel stew that I mentioned in this post, roast dinners, spicy curries, and anything and everything with squash or pumpkin. I’m already preparing to make a pumpkin pie, and have been bringing homemade vegan cinnamon rolls into work, much to the delight of my colleagues. People can be as uppity as they like about pumpkin spiced lattés and those that live for them, but even as someone who tends to avoid spending money on takeout coffee, I was over the moon to see that Pret a Manger have released their own pumpkin spiced drink that – unlike Starbucks’ – is possible to veganise.

The colder, darker evenings also bring with them the perfect opportunity to enjoy quiet, reflective candlelit nights wrapped in faux fur blankets. It should go without saying that anything musky, earthy and spiced make for a perfect autumnal fragrance; cinnamon candles and essential oils, for example, are in frequent rotation in my household, and Joik’s Cinnamon Bun Soy Wax candle is top of wishlist at the moment. Scented candles don’t have to be heavily spiced to evoke a cosy, fall feeling though – Harper’s Candles Wolf Wood is one of my absolute favourites and is crisp, clean and subtly sweet but still somehow feels woody and autumnal. Skandinavisk Koto is also a perfect hygge scent with its soft vanilla and mandarin fragrance with notes of amber and spice.

As the leaves start to wither and fall, giving way in preparation for new life next spring, my subdued summer self gives way to a more vivacious me with a greater lust for life. It may not be everyone’s favourite time of year, but even as I start to feel the chilly winds and darker mornings eat away at my energy and motivation, like clockwork I still always come into my own during autumn. What are some of your favourite things about this season?

* This post is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however this product was sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

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