REVIEW: Beauty Kubes (Plastic Free Shampoo)

I have used shampoo bars for nearly two years now, and finally found a routine that worked with my hair. So when I was asked to trial Beauty Kubes, I was a little wary about changing products, especially as using ‘normal’ bottled shampoo on holiday last month left my hair tangled and feeling ‘producty’

But I need not have worried

KUBES Nice

Firstly, the smell is divine; even without opening the box, the scent is really inviting. The packaging itself is compact and minimal; the cardboard box measures just 5cm in all directions and there is also an extra paper layer inside the box for further protection against moisture

Kube Outside

One tip given to me was to store a few Kubes in a small glass jam jar in the bath or shower (like the single serve ones you get with a teacake or scone) to avoid moisture getting to them between uses and to protect them from the condensation in the bathroom

There are 27 Kubes in the box, which I’ll admit was a slight concern at first, as that is less than a month’s worth of washes if you use one Kube each time and wash your hair every day. But I discovered after my first wash that I didn’t need to use a whole Kube and that half was more than enough for my thick, shoulder length hair (I won’t inflict a selfie on you to show you though!) The Kubes are soft enough to halve easily using your nail

Kube Scale

A single box has lasted me nearly two months, which is a much more realistic time frame for me, though my husband has pointed out that his 500ml of supermarket bottled shampoo only lasts him six weeks maximum (he has short hair) so maybe I’m setting the bar very high!

In terms of actually using the Beauty Kubes, simply crush half a Kube to powder in the palm of your hand, add a little water to make a paste and then rub into your hair and lather. My top tip is NOT to add too much water when making the paste otherwise the result is too watery to lather up well; what works well for me is to crush in the palm of my left hand, wet the first finger of my right hand and work up gradually to a thick paste. Once the paste is spread over both hands, rubbing onto the hair is easy

Kubes Paste

I was really surprised at how much lather even half a Kube produced, which could be because I am used to shampoo bars which don’t really lather much at all, and the suds were easy to wash out

Kubes Lather

One massive plus point of Beauty Kubes over shampoo bars was that I do not need to do an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse afterwards; the benefits of this to me are two-fold:

  1. No need to buy apple cider vinegar, or make my own as often
  2. Less water used when showering; I would mix a capful of ACV with half a jug of water, pour over my head, then leave for at least two minutes before swilling. No ACV rinse means a quicker shower, and less wasted water each day

My final point to make is how soft and manageable my hair is after using the Beauty Kubes; my hair is notorious for tangling (probably my own fault as I am not very good at regular brushing)

I also love how beautiful my hair now smells; even the husband noticed!

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Fancy a Plastic Free Cuppa?

Did you know that most tea bags actually contain plastic? I didn’t until a few months ago, and as I drink a LOT of tea, I was keen to find a plastic-free alternative; below are my views on three plastic-free options

Tea All

Teapot

We already had a ceramic tea pot with built in infuser lurking in the cupboard, so I dug that out. It is fab for making a pot for at least four people, but the infuser doesn’t reach to the bottom of the pot, so it cannot be used for smaller numbers. As I work from home as a registered childminder, I do make a lot of single cups of tea just for me (there are worse addictions!) and my mother-in-law is the only family member who drinks decaf, so I need a solution for individual cups too

Tea Pot Inside

You can, of course, just buy a simple tea strainer to put over the cups if your tea pot doesn’t have a built-in infuser, and I’m still looking for a two-cup tea pot with built-in infuser – if you find one, let me know. Preferably one with spots…!

Tea Sticks

These are made from food-grade stainless steel and are designed to sit inside the cup allowing the tea to infuse into the hot water. The used tea leaves can then be emptied into the composter and the tea stick itself swilled and reused

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They are a bit of a faff to fill and tend to make a weaker cup of tea than I would choose, despite having lots of space inside the cylinder, and I found that you need a pointy stick to get the tea leaves out of the corners for cleaning – I use a metal skewer I use for stabbing cakes to see if they are cooked all the way through

It took a bit of experimentation to work out how to get more tea leaves into them for a stronger cup. My top tip is to turn the tea stick upside down (bear with me, it will make sense!) and push the moveable cylinder up nearly to the top, then spoon the tea leaves carefully in through the small gap at the top in several batches. If you hold the tea stick on its side to fill it, then some of the leaves will fall out

You can prepare these in advance, but make sure you store upright so the movable cylinder doesn’t get nudged and the tea leaves then fall out; this is especially disheartening if you have taken a couple of minutes carefully filling them!

The metal will heat up whilst the tea is brewing so be careful when removing from the cup, but hopefully that is common sense

Tea Stick

The lip at the end hooks over the rim and does stop the tea stick falling into even the largest and deepest of mugs, so you should never have to fish it out using your fingers

Over time, the metal has discoloured but a blitz in the dishwasher helps to remove the majority of the tea staining, and the staining is merely cosmetic anyway

Tea Bags

These are made from unbleached organic cotton and are designed to sit inside the cup or teapot allowing the tea to infuse into the hot water. I then turn the tea bag inside out to empty the leaves into the composter in the kitchen, swill and reuse inside out. I leave mine drying on the draining board rack though sometimes I don’t even wait for the bags to dry out between uses, I just refill straight away when needed

Tea Bag

As I add milk after the tea bag has been removed, I use and reuse the same tea bags for a few days and then wash more thoroughly. If you add milk before removing the tea bag (why?!) then you do need to wash the tea bag properly between uses

Since the opening is a generous 9cm across, the bags are quick to fill, and can easily be prepared in advance; once the drawstring has been tightened then the leaves don’t fall out readily. It is also simple to prepare different strengths of tea to taste by spooning more tea leaves to the bag

You do have to make sure you hold onto the string when pouring the water into the mug, as the movement of the water will drag it down; if your bag does disappear into the mug, simply fish it back out with a spoon like a traditional teabag

Tea Bag Cup

The tea bags are ridiculously easy to wash; simply hand wash with a little washing up liquid, rinse and leave to dry. I’ve not felt the need to do a deeper clean with apple cider vinegar (1 part) and water (2 parts) yet, and we’re four months down the line of using them, though I’ll be honest and admit that my tea bags are no longer a pristine off-white colour but the brown tea colour is merely cosmetic, and shows how popular they are in my house!

Tea Bags

Now comes the really fun bit, trialing different loose leaf teas! My local zero waste shop has a few different blends, so I am looking forward to experimenting with those…

 

Reusable Nappies & Swimming

Baby swimming is a great way to bond with your baby, and can be done from birth. Both of our children were enrolled in swimming lessons from just a couple of weeks old, and they have both developed in confidence and skill over the years they have been swimming

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You need very little to take your baby swimming, but the most vital piece of clothing is the swim nappy. Most swim schools and swimming pool require a double nappy system, which consists of a swim nappy (disposable or reusable) with a neoprene ‘happy nappy’ over the top. The double layer is important, as you don’t want your child to be the one that causes the pool to be closed if the nappy leaks!

The first thing to note is that no swim nappy is designed to be absorbent; its sole purpose is to contain any solids. Anything absorbent in a swim nappy would just absorb water from the swimming pool in seconds, and will weigh down your baby

Reusable swim nappies are simple to use and can be used on multiple children. They are generally sized (small/medium/large or size 1/size 2) so they provide a snug fit for your child; a swim nappy that is too small will dig into the skin and may cause discomfort, and a swim nappy that is too big will gape and leak

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One thing to be aware of, especially if you are not familiar with reusable nappies in general is that they are designed to fit more snugly than disposable nappies, so will sit more like a pair of traditional pants, so don’t be alarmed if it looks like the swim nappy is too small, it isn’t!

There are two main styles of reusable swim nappies, and it is personal preference which you go for. Pull-up style are easier for older children to put on independently, but swim nappies with poppers or Velcro are easier to remove without making lots of mess if your little one does have an accident. Our personal preference is poppers as we find that Velcro can get brittle over time with repeated exposure to chlorine

Neoprene happy nappies are used over the top of a swim nappy and provide extra security in the event of an accident. The legs and waist are designed to form a seal in case any solids do escape the swim nappy underneath, and they must completely cover the underneath layer. Again, these are sized, and they must fit snugly to perform their job effectively

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If you are already using reusable nappies, you can use an empty pocket nappy (make sure you remove the inserts first!) or wrap instead of a ‘proper’ swim nappy; an AIO can also be used if you cut out the absorbent tongue first. This is a great way to utilise nappies where the PUL has gone so they cannot be used in the traditional sense. make sure you pop a neoprene happy nappy over the top still!

Taking care of swim nappies is really simple; we just pop ours into the washing machine with the rest of the swimwear. They dry very quickly, so if you are going on holiday, you should only need two or three to use in rotation; if not soiled, they can be hand-washed and dried in a couple of hours

So, what are you waiting for?! Ditch the disposables and try reusables today!

ZERO WASTE REVIEW: Products to make washing up less of a chore!

As a family of four, plus being a childminder who works from home, we do a lot of washing up (well, I say ‘we’ when I actually mean my mother mainly!) Up until recently we would buy multipacks of cheap sponges, which were used for a week or so before throwing away, but as these are made from plastic and will never fully degrade, I was keen to find alternatives; below are my thoughts on two products designed to replace these plastic washing up sponges

Safix Scrub Pad from Hereford Eco Products

Made from coconut fibres held together with natural latex, this pad is fully compostable and biodegradable at the end of its serviceable life, as it contains no plastic whatsoever

Because of the rough texture, it is especially useful for the heavy duty washing up, such as frying pans and saucepans where the food has baked on. I will admit that I did worry for the surface of my frying pan before I used this; initially it feels quite rough to the touch, but three months down the line, and my frying pans are as smooth as ever, and the pad has softened up a little too

We are still using our original scrub pad, where we would have used and thrown away at least six sponges in the same time span. A few of the coconut fibres have worked loose over that time, but the product is still perfectly usable, and will be for some time

I tend to soak the pad once a month in diluted apple cider vinegar for an extra deep clean, but as long as you rinse the pad after use and leave to dry, it will still last a long time

Another added bonus is that it is good for scrubbing potatoes from the garden before peeling them; that brought back fond memories of my childhood cleaning the spuds for Sunday lunch in my nan’s kitchen!

Washing Up Pad

Washing Up Brush from Boobalou

Another blast from the past with this one, as I remember my mum using a washing up brush when I was a child, but that was plastic with plastics bristles. This washing up brush has a beech wood handle and bristles made of Tampico fibres; Tampico is derived from the yellow leaf of the agave cactus and is useful for this purpose because it retains water, is robust and hard-wearing and keeps its shape. Because the bristles are plant-based, they are 100% biodegradable

The brush is perfect for general cleaning of plates, bowls and cups; the bristles aren’t so hard that they scratch the surfaces of the crockery, while the small head means that the brush can get into the hard to reach corners of mugs with ease

The brush does take a while to dry out in between uses; ours doesn’t dry out in the day but does overnight. The metal loop at the end of the handle is useful to hang up the brush to dry in between uses

Replacement heads are available; there is a knack to removing the old head (lots of wiggling involved to loosen the metal holding the head on!) but once you know what you’re doing, it’s simple enough to do a second time. It’s also good to know that the head isn’t just going to fall off randomly too! The video here is useful to watch to help you too

Washing Up Brush

Summary

We are very pleased with our replacements for washing up sponges; each product fulfils a slightly different use, and therefore we will continue to use both. The key test for anything related to washing up in our house is whether they pass my mother’s seal of approval… and they do; she is will be replacing her washing up sponges with these products, so there is no higher praise than that in my eyes!

A letter to our friends and family: please no ‘stuff’ this Christmas

Firstly, I do want to say how grateful we are that people want to buy our kids (and us!) gifts at Christmas; we are lucky to have such generous friends and family! This post is not meant to sound ungrateful or like we’re preaching to you, but we would like to share with you some of the changes we have made this year, and how you, our friends and family, can help to support us with those changes

We have now reached a stage in our life where we have so much ‘stuff’ that we don’t actually need, and Christmas adds more to the pile. This year we have decluttered a LOT (even Paul has got involved with this one, and cleared the loft space a little!) got rid of excess furniture, knick-knacks, duplicate toys and household items which we used once years ago and then never again (who needs a salad spinner, really?!)

We are now reaching a stage where everything in our house falls into two categories; useful or sentimental. The rest is expendable

And this is where YOU come in, our friends and family. We don’t need more stuff to fill the gaps we have created in our home this year and will NOT be offended if you don’t get us anything at all! What we do want is time together as a family, so if you want to get us anything, could you consider popping a fiver in an envelope which we can put towards family days out throughout the year. For example, last July we took the kids on the train to London to see Uncle David, and would love to do the same again this year

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Due to the nature of my job, we have loads of toys already, so there are very few things we actually need; but if you REALLY feel that you want to buy the kids something to open, we have a list of a few select toys at Wise Owl Toys (ask behind the counter for the list) Some of these won’t be used immediately for our kids, but I plan ahead for the whole year. For instance, we have just cracked open the See & Spell that was bought for Thomas’s third birthday as he is just learning to read at preschool; so even if the items seem too advanced for our kids currently, they will get full use when the time comes!

We are also trying to reduce our waste this year, particularly plastic waste; we have introduced reusable straws, reusable cups and beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm into our household. We also utilise the new zero waste shop that has opened in Worcester, buying plastic-free deodorant, refilling containers instead of buying new and continuing to use reusable nappies, wipes and (me personally) CSP

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Christmas adds a lot of unnecessary waste to our house including foil wrapping paper that can’t be recycled. So, would you consider using brown paper to wrap? It is cheap to buy, and we will reuse it is possible, recycle if necessary. You can even get the kids to decorate it for a personal touch! Or could you reuse those gift bags from last year, make labels from old cards and consider homemade gifts for other people where they would be appreciated?

I understand that our lifestyle changes aren’t to everyone’s taste, but we would love it if you could join us in making our Christmas a sustainable one

Merry Christmas everyone!

Cloth Nappies & Childcare

One of the most common reasons I hear for people not trying reusable nappies is that nurseries and childminders won’t use them. In fact, there is no reason why childcare providers CANNOT use reusable nappies, and it actually is a good way for them to demonstrate that they are working in partnership with parents, something that Ofsted is hot on

I’m an Ofsted registered childminder whose own children were (eldest) and are (youngest) in reusable nappies; in fact, the youngest has never worn a disposable nappy. The nursery my youngest attends is more than happy for her to stay in reusables, despite this being their first experience of them

I have cared for children in both disposable and reusable nappies, and MUCH prefer reusable, as there is no risk of poo leaks up the back of the nappy! However, I understand that it is parent choice, and I would never expect my parents who use disposable nappies to switch to reusable, so why should the reverse be acceptable?

There are many misconceptions floating around about reusable nappies, and most of them stem from ignorance of what modern reusable nappies are actually like, so I’d like to share a few tips to help get your childcare provider on board with reusable nappies

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1. Education

Using reusable nappies is still a relatively rare practice in our modern throw-away society, so a lot of childcare providers won’t have come across reusable nappies in their setting before. Ask your childcare provider if they have seen or used modern reusable nappies previously and be prepared to show them what they are like

If you ask the majority of people in the UK what reusable nappies are, they will usually describe terry squares, plastic pants, soaking in a bucket until wash day… The reality of modern reusable nappies is very different, and by showing providers that no nappy pins or soaking is involved, then they will usually be more open to the suggestion
Find out if your childcare provider has any preconceptions about reusable nappies, for example, that they leak, and be prepared to address those

2. Communication

Have a conversation with your childcare provider about how both you and they could manage reusable nappies in the setting
Things to consider might include:

  • Preparation of nappies: could you send nappies already prepared, with all inserts, boosters and liners in place, ready to put straight onto the child?
  • Storage of dirty nappies: if the childcare provider has a double bagging policy could you provide small wet bags for individual nappies then another, larger, wet bag for these to go into afterwards?
  • Dealing with solids: I always suggest asking the childcare provider to leave any solids for parents to dispose of at homeThis communication shouldn’t happen just when your child starts childcare either; make sure you communicate regularly with your childcare provider, encouraging them to share any issues they may have

3. Stick to what you know

Don’t send in nappies you don’t normally use. Stick to nappies you know suit your child; nappies that you can demonstrate how to fit correctly because you use them every day, where you know how long those nappies should last between changes
There’s absolutely no point in buying loads of nappies especially for nursery because they’re ‘easier’ when actually your child wees through them in half an hour and they aren’t a good fit on your child
If it ain’t broke…

4. Expect leaks

Remember when you first started using reusable nappies on your little one and didn’t fit them properly into the knickerline? And that time you left the fleece liner sticking out and liquid wicked onto trousers? Oh, and when you did the poppers up too tight and got compression leaks?

Your childcare provider will need to go through that learning process, and you will need to be patient…
Pack several pairs of bottoms. Be prepared to demonstrate how to fit a reusable nappy several times to several different people. Send in a picture to show how tight the Velcro at the waist should be. Write a brief set of instructions to leave in the change bag to remind the key worker. Send them a link to a fit video (fab one here!) Use Sharpie to mark the poppers that need to be done up… Do whatever needs to be done to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved

You learnt to do this once, and you didn’t have 20 other children to look after at the same time! I suppose the main lesson to take away from this consists of two words…

Be patient!

Anyone else got any more top tips to share when it comes to cloth nappies and childcare?

Christmas Traditions: Making Mincemeat

Don’t shoot me, but I can’t stand mincemeat. Yet every year I make jars and jars of the stuff! Why?! Sometimes I do ask myself that question, but other people seem to like mince pies, and it also makes for a fab gift for friends and family, so every year, during October half term, I find myself making the stuff. And it’s really simple!

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I’ve tried a LOT of recipes for mincemeat over the years, and experimented with them all; my current favourite (mainly because it doesn’t require ridiculous ingredients or any cooking) is derived from the Traditional Mincemeat recipe found on BBC Good Food, linked here. However, I have tweaked it slightly, so that it produces less waste and uses whole packets of ingredients rather than part packets, the rest of which would not be touched until next Christmas.

The following recipe makes approximately six jars. I say ‘approximate’ as I reuse jars collected over the year(s), so they are various sizes and shapes, and all lacking labels from multiple uses!

Ingredients

  • 500g raisins
  • 700g currants
    I also substitute in sultanas if I don’t have enough raisins or currants; I’ve never really worked out the difference between the three things!
  • 400ml brandy
    You can never have enough alcohol in there, right?!
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 200g suet
    I always use veggie suet as I’m veggie, but no reason why you can’t use the meaty stuff
    This stuff generally comes in 200g boxes, so none is left over from this recipe
  • 500g dark brown sugar
    I have also used light brown sugar, if that’s what I have, with no difference in taste
  • 200g chopped mixed peel
    Again, this ingredient tends to come in 200g containers, which I then reuse for the small amount of leftover mincemeat that won’t fit into the jars at the very end
  • ½ grated nutmeg
    You can use the powdered stuff, but nothing beats the smell and taste of freshly grated nutmeg to get you in the mood for Christmas. I pick my whole nutmeg up for pennies from my local Zero Waste shop, which also means I can buy single

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Method

  1. Soak the raisins and currants (and/or sultanas!) in the brandy, lemon juice and lemon zest for a minimum of one hour, overnight preferably. The fruit soaks up most of the juice and plumps up nicely. I find giving the mixture a stir periodically helps to rotate the topmost fruit to the bottom, meaning everything gets a chance to absorb that brandy
  2. While the fruit is soaking, sterilise the jars in the dishwasher on a hot setting. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can sterilise in the oven or microwave. Full instructions here
    The main thing to note is to let the jars cool before adding the mincemeat as adding cold mincemeat to hot jars may cause the jars to shatter. No-one wants to waste good mincemeat (or jars, for that matter)
  3. Add the other ingredients and stir well
    I add them a little at a time, as they can be hard to distribute evenly throughout if added all at once, especially the suet and the sugar
  4. Spoon the finished mincemeat into the sterilised jars and press in firmly to exclude any air; you will be surprised at how much you can pack into those jars if you squeeze the air out as you go
  5. Store for at least a month before use, the longer the better
    The original recipe says use within six months, but I’ve used up jars from previous Christmases in mince pies without poisoning anyone yet…

Enjoy, people!

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