29 April 2012

Step Down Sunday - Home-made Febreze

After the success I’ve been having with home-made ‘shampoo’ I started looking for home-made cleaners. So for this week’s Step Down Sunday I figured I’d give you all a break from the ‘No Poo’ experiment and share a recipe for home-made Febreze instead.

I love cats, but they do get themselves in awkward situations. Last weekend Mac snuck into the spare bedroom when I wasn’t looking. Unfortunately I shut the door and left the house soon after. So he spent several hours trapped on his own...without a litter tray. It’s no surprise that he’d had an accident by the time I got home.

Cat on the bed

As I couldn’t throw the cover in the wash, I need to find a new way to tackle the problem. After spot cleaning it with Ecover Delicate Wash, the smell still lingered. Normally I’d be tempted to buy some Febreze, but I turned to Pinterest for an alternative. I found several potential recipes at Curbly (keep scrolling to the bottom for more). I decided to try:
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda 
  • 1 tablespoon of fabric softener 
  • 1 ½ cups of water 
  • All combined in an empty spray bottle.
Home-made Febreze

There were some concerns in the comments that fabric softener isn’t something you’d want to inhale – however I used eco-friendly Ecover Fabric Softener which I’m less concerned about. I think the fabric softener mostly adds a bit of scent, so next time I may just try the baking soda and water on its own.

So besides saving £3 by making something at home - I’ve also reduced the packaging, the “food” miles of the product, and created a mixture that hopefully has less chemicals than normal Febreze.

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

24 April 2012

5 Things I Learned at BlogCamp

Tots100 BlogCamp parent blogger events
Saturday I joined more than a hundred bloggers and made my way down to Birmingham for BlogCamp UK. It was a brilliant venue, there was plenty of coffee to drink, cake to eat, and loads of bloggers to chat with. There are lots of posts out there telling you the ins-and-out of the day, but rather than repeat their fine work I thought I’d just share the key facts I learned.

  • You are your brand – You’re selling your voice and personality.
  • If you want to be a snark...you have to be a snark in the first place. Sense of humour also required.
  • Turns out my long rambling blog posts are actually a good thing – at least in SEO terms. Blog posts with 500+ words give your pages authority and long tail keywords.
  • YouTube is the world's 2nd biggest search engine!
  • Google+ can really boost your SEO. Likes, tweets & +1’s all count as SEO backlinks.

So what does this mean for Another Goldfish? I think it’s pretty clear I need a Google+ page, which may mean I need to come out of the anonymous closet. Hopefully this will also give the blog a bit more personality and character.

I haven’t yet decided if I’m coming completely into the open or if I might create myself a pen name. I seem to be a magnet for bullies and stalkers, so I’m not sure about using my real name. I’d love to say I have a tough skin, but I find bullies and conflict quite traumatic.

I met loads of fabulous ladies including Nickie of TypecastAnne Smart of  Oh My Geek! who found my session indecision entertaining, Kate C of The Five F's Blog who kept me company on the trains to and from Birmingham. And finally it was lovely to finally meet Ruth of Geek Mummy who's offered me kind support on my IVF journey.

The final bit of BlogCamp advice I have is: if you want to meet bloggers you don’t know, send out a tweet! I asked people to say hello and gave a quick description of my jumper and ladies all around me introduced themselves.

It was a brilliant day out and I'll be first in line for the next one! Thanks very much Sally & the Tots100 Team.

22 April 2012

Step Down Sunday - 'No Poo' Goes Wrong!

Step Down SundayYesterday I went to BlogCamp to meet loads of fabulous bloggers, so wouldn’t you know this was the week I’d really have a problem with my hair! I’ve now been using the ‘No Poo’ method for 4 weeks without much trouble so I was baffled as to why it was suddenly acting up.

As far as looks go, it's pretty normal - a bit less shiny and more limp than I’d like, but not greasy. It has felt a bit odd though and taking a pair of straighteners to it was a terrifying experience! My fringe has been in desperate need of a trim and was curling uncontrollably, but every time I pull the straighteners through a section it looks like it’s been gelled into a sheet! Luckily it combs out, but it had me worried. I wondered if it was coated in a thin layer of grease, maybe I was finally in the greasy transition period? Though three weeks in seems awful late for it to be starting.

Wednesday I popped into Manchester to get my fringe trimmed, and while there I figured I’d swallow the embarrassment and ask the hair stylist for an opinion. She thought the hair felt coated in something, maybe a product or something that hadn’t washed out properly.

With this in mind I started googling for ‘No Poo + coated’ and found myself in another science lesson. It looks like the problem may be our hard water! Apparently the bicarb combines with your hair to make soap – and hard water can’t seem to wash this away. The result is your hair gets coated in a sort of waxy soap scum. (Isn’t that a pleasant image!) The suggested solution is to boil your water before mixing it with your bicarb & vinegar. I was slightly dubious of this, as one cup of soft water isn’t going to compare to all the hard water in your shower or bath...but I’ll give anything a try. (If it didn’t work I could always resort to shampoo to make me presentable for BlogCamp.)

Boiling the water did help remove the waxy coating, but my hair still felt rough. Now I’m a rubbish girl – I can’t just look at my hair and work out what it needs. I debated for a while whether I needed to use an extra conditioner, or maybe the problem was using apple cider vinegar instead of the white? I eventually found a site suggesting you could spray your hair with the vinegar mix if it was dry and frizzy. This seemed a simple and quick thing to try, and it made such a difference! It’s not perfect yet, but it is smooth and soft. As one site described it the bicarbonate of soda lifts all the scales on each individual hair so it can be cleaned, then the vinegar smooths these scales down again. I wonder if in future I should use more vinegar in my recipe to counteract the hard water.

Despite the drama I think I made it through BlogCamp without my hair embarrassing me too much (certainly no more than normal)

To Read More:
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week One
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week Two
Step Down Sunday - Save Pennies & Planet
Step Down Sunday - 'No Poo' Goes Horribly Wrong!

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

18 April 2012

On the Market

As if I wasn’t busy enough with our new WI meetings, driving lessons and waiting for our first IVF appointment – it looks like we’ve decided to move! Well that may be over egging the pudding, we’ve decided to tidy up the house and put it on the market.

The decision is a culmination of several things: Our car’s been hit again (another £900 of damage), Mr Goldfish’s parents are looking to sell their old house, and Mr Goldfish is starting a new job in May. The ridiculous parking situation on our street has certainly been enough motivation to start looking, but I’m also envious of my in-law’s old place - I miss having a house with space. Finally with the new job we can actually afford to move!
Our current house isn’t that bad a size, but the previous owners really left their mark on the house. It has an awful Artex infestation - and worse it's a badly done Artex. It looks like someone used our house for practise, every room had at least one wall of Artex. While we've removed the worst of it, these examples still remain.
We have an amazing collection of ugly granny carpets too. The top four decorate the upstairs bedrooms & hall  while the bottom ones cover the downstairs. Before you go thinking those plain patterned carpets at the bottom aren't too bad, I should mention those are the kitchen and bathroom carpets...it's just not good.
We also have stunning collection of textured wall paper - this selection is from just two rooms! Though it makes it hard to photograph, I thank my stars that it's all painted white.
With the new job we could try and do it up nicely, but it seems ridiculous to renovate a house we desperately want to leave - at this point I think I’d rather cut and run.

We’ll have a challenge as the house next to us is being sold off at a shockingly cheap price (we think the bank has foreclosed on it), but it made me realise there might be some real bargains out there. A quick search on RightMove offered up one gem, which we realised we could afford even before starting the new job!

So we decided. Even if we don’t like this house when we view it, we’re not in a hurry - we can afford to wait till our perfect house comes on the market.

Until then we better call in the plasterers and the estate agents!

15 April 2012

Step Down Sunday: Save Pennies & Planet

One complaint you often hear is that going eco-friendly is just too expensive, and while it may never compare to value brands, there are ways to reduce the costs. Bicarbonate of soda can be used for cleaning round the house as well as washing your hair, but when you buy a small containers from the baking aisle of Tesco the costs soon start adding up!

The first trick is to branch out and try different stores. Rather than driving around searching through local shops, I’ve found many things I’m looking for from Ethical Superstore. The only problem is their shipping charges. I don’t want to spend £3.95 shipping, or buy £40 worth of stuff to qualify for free shipping each time I need some bicarbonate of soda. But if you keep your eyes open, there are special offers you can take advantage of. Over the Easter holiday, you only had to spend £20 to qualify for free delivery.

The second trick is that bigger is often better - while that 200g canister of Tesco bicarbonate of soda is £1 - the 500g box pictured on the right is just £1.75 from Ethical Superstore. And while a 350ml bottle of cider vinegar is £1.45 from Tesco, the 750ml bottle of organic cider vinegar is £2.29 from Ethical Superstore.

Two boxes of bicarb and a bottle of vinegar doesn’t come close to the £20 I needed for free shipping, but I discovered Ethical Superstore also carries Method Laundry Refill packs. We’ve been using Method Laundry Cleaner a while because it’s sustainable, eco-friendly, vegan and doesn’t test on animals and has no parabens - Oh and it washes well too! - but we’ve never seen the refill packs for sale. A normal 25 wash bottle is about £6, but the refill pack is £13.99 for 85 washes!

High Street
Ethical Superstore
1kg Bicarbonate of Soda
75CL Cider Vinegar
Method Laundry Liquid(85 Washes)


Saving £10 may not seem like much to some people, but I think saving about a 1/3 over normal high street prices helps make eco-friendly cleaners a more competitive option.

To Read More:

Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week One
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week Two
Step Down Sunday - Save Pennies & Planet

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

13 April 2012

Just Another Week

I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been keeping busy, but maybe too busy. It’s been helpful to be distracted from the waiting, but I’m left feeling drained and tired. Last weekend we went to a wedding, and as I sat watching the screaming children and their weary parents - I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really the life I wanted.

It doesn’t help that I’ve never been that interested in babies. They're cute for a few minutes, but then I’m more than ready to give them back! Bring them back to me when they get to be toddlers and children! I’m sure it would be different with our own child, but there is a slight fear that winning this agonisingly long fight will result in 9 months of exhaustion and pain, followed by two to three years of hard work before really achieving my dreams. When feeling tired, drained and probably a bit depressed – you start to wonder if it’s even worth it.

Personally I find it very hard to keep enthusiastic over repeated failures. I mean if trying to conceive had been a sport or a craft I’d never have stuck with it for three years. I’d have given up in frustration and found something I actually have a knack for. I mean at what point do you say “You know what, I’m obviously not any good at this – I should just give up.”?

The silly thing is I’m talking about this like I have a choice in the matter. I can already tell I’m detaching myself from the situation, probably as a form of self-defence – but the problem is there’s not much I can do about it. Even if I was to naturally get pregnant tomorrow, I’m not sure I’d be happy about it now. I’ve moved past that sweet-spot where I believe everything will work out and moved into a place of apathy and doubt.

All of this is making our IVF journey difficult. We’re now in the system, so virtually everything is out of our hands. In many ways I want to pull out and quit, but at the same time I think if I just slog through it I’m sure to come around. I mean I’ve desperately wanted a child for years, surely I won’t just change my mind in a snap...but I’m just not convinced.

If a boyfriend had caused me as much heartache as this dream of a family has, my friends would tell me to let him go because I deserved to find someone better. Should I really fight this urge to move on with my life?

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

8 April 2012

Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week Two

For the last week I've continued to replace my normal shampoo and conditioner with bicarbonate soda and vinegar. I found several blogs on Pinterest that gave different recipes, but they didn't really give much detail. They might say which recipe they preferred, but didn't really explain why. So I'm going to try and give a bit more detail about what's working for me and why.

My hair is about shoulder length, very fine, with a slight wave and tends to be dry. When using shampoo I washed my hair two to three times a week.

Many of the blogs I read mentioned that there may be a transition period while your hair adjusts to the milder cleansers. Because the hair is not being stripped of all its oils, it may be greasy for a while till the scalp adjusts and stops producing so much oil. I have found my hair is looking a bit greasy on the second day, but it hasn't been too bad.

Other blogs also mentioned that they washed their hair much less often. One woman only used the Bicarbonate of Soda once a week, just rinsing her hair on other days. I've been wary of over washing my hair, so on Monday I tried just rinsing my hair in the hopes I could remove enough of the grease so I could wait a day before washing it properly. This failed utterly! Rinsing didn't remove any of the grease, so I ended up drying my hair and then using dry shampoo just to be presentable. I think if I need stop gap measure again I'll reach for the dry shampoo first. I have found a natural dry shampoo recipe so I may try that soon.

Otherwise I'm really pleased with the liquid recipe I found last week, just one tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda in a cup of water. Applied to dry hair, it's really easy to tell when you've covered it all. The only tricky part has been applying it. I've been using a kitchen jug, which can be a bit hard to control. One of the blogs I read recommended using squeeze bottles, so I ordered a couple off Amazon which arrived yesterday. I've only used them the once, but with the extra control I used just a fraction of the mixtures!

Finally one change I have noticed the extra curl it's giving my hair! My lazy wave has a lot more body and volume...I just wish I knew what to do with it.

To Read More:
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week One
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week Two
Step Down Sunday - Save Pennies & Planet

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

2 April 2012

Gnome Sweet Gnome

Freckles FamilyYou may have noticed that I have a thing for Emma Bridgewater pottery, so when I heard there was a special Bridgewater cross-stitch pattern in CrossStitcher Magazine I had to buy a copy.

I've been rather impressed with the magazine, and flipping through the pages, I found a quick and simple pattern I couldn't wait to try!
It only took a couple evenings to stitch the pattern, but that was mostly because I accidentally bought the wrong colour thread (woe betide those who put embroidery floss back in the wrong basket). Now all it needs is a pretty gingham ribbon to tie around the top.
This was also my first attempt at framing in a hoop. Luckily there were directions in the magazine, though I'm not sure I got it quite right. The little dragon is certainly not impressed!

Have you finished something this week? Maybe a craft project, book or cake? Why not pop over to Freckles Family where there's also a competition for a Molly Makes magazine!

1 April 2012

Step Down Sunday - No Poo

One evening while driving home, Mr Goldfish wondered if there were any eco-friendly toiletries we should be trying. Recently it’s become clear that it’s not just the ingredients in things that is the problem, even eco-friendly products come with a large amount of packaging. So we might make a bigger impact if we actually make things ourselves. So I popped over to Pinterest to see what I might find.

It didn’t take long to find plenty of people who’d thrown out their shampoo bottles and turned to more natural ingredients. They claim that by using just bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, your hair can be even more manageable. As I’ve nearly finished my current shampoo and have a socially quiet week, I figured it was worth a try.

To be honest I don’t have the hang of it yet, and it’s become clear that I can’t read directions! The idea is that the bicarbonate of soda eats away at any dirt, but doesn’t strip the hair of so much oil. Then you rinse with the acidic vinegar which if you remember your chemistry cancels out the bicarbonate of soda (a base) and leaves your hair pH neutral again.

The first recipe I tried mixed a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda with a cup of warm water. You’re supposed to rub it into your scalp, but I found the watery mix seemed to run straight off my head. (This was where I made my first error – apparently you should apply bicarb mixes to dry hair rather than wet.) After washing out all the bicarb I rinsed my hair with a ¼ cup of white vinegar mixed with a cup of water. I was quite impressed with the vinegar rinse, which quickly untangled my hair. My hair felt clean and wasn’t greasy, but didn’t feel quite right.

The second time I decided to try the paste recipe, as I thought it might be easier to control. I carefully read the directions this time, but I don’t think they were correct. The recipe called for a teaspoon of bicarb with a tablespoon of water...which turned into a watery mix rather than a nice paste. I ended up adding more bicarb until I achieved a consistency a bit runnier than toothpaste. It was a bit easier to control, but felt a bit patchy as it didn’t spread well. I also found it a lot harder to rinse out (possibly because I’d added so much soda to the mix). Again I finished with the vinegar rinse which still worked well, but wasn’t quite as effective. After my hair dried it still felt like there was some bicarb in there, so I rinsed it again in the sink and added more vinegar mix for good measure. This helped a lot.

I’m not yet ready to give up, so after a bit more research I’ve ordered a couple of condiment squeeze bottles and I’m going to go back to the watery recipe. Hopefully the bottles will let me control the mix better and direct it straight to the roots. Also by applying the watery mix to dry hair, it might not run straight off...I hope.

I really like the idea of using simple kitchen ingredients and it actually feels like less effort than all the shampooing and conditioning I normally do. Hopefully next week my ‘shampoo-free’ project will be more successful!

To Read More:
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week Two
Step Down Sunday - Save Pennies & Planet

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.