The one where I’m headed to the beach…

Hi folks,

It’s been a busy week, with no sign of things slowing down. But I DO have a Sunday off, and it happens to coincide with a certain growing kahuna’s birthday. I rarely get to go to a church these days so taking the chance to check out my friends’ church plant down the coast. I may see if I can still balance on the car park log fence thing.

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I have been testing out some make up – it’s been going much better than I thought. Still on a search for a few things, but will update you when I get the chance. I also need to try out Lindsay’s flaxseed gel (thanks for posting that recipe video for it in the comments Lindsay!!)

I’m really hoping that soon I’ll be able to post some good news too. I got asked by someone today “What has been your proudest achievement this past year?” I had to be honest and say it’s been simply surviving it. I’ve been desperate for change for a long, long time. It hasn’t come. At least not yet.

Anyway, it’s past my bedtime and I need to get to sleep so I can get up early and locate breakfast before work since I just discovered my raspberries have gone mouldy already. Booo.

Much love, BK x

The one where I stop to capture the flowers…

I got bored while heating up soup in my Mum’s kitchen and decided to grab my camera and take pictures of some flowers I spotted in her back garden. One of our neighbours is a keen gardener, and she also kindly allowed me to go into her front garden to snap some pics of her plants and flowers too. I have no idea what these flowers are, I just like their colourfulness. I also like the ones that have little antennae on the inside. The biggest challenge was focusing on close up to the flower without creating a shadow in the picture and capturing it during the split second before the next gust of breeze blew the flower out of shot.

Anyway, hope the colours brighten up your day…. 🙂

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The one where I talk about no-poo haircare…

So just before I started blogging over here, I shared about my hair issues. I’ve had wavy curls since I was a teenager, but didn’t realise it until I was at university and someone told me about hair mousse and what that weird flying saucer with spikes attachment was that came with my hairdryer was for. Suddenly I discovered what my hair had been needing all those years before GHD hair straighteners were invented.

However, depo provera has (I think) caused me to age more prematurely. My hair began to fall out and started going grey. I started getting it dyed blonde. I was using heavy conditioners and washing my hair every day because my scalp was in a terrible state and the conditioners left build up, plus stripped my hair of natural oils. It was a state.

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Before I went shampoo free

In addition to this, I was concerned about my environmental impact after learning more about marine litter from Surfers Against Sewage. I wanted to find a haircare routine that was better for my hair and for the environment. A few curly haired pals suggested the Curly Girl Handbook, and it was a godsend. I went investigating, tried lots of things. 6 weeks of ups and downs as my hair and skin got used to it’s ‘new normal’ I began to find the products that worked vs. the ones that claimed to be all-natural that were actually full of rubbish. My hair is still not something that people desire, but it’s so much better than it was before I went shampoo free.

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My hair today – it needs cut and hasn’t had a deep condition treatment in a while, but a vast improvement in my opinion!

Shampoo Alternatives: From Sulphate free to none at all!

My first step was trying sulphate free shampoos, as I wasn’t *quite* brave enough at first. There were also people on internet saying that using baking soda and apple cider vinegar was terrible, had done really horrible things to their hair. However, I didn’t find the sulphate free shampoos all that much better. I tried the Body Shop’s Rainforest range, L’oreal sulphate free  and ‘botanical’ conditioner ranges (they were awful), Naked Bodycare (which was good, but then got bought over by Boots and disappeared) and then I gave up as they were all pretty rubbish.

So I decided to try baking soda solution laid out in the Curly Girl handbook. I was mainly worried about how to manage it, given that I’m not a morning person so tend to be in a rush because I’ve hit the snooze button too many times.img_8476I found a friend in a small measuring jug and measuring spoon. I was able to run the hot water tap while I used the toilet (TMI? Well, I always have a pee before I get in the shower!!) so the water was running warm by the time I washed my hands, then could fill the jug to the 1 cup mark, then add 3 teaspoons (as the tablespoon didn’t fit into the baking soda recepticle) of baking soda into the warm water, stirred it quickly for a few seconds until I heard the fizz and then took it into the shower with me. I have a little metal basket thing that I can place the jug in that is out of the shower stream while I soaked my hair, then poured the solution over my head and hair. I massage the whole of my scalp, and then rinse it out. Voila! Clean hair. I was also astounded on how long it took for my hair to get greasy again. I still had issues with my hair frizzing and tangling (so I wore a lot of headscarfs and also carried around some conditioner in a travel pump bottle, a comb and some lavender water spray during that first winter – as wooly scarves and long frizzy hair didn’t mix well) but I was soon only washing my hair every 4-5 days instead of every 1-2 days. I also used coconut oil on the ends of my hair if I did straighten it (which sometimes I did for work during that first winter because it was very long and still knotting badly), and a few times I went to bed after putting it all over my hair and scalp and washed it out the following morning with baking soda solution. I eventually cut it short as I realised that it was so badly damaged from hair dye, but was shocked to find the next winter that though my hair was getting longer it wasn’t tangling and knotting as it previously had against woolly scarves and jumpers.

I saved my baking soda containers that I got from the baking ingredients section of the supermarket, then was able to get a larger bag from my local health foods store to continue refilling it. This helped me reduce and recycle the plastic containers.

Although I will admit that this week, I did get totally sales pitched into trying out and then buying this shampoo. The health food shop hasn’t had baking soda last two times I was in, so on my way home I stopped in Lush…

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It was a shocking ÂŁ11.50 (thank goodness for birthday money) but I couldn’t resist how yummy it smelled. You do not need a lot – like literally a coin sized dollop – so hopefully it lasts for months! I also like that Lush let you bring back in the tubs and they’ll reuse them.

Finding a conditioner

The conditioning part was harder. My hair was so damaged, and my scalp was a mess. I tried lots of the ‘recipes’ in the Curly Girl handbook, and eventually I found a conditioner that has served me well. I need quite a lot of it to detangle my hair, but it doesn’t seem to make my hair go greasy or leave build up on my scalp like others did. It is annoyingly ÂŁ5 a pop (which is expensive in my book) so I try to wait until it’s on offer in Boots and stock up. The other annoying part is that it doesn’t come in a recyclable container. However it is free from lots of nasty chemicals we don’t want in our water.

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Scalp Treatment

On the scalp issues. I now don’t have as much of a problem, other than I’ve not shifted the scalp scratching habit I picked up from when I had psoriasis in my early teens and years of itchy scalp. My scalp is rarely itchy now, but I still scratch and pick at it out of habit. YUK! (Again, sorry for the TMI). But during those first months, I used a conditioner and some quinoa to make a hair scrub. It’s about 1tbsp of quinoa to 3tbsp of conditioner. You mix it up, and then massage all over your scalp from the base of your neck up. It helps exfoliate your scalp, and moisturise it at the same time. I was trying out the ‘Yes-To’ brand at the time, after the original conditioner I was using went out of business. I’ve found their scalp relief conditioner best for doing the scrub with. Weirdly I don’t find it great as a hair conditioner, but it has worked for the scrubs.

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I will however warn you that the quinoa scrub will make quite the mess in your shower or bath. Do make sure to rinse it out quickly, and unclog your plug hole. Also, don’t do what I did at surf camp one year and pre-make your quinoa scrub and keep it ready made in a container. That quinoa sitting in moisture filled conditioner will start to sprout and smell really bad after a few days. BOAK!

Styling Curls

Onto the curls…I wanted to stop using hair mousse because of the aerosol type cans that again, I don’t think are great for the environment. Curly Girl Handbook recommended using aloe vera gel, however I’ve never been able to find a shop that sells this (other than as a drink and I don’t think that’s what she means). I’ve also killed all my aloe vera plants because I’m basically a serial plant killer. The best thing I could find was in the ‘Afro Hair’ section of Sally Hair Design (according to the hairdressing world, everyone should have straight hair, and it’s only recently that places have started to properly cater for curly hair, and it all seems to be in this section).

The closest hair gel I could find to the Curly Girl recommendations was this one:

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I found it a bit sticky still though, but when I went back to get more, I found some new products in a range called Cantu. They’ve also started making leaflets for curly hair care, and this got recommended for wavy hair so I’ve been trying this

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It smells divine, but I have to say that if I use too much it makes my hair a little greasy. I find it’s usable if I put a dollop’s worth on just on the ends of my hair and scrunch it in when my hair is soaking wet. I’ll then blow dry with the diffuser.

From hair to skincare?

I’ve also been going make up and other beauty product free for the last two years after realising that my headaches seemed to  coincide with wearing eye make up, and last year after a bout of eczema got it on my lips every time I wore a lip gloss. However, after a year of unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I’m wondering if my natural look is hindering me at interviews. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I guess most women in their 30s are expected to turn up with tamed hair, a face of make up, skirts and heels. So I’m now looking into ethical make up and trying some products out. Again, it’s expensive for my budget, but I do miss wearing make up and if it helps me get a job that I love then I’m willing to spend a little bit. I’ve discovered some products at Lush, and been recommended Neal’s Yard who do a few things as well. I expect that will be a whole other post though!

I hope this helps for those of you asking me about going ‘no-poo’ and trying to use more ethical products. I definitely recommend Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girl handbook if you have curly  hair. I also found the Ethical Consumer website hugely helpful too, and trying to use that more to inform where I shop and what I buy.

I will say that this is just what worked for me. All of us have different bodies and different hair. I had someone who I massively respect and is experienced ‘no-poo’ natural haircare person (much more than I am). She swears by using a boar bristle brush to stop you having to wash your hair as often. I tried it and my hair went nuts. She told me it would definitely work when I said it didn’t on curly hair, so I did keep trying because I knew from experience of it taking a while for my hair and scalp to appreciate the no shampoo and being washed less it might be that…but nope! It just makes my hair greasy at the top and frizzy and static. It’s not a good look. So please know that if you try anything and find it doesn’t work for you…that’s ok! I’m personally sticking with my brush free life with just my wide toothed wooden detangling comb for company (and it only gets used on wet hair).

Let me know if you’ve got any tips on what has worked/not worked for you, as I’m sure others would like to hear your experiences too.

The one where I’m a proud sister…

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People ask me all the time ‘Why brunettekoala?’ Well the picture above semi-explains that. Long ago, when I was 21, my hair was dyed brunette and my 14 year old sister was a very tall long limbed teen. She started handing me up her clothes from around the age of 13. We called her the Giraffe. Our little brother was the mischief maker, and we called him Monkey. They decided that as I was small, and liked to sleep (they were kids who liked to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning while I was a teen who felt that getting out of bed before 9 on a Saturday for no reason was all kinds of wrong). I also was the hugger of the three of us. So they decided I would be koala. They even programmed the housephone so that if I called from my flat in Aberdeen or my mobile it came up as ‘Koala’.

Today, that cute (but slightly stinky) almost 11 year old is the same age as I am in that picture. My little brother stole my heart just as our sister did. I was 11 years old when he was born, and there are many pictures of me holding him as a baby. He was a terrible sleeper and often I would be the one to get him out of his cot in the mornings. I would feed him his breakfast – turning spoons of disgusting baby food into planes, trains and race cars. I took him for walks through the woods at the back of our house and he would only sleep if I did the woods first and then back around the neighbourhood – he would not sleep if I did neighbourhood before the woods. He became obsessed with trucks when he was a toddler – we had to wait every Monday for the bin lorry to come so he could watch it reverse in front of our house before we could go anywhere. He learned about the christening of Eddie Stobart lorries, and soon had everyone keeping an eye out for their names so we could cross them off his checklist. He was a bigger chatterbox than my sister and I (which my friends didn’t believe until one time they spent a car journey with him…and left the car shellshocked). He went to A&E so many times that the nurses there knew him by name. Why believe us when we tell you the toaster is hot, when you can stick your hand in it and turn it on to find out?

Monkey, you taught me how to rock a baby to sleep. You made me learn how to build toy garages because well…Dad tried, and he superglued himself to it. And then fix toy cars. And trucks. Often early on Sunday mornings. I know all the characters in the Teletubbies and their favourite things because of you. You taught me how to turn a buggy into a racing car, complete with race car noises which made you giggle and laugh when we went out and about. You were my buddy for watching Top Gear with. I still remember you calling me in Aberdeen upset when Richard Hammond got injured in the jet car crash. You and our sister encouraged my love of Winnie the Pooh, and I still remember how the two of you were so miffed with our parents when they refused to let you club together to get me a giant  stuffed Pooh Bear from the Disney store for my 16th birthday. You always gave me a hug when I asked for one. Even if you grumbled and sighed. And when I returned to Aberdeen for my final year of university, you put all your Winnie the Pooh toys in my bed with mine ‘so they wouldn’t get lonely’. And then you called me up to tell me that they missed me even if you didn’t so I needed to come home to visit. When kids teased you, you still remained kind. When you didn’t understand why people didn’t see the world wasn’t as black and white as you saw it, you still stood up for what you believed was right. You were afraid sometimes, but you still tried. And you always had a reason for everything. Why are you crying about being at nursery? Because someone needed to hold your Mum’s shopping list at Tesco. Why aren’t you going to sleep? Because Mum & Dad aren’t home yet, and you needed to know they got home safely. Why are you calling your 21 year old sister at 5.30 p.m.? Because she’s usually home for tea, and you better check up to make sure she’s ok. And then tell her off for not calling.

Of my four siblings, I’ve seen you go through the most challenges. I’m insanely proud of you Monkey. And I’m glad I get to be your big (even if I’m the shortest) sister.

Happy birthday xx

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The one where I wandered by the river…

As I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, I took a wander down the Water of Leith Walkway from Roseburn to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art on Mothering Sunday. These are just a few of the pictures I snapped. I’m still learning how to use the camera, it’s different settings and sometimes I use auto-focus, other times I’m doing it manually. I love experimenting, and would love to spend more time learning how to take better photographs.

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I would also love to know what the pink pinecone like plants are that I found just by the bridge over to the gallery steps. Does anyone know?

The one where I don’t look like I’m 7…

So I’ve now lived on the earth longer than Jesus did. The night before my birthday my friends invited me round for tea, and they surprised me with a yummy dairy free chocolate cake that had been beautifully decorated by their eldest daughter. They brought it through with 7 candles in it, and their 5 year old son asked me “Laurie, are you really only 7? Because you look like a grown up“.

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If only he had seen me the next day. I was made to dress up like a medieval princess. I was annoyed at the boys had to be knights, girls had be princesses. So they gave me and Miss S swords too. We are more Merida than Aurora. And it did lead to this photo being taken of me, which according to Holly (and I quote directly from Vicky’s facebook page here) “is the most Laurie picture ever!!!!”

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Hoodie, dressed up as a Princess and taking photos of things. Oh, and wearing a Newt Scamander scarf. OK. Holly and Vicky have a point. Kudos Vicky! If you are wondering where my sword is, my Mum had borrowed it so she could have a fight with Sir Kahuna the Knight.

Oh, and how did I celebrate? Well, after munching on cake the night before, my Mum and I travelled to Alnwick to meet up  with my lovely friends Vicky and her two kids (Miss S and Mini K). We wandered around Alnwick Castle, where we learned to fly broomsticks (because it’s where Harry Potter learned to fly)

IMG_1902 And we ended the day in a bookshop I’ve wanted to visit for a long, long time. Barter Books is a large secondhand bookshop inside what used to be Alnwick train station. Weirdly I stumbled across a copy of the book I’m named after. I’ve never, ever seen a copy of Laura’s Summer Ballet anywhere but my Nana’s bookshelf (ok, on my bookshelf but it’s the same copy!) so my Mum and I were shocked to find it there.

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I mean, I really hope there’s a room in heaven like this. Actually, there’s a room in Alnwick Castle that is floor to ceiling bookshelves (not too dissimilar to the Beast’s library in Beauty and the Beast). It had a foozball table, open fire, a supply of gin and these incredible looking furry beanbag chairs. It really is the dream…

For sure my birthday this year was a vast improvement on the previous two which were pretty miserable birthdays. I do not feel any more grown up but am very much appreciative of every friend and family member who made me feel like my presence here on earth is something to be celebrated. Good to know nobody wishes I’d just die already!

The one where I wonder if there are miracles…

The other weekend I had a Sunday off. I thought about going to church, and then I realised it was Mother’s Day. I’ve spoken before about why I don’t celebrate it, and it broke my heart to see people on social media dealing with the pressure of declaring their Mum ‘the best in the world’ when they’ve been treated poorly by their mother. I also saw again friends who are in churches giving out things to all the Mums, and making a big deal about this fake hallmark holiday. Before you think I’m a totally horrible person, I did take my Mum to see Beauty and the Beast the night before. I decided instead to go out into the sunshine with my camera. I ended up wandering down the Water of Leith to the National Gallery of Modern Art. And was struck by this sculpture (for want of a better term?) and the fact that you can see churches behind it in the background.IMG_1698

The church you can see on the right, is (I think) the cathedral where every Autumn they hold a service for people who have faced pregnancy, stillbirth and infant loss. It really sucks to be part of that community on Mother’s Day in a church. I’ve spoken before about the insensitive comments I faced when I first started going to the hospital for tests and scans from my fellow Christians. I was told that the only reason I was so ill was due to my lack of faith. I was also told that despite doctors telling me I would struggle to have my own children, God would give them if I prayed enough.

Eh, what?

If only it were that simple. I had a friend who went to every prayer ministry you can imagine and they still died of cancer. I have a friend who had her sixth miscarriage this last year. I have friends that got told they wouldn’t be able to have children and later in life had a ‘surprise’ pregnancy. I know a girl who died of cancer. I know a girl who got given 6 months to live with her cancer and is still here 3 years later. 12 years ago my Dad almost died and surgeons thought they’d have to remove a huge section of his bowel – only for a few days later to find it all better with no knowledge of how that happened. 12 years ago my grandmother woke up suddenly paralysed, and died 3 weeks later and doctors had no idea how or why until they had done endless tests and an autopsy to discover she had a rare form of lymphoma.

There is no rhyme or reason to why one person lives and another dies. There is no rhyme or reason to why one pregnancy ends in with a healthy baby, one ends with a sick baby and another ends in miscarriage.

Do miracles happen? I think sometimes they do. I don’t know that we have any control over when, where or why.

Yes, it makes me sad to think I’ll likely never be part of the parenting club. I never dreamed about getting married, but I did dream about being pregnant and giving birth to babies. But I also remember the day the doctor talked to me about it, and being astounded by the peace I felt. And now that I’ve spent more time with friends who are parents I think maybe God knows exactly what He’s doing…quite frankly kids seem to throw up waaaay more than they did in the 80s and 90s and I quite like my independence. I also like sleep and to eat my tea while it’s still hot.

So let’s stop putting the pressure and the judgement on people who haven’t got the miracle they hoped for. Let’s be real and recognise when life sucks, and when we’ve had the chance to rage and cry about it…find out the good that can be brought out of that crappy situation.

And if we do get a miracle…let’s be humble and remember it likely had nothing to do with us. Be grateful, and sensitive to others who didn’t get theirs.

x

The one where a brother visits…

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So clearly, a big massive blogging fail this week! APOLOGIES! But I have some good excuses and one is pictured here. That is the rare sighting of a sibling people. A sibling in the same place as I am. I came home from work on Sunday evening to find out that Brother 2 was coming down. Yes, I already had a huge list of things planned for my two days off this week (like choosing and purchasing new glasses, getting organised for International Women’s Day, writing blog posts etc) but suffice to say that when I returned home from a meeting and Monday’s errands to find my brother on the sofa the rest of my to-do list got benched.

Especially when Brother 2 asked if we could go to the Zoo today. People…you know I love the Zoo. You know I love opportunities to keep learning how to use the fancy camera. How could I say no? And I’m so glad we went, because for the first time in YEARS I managed to get some photos of the otters. Genuinely, I got so excited my Mum gave me the eyeroll. She doesn’t understand the frustration of the otters hiding from your every visit for years on end.

So here we are, it’s 10 p.m. the night before I start my work week (and tomorrow is also International Women’s Day) and I’ve still to put together my inspiring woman story to share, I’ve not blogged at The Girlguiding Life or done a quote of the week, I’ve not purchased any glasses and I’ve not looked at stuff for Surf Camp.

I do however have some aching legs and a memory card full of photos to upload and edit.

I also can’t wait to share what the meeting was about. I’ve been in talks for months with a friend of a friend who I connected with through twitter (yay for Twitter!) and the time has come to put an idea I’ve held onto for years and actually attempt to make it a reality. I’m nervous, because the fear of failure is strong – too often it paralyses me into inaction. If you are in East Central Scotland, I really, really hope you’re going to like what it is and get behind it to share it with your pals.

 I feel like I’m missing so many friends this week, so please leave a comment and tell me how your week has been. Is there anything I can pop into my jar of gratitude, or be praying for? Let me know, I love hearing from you Koala Tree followers. 🙂

The one where I leave you with a sunset…

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It’s been quite the week. A lot of stuff has been happening, but I am so thankful for two days off in a row this week so that I’ve begun (but not completed) a ton of stuff that has been on my to-do list. Like seeing my lovely friend Kathy and her awesome sons – we had a lovely afternoon making the biggest road we could, fighting fires caused by a dragon and watching Paw Patrol while eating hot cross buns. Oh, and discussing our friend Emily’s book launch which happens next week at Waterstone’s West End store. I’ll be stuck at work, but if you can you should go! I’ve been to Emily’s book launches before, and they are so good I vowed never to attempt to get any picturebook ideas I’ve tried to write published because I never thought about the book launch part. Seriously…Emily’s are awesome.

A lot of friends are going through crummy things at the moment and that is really hard to watch. I *may* have had a temper tantrum to God about it on Sunday night.

I’m sad that a laptop failure kept me indoors today because for first time ages there was sunshine and I really wanted to go to the Zoo or just go somewhere outside with my camera. I did however, make pancakes, track down some Girlguiding receipts, upload a ton of photos of Guiding stuff from the last couple of weeks and I’m going to see Hidden Figures tomorrow. And I’ve ordered my Our Shared Shelf book for April since the last few I’ve not been able to get copies of as they’ve been out of stock everywhere.

Let’s not go into what I didn’t manage to accomplish. 🙂

Anyway, I leave you with a Leith sunset and perhaps I’ll find a quote of the week before the week is over too.