Lists, Unlikely mum makes

Father’s Day Gifts for Lockdown

Last year for Father’s Day I was looking for things my toddler (not quite 2 at the time) could help make, or be a part of. It turns out that some of those Homemade Father’s Day Gifts for Kids actually go quite well in lockdown. So for anyone struggling for a gift idea this year, whether it’s because you can’t get the gift or experience you would like to give, or you (or your kids) can’t see your father or grandad due to lockdown, I’ve come up with a few ideas that you should be able to recreate.

fathers-day-breakfast-in-bedBreakfast in bed
It’s a simple classic that might be more welcome than usual under the current circumstances. If your kids are old enough, they can obviously do the making, while I’ve found that younger children like our 2 year old are very good at carrying plates and helping deliver the breakfast. No matter what the breakfast preference is, hot or cold, vegan or full-English, this allows you to practise kitchen skills with your little one while giving dad a long lie and some time to himself – a rarity in quarantine!

Movie night hamper
So you cant go to the cinema or for a day out for fathers day but that doesn’t mean you cant bring the cinema to you. Why not fill a hamper (or decorate and fill a cardboard box) with great movie night treats. Some recent movies have already been released on DVD so you could include those, or a family/dad favourite. Top up with popcorn, snacks and drinks and all that’s left to do is turn out the lights for an at-home cinema experience.

fathers-day-painted-stonesGardeners gift – painted stones
If the dad or grandfather in question is a bit of a green fingers and takes pride in his garden, then some painted stones are a nice personal touch. All you need to do is collect some large stones from the nearest park or beach (don’t travel too far just for stones!) and let your kids paint them how they fancy, whether its a rainbow, spots or maybe a frog or something else befitting for their garden. For an extra special touch, why not match the theme of the garden for an ideal fathers day garden gift? They can be used as ornaments, plant markers or even a doorstop for the shed.

The gift of chores
What better fathers day gift to give than the gift of chores? Your little ones can help out around the house, doing daddy’s usual chores if feasible – a 2 year old may not be able to operate a lawnmower but they can help with the dishes! Why not make the gift last longer with the promise of doing the chorea for a whole week? If you’re thinking of a grandad, there’s a promise to help when you are able to see them again, or there’s the prospect of doing some gardening or car washing if able to maintain social distancing!

fathers-day-ticket-giftSports fan gift – ticket to a match
If your dad or grandad is football mad, or can’t get enough of the rugby, why not give them a coupon which promises to buy a ticket to a live match when live sports (and spectators!) are allowed again. An alternative is always to give sports merchandise in lieu of a game – nobody can ever have too many mugs, especially of their favourite team/player, in my opinion!

The gift of solace
This one is quite important in lockdown, as peace and quiet can be hard to come by when family is always around. Mums are given a lot of encouragement to practice self-care and to carve out ‘me-time’ but it’s just as important for dads. Why not give the gift of solace and ensure the kids (and mum and anyone else!) are out of the house for a couple of hours, giving dad a little bit of time to himself. Whether he chooses to have a nap, a bath, play PlayStation, or finally get round to that thing he was meaning to do, the choice is entirely his. There’s a lot to be said for some quiet time to gather your thoughts and having space to enjoy things to yourself.

Postable gifts

If your child won’t be able to see their dad on Father’s Day for whatever reason, but still want to make sure their father receives a gift then why not create something that will fit in the letterbox, and let the postman brighten their day? This is especially applicable to grandads whom most kids probably don’t live with or won’t have seen for weeks already.

Handmade cards
It’s cheap and cheerful but it contains all the love and thought and effort (and mess!) from your child. Your only limitation here is the contents of your craft drawer. Whether it’s a beautifully hand-drawn card, stencilled, coloured with crayon, paint or felt-tip, additions of glitter, pipe-cleaners or cotton wool, the handmade touch is sure to bring a smile to your dad or grandad.

Photo frame
If you’re like me and still keep an old-school collection of printed photographs around then why not create a lovely photo frame with your favourite picture of you and your dad or grandfather? Or why not let your child choose their favourite photo, or a cute group photo of your kids to send to their fathers or papas? The photo frame part is simple – either use a spare one you have in the house (Ikea multipacks sometimes come in handy!) or get creative with your kids and a cardboard box. We’ve all got so much more cardboard now the recycling hasn’t been collected in weeks, we might as well make use of it!

Tokens and coupons
I touched on this last year in my homemade father’s day gifts post, but it’s an easy and post-friendly option. If grandad loves sport, get him a coupon to watch a match at a later date. For a bonus create a whole book of coupons to be redeemed post-lockdown. Some great ideas include tokens for different chores, favourite meals or snacks, tokens for trips and adventures, “ask gran/ask mum” tokens and so on.

Lists, mum life

Becoming more eco-friendly in lockdown

I’m never sure what the latest buzzword is when talking about being kinder to the planet – reducing my carbon footprint? Yes, I’m certainly trying to do that. Net zero carbon – feels like a made up BoJo phrase. Environmentally-friendly is good but a bit old-school, not to mention a pain to spell, so I’ve settled for eco-friendly.

Whatever the appropriate term, I’m trying to become more conscious of my (and my family’s) consumption and waste during lockdown. I know that makes it sound like I’m on poo-watch (only for the toddler) but I’m really taking a more general overview of our whole lives and boy, are we bad to the planet without even realising!

Here’s how I’m trying to combat that by making small, eco-friendly changes to our day to day lives.
(Any products mentioned are purely my opinion – I haven’t been paid or incentivised to use anything)

Personal care

It really irks me that a lot of the beauty world care about creating products that are made naturally, with no animal products or testing, yet they are put into non-recyclable bottles, containers and packaging. I’m also aware that over the years I’ve been conditioned to believe I need stuff I don’t, and that the things I’ve been told are good for me, like a specific shampoo and conditioner set or aerosol deodorant, aren’t particularly good for the environment.

Shampoo/Conditioner – I tried some shampoo and conditioner bars from a local ethical food shop, Made Guid, which focuses on sustainable, low carbon products and local makers. However, this particular kind didn’t work well for me at all – I have long thick hair and I was there for half the day trying to get the bar through my hair, and it still never felt particularly clean after. But I will persevere and try and find another brand whilst still on lockdown – so nobody can see any greasy or frizzy side effects!

Native-unearthed-deoderant-balm-glass-jarDeodorant – I already wrote a review about Native Unearthed Activated Charcoal deodorant balm, which I absolutely loved. It was a surprise tester product I received in a Birchbox months ago but I will be looking to purchase it again from another store or find a similar alternative locally.

Skincare – There have been horror stories about face wipes for years, but the fact they are convenient meant I usually kept a pack lying around the house. However, since using Liz Earle hot cloth polish for over a year, I’ve never felt the need to use wipes. The cloths are reusable, machine washable and lift off even the most stubborn makeup. The cleanser is brilliant and I’ve noticed much less breakouts since using. Plus I bought a big tube last autumn and I’m still using it daily – value and less packaging!

Kiddycare – I won’t lie, my child is still in disposable nappies which I know is a massive problem in terms of landfill and the fact they aren’t biodegradable. We are trying our damndest to potty train, but he’s not having it yet. I can’t conceive using cloth nappies because I think it’s more than my washing machine or household plumbing system could take rinsing poo into, but maybe they could make nappies that are more biodegradable?

We’ve also switched from using sponges to flannels to wash, again from the reusable/washable point and we try to stick to products in recycled packaging, not giving into demands for overly-plastic cartoon-looking bubble baths and the like.

Next steps – moving onto things like bamboo toothbrushes (we can do it!), hairbrushes etc and more natural body care products which can be refilled or use less packaging. I already have bamboo makeup brushes so we’re making progress! Plus find that ideal shampoo bar for my hair.


Less meat consumption – All the vegans out there will probably be outraged at the amount of meat we eat as a family. However, since the start of the year, we’ve been trying to change mindsets and attitudes. Having said that, it’s only really filtered to us parents for the moment as I want my child to be able to experience lots of different foods and nutrients and let him decide what he does and doesn’t like. I’m sure many toddler parents will attest to tantrums over food, and so taking away things he likes right now just feels like an unnecessary battle to us. Whilst he eats sausages (if he could have them for every meal, he would), we have been trying to eat one veggie and one vegan meal a week. Admittedly, this has become much harder in lockdown, with many of our regular foods suddenly not in stock (pasta-gate anyone?) but we are still trying nonetheless. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a place of complete veggie or vegan diet but we are also conscious to ensure the meat we do eat is Scottish, and locally produced where possible.

strawberry-sustainable-food-lockdownSustainable food – This was previously a buzzword I used consistently for a catering client in a past life, but actually I’m focusing on caring more about where our food comes from and what it contributes in terms of carbon footprint, local economy and of course, health. Part of this is making changes such as using the local butcher for meat (easier in lockdown as I can walk to the shop in 2 minutes) and checking the origins of my food in the supermarket. Why buy raspberries from Spain when there’s a plentiful amount grown in Scotland? And do you really need a mango that’s travelled halfway around the world when there’s perfectly good fruit grown locally?

Additionally, by buying local from butchers, fishmongers (ew, maybe you, but not I!), bakers or greengrocers, we are contributing to the local economy (more buzzwords!) and more importantly, local people who’s livelihoods have no doubt been affected by coronavirus.

Food packaging – This has been a bugbear of mine for a while – why do you need to put something frozen, which is already sealed in a cardboard box, inside a plastic wrapper too? Some things are happily frozen in the cardboard without the plastic and that seems fine, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Also, things that come in foil trays or plastic tubs – with card sleeves over the top? Or mostly anything for kids – multipack cartons of juice wrapped in never-ending plastic for instance.

I’ve long since abandoned the little poly bags for loose fruit and veg and can safely say they taste no different having journeyed bareback in the trolley. And of course I use bags for life or reuse plastic ones from the ever-growing bag cupboard. Now I’m taking the next steps of consciously not buying heavily and unnecessarily wrapped products. Those little multipacks of fruit shoot? No thanks, diluting juice only (Travis may hate me but thems the breaks!). Plastic inside cardboard? You’re not clogging up my bin thanks!

Any packaging in fact
So anyone living in the UK will probably agree that it’s been surprising to see how much packaging – even recyclable stuff – we encounter on a weekly basis. The council have stopped collecting recycling bins, but I’ve still been filling my blue bin (lol, filled it weeks ago rather) and have been keeping the dry recycling in my house until the bins are collected again. The problem is, it’s made me see how much excess packaging there actually is. With everybody ordering online at the moment, everything comes with extra bubble wrap, plastic outers, and boxes within boxes (probably just Amazon) which are wholly unnecessary.

Next steps – I’m on a mission to reduce our packaging, and if that’s not possible then at least reuse or repurpose what we have. While we’re in lockdown we may as well attempt a few Blue Peter projects with all the boxes and loo rolls and egg cartons lying around. Or I may start using the boxes to pack away old things we don’t use very often, ever in the hope we may be able to move house once lockdown is over!


Tools – I bought a bamboo brush for the house a couple of months ago and I’ve found that it’s a pretty good, sturdy brush. Not like the cheap ones you get (even though it only cost me a fiver!). It’s also meant that I’m hoovering the kitchen/hall/other laminate floors less often which is a win in terms of electricity usage.

Products – I’ve made the conscious decision to buy less (and eventually no) disinfectant wipes. Admittedly this has been nudged along thanks to panic buying at the beginning of lockdown. I had been a massive fan of Flash Wipes for cleaning the toilet in particular (who wants to reuse a cloth full of the whole house’s pee?) but obviously this is terrible in terms of environment. So for the greater good I’ve got myself a ‘toilet cloth’ which shall be used, cleaned and reused for only the aforementioned.

I have also resisted “Hinching” because although I love a good hack as much as the next person, I don’t believe in needing 40 different cleaning products when just 4 will do. I’m not into the mass consumerism of cleaning and sometimes the old ways just are the best. Vinegar and water is fine to clean my windows with and one disinfectant spray can disinfect every room. I’m not a Mrs Hinch basher – I love Zoflora too, and think it’s a fantastic multi-purpose product but I don’t need 5 other things if I have that.

Next steps – I really want to try a laundry egg as I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. Plus from what I can tell, they save you money as well as the environment, so it’s a double winner.


Mum's finds, Reviews

Native Unearthed charcoal deodorant balm review

During lockdown I’ve taken some time to start using a number of products I’d previously received in Birchboxes, partly down to the guilt of not using them and partly to ensure I’m using what I have before I embark on the laborious journey to the shops for what I might already have in a cupboard.

One thing I was really eager to try was Naturally Active’s charcoal deoderant balm. As part of living a more conscious life (something I’ve been trying to do since Travis was born, but ultimately life gets in the way a bit!) I’ve been trying to use products which have less of an impact on the environment. This has admittedly been a bit hit and miss with other things like shampoo bars, so I didn’t really want to try a different deoderant unless I wasn’t really going anywhere and bumping into anyone in case I was a bit smelly or worse, actually sweated on them! In that sense, lockdown has done me a favour enabling me to try an alternative deodorant without offending anyone’s nose.

Worth mentioning at this point that this review is completely my own experience and nobody has paid me or incentivised me to write this.

Native-unearthed-deoderant-balm-glass-jarWhat’s it like?
I have to admit, I’ve always been unsure about balms, ever since the early 2000’s fads of perfume balms and sticks (are they still a thing?) but the actual environment is more important than my feelings towards a certain texture of product so I power through. There’s not really a smell off it so my first worry was how well it would end up protecting against bodily odours. I’d say it was more of a paste than a balm, in that you don’t exactly rub it on directly like lip balm, but rather scoop some out. At first I wasn’t sure a paste was any better than a balm but it’s surprisingly easy to get used to, as long as you’re careful not to get half the tub stuck in your fingernails.

Apparently activated charcoal can absorb up to 1,000 times its own weight in moisture (a fact I learned from researching Native Unearthed) which is absolutely amazing, and better be true based on the amount I sweat after a light jog/workout. There are a few other scents available, coconut and vanilla or sage and lavender, but since I got this in my Birchbox I didn’t have a say in what balm I ended up with.

How to use it
The advice on the label is to scoop out a pea sized amount and work in your fingers until it becomes a smoother paste, then rub on the desired area. So far so easy. It’s not as quick as a skoosh with an aerosol, but it’s just a few extra seconds. A pea sized amount doesn’t seem much but when it mushes up it’s the ideal size for an armpit!

NB: You can probably use it anywhere you sweat, but I just stuck to the underarms.

Packaging and ingredients
All ingredients are, as you can imagine, natural. Bicarbonate of soda is a key ingredient which helps neutralise any odours, with the active charcoal playing its part here too. The only other ingredients are shea butter, coconut oil, arrow root and lavender essential oils, to keep your skin nourished whilst absorbing any moisture.

The size is just 60ml so it’s not the largest item in your bathroom cabinet, but as a little goes a long way, the Native Unearthed deoderant balm still lasts a fair amount of time. I’ve been using it every day since lockdown began (23rd March) and am only beginning to see the bottom of the jar now, over 6 weeks later. It also comes in a recyclable glass jar, another tick for the environment.

The result
Despite all my uncertainties around this product to begin with, I was really impressed with the end results. Whereas I found myself getting a bit hot and sweaty after a workout, my armpits were either dry, or in the case of more intense workouts, sweaty but not smelly. I found the active charcoal deoderant to be very effective in terms of keeping dry on a daily basis so would definitely recommend something like this for anyone looking to make the change away from aerosol.

Whilst I might not always buy this exact product, I know balms (especially ones with those ingredients) will work well for me.

Where can I get it?
Weirdly, whilst researching, I couldn’t find a website or any direct sales platform from Native Unearthed but it is available from health stores like Holland and Barratt and The Nature Shop. It’s sold out on the Birchbox site, and I think has been for some time. It retails for around £6.99 so dearer than your can of Sure or whatever, but worth it for the environment and the fact it actually protects against odours and excessive sweating, rather than try to simply cover with a more overpowering smell.