Here I am with my new friend, The Giant Oak. On my latest outing into the countryside, I decided to follow a canal into the woods near me, while sporting my new Alternative Apparel sweatshirt*. I'm so glad I took it with me - the light rain and wind stood no chance against its soft, snuggly warmth.

It's quite jarring to spend a day in nature after a week of time behind a screen, but I really love that - it reminds you that you're alive, and all the wild plants interweaving with one another enrich your senses. It's funny really - on reflection, I now really appreciate the floral pattern on the jumper, even if it's not quite my style. It reminds you of its natural composition, and I'm happy to say that Alternative Apparel specialises in organic basics, with 70% of its line now being credited as sustainable. On top of that, Alternative Apparel hold a great relationship with their alpaca wool suppliers in Peru - you can watch more about that here.

For the sweatshirt itself - as a size 8, I've got to say that this runs large. Very large. In the photos, I've actually tucked a fold of fabric behind my back so as not to look like a clown, so I'd definitely say a small would equate to a UK size 12. If I were to purchase another sweatshirt, I'd definitely go for an XS. That being said, I wear it almost every night before bed, as it's so snuggly and comfy as it is. You'll also note that I've cracked out my vegan leather hiking boots, which are proving so handy on weekend walks!

On the Alternative Apparel site, you may have noticed that they don't sell directly to the UK, but they are working with selected UK stockists, so watch out for that! Special pieces like this floral pullover will be making an appearance there.
As you can tell from the photo, it's been a very foodie month. Surprising really, seeing as my lifestyle habits have been uprooted from the usual student summer to working 9-5 every day! I'm still finding my way in terms of healthy quick breakfasts, transportable lunches, and filling dinners without too much preparation, but I'm hoping to find new and exciting ways of doing all three, while still being mindful.

As for the month of August - it's been transformative! I've gone from living leisurely to working hard, and I'm still adjusting to everything, but enjoying it. A new home close to London means I'll be searching out all those delicious vegetarian cafés and wholefood stores, but I'm just enough outside of the city to indulge in countryside activities too - a few of which will be popping up in the next week or so!

Here are my favourite posts from the last month (from top left to bottom right):

These definitely come in at number one - I've not really tried eating strawberries for breakfast except in mixed berry smoothies, so this was a real discovery. Strawberries and oats go amazingly together! I'm definitely making this again - the jar also lends itself to an easily transportable breakfast for work.

The lovely Sienna from Happy Healthy Dream featured her amazing-looking raw chocolate and walnut bark recipe on my blog - thank you Sienna! I've been a big fan of raw chocolate for a while now, and while I wish it was more readily available, Sienna's recipe proves that there is no reason why you can't make it for yourself at home!

This post makes my favourites as a sad farewell to the summer - England, why do we have this problem every year? Either way, these lollies brightened up a whole week of August for me, as they're a healthy and sweet treat no matter the weather.

This has been my lifesaver while moving house - super easy to make, and using mainly store-cupboard ingredients rather than fridge, it's kept me pepped up while I settle in.

This was a big hit with you lot! Since first trying Nairn's Oatcakes, I've been a fan and I now stock up my office drawer with them as a nice filling snack with a cup of tea. If you've got more time, however, you may want to try out some of the topping ideas I've showcased here!

Finally, my saviour after long days - this white tea from Higher Living is sweet without needing sugar, and provides a smaller caffeine kick compared to green or black tea. Great as a pre-bedtime cuppa.
25 harmful beauty ingredients to avoid
Natural beauty is quite a hard thing to define - even skipping from site to site, you'll find different parameters. I took it upon myself to find out just exactly why certain ingredients are often avoided, so you can make your own mind up about each.

Before reading through the list, make sure you always listen to your body and your skin, and ensure anything you eat, or wear, is considered safe above everything else. After all of my research, I have learnt to avoid using blanket terms - "sulphates" are any kind of chemical compound reacted with sulphur, some being poisonous, others harmless. The amount an ingredient is used also affects where it sits between harmful and harmless. Furthermore, natural products can still be harmful - you wouldn't rub lemon juice in your eyes, would you? Be conscious in your decisions, listen to your body, and read up on any ingredients you're unsure about.

  • The word "natural" is not regulated on packaging/marketing for beauty products
  • Certified cruelty-free products can still contain animal-derived ingredients
  • Vegan is not a synonym for natural, nor cruelty-free
  • Certain ingredients might be great for one person, but terrible for another
  • Always, always, always, check the ingredient list
  • If you're still unsure, refer to EWG's Skin Deep database before purchase

(Ammonium lauryl sulphate, sodium laureth sulphate, sodium lauryl sulphate) These are used to enhance frothing and foaming of beauty products. They are degreasants, removing the natural oil of skin.

This metal has been linked to health problems, although it is not proven. Often found in deodorants and/or antiperspirants, it could pose more of a problem in this application as underarms absorb liquid into the bloodstream very effectively. Natural alternatives are available - read more here.

Obviously bee by-products aren't vegan, but the ingredients aren't created equally either. Honey, beeswax, and propolis do not cause any harm to the insects when collected, but bee venom and royal jelly can do - avoid these if you care for the bees!

Carmine is a very popular colourant in beauty products, but it is derived by crushing or boiling female cochineal beetles.

(Diethanolamine, monoethanolamine, triethanolamine) Synthetic ingredients that have all been linked (but again, not proven) to cause health problems.

This comes directly from emus, thus is not vegetarian, and a by-product of the emu meat industry. It is also completely unregulated.

(Also listed as cormalin, formic aldehyde, methanal, methyl aldehyde, oxymethane) Often found in nail polish, it is a known carcinogen.

(Also listed as perfume, parfum) Fragrance is often listed in ingredients, and while some brands insist it is not synthetic, such as Lush, it does make finding wholly natural products difficult. Avoid if you're unsure.

(Also glycerol) Used to prevent changes in cosmetics when exposed to high heat or cold conditions. In large quantities, these can cause liver and kidney problems, but they are used in minute amounts in cosmetics.

Made from hair cells, it is derived from various animal sources thus not vegan.

Lanolin is an oil that is extracted from animal wool, thus not harming or endangering the life of an animal, but it's obviously not vegan.

(Also listed as paraffinum liquidum) While mineral oil is technically a natural oil, it is derived from petroleum. As a long-lasting, cheap alternative to refined plant oils, it's widely-used - baby oil is almost pure mineral oil. It is non-toxic, but it can disrupt the skin's natural processes, causing oiliness or dryness.

(Also listed as sodium palmate, sodium palm kernelate) Palm oil is one of the most cheaply made plant-based oils around, but this is in part due to its intensive agriculture and the reckless deforestation palm oil plantations are causing - find out more here. Avoid, unless stated as sustainably sourced.

Parabens are one of the most popular ingredients in beauty products, as they are highly effective synthetic preservatives. There is still questioning as to whether these are harmful, however many products can now be found without them, with the option of prolonging shelf-life by popping products in the fridge!

There are so many alternate names for petrochemicals, so its worth checking each product's ingredient list separately. Essentially, these are chemicals derived from petrol, just like mineral oil.

Chemicals used in plastics, food packaging, beauty products, and fragrances, they are linked to numerous health conditions, although reasons why are not clear.

Shellac is derived from a resin excreted by female lac beetles, thus is not vegan.

Silk is created by silkworms, and the process of collecting silk kills the worms.

Evidently, it's not vegan, but it's also not regulated, with snails being "stimulated" in different ways to gain the gel.

(As a general rule, look out for ingredients ending in -cone) Silicones cannot be readily absorbed by the skin, meaning it may trap dirt, sebum, and bacteria against the skin.

Could be derived from animal urine, thus not vegan. Nowadays, urea is actually synthetic.

While I've tried to make a quick guide, there are a number of really resourceful blogs that can give you a much more in-depth explanation and list of products to avoid. Try checking out these posts on All Natural AspirationsNaturia Beauty, and Sugarpuffish, as well as following all the other blogs listed under Cruelty-Free/Green Beauty in the Top 100+ UK Healthy Living Bloggers list to stay informed!

Finally - remember that any list of harmful ingredients to avoid can never be exhaustive, nor catered to you personally. Check the ingredients, and mindfully gauge your skin's reaction every time you try something new.

Sources:  -  The Guardian  -  The Huffington Post  -  Innovateus  -  Lush  -  Prevention  -  Suma  -  WikiHow

Just before bed last night, I decided to put together this jar of overnight oats using the last of my strawberries, as well as a few foraged blackberries from my last walk out in the countryside. Foraging, while feeling like a foreign concept, is pretty much the perfect way to get food - produce is in season, local, organic, and free to pick (so long as you only take a small percentage of the food available on each plant, and never dig up roots).

I'm going to cover more of my forays into foraging while the summer still permits it (and may even make a video!), but for now, it's onto the eating the fruits of my labour! I took this jar to work with me today so I could nibble on the mixture during the morning, and my gosh I don't know why I haven't made this earlier. Strawberries are so delicious for breakfast, and this recipe only requires eight of them to make two or three portions... I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Serves 2-3

8 strawberries
190g oats
2 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp chia seeds
Handful of raisins
1 tbsp agave syrup
160ml plant-based milk
Handful of blackberries

  1. In a bowl or jar, pour in half of your oats
  2. For the strawberries, if displaying in a jar, you could press a few slices against the sides, or dice all of them and put on top of the oats already in the jar
  3. Add the flaxseed meal, ground almonds, chia seeds, raisins, and agave syrup
  4. Mix together thoroughly
  5. Add the rest of your oats, and the plant-based milk - the mixture should soak most of this on contact, but don't worry if there's liquid floating on top, it will soak in overnight
  6. Sprinkle the blackberries on top, cover, and leave in the fridge overnight
  7. Enjoy in the morning as is, or you could heat the mixture in a pan over a low heat for five to ten minutes

This recipe is an old family favourite, and has been a lifesaver for those moments when I've not had many fresh vegetables in the house to cook with - it's perfect comfort food, if you will. The lentils are a great source of protein, and thicken the soup up so it's satisfyingly filling, while the onion and spices give it a nice kick. I actually ate this for dinner this evening as I'm still settling into my new house and still searching for the best places to purchase my groceries from. I enjoyed topping it with a little tomato purée and smoked paprika this time round, but you can have it as is or with a citrus-y salad too.

Serves 4

400g red lentils
2 medium red onions
5 spaghetti noodle nests
4 cups of boiling water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tbsp black pepper

  1. Dice your red onions, and add to a pan with a spoonful of olive oil
  2. Fry at a medium heat, tossing occasionally. I like to keep a lid on so they sweat
  3. Once translucent, add your lentils and two cups of water, stirring thoroughly
  4. Now add the flavourings - I like mild curry powder and black pepper best
  5. Leave on a low heat and covered for 20 minutes
  6. You should now find your lentils are swollen but have yet to split. Add a third cup of water, and stir again
  7. Leave for another 10 minutes, and return to add another cup of water, stirring once more
  8. In a small bowl, crush your noodle nests into small pieces using your hands
  9. Now stir your pot once again, and add the noodles gradually, until they're all in the mix
  10. Leave for 10 more minutes until the noodles are rehydrated, and now you should find your mix is deliciously thick and smooth
  11. Serve into bowls and enjoy!

You probably know by now just how much I love tea. I love black tea, green tea, white tea... And Pukka's organic tea too! While I love love love their Night Time tea, I'm giving away four new-to-me flavours for one lucky reader to try! Included in the prize are...

A naturally caffeine free tea with a warm and spicy taste

An exotic blend of fair trade ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, black tea, and licorice

A light and zesty detox tea

A sweet, warming and naturally caffeine free tea

To enter the competition, all you have to do is follow me on Twitter using the box below, and live in the UK. You can also optionally do the added extras for more entries! A big thank you goes to Discount Supplements, suppliers of cheap protein powder and health supplements, who also supplied the prize. You can also buy Pukka tea on their website!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Soap may be one of the most boring skincare products to talk about, but it's also one of the most readily used. I'm actually something of a soap addict - I wash my hands, my face, and my body with soap. I even have a shampoo bar for my hair!

This aloe vera soap from Dr Organic is one of my favourites, but I'm wrestling with an ethical problem - its high palm oil content. As I've mentioned in separate reviews, I'm against the use of palm oil in products - whether it be food, cleaning, or beauty - due to its highly unsustainable impact on rainforests. After speaking to the brand via Twitter, they told me that they "source materials from companies who actively support or engage in Fair Trade and sustainability programs wherever possible... this includes palm oil". They also said they will be updating their website with this information, so hopefully this means things will be clearer in the future, although I would love to see some independent certification too.

As for the soap itself, I've not had a bar that is as hydrating as much as it is cleansing, which is its shining aspect. And when applied in the shower using bath mitts, it leaves the skin super soft too. In fact, I've always experienced oilier skin on my body than my face, so washing with this soap has been like a miracle cure!

All in all, despite my initial disappointment at the high palm oil content, the organic vegetable origin, cruelty-free status, and sheer effectiveness of this aloe vera soap means its a bathroom essential for me.
On first glance, you may be wondering why I'm holding up green sweety wrappers... but I'm not! This is nori, a sea vegetable that is regularly associated with Asian cooking, and is touted as a superfood due to its high protein, fibre, and iron content.

A lot like spirulina, which is a sea algae, nori is made from seaweed, and is traditionally found wrapped around sushi (vegetarian or not!). It can now also be found as a toasted snack, in the form of Clearspring's Seaveg Crispies*, which are the perfect nutritious addition to salads, or you could even eat them on their own like crisps. As it is a vegetable in its own right, nori is plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free.

However, for me, there is a little drawback. While I'm a big fan of the health benefits of spirulina, I can't say I'm a fan of the taste, and unfortunately the same goes for nori. Its strong ocean salty flavour is quite an acquired taste, but I wanted to showcase its great properties on Curiously Conscious in case anyone wanted to try it or know more - healthy alternatives to crisps always have my full support! This snack has the same crunchy texture, but melts in the mouth slightly too, and has that savoury kick that we're so acutely trained to crave.
I've moved house! Yippee! It's taken two weeks to really sort it all out, but I'm finally here, unboxed and ready to start my new job on Monday. Last week, while I was packing away my assortment of foodstuffs, I realised I wouldn't have enough time to eat eight apricots before my move, so decided to put them to good use - and this is the result!

The secret to plant-based smoothies, smoothie bowls, and ice creams, is always to have some form of thick base. Normally, it's banana or avocado, but the apricots did well by themselves to hold together and make these lovely lollies.

Serves 8

8 small, ripe apricots
Handful of frozen berries
Splash of coconut water

  1. Slice your apricots into quarters, and pop in the blender
  2. Add a splash of coconut water (up to 20ml should do it) and blend until thick and smooth
  3. Pour into moulds
  4. Drop a few berries into each mould, mixing around a little
  5. Now freeze for at least eight hours (I froze mine overnight)
  6. Finally, when attempting to eat, leave to melt a little so they come away from the mould in one piece!
If you're the snacky sort, you'll probably wonder if your sweet or savoury cravings fit under a mindful eating ethos. I've got to admit, I love a good snack or two during the day, and so long as they're of their healthy variety, why would you ever deprive yourself? Happiness plays a big part in a conscious lifestyle, and it's much better to enjoy a healthy outlook on life than a restricted one!

These are my most recent snacking favourite: Nairn's Super Seeded Organic Oatcakes*. While I was sent a few packets to try, Nairn's Oatcakes were already a kitchen cupboard favourite, usually for nighttime treats with almond butter, seeds, and dried fruit. Well, it seems that I was on to something, as Nairn's are now rolling out a "super seeded" version of oatcakes, combining flax, chia, and sunflower seeds to up the protein content in their filling, vegan crackers. While they are a little more fragile than their seedless brothers, they're super moreish, and guilt-free too!

I do think it'd be a little too cheeky to suggest this is a recipe, but I have to say these three toppings are my absolute favourites at the moment - and all are plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, dairy- and gluten-free! The top-left is peanut butter with dry-fried pumpkin seeds (that means no oil when frying); top-right is pesto with sliced tomato, and pine nuts; and bottom-left is puréed tomatoes with spinach and chickpeas. A mix of tastes and textures really makes these snacks much more enjoyable than anything I could grab out of a bag, and I can make as many as I want!

Alongside Sienna of Happy Healthy Dream's raw chocolate and walnut bark recipe, you can now find my apple and cinnamon overnight oats recipe on her blog! Click here to view the recipe, and a little interview I did with her.

I had a great time in Cambridge last weekend, and thought I'd share the highlights with you! Eating well while travelling or on holiday is often difficult to do, but with a little research I headed to both a juice bar in the form of Bridges Café, made myself a pick 'n' mix salad, and also headed over to the highest rated vegetarian restaurant in the city, Rainbow Café. However, even with all that prep, plans don't always work out: the Rainbow Café was closed! Instead, I visited a popular restaurant chain for a veggie option instead (not quite as healthy, but a good second option while in an unfamiliar place).

On top of that, I did a little sightseeing, and spent a long afternoon in the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, which is a beautiful and quiet spot to visit if you ever go to the city. The greenhouses were amazing! Tickets cost £5 per adult, and they are completely worth it - I learnt a lot about plant families, and am now inspired to create a little herb garden of my own when I'm all settled in my new flat after moving house next week.

While you will see a few disposable plastic pieces in the video, I do usually bring a bottle to have filled, as well as my trusty tote bags. I hope I can purchase a metal lunch box or two in the future too!

Finally, my recipe for apple and cinnamon overnight oats featured at the start of the video is now live on Happy Healthy Dream blog - have you checked out Sienna's respective recipe she created for Curiously Conscious yet?
Doesn't this raw chocolate bark look divine? I'm yet to create some myself, but the lovely Sienna from Happy Healthy Dream got in touch with me to see if she could share her recipe on Curiously Conscious, and of course, I said yes! She creates some really tasty recipes, alongside green beauty reviews, health tips, and more, so I'm very happy to be sharing her raw chocolate creation with you today. Here's what you need to know about Sienna:

What made you start blogging about healthy and/or green living?
I started blogging about healthy living as I had been living the lifestyle for about 2 years and realised that I wanted to help get the message out there. I was working as an events planner and one day just decided that I couldn’t do another normal job and that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. So I decided to start a blog to help people find a healthier, happier them but without feeling like they are missing out.

What type of food do you personally eat, and why?
I am vegan/plant-based/refined sugar free and low gluten: I started eating this way because of a food intolerance and then it slowly become part of my life. I now also believe in this lifestyle as it’s much less harmful to animals as well as being healthier for us.

What else do you enjoy getting up to when not blogging?
I love yoga, I am actually training to become a yoga instructor and will be qualified in October. I also love to travel, shop and read.

1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp cacao powder
2 tsp rice syrup or maple syrup
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp crushed walnuts
  1. In a bowl slowly melt the coconut oil
  2. Once the coconut oil has completely melted add the cacao powder and stir until you have no lumps
  3. Add the sweetener and water and stir once again
  4. Lay a large piece of baking paper out and pour the mixture out on to the paper
  5. Sprinkle the crushed walnuts over the chocolate mixture and pop into the fridge for 30 minutes
  6. Once the chocolate has set you can break it up into large chunks and enjoy

You can also find Sienna on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
You've probably heard of green tea, you've definitely heard of black tea, but do you know what white tea is?

While it looks pretty much the same as green tea when steeped in water, white tea is said to come from young buds, before they have had time to mature into green leaves (green tea is picked before it is mature too, preventing the oxidisation process). Its name comes from the fine white hairs on the young tea leaf buds, but it is undistinguishable from green tea after drying and processing.

I've recently been indulging on Organic White Tea Strawberry from Higher Living*, and it led me to wonder what the health benefits are of white tea. Now we know that it's made using younger leaves, could it be better than green tea in terms of nutrition?

What I've found is that white tea has notedly high levels of vitamin C, along with antioxidants, which helps the body to slow the ageing process somewhat. It also has antibacterial properties, and is higher in certain polyphenols than green tea, making it slightly more effective at preventing conditions leading up to cancer.

It's also worth noting that white tea has less caffeine in than green tea, making it the perfect drink in the evening. And with the light strawberry twist added to Higher Living's tea bags, it's so nice on a warm summer's evening!

In terms of living sustainably, it would be nice to see Higher Living produce loose leaf versions of this tea too - I'll let you know if they ever create some! Have you tried white tea?

Sources: Live Strong  -  Organic Facts

When transferring to natural, cruelty-free skincare, deodorant is one of the most important changes you can make. The ingredients applied to your skin are readily absorbed into the bloodstream, and this is especially true of the armpits, with many more open pores.

I've been experimenting with natural deodorants for a while now, and I've found that it's actually pretty hard to find one that emulates the standard spray or roll-on! While there are many that are aluminium-free, I prefer wholly natural products, i.e. those containing essential oils, with the majority of ingredients easily traceable to plants, and non-toxic naturally-occurring ingredients (this is my general meaning when I call something natural).

This is why I'm a fan of AA Skincare's Bergamot & Aloe natural deodorant* - it's the first that I've come across that operates as a standard roll-on would and is effective. It has a lovely light fragrance, dries quickly, and moisturises my sensitive underarms as well (goodbye nasty shaving burns). The ingredients list is chock-full of essential oils (AA Skincare being a part of Amphora Aromatics, which specialises in aromatherapy) and it's priced competitively too, at £4.94.

I think an important precursor to choosing natural deodorants is to understand the difference between deodorants and anti-perspirants - any natural product is going to leave you smelling nice, but will not stop you from sweating (which seems so horribly unnatural when you think about it). This is the same thing for AA Skincare's range, but I would urge you to make the commitment to natural deodorant over any other skincare product to be honest. If you're going to sweat, it's because you need to - I never wear any underarm protection when going to the gym, for example.

Plus, when addressing the cruelty-free side of things, AA Skincare assures me that "none of the ingredients we use in our products or the products themselves are ever tested on animals". Great stuff, although I would love to see some independent certification in the near future.

Finally - while I love this deo, I'm not sure I would revert from my alum crystal deodorant stone in the long-run. AA Skincare's natural deodorant is the perfect middle-ground between generic deodorants, and hardcore natural crystal stones, so if you're looking for something that's going to be quick and easy to apply (rather than needing a little water to activate), and smells lovely (rather than salty), this is the best option. Right now, I'm alternating between the two - especially when I need to rush out the house in the morning!

Hello August! Let the delicious fruits continue! Here's what's in season in the British Isles this month, so that you can get the most delicious and nutritious fresh foods.

  • Apricot
  • Banana
  • Bilberry
  • Blackberry
  • Blackcurrant
  • Blueberry
  • Cherry
  • Damson
  • Fig
  • Gooseberry
  • Grape
  • Greengage
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Loganberry
  • Medlar
  • Melon
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate
  • Raspberry
  • Redcurrant
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberry
  • Watermelon
  • Whitecurrant
  • Wild strawberry

  • Artichoke
  • Aubergine
  • Beetroot
  • Broad bean
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Cavolo nero
  • Celery
  • Chilli
  • Courgette
  • Courgette flower
  • Cress
  • Cucumber
  • Fennel bulb
  • French beans
  • Garlic
  • Globe artichoke
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lambs lettuce
  • Lettuce
  • Mangetout
  • Marrow
  • Mushroom
  • Onion
  • Pak choi
  • Peas
  • Pepper
  • Potato
  • Radicchio
  • Radish
  • Rocket
  • Runner bean
  • Samphire
  • Spinach
  • Spring greens
  • Spring onion
  • Squash
  • Sweetcorn
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Watercress
  • Wild nettle

  • None that I'm aware of!

  • Angelica
  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Borage
  • Chamomile
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic chives
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Lovage
  • Majoram
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Sorrel
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme