We hear soooo much from the big names about "Black Friday", "Cyber Monday", "Black Friday Week" and now "Extended Black Friday Week"...when will it end? I don't know about you, but I deleted all of the emails that chogged up my inbox. I don't participate in it for that very reason, and I'd rather offer great prices all of the time, not hike them so I can supposedly bring them down for a Black Friday Sale (aparrently a lot of companies use that method according to online reports). I'd rather offer sales when they are unexpected to you.
This Saturday however, it's about something I feel much happier about talking about, Small Business Saturday. In this country we have a wealth of small businesses offering amazing products, unusual products, exceptional customer service, advice and help in a way you will never receive from the big names, and they work at that all through the year. How about this Saturday, Sunday and any other time you are shopping, you take a look at these guides. Amex do a deal if you save the offer to your card and shop at a participating small business, and the others offer guides and product/shop lists. Happy shopping.
I've had some lovely messages about the chickens, wondering how they are getting on, so here's a quick update.
In short, they are doing GREAT!
They've got used to the sights and sounds of the outdoors, they've been indulging in dust baths in the sunshine, they've been hit by the rain and learnt it will make them very soggy if they don't go and shelter, they've been let out with the others, they've been chased around a bit, they've moved into Cluckingham Palace and they've even experienced hail (I don't think they liked it any more than I did...ouch!).
Frida proved to be the best at integrating, and I saw her socialising with the old girls very early on, but ironically, she was the only lady still trying to go to bed in the little house, all on her tod! The other 3, including little scared Hilda, got the idea and soon started to head up to my Cluckingham Palace Mansion to bed, electing to sleep in the nesting boxes away from the squawking old girls. I kept having to fling Frida in with them, but she's finally taking herself in there now. Go Frida. Chyna has grasped the morning mealworm breakfast routine very quickly, and waits up the top so she gets her own little pile to munch on. She's also been a pickle, trying to eat my earing, ring and bracelet when I've been cleaning out the chicken house.
So, the old girls have accepted the new girls, they are still sorting out the pecking order, but it's all really harmonious compared to the non-stop clucking and the "who the hell are these?!" looks I was getting at the start. Super-shy-bleeding-and-tiny Hilda is no longer hiding down the bottom, but is out wandering, and her feathers have really come back beautifully. I snapped some photos but she wasn't around, so I'll have to do her later. Here are Frida, Chyna (egg-laying extraordinaire) and Villanelle.
I must also add some of the old chickens as they wanted their piccie taken too, and posed so beautifully.
To start, I'll give you a little back story. My next door neighbours had 13 hens, and then few years ago decided that they would re-home them. We'd never had chickens before, but decided to give it a go with their help, and took 5 of them.
Well, that changed my life! I'd always been a little scared of them, simply as we don't get the chance to be around chickens often, so they were an unknown entity. I soon learned how entertaining they are, how they have such different personalities, how they love a good cuddle and a bath and how lovely their eggie presents are compared to the shops.
Fast forward a year or two, and some of our girls had gone to chicken heaven :( Since then, we've adopted 8 ex-free range hens from the BHWT. It has been interesting as the first 5 we got all came in pretty good condition, just a little pecked from squabbling. The second lot was in a terrible state for free-range, and certainly opened my eyes to the fact that not all farms are the same. I knew at this stage that giving a good retirement to hens would be a big feature of my life, so my next step last year was to build a bigger-than-I-meant-to build chicken house. It's built up high to make it easy for us to clean and give them shelter underneath from the rain and is fully insulated. I used old bits of wood I had, wood donated to me and even old laminate flooring on the inside. It was fun to make :)
I've had a few years on this planet now, and enough to know that I feel passionate that large-scale industrial animal farming is not the right way. Farming is a wonderful thing, and I'm not commenting as I'm a vegan or even a full vegetarian, but I think it's only sensible that we farm with care for the planet and compassion for the animals we are going to consume. Industrial farming has been shown again and again to be having a negative effect on the planet, and it certainly is not the life that the animals should be having. Our second lot of free-range re-homed hens showed me that we are moving in the right direction, but there is work to be done.
We've learnt that our rescue hens have a shorter life than our first ones and our two fancy Poland chickens with afros that we bought back in the day, and we've just been given the chance to house 4 ex-colony birds. This is the new name for battery/caged hens, but they are given a little more of a natural environment in their cages with perches etc.
I jumped at the chance as these are hens in real need of seeing that life can be lovely. We touched back up our old smaller chicken house with its own run, so that they could adjust slowly without having our girls up in their faces with a bit of turf warfare.
The next step, last Saturday, was to go to the collection day and get our new girls. It was, as I expected, the most difficult of the re-homing days. The staff were amazing of course, and it was run with impeccable efficiency. What was difficult, was that there were 4 poorly hens outside of the big pen that the staff had the re-homing girls in. All 4 were wrapped in coats and were in the sun, and it transpired after talking to the staff, that they were suffering from hyperthermia and trauma. These girls were not well, and it broke my heart. Once we got to the holding pen, I could see why. They were scrawny, with barely any feathers and had probably never been outside. They were wondering what the hell was going on and their bodies were in shock. The staff kept them all as calm as they could of course, and it was worth the move from the farm in order for them all to find new homes. They deserve to enjoy a free-range retirement after all their hard work commercially egg laying for their whole lives so far. It was just too much for those poor 4 girls. The staff were going to look after them as they had the experience, and hopefully most of them pulled through with all their TLC.
We packed our 4 girls in our lined crate, and brought them straight home. They were certainly unsure, and were pecking madly at me, but I managed to give them a little bath (they loved it and calmed straight away) and a good dose of vitamins before they moved into their temporary house within our big run. Welcome to the family ladies! We named them Hilda, Frida, China and Villanelle (big Killing Eve fans!).
They have spent the last week in their little house and run, and have settled in so well. Hilda is a little poorly, but she is further forward with her feathers coming back, and it looks incredibly sore. She loves her pet-friendly hot water bottle. Villanelle is living up to her name, and spends her time trying to escape the smaller run when I open the door. She's ready for her freeeeeeedom! She's been out a few times and with her extra confidence will really help the other 3 when they integrate.
I think I will integrate the two most confident this weekend, as Hilda is just not ready, but Villanelle is going stir crazy! Villanelle and probably China will be placed in the main chicken house at night, as this is the best way to have them accepted. The older girls will wake up and see them in their house in the morning, and realise there is very little they can do about it now! Hilda and Frida can then stay in the little house together until Hilda is ready.
If you've ever thought about getting chickens, I totally recommend it! Get a good guide-book and speak to others for advice (me included!). The BHWT has a wealth of information and supplies, and can advise if you are starting with rescue hens. It's a learning curve, but they are so much lovelier than I ever imagined, and will really make you smile.
It is an emotional and personal connection to ourselves. It's fragile but strong, fluid and yet rigid.
It is about how we feel about ourselves, but it's rooted in the word around us. Our confidence in ourselves is like fine threads coming out from us, weaving into other people, through the media and society, through our hopes and desires. These threads change, pull and slacken on us all the time. Sometimes we feel a pull that isnt even there, but it is there, as we feel it. These threads and perceived threads are super important.
The result is confusing. It's love and encouragement, kindness and appreciation, and it's a constant reminder that you that you’re not good enough, pretty/rich/stylish enough.
Self-confidence is not just a female thing either as some believe. It can be equally strong in kids, men and women, but there are a few things you can try to help strengthen your positive threads, whilst cutting off some of those negatively pulling ones. There are some great books and resources out there, but let's look at a few ideas:
1. Take a hard look at the environment around you.
Who do you spend time with? How do they make you feel? Do they bring out your positive side and boost you up or make negstive comments and pull you down? We can't avoid everyone that doesn't make us feel great, as it might be your colleague, your brother, your neighbour etc, but we can sit and think how to minimise the time we have to spend with them and how often we have to see them. That "friend" that makes you feel really low when you've seen them though - just go cut them loose. The people you spend your time with have a huge impact on how you feel about yourself and some people are not good for you, so dont keep them in your life.
2. Show yourself compassion.
When you notice that you are being unkind to yourself in your thoughts or comments, think about what you'd say to someone saying those things to someone you love. Would you think it was fair, would you think they were kind? What what you'd say if a friend was saying those things to themselves? Would you be reassuring and compassionate? Of course you would. You'd give them a cuddle, you'd remind them how lovely they are, you would tell them how wrong they've got it with the negative things they are saying about themselves. You'd remind them that they need to be compassionate to themselves, and that's what you need to remember to do for yourself.
Maybe write to yourself when you are feeling great. Just write down all the things you want to tell yourself when you are feeling too low to remember what you want to say. Find your self-kindess and nurture it.
3. Read positive stuff.
If seeing pictures of other people makes you feel bad about yourself, stop looking. Don't buy magazines, don't surf online, don't follow those people on Instagram. Find people who inspire you, remind you of the beauty in people and yourself, and make you feel more confident in the areas your confidence is lacking.
4. Make changes.
If you have areas of your life you don't feel too confident about, can you change it? Have a brainstorm to see if there is anything you can do. Do you lack confidence when driving? Get a driving instructor again to help sharpen up those skills. Do you feel self-conscious when dancing out with your friends? Get music on whenever you can at home and get those moves going. The more you do it, the more confident you will feel when out.
You can work out what you could change, usually the things that most frighten you. You can take little nibbles out of them, building up your confidence slowly, or just go for it.
Whatever you do, remember life is super short. Compared to the life of our beautiful Earth, our human lives are the equivalent of half a second. You can choose to spend that half a second bring kind to yourself and nuturing your self-love.
"Gender medicine is not feminist. It's about real science...later the patient will reap the benefit"Dr Alyson McGregor, Brown University.
As someone who relies on medication to keep my health conditions under control (Lupus) this is a topic that I'm very interested and it catches my eye if I see it in a magazine/paper. I also run a business that caters for women, as well as women with specific health needs such as having had a mastectomy, and issues around gender with women transitioning from a male body to a female one. Health, medication and gender are around me in my professional and personal life every day.
My Dad subscribes to the BBC magazine "Science Focus" (formally just BBC Focus) and an article in there recently about gender and medicine was fascinating. If you'd like to read it, I can scan and send you a copy, but to summarise the writer Simon Crompton wrote:
Only in the past decade has mainstream medicine started to realise that different drug doses may be needed for men and women
This was accelerated by the findings that a sleeping and jet lag treatment caused women to act bizarrely with no recollection of what they have done. After the US drug regulators investigated, it was found that women needed half the amount than men do, as women metabolise it slower than men meaning it stays in their system longer.
The old medical view of a woman with regard to medicine was that they are essential men with "boobs and tubes".
Since changing ideas, it has found that women experience heart attacks differently. For men, look out for a tight pain in the chest, shooting pains down the arm and dizziness. With women, look for shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea and pain in the lower jaw or back.
We have found that women have faster and stronger immune responses than men, as testosterone dampen's men's responses.
This results in men being more likely to die of infectious diseases
Women are more likely to have autoimmune diseases (like lupus, which is a "woman's disease"). The believe percentage of autoimmune diseases is 78% women.
Women and men have different metabolisms and different experiences of pain.
Biological sex and gender with characteristics and identity shapes by society and the environment and now both being studied on their influence over medicine.
Women and men tend to experience Alzheimer's differently. Look for behavioural changes and aggression in women, and physical impairment and aggression in men.
Gut function really seems to vary, with women taking twice as long to digest food and medication, being more likely to get gall stones have IBS.
The main reason behind the assumption, until now, that medicine works the same for men and women, is that all medical trials were carried out on men. It was believed that women of childbearing years etc should be protected from harmful testing. As a result, the differences in medication influence were not seen in a lab environment and when women are involved the results tend to be combined so the differences between them are never discovered in the same way as separate testings for men and women.
Gender medicine has been slow to grow due to cost. Trials on women are more expensive. Hormone fluctuations mean as woman needs checking more often, depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle.
Despite the costs, Dr Alyson McGregor states that it is important for the evolution in excellence in health care. Afterall, currently mixed trials are potentially making the results inaccurate for men too.
Clearly we are experiencing a change in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, but this change will take time. I await with interest the day that I see the first change on a medication packaging, detailing the dose for men and the dose for women.
Keeping my store environmentally friendly has always been something that I am passionate about.
I will always struggle with that the silicone breast enhancers themselves are not recyclable, but I hope this will change in the future, and it is why I work on making top-quality products. I don't like to go along the lines of other stores, with cheaper products, even if those cheaper prices do mean it attracts more customers. Instead, I would rather spend more in manufacturing the products, so I can not only make the manufacturing process as environmentally friendly as possible, but also make products that are designed to perform well and last as long as possible.
I do my best with small changes as often as I can make them:
I have always recycled all the business waste possible.
I moved to fully recyclable Jo Thornton labels in 2011
Not long after I introduced recyclable tissue paper packaging as the packaging that most of my products go out in. I knew that most customers would not doubt that they could recycle tissue paper and paper recycling is on of the things we are best at out of all recycling types.
I added natural cotton organza bags and fully recyclable cardboard boxes as other product options, later that year, rather than plastic based bags.
In 2013 I made my fashion tape rolls have recyclable backing and a recyclable inner roll.
I took active steps in 2014 to audit all my storage and I now only use cardboard and wooden storage in all my storage areas.
My mailing bags have always been recyclable for the bigger sizes and biodegradable for the smaller sizes. Technology has moved on in this area, so I am working with a factory to make bags just for me that will dissolve to Co2, water and eco-friendly biomass. They will use vegetable inks and there will be no residue left of the bag but those compounds, and this is the most eco-friendly option that is available. These are nearly finalised and will be packaging your goodies very soon.
My next steps:
My next step is to look at the bags that all my tapes come in. The problem that I have is that the tape is adhesive, so I am unable to use a paper or cotton based back as the tape will remove some of that packaging and be hard for you to remove. I am going to try other biodegradable plastic types to see if I can get one that ticks all the boxes.
I will also continue to check for biodegradable jiffy bags. At the moment the only ones available are the padded bags with shredded paper in and these are often not recyclable as the fibres clog the machines when they break open. I will keep checking to find a bag where the bubble wrap lining is made of biodegradable plastic, or see if some other options appear as an option. For now, I will try to use cardboard boxes whenever possible, but as these are around 6 times the price, it can be very difficult whilst keeping my prices low for my customers.
I am glad to see the sway in thinking towards protecting the environment and I will always do all I can to do the best I can.
The breast form stock situation has been going on longer than I wanted it to, so I just want to update you all about where I am at.
I decided a couple of months ago to make some changes to my breast forms shapes, and to increase the thickness of the back on the breast forms in order to help with using the tape with them. I thought this would be like one of my normal tweaks, but it turns out I was wrong! This is what has happened
I looked at customer feedback for the shapes and did some slightly edited designs.
I brought in more boobylicious tape, and the feedback was great. Quite a few customers said that a thicker breast form back would really help when removing the tape. This makes absolute sense, and with the extra pressure put on the back of the breast forms, make them stronger too.
I chatted to my factory and we started working on the new designs. It all seemed to be going really well!
Once the moulds for the breast forms were made, we found out that the thicker back was not possible with the kind of machinery the factory has. By this stage, I was really determined that this is the best way forward for my breast forms. I've tried working hard with the factory to make it work, but it has failed.
Undeterred, I have chatted to one of my other factories which make my smaller breast enhancers, and they felt ready to take this step with me, which is very exiting! They share my vision and have the machinery needed to make it a reality, so we just needed to make the moulds. We made a prototype and it was fabulous!
The moulds have now all been designed for all the styles now, apart from teardrop 2.
Finally, we are getting there!
Production is now beginning on teardrop style 1, pear, round and triangle. These will be made first, and sent out asap.
The final design and moulds will begin soon for teardrop style 2. These will then be made ASAP and in my store as soon as I can get them in there.
This process has been so much longer than I planned.
Thank you SO MUCH for your patience and I promise that it will be worth it. The new forms will be soft and supple, strong and designed to sit perfectly, so that I have a perfect option for everyone. I knew that if it was worth doing, it was worth doing well and that you would all trust me, even if it took time, to get it right for you.
In the meantime, I have some breast forms still left, and some sample runs from my departed from factory, so I will get those up in the store for you at some great prices :)
A friend of mine told me to listen to this, and I'm glad I did. It's such an eye opener about the attitudes that some women used to have, and how attitudes about women have changed.
I thought she was wonderful as she had such conviction in her thoughts. She was born in 1901, in a time very different to now, had a privileged upbringing and that clearly shaped her views. She went on to have the most amazing novel-writing career, writing one a week, and wrote a total of 723 in her lifetime, which is just phenomenal. My favourite part though was when she said that she had a very poor upbringing, with only 2 servants!
First of all, I've been so happy with hearing how well you've got on with my boobylicous tape, so thank you for all the emails that have helped me see that it was worth the effort of introducing this tape :) It is such a hard balance with tape, with creating the right ratio of stick to not causing discomfort or problems when removing tape. I will never get that balance right for all people, as everyone has different skin types etc and I'd rather be cautious, but your emails show me that the tape has been really helpful to many people and has really opened up the ability to wear less supportive bras and to go bra-less in many cases. I hope I've got a great balance, and the feedback has been really positive so I am so pleased.
You may have also noticed that I've grown the range of tapes that I have, thanks to your feedback. I was approached by many customers asking for a sheet that is bigger, so that it can be cut down exactly to size or trimmed around a smaller breast form or enhancer for the perfect fit. As a result, I introduced my A6 size sheet. For those of you not so familiar with the paper size concept, it's a postcard size of 10cm by 15cm.
I also introduced the strips in normal and wider size of 2.5cm. I love to give you flexibility and choice, as it seems that some customers prefer to use one wider strip rather than 2 thinner ones for some bras/enhancers and this ultimately offers better value. Some enhancers are too small for the wider tape and only need the one narrow strip, so by offering both you can choose exactly what you'd like.
I've also got the discs in 8cm and 11cm sizes, which are perfect for the different size breast forms.
The next step is for me to see if I can get it to release better from the clear backing side, as I know that some of you do struggle to get that side off. I will be working with the factory to see if they can make the tape release easier for you when I do my next big production run of the tape.
Whilst writing this, I've also thought of another thing that might help you...the introduction of a sample pack. If you are going to use the tape then it can be tough to know which would be best I should imagine, especially now I have so much choice with 2 sizes of strips, 2 of discs and the sheet. I know some of you use a combination for the bigger breast forms, so offering a selection pack with a few of each type would perhaps be useful. I'll put together some packs with some of each in, so you can try the different types rather than having to commit straight away to one type of boobylicious tape. I'll get on to working out the best numbers of each for the pack and the price and pop it in the store asap!