28th February 2018: International Day of Hygge

I love the hygge trend. I’m definitely someone who loves home comforts, cosy blankets and cups of tea. Hygge can also translate as self-care. As someone with a chronic illness, I have to take care of myself, and there’s nothing I love more than snuggling on the sofa, surrounded by candles and soft throws and that feeling of being at home.

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February 28th is International Day of Hygge. On that day, people will be sharing how they go about embracing hygge, using #internationalhyggeday.

Last year I wrote a blog post about how to bring hygge into your office. The 28th falls on a Wednesday, so I’ll be at work all day, then attending a Pilates class, which is something that greatly helps my fibromyalgia.

I’m all about embracing hygge in small ways every day, so I’ll make sure I take a proper tea break at work, sitting and meditating and just being in the moment. In the evening, we’ll have some good comfort food, maybe roasted lamb chops. I’ll make time for reading, snuggled up in the car on my lunch break or curled up on the sofa in the evening before bed, fighting off the winter with a hot drink.

Hygge is literally about enjoying life, acknowledging joy, and creating a cosy environment. It’s the little things that make your day just that bit better. For ideas on how to embrace this day, visit How To Hygge The British Way.

What will you be doing on International Day of Hygge?

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The Bandwagon Goes Environmentally Conscious

Last year, one of my personal projects was to go cruelty free and vegan where possible when it comes to my beauty products. I’ve swapped Clinique for The Body Shop, fallen for Sand&Sky’s face mask, and become a regular at Superdrug. But now I want to tackle something else – waste.

Some of you may know that, as my day job, I work in regulatory affairs for a medical company. As part of that, because we’re a small team, we also handle the environmental side of things. We’re certified to ISO 14001, which means we have goals to be more environmentally conscious, and we also have to submit our packaging waste and WEEE data to the relevant authority. We have internal training on the environment, and what we can do to reduce our impact as a company, as well as individuals. This means that I have to be more environmentally aware, and that awareness spills from my professional life into my personal life.

Confession: my partner has always been better at recycling and reducing waste than I am. Being a cynic, I don’t trust our local council to put much effort into recycling. Also, it can be hella confusing. With all the revelations about just how insidious plastic is, I’m now second guessing everything I put into the recycling bin.

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The first goal is to reduce. It seems like everything comes packaged in plastic, especially from the supermarket. When the 5p plastic bag surcharge came in, it made us a bit more conscious of how wasteful they can be. Our plastic bags are always reused as bin bags for our bathroom bin, so that’s one plus point, but they do ultimately end up in landfill. So we bought some Bags For Life, and remember to use them around 95% of the time, thus reducing the amount of plastic bags we use.

Another thing we’re implementing is switching to a milkman. Yep, the old fashioned milkman of years gone by, who delivers milk to your front door in glass bottles. Living so close to London, I thought we’d have a plethora of options, but I could actually only find a few milkmen in our area. We’ve gone with Tim Davis Dairies of Braintree in Essex, who will kindly deliver five pints of organic milk to us in glass bottles. (They also take the bottles away to be reused.) We used to order 4 pints from the supermarket every week, plus one or two singular pints for me to take to work. So that’s a huge amount of plastic gone from our weekly shop.

One question that must be asked: Is it more expensive? The simple answer is yes. 1 pint of organic milk from Sainsburys cost 65p. From the milkman, it’s 85p. We’re in the fortunate position to be able to afford that difference, but not everyone is. Until supermarkets wake up and stop producing so much bloody waste, some people have no option but to continue with the cheaper, arguably more convenient supermarkets.

One thing that does actually work out cheaper is Who Gives A Crap, an Australian company that delivers bulk packs of toilet paper to your front door. At first glance, it feels like you’re paying out more, but the toilet paper lasts so much longer, so it does work out cheaper than the supermarket equivalent (recycled paper). It’s super soft, recycled paper, and they use no plastic in their packaging. They also donate 50% of their profits to building toilets. Doing good definitely feels good.

The next step is to reuse. I do have several reusable Starbucks cups that I take to work and in the car. But these cups are too big to fit into our coffee machine, so what do I do? I use a non-recylable cup to put into the machine, which gets thrown away. Well done, me.

To combat this, I’ve bought a KeepCup, a smaller glass cup that will fit inside the damn machine at work, and is easier to transport as it has a lid that closes (though it’s not fully leak-proof). Hopefully this will mean I’ll pop it in my bag every time I go out, and stop using disposable coffee cups.

I have OCD, and part of my OCD is a fear of germs. I don’t like eating off other people’s cutlery, or using their mugs. It makes me feel ill. So going out to eat can be a struggle. One huge factor for me are straws. I hate drinking out of glasses that hundreds of others have touched, so I always get a straw. Which is bad. I’ve bought a set of glass straws from Amazon, which are actually really nice to use, and they’re easy to clean. I just need to find a way of keeping one in my bag without it getting mucky.

The final option is to recycle. As mentioned above, our local council doesn’t recycle everything, so you have to be careful what you put in your bin. They do recycle most plastic, glass, and cardboard, so they’re my first port of call, but I’ve signed up to Terracycle in order to properly recycle beauty and household products, like those pesky packs face wipes come in. There are various other recycling schemes on Terracycle, but those two are ones we could definitely do with using.

But is this enough? I’m always of the mind that we can only do what we can do, as individuals. Money, time, and circumstances always factors into these things. There are also some things I want to tackle, but I don’t know how. Receipts, clingfilm, teabags (!). The list feels endless, and you can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed.

The truth is that a lot of these things have to be sorted out by the manufacturers, and by supermarkets. Stop wrapping bananas in plastic, for fuck sake. Start investing in reusable, sustainable packaging. Stop using plastic in absolutely everything. Coffee shops, start recycling your cups (like Costa does), or just stop using disposable ones. Greater minds than mine can come up with decent solutions, I’m sure of it. Let’s make the environment a priority.

Blog Tour: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window is a psychological thriller taking the book charts by storm. It’s being raved about by bloggers and, after receiving & reading my own review copy, it’s easy to see why. You can read my review here.

To celebrate the release, read on for a Q&A with author A.J. Finn.

The Woman in the Window

  1. How long did you take to write The Woman in the Window?

 It took me exactly twelve months to write. I had the idea for the story in September of 2015, and submitted a 7500-word outline to my friend Jennifer, a well-regarded literary agent in New York. She encouraged me to proceed, so a year later, the finished novel was on submission, thanks to Jennifer and my equally well-regarded UK agent Felicity (also a friend—I like to work with friends).

I hadn’t dabbled in fiction since my school days, but I’ve written plenty of academic papers and book reviews. So I assumed that the ins and outs of sentence-level composition—the writing—would pose no problem; it was the characterization and plot-work that spooked me. To my surprise, Anna took shape very quickly, like a figure approaching through mist, dragging her story with her pretty much intact. And it was the writing that proved challenging!

  1. We’ve heard there might be a film The Woman in the Window, what can you tell us about it? Could you tell us who you would love to play Anna Fox?

The film rights were pre-empted by Fox 2000, the studio that made Gone Girl and Life of Pi, and the movie will be produced by Oscar winner Scott Rudin, who made No Country for Old MenThe Social NetworkThe Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, among other movies.

As for casting, I suspect that I could name six actresses only to see the filmmakers cast a seventh! So instead, I’ll tell you whom I would have cast were Hitchcock making the film sixty or seventy years ago: Gene Tierney. She wasn’t a ‘Hitchcock blonde’, or indeed any kind of blonde, and perhaps that’s why he never worked with her; but her life was marked by a series of traumas that would have helped to prepare her for the lead role. And she radiated both steeliness and vulnerability.

  1. How did you create your pen name?

Because I work in publishing, I needed to submit my novel to editors under a pen name, as I didn’t want anyone to buy (or not buy!) the book because they knew me; and I chose a gender-neutral name in order to discourage speculation about my identity. A. J. is the nickname of my cousin Alice Jane, a well-regarded banker on Wall Street; and Finn is the name of another cousin’s French bulldog. I like the name A. J. Finn for the same reasons I like the name Anna Fox: It’s short, memorable, and easy to pronounce.

  1. Do you have any hobbies you could tell us about?

My three great passions are books, films, and dogs. I read voraciously, I love watching old movies (as well as newer ones). I keep active swimming, sailing, and spending time in the gym. I enjoy traveling abroad whenever possible, particularly here in the UK, where many of my friends live.

Unlike the heroine of my novel, I don’t drink much, but I like to cook.

The Woman in the Window is available to buy on Amazon.

Author Spotlight: Siobhan Clark

The Bandwagon presents Siobhan Clark, author of The Children of Midgard, an historical fiction novel based in the Viking era, and described as “a Norse saga by a woman for women”.

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The year is 961 and King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark has his gaze firmly set on the Western Kingdoms of Norway where his nephew Harald Greycloak reigns.  Bluetooth has declared Greycloak as his vassal King of Norway and will claim the establishment of the Jomsvikings.  In doing so he will solidify the order, building a keep for the warriors he intends to use to create a fleet of men who will rule the seas under his command.

However, the order is older than one man’s claim and consists of many who have their own destinies separate from the feuding monarchs.  There are men of honour and worth and there are those who seek naught but power and privilege, searching only to prosper from the misery of others.  There are tales of a legendary ring and a child who is said to be the progeny of the All-Father.

The Children of Midgard is available to buy on Amazon. To find out more, visit Siobhan’s website here.

About The Author

scSiobhan Clark is an historical fiction writer based in Glasgow, Scotland, where she lives with her husband.

From a young age, she was introduced to many fictional works by family who encouraged her interest in history, not only of her Scottish/Irish roots, but that of her wider heritage, stretching as far back as the Viking era.

 

Author Spotlight: Tam May

The Bandwagon presents Tam May, author of The Order of Actaeon, described as a “classic psychological family drama”.

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Sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted.

Jake is heir to the fortune and name of the prominent San Francisco Alderdice family. Although dearly loved by his sister Vivian, his passion for art and his contemplative temperament make him a pariah in the eyes of his bitter, tyrannical mother Larissa.

Eight months after his grandfather dies, Larissa announces the family is going to Waxwood, an exclusive resort town in Northern California, for the summer. At first, Jake’s life seems as aimless in Waxwood as it was in the city. Then Jake meets Stevens. With paternal authority and an obsession for power and leadership, Stevens is the epitome of Larissa’s idea of a family patriarch. Jake develops a hero worship for Stevens who in turn is intrigued by Jake’s artistic talent and philosophical nature. Stevens introduces him to the Order Of Actaeon, a group of misanthropes who reject commercial and conventional luxuries for a “pure” life in the wild.

But behind the potent charms of his new friend and seductive simplicity of the Actaeon lifestyle lies something more brutal and sinister than Jake could have anticipated.

To read an excerpt of The Order of Acteon, click here. It’s available to buy on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

About The Author

Tam May Author HeadshotTam May was born in Israel but grew up in the United States. She earned her B.A. and M.A in English and worked as an English college instructor and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher before she became a full-time writer. She started writing when she was fourteen and writing became her voice. She writes psychological fiction, exploring characters’ emotional realities as informed by their past experiences and dreams, feelings, fantasies, nightmares, imagination, and self-reflection.

Her first work, a short story collection titled Gnarled Bones And Other Stories was published in 2017 and was nominated for a Summer Indie Book Award. She is currently working on a family drama series, The Waxwood Series. Set in a Northern California resort town, the series explores the crumbling relationships among the wealthy San Francisco Alderdice family. Book 1, The Order of Actaeon, is out now in paperback and will be out in ebook on January 18, 2018. In the book, the Alderdice son and heir falls into the hands of a charismatic older man obsessed with power and leadership during a summer in the resort town of Waxwood, California. The second book, The Claustrophobic Heart, brings in Gena Flax, a young woman who must cope with her aunt’s mental deterioration during a summer vacation in Waxwood. In the last book of the series, Dandelion Children, Daisy, the daughter of the Alderdice family is drawn into the disturbed life of the man who ruined her brother one rainy summer in Waxwood.

She is also working on a psychological women’s fiction book titled House of Masks about a woman mourning the death of her father who is drawn into the lives of her eccentric and embittered neighbors.

She lives in Texas but calls San Francisco and the Bay Area home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading classic literature and watching classic films.

Website: www.tammayauthor.com

Blog: https://thedreambook.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tammayauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tammayauthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tammayauthor/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tam-May/e/B01N7BQZ9Y/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16111197.Tam_May

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tam-may

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

I review The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

Review

Anna hasn’t left the house in nearly a year. Ten months to be exact. Something happened to Anna, something she blocks out with painkillers and prescription medication and alcohol. She spends her time sleeping, watching old movies, and chatting online to others in similar situations.

Finn has created a very realistic, if not totally likable, protagonist. The information is drip-fed to the reader, catching hold and drawing you in. I must confess that I binge-read this book, so captivated was I by the story and the characters. In order to keep this review spoiler-free, I’m not going to say any more, but the twists and turns in this book are sharp and breathtaking.

My only “issue” with the book was the constant references to old movies, which sometimes got jumbled up. The antagonist was carefully created, crafted to fool both Anna and the reader.

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The Bandwagon is proud to be a part of The Woman in the Window blog tour! Keep an eye out for my post on 30/01/18!

Eden Perfumes: The cruelty free, vegan company doing everything right

Followers of this blog will know about my quest to swap all my cosmetics and toiletries to cruelty free alternatives. I’m also trying to opt for vegan and more natural products where possible.

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague told me about this company called Eden. They provide cruelty free and vegan dupes for your favourite branded perfumes. It sounded too good to be true, but I decided to give it a try.

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I only wear Britney Spears perfume, and have done for many years. Other brands are usually too much for me, overpowering (and if you have fibromyalgia, you know that we can also suffer from sensory overload). Britney Spears’ range is also pretty affordable, so I’ve stuck to it since I was a teenager.

When you enter Eden’s website, it throws up this message: Type in the name of your favourite designer fragrance or your favourite scent into the search and we will show you a vegan alternative. So I typed in Britney Spears, and up came an option. No. 422 Fantasy – Floral Fruity Gourmand Women’s.

A 30ml bottle is £18, which is a bit more expensive than the original, but I decided to give it a go. Many designer perfumes may actually cost more than Eden’s alternative. Eden offers free UK delivery (and they do deliver to other countries too), and my order arrived about a week later.

Eden’s No. 422 Fantasy is an exact dupe for Britney Spears Fantasy (pink bottle). I honestly cannot tell the difference. It smells gorgeous, sweet and fruity, and honestly, the only thing that’s different is that Eden’s dupe lasts longer than the Britney version, which is a plus! I am an official convert.

Why wouldn’t you opt for a natural, vegan, and cruelty free alternative to your favourite perfume? Eden also allow you to send your empty bottle back for a cheaper refill, which is good for your bank balance as well as the environment.

I honestly can’t fault this company. Of course, I’ve only tried one of their products, so I can’t comment on how accurate their entire range is, but this one is spot on.

I’m keen to hear what the rest of Eden’s range is like, and how they hold up against other branded perfumes. If you’ve decided to try this company out, let me know in the comments below!