A new home

So after a year of posting here I decided it was time for Black Tea, White Pages to have an new home and a facelift.

You can now find me at
Thanks for following along and I'd love to see you at my new space.


Well-brewed women: Nadia Howland AKA Castile Co


     Wordsmith, mama, and all-round awesome lady who radiates effortless style: this pretty much sums up Nadia Howland. I’ve been lucky enough to share an office with this incredible woman for the past five years as she guided me both professionally in the world of publishing (the lady can write!), and personally – normally when I realise this whole parenthood thing doesn’t come with a user manual.

     Recently Nadia added yet another string to her bow when she launched her own business, Castile Co, which produces beautifully lush handmade soaps, balms, candles and bath bombs. I have been known to *ahem* “hold on to – read hoard – a bag of goodies just so the scent permeated my house for a week. 

      So without further ado, meet Nadia.

      Tell us a bit about yourself:

I’m a journalist by trade and have spent the past 16 years working in print publishing, which I really enjoy. I live with my husband and our two children in Brisbane. As of this year both kids will be in primary school. It’s a bittersweet milestone – bitter because my youngest is no longer a baby but sweet because I’ll only have to do one drop-off in the morning before I dash to work!

      What inspired you to create Castile Co?

It all started with YouTube, really. I love making things from scratch and figuring out things for myself. One day I stumbled upon a YouTube video of someone making handmade soap and became hooked. I spent about 10 months watching tutorials, doing research and attending workshops before I made my first soap. Then I spent another six months practising and testing products before I finally started selling my products to cover my costs. Castile Co is still mostly just a hobby but I love the creative outlet and it’s satisfying to watch your hard work build something you can be proud of.

      Where did this interest in homemade beauty products come from?

Well, I’ve always been a sucker for beauty and bath products in general. Now that I have the ability to make my own, I enjoy researching ingredients and seeing what benefits they can provide to people with different types or issues. It’s also really fun to experiment with colours, botanicals and clays to make pretty-looking things!

      What was the first product you made? Do you have a standout favourite?

My first soap was a pink clay bar made using the cold process method. It was lovely, but fairly basic. Since then I’ve made so many soaps, bath bombs, balms and candles, however, my all-time favourite soap is a salt bar called Salty Mermaid. I’ve just made another batch for the new year – it’s stunning!

When it comes to natural skincare/ DIY products what’s a common misconception you’ve come up against?

It drives me crazy when I see soapmakers and companies marketing their soap as being ‘good for eczema’. Soap, by its very nature, is designed to cleanse, and this involves the removal of oils from the surface of the skin. The worst thing you can do for eczema is remove this natural barrier of oils. The single best thing you can do for dry skin is to avoid soap and instead cleanse using a water-based moisturiser or cream.

It’s also important to remember that once you strip moisture from your skin, the only way to can replace it is by drinking water. Moisturisers can soften and condition your skin to an extent, but rehydrating the dermis requires you to drink water, and plenty of it!

What’s one item everyone should have on the bathroom shelf? And what do you think they should avoid?

Just one?! Agghh! I have really annoying, combination skin that’s prone to breakouts, so one product is never going to cut it for me. My staples are:

·                 Alpha-H Triple Action Cleanser – this stuff is kinda pricy but it comes in a large pump pack that’s fairly economical. A super gentle cleanser that removes your makeup and cleanses your skin in one go, without leaving your skin feeling tight or dry. (I honestly can’t be bothered with makeup wipes, and they’re bad for the environment anyway.)
·      Witch Hazel – cheap as chips and is probably the best astringent I’ve ever used. My skin feels so much fresher and brighter after I use it, and I feel like it helps my moisturiser absorb into the skin better.
·      A decent, non-fragranced moisturiser with SPF.

      Have you found there’s an increased popularity in small business lately?
Definitely. I think people see the value in things that are handmade rather than mass produced.

      What does a typical day look like for you? How do you balance everything (if there’s such a        thing as balance)?
I consider myself pretty lucky to work for a company that’s family friendly, so I’m able to work school hours. Being able to drop them off at school and pick them up has meant a lot less rushing and less stress. So, a typical day is usually wake up, get everyone ready for school and work, do school drop-off, head to the office, work until pick-up time, then head home. Usually, we play outside, do the gardening or take the dog for a walk. Once we’ve done the whole dinner/bath/bed whirlwind thing, my husband and I watch a show together. Sometimes, if I’m not dog-tired, I’ll make soap, but often I’ll go to bed and read or watch YouTube.

          Can you give us one random fact about yourself?
I love warships and military aircraft. I don’t really know why, I just find them amazing and love watching docos about them. My favourite aircraft of all time is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Google it and be impressed.

Where can we find your products?
I’m currently restocking my Etsy store over Christmas but will re-open in the new year. Find me at and

What a gem!

Nadia's also been generous enough to offer up some goodies for a giveaway. Up for grabs is a pack containing three handmade soaps, one 100ml candle and an 80g Bee and Butter Balm. To enter simply follow myself and Castile Co on Instagram, and then comment below with your favourite homemade beauty tip. Winner will be announced on January 15 (Australia only).

And, if you think someone you know would like this post, please share the love!


Living a conscious life: plastic-free happenings

*Disclaimer: despite many re-writes I still feel there is a finger-wagging lecturey tone to this blog. Just a heads up that this isn't this case. This isn't meant to be one of those "I'm right, you're wrong - now do as I tell you" blogs, but the subject matter can come across this way. Rather, this is purely about OUR experiences about attempting to reduce the single use plastic in our lives. To put it simply, you do you, we'll do us. OK, as you were.

The sun has risen, bright and early. Clouds chase each other across the sky. The morning promises to be a hot one.

Steve and I grab our basket, produce bags and keep cups, pop the child into his trike and walk down the street to the markets. Breakfast and coffees are bought and eaten sitting in the shade while the little man alternates between stealing bites of our food and chasing dogs.

It's a fairly normal and enjoyable weekend for us, but an activity that still seems bizarre to people when we tell them about it.

It’s been four months since Plastic Free July finished, but Steve and I have found more than a few habits have stuck with us and we're consciously trying to live a more environmentally friendly life. Maybe it can be attributed to being parents and wanting to leave the world in a better way than we inherited it. Maybe it’s just because once we began to reduce single use plastic we found it was actually a lot easier than we thought it would be. Maybe it's simply habit.

Whatever the reason, on a daily basis habit sees keep cups thrown in our bags - sometimes accompanied by a flask of home-brewed coffee (frugal hedonism at its finest), along with reusable water bottles, cutlery and often produce bags.

However, as second nature as all this has become to us, I’m still finding that people raise their eyebrows when I mention both Steve and I try to avoid single use plastic.

“Wow, that must be really hard!” has been a frequent comment, or “You’re so good! I could never do that.” Or my personal favourite: “Do you really think that’s going to make a difference?”

I remember similar thoughts crossing my mind in the lead up to Plastic Free July : was this something that we could actually do? However, as Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers said – just start, just do something, and that's pretty sage advice to be honest. 

Simply packing a keep cup in my bag each day was my start. Making my own skincare followed (which is actually simpler than it sounds. You can find recipes here or here, or make google your friend) , as did buying deodorant, shampoo and conditioner package-free, then getting reusable cotton rounds and produce bags, stainless steel straws... it all seemed to snowball. 

However, for me it’s beyond trying to be “good”. I'm simply trying to make a difference, and if it makes someone think about their own impact on the planet then that’s a good thing. Finally, when I find my inspiration beginning to lag I check out The Rogue GingerTreading My PathTrash is for Tossers, or I Quit Plastics and find that normally does the trick. 

So, four months on what’s the take-away? For me it’s that some things are worth it. I may not be even close to living zero waste – or even single use plastic-free – but I've discovered life is a lot sweeter when you stick to your resolutions, and some things once seen can’t be unseen

I asked Steve this too and his answer was along the lines of it's all about changing cultures. You change your own culture and you become more aware of your own personal choices in how you buy every day things. If you change just a small percentage of the plastic you consume you've done a good thing for the planet.

So now over to you - are you trying to live a more environmentally friendly life? What have your experiences been?


Life: November

Desiring: An extended beach trip. Growing up my family used to pack up and head to Burleigh Heads for 3 weeks every Christmas holidays. We'd stay in the house my great grandfather built - which didn't have a tv - and spends our mornings at the beach, the afternoons at Tallebudgera Creek. A day or two of water skiing was the norm. This time of year and the beach are very closely intertwined for me. But these days on top of Burleigh Heads, I long for Byron Bay times - swimming in waterfalls, sunset beers at the Beachy, lazy mornings in Lennox. I want all of it. Call it a perk of marrying a Northern Rivers boy. More than once he's stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and led me to a secret swimming spot.

Loving: The Christmas decorations starting to appear everywhere. I do try and hold out until December 1, when Steve and I watch a Christmas movie, listen to carols, cook a fancy dinner and drink port while putting up the tree. But it takes all my willpower to make it that long. Plus the festivities on this instagram account isn't helping. It's one I've swooned over every day while drinking tea and blasting more carols.

Wearing: A wide brim hat, sunnies and sunscreen. Bare feet are a must. Every day. Summer has well and truly hit  in Brisbane.

Happenings: We made a short trip to Stradbroke Island at the end of November as part of my yoga teacher training retreat. I hadn't been since I was a teen, and I have to admit the focus then was more on teenage shenanigans. Who liked who etc. (Sidenote, you couldn't pay me to be that age again). Steve wasn't much better so excitement was pretty high. It's a stunning part of the world. Beaches and bush lend themselves to hikes and swims and relaxing, while barely any phone reception meant we were forced to disconnect and recharge a little. The ferry trip over was exciting for the little man. Big boat! Became a repeates refrain. We stayed near Point Lookout, and will definitely be returning soon.

Early morning hikes are worth it when views like this greet you.

Eating: Bread. Lots of it. Toast with peanut butter, honey, banana and hemp seeds has been my go to breakfast. And I'm apparently raising a toddler who thinks plain bread is the absolute bomb. I mean, a good loaf is heavenly, but c'mon kid. At least let me add a smear of avo to that slice.

Drinking: Water. Loads of it as the Brisbane weather begins to heat up. Also a lot of chamomile tea. I've been buying it in bulk from here and it's pretty damn delicious. Oh, and kombucha! And a sneaky cider in the afternoon too. 

Hearing: Music. Lots of it. Fiona Kelleher's I'm a Little Boat is on high rotation when the little man is awake, as is old school jazz. And podcasts - so many podcasts! The Slow Home podcast is a winner, and I just finished Dirty John. I wasn't sold on it to be honest. Plus I'm slowly sneaking Christmas Carols into the mix. 

Reading: I think my New Years Resolution should be to finish a book before I start the next? Ah who am I kidding, that's not going to happen. I'm currently finishing of The Wolves of Calla while also dipping into Slow and The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. Each is remarkable in its own way, but Slow is really resonating with me - especially as we head into the crazy festive season. Why put so much emphasis on STUFF? And I still love the idea of putting away all screens and reconnecting properly with your loved ones for a day or two.
Update: I finished Slow and loved it. Perhaps I'll buy a copy next year.

Watching: Well 'tis the season! I'm about to bombard my loved ones with a multitude of Christmas movies, from A Christmas Story to Elf, Die Hard to Gremlins. Plus I'm dying to see The Man Who Invented Christmas

Anticipating: Christmas. It's my favourite time of year. The decorations! The carols! The food! The celebrations! Ironically I hate consumerism - there's just so much "stuff" bandied about, most of which is forgotten about, broken or thrown out within the week. But a good afternoon with family and friends and Michael Buble crooning in the background is pretty much perfection. 

Ruminating: On how to expand my brain a bit more. A recent date night out to see Brian Cox left me speculating about how I need to feed my brain with more educational/expanding content. I'm not a scientifically-minded person - words have always been my thing - but listening to Brian Cox speak about (supposedly) fairly rudimentary physics left me grasping to comprehend what the hell was going on. To make matters worse, there were fairly young kids in the audience. I'm clinging to the hope that they also struggled. Cue a resolution to read/listen to more things that will really make me think, as opposed to the fairly light on things I've been stuck on thanks to 19 months and counting of sleep deprivation. That being said, anyone overhearing my and Steve's discussion about how time is a dimension would have been pretty amused. 

Now over to you - how has the month treated you?

Life inspired by Heidi (and in turn by Pip).