I'm covered in flour - it would take too long to explain...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


 I have hard skin on my feet. Well, thanks for sharing - but I do, and so do many others and it's summer, therefore sandal time. I find summer never sits easily with me, too hot, too many itchy things and not enough money to enjoy the extra day light - and so summer shoes are a bit of an issue with me. Though hard underneath, my feet seem to have the tensile strength of wet tissue paper, and so will break out in blisters and rawness almost the moment the temperature gets above 25 degrees.
However, there's nothing much I can do about that, but I can make an organic salve to help soften my poor old plates when they've had a rough day.
 What I like about this is that a) it's one of those satisfying 3 easy part recipes, you just need the same quantity of three things to get the basic mix, which you're at liberty to add to when you get a bit more bold and b) it's kind of one of those 'all purpose' numbers - so it will work as a great hand cream if you're a gardener and you need a bit of t.l.c after a hard day's weeding, and it's great for your cuticles if you suffer from dry hands.

You either use your swanky double boiler, or you stand a glass jar in a small pan of simmering water - and into this you put one part coconut oil, one part cocoa butter (or mango butter or shea butter) and one part bees wax. You can even go crazy use all three butters, 1/3 of a part each, but hey, that's up to you.
What you can also do, while the three parts are slowly melting together on your stove, is consider essential oils.
If you have a selection of essential oils, or money, I'd suggest rosemary and lavender, which both have healing proprieties good for gardeners hands. If like me you've been making a coffee cake for your husband's birthday and you have a bottle labeled 'coffee essence' in front of you, you'll do what I did and pour in a healthy slug when your oils have melted, been mixed and taken off the heat.
This actually turned out rather well - as the main parts of this are coconut and cocoa butter the scent of coffee is nothing but delicious when mixed in with these. It's even more delicious when you throw caution to the wind and chuck in a teaspoon of cocoa powder, when it just smells like pudding.
But the proof of this pudding is in the rubbing on the feet, and this is doing the trick on my summer heels. I'd suggest applying at bedtime and then popping on some socks so that they have a chance to soften over night.
The other option is to spread the salve over your shins too, as the coffee gives your skin a lightly tanned effect into the bargain. Delicious!

Monday, 29 July 2013

This has me thinking this morning -

It's a post I saw on Facebook, from the lovely people at Bubble Cow -

Which has really got me thinking, though I can't pretend in any way it's my idea. I have however gone through the part of the WIP I'm working on and am pleased to say that there's almost nothing which wouldn't pass this scrutiny - not that there weren't a few which need pondering. I love what they're saying with this - what do you think? (only we're not meant to be using 'think'!)

- read this, then there's an example of how I changed my work accordingly below -

From this point forward—at least for the next half year—you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.

The list should also include: Loves and Hates.

And it should include: Is and Has, but we’ll get to those later.

Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write: Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”

Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like: “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never his.”

Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.

Instead of saying: “Adam knew Gwen liked him.” You’ll have to say: “Between classes, Gwen had always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume. The combination lock would still be warm from her butt. And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”

In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.

Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later). In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph. And what follows, illustrates them.

For example:

“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline. Traffic was backed up from the bridge, past the first eight or nine exits. Her cell phone battery was dead. At home, the dogs would need to go out, or there would be a mess to clean up. Plus, she’d promised to water the plants for her neighbor…”

Do you see how the opening “thesis statement” steals the thunder of what follows? Don’t do it.
If nothing else, cut the opening sentence and place it after all the others. Better yet, transplant it and change it to: Brenda would never make the deadline.

Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating.

Don’t tell your reader: “Lisa hated Tom.”

Instead, make your case like a lawyer in court, detail by detail.

Present each piece of evidence. For example:

“During roll call, in the breath after the teacher said Tom’s name, in that moment before he could answer, right then, Lisa would whisper-shout ‘Butt Wipe,’ just as Tom was saying, ‘Here’.”

One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. Reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very, very little time alone. Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.

For example: Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take…”

A better break-down might be: “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said it was already 11:57. You could see all the way down the road, as far as the Mall, and not see a bus. No doubt, the driver was parked at the turn-around, the far end of the line, taking a nap. The driver was kicked back, asleep, and Mark was going to be late. Or worse, the driver was drinking, and he’d pull up drunk and charge Mark seventy-five cents for death in a fiery traffic accident…”

A character alone must lapse into fantasy or memory, but even then you can’t use “thought” verbs or any of their abstract relatives.

Oh, and you can just forget about using the verbs Forget and Remember.

No more transitions such as: “Wanda remembered how Nelson used to brush her hair.”

Instead: “Back in their sophomore year, Nelson used to brush her hair with smooth, long strokes of his hand.”

Again, Un-pack. Don’t take short-cuts.

Better yet, get your character with another character, fast. Get them together and get the action started. Let their actions and words show their thoughts. You—stay out of their heads.

And while you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”

For example:

“Ann’s eyes are blue.”

“Ann has blue eyes.”


“Ann coughed and waved one hand past her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes, blue eyes, before she smiled…”

Instead of bland “is” and “has” statements, try burying your details of what a character has or is, in actions or gestures. At its most basic, this is showing your story instead of telling it.
And forever after, once you’ve learned to Un-pack your characters, you’ll hate the lazy writer who settles for: “Jim sat beside the telephone, wondering why Amanda didn’t call.”

Please. For now, hate me all you want, but don’t use thought verbs. After Christmas, go crazy, but I’d bet money you won’t.

So -

"Frau Schmidt touches her reading glasses but decides against wearing them. She glances at the obituary column; she always, every day since Gregory died as if scanning a passenger list for fellow travelers. She only realizes that she's stopped reading when she finds she's thinking about her mother's chaffing dish and the Dresden serving platters on the side board."

Has become:

Frau Schmidt touches her reading glasses but does not put them on. She glances at the obituary column; she always looks, every day since Gregory died as if scanning a passenger list for fellow travelers. After the first few names she’s gazing at the side board, at her mother’s chaffing dish and the Dresden serving platters. 

It's a subtle change but for me it works - it shows you that she's not really reading without telling you shes not really reading, and leads into a reminiscence without the need to tell the reader that's what she's doing.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Lip stuck

 I've been trying to make my own lipstick - but the result is not good. Rather, it is good if you like a very lightly tinted lip balm, in which case it's lovely - but despite what people say, adding beetroot powder and coco powder to the mix does not make a strong colour - add more and you just get a greasy mix with a powder in it which falls off your lips. Hmm.
However, if you want an organic lip balm which keeps your lips wonderfully smooth, then this does work!

you just need 5 gram each of grated beeswax, coconut oil and either cocoa butter or shea butter - cocoa butter smells and tastes better though. And you can add a few drops of essential oil to flavour, something like peppermint if you like it, or lemon etc - I wouldn't go for lavender as you will taste it. You can also add a drop of olive oil which does make it more shiny.

 Put everything but the essential oil in a small ceramic or glass pot in a sauce pan of simmering water and it will melt pretty fast. Make sure you have ready a small tin or pot to keep the balm in, I use my husband's moustache wax tins once he's done with them, well washed out. I also use the little tins you get mints or pastels in, which look pretty.

 This is beetroot powder. This is what I added to get the colour - this did not work, so I'm going to just proceed as if we're making a clear balm and leave it at that. BTW no, cocoa powder is not a substitute for bronzer, eyeshadow or eye liner - trust me on that one!

 Once they've melted, take them off the heat and add a few drops of your chosen essential oil - good old vanilla essence works a treat!

 pour into the tin - mine had the beetroot powder added which makes it look pink, but it doesn't really transfer - yours will be a pale creamy colour. Leave it to set at room temperature for a half hour or so and you're done.
Very moisturized and they do have a nice sheen, but definitely not a substitute for lipstick. I would say that that feeling lasts all day, and it's so easy to make you could easily do different flavours as gifts and people would be very happy to get them.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Shampoo or real poo ?

Right now, it's hot. I mean really hot. I mean everything's sliding off my face and the butter is liquid and even the cat looks hot-hot. Is it a sin to wish for Autumn? I've never been a summer person since I was a child, oh dear - how I long for misty, moisty mornings and the crunch of leaves under foot and skies that go all the way to the moon and back - ahh well!

In the spirit of the heat, I'm trying two things today - home made deodorant and home made honey shampoo. Both may provoke an 'ugh' reaction, but both commercial versions have a lot of gunk in them, not to mention aluminum particles in the case of deodorant which have been linked to breast cancer.

Not so yuck perhaps?

Well, I thought I'd give it a go. First of all, this is not an antiperspirant. If you sweat a lot, then there are other things to try such as diet and clothing which might help first - I find that I'm not a heavy sweater so that's why I'm prepared to give this a go. On the hottest day of the year. Oh well!

 To make it is easy-peasy I have to say. It uses baking soda in order to get rid of B.O, and then organic oils as the carrier.
It's a blend of 3 table spoons of coconut oil and 2 table spoons of cocoa butter or shea butter, with either 3 table spoons of baking soda and 2 of arrowroot powder, or just 5 of baking soda, which is what I used. Of course you can add scent by using essential oils, which yet I don't have so I went for vanilla essence which goes really well with the coconut and chocolate scents of the rest of it.
You simply add the oil and butters to a jar, stand it in a saucepan of water and simmer until they've melted, then stir in the baking soda and the scent. Job done.
Once it's cooled, you then have to decide how to apply, and that's easy -   get your wicked commercial deodorant, prize out the ball, wash everything, fill with your own mix and push the ball back in. Ta da!

Does it work?

 Well, it was the hottest day of the year and yes, I did sweat. But it didn't smell bad at all and I wasn't aware of the wetness. And I can say that now I'm sitting here post shower without having applied any deodorant, I can smell myself more now than earlier - which is probably too much information!

And now onto the 'shampoo.'

Having read up on this and people talking about the 'no-poo' method using baking soda, I've decided that's not for me, so I'm going back to honey again.

I steeped rosemary and lavender in boiling water for a few hours, then strained the water into a jar to keep in the fridge. A lot of people say you need to give your hair up to two months to adjust to not using commercial detergents on your hair, during which time you may need to wash every day - so I figured I'd need it.
The make the shampoo, I add three parts of the water ( 3 tablespoons) to a tablespoon of honey. I also rub some neat coconut oil into the ends of my hair a half hour before washing. Once the shampoo is mixed up well, you wet your hair well and then use it by rubbing it into your scalp and through your hair, it is more liquid than conventional shampoo and no lather. Then you rinse well with warm water them cold.
I've then set my hair to dry in pin curls, as I figured if it's going to be grease for a few weeks then it will look better curled - and......well, got to wait until morning for it to dry, but is combed through fine and smells lovey.

I'm not looking forwards to the adjustment period, but we'll see how we go tomorrow.
And finally - rubbing a few drops of olive oil on your legs, armpits and elsewhere before shaving works wonders - easy shave and lovely smooth legs and....elsewhere!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Before your very eyes.....moisturize!

 Let's be clear, you do not need to buy a new Bosch stick blender to make your own face cream. But yes, it helps. Especially when the lovely Neff people send you one to test out for free. I wonder if they had considered home made cosmetics when they developed the product, but never mind, if it can make face cream, then whipping up a cake to two will be a doddle.
First impressions? Oooooh - shiny! Easy to put together, good weight, good selection of accessories. I've selected the whisk for this job.
 Now to the face cream. First ingredient - bees wax. I get mine from a lovely bee lady (she keeps them, she doesn't dress as one) who sells at our local markets. She will be at Hatfield House farmers market on Sunday July 21st and every third Sunday, so if you want any let me know. This 45 gram block cost 60p, and I need one for this batch of face cream. Next to it is a jug of camomile tea with sprigs of rosemary infusing in it, of which I will need one cup (250 ml) Next time I'm going to try green tea.
 Next the oils. I'm using my favorite coconut oil by Lucy Bee which you can get every where but I get from Sanisbury's which is easiest for me. I think it's expensive but it's the best price I've found and a little does go a long way. With it I'm using organic olive oil - I use 1/2 a cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup of coconut oil, but you could use almond, avocado or jojoba oil in the same quantity - eg 1/4 cup of three different ones or 3/4 just one of them.
Measure out the oils and the beeswax (chopped or grated up) go into a double boiler. I already have one, but if you don't treat them as you would chocolate and place in a glass bowl over some simmering water to great a bain marie. Heat until they've melted, stir to combine and then take off the heat and allow to cool for two minuets or so. The Bosch stick blender does state not to use hot liquids and I'd agree, as they splash. Then put a cup of the cold tea into the goblet ready for blending - you can of course use a food processor just as well. The recipe suggested adding essential oils for perfume and I chose Vanilla as I have this one which I love : But honestly you don't smell it so it's optional.

I also added two flax seed oil capsules, pricking them with a pin and squeezing out the oil. This is a good source of vitamin E which helps preserve the face cream and is good for your skin - you can use any oil based vitamin E for this but flax seed is vegetarian. BTW, if you want to make a vegan version of this cream, use sheep wool lanolin in place of the beeswax. I squeeze these into the oil mixture as its cooling down.

 Now the stick blender, with the whisk attachment. Very easy to change over and not too heavy to hold which is good. MY ONLY COMPLAINT IS..... why can't they make big suckers on the foot of the goblet so as to hold it in place on your counter if you need to have both hands free? The next stage of my face cream is to stream the warm oil into the cold water while whisking to create an emulsification, which is what you'd do if you were making mayonnaise for example, but there was an issue keeping the goblet steady and holding the whisk while pouring. If you were using a larger food processor then it would be much easier, but what I LIKE about stick blenders is they are small, compact and light, ideal for a small kitchen. However, I did manage to stream the oil in though there was a little spillage, and the whisk emulsified the cream beautifully. In seconds it was a white, whipped up fluffy mix which I scraped into a big jar for me and a small jar for mum. 

 Here it is after whisking - it smells mostly of coconut which I love and it really was hard not to taste it as it looked like whipped cream!

 But the proof of the pudding, or the cream, is in the using and after I scraped the goblet clean I applied the residue to my skin - lovely! Sinks in and leaves the faintest sheen for about ten minuets, then it's gone and my skin feel soft as anything. I actually had a spill of the oil and beeswax mix on the counter, just a few drops, and so I rubbed this into my elbows. I'd say this stronger mix would be great for dry heels and also as a lip salve in the winter.
The face cream goes into the fridge with the lids open to cool without trapping condensation, and in this heat I'm going to keep mine in the fridge, though in winter it would be fine at room temp.
The Bosch stick blender was then washed up which even though its tricky cleaning off the oil, I gave it a whizz with the blender filled with water and bicarbonate of soda which got it clean - and this is where stick blenders win because there are less parts to wash than a big blender.
 So, the cost. All together this cost £1.50 to make this batch, and I would say the two oils would easily make another four to five batches if they weren't also being used for other things. I would estimate I've made between four and six weeks worth, unless I go mad and slather myself in it, but I mean to make a more solid lotion bar next for my body and keep this for my face. I'm sold!

I should add that I have now begun my honey cleansing - I'll write a separate blog about that but so far - so amazing!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Doing it all myself

This week and hopefully forever, I am trying to make my own cosmetics. This is for a two fold reason a) they are cheaper and b) after my father's death five years ago from cancer and my mother's recent operation for cancer, and both my Aunt and Uncle having cancer - yes, I'm kind of at a higher than average risk myself. For me this means I have two choices - ignore this fact and do everything I can to get cancer seeing as I probably will anyway or (and this is my preferred option) do everything I can to lower my risk because even if I get cancer, I'll hopefully be as fit as possible to deal with it.

So, this (and my quest to have a second successful pregnancy after loosing two in the last year) is behind my diet changes and more. I know I never had a bad diet, but there is always room for improvement, so I've switches where I can to organic meat and dairy, as many veggies as I can afford, and whole grain everything. I try and make all the food myself, so why not try and make cosmetics also? We put a lot of chemicals on our bodies that mimic estrogen which is not doing our fertility much good, and neither are the parabans which are used to preserve cosmetics but also have been shown to destroy anti-oxidants and promote free-radicals in the body, all of which may increase ones risk of developing cancer.

I'm also a big fan of making stuff and too poor to buy the organic alternatives, so hence I'm doing it myself.

Most of what you need you can buy through the super markets (or local farmers markets  if you want extra brownie points) - so later this week I'll have a lot more to show you.

My first experiment is olive oil, organic of course, which this week I have been using to moisturize and cleanse.

This is me without make-up. To remove it, I massaged OO all over my face and eye lids, then pressed a warm face cloth over my face. After a minuet, I then massaged off the make-up with the facecloth - and look, all gone, It even got my water proof mascara off - which soon I shall be be replacing with a home made alternative. (Yes, really!)
I then had an exfoliate with a handful of finely ground oats and water, and then a finger tip application of more OO as a night cream.
I also used OO to condition my hair - I worked it into the ends and then wrapped my head in a towel for 15 minuets, then washed it out. I have to use conventional shampoo at the moment, but I'll be working on a homemade one soon. My hair combed through fine when wet, and as you can see and despite being rather heavily bleached last week, rather a good shine. If you put OO and water into a little spray bottle and shake well, you can mist it over your hair as a shine spray, which I'll try later also.
 The next quest is make-up. I don't have all the things I need yet, so I had an experiment with cocoa powder. Yes, really! I will be using beeswax and cocoa butter as a base, but today all I had was vaseline, which is not natural but I'm just experimenting - no parabans at least. I just mixed some with cocoa powder and used it to paint my eyebrows, that worked a treat. It was too pale for eyeliner, but it did make a good translucent eyeshadow, and I brushed a little mineral eyeshadow over it - not good enough yet as it has aluminum and titanium in it, but it's a start. I used conventional mascara and eyeliner - no foundation other than a morning massage of OO, but I'll be investigating powder foundation later.
I also used the vasaline and cocoa powder on my lips - which tastes and smells amazing....

...but after eating obviously doesn't have the staying power of conventional lipstick. However, I'll be making my own soon, and I can easily re-apply - it does keep your lips moisterized nicely.

And what has this got to do with writing I hear you ask? If you're wondering why I've changed my hair colour, the main character in my WIP is blonde and living at a time when economic conditions means she has no money for cosmetics and has to do what she can. Call it 'getting under the skin of your character!'