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

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

making at home - how's it going thus far?

Ok well, I have had some blood good results....and some less good results.

The things that really REALLY work for me and which I would not only say are as good as chemical alternatives but are actually better (seriously better) are as follows:

Oil cleansing - can't recommend this enough. It removes make-up, dirt and grime without drying and it's simplicity it's self. Simply run the hottest tap water into a basin (do I need to say put the plug in??) and soak your facecloth in it. Meanwhile, dip your fingers into some olive oil (organic please, the price difference is negligible as lasts for ages) or coconut or almond oil - and then massage your skin, even over your eye lids, anywhere you have make-up and general dirt build up. Leave for sixty seconds, then ring out your hot wash cloth, hold it close to your face for another 30 seconds then use it to gently massage away the oil, taking all the dirt with you. It also leave your skin feeling soft, and at a pinch you won't need anything else.

Honey cleansing - I love also, and tend to use when away as I can take my bottle of squeezy honey
(you need runny honey) in my bag with less fear of leaking. Basically exactly the same as oil cleansing, massage the honey into your face and then wipe clean with a warm, wet wash cloth. If you are prone to oily skin and break-outs you'll probably feel more comfortable with this method, or I can recommend using oil in the morning and honey at night. Either way, they work wonders -
Here's me after cleansing, no make-up and all scrubbed bare.

My next favourite thing is my salt spray toner. It's just like that crisp sea breeze that wakes you up like an enjoyable slap in the face - if you can have such a thing!
 Just take
1 cup of distilled water or pre-boiled strong green team which I prefer.
1 tablespoon  sea salt
pinch of epsom salt
Essential oils for scent – I use lime, but mint would be good also.
Add salt and epsom salt to warm tea and stir until salt is completely dissolved.
Add essential oils if using and store in a glass jar or spray bottle, you can swab it on or spray, but I like the spray for added zing!

 Then I apply my home made moisturizer to face, neck, shins and indeed anywhere want to moisturize. This is my latest batch - DIY Face and Body Cream Recipe
Ingredients:225 grams in total  of Orange flower water + aloe vera gel
 225 grams in total of oil, I use a mixture of coconut oil, almond oil , 35 grams of white bees wax, 75 grams coco butter and rose-hip oil(15 ml)  and squeeze in some vitamin e capsules, about 6 in total.
Essential Oils – 5 drops your choice - lime again!

In a double boiler (or a bowl over a pan of simmering water) melt all the oils (solid & liquid) together.
Pour the oils into a blender or, into another container if using a stick-blender.  Let the oils cool to room temperature.
Start the blender – then slowly pour the waters in – at some point the blender noise will change and you’ll notice that you have cream!  Keep blending to incorporate all of the water.  You can also blend the cream by hand, but be ready for a workout!
Add the drops of essential oil, and stir to disperse throughout the cream.
Scoop the cream into sterilized jars.  Label the jars  and don’t forget to include the date, but this lasts me about six weeks so I've always used it before it goes off.

Then there's this : Beach hair spray -it's a volumising spray to replace hair spray.
1 cup of hot (not boiling) strong Chamomile Tea as the base if you want to lighten hair or black tea as the base if you want to darken hair, but you will need to keep in the fridge.
2 tablespoons epsom salts (or more for extra texture)
1/2 tsp  Sea Salt (optional but adds stiffness)
1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
a few drops of almond oil or jajoba oil
optional: a few drops of essential oils or a spritz of your favorite perfume for scent- Lavender and citrus are great options
optional: 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon vodka or alcohol- if you want to lighten hair (the lemon juice lightens and the alcohol preserves)
How to Make:

 Put the tea in a bowl and add the epsom salts, sea salt, aloe vera, oil, scent and lemon juice/vodka (if using). Blend until epsom salts and sea salt are dissolved. Store in the fridge and decant into spray bottles to use. Will last 3-4 months or longer.

Spray on damp hair and scrunch with a towel to dry for loose beach waves.
Spray on dry hair and on roots for volume and texture without the waves.
If your hair is straight and thin and you want all-day waves: Wash hair the night before and spray hair with Beach Spray while still damp. Then, either french braid into pigtails or wrap in a tight scrunched bun on top of your head. and leave overnight. By morning, your hair should be dry. Spritz with a little more spray and take out the braid/bun. Voila- all day beach waves. Spray with additional spray and scrunch if you want more stiffness.

The picture is of me going to a wedding having set my dead straight hair with the spray as above.

Lip balms work great too - just equal amounts of bees wax, coconut and cocoa butter and your favourite essential oil - erm, I use lime again because, as you might guess, lime is my favourite! Another winner though is to add cocoa powder to the lip balm and the orange essential oil, for a chocolate orange flavour!
It's also a great way to use up those dear little tins you get left with after you've eaten the mints or whatever is inside them.

 My hard core foot balm works really well too; that's just equal amounts of bees wax, olive oil and coconut oil with rosemary essential oil - my feet have remained soft and crack free all summer, just massage it in before you go to bed each night. Do be careful though, it takes a while to sink in hence doing it over night, don't try and walk on polished floors having just applied it!

Now the DIDN'T work ones:


I've tried three methods now and they all leave my hair feeling like rubbish. Combine this with trying to use oil as a conditioner by leaving it on over night and the results have not been good. The shampoo refused to wash out the oil, and when I gave up got out of the shower, I still couldn't get a comb through it. Mind you, spray it with the beach spray and it finally did comb through, but it looked greasy when dry.
I have tried organic shampoo and that's ok, so for now I may have to admit defeat and buy organic hair products. I would say that rinsing your hair in ice cold water does give it a great shine, the only problem is getting modern showers to run cold enough, and the slight fear factor of putting your head in ice cold water - but I've taken to having a basin with iced water in it waiting and doing a final dunk.

Make-up - let's get this clear. No, cocoa powder does not work as a bronzer, eye shadow or eye liner. Neither does beetroot powder work as a blusher, and neither will tint your lip balm in any meaningful way, it certainly won't turn it into a lipstick.
Corn flour though makes a great face powder, and as I'm about corn flour colour, I use this over my face cream as a base and don't need foundation at all, but if you're of any deeper colour than I am, this may not work for you.

Body wash - so far, not too good either. I don't use it much, but I have found very few home made alternatives. The nearest I've got is this:

1/4 cup oil (coconut, almond, olive etc)
2-3 tsp shea butter
1/4 honey
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 liquid castille soap
vitamin e caps
essential oils.

You melt the oils with the shea butter in a double boiler, then whisk in the other ingredients off the heat for several minuets. Let it cool, whisking again if it separates, and store in a pump dispenser.

This was originally a shaving soap, and it does work well as that, only it's a bit oily as a body wash. I think the best option will be a soap, so that's my next adventure......

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Retreat but never surrender!

A little while ago I won a blog writing competition organized by the wonderful Emma Darwin. No, that’s not true: I came third in a blog writing competition organized by the wonderful Emma Darwin, but the prize I was given was so good it feels as if I did win after all.
    Said prize was a two night stay at ‘Retreats for You’ in Devon, and not only is it in Devon, but it’s in Sheepwash, Devon, which even if you haven’t heard of it is a name to conjure with, and also happens to be where I spent a holiday around 1985 when I was a teenager. It rained.
    It rained again this time also, but that’s exactly the weather one wants for a writing retreat; more of that later.
    The only issue my prize raised was that, as my beloved and I live in a state of penury due to our reckless lifestyle choice of having a child (which, as we know, is simply self indulgent of us) and my inability to get a job, we were not going to have any holiday this year, and here I am, winning one just for me. I felt a bit mean, seeing as I spend my days lying around eating chocolates and painting my nails while my poor husband toils in a salt mine, so I emailed Deb of ‘Retreats for you’ to ask if I could bring him along. I felt he needed a break, salt mines being what they are, and there wasn’t the merest thought in my head this would also mean I’d have a lift and help with my bags, I promise.
    It turns out that Deb’s husband, Bob, is a carpenter, and he runs workshops along side her writing workshops, and so Andy decided he’d have a go making something, and that the ideal thing would be a bookcase for daughter’s bedroom. We decided on a rocket shaped one, as we were about to decorate her room with an outer space theme, in order to stress the awe-inspiring aspects of science, for various long and complicated reasons - not least that we’re making a conscious effort to avoid pink princess syndrome.Now, back to the rain.

    I wanted it to rain, you see, because sunny, beautiful weather always gives one the sneaking sensation one ought to be ‘doing something’ rather than sitting inside writing. Indeed, most of life seems gives one the feeling that spending time writing should play second fiddle to almost everything.  ‘Writing’ time becomes answering emails, looking at things on ebay, trawling facebook or cleaning and then, lo and behold, writing time is over.
    And this is, in essence, the wonder of ‘Retreats for You’ and why if one is trying to write in a serious way, I’d urge, nay, implore you to consider a weekend or more at such a place for the good of your soul. No, bugger your soul - for the good of your craft, because it’s an amazing privilege to actually put your writing first for once, but one it and you deserve.

    Because, when you get blown through the door by a bright Devonshire wind  into the welcoming, warming cottage, it suddenly feels like the place you've been looking for forever. Once you’re greeted by Deb, who’s like the cool Auntie you really wish you’d had, you realize this is just what you need. What she gives you, what the place gives you, is a sense that what you’re doing matters. It gives you time, and the rain lashing on the windows means a warm fire, a glass of wine or cup of tea, and space just to let the words flow.

    It was wonderful. It was feeling the weight of the mundane world being lifted as, fueled by flapjacks, all you had to do was write. So I did. I sat in their comfortable, clean, simple house and wrote and wrote as the rain fell and the fire crackled and the world was good. Food was made, food was eaten and enjoyed, and there were other writers to talk to and stories to tell. Both Bob and Deb are gifted with the ability to make you feel as if you’d been meaning to pop by for ages, and wonder why on earth it’s been so long, within five minuets of meeting them. Andy even mistook Bob for one of his hardened drinking buddies after a few good glasses of red,  and the two of them went to the local after dinner, even breaking out the whiskey at midnight. I’ve no idea if making a bookcase is a good hangover cure, but the hangover certainly didn’t delay launch time in any significant way.
    I’d booked a review session on the first chapter of the WIP for Sunday afternoon, and Deb and I sat in her ‘room of one’s own’ and talked over what I’d sent her, and it was easy, and helpful and insightfull and the most indulgent treat I could imagine - having someone let make me take myself and my work seriously for an afternoon.
    That evening new guests arrived and we got down to another serious session of fire-side story swapping after another great dinner. I went over some of my past life adventures as a dressmaker and jewellery designer, including one of my favourite tales about the little goth girl who’d saved and waited a year after she’d first seen one of my necklaces, to return to the same exhibition hoping I’d be there so she might buy it.
    ‘Did it make you feel rescuing a kitten good?’ Andy asked, and later that night we got the chance to compare.
    I should point out that lost kittens aren’t a standard part of Deb and Bob’s retreat, and they were not on our minds as we went to bed in our lovely little bedroom. However, at four a.m one made it’s self known when we both woke to the sound of its pitiful yet piercing mewing. Andy tracked it down to a jeep down the road - yes, it’s quiet enough there for you to hear a mewing kitten two hundred feet away and yes, it’s the kind of place where people still keep their doors unlocked. We roused the owner only for the kitten to fall silent, but luckily he believed us enough to open the car’s bonnet and lo and behold, up popped the tiniest, blackest, big eyed kitten in the world.
Eventually named Cedric, the kitten took an instant shine to Andy’s beard and we kept it amused for the next three hours until Deb got up and helped us find a box and, after consultation with the neighbors, a new home. Yes, we wanted to take him home but we do have another cat as well as a snake and two guinea pigs, and that’s enough for any two bedroom flat with no garden. He did rather put a hole in my writing plans, but never mind - the sense of space and priority the weekend gave my work has come home with me. That and a huge rocket shaped bookcase and the sincere hope, no, promise I’ll be back. As they say in the movies.