Natural insect repellent

It’s certainly been a hot summer. I’m not complaining I love the sun but with sunshine comes insects. My eldest daughter and I seem to be particularly tasty to mosquitoes and so I wanted to create a natural insect repellent and bite soother. Both have been incredibly effective and smell delicious! It feels so good to not be covering our skin in nasty incectisides.

I feel it’s important to say I am not a qualified aromatherapist but a keen amateur who uses essential oils daily on my whole family but I do my own research first and it’s important you do the same.

Cooling insect repellant

  • Coloured glass spray bottle
  • Witch hazel
  • Essential oils

Firstly think about what insects are a particular problem to you and about the ages of those you want to use the spray on. I found the following chart extremely helpful.

We chose citronella for mosquitoes and lavender for house flies and a little peppermint . I used 80ml bottles and filled them with witch hazel. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and therefore powerful and must always be diluted before putting them on your skin. In this instance I used a 2% dilution – a drops dilution chart is extremely useful.

From the chart above you’ll see 2% dilution means adding 6 drops of essential oil per 10ml. So for 80ml you would add 48 drops.

We used 20 drops of lavender essential oil, 20 of citronella and 8 drops of peppermint in our spray. Add the oils and replace the spray top. Either shake or gently roll your bottle to blend.

Now remember I said you need to do your own research here is a good example of this. Peppermint is a powerful oil (and it tends to dominate the smell profile of a blend) but it should not be used in dilutions over 1% and you’ll see here u have used less than 1% in our blend. I recommend the following book if you’d like to start using essential oils at home.

This spray has not only kept the bugs at bay it’s very cooling too and lovely to use. Store out of direct sunlight.

For those times when you do get bites or nettle sting this soother is brilliant. I got the recipe from this great website called using essential oils safely

I used whitch hazel as my carrier again as I didn’t have anything else but sunflower oil or grapesead oil would be great too. I bought 10ml aromatherapy roller bottles on e-bay – they are so handy to have. I keep this in the fridge so it’s always handy and extra soothing.

I had my doubts about weather this recipe would be enough to calm bug bites and nettle stings but it’s worked better than anything else I’ve tried.

Those who know me or have been following my blog for a while will know what a fan of natural remedies I am. In January I joined Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic as a consultant and rekindled my love of essential oils – which I have dabbled in since my teenage years. In June I was fortunate enough to attend an introduction to aromatherapy course at Neals Yard Covent garden. Neal’s Yard are the first UK supplier of organic essential oils and i’ve loved learning more about this super ethical company. Do beware of cheap essential oils they are likely to be synthetic and not the real deal. If you would like to order oils through me or discuss the opprtunity Neal’s Yard offers please do get in touch this further. I’m also up for general chat about essential oils and what you love too so do please leave a comment.

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New years resolution 

It’s taken me a VERY long time to find my 2018 feet. Christmas and new year were consumed by poorly children and we welcomed in the new year to the dawning realisation that we can no longer deny my son’s asthma is severe and that I need to make adjustments to the pace of our family life to accommodate this. It’s meant a slow start to the year and for me laying aside some of my hopes and plans. Which at times has made me sad.

However, I did start a pilates class (having a husband who commutes vast distances every day is not very conducive to getting out in the evenings). I was nervous my first class but kitted myself out by sewing myself a new yoga mat bag. I love the results. I was delighted to discover my class is a real mixed ability afair and everyone is very down to earth and friendly. Also that my constantly interrupted and somewhat sporadic home work outs (the kind where trucks are driven over my mat and tea parties held underneath me as I plank) had been more effective in maintaining my fitness than I had thought. I’ve done 4 weeks now, I am loving it and really starting to feel the benefits. My bag is greatly admired too.

Joy

Week 4 of advent is Joy, can. You see it on the faces of the children? It’s an exciting time of year. I love the anticipation in the week before christmas, final preparations and carols in church. The beautiful sparkly decorations all around and smiling to yourself in anticipation of the joy those carefully chosen gifts will bring.

Luke 2:10-11New International Version (NIV)

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 

Listen to Joy to the world. I will let you choose your own prefered recording this week. You tube offers everything from Dolly Parton singing this track to a group of heavily tattooed men beat boxing to it – have fun, keep it joyful.

Pray: we thank you Lord for the joy you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world, shine in us. In the midst of sorrow bring joy to our hearts. Help us to find joy in serving you. Amen.

(Prayers adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do: bake some gingerbread or build a gingerbread house, dance to all your favourite christmas songs (the sillier the better) or go carol singing and spread some joy to your friends and neighbours.

Gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe 

If you follow my blog you’ll probably have noticed that my recipes are all gluten free. I cut gluten from my diet over 10 years ago and it makes such a difference to my health. Whilst i have managed to make most things gluten free pastry, has always alluded me. If you’ve ever tried to make gluten free pastry you probably ended up with a pie top that you could have thrown across the kitchen like a Frisbee and shattered into 1000 inedible pieces when you bit into it.

This phenomenon has always perplexed me. When you make ordinary pastry light handling is key so as not to activate the gluten molecules so flours without gluten should be perfect for pastry – right? Apparently not. Today I thought i’d give it another try in an attempt to be spared the misery of shop bought gluten free mince pies. So I put my thinking cap on. I use an excellent gluten free gingerbread recipe every year. It’s chewy, cuts really well and holds its shape. We build our gingerbread house with it. It’s made with rice flour and gram flour (chickpea flour). Both of which are readily available in supermarkets. The dough tastes awful but the bitterness of the gram flour disapears after baking. So I though maybe this combination of flours would work well for pastry. It did! My pastry didn’t crumble, cut well, went into the moulds without cracking and tastes buttery and short. HOORAY!

  • 200g (7oz) gram flour
  • 175g (60z) rice flour
  • 1tsp xanthum gum
  • 150g butter

Put the flours into a bowl or food mixer, blend the flours by mixing gently. Cut the butter into cubes and rub in or blend until your mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add cold water 1tbsp at a time until you have a dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20-30 mins before using. If you wish brush the pastry with an egg wash before baking – this gave a beautiful golden bake.

Love

Week 3 of advent already, this week is often very busy for us. The last rush before school finishes and all those last minute activities to cram in. I’m going to try really hard to show God’s love to my children this week – even when i’ve asked them to put thier shoes on 5 times already.

 1 John 4:8-9New International Version (NIV)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Listen to Lo,  how a rose E’er blooming

Pray We thank you God for the love you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world, shine on us. As we seek to worship you shed love in our hearts and help us to share your love. Amen.

(Prayers adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do show some love this week pick up some litter, feed the birds or give a neighbour an early Christmas present.

Peace 

The second Sunday of advent varies in theme but I have chosen one of the more popular themes peace.

 

Luke 2:14New International Version (NIV)

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”

Listen to Christ be our light or silent night

Pray: “we thank you God for the the grace and peace you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world shine on us. Help us to share the peace you give” Amen.

(Adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do: Take some time this week for a little contemplation. Remember it doesn’t have to be silent or even very quiet to feel God’s peace (but it doesn’t hurt to be quiet either). Turn off the TV and the radio, put your phone and other distractions out of reach. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. You may wish to listen to the songs i recommended or to light a candle. However brief this moment may be, just enjoy it.

If you have more time you may want to try some journaling or colouring, if you find this relaxing. This advent star by flame creative would be a lovely activity to do as a whole family, whilst listening to some simple carols.

Hope

I’ve spoken before about what an important season advent is in our household.  It’s also an incredibly busy season with 3 children and all thier activities, parties, nativities, bake sales, fundraisers etc. to cram in. It’s the same for so many families. Trying to find a moment to stop and reflect on the true meaning of christmas is really hard! 

I run a fortnightly bible study group for several such busy Mum’s – a group of women who’s friendship and support truly is a comfort and Joy to me. My gift to them this Christmas was a book (of sorts) written and illustrated by me. Focusing on the 4 themes of advent accompanied by some very simple ideas to celebrate each theme and designed so as they could be done either alone or with the whole family. I thought i’d share it week by week here too.

Each week there is a very short reading, a prayer, a song and an activity

Week one, the first sunday in advent. Hope.

Read: Romans 15:13New International Version (NIV)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to:  may the God of hope (apologies I can only find children’s versions of this song on youtube)

Pray: “In this world of pain and darkness bring hope to our hearts. To all the people who don’t know you, light of the world shine through us. Jesus you are coming again, help us. To live in the hope you bring.

(Prayer adapted from a version found on engage worship)

Do – Collect items for a local homeless charity (do check with them first as to what items are most needed in your area) or buy a copy of the big issue and have a conversation with the seller. Maybe you could offer to buy them a drink of their choosing. Do something this week to bring hope to the hopless.

You may also like to make an advent candle decoration to accompany this series. This can be as highly decorative or simple as you choose to make it. 4 tea lights on a pretty plate will work just fine. You could add seasonal foliage or labels to each candle, if you wish. Light the first candle – the candle of hope. Last year I made this so year after year it’s ready to use.