Thieves

It’s aromatherapy week, how exciting!

I thought i’d share with you my very own thieves recipe. But first a little history lesson, indulge me because I find this fascinating.

The story goes that during the 15th century when the plague was endemic throughout Europe. The traid routes through Europe and Asia were closed to try and stop the spread of this awful disease. The wealthy merchants of the time had their livelihood ruined. Four such merchants turned to a life of crime stealing from wealthy plague victims to earn their fortune. Amazingly they never contracted the highly infectious plague and became legendary. The king of the time put out a ransom for their arrest. Upon their eventual arrest he offered them a deal, their secret for their lives.

Lucky for us they took that deal and shared the secret of the spices and herbs they had once traided and now used to protect them from the plauge. The recipe was shared and Dr’s at the time used it in the beaks of their plague masks to protect themselves against infection.

In 1997, Weber State University did a study that found the Thieves essential oil blend to have a 99.96% success rate at killing airborne bacteria.

Weather of not the story is true or just legend history and now science has proven the essential oils in thieves are truly antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral. They will stimulate the immune system benefit the circulation and respiratory systems. And help protect against disease.

Above is a traditional Thieves recipe. Since I have young children and some of these oils (most noteably eucalyptus) are not safe to use around children I researched alternative and created my own child safe thieves blend*. Which I find brilliantly effective and use (diluted) in the sick room via inhalation and as a ingredient in my homemade cleaning products (see previous posts)

You will need a small coloured glass bottle with a dropper lid or pipette to mix and store your thieves blend in. I used an old bach flower remedy bottle.

To make up my bottle which I have had almost a year now and I’ve used less than half of it you will need

  • 80 drops of clove essential oil
  • 70 drops of lemon essential oil
  • 40 drops of cinnamon essential oil
  • 30 drops of pine essential oil
  • 10 tea tree essential oil

*please do your own research about essential oils before you use them. This is a blend I have designed based on the ages of my own children and the particular circumstances in my own home. Please seek advice from a trained professional if you have any doubts.

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DIY magnetic poster rails

Lovely contemporary posters are easy to find and cheap to buy. I picked up two botanical illustrations that were being sold as wrapping paper at Cambridge Botanical Garden but present indicative has a brilliant range. I wanted to keep them light and hang them using poster rails rather than framing them. Posters rails I discovered are not cheap. I didn’t want to be paying over £30 to hang my £3 posters. So I made my own and you can too. This project cost me £11.06 and was a very easy afternoon project.

I bought 2 lengths of decorative edging/dowel at my local hardware shop. It’s cheap as chips at less than £2 for a 2.4 meter lengrh. For each poster you wish to hang you will need 4 lengths of wood the width of your poster. My posters were 50cm wide. I cut the wood into 55cm lengths so there was a little over hang at either end. 1 length of wood was enough to hang 1 poster.

I chose to stain my wood with some varnish I had left over from another project to match the console table the posters are going to hang above. Painting or varnishing the wood is optional.

I didn’t paint my nails for this photo I’m just the kind of person who is stupid enough to paint her nails and then go varnish some wood.

Once varnished or painted cut the wood to the length you want and sand the ends so they are smooth and even.

Stick magnetic tape (you’ll need tape with both polarities so it sticks to itself) cut to the same length as your poster is wide to the inside of each piece of wood. On one of the rails attach some fine string, cord or braid so you can hang your posters. You should have 4 equal lengths that look like this.

Sandwhich your poster between the 2 rails ensuring the rail with the string is at the top of your poster. Hang using a picture hook then Stand back and admire your handy work. You could Sandwhich 2 posters between the rails so you can flip the rail over and have different art work whenever you fancy a change.

Natural cleaning

In 2018 we made the switch to more natural cosmetics and really felt happy about banishing some pretty nasty chemicals from our home. 2019 has seen us made the switch to natural cleaning products and the difference it has made is quite startling. The main benefit for me personally is in my skin, particularly on my hands. Usually by this point in the year my hands are extremly dry, cracked and painful. Since switching our cleaning products to natural alternatives they are soft, not irritated and not cracked. It’s so lovely!

My reason for switching to more natural products is two fold. The first is for environmental reasons. The second reason is for health. I am increasingly concerned about the ingredients used in cosmetics and cleaning products that have been linked to cancer and blamed for interfering with the endocrine system in humans and animals. We have all been healthier since we made the switch.

Today I thought i’d share the first thing I made, a multipurpose cleaner I use on the tub, tiles, sink, stove, pots and pans. It can be used to pre treat laundry stains and on carpet stains too. I am very pleased with it.

Multi-purpose cleaner

115 ml castile soap

105 grams bicarbonate of soda

5-10 drops of essential oils

Mix the ingredients to a smooth paste and store in a glass jar. Clean surfaces with the paste using a soft cloth (I like eco egg re-usable bamboo towels). For stain removal apply the paste and spray with hydrogen peroxide before laundering.

Depending on where I am using this cleaner I vary which essential oils I use. I like lemon for the kitchen for its fresh scent and antibacterial properties. For the bathrooms I use organic defence by Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s a blend of lemongrass, niaouli and thyme and has antibacterial and anti-viral properties as well as supporting the bodies immune system and purifing the air. It has been specially blended with cleaning in mind.

DIY shower jellies

I have two daughters and they LOVE a certain shop full of multicoloured bath bombs, shower jellies and candy flavoured lotions – you know the one I mean.

I can see the appeal, I really can and there are MUCH worse cosmetics out there but there are still ingredients in their products that i’m not happy about my girls using. Ingredients that have been linked to fertility issues and cancer. In reading a lot of their ingredients lists it occured to me I could make these products quite easily at home and so without further waffle from me I give you DIY shower jellies.

Ingredients

240ml water

120ml Neal’s Yard Create hair and body wash (£6.50 for 250ml)

1 sachet Gelatine or Aggar if you prefer a vegan option

Essential oils of your choice (again I choose Neal’s Yard for their quality)

Food colouring (optional)

Silicone moulds/clean plastic container/jam jar

In a ban Marie begin to warm your water when it is just starting to bubble add the create wash and stir.

Add a few drops of your chosen essential oils (I recommend you do a little research about these super oils, their properties and dilution guides this book is extremely helpful).

Stir well and then add a tiny amount of food colouring – don’t use too much or you’ll colour yourself in the shower. The soap will cloud slightly this is normal.

Stir well whilst continuing to warm gently.

When your ingredients are well mixed and heated but not boiling remove from the heat, pour into a measuring jug and sprinkle in the gelatine (follow the instructions the pack).

Mix well and pour into your chosen moulds.

Allow to cool to room temperature and then put in fridge to fully set.

Turn out of the moulds and store in a jam jar or similar container. You may want to avoid keeping your jellies in a warm room such a the bathroom in case they melt before you want them to. Enjoy!

DIY lime wax

I’ve been on the lookout for an old pine farmhouse table FOREVER and earlier this year I finally found one on a local selling site for £30 hooray! It was heavily varnished and extremly…orange but well built by a local company and just what I was looking for.

Here is the before

I set to work stripping the layers of varnish back and sanding the legs. I painted the lower half of the table and legs in a country cream but wanted to leave the top to look like stripped pine.

Even after two coats of stripper and a good sand the wood was still too orange for my tastes so I decided to lime wax the top but I didn’t have any lime wax so I decided to try use what I had to hand. It worked brilliantly so I thought i’d share my “recipe” here with you.

Mixed 1 table spoon of finishing wax with a generous table spoon of chalk paint in a clean container – reuse a plastic food conatiner or take away cup.

Apply this mixture this with a brush (I have an ordinary household paint brush that I use specifically for applying wax) to your prepared wood surface. Go with the grain of the wood and let is sit for 10 mins. You can leave it longer depending on the effect you want.

Then using an old cloth – I used a child’s vest from my rag bag that had sprouted holes. Rub the wax into the wood removing any excess to achieve your desired effect. Again go with the grain of the wood at this stage.

Allow to dry thoroughly. Keep adding layers, waxing on and off until you are happy with the effect. Leave to dry. Once thoroughly dry apply a final coat of just wax with no paint added and buff with an old cloth until you have a slight sheen. Leave to dry and your done.

And so here it is. I found some chairs also second hand and painted them to match. All in all this project came in under £100 and i’m pretty pleased with it. My next job is to tackle our ugly kitchen lino which was here when we moved in and we all hate.

In praise of advent

I wanted to bring you a little advent project and share with you why advent is so important to me.  So in this season of business, of sparkle, of mince pie making, present wrapping, card writing and nativity costume making may I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a moment of quiet and reflection with me.

Advent seems to be  forgotten season/tradition the first of December arrives and its up with the decorations, out with the Christmas jumpers and boom Christmas is here. As a Christian advent is one of my favourite seasons, the waiting, the anticipation, the savouring, the preparation. I enjoy all these things … dare I say it…more than he big day itself. I hope what I write doesn’t sound like a sermon, that’s not my intention.  I simply wish to share a few of he things that help us as a family to savour this precious season each year. I do an advent calendar for my children. We have one of those cloth advent calendars with the pockets.  I do include the occasional sweet treat but I’ve always tried to make it a little more meaningful too.  One year we had a calendar of random acts of kindness I included thing like donating toys to charity, writing a letter to a friend, holding a door open for someone and we had a lot of fun doing it. In fact my children got quite competitive about who could complete their act first, or be most generous.  When my girls were very young they had a snippet of the Christmas story and a wooden nativity piece to add to the stable each day. In other years we’ve had  bible verse or Christmas activity each day  We’ve had a lot of fun and I have found these traditions bring meaning, joy and anticipation to the season of advent.  This year however, Granny showed up with a chocolate Frozen themed advent calendar and a Thomas the tank engine one for my son – I was frankly horrified. My children where amazed such things existed (7 years I’ve kept it a secret that other children get chocolate for breakfast during December)  and of course absolutely ecstatic. Once I reigned in my slightly over the top reaction to the chocolate advent calendars & accepted that my beautiful cloth advent calendar would just have to stay in the loft this year I set about trying to think of a simple way to  capture the true meaning of advent in our home this December.

My plans (and this post) were delayed when I spent most of the first week of December in hospital with my son, Beau who had just turned 2 and has Asthma.  That first night in hospital my son was absolutely buzzing with all the medication he had needed and at 8pm (way past his usual bedtime) I was feeling tired and emotional after what had been a difficult and long day. I’d read him every book in that place. Feeling unable to face yet ANOTHER tale of Apple Tree Farm or round of Dig, Dig Digging I got out the Gideon’s bible that the Gideon society place by every hospital bed. I began reading  the story of the birth of Jesus from Mathews gospel. I got no further than 5 versus in and Beau was asleep, at that moment it felt like a miracle – definitely an act of God, I was so relieved. I continued reading and took in all that wondrous story with a very grateful heart. So familiar is that story and yet I so rarely find the time to stop and read it in the busyness of December the words seemed new to me.  They stayed with me that week. My son now asleep I tired to make myself as comfortable as possible (not easy in a hospital) I watched Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas (I love that program) and flicked through a Christmas copy of Country living magazine – oh comfort and joy! Stuck in hospital away from all the distractions of home although not where I wished to be actually gave me a unique opportunity to just be.  To savour and slow down. Both the magazine and the television program full of beautiful images and lovely ideas for Christmas reminded me of the words from the Christmas song “Joy to the world”

“Let every heart prepare him room

And Heaven and nature sing…”

 Over the following few days as we left hospital and we continued to nurse my son back to health and make sense of that strange other worldly experience that is staying in hospital. Gradually an idea for making advent meaningful for all in our home came to me. It is wonderfully simple (well it needed to be with a very poorly tot to care for), not in any way original or new but it has given us pause for reflection this year.

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4 candles, some black paper and chalk, some raffia string, foraged foliage and some clementine’s and apples I sliced and baked in a very low oven for a few hours. I created this advent centre piece for our dining table.

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We have marked the Sundays of advent (Peace, Hope, Joy and Love) we have lit our candles at our evening meal every day and included a simple prayer on the theme in our usual mealtime grace. Next Sunday when we light the final candle we will put our decorations up.  AND eat gingerbread and Christmas will really be here but only once we have reflected on the meaning of Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

Elderflower Cordial

I always feel the preserving season is really underway when the elderflower come out & I make Cordial.  I use this same recipe, below, every year.  I am afraid I don’t know it’s original source as it was given to me but it is a good recipe and makes a fragrant and delectable syrup which you dilute to drink or that you can pour over ice cream for a wonderful summer treat.  It keeps for months and months as long as your bottles are well sterilised but can also be frozen.  This recipe makes about 1.5litres.
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You will need…
20 large elderflower heads
1.8kg Granulated sugar
1 Litre of water
75g Citric acid (you will need to buy this from a chemist – tell them you want it for cordial)
2 lemons
Place the elderflowers in a large bowl.  In a pan mix the sugar and water and bring to a gentle boil, stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  Pour this mixture over the elderflower and stir in the citric acid.  Grate in the zest of both lemons and then slice the lemons and add the slices to the bowl.  Cover and leave for 24 hours before straining through a double muslin.  Decant into sterilised bottles and store in a cool dark place.
You can drink this cordial almost instantly once it has been decanted however after a couple of weeks the flavour develops a little more.  I can never resist a little taste when it’s first made – it has a lovely freshness at this stage.
Please be careful Elderflower is a tree or large shrub with sprays of white flowers that later turn to deep purple berries, it has a distinctive smell.  Be certain that what you are picking is Elderflower!  Some people have mistakenly picked cow parsley as the flowers are similar but this grows up from the ground on tall stems.  Cow parsley is poisonous!  However, after a little familiarisation elderflower is very easy to identify so don’t be put off, give it a go!