How to be beautiful but naturally!

Natural beauty products
A few examples of my homemade toiletries. 

I have always been careful what I put on my skin. I don’t think you need to spend a fortune to enhance your natural beauty. For many, many years the only thing I ever used on my face was baby lotion (as it was cheap mostly!) and I have never used soap on my face. 

Even when I had a bit more cash I still refused to spend loads of money on expensive lotions and creams. I prefer to use simple and natural products with a bit of UVA protection in the stuff I use for my face. 

Over the last couple of years,  I have started to experiment with home made toiletries, with some success and some failures. 

I bought a couple of books to get me started Natural Beauty and Neal’s Yard Beauty Book . I then bought some bits of equipment and some ingredients, so I could get started.  Of course, I then I needed another  cupboard to keep it in! I moved some stuff around ( I’m good at that!) and found a place to store the lab! 

It’s a bit like doing chemistry at school, hence Marks nickname for this activity. ‘Hey Mollie, (our dog) the lab’s open’ he says each time I have the urge to make a potion.  

Equipment 

You don’t need anything too expensive, just some house;d items mainly but best to keep them just for this. 

  • Jugs – I prefer to use glass ones – it will only be a matter of time before I break one though – got a couple from Ikea
  • Spoons – pinched a couple of odd teaspoons from the kitchen – you could use some plastic measuring spoons 
  • Milk frother – for mixing oil and water ingredients – I got a second hand one from eBay 
  • Double boiler for melting oils and waxes – eBay
  • Thermometer – I already had a food one 
  • Jars, bottles and atomisers- I bought some from EBay and used some I already had 
  • Small funnels – to pour the lotions into the bottles or jars 


Ingredients – I have bought these a few at time to build up a small collection

  • Solid Oils – Coconut, Cocoa butter, Shea butter, Kokum oil, Mango butter – again I bought a few to get me started from The Soapery
  • Liquid Oils – Almond, Borage, Milk Thistle, Jojoba, Avocado – I collected these over time. 
  • Essential oils – Too many to list but I started with the obvious ones like lavender and rosemary and found lovely new ones like geranium – (one of my favourites) lemongrass, orange, ylang ylang – there are loads to choose from. You might find it helpful to get a book on Aromatherappy to help you decide what essential oils to use
  • Beeswax – this is used in lots of recipes including lip balms and body lotions 

Recipes 

I started by making bath oils and liquid perfume, which is simply adding essential oils to almond oil. 

The next easiest thing I found to do is making lip balm – I would never buy this again as its ridiculously easy to do. 

Next came foot balm and other moisturising products – some a bit more tricky as you have to make an emulsion which is a bit more tricky. 

They don’t last as long as shop bought products and some need to be kept in the fridge. However, you only need to make small amounts. 

My friend and family have been ‘willing’ volunteers to try out some of the products. The quality has improved and my skills have developed. I am not an expert by any means but I enjoy having a go and using them myself too. 

So why not have a go? 

Why a massage is good for you

In my previous life as a frazzled Project Manager, I used to drive between 20,000  and 30,000 miles per year.  As a consequence of all that driving and long hours at the computer, my shoulders were tense most of the time. The job had its own stress and managing a big team isn’t for the faint-hearted! In order to manage the stresses and strains and alleviate this tension, I began to have a monthly full body massage which eased the shoulders and made me relax- a little!

I was  so lucky to have found a lovely masseuse called Linda, when I moved to Northampton, who provided the service from her home. Linda has now become a great friend and not just a therapist. Once a month, late on a Friday afternoon, I would have my stress wiped away and my muscles massaged. Sheer bliss.

Unfortunately when I retired, I had to cut out some luxuries and this was one of them. If I wasn’t driving all this miles and sitting at my computer all day then I wouldn’t need it. Sadly I had to forgo my monthly mssage therapy for a year.

During the year I did not have massages, I began to realised how much I really missed it. Actually,  my emotional me and my physical me missed it to be honest. I realised then that it was not a luxury. I truly didn’t feel as good.

After a year, I knew I would have a bit more cash and decided that I would start the sessions again, if my budget allowed it. So I am back to monthly massages. Today, was a day I look forward to each month. A quick chat and catch up until Linda gets to my stomach, and then she cuts the lights and I zone out and enjoy the massage. Sometimes my shoulders are still a bit tense but she soon sorts that out. From my head to my toes, she ensures all is ….. There are so many benefits of a massage. From improving circulation, relaxin muscles, improving flexibility and joint movements as well as releasing those feel good hormones.

I enjoy the whole session and try to focus on the feeling of my skin and muscles being manipulated and soothed. I come away feeling relaxed, calm and grateful that I am able to afford a little bit of heaven once a month. Together with my weekly yoga session, I am possibly as relaxed as I will ever be.

 

Cranks Nut Roast versus Ella’s Nut Roast

I am not a vegetarian as I eat chicken and fish, but I eat vegetarian meals every week. Part of my vegetarian repertoire is the ‘Cranks” nut roast, which I have been making since about 1983. I was given the Cranks Vegetarian book as a gift and have replaced it since then as it fell apart from over use. I first started making the nut roast as a substitute for Sunday meat roasts. Whenever we have family gatherings, I usually make this in addition to a meat roast. Invariably the meat eaters want both!

I do occasionally use other recipes like the Cashew and Parsnip Nut Roast in Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen for festive occasions. That’s a layered version which always looks nice when sliced, but uses cashews which are a bit expensive for everyday. Recently I have tried Ella’s nut roast from Deliciously Ella with Friends and I quite like it.

Whats the difference?

The Cranks recipe has fewer ingredients and uses  wholemeal breadcrumbs and lots of mixed nuts. It uses dried herbs, onions and yeast extract for flavouring. I tend to use a mixture of whatever nuts I have most of in the cupboard. It’s very quick to put together. I also use gluten free breadcrumbs these days and it works just as well. The consistency is crispy and crunchy on top with a softer centre. It has a very savoury taste.

The Ella recipe uses mushrooms, celery and carrots and herbs for flavouring and doesn’t have any bread in it – which is great for me. The consistency of the loaf is creamy which is due to the butternut squash and cashews and pine nuts. I like the  texture and flavour but the Cranks recipe is favoured by the other half.

I will probably continue to make both but I can make the Cranks one with my eyes closed so thats what we’ll have when I’m in a hurry. I usually have some GF breadcrumbs in the freezer.

Here’s the recipes so you can try both :

Cranks Nut Roast 

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Cranks Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • I med onion
  • 25g butter
  • 225g mixed nuts
  • 100g bread or breadcrumbs
  • 300ml hot water or stock with 2 tsp yeast extract stirred in
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Chop the onion and sauté in butter till transparent
  2. Grind the nuts and bread together until quite fine
  3. Combine all the ingredients together
  4. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish and bake at 180 for 30 mins .
  5. Serve with proper home-made gravy – see below

Gravy

  • I onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 50 g butter
  • I shake Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbls mushroom ketchup
  • 1 heaped tsp redcurrant jelly
  • Glass red wine
  • 1 pint stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cornflour

Sauté the onion and celery in butter very slowly until the onion turns brown but not burnt – this may take 20 mins or so

Add wine and reduce by half

Add stock and mushroom ketchup, Worcester sauce and redcurrant jelly and season to taste. Simmer for 30 mins.

Mix the cornflour with some water to make a paste. Add to the gravy when you are ready to serve.

Ella’s Herbed Nut Roast

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Ella Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts
  • generous ½ cup of cashews
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces butternut squash, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • A few good gratings of nutmeg
  • 5 tablespoons rolled oats
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon brown rice flour
  • ½ tablespoon ground chia seeds

Method

  1. Pre Heat the oven to 190 degrees Grease or line a 9″ x 5″ loaf tin
  2. Toast the pine nuts for 10 mins
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté celery, squash and carrot – when the celery is translucent add the garlic and salt and pepper
  4. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 mins
  5. Add nutmeg and herbs
  6. Place half the nuts in a food processor with the oats and whiz up as fine as they will go.
  7. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts, so they aren’t too chunky, then add these and the ground nut mixture to the pan. Add the flour and chia seeds and mix well.
  8. Press into the prepared loaf pan, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a cool rack for 15 minutes
  9. Cut into slices. Serve with gravy

Winter Capsule Wardrobe

savingPNG.jpegIt’s time to swap over to my winter capsule wardrobe. The weather has now decided to play along too!

I am using some of Leanne’s  suggestions from the Essential Winter Capsule, but I am changing the accent colours to red and teal instead of burgundy and teal. The main reason for this is that I bought a gorgeous handmade hat from Meg at Textile Creations, whilst visiting the Knitting and Stitching show, in October and I have to wear it. I also have a beautiful classic camel coat I bought a few years ago and will be wearing that instead of the grey coat Leanne suggests. Some of the items like jeans and long sleeved t-shirts I already had but I splashed out on a new pair of red Mint Velvet jeans – reduced in John Lewis. That’s women’s logic – reduced so therefore must have !

I have bought a couple of new classic jumpers this year – a teal one and a cream one. The teal one is from Seasalt. I really like their stuff, its a bit pricey but they sell fabric too, so hopefully I might get a bargain later. The cream cable jumper is from H&M. H&M is not somewhere I normally shop but on this occasion, they had what I wanted. I am also going to make a red check shirt using ‘New Look’ pattern 6374, when the material arrives from China! I bought the stripey turtle neck top from Joules and the sleeveless fleece gilet, a bargain on eBay.

I have decided that I’m not buying anymore shoes or bags this season but using what I already have. I have the brown spacious leather tote I bought from TK Maxx in spring, this year and a small black leather cross over bag (a gift). My long black boots fit the bill as do the beige short boots I bought for the autumn.

So that’s me done till Spring!

How to make a gift of Florentines

It’s lovely to give or receive a home made gift. These little florentine biscuits wrapped in a cellophane bag and tied with a bow, make a perfect, quick to make present for a friend, neighbour or relative. They are a rich, delicious and perfect with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients

60g butter

50g caster sugar

2 tbls double cream

25 g dried cranberries

40 g flaked almonds

25 g mixed peel

25 g stem ginger – chopped

25g pine nuts

15g plain flour

100g plain chocolate

Making

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease 2 baking trays or I use silicone sheets

Melt the butter and sugar in a small pan. Heat gently and bring  to boil. Off the heat, add the cream

Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the chocolate

Spoon small teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking tray spaced out as they will spread

Cook for approx 8 mins – take out and using a 5 cm cutter make them into a circle

Put back into oven for 2-3 mins till dark golden

Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few mins before gently lifting them onto the cooling tray

Melt the chocolate and coat the back of the florentines – drag a fork across the chocolate to create a wavy pattern

Share with people you like!

 

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Frustration

I know I am new to this but some things just don’t make sense. I can show and tell you things about my life okay, but trying to understand how to make the blog look its best is really challenging me.  I am laying awake in bed thinking about the layout and content for crying out loud! Its supposed to be enjoyable I keep telling myself. As ever, I want to run before I walk. Getting to grips with the terminology is testing me. I mean what the hell is a ‘slug’? I see lots of professional looking blogs out there and I want mine to look like theirs. Perhaps I should just settle for ‘rustic’ looking hahah

So I still don’t understand what the difference is between the menu content thats runs across the top of the page and the categories.  I prefer to work these things out for myself but I am defeated. I know it all takes time, but I want it right now!

So ignore this rant – I am categorising this blog it under ‘Health and Wellbeing’ as it is slowly driving me a bit mad.

 

 

Home cooked meals and food shopping

IMG_0857You know by now that I like to be organised. Some people might think I have a mild dose of a compulsive disorder, but I just like things neat and tidy. I know it must be annoying to  live with me but I make up for it by making lovely food 😀

Part  of my organised life means planning meals in advanced and shopping for these. I have a whiteboard in the kitchen and add any items I need to shop for as I run out of them. Next to the list is a rough list of what our main meals are going to be for a week so I also add items to the shopping list that I know I will need for the recipes/meals. Having these side by side lists helps me to make sure I only buy what I need. I said helps! It helps the budget too-hahah we don’t really have a real budget for food. Where I come from ‘food is love’ and so we tend to eat what we fancy or what is cheap or in season that week.

Having said that, I tend to be a bit ‘thrifty’, so my first shop of the week always starts at Lidl . It’s one of their small stores and I prefer that these days. They don’t sell everything I need or use, so I have to go to another supermarket to get the rest. It’s usually Asda. I don’t really like shopping there but the prices are right. I also buy some of the more hard to find ingredients,  in bulk, like linseeds, potato starch and gluten free oats from Wholefoods Online . 

I cook meals from scratch every day. As I don’t eat gluten, we hardly ever go out for meals now. It’s too much of a faff to ask about what’s in the food. I have guessed things would be ok on a couple of occasions and ended up with stomach ache, so now we don’t bother much. We find that we often are disappointed with the meals we get served in restaurants. As we are both good cooks, we think our food tastes better! Its curry Friday again and I’m off to cook. It’s chana masala/chick pea curry (26 Grains) today with dhal (Curry Easy) and rice.

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Nell’s Dressing Gown

i bought some soft fluffy material about a year ago at a sewing event in Leicester. I thought it would make a lovely dressing gown for my 8 year old grand daughter Nell. I just about managed with the amount I had. it was he end of a roll so that was it.

I haven’t used this type of material before so I wasn’t prepared for the amount of fluff that comes off as you sew.. I used a zig zag stitch throughout as the material was stretchy. That worked a treat. It hasn’t put me off using this type of material again.

I use a McCalls pattern M6225. I am very pleased with the finished article. The instructions were easy to follow. I hope it fits her. What do you think?

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My 10 favourite pieces of kitchen equipment

savingPNGAsk anyone who knows me where I spend the most amount of time. They will all tell you its the kitchen. Whether its cooking, making, cleaning or organising, that’s where you’ll find me a lot of the time. When it’s clean and tidy I am happy. When its messy and needs cleaning I am not happy. The other thing they will tell you is that I like to do everything quickly. I can’t help it – that’s just the way I’m made.

In order to help me cook and clean and organise I have some great pieces of equipment. I have pickled out my top 10 favourites. They have mostly made the list if they speed things up!

  1. The steam cleaner – I simply would not be without it. I use it for sterilising toilets and sinks, cleaning floor and wall tiles, cleaning carpets and cleaning the hob. I have a Karcher one which cost about £100 but it’s well worth the investment. I rarely buy chemical kitchen cleaning fluids.
  2. The Magimix – or food processor if you want. This is a recent newbie to my kitchen helpers. over the years I have made do with cheaper substitutions but now I have the best. When I invested in ti I told Mark I would use it everyday and I do. One of my favourite ways of using it is to make nut butters. Just roast almond or cashews nuts for 10 mins and out in the Magimix for about 10 miss with some salt for the best nut butters. Stuff it into medjool dates and devour frequently.bet you can’t eat just one!
  3. The Zester – I use this for grating citrus fruit, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and anything else that needs fine grating. Easy to handle but a bit fiddly to wash but goes in the dishwasher.
  4. The stick blender – although I have the Magimix, it’s a whole lot more washing up than this. So if I am in a bit of a hurry, it’s better to use the stick blender particularly for soups and hummus.
  5. The kitchen knives – I have a set and a few more, Robert Welch knives – they are simply the best, in my opinion.
  6. The warming drawer – I use this for raising and resting dough mixtures, warming serving dishes and plates and defrosting. It’s a great place to put food you want at room temperature but not on the worktop and great for when you are doing a big family roast and want to serve all the veg in separate warmed dishes.
  7. The dishwasher – who in their right mind would not have a dishwasher? I know you need the space to have one but I would forgo a cupboard for it. It keeps the kitchen free of dirty dishes – if you can train your other half to put them in their instead of on the side!
  8. The electric scales – as I mentioned I like to do things quickly and the electronic scales are a great help. Bowls can go on it and ingredients can be added one by one straight into the bowl. You can change from metric to imperial (there are some recipes that I still do in pounds and ounces as I can’t be bothered to convert them) and also measure fluids too, so more time saving!
  9. The electric spice grinder – I prefer to buy whole spices and grind them as I need them – for example cumin, cardamon, coriander and cinnamon. The spice grinder I use is actually a coffee grinder but it works a treat and grinds spices in seconds.
  10. The coffee machine – where would I be without my bean to cup coffee machine? A present from Mark for my 60th birthday – probably so he didn’t have to keep making me coffee in the cafetière – a messy business at any time!

 

 

 

 

 

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