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    How To

    Making Vinager/Citrus Concentrate For Cleaning

    Again, one of those tutorials which have been done to death on YouTube, but maybe I’ll be lucky and some of you won’t have seen it already. If you haven’t, today I’m going to show you how to make a citrus vinegar concentrate for cleaning.

    You just take the peels of any citrus fruit; lemon, tangerines, limes, oranges, put the peels in a bottle of vinegar and let it sit. What I normally do is have a half-full bottle of vinegar on the sideboard, and each time I eat a satsuma or orange I drop the peels into the bottle, close the lid, give it a shake and leave it.

    I’ll leave it until the whole bottle is packed full of peels – a process that can take up to a month and a half – and by that point, the liquid inside is a syrupy orange liquid. The vinegar smell is pretty undetectable too, unless you stick your nose right over the bottle. If the smell of vinegar is something you really can’t stand then I’ve found lemons are the best citrus fruit for completely covering the vinegar smell.

    If you want you can even be adventurous with it and add rosemary or a sprig of mint into your jar of vinegar for a few different scents, though I normally stick to just citrus peels.

    What Do I Use It For? 

    • Cleaning the windows.
    • Descaling glassware that has a limescale problem (yay living in a hard-water area)
    • Descaling and polishing stainless steel
    • Cleaning the washing machine.
    • Fabric softener.
    • Brightening white washes.
    • De-odoring tough smells – like sweat – from clothes.

    Once a month I’ll put my washing machine on a rinse wash with two tablespoons of the citrus concentrate in it to keep everything running smoothly. I found that when I started doing this the washing machine functioned so much better. I have quite an old second-hand washing machine, so anything I can do to make sure it functions efficiently and lasts a little longer is fine with me.

    Whenever I use it to clean stainless steel I always make sure that everything has been dried thoroughly, if I leave it to sit I do run the risk that over time I could corrode the metal a bit, so what I normally do is spray some of it onto a cleaning towel and then wipe down the sink.

    For de-odorizing and whitening clothes, all I do is add a tablespoon of the concentrate to the wash along with the washing liquid, put the cycle on and let it do its thing. Nice and simple, and as an added bonus the clothes have a nice orange smell to them too.

    Lifestyle

    How I Get Glass Spray Bottles (Without Spending A Fortune)

    A sad as it sounds, cleaning has become something I quite enjoy. Once I started to make my own products and stopped using the regular house cleaning products that really, really didn’t agree with me, I started to enjoy the whole process. I especially love having everything in glass spray bottles, it just looks beautiful!

    A few years ago and I’d bought one glass spray bottle but never bought another since simply because I was squirreling every. spare. penny. into my savings – buying a house is expensive! Spending £12 on a glass spray bottle wasn’t something I was about to do. It was only about 6 months ago that I noticed that the glass distilled vinegar bottles I’d seen in Tescos happened to fit perfectly with the nozzles of most regular house cleaning products perfectly.

    I didn’t have to buy any new plastic and I could use most of a finished product which would otherwise just get thrown away. My family still use regular house cleaning products, so once they were finished with one or two bottles, I was able to take those and repurpose them.

    A Few Notes: 

    • It’s not just this brand of vinegar bottles which work. The bottle top width is a pretty standard size, so if you keep an eye out you’ll find that a lot of other brands that work.
    • If you don’t buy standard house cleaning products maybe ask friends and family to save you a used up bottle?
    • You can buy the spray tops on their own, but so far I’ve found it’s more expensive and the pump power is a lot weaker than in the normal house cleaning products.

    What Do You Use The Bottles For? 

    1. The grey bottle for cleaning any countertops or floor tiles. A small teaspoon of regular washing up liquid, water, 5 drops of peppermint essential oil and 10 drops of tea tree essential oil. The peppermint smells great to me but smells awful to spiders, which is fine by me, anything which keeps them out of the house! Tea tree is a natural antibacterial, antiviral, fungicidal and a parasiticide. Exactly the kind of thing I want to kill any nasties on the kitchen surfaces and floor.
    2. The blue bottle for laundry, dusting or a quick spot clean. This one is just water – hence the blue spray top – makes cleaning stains out of any clothes much quicker and easier too. A vanish bar, a quick spray to wet the area and a quick scrub.
    3. The green bottle for cleaning stainless steel and windows. A 50/50 mixture of citrus distilled vinegar and water. This is the one that’s made the biggest difference to me. The regular stuff I used to use would make my head spin hours after I used it, not to mention if I accidentally got any on my self my skin would crack open and bleed. Hurt like hell. This mix works much better for me.

    Food

    How to Make Vanilla Extract

    This is quite possibly the easiest instructional blog post in the world, but when I last posted on Instagram about my homemade vanilla extract, I had a lot of people asking me how to make it. Hopefully, you’ll forgive me for making such an unbelivably easy tutorial, but maybe you didn’t realize just how easy it was? If that’s the case, well, you’re going to enjoy this.

    What You’ll Need:

    First things first, cut the ends of the pods off and then slice the pods in two down the middle. Sometimes I cut them into fourths, but it’s not necessary. If you want you can skip this step entirely, but it takes a lot more time for the vodka to become vanilla extract, which is why I prefer cutting the pods in fourths.

    Take your bottle, fill it halfway with vodka, put the sliced vanilla pods in, fill the rest of the bottle with vodka, close the lid and that’s it! If you want you can give it a shake once a day to get the process going a little faster, but you barely even need to do that. Normally I just make a batch once the first bottle is roughly halfway finished and leave it in the back of the cupboard till I need it.

    Extra Tips: 

    • If you don’t want to buy a bottle just for this you can just take the vodka bottle and put the pods in there with the vodka.
    • If you want a mint or citrus flavor to your vanilla extract add mint leaves or citrus zest in with the vodka too. One small thing to note here is that you need to make sure that neither the mint or the citrus fruit have been sprayed with pesticides, of they’ll end up mixing in with your lovely homemade vanilla extract. Kinda defeats the purpose really.
    • Sometimes, if I’m just using one bottle for making vanilla extract, I’ll add two fresh vanilla pods every couple of months and re-fill the bottle with vodka if it’s getting low. Then I’ll just go right ahead and use it if I need to. It’ll be slightly weaker at first, but after a week or two it’ll be up to the same strength as before. Since I use vanilla extract as a treat (those pods are expensive!) this works perfectly for me. But if you like to regularly use vanilla extract then I suggest you have two bottles, one to use and one to mature in the meantime.
    • I like to add an oil pourer to the vanilla extract bottle. It makes it so much easier to pour the amount I want, not to mention it’s faster and doesn’t leak everwhere. The old bottle I used to use would spill everywhere and it drove me nuts! Btw, that link above is an affiliate link.
    • You don’t need expensive vodka. Of course, you can if you want to, but I’ve never noticed a difference in taste.

    And that’s it! Easy, isn’t it.

    Lifestyle

    Putting Together The Car First-Aid Kit

    When I was little one of the things my mum always made sure we had in the car were two large knitted blankets my Abuela had made, some travel sweets and a car first aid kit. Ever since I got married in 2017 I’d been planning to put together my own car-first aid kit for my husband’s car. Something streamlined, with all the basics covered, but also with anything we might need in case one of us has an accident with an ax, or a chainsaw. We have a wood burning stove for heating the house, no central heating, so a serious accident when cutting wood is a very real possibility. With that in mind, I put together this small kit and thought I would share it with you.

    I have two boxes for this; a larger tin box for the big items such as the bandages and Israeli bandage, and a smaller tin for the items which would rattle around and drive me nuts. At some point, I’m probably going to add some travel sweets in the car too – but I don’t want them in the glove compartment or anywhere near the first aid kit. While potato is still quite small, he won’t be small for long, and I don’t want the first aid kit to look like a treat tin. It’s also the reason I don’t have a full packet of ibuprofen or paracetamol in the kit. It might sound a little paranoid, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. There’s just enough in there for a day, maybe two if needed, but not enough to send a little one to the hospital because they got hit with a case of the curious munchies.

    I bought the large tin in Tiger a few years ago, and the smaller tin had originally been bought for keeping Potato’s nappy cream in it. When that didn’t work I figured I’d save it for the car first aid kit.

    I wanted it to be obvious and visible to anyone who urgently needs the kit what it is they’re looking for, and you can’t get much more obvious than a bright red tin with the first aid cross on the top.  I also added a list of contents to the inside of the large tin lid, which might be slight overkill, but it was a detail I think will help keep it semi-organized. Finger’s crossed.

    In The Big Tin:

    • Emergency Blanket: Good for cold and protection from the heat. I’ve seen some families use it as a curtain on their car window too when they’ve had to travel for long periods in hot weather. It’s a little bit of a DIY botch job to use it like this, but when it’s hotter than hell in the car and you have a sunburnt crying child in the seat behind you, making the car look like a small spaceship is a small price to pay.
    • Emergency Bandage/Israeli Bandage: Designed to stop hemorrhagic wounds, this was the first thing I put aside for the car first aid kit. The main reason I want this is in case myself or my husband has an accident with the chainsaw. It’s unlikely to be needed, but if it is needed, it will quite literally save a life.
    • Instant Ice Pack: Self-explanatory really. Also great if you’re unlucky enough to get sunstroke.
    • Savlon Antiseptic Cream: It’s cream, it’s antiseptic.
    • Homeoplamine: This is a cream my mum always had in the car, and my God, it’s amazing! When I had my photo taken by Rankin a few years ago the makeup artist on the set was using this for lip balm and gloss, and it reminded me how much of a great product it is. I use it for scuffs, rough dry skin and chapped lips which are one painful smile away from splitting open. It’s basically your nuclear option moisturizer.
    • Sudocrem (Depotted): I’m yet to find Sudocrem in a pot that isn’t huge, so I de-potted it into a smaller tin and labeled it. Great for nappy rash, sunburn, emerging zits, insect bites and sometimes eczema. I say sometimes for eczema because I know quite a few people who suffer from it and were sensitive to Sudocrem.
    • Charcoal Tablets: I keep this in a small travel pill tube which fits about 5 tablets in it. This is a must for me. A few years ago when I bothered to go out for drinks I would always end up being the designated sober friend – yes, it was annoying. Quite a few times those friends just couldn’t help themselves and drank way more than they should. That’s when the charcoal tablet came out, because if they want to hug the toilet in the pub, fine, they can do that, but I’m not scrubbing their vomit off my carpets at 3am. It’s the absolute bomb if you get food poisoning, and potentially lifesaving if you (or a little one) has eaten/swallowed something poisonous.
    • Olbas Oil Inhaler: When your nose or sinuses are completely blocked up this little inhaler is incredible for unblocking them. Sometimes it’s only a very temporary unblocking, but I’ve never regretted carrying it around when I have even a mild cold.
    • Scissors: Good for cutting bandages to size, cutting threads off clothes, fixing up the stray ends you’ve just noticed (yup, I’ve done that) and a tone of little things that you won’t even think of until you need it.
    • Tweezers: When I was little my siblings and I seemed to get splinters. All. The Time! Especially if we were on holiday or away from home. Once I was a little older I ended up being the designated splinter remover because I had a knack for getting them out. That habit has stuck with me, so I always keep a good pair of tweezers on me. Oh, and they’re also good for a quick last minute tidy up of your eyebrows when you’re in the car.
    • Large Bandage: For big problems.
    • Small Bandage: For little problems.
    • Small First Aid Tin: All the little bit’s and bobs that will get lost or destroyed if left loose.

    In The Small Tin:

    • Plasters: A collection of a few large, medium and small plasters. All fabric and none of those useless waterproof ones which always seem to congregate at the bottom of swimming pools.
    • Disinfecting Wipes: I did consider having hand sanitizer in here, but since I always have a bottle of the stuff in the baby bag and the bottle would take over most of the first aid kit, I opted for the wipes instead.
    • Woundseal Powder: Designed to make blood clot and create a scab/seal. Another must-have on my list in case of a serious accident, or just a cut that won’t stop bleeding.

    • Strepsils Sore Throat Lozenges (in honey and berry flavor): A favorite of my husbands and utterly indispensable if either of us gets a flue/cold.

    • Two Compeed Plasters: I had a small box of these when I walked the Santiago a few years ago, and as far as I’m concerned these are essential. I can handle the flue from hell, but an evil blister will take me down like a bulldozer.
    • Four Paracetamol Pills: These are mostly for me as I’m mildly allergic to Ibuprofen.
    • Three Eyewash Pods: I’ve seen kids calm down faster from nasty cuts and bruises than from a dirtball to the eyes. They don’t take up much space in the kit and they’re worth their weight in gold.
    • Water Purification tablets: This one is just a camping habit which I might eventually drop, but for the moment it doesn’t hurt to have them in there, and it makes me feel better knowing I have them.
    • Four Ibuprofen Tablets: Mainly for anyone else who might need pain relief, or for me if the pain get’s too much and I’m willing to swell up like a balloon to make it stop.
    • Beecham’s all-in-one: Great for pain, congestion, chesty cough, flue and colds.

    The last thing I did was write out what exactly was in the kit and which tin it was in. This might be a complete waste of time, but even if it gets completely ignored it still gives me a list of what I kept stocked inside in case I forget.

    So that’s it!

    I have one or two items I might remove or try to use up at some point, like the Beechams all-in-one, or maybe even the water purification tablets. But for the moment I want to leave it in the car for at least a year before I go through it again and re-refine it. One item I might add is topical pain relief, but for the moment I’m quite happy with the kit.

    Disclaimer: The links provided are affiliate links.

    How To, Lifestyle

    Switching from Soap Nuts to Conkers

    Last year one of my goals was to try and make the switch to using Conkers – aka, horse chestnuts – instead of soap nuts for laundry detergent. Not everyone has heard of sopanuts, so I think I should explain what those are first. They look like redish-brown sticky nut shells, and the shells contain saponins, which are what wash your clothes and create the soapy froth you see when you clean your hands with a bar of soap. If you’re not familiar with soapnuts I might write a “guide to soapnuts” post, but for today I’m going to focus on Conkers.

    Before I started writing this post I was thinking how long it’s been since I used a normal washing powder, and I think it’s been around four years. I’ve been using soapnuts for a long, long time, and I’m pretty confident that I know most of the pros and cons of using them. But now that I use conkers for washing instead I can quite confidently say that I prefer conkers by a country mile.

    Let’s get straight to the point, here are the top five reasons I prefer Conkers – aka horse chestnuts – to soapnuts :

    1. They wash so much better. 

    Don’t get me wrong, soap nuts do wash your clothes, but I haven’t found them to be as effective as conkers. Anything which requires more gentle handling (silk, cashmere etc) I’ll wash with the small batch of soapnut I have left. But if you have some truly dirty, sweaty, filth-covered clothes, conkers are much better.

    2. I can get them locally. 

    This is huge for me. Anything I can collect myself, especially if it’s a wasted resource, then I’ll happily use them.

    3. Whites come out whiter. 

    I guess this would also be a drawback for some people as the conkers do bleach very slightly, and if you’re a person who hates washed out black clothes, then maybe conkers aren’t for you. But as someone who uses cloth nappies for my little one, anything which helps keep them stain free is a plus to me.

    4. The clothes smell better. 

    With soap nuts you have to be very careful to let them dry out between washes. Since you can re-use the nuts a few time – about 3 to 4 times – you have to let them dry out or you will start to get this stale, almost moldy smell to your clothes. Conkers are only one use per batch (or per day) so I don’t have this problem.

    Before I move onto the FAQ all about conkers, here is the video tutorial on how I use them:

    FAQ:

    • How long can you keep them?

    I’ve only used them for 3 months now, but I don’t plan to keep them longer than a year. By next autum it’ll be time to collect a new bundle of conkers.

    • Can you add a fragrance to them?

    Yes, I normally add several drops of essential oils. First ten drops of tea tree oil to each new dried tray of conkers, before they go into my laundry tin for storage, and then four to five drops of my preferred scent with each jug of laundry. My favorite oils to add are; tea tree, lavender, pine or lemon.

    • How well do they work with stains?

    Very well! So far I’ve tested them out on blood, grass and mud stains and it worked beautifully. The only time I’ve had trouble was with some dried blood stains, and I deliberately let the blood dry and sit overnight on the kitchen towel so that I could do a test and see how effective the conkers were. I found that when I let the towel sit in Conker juice for ten to fifteen minutes I could lightly rub the blood stains and they disappeared!  Then all I did was throw the towel into the next wash and the stains were gone by the time the wash was finished.

    For tough stains, I would suggest leaving the clothes/items to soak in a small bowl of conker liquid before putting them in the wash. This isn’t always necessary, but I’m yet to have a stain stick around after a wash while using this method. If I can’t be bothered to do that I just rub a fabric soap or vanish bar over the stain before I put it in the washing basket. That way I don’t have to remember to leave it to soak later.

    • How well do they deal with odors?

    Normal odors? Not a problem. The same goes for the cloth nappies I use for baby, they smell of nothing by the time the wash is finished with them. The only exception that is heavy, heavy perspiration. The kind you’d get if you’ve been doing an intense two-hour gym session. That smell is a little tricker to get out I’ve found, but even a vanish bar hasn’t managed to get those out. The only thing I’ve found does to trick is letting them sit in distilled vinegar to remover the sweat smell.

    • Is this a complete replacement of having to use clothes detergent?

    For me, yes. I’m used to running a cleaning bar over stains before I pop them in the dirty washing basket and to having the occasional vinegar soak for gym clothes when needed. But if you’re the kind of person who wants to be able to grab a tablet from the draw, throw it into the wash, close the door and be done with it I don’t think you’ll find it to be a complete replacement.

    • How many do you need per load?

    If you’ve ground your conkers up into crumbs like I did then you only need about a tablespoon, but if you’ve just smashed them into larger pieces then a small handful is needed (which you then need to leave to soak for at least 3 hours).

    • How many do you need to last for the year?

    Last autumn I collected around two hundred of them, which I’m pretty sure will last me at least until June/july. Ideally next year I want to collect enough to fill up the laundry tin you saw in the video. So about one or two kilos in total, or about 400 conkers.

    • How often do you have to replace the conkers?

    If I’m doing two washes in one day I’ll reuse the same conkers I used for the first batch. I often find that the second batch is always a lot more frothy and bubbly than the first, but I never reuse them otherwise. If it’s a different day then I use a new load of conkers and throw the old one into the compost bin.

    • What temperature can you wash with them?

    My washing machine has different heat settings from 30°C to 95°C. So far I’ve found they work slightly better at a higher heat, but they seem to work well regardless.

     

    Finished Piece

    2019 – My New Year Resolutions

    2018 has been an awful year, and at the same time, one of the best. My little (huge) potato arrived after a very, very rough pregnancy, Corazon and I bought our first home, and we’re finally starting the simple, self-sufficient life we’ve been dreaming of. It’s not a farm or a particularly large piece of land, but it’s enough to do a lot of what we want.

    I’m going to skip the bad parts of this year in this post. Frankly, I’ve lost enough of my time, health and mental energy to it. All that matters now is that my baby is finally here, he is safe and healthy – amazingly – and my husband and I are finally in a position to start making the simple-living, sustainable lifestyle changes we were unable to implement while renting. I’m taking my silver lining and running with it. So here are some of our big targets for the new year:

    1. Fix the Bathroom

    With spring and summer coming up next I guess the focus should be the garden, but honestly, I can’t wait till we can get the bathroom fixed and our broken boiler replaced so that I can have a nice (hot) shower again. Washing with jugs is a royal pain in the backside, especially for with long hair. I’m actually dreaming about my new, easy-to-clean, properly water-proofed wet-room shower.

    2. Start Raising Quail

    My parents had chickens in their garden for quite a few years, and and the difference between the eggs those chickens laid and the shop-bought eggs was astronomical. The perfect example to illustrate the difference is that my brother, who is severely allergic to shop bought eggs, was suddenly able to eat eggs. We all noticed the difference in how they tasted and we felt, and since then I’ve looked forward to the day I could keep my own birds. I’ll write more at some point about why I’m hoping to keep quail and not chickens, but that’s a blog post for another day.

    3. Grow a Herb Garden

    I’ve already started this one by growing coriander, basil and parsley on the windowsill, but come summer I’ll be moving most of them – not the parsley- to the garden where they’ll live permanently. I’m going to include garlic and onions to the herb garden too, along with rosemary and a lavender bush.

    4. Plant Fruit Trees

    This will be one of the last projects we get done in the garden next year, but once it’s done, it’s done. The plan is to plant two different varieties of apple; one a cooking apple and one a cider apple. Once they’re down it’ll be a waiting game – around 3 or four years – but since the time will pass anyway at some point we will have a reliable supply of dehydrated apples, cider and vinegar to keep us going each winter. I can’t wait!

    5. Start Making Videos Again

    The pregnancy was rough, the post-partum recovery is still ongoing after five months, but bit by bit, my energy is coming back and I’m at a place where I can film again. Here’s to hoping this year is a bit more productive on YouTube.

    6. Grow Mushrooms

    Over the last year we’ve been making lists of the kind of food we eat regularly, and mushrooms – along with onions and eggs – are some of our most eaten foods. If we can grow them it’ll cut down on costs, plastic, and we’ll have fresh homegrown mushrooms. It’ll be another notch in our self-suficient aspirations.

    7. Re-design the Kitchen Cupboard

    It’s going to take me a while to do this, but once I have the spare funds I plan to completely redesign the kitchen cupboard. To be honest it’s not the worst. It’s actually pretty good in a very basic kind of way. But after you’ve gone through three years of a graphic design degree you can’t help but look at everything and think how can I make that better, cleaner and more efficient.

    8. More Plants in the House

    Specifically, more plants that clean the air. England, in general, is a pretty damp place. Where we live it’s especially damp, and every day is a constant battle against mold. Doesn’t help that I’m pretty allergic to mold too. So any plants which are going to help me on that battlefront and help keep the air cleaner is a serious win.

    9. Get the Sewing Machine

    I have so, so many things I need to make. Doorway curtains to keep the drafts out, clothes to fix, buckwheat pillows to make, nappy liners…the list is endless and it’s a skill I really want to learn. It’ll be rough and probably the kind of thing that’ll make my sister want to cry, but it’ll work.

    10. Continue My Minimalism Journey

    This has been a goal I’ve been working on for the last two, now pushing three years. When I started to read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tyding” it flicked a switch on in my brain that helped me tackle my surrounding habitat like a bulldozer. And it’s been an absolute Godsend for my mental health, wallet, and life in general. It helped me start to figure out what were triggers for irrational purchases, impulse purchases and generally direct my wallet and energy towards the kind of life I wanted.

    My kitchen now has about one third of the utensils and items that it used to have, but I cook more and – I like to think – better. My wardrobe is one fourth of the size, and steadily shrinking, but it no longer makes me anxious to look at and organize. We have far less furniture, fewer books, heck, even less studio equipment and even art supplies! But I’m getting more use, less stress and a lot more joy out of being around them. It’s still a process, five years, even ten years from now it’ll still be a process, but it’s a process I really enjoy.

    Part of that is because it’s allowed me to design my surroundings. Take the aforementioned kitchen cupboard for example. Now that I’m very aware of what comes into the house, what we eat and like I want to make sure that I can see and use that food. If I can’t see it I forget to use it, the food goes off, creating clutter and waste. Two things I really, really hate.

    So, here’s to a new year, new goals and the start of our new life. Let’s see how it goes!

    Finished Piece

    Making A Coffee Spoon From Scratch

    One of the projects I’ve been wanting to start for well over a year now is to make a coffee spoon.

    Something wooden, handmade and made by myself from start to finish. Now, I know that might not sound like the most interesting project of all time, but I wanted to see if I could do it, and I thought it would be a nice gift for Corazon, who is a big coffee addict.

    I started off with a piece of poplar. It’s a light, easy to carve wood – no way was I going to start with a tough hardwood like 0ak – and outlined the shape I wanted.

    After having the two tools I used for this sitting in my tools draw for over a year I was really excited to finally used them. Especially the crook, which was quite unlike anything I’d ever used before. It really was like trying to use a lethal ice cream scoop. Took a while to get the technique right, but once I did I was able to hollow out the spoon bowl really quickly.

    My little potato (not his real name btw, just a nickname) getting a little curious and needed to see what I was doing. Or rather, demanding attention and growling at me to pick him up…or else.

    This part is easily the what took the longest in the whole process. Really, what I should have done is cut up the outline from the start. It would have saved me hours of time, but given that I didn’t have any tools to do that, I just had to work with what I had.

    Oh, and this is where it went wrong.

    This is what happened when your little one is in the same room, decides to practice a blood-curdling shriek. He yelled, I jumped, screamed, saw what I’d done to my hand and screamed again. That white cloth got absolutely soaked with blood. On the plus side, I now have a pretty cool scar on my finger – affectionately named the potato scar – and I got to test out stain removal with conker washing liquid. (I’ll have a post and a video about that soon).

    After I’d carved it as much as I wanted I took a fine grain piece of sandpaper and spent a good hour smoothing everything out before I finished it off with a few layers of my homemade polish.

    Finally, three days later, I finished making the spoon!

    Normally it shouldn’t take me so long, especially with something this small and with an easy-to-work-with wood, but the little overlord (Potato) decided a spoon having my full attention was completely unacceptable for more than 20 minutes.

    Eventually, I managed to finish it, and I’m a little irrationally happy at how it turned out. Sure, it’s a little uneven and you can tell where I missed in a few places. But I made it, and it’s nice knowing I can make things like this from scratch, even if they do finish up less than perfect.

    Finished Piece

    Making My Own Baby DIY Nappy Balm

    At the time of writing this I was 9 months and twelve days pregnant with my first baby. Since I already make all my own creams and lotions there was no way I wasn’t going to do the same for Potato – that’s not his real name btw. I spent a bit of time going over what oils and creams I wanted to use; it needed to hard enough not to melt into liquid on a hot day but melt easily once it came in contact with the skin. It had to be gentle and safe to use on a baby, and I also wanted to use ingredients which would be soothing and create a bit of a barrier between Potatoe’s skin and the nappy

    With eczema on both sides of the family I wanted something which would sooth, absorb easily and still leave a barrier on the surface of the skin to protect it. Eventually, I made a mix I was pleased with – I even use it myself a few times – though annoyingly, since I switched over to using cloth nappies a few weeks ago he hasn’t had nappy rash once.

    Ingredients: 

    • Cocoa Batter 50%
    • Calendula Oil (this one is infused in olive oil) 20%
    • Oat Oil 10%
    • Beeswax 10%
    • Carrot Oil 10%
    • Honey (optional)

    The reason I’ve listed the ingredients above in percentages is because I have no idea what size you will personally want to use, I can’t assume that you’ll have a pot which is exactly the same size as mine. So to make it simple, I’ve put it down in percentages. Figure out how much your pot or jar holds in total, and then divide that amount up in the percentages provided.

    Annoyingly, the tin I’d bought specifically for this cream didn’t work out. The moment I poured the final (hot) mix into it, the edges of the tin started to expand, and leak. As a result, I had to quickly de-pot the mixture into another smaller tin I had, so I won’t be linking the original tin as I cannot recommend it for homemade creams or balms. I’ll just have to save it for another project.

    Why I Like These Ingredients:

     

    • Cocoa Butter: Not as runny as coconut oil, less likely to turn into liquid if it get’s too warm. Anti-oxidant, soothing and moisturising with a pleasant coco-y smell to it. Some people might not like that cocoa smell that much, but personally, I love it!

     

    • Calendula Oil: Also called Marigold, this ingredient is infused in oilve oil, so not to be confused with an essential oil which is considerably stronger. It’s anti-inflammatory antiseptic, fungicidal and an astringent. In other words, it’s good for nappy rash, irritated skin and ezcema.

     

    • Oat Oil: Softening, moisturising and high in vitamin E.

     

    • Beeswax: This is one of my favorite skincare ingredients. It’s antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, smells amazing (a waxy, honey scent) and it’s great for holding together the other oils and creams in the mix and making sure the melting point isn’t too low.

     

    • Carrot Oil: Moisturizing, sinks easily into the skin, and the smell isn’t obviously ‘carroty’. Detoxing, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, in skincare it’s used for helping with dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, toning the skin and wrinkles. High in vitamins A, C, B1 and B2.

    What About the Other Ingredients? 

    The honey and the essential oils? The reason I didn’t list those in the ingredients list is because these are very much catered to my personal tastes and they’re such a small amount that they didn’t really have a percentage amout to them. The honey? I put that in everything. My tea, my food, my skincare. One day I even want to own a hive (or two). I also like that it is a really good preservative, antibacterial, moisturizing and really good for healing irritated, sore skin.

    As for the oils, once again, I want to stress that if you’re looking to use them please get your hands a good aromatherapy book. Just because it’s natural does not mean that you can’t have a reaction to it. Clove oil, for example, irritates my skin so much that just having the bottle open in another room will make me want to scratch my skin off.  I have similar reactions to cinnamon if I touch it, grapefruit oil, and fennel makes me incredibly nauseous. With a baby I have to be extra careful just because of how sensitive their skin is, so check the safety date, use the oils very sparingly, and avoid anything where there’s a history of allergies to in your family.

    • Lavender Oil: Good for eczema, dermatitis, inflammation, sores, spots and generally irritated skin.
    • Roman Chamomile oil: Analgesic (pain reliever), antiseptic, anti-anemic (increases red blood cells), bactericidal.

    One small note…

    When I made this cream the UK was experiencing one of the most spectacular heat waves in years – it was glorious! So I made this cream with a little more beeswax than I normally would so that it would remain reasonably solid in the warm weather and not melt all over the nappy bag. If you live in a hot country you can use the amounts above without a problem, but now that the weather has cooled, I’ve re-mixed the cream and taken down the beeswax amount to around 5% – 4%. The other five percent is half Calendula oil and half oat oil. Enough beeswax to hold the mix together and create a good barrier on baby’s skin, but not so much that the cream is a solid block in cooler weather.

    How To

    Why I Use Eggshells on My Face

    Yes, you read that correctly, I do actually use eggshells on my face. Before you write me off as completely crazy, let me explain; once they’re ground up into a fine powder they are absolutely amazing as a face scrub! A fine, gritty powder which is perfect for clearing out all the pores in the skin, especially those annoying ones around the nose which just seem to be dirt magnets.

    I like this for a few reasons; it uses up a resource which otherwise would just get thrown away. It’s much finer (and gentler) than anything like an almond face scrub – which personally I’ve always found far too abrasive – and it only cost me a few minutes to make.

    How to Make It:

    • First, try to break the eggs open as cleanly as possible. I know this part can be hard, especially with factory eggs which are crazy brittle, but if the eggshells do crumble a little don’t worry about it. Just collect all the pieces, take them over to the sink and if the pieces are really small, maybe work over a sieve.
    • Turn the tap on, keep the water pressure low and try to pinch the inner membrane between your fingers, you can normally find this along the edge of the broken shell. Pull this out and hold the eggshell under the tap so that the water can push its way between the eggshell and the membrane. This should make the whole process of removing the membrane a lot easier.
    • If the membrane rips, don’t worry about it. Just keep going till you’ve peeled off as much as possible. Next, to get the last little pieces still stuck on the inside of the eggshell, rub your fingers along the eggshell till the membrane rubs off and the inside is clean.
    • Now leave it out to dry. I normally put them out on a plate on the windowsill and grind them up the next morning.
    • Once dry, get a mortar and pestle (0r a food processor) and grind up the shells until they’re a fine powder. That’s it.

    But why remove the membrane?

    Here’s the thing, you don’t have to. If I was planning on throwing these into the compost I would leave the membrane and make sure that goodness ends up back in the soil, but there are two reasons I remove it;

    1. If I leave it attached, the eggshells can get a little ‘pulpy’ when I grind them up, and it takes a little longer to grind up properly.
    2. Normally I’ll save up 5-8 eggs before I grind them up so that I can make a large batch of powder, store it, and then use it up over the following weeks. If I’ve removed the membrane and washed the eggshells thoroughly they keep just fine, if I don’t…well, I guess you could still use it, but the eggy smell is not the nicest thing to work with.

    A Few Different Ways I Use It:

    1. The simplest way is just on it’s own with water. Cup a little water in your hand (or a small bowl), pour out some shell powder into the water till you have a paste and gently work it into your skin.
    2. Add a few oils to the eggshells – don’t add water if you do this – my favorites are rosehip oil, evening primrose oil or hemp butter, and rub into the skin. I love doing this right before I go to sleep, especially if I’m trying to use up some of the oils which leave my skin feeling amazing, but don’t smell that nice – I’m looking at you sea buckthorn oil. It works the oils into my skin, sloughs off the dead skin and you wake up with a plump, soft face.

    And that’s pretty much it. A simple, frugal and amazingly effective way to exfoliate your skin. Oh, and if you make a little too much or decide you don’t want to use up the rest of the shell powder, just throw it in the compost or sprinkle it around your plants. It’ll do wonders to your plants (especially any tomatoes) and they compost much better if they’re broken down rather than just thrown in the compost bin.

    Finished Piece

    My Very Simple DIY Face Oil

    When I first started making my own skincare creams and lotions a few years ago things got complicated pretty fast. I would mix as many different oils together as I could and I was on a constant hunt to try out new oils and butters.

    Nowadays my current favorite is surprisingly simple, it’s too simple to have a tutorial for it so I thought I would write up a quick blog post instead.

    (I label all my oils on the lids so I can easily see what I have)

    What I use:

    Some of you might have seen on Instagram a few months ago that after I’d finished my Midnight Recovery Serum I cleaned it up, scraped off the blue coating and reused the bottle. I absolutely love this bottle, and since I’m trying to reuse/repurpose everything I buy as much as possible, I figured, why not just clean it out and use it again?

    To make this mix it I fill most of the bottle with evening primrose oil, add three full droppers of carrot oil on top and then finish by adding three drops each of the essential oils, close the lid, give it a good shake, and that’s it. I know, not very accurate, but it is simple and it works beautifully for my skin.

    If you want to make this one yourself I’ve linked where I bought all the various ingredients above. Just note that the Amazon links are affiliate links and I want to point out that the carrot oil bottle is very, very small for the price. While I’m happy with the oil itself, I think once I run out I’m going to look for another brand which is a bit more reasonably priced or bigger.

    Why I Like These Ingredients:

     

    • Evening Primrose Oil: Moisturising, sinks into the skin quickly without leaving a thick sticky residue and doesn’t have a strong or offensive smell. High in antioxidants and omega 6 fatty acids. It’s often used as a treatment for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

     

    • Carrot Oil: Also very moisturizing and sinks easily into the skin, and the smell isn’t obviously ‘carroty’. With detoxing, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, in skincare it’s used for helping with dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, toning the skin and wrinkles. High in vitamins A, C, B1 and B2.

     

    • Frankincense Essential Oil: Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent. In skincare it’s used to help with blemishes, dry, mature or wrinkled skin and is also thought to be very effective for healing scars.

     

    • Helichrysum Essential Oil: For the skin this oil is traditionally used to help with psoriasis, acne, eczema, spots burns and inflammation.  So far, along with Frankincense, this is my favorite oil for maintaining an even skin tone. Especially if I get a little sunburnt or – like at the moment – have pregnancy pigmentation. It’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobials and astringent.

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