Life is an adventure of the heart, an adventure into love

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Homemade Chamomile and Viola Skin Cream

I have been wanting to make my own herbal beauty creams for a while now, and I was inspired to make my own yesterday. I knew that I needed Violas to make a particular eczema cream for my daughter, so when hundreds of them blossomed in the garden, I knew I had to go for it! The 'Viola tricolor' have apparently been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory to treat skin conditions. Chamomile flowers have great antihistamine and antiseptic properties, so combined with some lovely nourishing oils this makes a good skin salve. This recipe was adapted from two great books: 'the ultimate natural beauty book' by Josephine Fairley and 'Grow your own drugs' by James Wong. I used Lavender and Chamomile essential oils at the end, but feel free to use whatever smells you love best.

A note on ingredients:
Some of these ingredients may look unfamiliar or difficult to source, but in actual fact it is very easy to get hold of all these things. For the dried flowers and essential oils, I would recommend www.baldwins.co.uk although there are numerous online suppliers of all these things. If you don't have any Viola flowers, then take a trip to a local Garden Centre where there will be plenty of plants for sale. Glycerin can be bought off the shelf from any Chemist and the Olive oil and Honey are fine from a supermarket.

Ingredients
1 Tablespoon of dried chamomile flowers
150ml filtered/ rain water
100ml Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon runny honey
10g Beeswax
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Glycerin
2 drops Chamomile essential oil (essential oils are optional)
2 drops Lavender essential oil

Equipment
A saucepan and glass bowl to make a double boiler.
Wooden/ Silicone spoon
Measuring Jug
Measuring spoons
Scales
Hand/ Electric Whisk
Sterilised glass pot or jar to put finished cream into.

Method
1. Put the chamomile flowers, viola flowers and water into a small pan and bring to the boil ; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool, then strain off and discard the herbs. You have just made a herbal decoction!
2. Place the oil, honey and beeswax in the top of a double- boiler and slowly add the glycerine; melt gently on a low heat, stirring. (It is almost worth making this, just for the gorgeous relaxing smell of melting Beeswax- one of my top 5 favourite smells).
3. Remove from the heat and SLOWLY add the herbal decoction, beating all the time with a whisk. You should see the cream thicken, if it doesn't, you have added the herbal decoction too quickly, so please take it slow!
4. Add your essential oils of choice and stir again. Transfer to a clean sterilised jar or pot and cover when cold.

Use within 2 months (I would recommend keeping the cream in a cool dark place).

The cream feels really luxurious and smells lovely and organic. I would recommend using before bed as it does make your face look a bit greasy for a while!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Nettle Soup for Spring























We have all encountered stinging nettles at some point in our lives. They spring up all over the British Isles with their nasty stinging leaves. I expect we were all told as children that to stop the pain of a sting, you need to rub it with a Dock leaf, which usually grows near -by the nettles. I'd heard about nettle soup, but never tried it... until this week. All the fresh young nettles are currently pushing their way out of the increasingly warm earth, and this is the perfect time to get picking as you want the young plants (otherwise things could get stringy!). Just remember to wear gloves and pick mainly the tips- get your own back on those stingers! The soup tastes really good, the nettles taste similar to spinach, but still have their own unique flavour, and apparently they are packed full of goodness, so that's a bonus! The recipe is from 'The River Cottage Cookbook' by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Ingredients
1/2 Carrier bag full of young nettles
55g Butter
1 large or 2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed or grated finely
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock (a cube like Knorr is fine)
Freshly grated nutmeg
3 Tablespoons of cooked rice
2 Tablespoons creme fraiche
Salt and Pepper

To garnish
Chopped parsley
Creme Fraiche
Nutmeg

Pick over the nettles and wash them thoroughly.

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Place the lid on to 'sweat' the vegetables until soft and sweet. Add the stock and then pile all the nettles on top. Place the lid back on and allow the nettles to cook for 5-10 minutes (until tender), stirring a couple of times. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Allow to cool slightly before pouring into a blender with the cooked rice (to thicken). Blend until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pan and add the creme fraiche and check seasoning.  Reheat to almost boiling and then serve, garnished with creme fraiche, chopped parsley and a sprinkling of nutmeg... enjoy!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Change

Change can be uncomfortable, painful and frightening, but ultimately life is about change. Things don't stay still for long. Seeing as I am in a gardening vibe at the moment, these thoughts about change were actually brought about this morning when I was re-potting my tomato plants on from their seed trays to bigger pots. It is important to keep increasing the plant's size of pot as they grow and fill out the first ones with roots, otherwise their growth could be stunted. If my poor little tomato plants could speak, they probably would have been screaming for mercy as I gently teased them out of the seed tray one by one, trying to keep all their roots intact, and planting them straight into their moist, bigger pots. They did not look happy afterward either, they wilted straight away and I knew that I had to leave them alone at that point or I would risk damaging them further. Here is a picture I took of them, maybe an hour later when most of them were looking much better, but the caption is: 'Change can be hard'!
I have been experiencing a lot of change personally over the past few months. I found myself today, at my 'creativity desk' for the first time in awhile. I was thinking about painting or drawing again, but for some reason, I can't do this at the moment. I don't know the exact reason why this is, but I know that there is a reason, and that maybe this dream is needing to be left alone for a time, maybe it's roots need to go deeper, or maybe it is hurting after some big change, but I am totally receiving the grace to just let it be for now. Here is a picture of my space:


 It has been a wonderful season for me, discovering a passion to draw and create and actually being given the space to do that. However, change has arrived at my doorstep now, and it is happening to me, yes people, I'm being re-potted. Now I just have to spread out my roots and see what new goodness there is to find. I know that drawing will always be a part of my life, but while it lies in dormancy, some other dreams are being given the space to flourish. Gardening for one, just look at all my seedlings!

I am also very excited about photography and writing, which is why I am enjoying this blog so much! I am discovering the simple beauty that is around me here. I love the fresh, 'bleached' feel of the coastal scenery and the blue blue skies and springtime delights.



I love being part of this community, I keep bumping into the older men of the village, all of whom so far seem to be called Jack and have at least one little dog! The other day, I was chatting to one of them who has an allotment just down from mine, the conversation went onto politics and the fact that we need change. This lovely old man looked me in the eyes and said in his gentle Scottish accent: "What we need, Sophie, is a Revolution." I told him that I couldn't agree more! My daughter and I then bumped into this lovely old farmer, who actually said "Oooo Arrrr" several times, and warmed my heart just when I needed it!
So all this newness is very exciting, but at the same time, it does feel like I am in a little bit of mourning at the loss of the old season. I am thankful for so much and to so many who have inspired me and encouraged me along the way until now, and there is a part of me that is still getting over the change in that area. I am going to post up a few pictures of some of my first drawings and creative expressions that marked the beginning of a creative life for me. I am thankful for them and I am thankful for my new and bigger pot that I am slowly discovering. But most of all I am thankful for this:
 So here are a few of my first drawings and paintings. It's been a good year.




Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sunflower Seeds


My daughter and I planted sunflower seeds today. It was a bright, clear blue sunny day and we walked down to our allotment, picnic packed. My hand held onto her perfect little warm one as we set off to sow some seeds together. Sometimes in life, you have to face your fear. My opportunity came along this week, and with it the question: "Will you be yourself or will you doubt yourself? Will you love yourself or hurt yourself in order for other people's needs to be met?" I feel I have come to a point in my life now, where I can truly say that I am the most important person in my life. A consequence of it is that I love others and I see their hearts much more clearly than before, that I am more generous and giving... but only where I can be freely me. If I have to compromise that, it hurts and I close down. I have come to a point where I cannot, not will not do this anymore. So back to the seeds. We dug deep into the soil, it was tangled with roots so we threw it away. We placed fresh, fertile compost in our trench and then watered the soil carefully. We were now ready to plant the tiny seeds. We made holes 1/2 inch deep into the soil 18 inches apart and planted two tiny seeds per hole. The weaker plant will be pulled up when the sunflower seedlings appear. As I am writing this, I am realising how important it is to take care of your dreams... if dreams are like seeds then they need a lot of love and care. They need to be placed into a snug dark hole for awhile. Hidden and safe. They need nourishing, they need rain, they also need sunshine. Sometimes we have to loose ourselves into our dreams. We have to protect and nourish them no matter what. We must not sacrifice them. We must face our fear. In facing our fear, we are choosing love, we are believing that we are valuable and that life is about living. One day there will be a beautiful yellow flower, full of tiny seeds. From that one tiny dream, there will be a multitude of fruit. It is worth the rain, the pain and the darkness. It is worth everything to be fully yourself.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Springtime fills my heart with joy...
















A spring poem
Walking through the muddy paths
Hearing birdsong, robins chirping, great tits proclaiming,
"All is well."
The greenness is beginning to overtake the brown,
Buds and vibrant lime green leaves bursting forth from smooth brown skin
The verdant richness fills me up with hope,
That life never stops, it is always overflowing
Cheering us on...
"Keep going, there is joy within."
The new day has brought with it a hazy warmth,
The smell is fresh and earthy,
I run and smile, tiny bubbles of hope rising up inside me,
Just when you need it
It comes.
The beauty that abounds around us, freely given, loving, truthful.
Today, I am grateful that I live here,
I have a knowing that there is love all around me,
I believe.
I trust.