the solid shower

I was reading a satirical agony aunt page in the Sunday papers and a young man was concerned that following the arrival of his girlfriend into his flat on a “try before you buy” basis, a total of 52 beauty products had turned up in his bathroom.  The agony aunt assured him that the girlfriend had not moved in permanently as 52 items was most certainly only a small selection of her collection.  Amusing, but there is an element of truth in that.

I have never been a massive beauty product shopper.  I will confess to being seduced every now and then, well perhaps quite a few times, but I have never had the time or energy to undergo a mini spa routine every day.  Furthermore, deep down inside I didn’t really think they were up to the job and bearing in mind it was only as recently as 2010 that some shops unilaterally decided to ban parabens from the products on their shelves I was always uneasy about precisely what it was I was putting on my  hair and skin.  My mother brought me up to wash with a cloth and water, remove makeup with olive oil and tone with rosewater and witchazel.  We made rosemary vinegar hair rinses and raided the fridge to make facemasks for a girly night in.

Since then I have flirted with commercial products but then another factor came into play. Packaging.  Not only was I concerned by the content of the product, I was downright irritated by the packaging it came in.  Rethink required.  My paraben free EWG approved shampoo and conditioner came in a plastic bottle.  The bottle can be recycled, but it can’t be refilled and in my opinion  recycling should be the last option before landfill, not the first.

2017-11-06 22.17.25

This is our shower shelf now.  From left to right, salt and almond oil scrub (home made), rosemary infused apple cider vinegar hair rinse (home made), cream block – solid conditioner (comes wrapped in paper from Funky Soaps), white block – rosemary Marseille soap (bought unwrapped from producer), dark brown block – solid shampoo (Funky Soaps again).

The salt scrub is merely almond oil mixed with sea salt.  You can add essential oils if you like, I don’t bother.  The ACV rinse is merely ACV in which I have infused fresh rosemary for a couple of weeks.  Simples.

The proof of the pudding – does it work.  Well my husband voluntarily commented how soft my hair was this week.  Praise doesn’t come higher than that.

A final comment.  I know that a lot of zero wasters swear by Lush solid shampoo.  Personally, quite apart from the fact that I can’t pass by one of their shops without feeling a little queasy, any company that has only this year decided to use a seaweed based glitter in their products whilst spending the previous decades waxing lyrical about their eco-friendly approach and using plastic glitter in their bath products, is not going to get my pennies.  We do not need glitter in our baths.  In all honesty do we really need glitter at all?

Love Gillie x

 

 

Arthur and Marilyn a tale of two ferments

Meet Arthur (Miller)

2017-11-02 11.26.26

 

He is a kombucha scoby.

This is his wife Marilynn (Monroe)

 

2017-11-02 11.27.44

My sourdough starter.  Sadly they are separated as Marylin has to live in the fridge whereas Arthur would die in there.  However that has not prevented Arthur from producing vast amounts of offspring who were starting to clog up the family home.  So drastic measures were taken and the kids were given a makeover and converted into scoby  fruit leather.

For those of you perplexed by the term scoby it stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts.  For anyone who has ever had a vinegar mother – it is much the same thing.  Place it in alcohol and it will convert it to vinegar, place it in cold tea with sugar and it will produce a delicious probiotic filled drink called kombucha.  However that is another post, this is about what to do with all those pesky children who keep turning up.

Ingredients are very simple:

  • Scoby
  • fruit
  • sugar to taste (I don’t use sugar but it’s all about your taste)

There, that wasn’t too hard was it.  Whizz your scoby up in a blender.

2017-10-30 10.34.51

Turn your mind to the fruit.  I had a selection of elderly and pretty unidentifiable soft fruit in the freezer.  If you don’t have a black hole of a freezer like me you will want to produce a softly cooked puree.  Shove the fruit in a pan with a little sugar to taste and heat gently until you have a lovely mush.  Add to the scoby puree.

 

Spread your goo over a baking tray (I use a silicone sheet to prevent sticking) and put in a very low oven.  No more than 40C otherwise you will kill off all those probiotic goodies.  If you have an Aga the bottom oven is perfect.

2017-10-30 10.43.04

Leave until completely dried out.

Peel off and eat 🙂

2017-10-30 18.23.36

Love Gillie x

 

bits and bobs pumpkin coconut curry

I’ve never been a great one for Halloween (if anything I have always been more of a Samhain girl) so it surprised even me when now that the girls are all away at university I came home with a pumpkin today.  I had the urge to do a little carving.  I even found myself googling pumpkin carving ideas.  Wow, there are some serious artists out there.  I am not in that league.

This is a cat (just in case you weren’t sure and were embarrassed  to ask).

2017-10-31 17.42.24

So now I am faced with a lot of pumpkin flesh.  I am not a fan of pumpkin soup, there are far more exciting and tasty soups out there and if I had to choose a pudding pumpkin pie wouldn’t be top of the list.  And anyway even though I chose the smallest pumpkin I have enough flesh to make more pumpkin soups and pies than either of us will ever want.

We are eating down the freezer at the moment so in the spirit of make do with what I have I bring you Bits and Bobs Pumpkin coconut curry.  There is little in the way of measurements because this is a chuck it in and taste recipe.

  • Pumpkin flesh
  • Elderly mushrooms
  • Half a manky red pepper
  • What I could salvage from an almost dead aubergine
  • An onion
  • Some garlic cloves
  • A chunk of ginger
  • A red chilli
  • Tumeric
  • Tamarind paste
  • A tin of coconut milk
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • Some veg stock or water
  • Lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Chop the onion (I left mine reasonably chunky) ditto the rest of the veg. Chop/crush/grate the garlic and ginger and dice the chilli.

Soften the onion gently in oil (of your choice I used vegetable) in a large pan.  After a couple of minutes add the chili, garlic, ginger and a generous teaspoon of tumeric.  Continue to cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the rest of your vegetables (including that pumpkin flesh) and stir to cover them with the tumericy paste (at this point take lots of deep breaths, the smell is divine).  Add the tin of tomatoes, tin of coconut milk and enough water/veg stock to cover all that yummy veggie stuff.  Stir in a couple of teaspoons of tamarind paste and the juice of a lime.  Leave to simmer until you can’t wait and have to eat it.  I might add a dollop of sour cream.

2017-10-31 18.21.23

 

Happy Halloween and Samhain Blessings

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

whittle down that wardrobe

One of the advantages of going on a lazy holiday just the two of you is that there is no urgency to keep anybody else happy or occupied, you can potter around at your own pace, you can visit the places you want to and stop for lunch whenever you want for as long as you want.  The other advantage is that you have time.  I have almost finished knitting a pair of socks, have had read  several books and have caught up on all those blogs I follow but often don’t get around to reading.

At this time of year (with apologies to my readers from the Southern Hemisphere) it would seem that the minds of many turn around to where and how to store their summer clothing and bedding.  This is a concept with which I have some trouble getting my head around.  Granted, I do wear more jumpers and scarves in the winter, I give up bare legs and wear woolly tights.  But I don’t have a separate summer wardrobe, I just wear more layers in the winter.  As for our bed.  We have one duvet, I’ve no idea of the tog value, it’s feather and down and if I am too hot I toss it off and if I am too cold I wear pyjamas and put a couple of blankets over the top.

Why on earth do we need separate wardrobes and separate bedding?  What shocked me even more was that many of the earnest discussions about the best way to store said belongings were on websites and groups dedicated to minimalist/low impact living.  Surely the essence of low impact living is to ensure that your belongings are multipurpose?

There are a few items that only see the light of day in summer or winter.  Bikinis, woolly hats, woollen long-johns.  I am struggling to think of any others, my standard summer footwear (Birkenstocks) become my winter indoor slippers worn with lovely thick hand knitted socks.  Those handful of season restricted items hardly need a drawer of their own let alone a purposed wardrobe or cupboard.

2017-09-25 16.43.12

So today I am still on holiday in the south of France.  It is warm but not excessively so.  I am wearing my birkies, navy leggings and a long floral shirt.    If I were at home in the north of England where I am reliably informed by friends it is somewhat cooler!  I would maybe wear a tee-shirt under my shirt, a cardigan or jumper on top and put on socks and shoes when going outside.  Likewise I have linen dresses that I wear in the summer and then in the winter layer up with tee-shirts and jumpers.

I do have some woollen skirts, dresses and trousers, but surprisingly few for somebody who lives in the apparently frozen north!

Before you start dividing up your wardrobe into Summer and Winter and thus consigning your clothes to be worn for only 6 months of the year, take another look.  If you are looking to downsize your wardrobe start looking at ways to wear most, if not necessarily all, your clothes all year around.  You can wear linen trousers in winter if you want, you just need a pair or tights or long johns underneath!

It also  makes packing for travelling a whole lot easier too if you can make your wardrobe work for two seasons instead of just one.

Love Gillie x

fragrant fun at Fragonard

2017-09-19 13.32.39

All the girls are now at university so we are officially empty nesters. With that in mind we decided to take a few days off and are currently enjoying warm weather and the local rosé in the south of France.  St Paul-de-Vence to be precise, and very lovely it is too.

As we are only half an hour from Grasse it was not difficult to persuade the Boss that a little detour around the Fragonard museum and factory would be a pleasant way to spend the morning.

The museum was small but fascinating with fine examples of toiletry bottles and equipment from as early as the sixth century BC, the latter in such superb condition that at first I thought it was a copy.  But the jewel in the crown is the factory tour.

2017-09-19 13.19.05

The bottles of essential oils alone were enough to woo me.

2017-09-19 13.17.46

The bottle went on and one.  To be honest I am not sure what is in them, but they were so beautiful.

2017-09-19 13.18.50

Originally extraction was either cold press, where each flower was placed on a rack of animal fat (cow or pig) for twenty four hours and then replaced daily for a  month until the fat was soaked with the flower essence.  It was then washed with alcohol, the alcohol evaporated away and what was left was the absolute.

2017-09-19 13.24.19

Racks for cold press.

More robust plants were heated with the oil over a few days and then washed with alcohol as above.  Today they have perfected a slightly more rapid option using alcohol directly, or the good old maceration and still method.  (See my post here about how to make your own rosewater – but sadly not essential oil!)

The perfumes (at 76% these are the perfumes not the eau du parfum nor eau de toilette) are blended in these huge vats.  Perhaps not quite as romantic as those rose petals we soaked in water to make perfume for our mothers, but a little more effective!

2017-09-19 13.19.56

I am wearing this particular perfume today/

2017-09-19 13.20.31

 

Some of the equipment looked like giant coffee machines!

2017-09-19 13.21.39

For reasons known only to Fragonard, you can buy egg boxes of soap.

2017-09-19 13.27.32

This process was a little more familiar (soap making not egg boxes – most of our egg boxes are full of real eggs from our real hens!)

2017-09-19 13.25.07

Lots of mixing, shaving and mixing again.  Mind you their equipment is a little more sophisticated.

They also run workshops where you can mix your own perfume.  Sounds fun at two hours and might give it a go.  Particularly when I learned it takes six years to train as a Nose.  That’s as long as a doctor!  This is the play laboratory.  Apparently a real one has 2,000 to 3,000 different scents to choose from!  This Libran would find that a little overwhelming.

2017-09-19 13.31.58

And finally of course to the shop!  The prices were actually quite reasonable (especially with my 10% discount voucher acquired earlier in the day!)  So a few purchases were made.

2017-09-19 13.40.02

Today is Farmers’ Market day in St Paul-de-Vence so it will be cheese I will be smelling and tasting!

Love Gillie x

to sieze or not the day

Horace

Horace has a lot to answer for.  Often regarded as the first autobiographer as well as a superb poet he also was either right hand man or court puppet, depending on your point of view, to Octavius during the transition from Republic of Rome to Roman Empire.  He also coined two of the most misused words in poetry: carpe diem.

From the first book of Odes, the words carpe diem are frequently translated as “seize the day” and often quoted alongside six equally misused words: live each day as your last.  I have recently had good cause to consider these six words.

My eldest daughter has been travelling in southern Mexico. She was travelling with a friend who returned at the end of last week, my daughter is due to fly back tonight.  Like parents of most young travellers we watched her Facebook page and kept in touch with the occasional text.  Then on Saturday morning I woke up to the news of the devastating earthquake in Mexico.  It took me a good five minutes before I linked Mexico, earthquake and my daughter.  And then I went into panic mode.  It went a little like this.

  • Main damage is in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Check where daughter was last seen.  Chiapas.
  • Check last message from travelling companion.  Daughter due to leave Chiapas for Oaxaca.
  • Contact travelling companion.  Daughter said she was going to spend her last few days on the coast at Puerto Escondido.  The coast, the nearest part of the country to the epicentre.
  • I send emails, texts, messages to her.  None are returned.

I tell myself she will be fine.  Then I ask myself why should she be fine?  Why should ours be the story with the happy ending.  I watch the numbers of deaths rise alarmingly.  I remember what I said when she left.  It was something like “have a lovely holiday and take care” followed by a kiss and a hug.

I fire up all the networks I know and help and support comes pouring out of the woodwork.  A friend of a friend is married to a Mexican military official who will check casualty lists.  Old school friends offer somewhere for her to stay when (if?) she is found.  People offer help with repatriation when (if?) she is found and she can’t get to her flight.  Somebody knows a BBC journalist in Mexico and asks if I would like her to make contact.  Anything, yes please.  This was a little odd as I then found myself on the M74 heading up to Glasgow to drop another daughter at university and conducting a live radio interview at the same time (I wasn’t driving!)

I think back to the time she left and wonder if I should have said more, should I have lived that day as if it were her last?  I am now in serious mother panic mode, but on the outside am all calm and positive.  Only my feet are paddling furiously under the water and going nowhere.

We arrive in Glasgow, still no news.  I have been welded to my phone all day.  We go out for a meal and for the first time in my life I have my phone, screen up in front of me on the table.  All those times I have sneered at people who can’t leave their phones for one second and I have become that person overnight.

Late that night standing in the co-op whilst the twins pick up some fruit and yoghurt one of them yelps “She is active on Facebook!”  Frantic punching of keys and we phone her.

She is fine, she is safe and she is well.  She had not been in Puerto Escondido, she had not been in Chiapas, nor Oaxaca city.  She had been up in the mountains.  They had felt the quake and it had been terrifying, but in the middle of nowhere, with no telephone or internet connection they had no idea of the devastation elsewhere.  It was not until they got down to Oaxaca city that it dawned on them that they had had a very lucky escape.

I have no idea what the other people in the Co-op made of our happy little family squeaking and shrieking as we headed out onto Gordon Street, but who cared?

She isn’t home yet and today I am hoping to find out if she has made it to Mexico City where she can catch the first of her planes home.  If not, well we’ll sort something out.

Going back to saying goodbye to her before she left. If we truly are to live each day as if it were our last then we would not really be living at all.  We would be forever fearful of what tomorrow might bring, we could not seize this day because our minds would be forever concentrating on the next day.

Carpe diem is correctly translated as “pluck the day”, perhaps no better than “sieze the day” in its intention?  However, as with all things context is vital.

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero – sieze the present, trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.

Now things start to make a little more sense.  Perhaps it is wise not to trust tomorrow entirely, because the lack of flexibility that would ensue would make for a very fractured and disappointing life as things fail to go as expected.  On the other hand, to have no trust in tomorrow is equally unhelpful.

So I have my own tenet.  I won’t seize (or pluck) the day, nor will I live each day as if it were my (or even my daughter’s) last.

I will live contentedly.  I will enjoy this moment and at the end of each day I ask myself if I had a good day.  If I did I spend a moment or two reliving and enjoying it.  If I didn’t, then I look at where I could have, if at all, improved upon it and then I let it go.  It is been and gone and tomorrow is another day.  To be trusted a little but not to be entirely depended on.

love Gillie x

autumnal herbs

When I wake in the morning I can no longer hear the dawn chorus, when I sit outside in the evening even I need a jumper and we lit the stove for the first time last night.  I can no longer pretend that summer isn’t coming towards its end.  I had never really thought of myself as a summer girl, but as I have got older I have become aware that summer is the time that I truly come alive.  I am more productive and my creativity ups several notches.  Getting dressed in the morning takes seconds and I live in my Birkenstocks all day and every day.  The garden is full to bursting and we have fresh flowers in every room of the house.

However the is a reason for every season and as autumn begins to take the upper hand I can start to gather in.  Our vegetable garden, along with much of the house, was being rebuilt this year so we didn’t have as big a harvest this year.  However, the winter veg are in, the greenhouse has brought forth a bumper offering and the herbs have been as abundant as ever.

I do have a dehydrator, but I prefer to use that for roots and fruits.  For leaves I leave them to hang in the boiler house.

2017-09-05 17.15.352017-09-05 17.15.292017-09-05 17.15.42

Parsley, lavender and marjaram.

The mint, lemon balm and sage have been hanging for a few weeks and are now ready to put away in jars.

2017-09-05 17.15.01

We have also made our own bacon, salt beef and lox.  Today I shall be picking the rosehips for syrup, shrub (sweet vinegar), jelly, ketchup and elderberry and reship tonic.

What are you drying and preserving this autumn?

love Gillie x