Herbal soap-mania

During September, I suffered from intensive soap-mania. After a summer break I felt hungry to create a couple of recipes. According to my last resolution I only worked with herbs and pure natural oils, no additional fragrance or coloring. At the first sight, the soaps might be considered boring and similar each to other. They are not models for a beautiful photo, but they still can please in the bath, especially if you are a natural type.

Working on my original recipes, I do only a small batch of each, so the recent mania didn’t overload my stock.

The shampoo bars became the first creation. I cannot imagine washing hair with the commercial products anymore, even though I did it for the most of my lifetime before. I love the natural character of my shampoo bars, as well as the flood of herbal effects that I put there myself.

Actually, I made three different recipes of shampoo bars. The first one, based on herbal powder from birch leaves and linden petals with a lot of hemp and olive oils, was enriched in the water phase by the root of burdock, other birch leaves and also aromatic myrtle leaves. Unfortunately, the lye required for saponification is a killer of gentle natural scents and you must have extremely developed senses to feel it in the finished soap. But the shampoo bars number 1 are almost ready to use.

The shampoo number two is based on herbal powder from wild thyme with pinch of Moroccan clay, traditionally used for hair care even without soap. Among range of natural oils I would like to mention adding of the neem oil which is extremely kind to hair and especially to skin of the skull. Back to herbs, I made distilled herbal water again, this time from decoction of wild thyme, horsetail, burdock and hops. This recipe could treat weak hair and problematic skin.

The third recipe of shampoo is based on chamomile and yarrow with pinch of handmade powder from oatmeal. The water phase is enriched by the same herbs plus hops. Among oils, I used a lot of almond oil and shea butter, so this shampoo is going to be calming and nourishing.

I also succeeded to make an excellent lavender soap. I went for almond and shea butter, coconut, castor and olive oils, honey and beeswax. This time I got the soap of velvet consistency, I almost wanted to eat it. I believe that honey and beeswax made an excellent job inside, cannot wait to test it.

Having a really nice honey, I repeated the trick with another recipe. I tried to use honey solo, without beeswax support. I wanted to combine it with cocoa butter but actually I was out of it. No way to wait for supply! So I took an old comfrey ointment made from castor oil and cocoa butter only (comfrey infused inside). And because I am crazy about writing the exact amount of ingredients every time, it was easy to calculate the soap even from the ointment. Also, I couldn’t think about herbs because comfrey was already there. I decided for chamomile in water phase perhaps because it fits with honey well. Again, I got a velvet soap, still waiting on the shelf.

Last, but definitely not the least was a Master of wilderness. This recipe isn’t boring! I used oak bark powder and crushed juniper berries for coconut oil infusion, and thyme, bay leaf and allspice for distilled decoction. The power of wilderness slightly won over the strength of lye, so the scent remained present. The truth is that I used also a few drops of my own juniper tincture just before finishing the soap.

You see? So much original recipes and herbal combinations, and the rules of soap-making process force me to wait about 6 weeks. Of course, I could fulfill this period of time by making other soaps, but it would be near to perpetual motion 😊 Nothing to say about tons of waiting soaps in my tiny space. So I have to spend my days differently. Fortunately, there is a beautiful Indian summer outside and walking is one of my favorite disciplines.

With love, Ivana

P.S. All my recipes are palm oil free, I work with coconut oil instead.

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Herbal candy, homemade

Several weeks ago I got a sudden idea to make herbal candies even though I’d never tried it before. But it cannot be so difficult, right? Sugar, herbs, water and probably few drops of lemon juice.

First time, I was obsessed with violets. No matter it was after midnight, I found a small amount of dried flowers from last spring remaining and this was a great opportunity to use them.

I made a strong tea from violets, which got after adding lemon juice a beautiful pink-purple color. I mixed it with large amount of sugar, cooked to thicken with constant stirring and poured into a silicone mold. They were yummy!

Before I could eat them, a friend came and complained about troubles with vocal cords – tension and too much mucus that needed to be released. So I offered her my new candies because I assumed that violets’ healing effects could complete their mission. I was right and happy when she confirmed that the candies did their job perfectly.

Then I made other batches – chamomile, elderflower, elderberry, pine, lavender – and always came somebody whom I gave most of them. I am still learning how to get the best consistency, but I don’t have complains about taste yet.

I feel like Columbus when he discovered America, even though it existed long before he arrived.

Today, I prepared a small batch from sage and wild thyme. Maybe tomorrow someone comes with cold or flu.

Do you have an experience with homemade herbal candy?

With love, Ivana

When the winter asks…

I believe that in many countries, at least in the areas where the climate brings a big difference between winter and summer, exists similar proverb. When the winter asks what did you do in the summer? And now there is the time which is going to test the summer activities.

During windy weather last week I caught a small cold, so it was the first opportunity to check my tincture made in summer. It is a highly aromatic blend of herbs in strong alcohol, balanced to touch typical winter disorders. This one is better to use against bacteria based infections, but is usable against flu as well. Most herbs act antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, helping to cleanse the body and increase its own immunity.

I have used following herbs:

Oak bark: Oak is a symbol of strength and its bark is an effective shield against lot of enemies for our health. It protects against a wide range of viruses and bacteria, and if some attack the body, it can squeeze them out. Oak bark is ready to absorb redundant moisture and so relieve most of “wet” diseases. Additionally, it stimulates the energy circulation in the body and so accelerates whole process of healing.

Sage: Sage is a sign of wisdom and cleansing, often used in magical rituals too. It means there must be a power inside! I respect all the abilities of sage, but somehow I perceive sage as a provocateur, who only cares where that person is unable to do it. In other cases sage forces a person to act in order to protect himself. So, sage is a big help in various situations, but it is primarily a great teacher, who keeps us in bed if necessary.

Plantain: Unlike the previous herbs, Plantain is here to care directly for throat and lungs. It works like a good uncle who treats injured places and exchanges wet tiles for them.

Wild thyme: Thyme is known especially for its use in the kitchen, but it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects too. It is a good supporter for lung and breathing.

Goldenrod: Goldenrod has yellow-gold brushes that sweep many afflictions out and increase immunity so they cannot easily return. If necessary, goldenrod has a strong vulnerary effect.

Lavender: Lavender is another sign of cleansing or better to say “cleansing with calm head”. One of big lavender’s hobby is to disinfect and bring its own energy instead. Lavender soothes and lets us for a moment forget that we are sick.

Clove: Clove is an active part among the herbs, even in small quantity. It is another from stimulants, ready to fight with microbial enemies. Clove works through the whole body, but oral cavity is a home base for it. And to be honest, mouth is often very touched by winter disorders.

I made a range of tinctures in summer, but I successfully used this one for the small cold of the last week.

With love for herbs and people,

Ivana

Knitting socks, second attempt

Thanks to encouragement from Lydia and others I didn’t give up my attempts to knit socks. The second one had much better result. Even though I see some bugs, I am proud of it!

These socks I can wear in the shoes, I have already checked them for a walk. They are thin, but warm. I am very happy with them! And to be honest, I have started to work on my third attempt, hopefully much more perfect.

That is all for today, I just needed to share my joy! Ivana

Big challenge

When I was a small girl, I enjoyed watching fairy tales in black and white, the tales from Grandmother Sheep. She was sitting in an old chair, knitting an extremely long sock, and telling stories about brave lambs and evil wolves. Knitting and talking gave me the right soothing atmosphere at bedtime.

I learned how to knit early, but I did not have enough patience to finish something. In fact, I knit a few sweaters in my teenage and during university studies, but later I preferred dynamics of real life. A week ago, something changed. I decided to knit my own socks!

After about 30 years I decided to go back to knitting and make something what I never even tried before! Thanks to internet, I quickly found the right offer of yarns and tutorials how to knit socks. But it was no longer the soothing atmosphere of Grandmother Sheep. It seemed more like scientific work.

Suddenly I wasn’t sure. Maybe I had waited too long. So I started slowly, on two needles only. Better to make more loops than less, so the socks wouldn’t be small. I used all possible precautions and patiently knit both socks while I kept in mind Grandmother Sheep again. And maybe because of that, my socks became giant in size, just like in the fairy tale.

Next time, I will have more courage and my socks will fit also into other place than only to bed. I hope it will be next time, because I am very disappointed right now.

Myrtle: Freshness of Love

In the place where I live, myrtle doesn’t grow except of gardens because it needs human protection during the winter months. Myrtle comes from southern countries around Mediterranean Sea and belongs to plants that were significant from ancient times.

Myrtle contains a high percentage of volatile oils mostly based on camphor, pine and lemon. Together it makes a very fresh scent to which you are almost magically attracted. That fact has been used for ages in fragrance oils for both, religious and secular purposes.

The ancient Greeks dedicated myrtle to the goddess of beauty and love, to Aphrodite. They had number of rituals with myrtle about purity, love and marriage. Some of them are still alive, they have become a tradition. In my country, no one can imagine a wedding without myrtle.

The newlyweds, each of the wedding guests and even the wedding cars are decorated by myrtle along with a white bow – both as a symbol of purity and fresh love. In some families, newly married couples put a young myrtle tree at their home. They say that marriage will be successful as long as the myrtle grows well.

Sometimes, myrtle grows too well, and then it’s better to shape it by trimming. The relationship should be also shaped, right?

Do not throw away what you cut. You can easily prepare the fragrance oil at home when you put myrtle into the carrier oil (olive, kernel apricot, etc.) and let it macerate for a few weeks. Later, when you have the myrtle oil on your body, you will feel the power of beauty and love like Aphrodite and no one will resist you 😊

Do you have any experience with myrtle – as a plant or as a symbol? Do you have any tradition with myrtle in your country?

With love, Ivana

Oats confession

Even small child knows oatmeal is healthy. We cannot miss the pictures of happy and healthy people who had oatmeal for breakfast. The media feeds us with nutrition information and markets offer the oatmeal with various flavors perhaps because the oatmeal itself is so common, and in the past it was mainly food for the poor or food for horses. This had to be a real challenge for marketing people!

I was lucky in my childhood. Nobody forced me to eat oatmeal. Level of the media advertisement was weak at that time and I have never looked like somebody who needs extra nutrients. Now I can tell you. I really hated even the idea of eating something so ugly as porridge. No flavor could change my mind!

A lot later, when I was an adult, I let the oatmeal come into my life under the weight of undisputed facts. In many ways I tried to overcome its ugliness, particularly in the form of porridge.  How do you consider the grey mass of rubber consistency to be delicious? No way!

And so I spent most of my life in a very distinct and mostly hostile attitude towards oatmeal. Only a few years ago I realized the importance of the rubber consistency for body. The mucilage helps to cover and heal wounds and tissues. It can seal the cracks, where the inner heat escapes. Then the body is better protected, the mind and nerves can better relax.

Although vanity is not the biggest of my sins, it was strong and visible effect on skin, which made me to definitely take oatmeal at mercy. Unique balance between cleansing and nutrition, also suitable for sensitive skin, which costs nothing! You can effectively combine it with herbs or other components. To make it as simple as possible, I usually add finely grained oats to all my homemade soaps.

And so it happened that the oats (Avena sativa) became my daily companion and ally. I bridged the foolish attitudes and finally recognized, that no plant was ugly, just have to look for the right angle.

With love, Ivana