Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spring florals

Ive been a bit busy lately making lots of beautiful floral inspired handmade soaps, the weather is absolutely gorgeous here at the moment and the flowers in my small garden are busy budding which inspired me to make 3 lovely soaps with flower toppings.

Gardening is high on my list at the moment as Spring has definately arrived and Ive been busy seeding rocket, coriander, parsley and planting out lettuces and tomatoes. I like to do my gardening work without gloves as otherwise Im a clumsy gardener but it does mean I end up with very dirty hands that often have small cuts and scratches. So a special gardeners soap was top of my list. So I made an extra virgin olive oil rich soap, enriched with cocoa butter to give extra moisturizing qualities and lavished extra quantities of Tea Tree essential oil to help clean and cure those little cuts and scrapes. It also looks lovely as its topped with deep blue cornflowers. Tea Tree is an amazing essential oil; as well as being a powerful antiseptic, antifungal, antimicrobial essential oil its also a powerful cicatrisant which means it helps wounds to heal quicker and then protects them from further infections and is also said to promote scar tissue so its a wonderful aid for any one that suffers from acne, or for cleaning any type of wound. I have also had success with this soap with people that suffer from common herpes. Tea Tree is also well known as a natural fungicide which makes it a good choice for sufferers of Athletes foot.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Scrub up with an invigorating eucalyptus and poppy seed soap

Its Spring here in Andalucia and the countryside is full of wild flowers and the scents of spring which include the fresh aroma of Eucalyptus. Although this tree is not a native of Europe, having been introduced from Australia mostly at the turn of the last century, it is relatively abundant particularly in certain areas. Its blue-green leaves make a welcome change from the darker hues of the various types of indigenous oak that are so abundant in the Serrania of Ronda. Some varieties have beautiful papery type bark that glisten with either silvery or golden tones that light up the forests especially in the bright Andalusian sunlight. Eucalyptus is a highly controversial tree as it poses a severe fire risk and also sucks water out of the ground therefore lowering the water table- infact they have been used to drain swamp lands in countries like Italy in an attempt to reduce mosquito infestations. The Eucalyptus tree also provides a wonderfully fragrant refreshing essential oil that is distilled from the leaves. Its incredibly useful as an effective decongestant and has antimicrobial properties that makes it a powerful aid in personal hygiene products. It also helps stimulate the immune system so its a great choice for a handmade soap especially an invigorating exfoliating shower bar. So with this in mind I set about making a soap speckled with poppy seeds and genorously scented with eucalyptus and a hint of rosemary oil. Coloured naturally with powdered spirulina its also rich in trace minerals. So if youre feeling a little lack lustre this handmade soap is sure to pick you up and get you ready for the day ahead.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Relax with lavender aromatherapy soy wax candles

Well known in the United States Soy wax is now making headway in the European and UK markets as an alternative to paraffin wax based candles. Soy wax is hydrogenated soy bean oil - made from soy beans and is a completely renewable resource, that also has several user friendly advantages over paraffin wax candles. Firstly, and perhaps of most interest to the consumer is the fact that soy wax candles burn slower and therefore last up to 50% longer than their paraffin wax counterparts. They also burn cleaner releasing less CO2 into the atmosphere- up to 90%less smoke giving a cleaner home environment which is of particular interest to people with small children. Due to their slower burn time soy wax candles also have a wonderful scent throw and you can even use essential oils to scent the candles meaning they are a completely natural alternative. One of the handy advantages of soy wax is that any spills are completely removed with just some hot soapy water so you dont run the risk of spoiling your nice tablecloth with wax spills. We have recently made several differently scented soy wax candles- lavender with flowers pictured, or juniper and cedarwood plain white and they are now for sale in the shop in Ronda at Calle Sevilla 23 or via the website. So give them a try you'll be surprised how long they last and how great they smell.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Treat your feet!

At the end of a long days walking, theres nothing quite as good as soaking your feet in a bowl of hot perfumed water. Making your own bath salts is really easy, all you need is some good quality sea salt full of natural minerals, ( you can buy good salt at any health shop) and if you want you can add some natural essential oils and even flowers or flower petals that then expand in the water. Its best to take the sea salt of your choice(there are various different varieties all packed with minerals and often clays aswell), then add the essential oils and any flowers or petals and leave it to infuse in an airtight container for at least 24 hours. The general rule is 300gms of salt to 30 drops of essential oil; a good relaxing blend would be lavender and geranium, or for tired aching feet, rosemary and eucalyptus. Just add a 100 gms to a bowl full of hot water and soak your feet in it. We all have problems of hard skin especially in the summer months when sandals tend to exacerbate rough areas, so once the feet are nicely soaked rub off any hard skin with a pumice stone or a better alternative if you can get one is a moroccan clay foot scrubber. These handy scrubbers are easy to use as they have a small handle to grip on and the round scored base sloughs away dead skin really effectively. These are normally found in Moroccan markets or in the hammam but they can be bought online. After all this pampering moisturize your feet with a good natural moisturizer or body butter, my mum allways used to tell me to do this before bed and put some light cotton socks over the feet and then in the morning you wake up with super smooth relaxed feet.

Monday, 14 March 2011

How to look after your all natural handmade soap

Handmade natural soap is a pure pleasure to use on the body and face giving a wonderful creamy lather and leaving ones skin super soft to the touch and extra moisturised by all the wonderful oils and essences packed in them. However because of its very "naturalness" it needs a little more care than the shop bought chemical ridden variety. When I first made soaps I searched high and low for a good soap dish which you might think would be an easy task but actually it wasnt at all. So in the end I designed a dish that would meet my needs. The soap dish I came up with is a stoneware dish that curves slightly so that the soap sits only on its edges and can therefore drain completely after each use. This means that your handmade soap will last and last which is of course a good thing seeing as they tend to be a little more expensive than a shop bought one. I have also been lucky enough to find some beautiful smelted glass dishes that also drain effectively and are absolutely beautiful to look at. Both types of dishes are completely handmade to order by some local artisans that live in the beautiful white village of Olvera which is just a short drive from Ronda where Im based. Available on my website each one is unique and a must for anyone who treasures their handmade soaps.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Zahara de la Sierra-magical white village by the lake

Right now its raining heavily here in Ronda and its difficult to imagine that next week it could be hot enough to have a beautiful country walk by the lake, but its something Id love to do as soon as the weather picks up again. Zahara de la Sierra is just a short drive from the mountain town of Ronda on the A374 which heads on towards Sevilla. Taking in the breathtaking scenery that is synonymous with this area, you pass the small villages of Monte Corto and then El Gastor on the right and then theres a left hand turn, that crosses a bridge- sign posted Grazalema- that takes you to on to Zahara de la Sierra skirting the man made lake that you see in the picture. Its definately the more scenic way to reach the village but you could keep going towards Algondonales and then there is another left hand turn towards the village. Zahara de la Sierra was an important Moorish outpost using its strategic position in the first line of defense against the Christians, for the towns of Ronda to the south and Seville to the north west. The remains of this moorish castle can be explored after a picturesque walk through the orange lined streets of this lovely white village and theres also a little museum that outlines the history of the fortress. Once at the top of the fortress which is quite a climb the views are stunning. In the central square there are various restaurants, bars and some hotels but the best place to stay if you want something extra special is the fabulously run Al Lago which apart from being an innovative restaurant is also a chic boutique hotel. Owners Stefan and Mona Crites also organise various themed weekends like next weekends Flamenco show or Indian inspired weekend menus but its best to check the website for dates and availability. Theres also a delicious menu del dia during the week for only 12 euros and I would happily recommend it to anyone who wants really good fresh food that delights the taste buds and leaves you feeling satisfied if youve got a healthy appetite like me- especially if youve been walking in the sierras of the Grazalema Natural Park.

Monday, 7 March 2011

100 years of International Womens Day

Ok just wanted to post something in honor of all the fantastic women that I know. Its 100 years since the first oficial womens day was celebrated and of course there have been many advances in womens rights and health issues since then, so that is something to celebrate, although theres alot of work still to be done around the world especially in those countries that are at the moment experiencing extreme turmoil- we are at least lucky enough to be celebrating even if its not as much as we would like.

On a personal level Im glad to have been enriched by all the wonderful and creative women that I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years. Sometimes in our lives we all need that special kind of support that a good friend can give and often but not allways it comes from a fellow woman. So for all my dearest girlfriends Happy International Womens Day!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Andalucia day- 28th February

Here in Andalucia weve just had a holiday- Andalucia day that celebrates the autonomy of the Comunidad Andalucia. Its celebrated in all aspects of society especially in the schools where children sing the Himno de Andalucia, that celebrates peace and equality for all its citizens with the words "the white and green flag returns after centuries of war to declare peace and hope under the sunshine of our land". They also eat the traditional breakfast of toast or bread with olive oil, although some schools sneak some sugar into the equation! Here in Ronda its particularly poignant as it was here in 1918 that one of Andalucias most famous sons Blas Infante, as part of the Assembly of Ronda unfurled for the first time what is now the Andalucian flag and its coat of arms establishing the basis of what it is to be an Andaluz and how the area was to attain its autonomy within Spain as a whole. The green and white colours of the Andalucian flag decorate the towns and villages throughout Andalucia on this day that commemorates the 1980 referendum that finally gave Andalucia its autonomy within Spain. All over Andalucia there are cultural events and activities many of which are free, which ties in with the school holiday of Semana Blanca. As it was a beautiful sunny day here we enjoyed a relaxing walk through the valley below the Tajo with the dogs, only to be marred by the constant whine of a souped up motorbike going backwards and forwards along the path- fairly tipical Andalucia.