Mixed Berry Tea Soap

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I planned to make this soap from an organic mixed berry tea infusion, however once I added the lye to the infusion it turned from berry red to murky green and lost it’s berry fragrance!

I used a basic soap recipe of 14oz Olive Oil, 4oz each of Palm and Coconut Oils, 3oz lye and 8oz water (or in this case tea). You’ll notice that I switch between metric and Imperial weights when I make soap, depending on where I originally found the recipe and how complicated the recipe is. For this basic recipe ounces is accurate enough.

As I didn’t have any natural berry colouring or essential oils, and in attempt to to bring it back to something resembling a berry soap, I mixed in a cup of crushed blackberries at trace. I also mixed in a tablespoon of jojoba oil as I thought the berries might be a bit astringent. Jojoba oil makes the soap mixture set up really quickly, so always add it in last.

At this stage the mixture was an olive green with blackish specks, and I wasn’t overly impressed. It pored easily enough and I set it to cure.

I took it out of the mould after couple of days and it was a lovely pale olive colour with purple specks. It took a long time to cure properly, about 8 weeks, I suspect because of the extra liquid (crushed blackberries).

As it cured it lightened to a dark beige and is a lovely soft, rich soap that lathers well and is very mild, with the berry seeds providing gentle exfoliation, I really like it.

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All Natural Facial Cleansers

I have really dry skin, and since living in Abu Dhabi my skin has been really sensitive. The tap water here is desalinated, and I guess the chemicals used in the desalination process, the heat, humidity and dust combined have triggered this sensitivity.

In addition to the external effects on my skin, I’m increasingly concerned about the toxic load on my skin (whole body actually) so about 9 months ago I stopped buying skin products and decided to make my own.

The first, and easiest, product to make has got to be make up remover – just plain oil. As my skin is dry I use a combination of 3 parts olive oil, 1 part castor oil and 1 part almond oil. Put it in a jar and shake to combine.

I rub it on my eyes to remove mascara and wipe off with a cotton ball, then massage the oil into my face for 30 seconds and use a warm damp facecloth to remove the makeup and dirt. My skin is super clean and soft.

This also works with greasy skin, but change the combination of olive to castor oil i.e. 1 3 1. Castor oil is very cleansing and can also be rubbed directly into blackheads and wiped off after a couple of minutes, the blackheads loosen and come away on the tissue, so great for young, acne prone skin.

If I’m not wearing makeup, and each morning, I just wash my face with honey, a small dollop mixed with a little water and wash as you would with soap. It’s a great cleanser, anti- bacterial and skin rejuvenator. What could be more simple?

My skin looks better now than it has in years. I had started to notice enlarged pores, but these have improved dramatically since starting this regime. When I think of all the money I’ve spent over the years on expensive brand- name creams and lotions – sigh…

Home-made Toothpaste

This toothpaste is so easy to make, tastes great and leaves my teeth and mouth feeling really clean. It may just be wishful thinking, but I think my teeth are whiter also. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t ┬ámade this sooner!

I mixed 3 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda (use an aluminium free brand) with approximately 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, a few drops of peppermint essential oil, a few drops of orange essential oil and one sachet of raw stevia (this is optional). The mixture was quite hard initially, so I added more oil, one teaspoon at a time until it became a soft paste.

This amount fitted into a small mason jar and lasted about one month. It was so cheap and easy to make, and with only 5 natural ingredients (versus the 19 ingredients in a normal tube of toothpaste – most of which are unpronounceable!), I won’t be buying off the shelf again.

Orange, Sandalwood and Frankincense, Double Butter Soap

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This soap is made with both Cocoa butter and Shea butter so is extra moisturising. It’s creamy and lathers well, yet is a surprisingly hard bar when cured, so it lasts well. And it smells divine! I bought the sandalwood and frankincense in the old souk in Muscat, so it’s pure Arabia. Here’s the recipe:

270gms Olive Oil

270gms Coconut Oil

90gms Palm Oil ( sustainably sourced)

90gms Castor Oil

90gms Shea Butter

90gms Cocoa Butter

326gms Distilled Water

124gms Lye

1 tsp Turmeric

1tsp Ground Frankincense Resin

Approx 2tsp powdered Sandalwood

15mls Sweet Orange Essential Oil

I mixed the turmeric and orange EO with a couple of teaspoons of the olive oil and set aside to infuse. I made the soap in the usual way, ( I’m assuming anyone reading this far knows the basics of soap-making. If not, there are plenty of tutorials on-line. I haven’t worked out how to post a link yet, but will add in later). At a thin trace I divided the mixture into 2 portions, 1/3 and 2/3. I mixed the orange/ turmeric mixture into the smaller portion and poured into my mould. I sprinkled a thin layer of sandalwood over this layer immediately and pressed it down ever so slightly. With the remaining portion I mixed in the frankincense that I’d ground down earlier, (I also added in a bit of white mica as I wanted a shimmer effect, however I obviously didn’t add enough as it was unnoticeable – but the soap is none the worse for it, so that’s why I’ve left it off the list of ingredients). I poured that over the sandalwood layer and made swirls/peaks on top. The soap had set up after 24 hours and I removed it from the mould and sliced it immediately.

It smells and feels lovely, one of my favourites so far!

Growing Sweet Potatoes

This is a first attempt at growing sweet potatoes. We found a crusty half of a sweet potato at the back of the veggie draw and cut it into 4 pieces. These pieces we placed in a dish of water and put them outside in a site that gets morning sun but is shaded from the mid day sun.

It took about a week for the potato to sprout and another week for the slips to grow to 10 cms, the right size for picking. I love how things grow so quickly here….

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One wasn’t big enough to pick so we left it for another week, by which time 3 more slips had sprouted.

The slips were put into jars of water to root, which also took one week, before being transplanted into large pots.

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The first 4 will stay in these pots so they can be moved around if the garden doesn’t get enough sunlight in the winter. The other 4 will go into the various raised beds

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Altogether we have 8 sweet potato vines from half a dried out potato