Sunshine in a jar or what’s this jar of yellow stuff for…..

a bowl of sunshine

For the past week there’s been a little glass jar sitting on our bathroom window sill filled with golden and bright calendula petals. My boyfriend knows me all too well to start asking “what’s this jar of yellow stuff for”…he knows when it’s ready I’ll tell him all about it.  However if he was of the enquiring mind I’d explain how I’m macerating some oil with calendula so that when I next make some hand balms for him to use when he’s been out in the garden, they’ll have a new and exciting ingredient in them.

calendula macerating in oil

I bought the calendula petals from a local herbalists and they’re just so sunshiny and golden yellow.

The petals are steeping (or macerating) in a blend of sweet almond and jojoba oil, and the warmth of the sun shining through the window helps the properties of the plant infuse through into the carrier oils…. (the window sill gets so hot that I have to take a lot of products off there in the Summer months or they go all funky)….After macerating the petals in oil for a fortnight, I’ll strain them through some fine muslin (cheesecloth), and then pour that same oil over a fresh batch of dry petals before leaving them for another couple of weeks…this means the oil gets a big double boost of calendula goodness.

Calendula is really good for hand balms as it’s nice and soothing on dry, chapped skin and helps to heal any small cuts and grazes (and after a day pottering and pulling about in the garden we both come in with gnarly looking old hands and fingers)…so I thought it would be a good addition to my Queen bee hand balm….

It’s also meant to be good in leg rubs if you suffer from varicose veins or achy legs and I’m now getting to that age when aches and pains, stiff knees and creaky old ankles are part and parcel of daily life.

In the past I’ve made a lovely infused oil with rosemary,thyme and lavender leaves* from the garden as a winter skin oil…I added it to some beeswax and coconut oil and it smelt wonderful, really uplifting and definitely bye bye dry knees and elbows.

*rather than use the flower heads I’ve dried some lavender leaves in the airing cupboard as it’s not so easy to buy those rather than the lavender flowers….

Some remedies for coughs, colds and a red and runny nose….

unwaxed lemons


We’re both suffering with Spring time coughs and colds….what started off with a tickly throat over the Easter weekend has become a real stinker of a cold…my nose is puffy and I sound all croaky……Every time the seasons turn and there is a noticeable change in the weather, we find ourselves sniffling and coughing and feeling all miserable and grumpy.

My favourite remedies for coughs, colds and sore throats are pretty much all natural ones…they aren’t so fast working as over the counter ones but I find my body and self responds better to them, no unpleasant side effects and they taste and smell much nicer…..just about all the ingredients are found in a store cupboard or can be purchased

My boyfriend’s late grandfather was a chemist in the brilliantly named town of Pill (it’s just outside of Bristol) and he used to make this lovely tasting syrup for sore throats.


golden honey


Grandpa Keen’s soothing throat elixir….

200 ml of boiled water

50 ml (about 3 desert spoons) good quality honey

50 ml lemon juice (I generally use the juice of one lemon)

25 ml vegetable glycerine

Dissolve the honey in the boiled water. Allow to cool a little and then add the glycerine and the lemon juice.  Allow to cool completely before keeping in a covered jar in the fridge.  Take a tablespoon or so as required.  Keeps for up to a week.

This is really soothing and seems to benefit sore throats where there is a constant tickle.  When I’m suffering from a bout of laryngitis then this is made up in double quantities and seems to live in the fridge.

(Glycerine can be easily purchased from chemists or somewhere like Neal’s Yard Remedies…don’t be tempted to use more than suggested, it’s a laxative.)

I try to buy a locally sourced set honey as I think it seems to taste nicer in this than the runny kind.

When I get a bad head cold with ears that pop and feel muffled then I find nothing seems to relieve it better than sitting with my head over a bowl of hot water, covered with a big towel…breathing in the steam really helps me feel I can breath again…I generally set a timer for 5 minutes, if not I find I lose track of time and end up all drowsy and spaced out……


Clear head steam inhalation

eucalyptus essential oil

lavender essential oil

bergamot essential oil

Drop just 1 drop of essential eucalyptus oil in to a bowl, and pour on a little hot water. Carefully lean over and cover yourself and the bowl with a big towel.  Breath n the steam for about 5 minutes.

In the day time I also add 1 drop of bergamot essential oil as this has a wonderful uplifting smell to it and helps me to feel not quite so grumpy.

When I make a steam inhalation before bed then I substitute lavender for the bergamot, but again only use 1 drop.

If you use too much essential oil then it can be too harsh for your delicate nose membranes (they’ll be feeling super sensitive as it is with having a cold so you need to treat them gently)

If you don’t have the essential oils then a small sprig of rosemary from the garden, crushed a bit in a pestle and mortar will be just as good,  pour over a little hot water and use it in the same way as the oils.


Red and Puffy sore nose balm

One of the worse things about having a cold is the runny nose, and the constant having to blow it….before long, your nose is all red, puffy  and very sore and even the softest tissues feels coarse and rough…I use a little of this balm on my nose to protect it and also a little on my lips as they tend to dry out really quickly when I have a cold.


cocoa butter

almond oil (or a light olive oil)

lavender essential oil (if you are using this as a lip balm you may not want to add the lavender, it’s not to everyone’s taste…)

In a bain-marie carefully melt about a teaspoon of beeswax.  When the wax has fully melted add a teaspoon of cocoa butter and allow to melt thoroughly. Finally stir and mix in a desert spoon of sweet almond oil or a light olive oil.

If you have vitamin e oil capsules then you might like to pierce one and add the oil from that in as well but if you don’t have them then it’s not the end of the world. Add just a few drops of lavender essential oil (3 or 4 drops is plenty) and stir.  Rose essential oil is also very good, 1 or 2 drops will be plenty.

Transfer to a small clean jar and apply as and when needed.  Keeps for about 3 months.

(it also doubles up as a nice hand or foot balm once your cold has gone and your nose is back to normal)


crocheted cosy


I’m a big tea drinker, and tend to drink a couple of big pots a day, however when I’ve got a cold I find that tea tastes a bit yucky so I then drink lots of lemon and honey, so much so that I make it in a big tea pot, cover it with a tea cosy and sip that instead.

A tea I really do like when I have a cold is “morning time” by Heath and Heather….it’s made with hibiscus, rosehips, and spearmint and tastes lovely and refreshing.  My local health food store has stopped selling it but I think you can buy it in Holland and Barrett.

I’m off to make a poorly bed on the sofa (some plumped cushions and a big crochet blanket) and am hoping the sight of Colin Firth in his lovely Georgian trousers will make me feel all better very soon.

Kitchen cupboard hand scrub and balm……..

cornflower,oatsa nd ground rice


Now it’s all officially Spring and the weather here has warmed up some, the layers are slowly being peeled off to reveal a pair of rather neglected and tired looking hands much to my shame…..generally I’m very good about applying liberal amounts of hand cream in the evenings but I’ve been a bit of a slack Alice of late and my poor old hands are really showing their age.

I  much prefer making my own hand balms and treatments, mainly because I then know exactly what goes into them, but also my budget never seems to stretch very far for anything too fancy…..and if I can make an effective and pretty cheap (we’re talking pence) cleanser, scrub or general balm from ingredients I’ve already got in the cupboards then so much the better.

This is one of my favourite hand cleansers, it’s nice and gentle and takes as much time to make as a kettle takes to boil to make a cup of tea…’s a real store cupboard recipe and if you don’t have vegetable glycerine then you can use a runny honey (it’s a bit stickier but the smell then more than makes up for the goopyness)

I use a spice grinder to grind up the oats and rice really fine, it’s always best to give the grinder a wipe before using it if not you end up with a spicy or curry scented  hand cleaner.  I try to avoid making up too much at anyone time, it doesn’t keep for long just a few weeks (up to two months in the fridge).


rose water


Store cupboard hand cleanser


vegetable glycerine (or you can use runny honey


ground rice (you don’t need to use posh carnaroli rice, plain long ground is fine)

ground oats


almond oil (a light olive oil or sunflower oil if you don’t have almond)


In a bain marie (I’m not fancy so tend to use a glass bowl sat on top of a saucepan filled with a half inch or so of water on a medium heat), gently heat a couple of dessert spoons of vegetable glycerine (or the runny honey) in the glass bowl, slowly stir in a couple of heaped tea spoons of cornflower to make a thick runny paste…remove from the heat.

Now add a little rosewater, just a splash and stir, mix in a couple of heaped tea spoons of the ground oats and then the ground rice.  Mix and add a small dribble of oil.

Continue to mix, if it’s too much like stirring a Christmas pudding then add another splash of rosewater.  Once it’s at a nice gloopy consistency then scrape it into a small sterilized jar and if you’ve used honey then it’s better to store it in the fridge.

To use, just scoop out a marble sized bit, and gently rub all over your hands and fingers, pay particular attention to the skin between your fingers as I find this gets the most dry.  Wash off with warm water and pat dry…’s like a lovely soft massage for your hands and fingers so is nice to use any time of day.

Don’t forget to label it so you remember when you made it…..

Another excellent hand scrub, (though one a tad more abrasive so if you have very sensitive skin then maybe don’t use it,) uses a slightly heaped tea spoon of coarse sugar, a splash of olive oil and a squirt of mild washing up liquid… mix the ingredients between your fingers and hands, you want to really rub it in and spend a good couple of minutes rubbing around knuckles and finger joints…it feels like a proper work out for your hands..wash off in warm water and gently pat dry.  This is great for using if you’ve been out in the garden and gotten all grubby. or if you’ve been mending a puncture on a bike…I’ve read that the sewers in the Haute Couture ateliers use something similar to keep their hands soft and smooth to prevent snagging fine silks and fabrics…..


cocoa butter and beeswax


Queen Bee hand balm…..

When I’ve spent a long day piecing or hand sewing or crocheting then my fingers can get a bit cramped feeling or twitchy, it’s not arthritis they just have done a good days work…to reward them and keep the skin in best condition I like to make my own hand balms, it’s a recipe I’ve used on and off for nearly 20 years…when I’ve had a lot on and have been somewhat neglectful of myself and my hands look a bit worn and aged then a few days of using this religiously morning, noon and night soon has them looking and feeling heaps better….although it keeps quite well, I prefer to make just a small amount at a time so I can vary which essential oils I use in it (though it works just fine if you don’t add them)…


cocoa butter

beeswax (I prefer the golden almost orangey kind rather than the white)

almond oil

essential oils*


In a bain marie (again I tend to use a glass pyrex bowl in a small saucepan that has about half an inch of water in it, and have it on a gentle heat) slowly melt a heaped teaspoon or so cocoa butter and a heaped teaspoon of beeswax…..stir gently with a small metal spoon.

Pour in a little almond oil, about 2 dessert spoons and gently warm…..remove for the heat and stir well.

Carefully transfer to a small sterilized glass jar.  Add your chosen essential oils if you are using them and stir with a clean wooden skewer or cocktail stick.  Allow to cool thoroughly before using…..

Rub in to your hands and fingers, pay particular attention to your fingertips and nail bed, and the skin between your fingers…rubbing this in is lovely and relaxing…the smell of the beeswax is just mmmm eye closingly nice, and it’s good for your fingers and hands as the heat from rubbing allows the oils to penetrate while encouraging the circulation in your hands to speed up a bit.

* I love using rose maroc oil (though it’s a bit pricey, a cheaper option is the gorgeous rose geranium oil…it’s fantastic smelling.  I also use lavender and thyme.  Another nice combination is regular geranium and lemon (although ladies of a certain age will recognize this as the smell of those little flat tubs of hand cream so beloved of Nanny’s in the seventies.)