home made skincare

jars of lovely stuff

jars of lovely stuff

Last year, friends and I went off to Temple Spa for a catch up and some pampering. It was a lovely treat and amongst the chat and fizz, we managed to shoehorn in a few treatments too. I was so taken with the body scrub treatment that I had, that I bought some of the products they had used along with and ye cream a friend had recommended.

One of the products I bought was the Sugar Buff. I loved it so much that I literally bought everyone I know a tub of it for Christmas.

It is very lovely but pretty expensive. If you use it regularly, and with any kind of enthusiasm you can get through it very quickly. Once I’d got to the bottom of my tub of loveliness, I decided to see if I could save some cash and have a go at making something similar myself.

Using only what I had to hand, on a whim and without a shred of research to help me out (bit crazy when you consider everything you need can be researched on the internet now) I set about combining some sea salt, some solid coconut oil that I had in the bathroom cupboard (superdrug coconut oil to treat hair – not perfect but a cheap alternative and on hand) and some essential oils that I use in burners around the house.

It was a success albeit it limited; the salt I used was a bit too coarse so the texture wasn’t quite right.  Not one to be thwarted at my relatively rubbish first attempt, I did a bit of research on the internet and invested in some of the basic skincare ingredients from Summer Naturals (please don’t buy palm oil for any of your home made recipes as it is only farmed from devastating natural habitats and is about the least earth friendly beauty product money can buy).

I have bought lavender oils and other essential oils and products from them before so felt safe in the knowledge that it is pretty good quality stuff. They don’t cater for all your needs but they go a pretty long way.

Ironically, my sister gave me some gorgeous bath salts and also some really lovely hand made Bath Melts in a hamper for Christmas. She had made them herself from a recipe on the be beautiful blog and so my interest was peeked again.

I have had very little time to do anything with my purchases but with a hostess and a birthday gift requirement for last weekend, I opened my box of delicious smelling goodies and set about seeing what I could create with my £50 of ingredients.

creams, balms, oils and scrubs

creams, balms, oils and scrubs

Here are some of the recipes that I have used (all variations of those found on the internet and changed to suit my own requirements as I have sensitive skin with an oily T zone skin and delicate high colour areas around my cheeks as well as constantly dry hands):-


50ml sweet almond oil (or jojoba)

10ml Vitamin E Oil (good for your skin but also acts as a preservative – you can also use Olive Oil instead)

10 drops Borage Oil

3 drops Lavendar Oil

5 drops of Geranium Oil (Rosemary is a good alternative to Geranium for less sensitive oily skin)

Mix them all together and put into a bottle (a spray top bottle is easiest to use and less messy)

Tip – I added Lavender and Calendula flowers which make it look pretty but they are a bit of a nuisance in use.

I have been using this face oil most successfully at night. Once I’ve cleansed I then applying it to my face and neck which makes my skin feel lovely in the morning. I’ve also been using it during my morning shower when I apply to my face and neck but also all over my body just before I am done.  It is just lovely.

rosemary and lemon zest sugar scrub

rosemary and lemon zest sugar scrub


3 parts organic brown caster sugar

1 part Coconut Oil (Shea Butter can be used instead)

3 teaspoons of freshly chopped Rosemary

3 teaspoons of Lemon Zest

1 tablespoon of Sweet Almond Oil (or Jojoba Oil)

Melt coconut oil in a bowl over hot water

mix into other ingredients

put into clean sterilised jar, decorate if required label (include date)

Variation – I also used Lavender flowers and Caledula flowers instead of Rosemary and Zest for half of what I made

rosemary and lemon zest hand & body cream

rosemary and lemon zest hand & body cream


50g Cocoa Butter

25g Beeswax (reduce this and increase cocoa butter to change consistency)

2 teaspoons of vegetable glycerin (optional)

30ml Sweet Almond Oil

10ml Vitamin E Oil

10 drops of Lavendar Oil

2 teaspoons of Aloe Vera juice

melt the cocoa butter and bees wax in a glass bowl over hot water and stir in the rest once is has cooled down.

decant into a sterilised jar


10 drops of Borage Seed Oil

10 drops of Orange / Tangerine Oil

10 drops of Rose Water

The oils you use can be almost any you like the smell of or know to be particularly good for what you want from a hand & body cream

The consistency is quite solid and to make it into a lotion you need to put the warm mix (as above) into a blender and slowly blend in warmed water (same amount as your oils etc and this could be rose water). Blend until you get the creamy consistency you want.

lavendar and calendula sugar scrub and hand cream

lavendar and calendula sugar scrub and hand cream


25g of Coconut Oil

1 teaspoon of Sweet Almond Oil

2 drops of essential oil (any flavour you like)

Put all ingredients into a glass bowl.

Melt over hot water and pour into a clean sterilised container

bath melts in moulds waiting to harden

lavender and calendula bath melts in moulds waiting to harden


25g of Coconut Oil

1 teaspoon of honey

Put all ingredients into a glass bowl.

Melt over hot water and pour into a clean sterilised container

Variations:- You can use petroleum jelly instead of coconut oil and a tiny bit of lipstick into the mix if you want to add colour.

rosemary and lemon zest bath melts

rosemary and lemon zest bath melts


recipe as link above to BeBeautiful blog recipe

bath melts ready to use

bath melts ready to use


Equal parts of Sweet Almond Oil, vitamin E oil and 10 drops of Jasmine Oil

I had some carrier oils left over so decided to try this and it is working well. I repurposed an old diffuser that had dried out.

sugar scrub tub with a little floral decoration

sugar scrub tub with a little floral decoration

I still have some of what I bought left over for my next batch of making but for my £50 I got the following:-

4 medium kilner jars of sugar scrub

3 small kilner bottles of face oil

4 small kilner jars of hand and body cream

3 spice kilner jars of cuticle cream

1 spice kilner jar of lip balm

3 medium kilner jars of bath melts

1 room diffuser

That is 18 pots of skincare and a room diffuser which average at less than £5 each (less than £3 each if you take out the cost of buying pretty jars and recycle containers instead).

In the meantime, I’m very happy with the results and can’t wait to get ‘cooking’ up the next lot and just handling the ingredients for making these lovely things has softened my dry and troubled hands.

I’ve learned loads and will be trying more new things next time but I don’t think I will be running out of scrubs and creams any time soon though, I got a huge amount for my £50.

kentish cobnut cake



kentish cobnuts


recently, we were given a small hemp bag that contained about 200g of kentish cobnuts.

They look very like hazelnuts and had I not been informed to the contrary, that is exactly what I would have thought they were.



shelled kentish cobnuts


Although unfamiliar to me, there is an association for these tasty little nuts where you can buy them, learn about them and become a member in support of them.  Who knew?

Surprisingly, the kentish cobnut association is not a source of recipes for the use of them, but a few searches on the internet meant I had some hints for making up my own recipe for using these nuts and managing with the contents residing in my kitchen cupboards.

the recipe I used isn’t a great leap from any other nut cake really, but these tasty nuts are perfect for making into muffins or a teatime sized cake for the family.  I have no doubt the following recipe can be improved upon & I welcome any suggestions in case we are lucky enough to get anymore cobnuts but it provided us with the perfect sweet finish to our lovely sunday afternoon.

kentish cobnut cake

175g self raising flour

1 teaspoon salt

100g of roasted kentish cobnuts (roasting instructions – 100º for 40 minutes or until they are hard and dark brown.  roasting them enhances their flavour)


the much darker shrunken roasted cobnuts


5 tablespoons of golden syrup

5 tablespoons of water

40g of butter

1 beaten egg

sift the flour and salt into a bowl, stir in the cobnuts.

make a well in the middle of the flour

place the syrup, butter and water into a pan and melt over a gentle heat

pour the mix into the well and beat into flour and nut mix.

add beaten egg and stir in thoroughly.



lovely sticky cake mix




lovely chinks of chopped roasted cobnuts in the cake mix


grease a cake tin or muffin cases and bake on 190ºc for about 20 minutes.



kentish cobnut cake


it is definitely worth the effort of roasting the nuts first to bring out the nutty flavour and the syrup keeps it sweet but moist (I sometimes use yoghurt in cake recipes to add moisture but you need sweetness too).

this is a delicious cake and equally good with cheese as with a cup of tea for a mid morning snack.

jamming lessons



jars of jam


I needed to empty my freezer of some of the spare fruit stashed in there.  This stash takes the form of brambles (blackberries), elderberries, damsons and plums so I decided to make more jam to add to my burgeoning supplies.

jam on toast

My stash is becoming hugely diverse in flavours be it jams or chutneys and comes in such mixes as melon and orange, marrow and ginger, plain old plum, damson, bramble and apple, apple and lavender jelly, beetroot chutney or apple and plum chutney but I am always on the scrounge for new ingredients that I can put in my maslin pan and I am always looking out for new recipes to pique a bit of pallet interest.

I love the concept of one pot cooking, be it casseroles, rissotttos, soups or anything else that effectively involves chucking (in an orderly and timely fashion of course) all your ingredients into a big cauldron (ah, there is something in that) so jam making is right up my street.

marrow and ginger jam

I only really started making Jams last year but since I am never more delighted than when receiving a culinary treat, it inspires me to make similar and I just love the personal touch a foody gift has especially when you present it to a generous host (along with the requisite gallons and gallons of wine!).

I read somewhere recently that the only thank you a guest should arrive with is an edible or quaffable one!!  I couldn’t agree more.

bramble and elderberry jam

Anyway today it was to be bramble and elderberry jam, damson jam and damson and plum jam.


The bramble and elderberry was a treat and tastes divine, not to mention the amazing colour.

Some of the damsons had been stoned in the vein hope that I might make a pudding (not something I do with any kind of regularity, I’m afraid, and probably to the disappointment of most people who sit around our table to be fed!).


sweet plums


I did learn a jamming lesson today though and that is:- the pectin from plum stones is invaluable and removing the stones before cooking makes the setting process a lot harder, especially if you are like me and prefer to use natural sources of pectin to adding it from a packet.


Plum and Orange Jam

stoned plums

I already have 3 or so jam types in the cupboard that are made from different plum varieties so I wanted to vary the flavour slightly and having made honeydew melon marmalade that I love, I thought that orange might be an interesting addition.

It’s amazing what you can find when you ask a search engine for a jam recipe using plums and oranges!!!

stoned plums and stones in muslin

This recipe is based on the allotment growing recipes portfolio for plum recipes and is as follws:-


2 orange

2kg of plums (I used victoria plums)

juice of 2 lemons

1kg of jam sugar

One thing that I have learned very quickly from my limited jam making is that I don’t like using the equivalent in sugar to fruit weight.  It makes it too sweet for my tastes so I halve it.

basic ingredients


Peel orange and set peel aside, chop up orange pulp removing pips and any pith that is too much.

Simmer for 10 minutes with peel in with pulp. Set aside.

Cook plums until soft and the lumps have broken down.

Add orange in and sugar.

Bring to the boil and boil hard until setting point is achieved.

Transfer to sterilized jars.  Cool and label.

plum stones in muslin

Also, I seem to recall from somewhere that the stones contain pectin and help with the flavour so I set them aside and put them in muslin to be boiled with the plums.  Removed before fast boil and setting point achieved.

plum and orange jam

It’s quite a tangy flavour and the equal amount of sugar to fruit would suit most people’s pallets but I enjoy the sharpness.

I love the amazing colour that these fruits achieve as they turn into a gloopy liquid.  Beautiful!

sloe gin cider

after sieving

I have finally been allowed to get my hands on SOME (only some) of the sloe gin that we started in October 2009, I have been watching the change in the colour of the gin every week and it is remarkable how a few months had changed it dramatically by the new year.

gin soaked sloes

Now that the sloes have been freed from the gin, the change in them is even more remarkable when you consider their appearance when they were first introduced to the gin.

this year's sloes waiting for the first frost

To get the clearest sloe gin, the small particulate needs to be filtered out and this is made easier if it is allowed to settle to the bottom of the sieved gin.

allow sediment to settle

It is then filtered through muslin or coffee filters into a clean sterilised jar.

filtering into sterilized storage

Not only have I been wanting to try the gin itself (our new favourite drink is shot of sloe gin with a logn measure of bitter lemon with lots of ice!!!) but I have been desperate to try the recipes that I found for using the sloes left from making sloe gin.

Sloe gin cider or slider is one of them.

cider and gin soaked sloes

This has got to be pretty good in making the most of what is available to you and for free.  A second use for a fruit harvested last year.

slider in the making

At the end of this session of soaking (about 2 – 3 months minimum), I am going to use the slider sloes to make a batch of slider chutney.

I also have plans for sloe gin truffles and simple sloe gin chutney (without the double soaking) when some of the rest of the sloe gin is decanted between now and christmas .

I can’t wait for the results of my slider.

plum and apple chutney

roughly chopped plums

Last year was my first and timid venture into the world of jam making. I had been inspired to try it when I discovered a Damson tree on the farm laden with ripened fruit.  My attempts at Damson Jam and then Hedgerow Jelly weren’t a complete disaster so it filled me with enthusiasm and I have since invested in a maslin pan, some other jam making bits of kit and have been saving jam jars like a mad person.

I recently tried marrow and ginger jam and bramble and apple jam, thoroughly enjoying the process.  It appeals to my general approach to cooking which should involve only one pot where ever possible!

I also tried beetroot chutney last year but have not ventured into the world of chutney much since. I can’t think of anything tastier though than a nice pickle with a lump of tasty mature cheese so chutneys and pickles are something I want to perfect.

Last week I made my own version of Plum & Apple Chutney using plums we collected at the weekend and limited myself to the various contents of our cupboards and fridge!!  I had, however, checked out a few recipes and was confident I had the makings of a pretty tasty chutney.


1.4kg apples (I used Bramley)

1.4kg of stoned plums (I used Victoria Plums)

350g of muscavado sugar (I used a mostly brown)

200g of sultanas

75g of peeled and finely chopped root ginger

2 tsp of cider vinegar

2 onions chopped (red is better)

1 tsp of ground black pepper

8 cloves

tsp of nutmeg

some ingredients in maslin pan


Roughly chop fruit (leaving skins on but taking stones out of plums and cores out of apples), finely chop ginger, chop onions.

Put all ingredients into a pan and stir well.

all ingredients mixed in pan ready for cooking

Gently bring ingredients up to boiling, stirring all the time to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Turn down to simmer for about 1.5 hours uncovered and until it starts to thicken.  Stir occassionallly.

Bring to boil again for about 10 minutes or until you can see the bottom of the pan (even for a split second) when you drag the spoon/ladle across the bottom.

If you can find them, remove the cloves.

Transfer to sterilized jars (I sterilize in the oven).

Allow to cool and label.

plum and apple chutney

It is really tasty and I’m incredibly pleased with my seven or so jars of Plum & Apple Chutney.

a secret orchard

cooking apples

The farm has an orchard tucked away alongside one of their crop fields which we didn’t know about last year. It has only just come to our attention through a conversation last weekend.

It is off the road and can’t be seen so it gets a little abuse by the occasional local who knows about it. The farm can’t keep an eye on it as it is a bit out of the way to be watched really but there is a lot of fruit.  I’m sure there is enough to go around.

apples and plums

It was planted a long time ago and was harvested every year and the produce was boxed up and sent off for sale. There is an old orchard ladder in the dike as you approach the edge of the orchard which would have been used by whoever was working to harvest.  The ladder is only really used by the farmer’s wife and a couple of the farm hands who have been shown it and can help themselves.  Now it is used by us!!


It is such a privilege to have access to this free food and I can tell you, it is pretty tasty.  We spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon picking (and sampling of course!) the apples (cookers), brambles, plums (the sweetest tasting ever), victoria plums (not ready yet), a type of tiny yellow plum (which I now know is a mirabelle plum), damsons (not ready yet) and pears (also not ready yet).

we are going back the next weekend we are there to check out the other plums, pears and damsons and perhaps pick some more apples but in the meantime, we got plums, brambles and apples to get started on.


At the moment my confidence with jam making and chutneys isn’t very high and I certainly haven’t enough courage to tackle bottling or other rather complicated sounding processes so I am going to stick at the simple jam making processes and hopefully get more adept at it.

I was very happy with the outcome of my marrow and ginger jam so I thought I would have a go at bramble and apple, plum and then lavender flower jelly with the apples.

bramble and apple jam in the pot

Country living’s September issue was my weekend reading and could not have been better suited to our foraging. It has these very recipes in it along with a recipe for lavendar jelly, sloe jam, and also pear with peach jam.

The Bramble & Apple Jam recipe is as follows:

Brambles / Blackberries (whatever weight you have managed to forage) washed, de-stalked and checked for bugs.

Brambly Cooking Apples / Crab Apples (1/3 of the weight of brambles you collected). peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks

Sugar (equivalent in weight to brambles)

1/4 pint of water

juice of 2 lemons

cook all brambles with half of the lemon juice until softened.

cook apples in remaining lemon juice until soft.

put apples and brambles together in maslinpan with water and sugar.

heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring regularly.

bring to boil rapidly for about 20 mins or until setting point is reached.

skim off scum.

pop into warm sterilized jars.

label when cold.

bramble and apple jam

The Plum Jam recipe is as follows:

Plums (whatever weight you have managed to forage) washed, de-stalked and stones removed. keep the stones and pop into muslin bag.

Sugar (equivalent in weight to brambles)

1/4 pint of water

juice of 2 lemons. keep the lemon skins and pips and pop into the muslin bag with the plum stones.

cook all the plums and the lemon juice until softened. put the muslin bag od stones and lemons into pan half way through cooking and leave until ready to boil.

add water and sugar.

heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring regularly. remove muslin bag and discard.

bring to boil rapidly for about 20 mins or until setting point is reached.

skim off scum.

pop into warm sterilized jars.

label when cold.

plum jam

I ran out of time for anything else and have a load of cooking apples left along with some lavender flowers from the garden so I am going to do that lavender jelly jam next.

marrow and ginger jam

The abundance of produce from our novice attempts at growing your own have come with the stress of knowing what to do with the surplus.

We have given quite a lot away which is fine and we are happy to contribute to people’s larder and finding things to create with the rest of the produce is fun but challenging.

huge courgette flowers

One of our unexpected successes have been the courgettes.  We grew about 8 plants from a 99p box kit from Wilko’s that I really didn’t expect would proffer much.  A couple of the platns went into my sister’s garden but have failed from neglect, ours on the other hand have gone mad and are producing courgettes at an alarming rate.

courgettes and flowers

We have been quite tenacious in our harvesting and check them every night.  We go away for a weekend and they go mad!

What do you do with a glut of courgettes, some of which are on the cusp of becoming marrows?

You turn them into jam comes the cry from my clever friend V!!

More specifically, you turn them into marrow and ginger jam with lashings of lemon.  And it is delicious!


3 unwaxed lemons

1.25kg of marrow or courgette (pealed, deseeded and cut into small cubes)

1.25kg of jam sugar (with added pectin)

1 large knob, about 85g, of fresh ginger (peeled and shredded/very finely chopped)

Take zest off all lemons and set aside.  juice lemons and set juice aside.  put left over lemon shells (including the pips) into a muslin bag for later.


Put courgettes / marrows into your maslin / jam pot with a splash of the lemon juice. cook on a medium heat until the courgettes become clear and soft (I don’t like the lumps so I let it go mushy or mash it).

Stir in sugar, rest of juice, zest, ginger and the muslin bag of bits.

juicing and zesting lemons

Stir and bring to the boil once the sugar is dissolved.

Simmer until jam has reached setting point.

Store into sterilized warmed jam jars.

It is a wonderful lemon curd kind of colour and not disimilar to the wonderful flowers that come before the courgette grows and although the subtleties of the courgette flavour can just be picked out, the ginger makes a star appearance.

If left, the flavour matures and intensifies apparently so I will stash one jar away to use in a few months time.

The freshly made jam is already popular and went down a treat on a big slab of bread and butter.

I hadn’t expected to like it as much as I do but I like courgettes and love ginger and lemon so what is there not to like, really?

flowery meadows

There seem to be a lot of flowers appearing just now and it is 2 weeks since we saw the farm so the change is marked and very, very pretty.

I used to know all the names of everything that has a flower and certainly had more confidence in picking what could be eaten than I do now.

Even so, it is lovely to see the hay meadows and pond surrounds filled with daisies and poppies and grasses and harebells and so many other pretty floral things.

The oil seed has finished flowering but the linseed is casting a gorgeous bright blue caste over some of the fields, there are flag irises at the pond and grasses on the bank.

The summer is all about the vegetation, be it the salad variety, harvestable vegetation or the hedge rows. It seems that the winter is all about the wildlife (easier to see!!), but we may not be seeing the deer that we have become accustomed to but we have seen some of their very fresh deer slots around the pond after the rain has made mud; even though a sighting of them they elude us when the wheat and barley are so high.

It is nice to know that quietly they are still, so things don’t change that much even though they seem to and they are still around. I keep threatening to camp over night with night vision to see the badgers, foxes and deer, we’ll see if I get my way…..

I have missed the hawthorn blossom by about a week so my blossom brandy will have to wait until perhaps next year but I satisfied myself with a lovely round of toasted freshly baked bread spread with ‘hedgerow jelly‘ and a cuppa tea.  JC opted for the first batch from Barry’s Bees Lincolnshire Honey and was as happy as I.

The honey is luscious and all of our friends seem happy to receive a jar but Barry tended his bees into making that whereas tinyinc’s hedgerow jelly was made by me!! It is a lovely flavour of haw berries, crab apple and damsons picked by me, cooked by me, sieved by me and jarred by me. I haven’t given much away.  It was hard work to make compared to just jam but it is very much worth it.

The colour alone made yesterday’s breakfast a bit special!

#3 recycling and growing your own vegetables

asparagus ready to flower

You know when you start something and wonder where it will end…….

We set up our raised vegetable box quite a few weeks ago along with a small plastic green house to help with seedlings, pots and 2 old butters sinks.

Not content with that, last weekend, I dug over a flower bed that was struggling under the strangling effects of a variegated grass and spreading sweet woodruff.  My efforts have revealed about 1m x 3m of ground that is going to take a mix of flowers and shrubs as well as even more vegetables than those we are already growing.  JC fancies a leek trench!!!

flowering strawberries

It is quite poor soil that we have never riddled or improved and have, historically, simply stuck shrubs into spaces when we got our hands on them.  It is filled with builder’s rubble from when our flat was formed as part of the conversion of the victorian terraced house it sits in,

In order to improve conditions a little, a healthy portion of turkey manure that we had transported from the farm has been turned into it.  The bags of turkey manure are bought as a recycled by product of turkey farming and the 2 bags that we scrounged off the farm have been festering away at the back of the garden and smell mighty potent.  It seems that you only need 10% of horse manure or other soil improvers as it is that fertile.  I was warned that we might end up with triffids.


Our earlier efforts seem to be relatively successful, well stuff is growing. We now, however, have garlic and herbs planted in the new patch (turkey manure and all), cucumber, courgette and brocolli seeds are sitting in various containers in  the greenhouse waiting to sprout before they are planted into the newly fed flower bed.  It is very satisfying

As well as wanting to produce my own food, these tough times and the ‘grow your own’ gardening has made me into an even more committed recycler.  As a result of my planting needs and I have found some new uses for egg boxes, the cardboard tubes from a loo roll and the unused pee pads from when we were house training our wee dog when he was a pup.

loo roll 'pot' on a pee pad

Egg boxes are superb for seedlings, they hold moisture in the cardboard brilliantly and you just cut each section away from the other and plant them straight into the ground.  It means that the roots of your delicate seedlings are not disturbed and the cardboard breaks down as the plant grows and also feeds the soil.  The same applies to the loo roll tubes but these have to have the bottoms snipped and turned over to form a ‘pot’.

The most satisfying recycle of all though has been the training mats that we bought when ‘the furry one’ was a pup and house training was in hand.  He never needed house training particularly so the bulk pack of these matts that we bought have never been used.  We’ve tried giving them away to friends with pups but still seem to have too many taking up valuable storage space in our cupboards.  They now have a new life and are the moisture base of my mini greenhouse shelves that is keeping my seedlings watered!

tomatoes flowering but not looking too happy

Things seem to be thriving and it is very encouraging.  The tomatoes are the least happy of our ‘triffids’ but I have taken them out of the ‘greenhouse’, repotted them and hope the extra food and fresh air will bring them along.  The weather is a bit unpredictable, at the moment so I hope they don’t get nipped.

The more we do, the more confident we are becoming and already I don’t feel quite so ‘scared’ of it all now.  Come on sunshine, we want to start eating our salad!!!!!