Savouring Summer

August is waning, and our cottage vacation is over, but there is still some summer left to enjoy! I made this After-sun Spray for my sister, who spends tons of time outdoors birdwatching and capturing stunning nature photographs. (I, on the other hand, am a moon-worshipping troglodyte; even though I adore the natural world, I eschew the sun like a 14th century peasant trying to avoid the Black Death.)

Once again, this is a recipe from Pinterest, and my sister reports that it is a very successful one. The fragrant, non-greasy spray – which can be used any time, not just after sun exposure – contains aloe vera, witch hazel and Vitamin E to soothe, calm and refresh the skin. Omit the Vitamin E oil if you can’t find it or it’s too expensive.

After-sun Spray

  • 2 oz. (60 mL) glass spray bottle
  • 1 tbsp witch hazel (look for the alcohol-free kind; I like Thayers)
  • 2 tbsp aloe vera gel
  • 1/4 tsp Vitamin E oil (optional)
  • 1 tbsp fractionated coconut oil
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix ingredients well and decant into spray bottle. Shake before using. Spray on skin (avoid eyes) and gently rub in.

My sister has recently begun a WordPress blog, Nature’s Dance, where she’s just started posting about native flora and fauna, her birding and travel experiences and articles about her photography exhibits. There you’ll also find a fledgling (see what I did there?) gallery of her amazing images, plus a link to her Flickr website featuring many, many more. (She does, by the way, offer all her photos for sale…) Please do check her out!

“All these herbs are nice, but where’s the catnip?” A summery image captured a few years ago at the cottage by my sister.

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It’s All Cool

Time has flown in more ways than one. Here we are halfway through summer, and today is the one year anniversary of this blog! I haven’t been able to write much in the last few weeks, and I know I’ve missed a lot. Things have been happening – things I needed to take care of – but now they’re done, and it’s all cool.

A major project has been revitalizing my Etsy shop. I chose a fresh new name, thereby uniting my shop, blog and Facebook page with a single identity. After careful consideration, I finally settled on Gillyflower Faire, which resonates with me on multiple levels: it’s a little bit archaic, a term for a marketplace, a nod to the Wee Folk, and a description (hopefully) of my handmade baubles. So, I said a fond farewell to Wood So Wild, and set about the many tasks necessary to incorporate this change.

I’ve added many new listings to the shop, including a line of beaded jewellery. The beaded pieces feature genuine gemstones – each chosen for a specific meaning – or wood or glass seed beads, accented with sterling silver and other metals. The styles are sleek and uncomplicated – the type of jewellery I like to wear. And I enjoy working in themes, so I’ve done a few chakra/rainbow pieces, evil eye talismans, and even some using Canadian gems to celebrate this country’s 150th birthday! Here you see just a few examples; there are many more to come.

This flurry of change and activity, combined with the sultry summer heat and the lack of air conditioning at home and in my now-defunct car, has left me in a sweat. My internal temperature control has been broken for years, and now, at this stage of life, it takes very little (stress, or any ambient temperature above 0° C) to turn me into a raging inferno. My friends and co-workers, being kind souls, tell me that when I’m in the grips of a hot flash, I don’t actually show it – aside from my frantic fanning of any item within reach – but I don’t see, or feel, how that can possibly be. You ladies of a certain age know precisely what I mean.

I’ve written before about a few items I keep handy to combat those uncomfortable moments. I continue to use arrowroot powder, either as-is or scented with a few drops of essential oils, as a herbal body powder. Arrowroot powder, also known as arrowroot flour or starch, is made from the powdered rhizomes of several types of tropical plants, notably Maranta arundinacea. It was once used to treat poison arrow wounds, hence the name, and is used as a food thickener as well as in cosmetics. Natural and safe, lightweight and silky, it’s the perfect alternative to cornstarch or talc. Arrowroot powder is inexpensive and found at bulk food and grocery stores.

The batch I made this summer has a fresh, invigorating herbal fragrance and uses essential oils known for their antiseptic properties (lavender, thyme) to combat nasty, sweat-loving bacteria, as well as ones reputed to relieve menopausal symptoms (clary sage, grapefruit). If you can get the shaker top off and on again, go ahead and reuse an empty baby powder bottle. I found 4 oz. plastic shakers at one of my favourite suppliers, Voyageur Soap & Candle Co. Here’s my recipe:

Talc-free Herbal Body Powder

  • small container with shaker lid
  • arrowroot powder
  • essential oils of lavender, Roman chamomile, clary sage, white thyme and pink grapefruit, or use your own favourite combination

Fill container halfway with arrowroot powder. Add 5 to 6 drops of each essential oil. Cover top of container and shake to combine. Fill the bottle with more arrowroot and snap on the lid. Shake thoroughly. Use as a body powder, avoiding eyes.

Another way to beat the heat is a cooling body mist. I found this recipe on Pinterest and dressed up my bottle with snowflake stickers. This lovely-smelling mixture contains soothing, skin-loving witch hazel, which constricts blood vessels to create a cooling sensation that lasts for several minutes on the skin. It’s especially good on hot, tired feet. You can keep the mist at room temperature or in the refrigerator for an extra icy blast.

Peppermint Mist Cooling Spray

  • 2 oz. glass spray bottle
  • 2 tbsp distilled water
  • 2 tbsp witch hazel
  • 4 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 4 drops lavender essential oil

Combine water, witch hazel and essential oils in bottle, add cap and shake thoroughly before each use. Do not use on the face.

Apothecary Adventures: Making a facial toner

There are a jillion recipes out there for DIY skincare, bath and body products, and all kinds of claims about what they’ll do for you. DSC_1705 (4)As my interest in traditional herbalism and back-to-basic home therapeutics deepens, I’ve been eager to try some of them (always with a skeptical eye toward snake-oil claims, of course). I’m pretty picky, though; I want a simple recipe using only a few ingredients that are plant-based, organic rather than synthetic (although that’s not always possible, especially when it comes to fragrance), easily-available and inexpensive. And if those ingredients or the final product can multitask, so much the better!

I decided to start my cauldron-stirring with a facial toner, which is odd, since I’ve never used one  ̶  except for a summer years ago when I fell in love with a cucumber toner from either Crabtree & Evelyn or The Body Shop (can’t remember which). Perhaps my dry, mature skin is calling out for it! Toners claim to cleanse, tighten, refresh, soften, hydrate, balance pH levels, glowify, reduce inflammation and control oil. That’s a lot to ask from one product, but only time will tell.

Many incarnations are possible, including cucumber, tea tree, lavender, calendula, aloe & green tea, apple cider vinegar & mint — you name it. For my first effort, I settled on a popular combination:  rosewater, witch hazel (both have been used for centuries) and vegetable glycerin, which is optional. All of these have uses on their own, but together they make a good cosmetic. Here are some of their supposed therapeutic properties, as well as notes on brands, availability and cost:

Rosewater:  soothes, cools and balances; cleanses oily skin; rejuvenates, softens and tones mature skin and helps reduce signs of aging; delicate fragrance calms, reduces stress and contributes to sounder sleep

  • If you’re willing to sacrifice lots of roses that you grow yourself (without pesticides), it’s easy to make your own steam-distilled hydrosol.
  • Purchase rosewater at health/natural product stores, some drugstores, Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food shops and online.
  • My source: Heritage Store’s Rose Petals™ Rosewater, which contains only water and Rosa damascena flower oil. This is a multitasker; use as-is for aromatherapy, perfume, body splash or a simple toner. A rosewater + glycerin option is also available. I paid CAD $12.99 for a 240 mL (8 fl. oz.) bottle at my local Whole Foods store.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana):  astringent; controls oil and may help acne; tannins constrict blood vessels, reducing swelling and inflammation and temporarily tightening skin; cleanses dirt and oil; cools; eases pain and itching; use undiluted as a dressing for bruises, sprains and muscle soreness, abrasions, swelling, insect bites, razor nicks, minor burns and sunburns

  • My source: 100 mL Life™ brand Witch Hazel (manufacturer’s standard) from Shopper’s Drug Mart for CAD $4.99; contains ethyl alcohol. (I couldn’t find an alcohol-free distilled version, but it does exist.) Look for witch hazel in the first aid aisle.
  • Witch hazel doesn’t have a particularly attractive fragrance – it smells rather earthy to me – and the alcohol gave my first batch a slight medicinal odour. I added more rosewater to counteract it.

Vegetable Glycerin:  acts as a humectant, attracting and holding moisture to the skin; cleanses; softens rough skin

  • Can make your products sticky, so don’t go overboard. If you add too much, increase the amount of rosewater.
  • My source: NOW® Solutions 100% Vegetable Glycerine, which is made from non-GMO palm, grapeseed or coconut oil and contains no additives. (I’m a big fan of NOW’s body oils and the spot-on fragrance of their essential oils, all of which are reasonably priced.) A 118 mL bottle cost me CAD $8.99 at Whole Foods.

Rosewater, Witch Hazel & Glycerin Toner

No recipe, of course, listed the exact amounts for the size of bottle I had on hand (I wanted a small batch with nothing left over); in fact, the numbers vary widely. Generally, the proportions go like this:  mostly rosewater, some witch hazel, and a smidgen of glycerin. (How’s that for a recipe?!) To make a larger batch (keep some; give some as gifts), try 1 cup of rosewater, ½ to ¾ cups witch hazel and 1 teaspoon of glycerin. For my small bottle, which holds 80 mL (about ¼ cup or 2 oz.), I experimented until I got the right feel and fragrance:  non-sticky, non-greasy, and pleasantly rose-scented. I used:

  • 50 – 60 mL rosewater
  • 20 – 30 mL witch hazel
  • 1/8 tsp (6 to 8 drops) vegetable glycerin

If the rose scent isn’t strong enough for you, or you don’t like the smell of witch hazel, try adding a drop of rose essential oil or any favourite complementary scent, like lavender or peppermint.

Start Concocting!  Add all ingredients to a bottle with or without a spray top. Secure lid and shake to combine.

To Use:  Shake before each use. Spritz or apply witDSC_1705 (5)h a cotton ball or makeup remover pad to face and neck, avoiding eyes and other mucous membranes. Use after cleansing, to help remove makeup, or whenever you need a lovely rose-scented boost. Keep tightly closed; does not need refrigeration.