I LOVE comments, so please, if you have an opinion or would like to ask a question, do so. But do check back as I shall answer any questions in the comments of the relevant post - that way, everyone can benefit from everybody's knowledge and advice.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Bicarbonate of Soda

As I am sure most of you will know, Bicarb is a wonderful thing!  You can use it for all sorts of stuff.  When it comes to cleaning it is an excellent eco friendly product that will shift grease and grime like nobodies business.  Well this sounds great I hear you murmur.  However, what no one tells you is that you need one extra ingredient for bicarb to actually make a good job of it.  That extra ingredient is Elbow Grease.

Sadly there is no way round it, this wonderful ecologically sound method of cleaning your bathroom or kitchen only works if you are prepared to put a great deal of effort into it.  We are not so used to having to actually scrub our floors clean these days.  So many of the products available are simply wipe on and then off again.  Can you imagine how harsh they have to be to work so effectively.

You can leave a paste of bicarb and water smeared onto stubborn dirt or grease and then come back to it after a little while.  This can cut down the scrubbing a bit.  But when opting for any of these old fashioned (albeit eco friendly) cleaning tips be prepared to turn the clock back a hundred years or so and get your sleeves rolled up and your hair tied back. 

And to finish this post... some other things you can do with bicarb that don't require scrubbing. 

Chlorine damage to your hair? : Mix a solution of half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a pint of warm water and rinse your hair with it, catch the rinse in a bowl or jug and pass it through your hair several times.  This removes any smell of chlorine and can help to redress some of the damage done - but if you insist on swimming on a daily basis then you really need to wear a waterproof hat.  Bicarb can only do so much.

Dull or Dry Skin Exfoliation:  Mix a quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda with your usual shower gel or body wash.  Make sure it is well dissolved and then apply to the skin in gentle circular motions.  Rinse well in the shower and pat the skin dry.  Follow with a luxurious body butter or lotion.  This should not be done more than once a week and a lot less if you are inclined to very dry skin.

Remember, bicarb is basically a cleaning product so although it is eco friendly, it can be a bit strong when used as part of a beauty regime.  So use sparingly and with caution.  I do have a multitude of recipes in one of my old notebooks - copied from some ancient publication no doubt.  If I can find it, I will give you a few more tips in another post.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Chamfered Edging on Soap

I always keep a stash of soap here....

...under the sink in the kitchen.  I don't make a dedicated kitchen soap, I tend to use it just for hand washing anyway, so the same stuff that ends up in the shower can be found here.

I keep it in a brown paper bag tightly closed to preserve the scent of the soap.  It works very well and these soaps, which have been here for months and months still smell of orange and lavender.

When I ran the soap company I very seldom had complaints about the soap - once when a very ancient old lady whined about the price (she thought £3 a bar was expensive) she compared my soap to Lux and said that it wasn't any different so why was it so expensive. She wasn't convinced by my explanation about the precious oils and the abundance of natural glycerin.  But that's all by the way... the main complaint I frequently had, was from men, and it suprised me.  They did not like the sharp edges on the soap.  Even though I explained that the edges would soon round down with use, they always screwed up their faces and said how awkward it was to use sharp edged soap.

I firmly believe that chamfering the edges of the soap is firstly, a waste of soap and secondly, a waste of your time - but if you want to please the man (men) in your life then perhaps it's worth it.

This is how you do it.  It's best to do this once your soap has fully hardened, so after curing for at least 4 weeks.  Take a vegetable peeler (a speed peeler as Jamie Oliver calls it) and run it along the sharp edge of the soap.

A thin sliver of soap will come off.  Sometimes they come off in great long curls, sometimes they simply shatter into little shards of soap.

You can do all the edges, vertical and horizontal.  Then you take a clean dry cloth ( a T towel is good) and polish up the surface of the soap until it shines.  You don't believe me when I say the soap will shine?  Give it a go and you will see what I mean.

The soap is then ready to be wrapped or displayed for all to see how pretty it is... and how nice to use.  And you can be sure that the man in your life won't have to put up with any sharp edges on his delicate skin!

Oh yes, and because I don't believe in wasting anything... all those little shards and curls of soap that peeled off, don't throw them away.  Put them in an airtight container and the next time you are making soap, when it gets to trace, chuck them in, give it a stir and then pour into the mould.  Sometimes if I had an underweight coloured bar I used to cut it into little cubes and I would add it to a batch of plain soap so that when it turned out it looked like dolly mixtures in the soap.  If you use your imagination you could make some really interesting combinations.  Just scent the main batch as you would normally (don't worry if the shards of soap are from a scented batch or not, they are too small to affect the smell of the final soap) and then chuck in the little offcuts, stir and pour into your mould.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Some Advice from Great Granny!

Here I have a Family Herald Handy Book entitled HInts on The Toilette with advice on the improvement and preservation of the skin, teeth, eyes, hair, hands, and feet.

Well we could all do with a bit of that I'm sure!

The Skin
On considering the quantity of waste matter continually carried to the the surface of the skin, which, if not removed, will inevitably impede its function, we cannot fail to see the necessity for daily and thorough ablution.  The minute dry scales cast off as waste or refuse from the outer skin, instead of falling away, are kept in contact with the surface of the body, and, becoming amalgamated with the secretions of the skin, form a thin unctuous crust, to which soot, dust, and other particles from the atmosphere, and from our dress, adhere, encasing the entire body with impurities.

If this coating be suffered to remain, the result will be injurious in many ways.  First, the perspiratory pores being obstructed, their function must necessarily be performed by some other organ, which in consequence being overworked, will probably become weak and disordered.  Secondly, the skin will be subject to irritation, both mechanically and chemically, occasioning eruptions; while the saline particles detained on its surface, by their affinity for moisture, will keep it damp and cold, and thus tend to engender diseases by the effect of cold on the system.  Thirdly, it is probably that the pellicle of foreign substances on the skin may form a medium for the detention of poisonous gases, or miasmatic and infectious vapours, which, being absorbed into the system, will be productive of injurious consequences.

Well, Ladies.  I don't know the date of this publication as it is not written on it, however I surmise it to be early to mid Victorian - especially with the references to disease being carried on miasmas.  And apart from the obvious fact that it is a good thing to wash or cleanse daily I don't think we can put much credence in the 'science' behind it.  What is fascinating is that we take it for granted that everyone knows they should wash or cleanse every day... this little book takes it for granted that many people do not know that they should wash or cleanse every day. 

The Eye
Although art has discovered several means of giving lustre to the eye, none can rival nature, and the false lustre, though beautiful, is but transient and injurious.  The most common thing used is belladonna, which cannot be too highly decried.  Health alone, with frequent ablution in cold spring water, or rose-water diluted, will give lustre to the eyes, and those using artificial means will pay for it in after years.

It is hard to believe that girls would go to such lengths as putting a poisonous substance into their eyes... or is it?  I feel the same sense of horror when I hear the word Botox.  In some ways the world has not changed at all, actually that is not true, the world has changed a great deal.  People haven't.

And finally... a recipe from the same book that I approve of.

Eau De Cologne, or Cologne Water 
Take rectified spirits of wine, or the best unsweetened French brandy, one pint; oil of neroly, three-quarters of a drachm (45 drops); oil of rosemary, half a drachm; camphor, half a drachm: one ounce each of oil of lemon-peel and orange-peel; half an ounce of pure bergamot.  Keep the ingredients together for a month; it is then fit for use.

Indeed this will make a very nice, refreshing cologne.  Anyone remember 4711?  Well this would work in a similar way.  You put it on your handkerchief and then wipe your brow or your neck with it and it is delicously cooling in hot weather, as well as being freshly scented.  No, you don't smell of the French Brandy, well not if you have made it correctly you don't.

This particular recipe would be very pricey to recreate (I can't but think it would have been pricey during the 1800's too) but somewhere in among all my books and papers I have a recipe for a modern equivalent... I will see if I can find it for next time.