The Aromatic Allotment

I had a wonderful day on Tuesday, with my good friend Anita, on her aromatic allotment in Somercotes. She gave us (my friend Barbara came too) a tour of the extensive plot where she grows all sorts of wonderful plants, some for their healing properties, some to use as cut flowers and some to eat.

Rosa Dascena ‘Kazanlak’

Her Damascena roses (Rosa Damascena ‘Kazanlak’) were blooming in full, beautiful flower, so we picked the petals to distill into rose water. Why haven’t humans invented a way to smell things through the internet yet?! If only you could, it was heavenly, sweet and floral and smooth and rounded and delicious. It’s like getting a hug from your favourite auntie, all encompassing and so comforting and uplifting.

Once we had picked the rose petals, Anita selected some cut flowers to make into a gorgeous hand-tied bouquet for me. Centred around a peony, she added different types of mint, geraniums, black currant stems, nigella, valerian and more, with vetch trailing around the edges. Again, I wish you could smell it as it just smells of summer. Light and fresh, floral and minty, green and bright and refreshing.

My beautiful, locally grown, hand-tied bouquet

With our arms full of fragrant loveliness, we took the short walk to Anita’s house where her still was set up on her hob awaiting the rose petals. They were packed into the bottom of the still with water added on top. The pump to circulate the cold water to cool the distillate was powered up and the gas was lighted below the still. I found the whole process fascinating, and it brought back fond memories for me of touring the Drôme Valley in France in 2008, where a lot of the essential oils I use are grown, harvested and distilled.

The copper still, with rose petals packed into the belly, and the cooling water pumped from the bucket

We watched, mesmerised, as the temperature in the still rose, and the condensed, perfumed water (known as a hydrolat or hydrosol) started to trickle out. As we waited for the process to finish, Anita gave us a yummy lunch of home-made sourdough french stick with a selection of cheeses, tomatoes and cucumber.

Rose petals, now drying in my airing cupboard

I was also given a bag of rose petals to take home, which are drying in my airing cupboard as I type. Every time I open it, I get the most amazing waft of rose. I’m wondering if I should put them into honey and have rose honey in a few weeks?

Anita and me. I’m sure I’m not that much taller than her!

Anita is a very talented florist, and if you’d like a beautiful bouquet (or wedding flowers, floral cake topper, or funeral tribute etc), that is locally grown with love and care, and arranged in the most stunning way, please contact her. You can see her designs on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/aromaticallotment/?hl=en-gb and contact her via her website here http://aromaticallotment.com/

Stopping to smell the roses

Generous Gardener Rose

My beautiful rose, The Generous Gardener, has burst into full bloom in my front garden. Please stop on your way in to take a deep inhalation of it’s gorgeousness, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face!

I am enjoying getting back to normal, although restrictions are still in place for treatments. I am still offering appointments that last no longer than 1 hour, which includes Indian head massage, reflexology, back, neck & shoulder aromatherapy massage or a combination of any of the above! And I’m still keeping up with the hand washing as you enter, mask wearing and of course thorough cleaning and disinfecting between clients.

Hopefully when all restrictions are lifted I can offer 1.5 hour full-body aromatherapy massages again. I’m not sure I’ll know what to do, but I dare say my hands will remember and guide me through, as they have done many times before.

I feel very fortunate that I have been able to continue with my other jobs (at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, packing boxes for my sister’s mail order business and my voluntary work as a breastfeeding counsellor) throughout each lock down. They have given me time out of the house, social interaction, a purpose and reason to get out of bed in the morning. On the couple of occasions when I had to self-isolate (once because my son had scarlet fever – though I didn’t know it was that until the scarlet rash came out – and once because someone in his class at school tested positive for covid-19), it brought home (pun intended!) to me how much I needed that time out of the house and to feel part of a team with all my colleagues.

My office for the morning

I also feel very fortunate that all my jobs offer me flexibility, so that I can fit most of my work around childcare, lie in the sun on beautiful days like today (whilst pretending to work, or at least working on my vitamin D levels!), run errands for my neighbour who has been isolating for over a year and generally do what I want when I want.

Stopping to smell the roses, which is one of my favourite past-times, is included in this list of freedoms and flexibilities . I hope you enjoy the delicious fragrance next time you walk up to my front door on arrival to your appointment. The aromatherapy starts right there!

Open, closed, open, closed, open, closed. Opening soon?

Well my loves, are we coming out of our third and final lockdown? Is April 12th the date I can re-open for aromatherapy, Indian head massage and reflexology again? Will I have finished all the painting and decorating, spider evicting and deep cleaning?

I’m feeling optimistic and have already had enquiries about making appointments, so let’s open the diary and get you booked in! It is of course, subject to everything going according to the government’s plan, and we’ve already learnt that things can change overnight. So let’s get you pencilled in, with a caveat that it may have to change, at the last minute.

I will be continuing with the changes made between the lockdowns – ie limiting appointments to one hour, disinfecting, wearing masks, disinfecting, washing hands on entry, disinfecting, and errr, a bit more disinfecting. My washing machine will be groaning again! But I will be happy to be returning to one of my favourite jobs, catching up with you all and helping to soothe away all the stresses of the last year.

I hope that come the summer, we might not need to wear masks, and that I can offer longer appointments again. I’d also like to bring back my upholstered chairs as the wipe clean ones are embarrassingly squeaky. But this obviously all depends on the aforementioned government plan, and there are some actions that are best practice anyway, so I will be keeping them up (apologies once more to my washing machine!).

I’ll be contacting my existing clients over the next few weeks to see if they would like to book in again. There is absolutely no obligation to do so, if you would rather wait until further lockdown restrictions are lifted, that is absolutely fine and totally understandable. I can’t wait to welcome you back, whenever that may be.

And hugs. When can we start hugs again? How I’ve missed them!

A Tea Tree in Sheffield

Sheffield, winter gardens, tea tree, essential oils, Aromatherapy, massage, Belper, Derbyshire, eucalyptus, aloe, plants, gardens,

I had a wander around the Winter Gardens in Sheffield the other day, a stunning feat of architecture with huge timber beams soaring cathedral-like towards the heavens.

Sheffield, winter gardens, olive, tea tree, Aromatherapy, massage, essential oils, Belper, Derbyshire, gardens

Inside is housed a collection of plants often found in temperate climates and sections devoted to Australasia, including a tea tree. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the flesh before so I was delighted!

Tea tree, gardens, winter gardens, Sheffield, essential oils, Aromatherapy, massage, Belper, Derbyshire

Tea Tree is one of the most commonly used essential oils as it has great antibacterial, anti-infectious and anti-fungal properties, to name just a few. It appears in many different products from skin cleansers to natural toilet cleaners. According to Tisserand, it is also an emotional tonic for lethargy, anxiety and depression. It is often known as the bottle brush tree due to the formation of the needles, as you can see below.

Tea tree, Sheffield, winter gardens, Aromatherapy, massage, essential oils, Belper, Derbyshire

There were also some great examples of New Zealand’s Norfolk Island Pines, which have been around since the Jurassic period.

Norfolk Island Pines, Sheffield, winter gardens, essential oils, Aromatherapy, massage, Belper, Derbyshire

As far as I’m aware, these pines aren’t used in aromatherapy. I dare say they are used medicinally in some way in their native home though. Other plants I found that are harvested for their healing properties were eucalyptus, aloes, jasmine and the olive pictured above.

Eucalyptus, essential oils, massage, gardens, Aromatherapy, Sheffield, winter gardens, Belper, Derbyshire

Aloe, aloe Vera, massage, essential oils, Aromatherapy, Sheffield, winter gardens, Belper, Derbyshire

A selection of Aloes

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Jasmine, it caught my nose before it caught my eye!

There was also some beautiful colours dotted around, although I don’t know the name of those plants as there’s no essential oils produced from them! The Winter Gardens are well worth a visit, I’ll definitely be hanging around in there again soon.

Dunroamin

This is a personal one for me, I’m not one for wearing my heart on my sleeve or being in the spotlight but I’ve felt the need to reflect on and share where I’ve been, how far I’ve come and how I want to shape the future for myself and my beloved son.

2.5 years ago I left my husband after our marriage exploded and left me in a heap on the floor (literally). There had been a few rumbles leading up to the explosion, but nothing could have prepared me for the destruction and devastation of that day, or the waves of shite that kept breaking over me and swiping my feet from under me, again and again in the months that followed.

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Making the most of few times my son falls asleep on me 😍

When I got married, I had a house’s worth of savings in the bank. By the time I left, I had incurred more debt than I’ve ever had in my life, and ever will have again. Debt that did not benefit me or my son and yet was in my name. There were other issues during the fall out that caused deep distress and led to ill health, both physical and mental.

I have long been ashamed by the debt and the circumstances that lead to the state I found myself in. This, and the inevitable grief of a relationship ending, led to a period of depression. But as the great Brené Brown says ‘Shame can not survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy’. Which is why I wanted to talk/write about my situation, to shine light into the darkness, for myself and maybe others too.

When I look back on that time in my life, I see a woman who had been trodden down, rolled around in the mud on the floor and expected to be happy down there. I didn’t see it coming, or realised it was happening until I stepped away. And even then it took a while to see just how much I’d been in denial. If I just did this, or that, then everything would be better. It wasn’t better. Not for me anyway.

I am supremely fortunate, and eternally grateful, to have a wonderful mum who took me in (and my son, who was 2.5 at the time) and has supported me in so many ways over the last few years as I have rebuilt my life, piece by piece. I have amazing sisters who have provided loving shoulders to cry on and fabulous friends who have mopped my many tears.

I felt compelled to write this post as there are two significant events that have marked the end of the troubled times and the start of new, exciting and enriching times. The first is the end of my counselling sessions*, that I’ve had on and off for the last 2 years. I highly recommend being brave and digging around your life with the guidance of an experienced, qualified and compassionate counsellor or psychotherapist. It has helped me to grieve, stand up for myself, see situations from a different angle, be more resilient and confident in my ability to handle whatever life throws at me.

The second event is that I will very soon be getting the keys to my own house. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, and what an impact it will make on myself and my son. I’m also anxious about it, as it is a huge responsibility for one person. I’ve no doubt it will be challenging and stretch me in unfamiliar ways but I also know that I’m up for the challenge and can’t wait to have my own space. A home to put my own stamp on and express myself in creating a warm, welcoming and comfortable interior, and a relaxing, healing garden.

depression, anxiety, personal, grief, counselling, psychotherapy, wellbeing, Aromatherapy, massage, Belper, Derbyshire, essential oils, st mawes, Cornwall, rowing, gig rowing, happy place
Me in my happy place, doing a happy thing ☺️

I can see a path of where I want my career to take me, and the people I will help as a product of that. I have ambition again, fire in my belly that I’ve not had for a long time. I can see my son and I building a wonderful home together and making lots of mess along the way. I can see myself going on dating sites/apps for the first time in my life. That’s a very scary thought, but you don’t get to feeling brave without feeling scared first.

Thank you to everyone who has been there for me in the last few years. Thank you to everyone who has offered a helping hand or a spare piece of furniture for my new home. It has been the worst of times, and the best of times. To quote Hannah Gadsby, “There’s nothing stronger than a woman who has rebuilt herself”. Here’s to the ones who have rebuilt themselves 💪.

* I had free counselling sessions via the NHS in Derbyshire via talkingmentalhealth