I’ve just been doing some gloss painting, my hands are a little bit covered in paint and I wanted to show you a little trick with essential oils to get the gloss paint off that is quick, easy and doesn’t involve the use of nasty chemicals.
I’m using basil essential oil, as I have a massive bottle of it and need to use it up. You could use lavender or a citrus oil, just don’t use one that’s going to irritate your skin*.
Just dab some on the areas of your hands that have paint on and rub it in. You might want to use a nail scrubber if it’s under your nails. Use your normal hand soap to wash it off and job’s a good un!
Isn’t that better than using some dodgy chemical stuff that’s going to harm your hands and the environment when it’s washed down into the rivers? And your hands will smell delightful too!
This is the first in a short series of videos I’m going to put out on using essential oils in ways you might not have thought of before. They’ve been a part of my life for nearly 20 years now and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t use them in some way. I can’t say when the next video will be (I decided a long time ago that I would rather live my life in the real world rather than constantly post only the highlights online), but I’ve got a few ideas floating about to help you integrate natural resources into your everyday life, reduce your reliance on commercial, shop bought (and often environmentally damaging) products and empower yourselves with skills and knowledge.
Please be aware that some essential oils are irritant to the skin when not used correctly. Always seek the advice of a qualified, experienced aromatherapist and your trusted health professional.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
I’ve never thought of gardening as a spiritual practice before, but spending time in my garden today has inspired me to reflect on the processes involved and how they intertwine with what it means to me to grow, both spiritually and practically.
It’s not about being perfect.
My garden is not perfect. It never will be. I yearn for a lawn big enough to have a trampoline on, and enough space to host my friends, as we while away a lazy afternoon, eating, drinking and laughing together in the sun. But when I think to times when I’ve had large gardens (up to 1/2 an acre when living in Alderwasley), I think how overwhelming it was, how it was a constant pressure just to mow the lawn, let alone keep on top of the weeding, pruning and actually growing the things I wanted to grow. My present garden is tiny yet manageable for me, a little bit of time spent in it makes a big impact and it means I have time to lie back, relax and enjoy it (sunbathing is one of my favourite activities, and right now I’m multitasking by writing this whilst laid-out topping up my vitamin D).
Currently my garden sports a large collection of pallets, that suit my budget (ie free) but not my aesthetic. They are ugly (too square, too utilitarian, too cheap!), but useful and have been repurposed as strawberry planters, a vegetable bed and sun bathing deck. One day I shall have raised borders, with proper garden furniture and a new fence that I can safely grow things up. I’m enjoying the process, however, of getting creative with zero budget (I have wonderful friends and family who donate seedlings and cuttings to help my garden grow and develop) so that I can save money for the big stuff.
Plants aren’t perfect either. No one says “oh that birch tree is gangly”, or “that lilac smells too much, turn it down a notch” (see Hollie McNish’s poem ‘If flowers had disposable income’), and yet my garden is full of beauty, and scent, and texture, and things that bring me pleasure every day.
The work is constant
If only you could weed once and that would be it. Not even an annual event. Just the once and no more weeds, ever. But much like the negative thoughts that are a seemingly constant, internal companion, when weeds are accepted as part of the deal with life, are confronted often and early, literally nipped in the bud, they are far easier to contend with and maintain than when left to run rampant and unchecked. Don’t let them become monsters!
My garden also reminds me to celebrate the little things, like the promise of my strawberry plants getting flowers on them, pea shoots sprouting to the sky and the return of the stunningly deep red/brown/burgundy/purple (it changes daily) leaves on the copper beech tree on the opposite side of the road. I’m grateful I have a space I can do yoga in, dry my washing (what’s better than snuggling down into bed sheets that smell of outside?) dine alfresco on food that I’ve planted, watered, nurtured and harvested, and have water fights in with my son.
I could go on. I’m practicing the art of not being attached to outcomes, and my garden is a great proponent of this, but I think that’s a separate article, that I may or may not get round to writing. And I had to come in inside because I’d had enough time sunning my back (I didn’t realise how long this would take to explore/write when I first got started), and I can’t sun my front whilst writing this. So I’m off back outside to sunbathe a wee while longer, dig up a bit more earth, get mucky and grow things, myself included.
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.
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 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.
There were also some great examples of New Zealand’s Norfolk Island Pines, which have been around since the Jurassic period.
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.
A selection of Aloes
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.