Health and Beauty

Boosting your immunity in the time of Covid-19

2021 is starting on a rather anxious note, especially for us in the UK where the new strain of coronavirus seems to be spreading like wildfire. As every winter, there are steps we can all take to boost our immune system and protect ourselves from viruses. Coronaviruses are viruses that affect the respiratory tract, with a very wide range of symptoms from cough and fever to difficulties to breathe. We will then look at how to support the respiratory system during the coldest months.

Getting good quality vitamin supplements is thus important, and make sure to check dosage. 1000 IU (or 25mg) of Vitamin D3 is what is usually recommended for people with mild deficiency, but a GP might prescribe a higher dose after a blood test. For my children, I used Vit D drops which I usually add to their breakfast porridge. Of course, it’s always better to get the “real thing” rather than take supplements, so try to get some sun even when it’s cold outside! It’s hard to get enough vitamin D through diet as few food items contain it, but it’s mainly found in fish (salmon, herring, sardines, tuna), and egg yolk to a lesser extent.

  • Vitamin C is another very important vitamin during the winter. There is a reason we have an abundance of citrus fruits in the colder months: pomelos, oranges, clementines and grapefruits are good options to raise your Vitamin C levels, as your body will always get more benefit from a naturally occurring vitamin than a pill. Kiwis are also brilliant, and in fact they contain more vitamin C than oranges!
  • One of my personal favourite immune boosting recipes is elderberry syrup or rob (recipe here). Unfortunately I didn’t find enough berries this year, but I usually use Sambucol. The great thing with elderberry generally is that it tastes great, so we all love having it. Elderberries have strong anti-viral components and can slow the spread of virus through the body. Elder (Sambucus negra) can also be used as a tea made from dried flowers, and it has long been used in traditional medicine to cure viral infections such as flu, bronchitis and sinusitis. It is particularly helpful to clear mucus from the throat and nose, as it is a natural decongestant. It is also perfectly safe for children (as long as you make sure you have the real thing!).
  • Honey is an easy to find, popular, delicious product, and I personally have excellent results with it. I use it as a preventive measure throughout winter (for myself and children) and we are very rarely sick. A hot lemon or ginger tea with a big spoon of honey works a treat if you feel a bit rundown or are developing a cough. I usually have a teaspoon before breakfast every morning, and as with most things, what makes the difference is quality honey. Most supermarket honeys are a mix of different ‘honeys’ including Chinese ‘honey’, which mostly is not honey at all but sugar syrup. To be fair, real honey costs money, so if you see a product that seems particularly cheap, the real honey content is probably very low. Get raw, organic honey, preferably local to you: always check the source. I also use Manuka honey (definitely NOT local to me!), but we all love it. Get a small pot of the higher concentration you can find (currently 350 for me); it is expensive but if you only have a small teaspoon a day, it will last for a while and you will see the benefits.

If you do catch Covid-19, remember to drink plenty of fluids, give yourself a rest, and try to act early. Once the virus has reached your lungs, it will be much harder to get it out. At the first sign of a runny nose or tingling throat, get your honey, ginger and lemon out, and put the kettle on.

Steams can be a very efficient tool to clear your airways if you are struggling to breathe. Thyme is usually recommended and it is easily accessible; many people have dry thyme in their kitchen (but make sure you use thyme that is not too old!). Simply boil water, pour over your thyme in a large bowl and inhale deeply. You can also put a towel over your head. This should give you temporary relief so can be repeated several times throughout the day. Thyme might also help prevent secondary lung infections.

Diet is also very important for the recovery process (as always!): allow your body to focus on fighting the virus by eating easy to digest food: plenty of fruit and veg, broth, boiled eggs, veg juices, plain rice, and avoid processed food. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and herbal teas throughout the day.

REST! I know it’s hard when you have a busy job or young children, but with the prevalence of long-term effects with Covid, it is really crucial to let your body recover and get some proper rest. You will experience fatigue, and this is completely normal. It is simply your body telling you to go to bed, let go of stress and daily mental load, and focus on yourself. Everything else can wait!

Health and Beauty, Raising healthy Children

A relaxed labour experience

We are coming to the end of 2020, a year that will be remembered as one of the most stressful for many of us. At the same time, it is also the year that I gave birth to my last baby, a completely unplanned but very welcomed daughter. A “lockdown baby”, a “corona baby” as she is now known in our family, a blessing in the midst of a very challenging year.

It is my 4th baby and you would expect that by now, I know my way around pregnancy and childbirth, but she has taught me much. After a few months of recovery and reflection (in my postnatal fog brain), here are a few thoughts for mothers-to-be who want to take charge of their baby’s birth:

  • There is ONE thing that is out of your control (apart from a planned caesarean delivery), and that is WHEN baby is born. Babies come whenever they are ready, and only then. I actually had an induction at 39 weeks for this baby, which failed. I asked to be discharged (after ensuring that baby was completely fine) and she ended up being born at 42 weeks plus. There are loads of tips online about how to bring on labour: eat spicy food, go for a walk, drink raspberry leaf tea…These might or might not work, and in my experience, they only work when baby is actually ready. Use that precious time to go out, take in a movie or exhibition, see friends, exercise, relax. Learning to let go is a learning curve!
  • Labour NEVER really goes as planned, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have it your way. I wanted a home birth. I had planned it for months with my team of midwives, I had bought tons of towels and plastic sheets for the floor, I had my birthing ball and I had freed up my guest room to make space for labour. In the end, after much fretting, I had to go into hospital because baby was too late. Here, I want to make it clear that it was MY choice, and mothers (in the UK at least), always have a choice of where they give birth. It was my own risk assessment, and while risk remains very low after 42 weeks, I felt it was time to go in. Remember that you always have a choice of where to give birth: at home or at hospital, in a midwife-led unit or a birth centre…Go with whatever makes you feel more comfortable.
  • Bring your “birthing kit”: the one thing I wanted for my labour was a birthing ball, as I find it very useful for the first stages. It ensures you stay in an upright position, which helps baby find his way down the birth canal, and bouncing on it gave me something to focus on. Sitting on it seemed to take the edges of the contraction pains for a while, relieved pain in my lower back, and I felt freer in my movements. For other women, a TENS machine might do the trick, or a relaxing soundtrack and a back massage (don’t forget your massage oil). I also kept lavender essential oil with me because it calms me down, and some chamomile homeotherapy pellets which I took every couple of hours. You might prefer a water birth, in which case you might have to hire/buy a pool or find a hospital where this option is available.

Birthing kit bits
  • Find a comfortable position for the 2nd stage. One thing is for certain: lying down on your back is NOT and is NEVER the best position for pushing a baby out, whatever we have seen in movies! This position was actually introduced to make it easier for doctors to see what’s going on, but it is not a natural birthing position. Prefer a position where your body stays upright, such as squatting, standing up while holding onto something, kneeling forward…This helps your pelvis open and the pressure of the baby’s head help him/her to push forward.
GIVING BIRTH CHARTS
Courtesy of Medshop.co.nz

Look at this graph: it’s clear that staying upright is the best position for the baby to come out without straining the body too much. Lying on your back, on the opposite, will need more effort and might lead to more tearing. It’s completely fine moving around until your body naturally settles in one position. In my case, I asked for a mat to be placed on the floor and actually gave birth there, kneeling forward while gripping on the hospital bed.

  • Focus on your breathing! This is so important, I just can’t say it enough. Ideally, this is something you will practice throughout your pregnancy: there are many videos online that will demonstrate breathing techniques for labour, and there are extremely useful. Essentially, you should take long, deep belly breaths through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, letting the air run out of your lungs. As you move on to the 2nd stage, your breathing naturally changes; try to keep taking long deep breaths, and exhale in fast movements (as you do in intense exercise). Breathing completely changes your birth experience: it helps you remain calm, set the rhythm for your body and keep in control of its movements.
  • Make informed choices, and don’t be afraid to ask for a 2nd opinion. You might not be a medical expert, but you know what is happening in your body. How many times do we hear of women being told their babies are too big or too small, only for them to be born perfectly average? In this pregnancy, I was told I had low fluid and had to be induced immediately (which failed). I then did my bit of research, realised that many measures taken in pregnancy are only estimates, and requested a new scan. This showed fluid was above average, and baby was completely fine. Doctors always err on the side of safety, but this can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Similarly, if you feel something is “wrong” with your pregnancy, never hesitate to contact your midwife or ask for a scan. Women have strong gut instincts, so learn to trust yourself.
  • One last piece of advice, which might be quite controversial. If you are standing upright, the baby’s weight will help him “come down” so that you shouldn’t really need to actively “push”. For my 2nd baby, I was so desperate for the pain to stop that I started pushing too early, which lead to minor tearing. This time, on the opposite, I kept focused on my breathing and trusted my body to do its job. This can be a bit frustrating because in-between contractions, you might feel as if the baby is moving back up, but this is completely normal. There is no need to rush: baby will come out eventually! In effect, the baby was “pushed out” without me having to make a conscious effort. End result: no tearing at all.

I hope sharing my own birth experience will be useful for some of you out there! Pregnancies are such individual journeys, but they are life-changing in so many ways. Please do share your own experiences and tips!

Health and Beauty, Nutrition

Make your own elderberry syrup

Elderberry season is coming to an end: they flower in June and are ready to harvest from July to October, depending where you are. Elders ( Sambucus Nigra) are pretty much everywhere: I found some trees on a local estate, and they are easily recognisable because of their cluster of tiny, dark berries. They can be confused with dogwood bushes (Cornus Sanguinea) whose berries are not edible, so make sure you identify the tree correctly! Dogwood berries are bigger, and its leaves are smoother; here are pictures of both plants for comparison.

 

Dogwood
 
 
Some of the elderberries I picked
 
I have been consuming elderberry syrup daily throughout the winter months for a couple of years, but it is the first time I attempt to make my own. There are many health benefits: mainly it strengthens the immune system. It is something to take as a preventive measure, rather than to remedy a cold.

I collected about 500g of berries and thought it would give me a decent amount of syrup, but I actually ended up with quite little, so don’t hesitate to get loads! The syrup can easily be frozen into cubes, so you can use it throughout the winter. Before starting, make sure to clean the berries thoroughly and remove every bit of branch, twig and leaf, as they can be toxic. The raw berries themselves are not edible and can give stomach ache, so do not consume before cooking. A word of caution: I also found loads of tiny little white worms while cleaning the berries, so it’s a good idea to let them sit in water for a while and make sure there are no insects!
My elderberry syrup recipe:

Put the berries in a pan and cover with water ( about double the volume of berries). I added a piece of fresh ginger and a couple of pieces of cinammon bark. This is optional, but it gives the syrup a better taste.

  
Leave to simmer on low fire for about 40 mins to an hour. Once the syrup has reduced, put through a sieve. Leave to cool down and add a big spoonful of good quality local honey (or more, to taste). To be very honest, my syrup doesn’t taste as good as ready-made ones, as there is obviously much less sugar, but it tastes fresh and a bit tart. 

Next step is to make my own elderflower cordial in the spring!

Nutrition

My breakfast date smoothie

One of my favourite ever smoothie recipes is a banana-date one, which makes a perfect breakfast drink as it is quite filling. I also often have it for iftar during Ramadan as bananas and dates are both very easily digested by the body and quickly replenish it after a day of fasting.

My banana/dates smoothie ingredients

Date & banana smoothie (for 2 glasses)

  • 2 ripe Bananas
  •  4-5 Medjoul dates (Medjoul are great because they are sweet and fleshy)
  •  1 tablespoon of almonds ( I grind them separately as my blender is not powerful enough, or you can just add almond powder)
  •  2 large cups of oat milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
  •  2 big tablespoons of porridge oats or greek yoghurt for extra protein
  • a teaspoon of cinnamon

Cut the bananas into pieces and remove the stone and skin from the dates.

Blend all the ingredients together. Chill. Drink!

Nutrition

Spirulina smoothie

Spirulina is a magic food: it is very high in protein, vitamin B, and much more. It is a power made from dried algae, and if I am really honest, I hate the taste. A couple of years ago, I used to just mix it in a glass of water and force myself to drink it. After a while, I gave up, because it gets tedious drinking things you dislike, even if they are super healthy! Here is a quick ad delicious way to incorporate it into your daily routine.

Recipe for two medium glasses:

  •  Two table spoons of organic spirulina powder
  • One large frozen banana, or if a ripe one. I didn’t add any sugar in this recipe because the banana was sweet enough. You can add a teaspoon of honey if needed.
  • 3-4 tablespoons of porridge
  • Two tablespoons of greek yoghurt for extra protein (if you are vegan, feel free to omit this one, and add an extra banana)
  • a large glass of (cow or almond/oat/coconut) milk : I like my smoothies quite thick, so feel free to add more if needed.

Mix together and serve cool (with a non-plastic straw please!).

You can also buy spirulina as tablets if you don’t like the powdered stuff, but I find it easier to add the powder to fruit smoothies as it masks the taste. With Ramadan approaching, I am also keen to find healthy recipes that will make me feel energized throughout the day. In that particular recipe, I incorporated porridge oats and yoghurt to add protein and to make it more filling. This should keep you going for a while!

Spirulina is a great ingredient because it is completely natural: it is made from an algae, Arthrospira platensis, it’s easy to use, and it has tons of beneficial properties. It has been used for centuries in some parts of Africa because it is so packed in vitamins, minerals, and essential amino-acids that the body cannot synthesize by itself. It is thus particularly useful in countries where malnutrition is an issue, such as Senegal where spirulina is popular. Several recent studies have looked at how it can be used to fight common issues: one of its health benefits for instance is that it is highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and it is thus very useful to reduce oxidative stress. Another interesting use would be for anemia: a 2011 study looked at “the effects of spirulina and immune function in senior people” and found that it had a positive impact. A number of studies also looked at the use of spirulina in diabetic patients to regulate blood glucose, and the supplement seems to have a positive impact of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which is extremely promising. Finally, there is also suggestion that spirulina can reduce toxicity from heavy metals in the body and offer protection from radiation.

As a note of caution, spirulina can in some cases acerbates the symptoms of autoimmune conditions, because it stimulates the immune system. Therefore, it is important to proceed carefully (as with anything you take!).

Environment, Raising healthy Children

Getting started with cloth nappies

Having had three babies, I am very conscious on the huge impact my family is having on the planet. Nappies are particularly bad: they are made of synthetic materials that don’t degrade, and end up in landfill. One child might go through 6-7 nappies a day, over 2,500 a year. It is simply madness! With my first two children, I looked for alternatives but didn’t get anywhere. Cloth nappies are a different pair of hands, and there is little support to navigate the different ones on offer. People around me were not quite supportive: But you will be using much more water to keep them clean! They will leak! That’s like going back to the Middle Ages, washing nappies by hand! To be honest, my Pampers often leak through too and that leads to more clothes in the wash, so on that front I am not sure cloth nappies are any worse.

I first bought a couple of basic nappies online (ebay) but was not particularly impressed: they didn’t hold anything and leaked everywhere. I gave up. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was determined to try again. I got a couple of Bambino Mio solo nappies (2 parts, insert and cover), as well as All In One (AIO) nappies with an attached insert.

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Mio solos for newborns

I thought the Mio Solos worked well when baby was small, and they are quite practical: you can easily change the soiled insert and replace with a clean one. I have now moved on to Pop-ins with bamboo inserts, which are great as bamboo is very absorbent, and therefore they usually don’t leak at night. The only downside is that they take a while to dry, compared to cotton or flannel inserts. I also use the all in one Bambino Mios, because the prints are cute, and they are quite handy.

Pop-in on the left, Bambino on the right

Now folks, I am still not using cloth nappies 100% of the time, especially when I am out for the day. I do hope I will get there (before baby is potty trained!), but at least I know that each time I use a cloth nappy, it means one less in landfill. Another thing to keep in mind is that cloth nappies are quite bulky and tight trousers might not fit (which is a good excuse for buying new baby clothes🙈). If you have a baby around, give it a go, it is not as hard as it seems!

* If you live in the UK, check whether your local council is taking part in the real nappy scheme to promote cloth nappies. I received a £50 voucher from mine!

Environment, Uncategorized

Reducing plastics – 10 tips for beginners

Last week, it was announced that a new ‘continent’ was discovered in the Caribbean. A continent made of discarded plastic bags and bottles, cups and cutlery, wrappings and cheap plastic tat. Square miles of trash filling the ocean, poisoning fish and by extension, us. It is IMPERATIVE that we reduce our dependency on plastic and get rid of our ‘throw away’ culture. Being a mother of three children, living in a wealthy country, I am well aware that I am a big part of the problem. I am also very aware that the planet that I will be leaving to my children in 50 years time is not one I would like to inhabit. Indeed, it might not be habitable at all. I have gradually reduced my consumption of plastic over the last couple of years, without making too much of an effort, but I am really determined that this year I will make a radical change and ensure that I don’t contribute to this ecological disaster anymore. I want to stop being so wasteful, and become resourceful instead.  I know I am not going to become a vegan hermit living in the mountains in a days, but I want to take clear steps to improve my lifestyle and become greener. Here are my 10 first steps – some of them I am already doing 100% of the time, others only partly. Are you in with me?

Image result for plastic caribbean

–  No one-use plastic bags. At all. Ever.

At the moment I have 4-5 canvas bags that I keep in my handbag, in my pram, in my car, so that I can use them for a quick shop at the supermarket, or when I go to the local market. For my weekly shop, I have big, IKEA-style bags that I pop in the trolley. What I need to resolve though is plastic bag use at the butcher’s/fishmonger’s, as they usually wrap produce in plastic.

– No bottled water

This one is fairly easy. As a mum of 3, I used to buy bottled water on almost every trip out. Even if I brought water with me, it just wasn’t enough, and I don’t like re-using plastic water bottles as apparently plastic can seep through the water. I bought a big glass bottle that is protected by a silicone sleeve, and cost me under £10. Mine is for TKMaxx and is similar to this one. It’s perfect because it is easy to clean and contains enough water for us, and I can refill it outside if needed. My kids still have plastic (reusable) sippy cups, which I am planning to replace with Klean Kanteen ones or similar.

The next step is to simply stop buying any drink in plastic bottles. The Guardian reports that a million plastic bottles are sold every minute around the world, and only a tiny percentage are recycled. The rest end in landfill, or in the sea. For juices, get carton packs (although some are coated in plastic so not ideal) or get a cheap juicer. For milk, some local milkmen use glass bottles (I am looking for one actually, any recommendation?).

-No plastic cups/ cutlery/ plates

I don’t like these anyway and never buy them. I’m in at an event where they are being use, I will just avoid them and try to find other containers to use. For picnics, I will bring reusable containers/ tumblers, and regular cutlery. No need for plastic stuff.

Also, straws! Yes, no more straws. No, you don’t really need them. I am not sure who thought they were a good idea in the first place. If you do really actually need them, don’t worry, Klean Kanteen is your friend again! They are not cheap, but will save you a lifetime of buying straws. Some shops also have paper ones.

-No gum

Gum is a gross habit, and yes, gum contains plastic. Think about it: you chew on it for 5 minutes, spit it out, it stays out there for five years. That means there must be a huge iceberg of discarded gum somewhere. Just cut it out!

If you are really addicted to gum and struggle to quit, there are apparently a few plastic-free alternatives on the market, according to A Plastic free Life. But really, do you need that?

– Avoid fruits and veg wrapped in plastic/cellophane

I am trying to get most of my fruit and veg from the market so no unnecessary wrapping. However, it is usually not organic. Organic fruits in the supermarket on the other hand are often wrapped in plastic, which is really annoying me as it feels counter-productive! I don’t know what is worst, plastic wrappings, or pesticides destroying the soil? I’m also looking at where produce come from, and try to buy local and seasonal. I’m still working my way around that one, and will probably sign up for a veg box to be delivered at home. For dry items such as lentils or pasta, buy in bulk or find a zero-waste shop where you can bring your own containers.

-Avoid shower gel and hand wash liquid

Soap is your friend! Yes, bar soap, not the liquid one with tons of additives. That way, no more ugly plastic bottles in your bathroom. If you don’t like soap scum, or find your soap getting soggy, get a proper soap dish with a grille, so that the soap keeps dry. Also sharing soap is NOT unhygienic; in fact it is much more hygienic than a soap bottle that has been touched by many dirty hands! Simply rinse after use. If you are feeling brave, try making your own soap, it’s easy, fun and rewarding, and it makes a nice gift.

You are feeling extra brave? Bin the shampoo bottle and use a shampoo bar instead. I am planning to try the Lush ones soon. You can also use ghassoul, if it works for your hair (it doesn’t really for mine as it’s thin, but give it a go).

Same for your deodorant, bin the plastic, get an alum stone.

– No tea bags!

That’s a weird one isn’t it? Are you all looking at your tea bag and wondering how on earth there is plastic in there? Well yes, some brands use polypropylene to seal tea bags, which means that they also cannot be composted. I’m sure you don’t want that sipping in your tea! There is a great article over at Moral Fibres listing which brands do and don’t use plastic in their tea bags; Pukka Tea seems like the best option. Otherwise, do as I did and go back to an old-style tea infuser like that little guy here, and use loose leaf tea. It tastes so much better, and it is so much more enjoyable. The only issue is that now I make myself a whole teapot, rather than a mug…

Stainless Steel Loose Tea & Coffee Strainer Ball

– Make your own detergents, laundry soap etc

I am not really good at that, I’ll admit. I have my homemade cleaning spray that I use for everything (simply vinegar and water, with a dash of dishwashing liquid and a few drops of tea tree essential oil), and I use Moroccan black soap diluted in water to clean the floor. However, I still use bleach and other sprays for more heavy duty cleaning. I am pretty sure I could manage with just bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, and will give it a go. For my laundry, I try making my own ivy laundry liquid but it didn’t really work. I am not super keen on using soap because I am worried about soap scum built up, especially with washable nappies. My options are a laundry egg (any good?), or buy from a ‘green’ brand such as Ecover. Ecover sells wholesale, which seems like a good option to reduce packaging. Other brands such as Reyouzable let you bring your own bags and bottles to fill.

– Think about the use of plastic in your home

As much as I would love my kid’s to have only beautiful handmade Grimm toys and Ostheimer figurines, we do have Lego, Playmobil and similar. What I completely refuse to buy is cheap plastic tat from the pound shop that they will play with for a week and then discard. Some of our Playmobil come from charity shops, so I feel that at least they got a good, long life. When we are done playing with them, we will donate to friends or charity. Other items such as toothbrushes can be replaced with bamboo ones or siwak sticks for instance.

-When there is no other option…

Of course most of us do end up with plastic waste at the end of the day. Make sure you dispose of it properly so that it can be recycled. In my local council for instance, we have recycling bins but they only accept some plastics and not others. For instance, plastic bottles, box and tubs are ok, but plastic bags, clingfilm and bags of frozen food need to go in the general waste bin. Check which bin to use!

Image result for recycling bins

 

Nutrition

Avocado smoothie bowl- a fruit overdose

I love summer. I love the sun, the holidays, and more than anything, the fruits! This year, Ramadhan also fallq in June-July, so it was a perfect incensitive to sort my diet and pack up on vitamins for iftar ( the sunset meal). I have had a fruit/ smoothie bowl pretty much everyday, varying the fruits I use according to what’s left in the fridge. It has done me a world of good: I have felt less tired, less thirsty than usual, and I barely feel hunger during the day, despite a very busy month. 

  
This avocado recipe has been my favourite: it is creamy and delicious, refreshing, and provides me with the nutritients and good fat I need after a day of fasting. 

Ingredients:

1 avocado and milk for the smoothie

2 bananas

1/4 pineapple

1/4 melon

1/2 apple

A handful of strawberries, blueberries or any other type of berries

To top : a handful of seeds/ dried fruits mix, almonds, walnuts, dates…

This list is not exhaustive of course; you can use any fruit and nuts you have at home, but this had a great balance of juicy/ crunchy/ sweet/ acidic.

I cut up all the fruits in dice to fill my bowl, topped it up with my smoothie ( avocado+ripe banana for sweetness, milk, whizzed up), and then sprinkled my dates, nuts, seeds/ dried fruits on top. It took no more than 10 mins, and it is just perfect. I think I could happily live on this for the rest of my life!

Nutrition

Moroccan preserved lemon

I love preserved lemon, they are really a staple in my kitchen. They are wonderfully versatile: they can be used in tajines, in cakes, in seafood dishes, in risotto or in Asian dishes. They can also be complement salads, aromatise plain water…Possibilities are endless, and the good news is, they are super easy to make. Lemon, water, salt, a jar, and you are pretty much done. I am quite interested in preserved food, and while I am not a big fan of pickled cucumbers and kimchi, I find it very easy to incorporate preserved lemons into tasty dishes.


So here is how I make them. You will need:

  • a clean jar with an airtight lid
  • 5 to 8 lemons, depending on their size and size of jar
  • salt (preferably coarse sea salt)
  • coriander/ mint (optional)

Clean the lemons and make 4 deep cuts in each as if you we cutting them in quarters but without cutting off completely. Collect any juice.

Then, fill each cut with salt. Put the lemons in the jar, squeezing them in to fit as many as possible. I think I managed to get 6 large lemons in my jar.


Fill the jar with water to the top, leaving space for the lid. Now, you can add a few leaves of mint or coriander, or even cloves and anis seeds, whatever you fancy.


Finally, close the jar making sure it is airtight, and leave to rest for 2-3 weeks until your lemons are ready to use.

Health and Beauty, Uncategorized

Easy gentle almond milk soap

IMG_0871.jpg

I have been wanting to try a milky soap for ages, and this recipe sounded just perfect. I used almond milk, almond oil and shea butter to make an extra rich, extra gentle soap for sensitive skins. I added a few drops of essential oil but the scent is barely noticeable, and it’s of course optional for children or very sensitive skins. It is a very simple recipe and didn’t take me more than 45 mins to make. I used a little plastic mold that I bought online, so I ended up with 9 tiny little soaps that are perfect for gifts, guests’ bathrooms or wedding favours.

Here is the recipe I used, using the Sage website to calculate the amount of lye needed.

Ingredients needed (for 9 little bars):

  • 200g  Shea Butter
  • 150mL Almond oil
  • 100 mL Almond milk
  • 44 g Sodium Hydroxide

essential oils (optional)

I buy organic ingredients whenever possible and make soaps from my family and friends. I like making sure I don’t put toxic chemical stuff on my skin, or worse my children’s! Even popular soaps like Dove are packed with chemicals, detergents and perfumes that are too acidic for the skin and are bad for the environment.

Start by making the lye solution combining the sodium and the milk, wearing gloves and glasses as it can be dangerous. Always put the sodium into the liquid (milk in our case), never the over way around. I use a think glass container for this and it gets very hot. Set aside and leave to cool.

Then, combine the oil and the shea butter and heat gently in a bain-marie until the butter has completely melted. Take off from the fire and leave to cool at room temperature.

IMG_8189

Once both liquids have cooled, combine them and keep stirring until the mixture ‘traces’. Tracing means that it is thick enough to support marks for a few minutes. I often use a hand mixer at this stage, as it can take about 15- 20minutes to get to this stage. The mix should the same consistency as a homemade custard, thick and yellow.

IMG_8191

At this stage, I added about 20 drops of lavender essential oil, but it is optional. Do not use if the soap if for a young child.

Then, pour into your mold: you could use silicon molds, glass pots or a cake mold, be creative! Here is mine, it is a square mold that I bought online to make 9 little soaps.

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Leave to set for a couple of days until the soap has hardened. Then, remove from the mold and cut into the desired shapes.

Leave in a airy place to cure: this takes 4 to 6 weeks and you should use the soap before that as it will be too aggressive for the skin.

TA-DA! Wrap in a pretty piece of soap paper and there are ready to go!

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