21 February 2010

Winter Blues

I think that Winter is the saddest of seasons. It is joyless with dark skies and short, cold days, the leafless trees and the plants awaiting warmer weather before they appear. There is little to recommend it to the uninitiated and I yearn for the warmer weather, particularly as I have just received my gas and electricity bill. It will be nice to fling open the back door and not have to shiver while the cats sit and chatter at the birds sitting in the tree which overhangs the alley, desperate to get at them and unable to. I am sure that the birds know that, and sit in the branches just to tease them.
On Friday evening, while I was driving home, the sky looked as if it was on fire. The most intense reds and burnt oranges lay low over the horizon with small grey wispy clouds floating above. It was a beautiful and vivid sunset.
There are signs of Spring in gardens and in parks. Snowdrops are showing their small white bells, and daffodils are beginning to show above the soil. We have had snow again this weekend, and more is forecast for later in the week.
I planted garlic before Christmas, and it is doing very well. It is standing inches above the soil while other plants lag behind. Apparently, garlic likes to be hit by frost to be successful, and it has certainly had plenty of that. At the weekend, Mum and I planted flower and vegetable seeds in the propagator in her greenhouse. I decided that I wanted to grow my own vegetables this year. I am not renown for greenfingers, and do have a habit of killing all that I touch, so we will see what happens. It would be lovely to be able to go an dig a vegetable out of the soil, peel it and cook it the same day.
It was great to see British success at the BAFTAs last night. Usually awards go to the strong American contingent, but it makes a great change to see the British on top.

16 February 2010


I have an obsession I should probably admit to. Soap. Not that I am obsessive about washing, although I like a good soak in the bath, and I do have a bit of a scrub in the morning. No, I am talking about making it.

I had been thinking of trying for some time, but when you look at on-line tutorials, those demonstrating soap making look like they are dressed in hazmat suits. Luckily, I received plenty of encouragment by people who know what they are talking about, and late last year I gave it a go. I loved the results, and so do the people who have been acting as guinea pigs for me. I like knowing what is in the products I use and I like knowing that they have not been tested on animals. Since I started making my own soap, despite the cold weather we have had over the winter, I have used far less handcream than I would usually have done.

I have had some success with my soap making, although it took me a while to get the colour right. I tried some alkanet root a while ago, to see what colour the soap would turn out and loved the result. It looked like chunks of Welsh slate. I tried again with the last batch I made with a little less of the alkanet in to give it a paler colour, and it looked like cat vomit. Not what you would call much of a success and not one which will see the light of day.

I have just applied for my Safety Assessment, which is very exciting but scary at the same time. I need to think of how I package my products, and look for ways of selling them. Each time I think that I have decided I know what I am going to wrap the soap in, I see something else and then change my mind.

I made a whipped shea butter today for a pregnant friend. Actually, I made two, the same recipe but two different methods. They have turned out very different indeed. One looks like lightly whipped cream and is mousse like in texture, and one like stiff whipped cream. One took two hours and one took half an hour. I will send them to my friend, and she will no doubt give me her honest opinion. This the first time I made whipped shea butter, so I have much to learn. I really enjoy experimenting and it is great fun even when it does not quite work.

We are in for a cold snap later in the week, with accompanying snow. I thought that we had seen the last of the white stuff for this winter and I am not looking forward to more.