Vintage Natural Beauty- Perfume

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Fragrance is such a wonderful window into the past. I find it really exciting that through a combination of scents, often purchased relatively cheaply, you can share the same sensory experience as someone living over 150 years ago- it really is scenting history. I thought I’d begin by offering my version of a Victorian recipe for eau de cologne, and then show you how it can be easily adapted to make your own scented formulas. 

The first “eau de Cologne” originated in the town of Cologne in the early 18th century. In her fascinating book How to be a Victorian, historian Ruth Goodman writes “by the third decade of the nineteenth century it was used by both sexes in England. A sharp, clean scent that cut through other smells, it could be applied to handkerchiefs and gloves as well as the body”.

The People’s Own Book of Recipes and Information for the Million, published in 1867, gives the following recipe for eau de cologne:  

Mix 12 drops each of the essential oils of neroli, citron, bergamot, orange and rosemary, with 1 drachm malabar cardamoms, and 1 gallon rectified spirits, the whole distilled together.  

Here’s my take on the recipe. For an eau de cologne, I’d go with the following quantities:  

70 ml alcohol (this needs to be of a high proof- vodka works well) 

30 ml distilled spring water

2 ml essential oils 

The aromatherapy rule of thumb being about 20 drops per ml, you will need 40 drops of essential oils to make up the 2ml. Keeping to the “equal parts” principle of the 1867 recipe: 

Neroli essential oil 8 drops 

Citron essential oil (Lemon) 8 drops 
Bergamot essential oil 8 drops 
Sweet Orange essential oil 8 drops 
Rosemary essential oil 8 drops 

You’ll also need a few cardamom seeds- you should be able to find these at your local supermarket. 

Before you start, you’ll need a glass bottle with a cork or stopper, large enough to contain the volume of perfume you want to make. Wash the bottle well in hot soapy water. Then rinse with warm water to which you have added a dash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar- this leaves the bottle squeaky clean and nicely sterilized. 

Pour the 70ml of alcohol into the bottle (a funnel might help with this). Add the cardamom seeds and essential oils to the alcohol, and leave to steep for 48 hours. 

Then add the distilled water and leave to steep for at least another week. Filter the perfume using a coffee filter paper, and then return to the bottle (again, a funnel might be helpful). If the eau de cologne is too strong for your liking, add a little more distilled water. 

You can also use this basic formula for making other eau de cologne-type perfumes- 70ml alcohol, 30ml filtered water and 40 drops essential oil. For example, a blend of lemon and bergamot would be a very Victorian combination of scents: Goodman has referred to this blend as “the signature smell of the middle years of the [nineteenth] century”.  Give it a go, and you’ll soon be smelling as good as your great-great-granny! 

Just a quick note on perfume safety- as with all cosmetic formulas, patch test before using more liberally. If you notice any irritation or sensitivity, discontinue use immediately.  


Becky x 

Meatless Monday : Summer Broad Bean Soup

Monday, 27 June 2016

It's all happening at the allotment - we are harvesting so much produce at the moment that I can't post fast enough about them all.  For this reason I am combining 'harvesting the broad beans' with a Meatless Monday.  A tip for growing broad beans (also known as fava beans) is to nip of the top of the growing shoot so that the plant will direct more nutrients to the beans. 
When the beans are around 8 inch snap off the pods and if you are lucky more will grown.  If you want to eat the beans raw in salads, harvest the beans when they are smaller than this so that the beans inside the pods are tender.  

Broad beans are packed with fibre and phytonutients which help balance hormones.  They are also a good source of B vitamins such as B1 (thiamin) and B6 (pyridoxine), magnesium and iron.  With 26g protein per 100g they make a good source of protein for vegans.  They should be avoided however if you have a rare genetic condition called favism or if you are on MAOI inhibitors.  

For my summer soup I have included courgettes which are also ready to harvest at this time and fresh tasting mint.  

Serves 2-3

You will need
1 onion, peeled and chopped 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp organic olive oil
180 g broad beans (weight with pods removed)
80g frozen peas
1 large courgette, diced
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2-1 tsp pink salt
10g mint, stalks discarded and leaves chopped
1/4 can coconut milk 

Heat the oil and cook the onion for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue to cook 2 more minutes.  Add 1 litre water, the broad beans, frozen peas, courgette, lemon juice and pink salt. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the chopped mint leaves for the last few minutes. Whiz the soup up in a high speed blender (take care that the lid is on tightly!!). Stir in the coconut milk and heat through.  Serve with warm, crusty bread.

Janet x 

Recipe Copyright © 2016 40plusandalliswell

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 26 June 2016

This week we are balancing vata dosha with the earth element.
Please see the yoga video and blog post on my 'sister' blog-

Hero pose can be tough on your knees. On my 'sister' blog we look at ways to make it safer for your knees-
This blog post was included in the online paper-'Yoga Vitality Magazine'-

Around 3 million people in the UK are affected by osteoporosis. This yoga sequence will help build bone strength. Also dietary advice to help prevent osteoporosis.

Artificial sweeteners- Part 2 - Sucralose

Sucralose is made from sugar, has zero calories yet is 600 times sweeter  than sugar.  It has a pleasant sweet taste and is kind to teeth. Only 8-20% enters the blood stream and it is excreted in urine.  It was approved for food use in 1999 and at an ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) of no more than 15mg per kilo of body weight, it is considered safe.

Is this sounding to good to be true once more?  It is.  Sucralose may be made from sugar but is chemically altered to include chlorine.  The problem is that our bodies do not deal with chlorinated organic molecules very well. Research on animals indicates that immunity may be affected due to its effect on the thymus gland and it may also be detrimental to the liver and kidneys but there has been little research on it.  

It has been found to reduce 'good' bacteria in the gut potentially leading to 'leaky gut' and other digestive issues such as IBS.  Please see, 'Leaky gut- An introduction'- 'Leaky gut Part 2-The problem with gluten'- 'Leaky gut Part 3- Healing a leaky gut'-

Although it has little effect on blood sugar of normal weight people, it has been found to cause increased blood sugar in obese people.  

Baking with sucralose is not a good idea as toxic compounds are release during baking which are carcinogenic.

Reported side effects also include migraines.

Once again I would suggest that stevia may be a safer alternative. 


The literature I read when composing my blog post seemed to suggest potential issues with sucralose. This article from the 'NCBI' - is representative of such literature.

Thank you to Ellen Stokes, RD for bringing the following article from '' to my attention entitled, 'The Dangers of Splenda' - This article provides an alternative perspective upon the sucralose debate.  You might want to read this in order to assess both sides of the argument before making your mind up about sucralose. 

Please see also-
'Artificial sweeteners- Part 1 - Aspartame'-

Stay healthy, stay happy.
Janet x

Vintage Natural Beauty- Hair Review

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

For last week’s article I had a go at an old-fashioned method of curling hair- rag curls:

This got me thinking about how this method might compare to the bendy foam rollers that I normally use. Before I give my thoughts on the two methods, here’s a quick rundown of how to do each: 

Rag Rollers

Begin by cutting 1 inch strips from a piece of old cloth- an old sheet works well. You might have to play around with the length of the strips, but 8-12 inches will probably be about right. Dampen dry hair a little, or alternatively, leave wet hair until it is about 80% dry. Section into strands- how large the strands are will depend on how loose or tight a curl you want (smaller strands give smaller, tighter curls, larger strands give looser, larger curls). 

 Take a strand of hair, and tie the cloth strip round the strand. 

Roll the strand of hair round the strip until you have rolled all the way to your scalp. 

Then using the loose ends, tie the rag roller in place. Once you have done the bottom section of curls, do the same for the top section. Leave for a few hours (overnight is good) and then undo the rags. Tease out the curls gently with your fingers or a wide toothed comb to keep the definition of the curl.

Foam Rollers

The method for the foam rollers is pretty similar to the rag curls. You start in the same way, with hair that is about 80% dry. You can section your hair in the same way as for the rag curls (see above). 

You don’t secure the roller to the end of your hair with this method. I like to loop the end of the strand of hair around the roller to secure it before I start rolling. 

When after you have rolled the strand of hair all the way to your scalp, bend the foam roller to secure it in place (this is the equivalent of tying the rag roller). 

Leave for a few hours or preferably overnight. In the morning, unbend the rollers and roll out the curls. Tease out the curls with your fingers or a wide toothed comb. Ta-da! A head full of bouncy curls.

So, what's the diff? I was really impressed how the rag curling method stood up against my normal foam rollers. I actually found the rag rollers much more comfortable to sleep in than the foam rollers, which is a big consideration for someone who loves their beauty sleep :) No more being rudely awakened by being poked in the head by a foam roller (real life problems, y'all). 

I found the rag rollers more fiddly and time-consuming to put in than the foam rollers, but it's probably something that you get better at with practice. Mind you, I found that I could get the direction of the curl the way I wanted it more easily with the foam rollers, as they can be grasped more easily. They also make it easier to roll the end of the curl smoothly. 

Having said that, both methods produced well-defined curls- and the comfort factor of the rag rollers is definitely a plus if you are curling your hair regularly. When I curl my hair with rollers I love to pin it up to create a romantic, Austen-esque style (see below)- just pin hair in sections to the back of your head, leaving it loose enough to keep the curls defined. It takes just minutes and it adds a bit of Regency romance to your day :) 


Becky x 

Meatless Monday: Sweet and sour tofu

Monday, 20 June 2016

When you are watching your favourite sporting event, whether that be baseball, tennis, or football etc it might be tempting to send out for a takeaway.  This week's Meatless Monday for 'Sweet and sour tofu' may change your mind - quick to prepare from fresh ingredients but delicious, what could be better. Tofu is used instead of chicken, for a low fat complete protein.

Sweet and sour tofu

Serves 3 - 4
You will need 

400g pack firm tofu, sliced into squares
2 tbsp tamari
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper sliced 
1-2 inch thick slice of fresh pineapple, peeled and chopped
2 tsp stevia 
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar 
6 tbsp tomato puree
brown rice to serve (allow 75g uncooked brown rice per person)

Marinate the tofu in tamari and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes then turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile heat the oil and sweat on a medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue for a further 2 minutes.  Add the peppers and pineapple, stevia, rice wine vinegar, tomato puree and around 200ml water. Simmer until the pineapple and peppers are tender and the sauce thickened.  Stir in the tofu and any remaining marinade and heat through. 

Serve with organic brown rice.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2016 40plusandalliswell

Artificial sweeteners-Part 1-aspartame

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Aspartame is a methyl ester of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two proteins that are found naturally in the diet but usually in combination with other amino acids.  Aspartame is processed by the body like protein and being a protein does not cause blood sugar spikes. Some formaldehyde is produced in its metabolism but the same is true for many foods including fruit and vegetables.  It is low calorie and 200 times sweeter than sugar so it is claimed it may help obesity.  It does not leave a metallic aftertaste.  It is also kind to teeth.  It has been extensively tested and 40mg per kilo of body weight per day established as the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) - see 'Food Standards Agency-Aspartame'- except for people with PKU. 

All this sounds too good to be true - from the research I have carried out for this blog post, it may well be.  I was especially interested to learn that aspartame has been linked to headaches and migraine and the effect may not be immediately apparent when you first start using it.  As I understand the science of it both phenylalanine and tryptophan can cross the blood brain barrier.  If therefore you injest a great deal of phenylalanine it may reduce the amount of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is needed to make serontin so that aspartame may cause a lowering of serontin leading to migraine and depression.  BUT as surely as there are studies that suggest this, there are studies that indicate that there is no effect so I think it is a case of see if you are affected.  You will know if you are a follower of this blog that I always recommend stevia in my recipes and green stevia is the most natural form of this.  It is also interesting to note than some large companies have bowed to consumer pressure to remove aspartame from their products.  

Other reported side effects of aspartame include vision disturbances, palpitations, breathing problems, dizziness and memory loss.

Taking all this into consideration, I believe that aspartame is best avoided.

Stay well

Janet x

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

In this week's yoga video we will be using the knowledge of the elements we have gained about the elements to bring pitta dosha into balance using the earth and water elements.
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog-

In this blog post we look at how we may come into inversions without risking injury to the neck. There are also alternative poses if the more advanced inversions are not suitable for you.
Please see my 'sister' blog-

As you get older you may find that you do not sleep as well. Many younger people too have difficulties sleeping.
Try this restorative yoga sequence to help you sleep well and have pleasant dreams! -
Blog post on my 'sister' blog-

Vintage Natural Beauty- Hair

Thursday, 16 June 2016

In the second of this series where I raid history for natural beauty hints, I’m focusing on our crowning glory- our hair! To judge by all the Victorian paintings in which ladies (and chaps) are sporting rather awesome tresses, it would seem that our ancestors knew a thing or two about looking after their hair. 

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Delaware Art Museum)*

One Victorian who certainly knew a thing or two about all sorts of things was Mrs Beeton. As well as recipes, her book also contains advice about hair care. Mrs Beeton recommended “to improve the growth of, and beautify the hair” a hair oil containing olive-oil and rosemary oil. She also adds “oil of origarnum”, which I think is probably oregano oil. This is another essential oil that is readily available today, and it is reputed to help with hair growth. Dilute the rosemary and oregano essential oils in the olive oil, and rub into the scalp. 

Lots of beauty bloggers recently have been talking about the benefits of coconut oil for your hair (including this blog- see You might think this is a new phenomenon, but in fact coconut oil was used by the Victorians in numerous hair preparations. An 1898 edition of Henry Pye Chavasse’s book Advice to a Wife on the Management of her Own Health, observed that “it might be said that it is utterly impossible for a lady to keep her hair tidy unless she use some application to it. If such be the case, either a little scented castor oil, or cocoa-nut oil, may be applied by means of an old tooth-brush, to smooth the hair.” If you struggle with flyaway hairs- especially those little annoying wispy hairs- this is a method you could try. In the early 20th century coconut shampoo was being commercially produced, with “Watkins Mulsified Cocoanut Oil Shampoo”. This was a product endorsed by movie stars such as the silent-era actress Norma Talmadge. If you want some chemical-free glamour, rub a small amount of coconut oil through your hair to get that movie-star shine. 

Another tip from history to curl your hair without the need for heat or chemicals is the technique of rag curling. From what I can tell, rag curls have been around since the Regency period, and were popular well into the twentieth century. Begin by cutting 1 inch strips from a piece of old cloth- an old sheet works well. You might have to play around with the length of the strips, but 12 inches will probably be about right. Dampen your hair, or just wait for it to dry a little after bathing or showering. Then take a strand of hair, and tie the cloth strip round the strand. 

Roll the strand of hair round the strip until you have rolled all the way to your scalp.

 Then using the loose ends, tie the rag roller in place. 

Continue until you have rolled all your hair. Leave for a few hours (overnight is good) and then undo the rags. Tease out the curls gently with your fingers- I find that brushing the curls makes them lose definition. 

In the next article, I will be pitting this method against a modern equivalent- foam bendy rollers- and seeing which gives the best curls. 

Love, Becky x 

p.s. For a great historical song about hair, try Ernest Le Messurier’s 1924 ditty “Shall I have it Bobbed or Shingled?”. A “shingled” style is a rather daring shorter version of the bob. 

(* Lady Lilith attribution: Dante Gabriel Rossetti [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, GFDL ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Meatless Monday: Ratatouille with rosemary focaccia bread

Monday, 13 June 2016

This week's Meatless Monday is 'Ratatouille with rosemary focaccia bread' which is inspired by the French Provencal stew, ratatouille. It originated in Nice and is traditionally a vegetable stew but can be made more substantial by adding beans or chickpeas. It can be served as a side dish or a main. Here I have made a rosemary focaccia bread to accompany it which can be made gluten free if you use gluten free strong bread flour.

Serves 3-4

You will need
For the rosemary focaccia bread

the focaccia bread before baking

500g strong brown bread flour (I used gluten-free)+ extra for flouring
7g sachet yeast
1/2 tsp fine pink salt
1/2 tsp coarse pink salt 
4 tbsp olive oil 
300ml warm water 
2 sprigs rosemary, stalks removed

Place the flour in a mixing bowl with the fine pink salt and the yeast and mix.  
In a jug mix the oil and water.  Add to the flour and mix to make a dough.  
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  Form into a round and place on a baking tray for around 45 minutes until doubled in size.  
Dip a finger in warm water, make dents in the top of the dough and press a little of the rosemary in each dent.
Place in the oven at 200 degrees for around 20 minutes.

For the ratatouille
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 medium aubergine, diced
1 medium courgette, diced
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/4 yellow/orange pepper, chopped
3 salad tomatoes, chopped + 2 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp pink salt
1/2 tsp stevia
handful basil, shredded + extra for garnish

Heat the oil and add the onion and garlic and sweat for 2 minutes.  Add the remaining vegetables, salt, stevia and cider vinegar and cook on a medium heat until the vegetables are tender, adding a little water if necessary.  Add a handful of basil.  Divide between serving bowls and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with the focaccia bread.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2016 40plusandalliswell

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 12 June 2016

In this week's yoga video we will be using the knowledge of the elements we have gained over the last few weeks to bring kapha dosha into balance.
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog-

It is easy to jam the neck in back bends. In this blog post on my 'sister' blog we look at how you can protect your neck in yoga back bends-

Maintain a healthy circulation as you age, with yoga. In the blog post on my 'sister' blog there are sequence of poses that will keep your circulation boosted-

The real meaning of 'sugar free'

So many 'healthy' recipes claim to be sugar free. However,  when you look at many of them more closely, they turn out to be free from sucrose- that is, everyday table/cane sugar- but contain other simple sugars.  Below is the low-down on some sugar 'alternatives' that you might have thought were healthier than table sugar, but are just as damaging to your body. 

The first 'villain in disguise' on my list is agave nectar. It is high in fructose, which is also known as 'fruit sugar'. It does not cause the blood sugar spikes that sucrose does, but whereas sucrose can be easily metabolised by the body, only the liver can metabolise fructose.  In concentrated forms such as agave nectar, this causes the 'bad' cholesterol to increase. This contributes to cardiovascular disease, and may also contribute to a 'fatty liver'. 

At this point you may be worried that if fructose is a fruit sugar, it's not healthy to enjoy fruit - but don't panic! (Thank goodness with all the luscious summer fruits to enjoy at the moment!) The reason why it is fine to eat fruit is that the fibre and water content of the whole fruit slows down the release of fructose to a level that your body can easily deal with- it's only when fructose appears in the high concentrations delivered by products such as agave nectar that the liver can't cope. 

Date syrup is antibacterial, but it is still mainly refined fructose and so has similar detrimental effects to agave nectar.  Date sugar made from pulverised dried dates is better, as it still retains the fibre of the whole fruit. Mind you, it still causes fructose to reach the liver more quickly than the whole fruit because of the low water content. Just bear in mind however that dates have almost 300 calories per 100g.

Brown rice syrup is mainly glucose, and so has the same detrimental effects on the health of your body as sucrose.  Added to this, rice products are a major source of inorganic arsenic, so they are better avoided.

Coconut sugar has some minerals and fibre, making it lower GI than cane sugar. Yet there are better sources of these minerals than coconut sugar, and it is also high in fructose- so all in all, it is best avoided.

Xylitol is processed from naturally occuring xylose in the fibres of fruit and vegetables.  On the plus side, it does not cause sugar spikes in the blood. The way xylose is processed to make xylitol, however, can result in a product that is detrimental to our health- with links to Alzheimer's Disease, liver dysfunction and many more.

All this is not looking good if, like me, you have a sweet tooth.  My advice would be to use green stevia.  It is made from the leaf of the stevia leaf and 200 times sweeter than sugar, so you should only need a little.  When stevia is processed to remove its more bitter element this may lead to a product with detrimental health effects- which is why green stevia is a better choice. 

Alternatively, you could use fresh fruits and vegetables to sweeten (more on this to come).

Janet x

Vintage Natural Beauty- Skincare Review

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

In an article last week we went back in time to pick up some natural beauty hints from history, "Vintage Natural Beauty- Skincare":

One of these was the use of benzoin oil as an astringent.  Victorian dancer Lola Montez called it “the most remarkable wash for the face which I have ever known”- well, I just had to give it a go! Taking my own advice in the article, I bought a good quality, responsibly sourced oil. Unscrewing the cap of the bottle, the first thing I noticed was the wonderful scent of the oil. Being sourced from the gum of a tree, I was expecting it to have a woody odour- perhaps similar to sandalwood. I was surprised, however, to find that it had a rich vanilla scent. I diluted the oil in filtered water because I wanted to splash it on my face after cleansing as an astringent, but you might also want to dilute it your favourite carrier oil such as almond or grapeseed- it’s important that you use benzoin oil in very low dilutions (2%). I found that at this dilution it was gentle enough for my sensitive skin, and the beautiful scent could definitely give my beloved rose water a run for its money. Benzoin is a very relaxing oil, so it is particularly lovely to use after cleansing in the evening. A splash of benzoin, your favourite record on the gramophone, and chill… :)

This is a tip from history that would seem to be at home in a modern beauty routine. Just a little caution- as with any essential oil, I’d strongly advise doing a patch test before using, and discontinue use if any irritation occurs.


Becky x

Meatless Monday: Waldorf salad

Monday, 6 June 2016

It's the Queen's ninetieth birthday this weekend and I have been thinking about what party foods would have been around in the 1920s when the Queen was born.  Waldorf salad was first  presented at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1893 and was popular for Great Gatsby parties in the 1920s.  

My vegan version is created with cashew 'mayonnaise' and is made substantial with chickpeas - a great party food or quick lunch.  Scale up the quantities to allow for the number of your guests.

Vegan Waldorf Salad

Serves 2 as a lunch or 4 as a side

For the 'mayonnaise'
70g cashews
Squeeze lemon juice

Other ingredients 
1 red apple, sliced + squeeze lemon juice to prevent apple slices going brown
1 celery stalks, chopped 
50g chopped walnuts
70g black grapes, cut in two
1 can organic chickpeas
4 Romaine lettuce leaves

Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with water.  Leave for an hour or two or overnight.  
In a bowl mix the apple, celery, walnuts, grapes and chickpeas.  

In a high speed blender whiz up the cashews nuts together with the water in which they were soaking and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir into apple, celery, walnut, grape and chickpea mixture.

Place two Romaine lettuce leaves in each serving bowl and divide the salad between the bowls or arrange in a serving bowl if using for a party.

Janet x 

Recipe Copyright © 2016 40plusandalliswell

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Join me for this week's yoga video, 'The Elements and the Chakras -Part 5- Ether'.
Blog post and video-

Last week we looked at protecting your neck in seated twists. This week we are looking at protecting your neck in standing yoga poses.
Blog post-

You may find that as you get older your sense of balance is not as good. Maintaining good balance is important to prevent age related slips and falls. Yoga can help - if we work on our balance on the mat, we can be more balanced in our daily lives. 
Please see this yoga sequence to help you improve your balance-

Harvesting the rhubarb-Organic gardening update

The rhubarb is ready to harvest once more.  The great thing about rhubarb is that once it is established, it requires very little attention - it is easy to grow and hardy.  It will grow in a sunny spot or semi-shade as long as it is well-drained and a rhubarb set can provide you with rhubarb for up to 10 years.  Make sure that you nip off any flowers that appear as these will take energy from the growing (and edible) stem.  

Harvest established rhubarb in the spring and summer when the stems are around 10 inches long.  If your rhubarb is in its first season, it is best to leave it to get established and harvest only lightly in the second season.  Snap the stalks off near the base and the rhubarb should grow again.  Compost the leaves.  

If you are planning to celebrate the Queen's ninetieth birthday with a tea party, why not use some of your rhubarb to make these mini rhubarb and 'cream' scones.

Rhubarb and 'cream' scones

Makes 8 mini scones

You will need

175g rice flour
pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp stevia
50g dairy free spread
90ml almond milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

Rhubarb and apple filling
1 large stalk rhubarb, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp stevia

Coconut cream to serve

Mix the salt, baking powder and stevia into the flour then rub in the dairy free spread until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  In a jug mix the lemon juice with the almond milk the add to the other ingredients, mixing to form a dough.  Knead lightly on a floured surface and use a cutter to make 8 scones. Bake at 200 degrees for around 15 minutes.  

Rhubarb and apple filling

To make the filling place the rhubarb and apple pieces in a pan with the lemon juice and cook on a low heat until the rhubarb and apple combine and you can no longer see any fruit pieces - you might have to add a little water to prevent the mixture catching.  Stir frequently.

When the scones and spread are cool, cut the scones in two and add the filling topped 
with a little coconut 'cream'.

Janet x 

Recipe Copyright © 2016 40plusandalliswell

Vintage Natural Beauty- Skincare

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

It’s the Queen’s 90th birthday this year, so to celebrate Becky and I have been looking at some natural beauty products that were used in the early part of the 20th century- some of which were known about in earlier centuries still. For the first part of this series, we have been gathering some hints from history about natural skincare.

Soap is one of the oldest beauty products. Castile soap, made from olive oil and plant ash, has been used for centuries. A 1870s beauty manual wrote that “for bathing purposes a piece of good white Castile . . . is as desirable as any”. Castile soap is still just as good today at helping people to scrub up well, but make sure that any soap that you buy is pure and contains no additives. Victorian dancer Lola Montez advised using water for bathing that was neither too hot or too cold: “The frequent use of the tepid bath is the best cosmetic I can recommend”. Many beauty manuals advised their readers to rub their face with a soft cloth: one manual written in 1867 wrote that “gentle and frequent rubbing with a dry napkin, is one of the best cosmetics ever employed”.  

After cleansing their skin, our ancestors loved a toner as much as we do. Two astringents that were very popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries were rosewater and orange flower water. As well as being beautifully scented, these lovely waters make soothing and effective toners. The latter was a particular favourite of Marie Antoinette, who reputedly loved its delicate floral scent. You should be able to find rosewater at most large supermarkets, but you might have to look in a specialist food shop or online for orange flower water. When buying these waters, check that the brand you are buying doesn’t use artificial additives or colourings. This is beauty that really is good enough to eat, as these waters are often used as flavourings in food.

Another popular astringent in the 19th and early 20th centuries was benzoin gum. The writer of Health and Beauty Hints (1910) wrote that “one of the most valuable [astringents] is made from one ounce of tincture of benzoin”. Lola Montez again: “The most remarkable wash for the face which I have ever known, and which is said to have been known to the beauties of the Court of Charles II, is made of a simple tincture of benzoin precipitated in water . . . This delightful wash seems to have the effect of calling the purple stream of the blood to the external fibres of the face, and gives the cheeks a beautiful rosy colour. If left on the face to dry, it will render the skin clear and brilliant.” These days, rather than dissolving the gum in alcohol, it is much easier to buy benzoin in essential oil form and dilute in spring water. Make sure that the benzoin oil you purchase is a good quality, therapeutic grade oil.  

Olive oil and sweet almond oil were popular moisturisers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Another legendary Victorian stage beauty, Madame Vestris, was reputed to stay wrinkle-free using a paste containing “oil of sweet almonds”, egg white and rose water.  

Talc was popular as a skin treatment in the early 20th Century, but is now thought by many to be a cancer risk. As an alternative, you could try my take on another historical recipe:  “History says that when Anne Boleyn came to France then a young girl, lady of honour to Mary, Queen of Louis XII, she was of a ‘dark and oily’ complexion. Someone recommended a daily bath, and after a powder  . . . When a year or two afterwards she returned to England, there was not a lady at the Court of Henry VIII, who compared with her in beauty of complexion”. The “powder” that this story refers to was made from orris root and starch, but orris root powder is known to cause allergic reactions. I’d therefore recommend a mixture of arrowroot powder and cornstarch as an alternative- you should be able to get both at your local supermarket. By the way, this recipe also makes an excellent natural loose powder, and you can even add some cocoa powder to add pigment. As with all powder formulations designed for beauty use, use only on occasion to avoid breathing in large quantities of powder.

We’ll try some of these and let you know how we get on- watch this space! We’d also love to hear from you if you try any of these products.

Love Janet and Becky x