homemade lavender cleanser

Somehow I ended up foraging for wild garlic yesterday morning with my daughter dressed in pyjamas and wellies – her, not me, at least. We picked the leaves in some lovely woods near us that are carpeted with the pungent smelling stuff and I seemed to have a garlicky whiff about me for the rest of the day. Today it’s lavender.

I feel guilty about admitting this, but I made some lavender face cleanser ON MY OWN. Normally it’s Ruby and me making smelly potions and it felt a little bit naughty indulging in some making all by myself.

It felt similar to last week when I made the cakes for the school cake sale by myself as I didn’t have time to make them with my daughter. It seemed like ages since I’d been sifting flour by myself, and a bit strange not to have my little helper. Quite decadent at the same time though, measuring and mixing with music playing, not trying to do another three things at the same time. It all seemed pretty relaxing until I was about to put my cakes in the oven. And I noticed the mess.

Evidently the flour sifting hadn’t been quite as careful as I’d imagined and my kitchen aid needed a bit of attention. Then there were the cupcakes themselves. They did taste good (I obviously had to test one) but they weren’t exactly Magnolia Bakery standard in the looks department. Having no 5 year old to explain away the chaos or the less than perfect results wasn’t ideal. I began to wonder if the messiness has always been due to me all along!

Similarly making lavender was very quick to fit in and easy on my own. I’d been using a lovely Spiezia cleanser (gorgeous organic skincare products made in Cornwall, using lots of herbs and flowers) that I’d had for a present. Sadly it’s all gone. When we made the lavender moisturiser I realised that I had all the ingredients to mix up my own cleanser. Quicker than going to the shops, and definitely cheaper.

It wasn’t as much fun as making potions with my helper though, who has been fervently picking primroses this week with her friends.

DSC04591 We do still have a few flowers left in the garden!

I did manage to create a fair bit of mess all on my own though.

DSC04600 DSC04608

What with lavender bath bombs, lavender moisturiser, lavender footbath and now cleanser, I realise I’ve become a bit lavender obsessed. I have lots of lavender seedlings in the coldframe too, with plans to plant more to edge the curved lawn we’ve just created.


I know, you have to use your imagination to see a fragrant lavender hedge edging lots of lush veggies. At the moment, as well as creating new beds, we have lots of work to do adding more organic matter so that we can actually grow a few edibles as the soil in that area is pretty poor. Luckily lavender thrives in rubbish soil, as long as it has sun. I planted some tiny plants in a terrible bit of stoney ground at the back of our house, and also either side of our front door, and it’s all flourishing. Great to have something that loves our limestone strewn earth. The lovely fields of farmed lavender near us at Cotswold Lavender at Snowshill are proof of the ease with which it grows around here.

photo snowshill lavender 1

So although I’ll soon be trying out this recipe with calendula, chamomile flowers and rose petals, I have a feeling lavender is going to be revisited regularly.

Lavender Gentle Cleanser

1/4 cup white clay, finely ground

1/4 cup oatmeal

1 tablespoon dried lavender

4 drops lavender essential oil

I pounded the oatmeal (actually I used oats and ground them fine this time) and dried lavender in my pestle and mortar, then placed them in a resealable plastic freezer bag with the clay. Making sure you’ve sealed the bag well, give it all a good shake/mix. Then add the essential oils drop by drop, close the bag and shake again.

Place the ingredients into a storage container (I used pots I’d saved) or leave it in the plastic bag.

Very easy and it should keep in a cool, dry place (doesn’t need to be a fridge) for 6 months. The amount doesn’t make a huge amount though so it should be used well before then. It’s so simple to make, I assumed I’d make a more summery version fairly soon.

To use, place about 2 teaspoons of powdered cleanser into the palm of your hand and add 2 teaspoons of water. Mix into a spreadable paste, apply over face (avoiding eye area) and massage in circular motions for a minute then rinse. Should remove light make-up.



wild greens pie


Spending so much time outside over the last few sunny weekends has totally renewed  my passion for eating from the garden. As has the plentiful supply of purple sprouting broccoli.

A couple of months ago my PSB was looking so healthy, I was already anticipating a March glut. Planning bruschetta heaped with PSB and drizzled with chilli oil, PSB with pasta, anchovies, pine nuts and garlic, piles of lemony PSB alongside simply cooked fish. Then it snowed and was cold. And snowed and was cold some more.

I love the wildlife in and around our garden and this year it seems as if a dearth of easy food has made lots of creatures more daring in daylight hours. We have an almost daily visit by a barn owl very early in the evening, which is lovely. When the greedy pigeons and muntjac start nibbling my PSB it isn’t quite as lovely. I netted it carefully, then it snowed and the weight of the snow played havoc with the nets. The PSB was looking decidedly sorry for itself.

Which is why coming back to the kitchen with baskets of the stuff is making me quite so happy at the moment. I’m loving spotting parsley that seems to have self-seeded itself from last year; chives are starting to really flourish, sorrel is being picked for salads and the lovage and angelica seem to be growing by the minute. In my head I hardly need to go to the shops.

The reality of course is that it’ll be a while until there’s a plentiful supply of cultivated veggies from the garden.  Much as I loved cooking the Anchovy, Parmesan and PSB tart from Louisa at Chez Foti and am still not bored of PSB pasta, we can’t really eat PSB for EVERY meal.

Thank goodness then for weeds. The nettles and ground elder are growing twice as rapidly as anything I’ve planted of course. So how great that they’re both so nutritious. Full of iron, vitamins and natural histamine, stingers are perfect for cooking with at the moment, still young and tender.


I’ve added them to ricotta for a cannelloni filling and, inspired by Italian uses for wild greens, made torta verde. You need to wear long sleeves and gloves for picking nettles of course, but you’ll find that once cooked they lose their sting. And for anyone who’s suffered lots of nettle stings in the past, eating your enemy isn’t exactly sweet revenge, but very tasty.

Anne from  Life in Mud Spattered Boots has a great recipe for nettle soup and I love Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s ideas for making nettle tea as a Spring tonic (sweetening it with honey and adding a squeeze of lemon) or just adding a knob of butter, a pinch of nutmeg and seasoning to cooked nettles to serve simply as a green vegetable.

This time though, I made wild greens pie. I used a mix of nettles, parsley, spinach, beetroot tops and sorrel but if I’d been able to venture further than the garden yesterday, I would’ve added wild garlic too. Must have a walk in the garlic woods soon, especially as Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods has inspired me to be more inventive in cooking with it. I used cultivated garlic and Egyptian walking onions for my allium fix here, but again, this is a recipe that you can adapt according to what’s good in the garden or hedgerow.

I would use this ricotta and greens mix to fill ravioli too, in fact I think it’s inspired by Italian recipes, as well as by a Greek Courgette Pie in Sarah Raven’s brilliant Garden Cookbook.


Wild Greens Pie


A colander full of wild greens/greens from the garden (can include nettle tops, spinach, chard, sorrel, wild garlic leaves, parsley, ground elder)

Egyptian walking onions or a few spring onions or young leeks, chopped

A garlic clove chopped, or wild garlic

150ml olive oil

1 pack of filo pastry

1 tub of ricotta

2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 200C. Fry the garlic and onions in a little of the olive oil for a few minutes. Wash the greens well, then add to the pan with the garlic and sweat gently until wilted. If you have large leaves/clumps of greens you can snip with scissors.



When cool, mix the greens with the ricotta, eggs and season with salt and pepper. Separate out 6 filo sheets and brush them with oil. Place 3 of the sheets in the base of an oven tray, one oiled sheet placed on top of the next (I’m very clumsy at this sort of thing, but a few torn sheets honestly don’t interfere with this pie looking and tasting lovely).

Place the ricotta/greens mixture in an oblong in the middle of the sheets, then fold the sheets around it, brusing with oil as you go. Place another filo sheet on top and brush with oil, and repeat with 2 more sheets. Brush with oil, and scatter with sesame seeds if you like. Put the pie in the preheated oven and cook for about 1/2 hour until the pastry is golden.

Great with a tomato salad – although faced with my normal reluctance to get in the car, rather than spend more time in the garden, we ate this with a salad of herbs yesterday.

After planting potatoes, making paths, weeding and planting seeds we were very hungry. Which is my excuse for totally forgetting to take a photo of the finished pie, before there was only one slice left!




magic beans and cold frames

Perfumed sweet peas and purple teepee beans were one of the first seeds I planted on the windowsill this year. Both were sown in old loo roll tubes (I managed to save a few for myself despite Ruby’s plans to make a 30 legged spider) and germinated quickly in the warmth of our kitchen. Now they’re growing quickly in my Gabriel Ash coldframe.

I used some saved seed from last year for sweet peas but have also tried ‘Perfume Delight’ from Higgledy Garden. I think I was unable to resist the claim that:”‘Perfume Delight’ will knock you off your perch and it has more flounce than a Barbara Cartland convention.”


My purple bean seeds are ‘Purple Teepee’ from Otter Farm; not, as you might expect from the name, tall enough to require a wigwam but a lovely purple podded dwarf variety of French bean. I love the look of purple beans as they grow and as they turn green when cooked, Ruby refers to them as ‘magic beans.’ Magic to me too as they convince my 5 year old that greens (or purples?) are exciting.

It’s tempting to keep my seedlings too long on the kitchen windowsill, wallowing in the warmth that radiates from our woodburner. But I know from experience that they end up leggy and weak and, soon after germinating, I whisk them out to my coldframe. Now that it’s warmer I sow lots of seeds straight into trays in the cold frame too.


Our Gabriel Ash coldframe is an upright version like the one above (this isn’t ours, which is definitely not quite this immaculate!), almost like a small lean-to greenhouse. Every time I pop out to water my seedlings it’s a reminder of how lucky we are to live here. Several years ago we lived in a house with a tiny garden and craved the sort of outside space we now have. Already keen to grow lots of food, I had plenty of pots of herbs outside the back door and an allotment to grow vegetables and flowers. Ruby was then a very active toddler who loved to roam as freely as we did, so we were so pleased when we thought (after ages of trying) that we’d sold our house. Now we could move to a home with space for veg, herbs, fruit, flowers, pigs and children! We were so disappointed when just before exchange, our house sale fell through.

To cheer ourselves up we bought our Gabriel Ash coldframe, to temporarily sate our Good Life aspirations. It was soon crammed full of salads, chilli and tomato plants, while aubergines and tomatillos jostled for space.
Now we have more space outdoors (partly cleared by pigs last year) the coldframe is still very much a great part of the garden. At the moment it’s crammed with seed trays of flowers, shallots that I’m trying to get going in plugs (rather than plant them straight out without roots, only to be immediately picked up by birds), beans, peas, lettuce, parsley and rocket. I’m keen to make newspaper pots, like the lovely garden deli version for brassicas too. The rocket is waiting to germinate in a large, shallow terracotta pot; then I’m planning to pop my little viola plants in the middle and put it within easy reach of my back door. Pretty and edible, hopefully.



Some of my seeds have a progression from windowsill to coldframe and then onto daytime airings on the old table that stands next to the coldframe. I’ll soon risk a few on the table outside at night too, so they’re finally hardened off ready to be planted in the ground. I’m hoping the lovely sunshine this week will warm up the soil in readiness for my treasured little plants, but am speeding it up in some areas by covering it with fleece.

Even though I’m hoping to sow lots of seeds straight into the soil soon (patches of nigella sown with carrot beckon) my upright coldframe will still be hard at work. I have a bulging, very messy already, seedbox and lots of ideas for flower and veg combinations in my head. So as fast as seedlings are planted out, I have more that I want to quickly germinate in the warmth of the cold frame. Then in a few months, it will contain less seedlings, but be heaving with tomato plants, cucumbers, chillis, maybe a tomatillo or two. The hinged lid will be permanently open by this time and the shelves rearranged to accomodate the rapidly growing plants. It’s always at this time of the year that I have covetous thoughts about greenhouses. I know a secondhand one is more my budget but I can’t help but have a sneaky browse of these lovely Gabriel Ash ones:


I get carried away thinking of the vines and peaches that would clamber around the walls, sheltered by one of these lovely structures. While I’m saving, the chillis and tomatilloes in the coldframe will have to sate my greenhouse fixation!
This post is sponsored by Gabriel Ash. All opinions are my own: as I happened to already be making full use of one of their coldframes when they approached me, I was delighted to write about their products. You can request a Gabriel Ash brochure here.

lavender, strawberries and smelly potions

The appearance of Spring sunshine at the weekend was such a tonic for the soul. Pretty good for the veg too; so excited that at long last we have purple sprouting broccoli coming thick and fast.



It was so lovely spending so much time outside, planting apple and pear trees, moving blackcurrants to make space for a new path and planting more crimson flowered broadbeans. While outside, I noticed the strawberries and lavender were in need of attention. Lavender needed lots of trimming and wild strawberries were invading my herbs. To give the herbs a chance, and in the hope of having strawberries trailing over the wall in front of the lavender, I dug lots up and moved them. Dreaming of last summer’s pretty and tasty wild strawberry harvest:



I replanted the blackcurrants near to some of the dwarf apple trees and turned my attention to the regular strawberries.  They were very overcrowded and invading the herbs from another direction. Rampaging over thyme and towards the hyssop. I trimmed off runners, dug up plants and started a new strawberry bed, underplanting the blackcurrants and apple trees. Ruby liked the idera of a “strawberry bed” and spent quite a while planting a few strawberries, telling us she was “tucking them up.”

We emptied woodash from the woodburner around our fruity corner; the grey sprinkling didn’t exactly add visual appeal but hopefully the potassium will benefit the fruit. Thinking of looks as well as attractiveness to bees, I decided it would be lovely to edge this area with lavender. Optimistically, I’ve planted a tray of seeds and am hoping the temperature on my windowsill is right for germination. I’ve never grown lavender from seed before, but the idea of lots of lavender plants all for the cost of a packet of seeds appeals so fingers crossed.

All this pottering around lavender reminded me of my plan to make lavender bubble bath and moisturising cream with Ruby. Last summer our garden was dotted with buckets of ‘perfume’ and, happily, my daughter is still very partial to a smelly potion. More stinky in fact at the moment. She’s currently preoccupied with making “stink bombs” and along with her friend Lily, can regularly be found sneaking off with banana peel and straws, apparently the crucial ingredients. If she’s spotted it’s a benefit; rotting banana skins hidden in secret corners around the house for too long don’t tend to add the most pleasant fragrance.

Attempting to direct this ‘creativity’ into something a little sweeter smelling, I drew inspiration from my Neal’s Yard Remedies Natural Health & Body Care book and Lesley Bremner’s Essential Herbs. You can substitute your own preferred essential oils in the recipes below. Lavender is a lovely relaxing oil that is also safe if you have little helpers who are keen to try the results.


Lavender Bath Oil

We added 8 drops of lavender essential oil to 2 tablesooons of almond oil. To make this into a bubble bath, you can add 2 tablespoons mild liquid soap or baby shampoo. I have to admit to preferring this concoction without the bubbles as a lovely, moisturising bath oil for grown-ups that you can use sparingly though. Ruby was keen to try it as a bubble bath but the bubbles weren’t great and she emerged from the bath oiled like a slippery little seal. Lovely to cuddle in a towel but probably not ideal for every night!


Lavender Moisturizer

2 teaspoons beeswax

2 teaspoons cocoa butter

6 tablespoons almond oil

6 teaspoons emulsifying wax

4 tablespoons/60 ml lavender infusion (made by infusing dry lavender, or fresh in the summer in boiling water for 10 minutes)

10 drops lavender essential oil

Heat the beeswax, cocoa butter and oil in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Dissolve the emulsifying wax in the lavender infusion. Slowly add the infusion to the oil mixture, using a whisk. When the mixture cools down, add the essential oil and store in a dark jar in the fridge. It will keep for 2 months. We made 2 small jars – one each. Ruby has already used hers on a sore, dry patch on her face and it’s now fine after a few days. I’m enjoying using my jar on my dry (and scratched from the garden) hands.


We used saved old jars for our potions and they all offered lots of scope for label decoration by Ruby. Enthusiastic after our potion making and inspired by Jacqueline at Mazzard Farm, I’m thinking (probably too ambitiously) of trying soap and face cleanser making next.

If anybody else has dried lavender from last year, it’s great in bath bombs and if you have leftover lavender oil I can recommend magic spray or revitalising foot bath.

Mazzard Farm

Ruby and I are both agreed, there is something magical about the woodland and rivers of East Devon. All those treasures to be found, streams carving their way though lush growth to be explored, dens to be made.

We started our Easter holiday with a long weekend at Mazzard Farm.

Courtyard + geraniums

Very close to the Jurassic coast, a weekend by the seaside appealed. But so did the 17 acres of orchard, garden, play area and woodland at Mazzard Farm. Very lovely woodland too; soon to be carpeted with bluebells, it offered Ruby more immediate delights. She loved finding animal tracks, discovering dens made by previous visitors, but her favourite thing was the rope bridge across the stream which she crossed and re-crossed endlessly.



I particularly relished walking through the woods at dusk, loving that mellow time as the light starts to fade. It felt as if all the woodland creatures were waiting for us to head off to our cottage so that they could come out to party.

When we first arrived the rain was lashing down, snow was falling back at home, and rivulets of water ran down the lane to Mazzard Farm. But we found Jacqueline had already lit our woodburner and left us home-baked scones. Our cottage was very cosy, with lots of natural materials contributing to the warm feel. Perfect to come back to for hot chocolate after outdoor adventures.

Pippin livingPippin cottage sliding doors (2012)

Not that the weather dampened the ardour for beach fun of our 5 year old true Brit on holiday.


Ruby still enjoyed the beach delights of Budleigh Salterton beach and Jacob’s Ladder at Sidmouth and was determined to have an ice cream at each. We noticed she didn’t have her normal problem of ice cream running everywhere. It was frozen solid. The sweet temptations of Taste of Sidmouth ice cream parlour delighted all of us – Ruby loved the fab choice of ice-creams handmade on the premises while we opted for excellent warming coffee. While we were reminded at the Creamery (another wonderfully traditional ice-cream parlour) in Budleigh Salterton, as we shivered over ices that ice-cream, “was in fact originally a winter confection.”


This area seemed to offer us a great combination of outdoor family adventure and foodie delights. There’s the lovely river Otter to explore; Ruby loved running along the path that snaked alongside its sandy banks near to Otterton Mill, delighting in finding ‘islands’ and steps for fish to leap up. And we all enjoyed warm drinks and lunch at Otterton Mill, a working watermill which uses it’s own stone-ground flour in the bakery/cafe. I was really interested to find that the organic wheat milled is an old variety (Maris Widgeon) which we’d seen growing at Tamarisk farm in Dorset last year.

Having ventured to the seaside from our landlocked home in the Cotswolds we had to have our fill of fresh fish and seafood too. The Old Watchhouse Fish Shop in Ottery St Mary had a fantastic selection of fish caught from Lyme Bay that morning (all using sustainable methods too, nothing caught by trawler here) and we couldn’t resist a crab, apparently from nearby Beer and very tasty. Otter Produce a few doors away is a traditional greengrocers where we found a great selection of local salad crops and veggies, so we were able to assemble a simple but delicious feast back at Mazzard farm.

Great to see that Ottery St Mary is having a food festival in June – it’s one of those unassuming little towns that still has an excellent collection of independent shops, many stocking fabulous local ingredients. Christopher Piper is a great wine shop that even stocks Dorset vodka made from cow’s milk, and Rusty Pig has an amazing selection of charcuterie and every sort of piggy foodie treat you can think of. Having tried making my own air dried ham,  salami and chorizo I must admit I had covetous thoughts about the temperature controlled area for curing.


Run by Robin Rea who has been both a chef and pig-keeper for years (he still runs pig courses at River Cottage) Rusty Pig uses well-reared pigs from Robin’s own and other local smallholdings and offers piggy picnics, weekend evening feasts combining home-made porcine delights with local/wild seasonal food and great weekend breakfasts. We found out about the breakfasts too late and I’m still mad that I missed out on a brilliant brunch for £8. Absolutely everything made at Rusty Pig from the ketchup to the bacon, sausage, black pudding and home-baked sourdough bread. Next time!

It turns out that Sidmouth beach isn’t just a place for 5 year olds to potter with a bucket, it’s a great source of razor clams too. Rusty Pig had them on the menu and after a rainy day indoor swim, we were ravenous for razor clams at the River Cottage Canteen at Axminster. Followed by mussels and leeks in cider and chips with aioli for me, slow- cooked lamb and focaccia for Guy. All washed down with delicious local cider of course.


We didn’t explore too far afield as for us there was so much fun to be had without straying too far from Mazzard farm. Without using a car, there’s plenty to do, from climbing East Hill, exploring the woodland and pottering around the children’s fort and teepee. In sunnier weather the hammock in the lovely orchard beckons and there are some great barbecue areas.

Mazzard Farm - hammock1 There are lots of children’s toys to help yourself to and Ruby loved scooting around the safe courtyard area.

entrance to courtyard

In the laundry room, there’s a little ‘honesty’ shop with eggs and home-grown/home-made produce from Mazzard farm in season plus a freezer stocked with tempting pain au chocolat, croissants and sausages from a neighbouring farm. A 5 minute walk takes you to a small farmshop with a selection of home-reared meat and fruit/vegetables.

For those who decide to do without a car altogether, if you travel to Mazzard farm by public transport, Ruud will meet you at the nearest train station and there’s a reduction of £50. Creating lovely, luxurious holiday accomodation that has as positive impact on the environment as possible seems important to Ruud and Jacqueline, who moved here several years ago from Guildford with their two daughters. The cottages have been converted using sustainable methods, with wood from a sustainable source, thermafleece wool insulation and recycled bricks. Heating (underfloor heating in the cottages is so snug on cooler days) and hot water is provided by a biomass boiler that is fuelled by locally sourced wood pellets. Soaps and shampoos are not just environmentally friendly but made either by Jacqueline or by a lady in Ottery St Mary.

Wildlife is encouraged here and there’s a blackboard in the laundry room to add sightings: bats, owls, badgers are common. Ruby and I were able to add deer as we saw two in the orchard just behind our cottage one morning.

In between all this lovely outdoors fun, we did find time after one bout of beach-combing for a pub with pool table, beer and crisps too. We all enjoyed it and it reminded me of a great long weekend in Wales last year. We returned with photos showing our lovely times playing in rockpools, walking coast paths and generally exploring our beautiful natural surroundings. Ruby took her own camera and it was only when we returned home that we noticed her pictures showed a different story:

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She does have some pictures of chickens and woodland this time although incriminating pics of the pub do feature. But I think we all left Mazzard Farm feeling that we’d had a really lovely weekend of adventures, punctuated with lots of delicious food. And we were all keen to return soon for a summery week to explore this great area in more detail.


Oh and thanks to the Mazzard Farm menagerie, Ruby now wants a goat.


We stayed as guests of Mazzard Farm and would like to say thanks lots to Ruud and Jacqueline for great, friendly hospitality and a really lovely weekend.