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John’s Banana Bread Bonanza

John’s Banana Bread Bonanza

A sign that you’re getting older is the sheer impossibility of organising a get together with your friends. Weekends suddenly become jam packed with familial duties and weeknights are usually spent in a crumpled heap on the sofa, half-consciously scrolling through a screen. My friend John and I had been planning an evening of baking for the last three months (taking the biscuit just a little #bestpunever) and we don’t even have children to blame it on! Luckily we finally got our act together and locked in Monday for our reunion which was to be spent in the kitchen making delicious banana bread.

 

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And man, oh man was it yummy. We managed to turn my little galley kitchen in to a pop-up boulangerie with flour whirling and the smell of cinnamon hanging in the air. I acted as sous chef which involved handing over ingredients when needed and giving things the odd stir (so professional). Watching John in action was such a treat because as a recent financial administrator-turned-baker-extraordinaire, he has such a passion for baking and clearly loves what he does. It’s such a brave move to change careers like he has and he’s now baking for the most popular restaurants in Belfast – a move that paid off!

 

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So many crinkles, maybe it’s time I bought an iron? 
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After tasting the bread I begged John to let me share the recipe. It is so moreish and although I had his help, it is definitely not difficult for a beginner baker. The hardest part is having the patience to wait for it to bake! He has also passed on a few insider tricks which makes it very easy to get right the first time. The smell alone is pure heaven – the combination of cinnamon and ginger filled our house for hours! As we tucked in to our slice, steam still emanating from the loaf, I realised that maybe the best get-togethers are worth the wait. Especially when they involve delicious food.

 

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Yes he can bake and yes he is single 😉

I’ve included the recipe below for you to enjoy but if you have any questions or suggestions of your own please feel free to comment! Happy baking!


John’s Banana Bread Bonanza

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Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 4 x soft bananas (the browner the better before they get to complete mush!)
  • 3 x medium eggs
  • 50ml buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 x 900g loaf tin
  • 1 x stand mixer
  • 1 x mixing bowl
  • Baking sheets

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Using the stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together
  3. Add in soft bananas and beat for 40 seconds on a medium speed
  4. Take off the mixer and sieve in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, bicarbonate soda and salt. Gently fold in ingredients using a spatula.
  5. Add buttermilk and mix in with spatula until fully incorporated
  6. Grease the loaf tin with butter and line with a baking sheet
  7. Pour the mixture in to the tin
  8. Place in preheated oven for 5-10 mins and then turn the heat down to 170C and cook for another 25 minutes
  9. Test the mixture with a skewer and once it comes out clean the bread is done
  10. Enjoy with a big mug of tea!

 

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Cuddle Fairy
How to Revive Tired Skin for Summer

How to Revive Tired Skin for Summer

Summer in Ireland can be very deceptive. Just when you think you are safe to dry clothes outside or plan a weekend in the outdoors, the clouds darken and the rain ridicules you for being so smug. As I am writing this I am curled up in our armchair watching the torrents batter the window and the wind is howling. Hello June!!

 

Those little pockets of sunshine may be few here but when the clouds do decide to part, the heat can be a shock to the system. My skin definitely suffers as a result of the ever-changing weather; my skin loses moisture, my lips crack and my forehead does this lovely thing of breaking out in lots of wee spots. To try and combat this I have ramped up the beauty routine (which is pretty non-existent to be fair) and introduced some homemade products using ingredients I know will help soothe my skin and bring it back to life.

 

I have written about my love of natural products before, especially when it comes to skincare. And although there are a plethora of organic gems available for not-so-horrifying prices,  there is something to be said for whipping up your own creation with ingredients just hanging out in your cupboards. Good products should only require a handful of ingredients and I have found some great recipes that will surely brighten up any weather-beaten body.

 

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Lemon & Lavender Sugar Scrub

I use lavender essential oil religiously for lots of homemade recipes like this room spray which I spritz on clothes, curtains, my car, gym bag, bed pillows. Basically anything that I think can delay washing for another few days! The combination with lemon creates the most incredible smell that is so summery – just don’t be tempted to eat the scrub because it doesn’t taste as good as it smells!

 

The scrub contains coconut oils which will inject some much needed moisture in to that tired skin. I make a batch and keep it next to the bath for those days when a good soak is the only cure for a hectic day. If you want to feel like a proper princess then add a few drops of lavender oil to the bath while you’re there and put on your favourite podcast – heaven!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 15 drops essential oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lavender buds (optional)

Method

  • Melt coconut oil at high temperature in microwave
  • Add sugar, lavender oil and lavender buds
  • Place in pot and enjoy!

 

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Lip Scrub

Those little peckers can get a rough time between seasons with the summer making them especially vulnerable. Use this scrub to remove the dead skin and the coconut oil will give them that wee bit of nourishment that they are craving. Follow up with this lip balm and you will feel instantly renewed (and no longer resemble a scabies victim.. Just me?).

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 5 drops vanilla extract

Method

  • Heat coconut in microwave and then mix in the rest of the ingredients
  • Add to small lip pots

 

Green Tea Face Mist

Making your own face mist may just be the most decadent thing you do but my goodness is it refreshing. This mist is best left in the fridge and then spritzed on a make-up free face on a hot evening. It’s also a life saver when travelling on a plane to help awaken tired skin.

The green tea acts as a natural soother and is packed full of those infamous antioxidants that will give your face that summer glow (and not the sweaty kind). I also add a little Vitamin E oil to help soothe and moisturise the skin that bit more.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of green tea
  • 1/2 cup of distilled water
  • 10 drops Vitamin E oil

Method

  • Boil the green tea and leave to stew for an hour
  • Mix the tea with the distilled water and vitamin E oil
  • Add a spray bottle and give a good shake
  • Leave in the fridge

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Homemade Lavender Spray

Homemade Lavender Spray

It’s funny how the sun can completely energise us and we suddenly remember all of the projects we abandoned during the winter. These last few days of sunshine and blue skies has awakened the creativity I thought had disappeared completely and I have a whole bunch of crafty things I want to make over the next few weeks (or until the notoriously short Irish summer ends).

 

I decided to start with a super quick and manageable project that I could do after work in the evening and a room spray was just about the simplest thing I could come up with. It’s a recipe I’ve been wanting to make for a while not just because our living room smells like a Victorian basement (drying clothes indoors = lovely damp aroma) but also to help quickly lift anything that might not be smelling so fresh e.g. gym bag, guddies (do people still say guddies??), car, curtains, boyfriend.

 

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Lavender was the choice for the spray because it’s my go-to summer scent. It takes me back to our holiday in Croatia last year where the markets would be teeming with little bags of this floral deliciousness and I bought as many as I could to take home with me. I still have a little left that I keep in a drawer but I hijacked a few sprigs to use for this spray. It smells wonderful and I’ve been spraying a little on my pillow to help sleep through these warmer nights.

 

If you don’t feel like whipping together a spray then you can introduce lavender essential oil in plenty of other ways. It really is an all-rounder essential oil; it’s antiseptic (great for wounds or scars), a sleeping aid, a muscle relaxant (a few drops in the bath will have you chilled out in no time), a pain reliever and can be used as a topical treatment for skin issues like eczema. A bit of an over-achiever really.

 

And if lavender isn’t your thing then you can create your own bespoke concoction that feels like summer to you. Like…

Cypress, Lemon & Rosemary

Orange, Lime & Spearmint

Sandalwood, Grapefruit & Orange

 

The options are endless! So here’s to bringing in the smells of summer and fingers crossed this sunshine sticks around for us to enjoy this weekend!

 

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Lavender Room Spray

What You’ll Need

  • Bottle with mist nozzle
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Dried lavender
  • Distilled water
  • Vodka or gin
  • Measuring cup

 

Method

  1. Clean out your bottle
  2. Pour in your distilled water first (I used a 6:1 ratio of water:vodka)
  3. Then about 25-30 drops of the essential oil (I used the maximum because my sense of smell is pathetic)
  4. Pour in your vodka or gin
  5. Give the bottle a good shake (with the lid on folks)
  6. Cut a few sprigs of lavender just short of the length of the bottle and place inside.
  7. Spray around the house like you’re a domestic goddess

 

A DIY Christmas Hamper

A DIY Christmas Hamper

There were a few days this past week where it felt that the sun had done a runner and left us in a perpetual state of dusk. Not seeing an inch of blue sky can definitely have its negative affects so I’m already feeling a little cheerier when I can see the low winter light streaming through the window, even if it’s just for half an hour!

 

Things have felt very busy this week and my bank account has taken such a battering in the last two months with trips away and now presents to buy that I’m afraid to even look at my statements! There is huge pressure to buy the most expensive gifts and not only that, pressure to have the house decorated, visit all our relatives and friends and drink our body weights in alcohol. Luckily there seems to be more and more people championing the simpler Christmas which I think helps to encourage less money spending and more thought.

 

In the spirit of this, I have decided against the usual mad rush of buying anything I think will do for my extended family in favour of making my own Christmas hampers filled with homemade products I think they will appreciate much more than a bottle of wine or another pair of gloves! I chose simple products that wouldn’t stress me out too much and I have staggered out the crafting process so I don’t feel overwhelmed and can actually enjoy it all.

 

I will list out a few of the things I’ve chosen to make however the gift of this is that you can be as flexible as you like and keep it minimal if it’s all you can manage.

 

ROSE PETAL BATH SALTS

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What You Need:

  • Petals from 4 roses
  • 20 drops of vanilla oil/essence
  • 3 cups of Epsom salts
  • Mini bags

These salts were embarrassingly easy to make and took all of about half an hour to make 18 small bags!

  1. The week before making them I bought a bunch of red roses when I was doing my groceries for £3 and enjoyed them until they were starting to wilt.
  2. When I knew their days were over, I took the heads off and sprinkled the petals in my Nutri Bullet. After a quick blitz the shredded petals were the most beautiful shade of crimson and the smell was A-MAZING.
  3. I added the petals to 3 cups of Epsom salts that were already in a bowl and added my vanilla drops.
  4. After thoroughly mixing through and feeling giddy with the pretty colours, I added them to the bags I had found on Amazon and they were good to go!

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CHRISTMAS SOAP

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What You Need:

  • ¾ Melt and Pour Soap Base Clear
  • Silicone Mould
  • 100 drops Orange Essential Oil
  • 50 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil
  • 20 drops Clove Bud Essential Oil
  • 3 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • Pyrex Jug

This was a little trickier than the bath salts but well worth the smell it created in the kitchen I promise!

  1. First of all I cut the soap base in to cubes that would fit in to the moulds so I could guess how much I would need to melt.
  2. I then put the cubes in to the jug and placed in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so until the base was melted.
  3. Once fully melted I added my oils and ground cinnamon and mixed well.
  4. After this I poured the mix in to the moulds CAREFULLY because I wanted the top of the soap to be smooth and not pouring over the edges (not so pretty). I
  5. I placed the moulds on a tray to keep steady and then in the fridge to cool for 1-2 hours.
  6. Once they’re solid you can pop them out and then dress them up any way you please!

 

CHRISTMAS CANDLES

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What You Need:

  • 1kg soy wax flakes
  • 3 Jam Jars (or whatever you have – I keep Bonne Mamam jam jars for my candles)
  • 3 wicks – I got mine here
  • 20 drops of Orange Essential Oil per jar
  • 40 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil per jar
  • 15 drops Clove Bud Essential Oil per jar

I play it a bit fast and loose with making these so the guidelines are pretty rough but easy to follow I hope! What’s handy is that you have similar ingredients to your Christmas soap so you can make your candles while your soaps are setting in the fridge (I paint a very calm picture don’t I?!).

  1. I placed my jam jars in a big pan filled about to about 2 inches deep of boiling water and then scooped about 18 tablespoons in to the jars. Make sure and take time when adding the wax as it reduces down as it melts so you will have to add them gradually.
  2. Once all your wax has melted and your jars are almost full, take the jars out of the pan and then add your essential oils.
  3. The final step is to place one wick in the centre and make sure it sticks to the bottom of the jar by using sticks to hold it in place (I laid kebab sticks across the jar and placed the wick in between so it didn’t fall away from the centre). This is the trickiest part and might take some patience!
  4. Wait for the candles to set and then cut your wick down to an appropriate length et voila!

 

LAVENDER HAND WASH

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What You Need:

  • Soap dispensers
  • Jug
  • 2 cups of castile soap
  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 4 tbsp sweet almond oil
  • 4 tbsp vitamin E oil
  • 20 drops of Witch Hazel
  • 40 drops of lavender essential oil

This recipe allowed me to make 4 of these bad boys and it took all of about 10 minutes #winning

  1. Using your jug, pour in your water first and then castile soap (prevents lots of bubbles) and then your essential oils.
  2. Give it a good shake around and then you are done!

 

WHIPPED SHEA & OLIVE OIL BODY BUTTER

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What You Need:

  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 30 – 40 drops of vanilla essential oil
  • 2 x 500ml glass jars

This is a fairly messy process so one tip I have is to wash your utensils straight away after using!

  1. Scoop your shea butter in to a pan and gently melt.
  2. Gradually add your olive oil
  3. Add essential oils and remove from heat
  4. Once cooled, place the pan in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the mixture has almost solidified
  5. Using a hand held mixer, whip the mixture until you get a light, airy texture.
  6. Spoon the mixture in your containers and they are good to use for a few months.

 

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I hope this provides a little insight in to how easy homemade gifts can be to make. All it takes is a little preparation and motivation on these dark evenings but the outcome is so worth it! Make sure to add some little Christmas themed sweets or crackers to try and beef out the box a little otherwise you can use some more of my crafting recipes here and here to help inspire you a little more!

 

Happy crafting x

Homemade Autumn Wreath

Homemade Autumn Wreath

I have heard that the eskimo have many many words which can be translated as ‘snow’. This is something that we Irish can identify with since in Ireland there are about a million different kinds of descriptions for rainfall. Lying on the edge of Europe has left us vulnerable to the elements, the Atlantic battering us with whatever remnants she has left of a forgotten hurricane or storm. We are at her mercy and as a result we have rain in our blood and in our conversations as our lives and decisions are so determined by the presence and absence of it.

 

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The different kinds of rain can be welcomed or dreaded depending on the time of year or the character of the rain itself. There is the torrential sun shower which is revered since it breaks up a rare stint of solid sunshine that is at first embraced by everyone but is soon complained about because “it’s almost too hot, you know?”. This kind of rain falls fast and hard but it is fleeting like a first love, the perfect kind of rain really and if you’re lucky there might be some thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure.

 

Soft rain is probably my least favourite for it is incessant and soaks through slowly. My Mum would always say it’s the most dangerous since it can fool you in to thinking you’re not actually all that damp. This rain reminds me of the days I used to play camogie because it would never be enough to call off a game but yet the hurl would be slipping through my fingers constantly making it even more difficult than usual to play (I was never that good).

 

There is also the horizontal rain that is usually accompanied by gale winds that will practically lift you off your feet and make going outside feel like preparing for an expedition. There’s the rain that that doesn’t leave for days and makes you forget what the sky looks like. The rain that leaves a welcome chill in the air. The rain that makes it more humid and sticky than before it came. The rain that threatens for hours to come and will the moment you decide to leave the house.

 

Autumn brings with it all kinds of rains and although I’m sad that the weekends where every moment can be spent outdoors are more than likely over, I secretly love that I am now having to be a little more creative with how I choose to spend my precious days off while the rain is insistently persistent outside. My crafternoons are a selfish joy of mine and even though I’m not artistic in any way, I love creating things that I can display or give as wee gifts.

 

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I’m a Pinterest fiend (you can follow my boards here) and saw someone posted an Autumn wreath that looked amazing but easy – right up my alley! So last Saturday I took myself off to Holywood for a browse through the florist and picked up some eucualyptus, a chrysanthemum and some wire for my own wreath. That evening I sat at the table waiting for dinner to cook with some friends, and some wine of course, and made it all on my own! I was relieved at how easy it was – and how great it looked! – and it’s now sitting proudly above my fireplace.

 

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Yes the rain is here and yes it might stop us from exploring the places we want go at times but instead of complaining I plan on taking advantage of the days to be spent indoors. I might get plenty more projects on the go. I might bake more. I might even start knitting. Or I might not do any of those things except just sit by the fire, wrap myself in a big blanket, keep an ear to the window and listen to the rain. No matter what kind it is.

 

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Autumn Wreath

  • Few long branches of eucalyptus
  • One chrysanthamum
  • Few wires

There is not much in way of method here except just bind the eucalyptus and wire around each other in a circle! I used a few lengths of wire and curled the ends behind leaves to disguise them but using a few wires helped bend a little better. I just cut the stem a couple of inches below the flower at an angle and poked it between a section that looked a bit bare. I dipped the stem in sugar in the hope it might help the flower stay alive a little longer but I’m not sure if this actually works or not!!!

 

Happy crafting!!

Homemade Lavender Soap

Homemade Lavender Soap

Before we flew to Croatia for our summer holiday this year, I had read that the islands we were hoping to visit grew lots of lavender and that you could take excursions to the farms to see them in peak season. Now, I know full well that visiting lavender farms wouldn’t have been high on Andrew’s priority list, or most people’s, but I had this image of us driving a scooter around the island with the smell of lavender in the air, purple hills rolling in the distance, Yann Tiersen playing in the background, that whole European cinema vibe thing.

 

When we got to Hvar I found out we had just missed the lavender season and that they had celebrated the big lavender festival in late June – gutted. Despite my disappointment, and Andrew’s relief, there was still so much to buy because the crops had just been harvested. There was still that smell in the air that I had daydreamed about when we walked past the market stalls and of course I bought as much as I could.

 

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Now that I’m home and I have given most of the lavender away to a few bewildered family members (I don’t think anyone seems to appreciate lavender or its smell as much as I do), I’m left with bags of the stuff that will more than likely sit in our spare room alongside our other souvenirs unless I think of ways I can use them.

 

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I’ve been planning on making my own soap for a while and have had molds and goat’s milk base waiting patiently to be used for the last number of months. Having an abundance of lavender seemed like the perfect opportunity to create something lovely with my lonely apparatus and it turns out that it is embarrassingly simple!

 

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I chose to use a little lavender oil, some honey and lemon zest with my fresh lavender to bring out as many good smells as possible (my sense of smell is shocking so I need to double the quantities of recommended servings of essential oils in order to smell anything)! The recipe only requires a few things you might not have lying around but I got base and molds from Amazon so it’s not too difficult!

 

I plan on giving these out to friends at a dinner party this weekend. I love that when I say dinner party it sounds like a sophisticated gathering but really it’s just a bunch of girls drinking wine and talking about their dogs. Speaking of, I’m the only one without a dog and this weekend we’re looking after my sister’s Cocker Spaniel, Bella, who I hope will win Andrew over and make him realise that dogs are just about the best thing that can happen to anyone!

 

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I hope the girls will like them because I’ve been loving the smell they have brought in to the house. I still have lots of lavender to use though so next up I think is Lavender Pillow S

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Homemade Lip Balm

Homemade Lip Balm

Ireland is an island of many seasons and these constant changes can cause havoc with our skin. We all endeavour to protect our skin during the summer with plenty of SPF and exfoliation but our lips are often ignored. The weather here is so changeable that our peckers can become chapped and dry, traits which just aren’t attractive for our smiles.

 

I was looking around for recipes for homemade lip balm because I only wanted to use natural ingredients. I’m trying really hard to cut down on all the chemicals I use on my skin and face so when I find myself needing a remedy for my body, I’m looking more and more to products that aren’t harsh on my skin. I found a really simple guide to making homemade lip balm that nourishes lips and keeps them lovely and moisturised (and glossy!) and decided to give it a whirl.

 

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The recipe can be modified any way you like so you can include different essential or flavour oils although I chose vanilla extract because it reminds me of summer! I also ordered some cute labels from this Etsy shop so I can give some of my homemade products to friends and family – maybe one day I might even sell them!

 

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp beeswax pellets
  • 750 IU Vitamin E
  • 20 drops of vanilla extract

You’ll also need some small containers for the balm – I ordered some of these from Amazon.

Method

In a microwave proof container with a spout, heat the pellets and the coconut oil together 30 seconds at a time until the mixture is completely melted. Add the vanilla extract and completely mix through. Pour the mixture in to the containers and leave to set for half an hour. You’ll find the mixture sets really quickly so make sure to move fast! I got about 400ml out of this recipe, enough to fill 40 containers – lots to give out to friends!

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Homemade Skin Brightening Toner

Homemade Skin Brightening Toner

I’ve decided to do something rare and surprising: actually following through with something I have talked about doing for a long time! I’ve intended on making some of my own beauty products for ages now and even purchased this book to help guide me. I read the book, full of motivation to buy mountains of jojoba oil and beeswax but just never got round to it. What I realised though is that I perhaps set my intentions a bit too high and needed to start smaller instead of aiming to produce Body Shop quality products in my first week.

 

I read a couple of recipes online and saw this one for a toner which didn’t seem too intimidating. Toner is a great way to lift skin of products and oils and I thought it was a perfect beginner project for the summer. In this (short-lived) heat we have to constantly reapply sunscreen which can lead to a build up of dirt and grime across the day. If you suffer from oily or combination skin, using a toner between cleansing and moisturising can give you the assurance that those excess oils have been removed.

 

I only started using the toner this week so I’m yet to notice any miraculous differences but I do love the smell and how fresh it leaves my skin. I think it’ll be great for travelling to keep skin feeling clear and refreshed. For such a simple recipe it gave me a great boost in confidence in making my own products and I have now ordered essential oils to get a bit of a workshop together – will make sure to post more attempted efforts!!

 

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The toner contains witch hazel, lemon juice and water – that’s all! Witch hazel’s strong antioxidant and astringent properties make it excellent at killing bacteria and preventing cell damage. The lemon juice is a great antibacterial too and can really help reduce those pesky blackheads. As well as that, because it’s rich in vitamin C, lemon juice can lighten and brighten your skin helping to eliminate dark spots and irregularities – not a bad all rounder!

 

Al you need for your own toner is:

  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2/3 cup of witch hazel
  • plastic bottle jar (I just bought mine off Amazon)

 

To make the toner you just need to mix the ingredients together in a jug and pour in to your containers – easy peasy lemon squeezy (sorry – not sorry)!

 

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Good luck with yours and hopefully there will be more successful DIY beauty posts to come in the future!

 

xx