savon de marseille

Next to my own homemade soap, the soap I love best, the most beautiful, traditionally made, natural soap has to be Savon de Marseille.

savon de marseille

They call it legendary, and as the savonneries in Marseilles have been making their gorgeous cubes of olive oil soap since the 1300’s, I have to agree.

savon de marseille © elisa rathje 2012

I adore the patina that develops over the stamped sides, and I love the simplicity of the soap. It is so pure, you could brush your teeth with the stuff. The blocks are just gorgeous, and last a long time, so I keep one by the bathtub, between the epsom salts and the traditional razor. On such a cold, wet day as this one, I’d rather like to get into a hot bath and stay there.

painted bathtub

For months I’ve been casting sideways looks at the roll-top painted bathtub in the four-hundred-year-old cottage. The colour! That particular shade is dramatic on the inside of the craft cupboard, but I was searching for something else for the tub.

bathtub before © elisa rathje 2012

My wonderful, perceptive friend Heather visited us, and being a brilliant colour consultant and interior designer, she solved the problem immediately. The greys of the galvanised bucket. Oh yes!

bathtub after © elisa rathje 2012

Now, paint has a life of its own, and the same french linen chalk paint that I used on the daybed and the bellows turned rather a warmer dusty cocoa shade on the tub. I’m quite surprised by the hue. What do you think?

painted cupboard

There’s a cupboard in the cottage bathroom that has been bothering me for a long time. In theory I really like cupboards with some colour inside. While I have a beloved red lamp and many red linens in the kitchen, I found this particular shade quite shocking each time I opened the cupboard. It seemed there wasn’t much point putting things away in an organised manner, since it still looked dreadful to me because of the colour.

I can’t even show you, it is so glaring. You can picture it, yes?

I prefer pale, desaturated shades in the house for the most part. I do love the colourful cupboard that we keep our art materials in, and I love using bright patterns in the bunting and quilting for the children’s room. My stash of fabric and yarn bring a lot of colour into my studio. But this dark red had to go.

cupboard © elisa rathje 2011

Several coats of white later, I feel much better. Such a relief.

cupboard © elisa rathje 2011

Now it’s a pleasure to put things away, and I edited our things while I was at it, so there’s really not very much to organise. I can see what’s there and it all has a home. Much brighter. It’s a pleasure to open that painted cupboard now.

hair tonics

The other day I read a gorgeous description of using a rosemary infusion to dye fabric. It inspired me to try a recipe in my beloved copy of Sloe Gin and Beeswax, for making a hair rinse in Mid-Winter. For my little brunette child and my little blonde child, I’ve been infusing a pair of herbal hair tonics.

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Rosemary for dark hair, picked from the garden.

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Chamomile for light. I would have preferred whole flowers, but in a few months we can harvest some. Meanwhile organic Royal Chamomile tea is just fine.

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I made an infusion of each by pouring boiling water over the herbs; I covered them and let them infuse for a few hours.

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I’ve halved the recipe: 4 or 5 stems of rosemary, a litre of spring water, 75 ml of apple cider vinegar, and 3 drops of rosemary essential oil. A cup of chamomile flowers and lemon essential oil for the light version. I put the infusion through a strainer, mixed the cider and oils well in;

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Decanted them into bottles and corked them. Rosemary is said to darken hair over time, to stimulate the scalp and roots, and condition the hair. Chamomile is said to enhance highlights in light hair, strengthen it and restore shine. Cider vinegar is known to be excellent for removing excess products, conditioning and restoring ph balance. We’ll use a generous splash of the tonics after washing our hair, no need to rinse.

skin brush

Something about January puts me in the mood for restoring good habits. One of these is the simple practice of dry skin brushing.

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This is a traditional ayurvedic health practice which supports exfoliation and circulation, clears the skin and detoxifies the lymphatic system. I use a natural bristle brush with a long wooden handle. Before bathing, brush the skin gently, in the direction of the heart, making circles at joints and long strokes elsewhere. I like to follow this with an epsom salt bath. A very gentle cleanse.