Thursday, 16 October 2014

How to make Oatmeal Bath Bags

Oatmeal  Bath Bags

I make these as gifts or to take along when I'm doing a market. 

You'll need:

2 cups oatmeal (you can grind rolled oats and use those)
1 cup milk powder
1/2 cup dried lavender buds
1/4 cup dried calendula petals
1/4 cup dried chamomile
a few drops of lavender essential oil

Cut the muslin into roughly A5 size pieces. If the muslin has an open weave you may need to use a double thickness. 

Fold the fabric pieces in half and stitch the side seams, leaving the top of the bag open (the top should be narrower than the sides).

In a bowl combine the dry ingredients. Add the essential oil to the dry mix a drop at a time making sure everything is well mixed and not clumping. 

Spoon the mixture into the bags leaving space at the top. Tie securely with ribbon, thread or twine. 

Storage: Store the pouches in an airtight container in cool, dry conditions. 

To use: Add to the bath as it's running. Can be used to scrub yourself. Discard after use.

In the photo above are some I've made. I used thin garden twine and left the top edge of the bags raw for a rustic look.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Make your own baking soda household cleaner

I stopped using "supermarket" spray cleaners and the like after I realised that every time I used them I ended up with a headache - particularly with some bathroom cleaners. Instead I now use a lot of baking soda and white vinegar.

Baking soda is useful for clean-ups around the house. It can be used as a scourer or a carpet deodoriser, to clean your hands, make a bath soak or clean the drains, tiles, sinks and bench tops.

This recipe is for a cleaning paste that I've been using for a few years now - without any headaches! There are a few versions of this paste, but this is the one that works for me.

Baking Soda Cleaning Paste

In a small bowl mix 1 cup of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar (tartaric acid). Then slowly stir in 10mls of liquid castile soap and 5mls of water. Stir until you get a fairly dry paste. You may need to add a bit more water.

At this point you can add a few drops of essential oil - 20 drops of lavender, peppermint or sweet orange. Store in an airtight jar.

Baking Soda, Box, White, Powder, Sodium

I link up here

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

No soap without lye

If you follow my Facebook page then you may well have read an early version of this post. When I make my soap (and in my skincare range) I choose to only use natural ingredients. This means no synthetic colours or fragrances.

Every so often I get the question “if your soap is made with only natural ingredients why does it have sodium hydroxide in it?”

The short answer is that you can’t make soap without sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) – it binds the oil and water together during the soap making process. This same process, and the curing time afterwards, neutralises the lye.

Back when our great-great-grandmothers made their own soap the process wasn’t radically different from today. Soap was made by mixing animal fat with water that had been passed through wood ash from the fire. When water is filtered through ash the end result is lye. The big difference between now and then is that great-granny couldn't be totally sure how strong her lye was and could end up with soap that could be quite harsh, very gentle, or somewhere in-between.

We now have the advantage of being able access lye knowing exactly how strong it is and can then tailor soap recipes to create the perfect bar of soap with a range of vegetable oils and butters, herbs and spices.

So while it may sound “chemical” lye is the result of blending to naturally occurring ingredients – ash and water.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Spoil Yourself! - DIY Skincare (Part 2)

Here's a few more skincare recipes that I've accumulated. Most of these use ingredients you'll probably already have in the kitchen at home.

Hope you find something you like.


For oily skin. In a clean, lidded jar or other container combine 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of plain yoghurt. Apply to you face and neck, the gently wipe off with a cotton pad. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.


In a clean jar combine 3 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves with 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar. Cover with the lid and leave to steep in a warm place for a week. Strain, then add 1 cup of water to the vinegar infusion. Use as you would your usual toner. Store in the fridge.


In a small basin (big enough to pop your feet in) combine about 10 cups of warm water, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1/2 a cup of sea salt. Stir well then add the juice from two lemons to the bowl. Pop you feet in and relax for 10-15 minutes.


In a small bowl combine 4 teaspoons of finely ground oatmeal with 5 teaspoon of milk or buttermilk. Allow the mixture to thicken for a few minutes, then stir to remove any lumps. You want a consistency that is firm enough that it won't slide off your skin, but not so thick that you've got porridge. Add more oats or milk as required. Using your fingers spread over your face an neck. Leave for about 20 minutes then rinse off with warm water. This makes enough for one mask. Not suitable for irritated or sunburnt skin.


This is really simple with only one ingredient and is excellent for dry skin. Mash avocado until it's smooth. Apply to your face. Leave it on for about 10 minutes then rinse of with warm water.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Calendula - a healing flower


Most people would probably be familiar with Calendula . With daisy-like flowers ranging in colour from vibrant orange and yellow through to pale apricot they seem to pop up in gardens all over the place. It’s sometimes called pot marigold, but isn’t part of the marigold family.

Calendula officinalis has been traditionally used as both a culinary and medicinal herb. The petals can be added to salad, made into tea and used to colour cheese. For centuries it’s been used to heal wounds and skin irritations such as eczema, nappy rash, insect bites and minor burns.

Made with calendula infused oil and beeswax Calendula Salve utilises the skin-healing properties of the flower to create a treatment for irritated, chapped or sensitive skin which is effective, but still mild enough for children to use. We also use it on our dog when she tangles with the rose bushes.

Calendula petals can make an interesting addition to soap as they're one of the few plant materials that hold their colour through the soap-making process. Unfortunately the same can't be said of lavender - the buds start out purple, but end up an unappealing shade of brown!

Calendula oil is made by steeping fresh or dried petals in a light oil for several weeks. Calendula “tea” can be made easily at home and can then be used as a compress to make a soothing treatment for cuts, scrapes, insect bites and irritated skin.

To make calendula “tea” pour one cup of boiling water over a handful of fresh or dried petals. Cover then allow to cool to room temperature. Strain out the petals. To make a compress soak a clean cloth in the “tea” then place on the skin as required.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Spoil Yourself! - DIY Skincare (Part 1)

I've accumulated quite a few recipes for masks, scrubs and other treats for the skin, so I thought I'd share a few.

Banana Face Mask

Mash half a ripe banana until smooth and creamy. (The riper the banana the easier it is to mash.) Apply to the face a leave for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with warm water, then pat dry.

Honey & Oatmeal Face Scrub

Mix 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of ground almonds and 2 tablespoons of oatmeal* with enough plain yoghurt to make a paste. gently massage into your face, then rinse off with warm water.

* If you don't have oatmeal it's easy to grind rolled oats in a coffee grinder to get the right texture

Detox Bath Salts

In a bowl combine 1/3 cup Epsom salt, 1/2 cup coarse sea salt, 2 teaspoons ground ginger and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add to running bath water and enjoy.

Calendula Oil for Dry Hands

Place 250mls of sweet almond oil and 50g of fresh calendula petals in a screw top jar and leave in a warm place (a sunny windowsill is fine) for at least three weeks. Give the jar an occasional shake during the 3 weeks. Strain through cheesecloth, coffee filter bag or fine sieve. The oil can be used daily to soothe chapped hands and will keep for several months in a well sealed jar. Store in a dry place out of direct sunlight.

Almond Meal Cleanser

In a small bowl combine 2 teaspoons of almond meal with enough water (for oily skin), milk (for normal skin), or cream (dry skin) to make a spreadable paste. Let it sit for a minute to thicken. Then, using clean fingers, spread onto a moistened face and throat and gently massage for 1 minute. Rinse with warm water. (Makes enough for one scrub).

Cucumber Eye Gel

You'll need 125g of aloe vera gel and half of a good-sized cucumber.

Wash, peel and cube the cucumber. Using a stick blender or food processor whizz the cucumber until liquid. Strain through a fine strainer or muslin to remove any bits. Put the aloe vera gel in a small bowl. Whisk in 2-3 tablespoons of the cucumber juice until well combined. Pour into a small jar and refrigerate.

To use apply a little under your eyes at night. This will last for 3 months if kept in the fridge.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

An abundance of walnuts ~ Walnut & Sultana Loaf recipe

Our house was built in the 1920s. In the backyard we have a huge walnut tree planted by the first owners of our house back around 1928. I know this because a few years ago their grandson turned up on the door step amazed that the tree (and the house) was still here.

I've no idea what variety the tree is, but most years we have a great crop - literally wheel barrow loads. The tree has survived the earthquakes and all the other "joys" of life in Christchurch over the last few years. The gales and heavy rain over the last couple of weeks brought a lot of the nuts down, but there's still plenty on the tree. So I thought I'd share on of my favourite walnut recipes:

Walnut and Sultana Loaf

8 oz flour
½ cup sultanas
½ cup walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1 T golden syrup
1½ tsp baking powder
4 oz sugar
1/2 oz butter

Put all the ingredients except the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Pour over 1 cup of boiling water and stir well. When cool (but not completely cold) add the flour and baking powder. Pour into a lined and greased loaf tin and bake for approximately one hour at 180°C (350°F).

Friday, 7 March 2014

Laundry Liquid Recipe

I started making my own laundry liquid as even the large-scale ones claiming to be for sensitive skin irritated my daughter's skin causing angry red eczema flare ups. I make this using my own Castile soap, but a good quality unscented vegetable-oil based soap should work just as well.

There are a few recipes available for laundry liquid, but this is the one that's worked the best for me.

To make the laundry liquid you will need:

60g grated castile soap
1.5 litres water
1/2 cup of washing soda
1/4 cup of borax
1 litre hot water
5 litres hot water

a large saucepan
a 10 litre bucket
a long-handled spoon
4 or 5 two litre bottles (you can use plastic milk bottles or similar)

Into the saucepan goes 1.5 litres of water and the grated soap. Warm over a low heat until the soap has dissolved. Then stir in the borax and washing soda. Continue to stir until the borax and washing soda have dissolved and mixture starts to thicken - sometimes this happens quite quickly, but it will thicken more has it cools so don't worry if it still seems a bit runny.

Pour one litre of hot water into your bucket. Then carefully pour in the soap mixture and stir well. Add the remaining five litres of hot water and stir again.

Pour into your bottles. Don't fill the bottles completely as the mixture can become quite thick so you may need to give it a good shake before using. About 1/2 a cup should do an average load.

You may also like to try this:
Homemade Laundry Powder

I link up here.

Friday, 28 February 2014

A few bars of soap

I thought I'd share a few of the soaps I've made recently.

After a few trial batches which were good, but not quite what I wanted, I now have a lemon soap that I'm happy with. The soft yellow of my Lemon Fresh Soap comes from dried lemon peel. I was lucky enough to get hold of some lovely organic lemons. I carefully peeled them, dried the peel, then finely ground it. The smell is of the ground peel is quite intense and the colour is rich. Adding the peel to the soap gives it a speckled golden colour; plus I sprinkled a little more on the top just after pouring into the moulds. For fragrance I combined Lemon, May Chang and Sweet Orange essential oils for a fresh lemon scent with a hint of sweetness.

I like to add Shea Butter to my soaps because it's such a great moisturiser. In this Ginger Shea Butter Soap I've combined the shea with rice bran, olive and coconut oils for a creamy lathered bar of soap that's gentle on your skin. The warm, sweet, spicy fragrance comes from ginger and citrus essential oils. And I've used ground ginger for a bit of zing and to add a little speckle to the pale creamy soap.

I first made this one a few months ago and it has become a favourite of mine. I love the way the essential oils work together to compliment and enhance each other. Lavender Rosemary Soap combines the calming floral sweetness of locally produced lavender essential oil with the clean earthiness of rosemary. This is a luxurious, creamy lathered bar of soap which is gentle on your skin and a delight for your senses.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Welcome to my first blog. My name is Michelle and I'm the person behind the white rose.

I've been making soap for a few years now. I started Alba Rosa in October 2011 with a small range of soaps and a few salves. Since then I've made a lot of soap - classics like Lavender and Castile have remained favourites, while others have come and gone.

All my soap is made and cut by hand. I prefer not to use synthetic fragrances or colours. Instead my soaps are coloured with teas, clays, herbs and spices. Recently I've been experimenting with fruits and vegetables so will share some of the results in later posts.

My favourite soap of the moment is Chai Latte. I made my first batch a few months ago.

Full of lovely spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom, with a hint of vanilla, it has a wonderfully rich, sweet, spicy aroma. And lots of lovely lather.