Caught up in memories of my daughter, Willow.

Willow’s Feet

I was feeling so excited about my partner and I turning our spare room from a guest room into a ‘Willow’s Wonder office/ workshop’ last weekend that it didn’t really even dawn on me until after all the activity had died down that this was meant to be the nursery for our daughter, Willow. I remembered when we came home from the hospital, with empty arms after nine months of being pregnant, that I asked my partner and his family to pack everything up from this room and put it outside in the shed so I couldn’t see her things anymore. I had spent nine months lovingly preparing her room, to have everything for her when she arrived, and I placed every toy in the perfect position and after coming home, and looking at those tiny clothes, it was just too much for me to bear and still is, to this day. I still feel uncomfortable anywhere near the baby clothes section of any department store but it was definitely harder in those early days than it is now.

Welcome to the life of a bereaved parent, one minute you feel happy, the next minute the memories come flooding back and you can’t help it, no matter how much anyone else thinks you should ‘forget it’ and just ‘move on’. Sometimes I still gaze upon that photo of her perfect little feet and wonder why this happened to us.

It’s been four years now, and it’s Willow’s birthday today. I still think of her and wish she was with us every single day. I thought that I should hang a big canvas of Willow’s Wonder’s Logo to top off the redecoration and it reminded me of how much this business really means to me because it honours the memory of our daughter. I don’t get to talk about her much because I can’t tell people that she did this or that, except kick around in my belly with great force for a while, and when I tell people that our daughter died they are usually shocked and don’t want to discuss it further. They avoid it at all costs. So, my business, ‘Willow’s Wonder’ gives me a chance to share my journey, as a bereaved parent, as well as get creative, and help make other people feel good. It is a combination that works well for me.

My first thought for this blog was to write about how ‘grateful’ I feel to be sitting here in her room on her 4th birthday, running a business named after her and being able to get creative in my new happy space because that is the expectation now these days isn’t it? We all need to be positive about everything and all that. The problem is that my thoughts and feelings change on a daily basis. I was grateful last weekend. Am I really feeling grateful now? How grateful can you really be after your child dies? To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t feel grateful, not today. I feel grateful about some things, yes, but yesterday at lunch time, I saw a four- year-old girl at the shops with her mum and it really stung because I should have a four- year-old girl with me here today. Some days I do feel grateful for her being in our lives and bringing a totally new perspective on life that I never had before. Some days I just feel gutted that we never got to bring her home and that it was not a happy ending for us.

As time goes by, most days I am doing okay, sometimes I can become anxious or sensitive to criticism maybe more than other people, very often I find it hard to relate to people on a superficial level and it has been a long road of recovery for me. I will never get back to my old ‘normal’ self, I know that. I have a new ‘normal’ that I am still trying to understand myself. Some days are much, much harder than others to get through and today is one of those days.

My partner, Paul and Willow

Four years ago, I went through the worst day of my life, being handed my daughter’s body after just giving birth to her at full term, still warm from my body but sadly she never took a breath. I remember choking back the tears and hoping that a miracle would occur, or that someone had made a mistake, and that I would hear her cry any minute, but seven of us were in that room that day, and there was nothing but silence. My worst fears were confirmed when I looked upon her face and her lips were a dark ruby red and I knew that she was not going to wake up, not now, not ever.

At one stage, I couldn’t even look into this room because it was such a painful reminder and that feeling lasted a really long time, as I remembered it as ‘her‘ room, with her cot and her clothes and everything I bought for her before she was born. Having multiple people staying in this room since she died distracted me from this fact. It feels really weird for me to say that this is my happy space now, where I can be creative, feel closer to my daughter and unleash my true potential. This doesn’t make it any easier that she is not here with us anymore, or to get through her birthday without tears, but I appreciate my opportunity to share my experience with you all.

Some people say that you don’t get many memories when your baby is stillborn, but I have to say that I actually have nine months- worth of memories and they are probably some of the strongest memories that I will ever have and they will stay with me forever.

What I am grateful for is the people that have come into my life because of Willow. I have developed a special connection with some amazing people and I really appreciate those people, especially from my Ink and Paper healing group in the early days, and the lovely regulars that attend my SANDS group now. My warrior friends. They are the most amazing people that you will ever meet. Even under the worst of circumstances and even though we have all joined a club that we never wanted to be part of, the support and love that has been shown to each other is just so overwhelming, it has been so amazing to be part of this, so thank you so much for that. My friends and family that have supported me before, and after, Willow are also very much appreciated. They sent me cards, roses, messages, care packages, books signed by authors with personal messages for me and even Willow seeds to plant. Some newer friends have supported my business one way or another and that has been so wonderful. I could not imagine more loving and giving friends.

It is too late when you die to do all the things that you wish you could have done and our time is limited. I encourage you to do them now, as much as you are able to. So today, I am going follow my own advice and do some stuff that I never make time for, in honour of my daughter.

Wishing you all peace and love in the months ahead.

Until next time, in the world of Willow’s Wonder, take care and keep clean!

Tina xxx

Please don’t leave a plastic footprint on mother earth.

Eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, killing and harming marine life. Apparently plastic particles have recently been found inside our shellfish and even in our rain! Its a scary thought that we might be causing irreversible damage to our environment.

Here at Willow’s Wonder we are always trying to improve our impact on the environment and look for ways to nurture our mother earth. We are supporting Sky Ocean Rescue’s #PassOnPlastic campaign to help reduce the plastic pollution crisis that’s choking our seas – and you can also help.

One way of helping is by purchasing hand made skin and hair care products that are not packaged with plastic; soaps, shampoo and conditioner bars, lotion bars etc. Check out our handmade soaps here. We only reuse plastic packaging that we have received via our suppliers, we never purchase it ourselves.

Some other tips for reducing your plastic footprint include:

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
  1. Use a coffee ‘keep’ cup each time you buy a take away. Only roughly 1% of disposable coffee cups are recycled, ending up in our landfill for the next fifty years. Many coffee shops will offer a discount if you use your own cup and there are lots of environmentally friendly options out there.
  2. Say no to plastic straws and cutlery. Some of these can take up to 200 years to break down. Use a paper straw or just drink from the cup!
  3. Don’t use cling wrap, we are reusing takeaway containers we already have to store and freeze leftovers.
  4. Use loose leaf tea with a tea strainer instead of teabags that are sealed with plastic. Disposing of teabags ultimately leads to microplastics entering our waterways and eventually our food chain. A few companies are now introducing biodegradable teabags and we hope other brands will soon follow.
  5. Did you know that chewing gum is also made out of plastic? Hard to believe but true.
  6. Glitter is made from tiny particles of plastic that are extremely damaging to our oceans. This microplastic can eventually end up in our food chain as our shellfish can ingest it. But don’t worry, you can still get your sparkle on guilt-free! There are many ranges of eco-friendly, and biodegradable glitters available now.

Reduce, reuse and recycle.

Until next time in the world of Willow’s Wonder,

Stay clean,

Tina x

Why you should use handmade soap instead of store bought.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I bet the store bought soap that you are using has some of the following ingredients (go on, check!);

  1. Sodium lauroyl Isethionate (synthetic detergent)
  2. Palmitate and Sodium Palm Kernelate (made from Palm Oil or Palm Kernel Oil)
  3. Sodium Tallowate (rendered from animal fat)
  4. Cocomidopropyl Betaine (synthetic surfactant)
  5. EDTA’s (synthetic preservative)
  6. Fragrance or Fragrance Oil (synthetic scent)

So what does synthetic mean?

The Cambridge English dictionary defines synthetic as products made from artificial substances, often copying a natural product.

The ingredients used in synthetic fragrances are man-made (they are not naturally occurring substances). Synthetic aromatic raw materials have either been chemically created (mostly from petroleum or mineral oils), or started as natural and have had their chemical structure modified. Synthetic fragrances are really popular as they are cheap and have a consistent scent.

I have been tempted to use fragrance oils instead of essential oils in my soaps so that I could produce each bar at a lower cost and sell it at a lower cost to compete with store bought prices. I thought it would even help to expand my range (you can’t get a salted caramel essential oil or a pina colada essential oil, for example, because it doesn’t occur in our natural world. They are man-made scents).

Some people don’t mind using synthetic ingredients and that is fine but sometimes we don’t realise just how many there are in our products.

What about Palm Oil? What is wrong with that? Its natural isn’t it?

Yes it is, but Palm Oil is one of the cheapest and most widely used oils in the world. The industry is linked to major issues such as deforestationhabitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. If you use or make products with Palm Oil, make sure it is sustainable.

Then there is Tallow, so… if you are a vegan or supportive of animal rights, this one may be important ingredient for you to consider and could be a deal breaker. I know that Tallow has been used for, well, ‘forever’ in making soaps and I think that making use of all parts of an animal that is already dead and not leaving any to be wasted is a positive and respectful thing, especially if you are rending the fat from the animal yourself, in a self sufficient farming situation, for example, but I understand that some people are uncomfortable with this ingredient.

The soaps that I hand make at Willow’s Wonder are regularly made with organic virgin, cold pressed Coconut oil, Deluxe Shea butter (Grade A, 100% pure certified organic and fair trade practices), Olive Oil and certified organic Castor Oil. I also use natural occurring Mica’s and other organic colours such as Activated Charcoal, clays, Cocoa powder, coffees and teas etc. Sometimes I add other ingredients such as milks and yogurt, seeds, oatmeal, and dried flowers. I do not use any of the synthetic ingredients mentioned earlier.

Finally, I encourage you to buy and use handmade because you know your money is going directly to a small business owner trying to support their family and not a millionaire CEO of a massive company waiting to get his next Porsche.

Until next time in the world of Willows Wonder.

Stay clean,

  • Tina x

The Cure!

This blog post is all about The Cure! Not the Robert Smith kind (that my goth high school friends adored) but the soaping kind of cure.

Why do we need to wait for soap to cure before using it?

Well, one reason that we have to wait for the soap to cure is that the water needs to evaporate out of the bar so that it hardens up properly.  A well cured bar of soap will be harder, lather better and last longer. A bar of soap that is not cured properly will most likely turn into a mushy mess in your hand and disentegrate after a few uses and aint nobody like washin themself with a mushy mess!

My Soap Curing Rack

So how long do you have to wait?

Well, that depends if your soap has been hot processed (cooked) or cold processed (not cooked). Hot processed soap is best used after curing for 1-3 weeks because the cooking process speeds up the saponification process but cold processed soap needs to cure for 3-6 weeks ideally. Soaps like ours at Willow’s Wonder with a high percentage of olive oil will benefit from an even longer cure. The cure time also gives your soap time to finish off the saponification process so that there is no more lye left in the soap. Letting it cure for several months will actually produce a better, milder soap with a really rich lather.

When curing your soap it should be stored in a cool, dry, well ventilated area. It will be worth the wait, I guarantee it!

Until next time, it whats new in the world of Willow’s Wonder,

Tina x

I want to talk to you about Willow

Not Willow our daughter, who was stillborn at full term three years ago, the inspiration for me starting this business. Not now, I will talk to you about her another time.

This time I want to focus on talking to you about a different Willow, specifically White Willow Bark, our signature ingredient in our products.

whitewillow

White Willow bark is obviously from the Willow tree, it acts a lot like asprin and can be taken internally to reduce pain and inflamation, including muscle aches, headache, period pain, arthritis and so on. Back in the ‘olden days’ (as my son refers to it) they used to chew on the bark for pain relief!

Willow bark extract can be found as an ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products due to its astringent, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties. It contains salicylic acid (derived from salicin), a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) that is a natural exfoliant used in several acne treatments because it can help skin shed dead cells while clearing pores. White willow bark helps to exfoliate your skin by sloughing off dead skin cells, making way for fresh, bright and radiant skin.

White willow bark is also anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal. It helps reduce redness and inflammation, and encourages healing. It works best in an acidic environment so it’s great added to apple cider vinegar, witch hazel and essential oil(s) of choice (anti-acne choices include tea tree, lavender, benzoin, and black pepper) for a natural anti-blemish toner.

Willow and LavenderThis is our Willow and Lavender Soap and it looks and smells fabulous! Now you know about all the great benefits of our signature ingredient.

If you have a favourite soap you would like me to make, please let me know!

So until next time in whats new in the world of Willow’s Wonder,

Tina.

 

Zen and the art of soaping.

Hi fellow Wonderers!

Sorry for the delay with the updates but I was extremely busy and possibly over- committed to a number of different volunteer positions I had. I have now stepped down from those, leaving me with a bit more time to focus on Willow’s Wonder! Yay, finally!

I established Willow’s Wonder almost two years ago in memory of our daughter Willow, who was stillborn at full term three years ago. Eight months ago I took my business to the next level and made the bold, brave step into the final frontier. I performed my first saponification using lye and survived without causing any explosions! Since then, I’ve made every soaping mistake in the book as I’ve been experimenting with making different soaps and trying out different soaping methods. I finally feel like I am making progress and getting close the perfect combinations. I have had some total disasters including acceleration, seizing, partial gelling, scent fading, air bubbles, discolouration and even ended up with soaps that look like men in tight speedos! Oh dear! Not to mention the huge mess that I have left for my family to endure afterwards! If you know The muppets Swedish Chef, you will know my style lol.  Luckily most of these mistakes were purely cosmetic and did not affect the use of the soap.

I’ve watched about five thousand YouTube videos to improve my knowledge and skills in the soap making process but still feel like I’ve got so much to learn. Our soaps are selling quicker that I can make them and because each batch is unique and handmade with love, they are constantly changing and evolving. No one soap is exactly the same, just like us! My aim is to create luxury, hand-crafted products that you can be proud to give to loved ones, display in your home, and use on your skin. My latest projects include Choc Orange Soap, Lemongrass (from our garden) Soap and Organic Chocolate Coffee Scrubby Soap (great for cellulite apparently – I’m still waiting for my miracle to occur). I am really looking forward to creating my first Christmas themes tomorrow!

We are dedicated to offering you a superior product at a reasonable price, concentrating on the details and consistency.

So thank you for being here. Thanks for browsing our products, believing in our company, and supporting our family! We wouldn’t be here without you and we are so grateful for you being in our lives!

Until next time, of what’s new in the world of Willow’s Wonder!

Take care,

Tina x

What is jojoba oil and what is it good for?

olive-oil-greek-oil-olive-53502.jpegWhen I started creating skin care formulations, I wanted to perfect the skin care range for aging and sun damaged skin, but also combat hormonal eruptions and blemishes at the same time (this is no easy task because what is good for aging skin is not necessarily good for blemish prone skin). I have always had very oily skin, which is great in some ways, it makes you look younger than you are, and you don’t need tons of expensive moisturisers! On the downside, I was plagued with pimples, acne and oil slickiness for most of my life! Especially in the humid weather where I live.

When I heard people mentioning the use of oils in their skin care regime, I was aghast! I could hardly think of anything worse than adding extra oil to my face! It made my skin crawl (no pun intended). Adding oils to an oily face sounds, well it sounds a bit too oily right?

This is where Jojoba Oil comes in. Jojoba (pronounced hohoba) is actually a liquid wax! The golden yellow, lightly scented oil is pressed from the seeds of the desert plant Simmondsia chinensis (and you thought jojoba was hard to pronounce!). This oil has a balancing effect on all types of skin. It is commonly used as a carrier oil because of its long shelf life. Jojoba is very similar to sebum (the natural moisturiser produced by our bodies) and gives skin its smooth silky texture. It has a moisturising effect as well as anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it is great for aging skin and also for healing any blemishes, acne or infections (including eczema, psoriasis and inflamed skin). It’s also great for your hair too, perfecto!

So now, my friends, jojoba, has become part of my daily routine! I encourage you to give it a try.

Until next time, of what’s new in the world of Willow’s Wonder!

Take care,

Tina

References:

Sade, D. (2017) The Aromatherapy Beauty Guide: Using the science of carrier & essential oils to create natural personal care products (p.69). Robert Rose Inc, Canada.

Purchon, N. (1999) Nerys Purchon’s Handbook of Aromatherapy (pp.92-93). Griffen Press, Adelaide.

Welcome to Willow’s Wonder!

WWLogo

An exciting update in the world of Willow’s Wonder! As you know, I have been running my business over the past 12 months selling arbonne products which is a beautiful swiss skin care range full of soothing botanicals. I attended alot of training and workshops during this time and got a great education about skin and overall health which has been wonderful.

I will remain an Arbonne consultant and will continue using some of the products myself as they truly are amazing. However, the marketing rules can be a bit restrictive and after all the education I have received, I have embarked on the epic adventure of creating my own natural formulations in my own artisan skin care lab (homemade 🙂.

I have pored over hundreds of books and articles on natural skin and hair care into the wee hours 😴😴😴neglecting all my other duties (don’t worry mum, my son is still alive).

I’m excited to announce that my own skin and hair care range will be launching in the next few weeks and is currently in the testing phase – if you would like a sample to try (to provide me with feedback) please let me know. I will post some sneak peeks soon.

I have launched a separate FB business page for this https://www.facebook.com/Willowswonder/ and it would be really lovely if you would join me there. I will be posting alot of polls to get some opinions on how to make my customers happy so it will be really helpful for me if you join in (no, you won’t have to buy anything). I hope life is treating you kind. 💜💜💜

Tina

This Christmas I gave you my heart ❣

What is Christmas all about?

Some say Christmas is all about religion, but that is not for me.

Some say gratitude, it’s hard to feel grateful when you are hurting.

Is it about Unity? It’s hard to feel connected when you feel alone.

Or highlights from the previous year? I lost my job three times, does that count?

Is Christmas about the joy of giving? Giving time, giving thoughts, giving a helping hand, giving gifts, giving donations, giving love?

Perhaps.

I’ve seen some people who think that Christmas is all about what you might get for yourself and greedily snatching for the next present.

Some people hate Christmas and this time of year because of its commercial nature and focus on “buying” things, I get that, but I am no Christmas Grinch.

When I was very young, our family didn’t have a lot of money. We had survived through domestic violence, mental illness, separation and divorce, all by the time I had turned five years old.

We were not a broken family, we were a resilient family.

When I look back, Christmas was one of my favourite times of the year. Starting with summer school holidays and beach days in the sun, my mother spread the excitement and magic of Santa Claus in the weeks leading up to Christmas day by decorating the house complete with scenes of reindeers, and sleighs filled with presents, and the house filled with sounds of old school Christmas songs. Red and green cordial and chocolate covered nuts were placed on the Christmas themed table- cloth. The twinkling lights on the Christmas tree reflecting on the television screen while a Christmas movie played, and the growing pile of Christmas presents under the tree brought such a sweet feeling of happiness for me every year.

I swear I could hear those Christmas sleigh bells as clear as day, in the night sky, on Christmas Eve.

We had a very large extended family and Christmas day gatherings might involve one hundred family members, with tables overflowing with lovingly prepared food. The dishes had taken days to prepare and my mouth would water at the sight of them, especially the roast pork crackle. Special dishes that we would never really have throughout the year were served in abundance. My sister especially loved my Grandmother’s trifle pudding spiked with Brandy. The smorgasboard was laid out and we all took turns helping ourselves, most of us went for seconds and thirds, it was so delicious!

All of my grandparents were alive in those days and they managed to bring most of the family together to celebrate on that day, whether they liked each other or not. This was no easy task, with my mother having ten brothers and sisters and all of my cousins as well, it was a huge event. It was such a festive occasion, the biggest party of the year for our family, complete with party hats, music and bon bons. Besides funerals, and an occasional family reunion, this was the only day of the year that most of us would see each other.

I remember being ecstatic about getting a rag doll from my Grandmother, a bike from my Father and a gold watch from my Uncle and Aunt and watching my little sister’s face light up as she excitedly unwrapped her presents on Christmas morning. It’s amazing though, after forty years, most of the time you can’t remember who gave you what, you only really remember how you felt, and who was kind to you.

As I got older, the magic of Santa was lost. Christmas became more about time to spend with family, and after finishing school and going off to university, it became even more important to me to maintain those connections.

When my son was born, many years later, the magic of Santa and Christmas returned as my son got old enough to understand the excitement of it all. I continued some of the traditions from my family and added some of my own. I always wanted my mother to be there to re-experience the magic of Christmas again, through my son.

Christmas used to represent all these things for me.

I didn’t want to let go of them.

These days, our family live far apart and for many reasons sometimes decide not to make the long trip to spend Christmas day together. My son is getting older now and will finish primary school this Christmas and with this, the magic and excitement of Santa leaves again.

We should have our daughter, Willow, with us this Christmas, who would have been two this year and we probably would have been re-experiencing all the magic again through her, but this is not to be. Christmas last year and the year before was very hard for me. It is not the same now, nor will it ever be the same. Especially when you wish people were with you but they are not.

We don’t know when we are going to run out of time to tell our family and friends that we are thankful for them being in our lives. For the memories they helped create and the kindness they have shown over the years. We often hold onto the bad memories and sometimes we find it hard to forgive.

So what is Christmas all about? Forgiveness? Hope? Gratitude? Giving? Remembering? Unity? Family?

I wonder if it’s a little bit of all of these things and maybe as you change, and as your family changes, the meaning of Christmas changes with you?

This year I’m going to be letting go of my wish for things to be as they used to be and to try to focus more on how they are. This year our family will be doing something completely different for Christmas, but that is a different story to tell.

This Christmas I’m hopeful for new beginnings and new traditions but I am also going back to my roots, who I really am, and who I want to be.

This year I will be remembering all the good things people have done for me and all the great memories they helped me to create.

I will be connected to you all and feeling grateful for that.

What do you think Christmas is all about?