This year has seen some beautiful moments and some heartbreaking ones for all of us. We have all had to face new challenges that we have never had to deal with before. My heart goes out to every family who has lost someone dear. My heart has been filled by the large numbers of people who have been willing to take a risk to protect our more vulnerable citizens. Thank you all for that.
This year our family bought 140 acres of land at Woodside, the northern end of the New England tablelands, in New South Wales just below the Queensland border. Tenterfield is the closest town with shops, about a 20-minute drive away, and has a population of around 4000 people. The town is on the north-western stretch of the Northern Tablelands plateau, a spur of the Great Dividing Range, and is nestled in a valley beneath Mount Mackenzie (1,287m elevation), one of the highest points along the Northern Tablelands. In spite of being a tiny town, Tenterfield has quite a number of boutique, interesting and quirky stores which are really quite fascinating to browse through, some great café’s and the town is also surrounded by beautiful national parks.
I have been told that the Tenterfield Shire was first inhabited by the Jukembal (Yukambul) people with their territory straddling the Great Dividing Range from near Glen Innes to Stanthorpe. According to the local council, the name Jukembal means “the people who say “jogom” (jogom meaning no). The Jukembal Aborigines reputedly called the area “Moombillen’, meaning ‘place of wild honey’.
Woodside has a subtropical highland climate, with cold, frosty winters and moderately hot, wet summers. Temperatures below freezing in winter is common as are light to moderate snowfalls during severe winters.
We bought our property back in August 2021 thanks to our wonderful broker, Malinda Sherrard at Regional Finance Solutions, but we weren’t able to get back to the property until the following Summer due to the Covid border closures.
On our first night on our property in December 2021, our 9-month-old Labrador, Koko, ate some wild dog bait that had been on the property and she died suddenly which was quite traumatic for the whole family. It was a very stressful start.
We returned a couple of weeks later and had our first Christmas on our property. My mum, my sister and my niece joined our family and we spent a few weeks of our summer holidays camping there. At the moment, it is a full on, off-grid hippie’s dream. We are very much used to isolated and off grid camping but this is different because it is all ours!
We are currently camping in, and around, a shed with a dirt floor. Definitely not glamping but at least we are protected by the storms. We are using solar power but when the thick storm clouds engulf the valley on a daily basis we need to resort to the generator for some power. We have a small rainwater tank that we use for showering and at the moment we are using a portable camping toilet but we are saving for a proper toilet system and will hopefully have something better soon! With the huge winds that come through every day, and the constant aggravating noise of the generator, we think a wind turbine for generating power will be on the list of things to install as soon as possible as well.
On our property are two old chimneys that look like they were part of an old homestead in days gone by, so far we haven’t been able to discover much history about it, except that a lady called Catherine (born O’Neill, formerly O’Keefe) Heffernan originally from Ireland bought the property in 1901 for a few pounds and she died in 1947 in Glen Innes. She had 12 children with her two different husbands. Paul has been cleaning up the area and digging around, finding old artefacts, and pretending to be an archaeologist.
The majority of this trip was spent on removing rocks, weeds, sticks, skulls, logs and long grass around the shed, chimneys and creek. Besides the skulls that now hang on the fence posts (like possible Satan worshippers live here) it scrubbed up alright. We even had an outdoor cinema event for Christmas Eve with a movie, some popcorn and a hot chocolate on outdoor couches with the fire behind us to keep us warm.
We found out that our creek water can dry up completely in a matter of three weeks! We saw a red belly black snake down by the creek, wild goat on the mountain, gecko’s, spiders, birds, eagles, kangaroos and wallaby’s, our neighbour’s sheep and cows came for a visit too. We made a home there for one of our native beehives as well.
While I was visiting town, I met with the lovely ladies on the Board of Make It Tenterfield and told them about my handmade soaps. We bought some amazing jam there, handmade with local ingredients. They were so welcoming and friendly that it made us instantly feel a part of this small community. They have an awesome selection of locally produced and handmade gifts to support small businesses in the local community, something that I am very passionate about and I look forward to supporting them more in the future.
When New Year’s Eve rolled around, we went for a drive to introduce ourselves to our neighbours who live a few kilometres away. We sat down and had a few drinks and a good yarn with them, it is nice to know they are there and ultimately share the same passionate dream of escaping to the country and getting away from it all, as we do. We all shared some funny stories, like how my sister slept (or rather didn’t sleep) in the tent the night after I told her about the Tenterfield Yowie and the lion’s den up in the mountain ridge behind us! We also shared some of our hopes and dreams for our new properties. I also shared one of my soaps for them to try out since they were showering in ‘frog water’. One had said how he had thrown his TV out and didn’t carry a phone, how refreshing!
Sometimes when I sit here and look about the vast Australian countryside and think to myself that we now own the land almost as far as our eyes can see, it makes me feel so nolstagic, and also hopeful for our future, we are finally on the road to living a more self-sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle, away from all the hustle and bustle of city life, people and traffic. It can feel incredibly empowering to know that small steps can make a difference to the environmental footprint that we all leave behind.
I am especially looking forward to getting a good composting system going for some organic fruit and veggies and one day when we are here full time getting our chooks here and some milking goats for my soaps.
The sound of the rain falling on the tin roof, the birds chirping at the crack of dawn, the gorgeous sunsets over the ridge, the wildlife, trees and mountains as far as the eye can see, the fire crackling and giving warmth on cold days, the sunburn, the icy cold winds at night….It has been a very special time for us and something we have worked hard for, for over ten years now. At times, we were both holding down three jobs each! We missed out on a lot during that time to get this special place. We had to be frugal. The road ahead will be very hard work, with so many projects on our ‘to do’ list it can seem quite overwhelming at times, but just one thing at a time, one day at a time, one step at a time, toward a simpler life.
We are still deciding on a name for our property. What do you think it should be?
WE WOULD LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRADITIONAL CUSTODIANS OF THIS LAND AND WOULD ALSO LIKE TO PAY RESPECT TO THE ELDERS PAST, PRESENT AND EMERGING OF THE JUKEMBAL, KAMILAROI AND BUNDJALUNG NATIONS AND EXTEND THAT RESPECT TO OTHER ABORIGINAL PEOPLE.
When Willow’s Wonder was launched, we were aiming for an eco-friendly, cruelty free product that was kind to the skin and as natural as possible and we think we have done that rather well! We recently received a custom order for 30 soaps for a birthday party requesting a Pina Colada scent. I had to explain to the customer that this scent wasn’t possible in our soap as we only use essential oils. So why do we use essential oils rather than fragrance oils? Lets see…
Put simply, an essential oil is a compound that has been extracted from plants, and one that has captured that plant’s essence – the flavour or scent. We get essential oils through a process of distillation or through cold pressing. Once extracted, they’re combined with a carrier oil and are then ready to use.
Fragrance oils are synthetic – artificially created from chemical compounds that do not occur naturally, such as salted caramel. Fragrance oils are usually created to last a lot longer than essential oils and are usually classed as either Synthetic fragrance oils or Natural fragrance oils- the latter being somewhat misleading to say the least!
We do acknowledge that some natural ingredients may still cause reactions in a few people (allergens do occur naturally in plant essential oils and can cause irritation in some circumstances). For this reason we have created an un-scented range for people with sensitive skin – for example, the dreamy and creamy and the honey, oats and goats soaps.
While both essential and fragrance oils have their uses, and even though it costs us substantially more to use them, we stand firm in our belief that only essential oils should be used in our soap. Fragrance oils are designed to mimic a scent and most do this very well but they might also bring with it a range of nasty side affects such as skin irritation or hormone disruption.
Willow’s Wonder soaps contain only premium essential oils that are carefully sourced from around the world using only the most delicate extraction methods to preserve the unique signatures of the plant. So for this reason, we feel that we are delivering you a far superior product. The lather and mildness of soap actually increases with age, and soap can last in storage for 2-3 years but in terms of the scent fading, we recommend using the soap within 6-8 months.
We have lavender, ylang ylang, patchouli, lemongrass, lemon myrtle, tea tree, orange, ginger, cinnamon, clove, spruce, frankincense, rosemary, rose and many more essential oil soaps to choose from. Check out our shop here!
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.
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!
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:
Reduce, reuse and recycle.
Until next time in the world of Willow’s Wonder,
I bet the store bought soap that you are using has some of the following ingredients (go on, check!);
So what does synthetic mean?
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 deforestation, habitat 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.
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!
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,
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.
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.
This 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,
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!
When 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!
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.
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. 💜💜💜