The benefits of participating in art and it’s FREE!

Introduction to my series of art for fun workshop.

The therapeutic value of art is well documented. Many people all over the world are suffering from stress, depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties.

Finding myself in a second lockdown I feel blessed as an artist that I can fill my time with drawing and painting. I put my hand up and admit to having mental health problems. Which could have been aggravated by being in lockdown.

In a previous post I talked about my traumatic background and how it has left me with mental problems, including PTSD.

I’m aware that this pandemic has had a heavy toll on people’s mental health for a variety of reasons. So I’ve decided to offer weekly free art workshops from my Facebook page.

Art is great for relaxation, for mindfulness and allowing self expression. I know there are lots of art workshops on line. How is mine different? Well most importantly I want to introduce people to the fact that art can be fun and you don’t need any skill, just a desire to create.

I won’t be teaching complicated techniques, people can learn those else where. I’ll be focusing on easy fun ways to create. No previous knowledge needed.

The other way my workshops are different us that this series is free. In these troubling times many are struggling financially so I ask nothing in return.

I hope you join me, if not live then access the recording. Please check out my page Oak Leaf Arts on Facebook for details.

Kindness prevailes.

What has really struck me during this time of crisis, is the human capacity for kindness.

Ok I know some have behaved appallingly but I don’t want to look at that, there’s too much scary stuff already, filling our newspapers and TV’s. I want to focus on the positive.

In my village people have got together and organised a neighbourhood a group of helpers to support those in our community who need extra support. You can get your dog walked, shopping done and delivered or calls made to the isolated. It happened literally as soon as the self isolation was advised for those in the at risk group. People have shared cooked meals with the vulnerable by delivering them to their home, and various other kindnesses.

I’ve heard of other schemes in other towns and villages. How amazing is that! People giving of their time to help others. So remember that kindness counts and even something small can make a huge difference to someone, If you’re not at risk why not help someone who is?

Kindness can shine a light into the darkest times. So be kind ❤️

Signs of spring!

Well, today I’ve been thinking about spring and what it means to me. It’s one of my favourite seasons, all that new growth and blossoming of colour, after the greyness of the long dark days of winter. Don’t get me wrong, winter has its own beauty, and nature needs that time to rest and sleep, so that it can burst forth into life in spring.

In previous years, I’d happily explore the woods and river bank, looking for those first signs of spring, the Celandine is always early. A beautiful little plant that grows around here in profusion. Next comes the Wild Violet, predominantly purple in colour but occasionally seen in white. In late Spring, I used to hear the call of the Cuckoo, so rare now, but we’ve always had them here, such a privilege.

It’s different this Spring, as my world has shrunk to the relatively small confines of my home and garden. No more ramblings for me. At first this made me sad, but I reminded myself of all the people who are trapped all over the world, quite often in very small apartments. I’m lucky enough to live in a house and have a lovely garden round which I can walk and still experience the beauty of growing things. I find comfort in that and a reminder to count my blessings.

When you feel you just can’t stand it anymore!

At the moment we are all being forced into confinement in our homes. Partners, children etc who we don’t see all day everyday are suddenly there all the time. Our governments are asking us to do this to stay safe, but it comes with a price.

Cooped up tempers can quickly fray, arguments flare up, irritations develop. Children at this time may be fractious as they’re bored and or frightened. Families and partners may find themselves arguing more. Before beating yourself up about it, give yourself permission to be kind to yourself. You’re human, this is a scary time, you’re having to adjust to a life of confinement.

Being kind is not just a tag or a strap line, it’s real. They say ‘kindness begins at home’ but I think much more, that kindness begins with you. When stressed and angry, close your eyes and take a deep breath and just acknowledge that you’re doing ok in extraordinary circumstances.

In that moment of being kind to yourself, remind yourself that you make mistakes, and so do others. remind yourself that your kids, your partner, family are not the enemy here. You’re in this together, trying the best you can. Release those negative feelings, they only lead to conflict. And be kind to yourself and to others.

A crisis brings out the worst and the best in people – we have a choice!

Well a couple of days ago I got a text from the NHS telling me that I’m classed as very high risk and must not go out. Very scary as I’m not ready to go yet! At this time I’m reminding myself every day of the things I’m grateful for. I’m so lucky to have a garden that I can walk round and watch things grow. There are others cooped up in flats and that must be so much worse!

I think during these times focusing on what is positive is so important, not thinking about what we can’t do but on what we can. What’s really struck me during this pandemic is how little possessions matter, compared to a life. No matter how many material possessions and money you have, at this time that doesn’t really matter.

We’re all in this together, rich or poor. So what’s important is that we choose to let this situation bring out the best in us and not our worst! We have a choice, we can panic buy, we can hoard, we can unscrupulously make money out of peoples fear or we can do what we can to keep ourselves and everyone safe, if we’re in a position to do so, we can help others out, or help just by staying home!

Stay home, stay safe, stay well ❤️

Ramblings from the Nook by my friend Timbo

Thoughts For The Day ~ Transformation

In some ways I kind of remember my father with this, he always said he wanted to come back as a butterfly when he was dying. You can’t help but mark them out after the event and even if I thought they were beautiful before he died, I loved them even more after he sadly passed away.

They go through phases like we do, but for them they are an egg, they’re born and become a caterpillar they eat and grow enough to change again into a chrysalis to metamorphosis, their inward quiet time of transformation) into a vulnerable butterfly that wants to feel the full heat of the sun to warm themselves, before finally having a beautiful but in the grand scheme of things shortish life enjoying what it does before completing it’s circle of life by laying it’s eggs.

One thing my father taught me though was to live life to my own ideals. He lived his working life by what people told him to do (namely his mum) especially his younger years and became a draughtsman which he actually hated and often told me in later life but especially towards the end that he’d wanted a simpler life, something like a Park Ranger but his time was done.

He’d realised too late that to truly live a life you had to give yourself the tools of love, self respect, and belief in yourself along with a bloody great big pair of scissors to cut away what was holding you in place behind you. Some if not all of that is changing the mentality to believe you can achieve anything. Now there is something I would add that there is just as beautiful (to my mind anyway) a creature to a butterfly and that’s a moth. These may be dowdy by comparison but they have their purpose. The moth doesn’t need the richness of colour to be as beautiful as he or she can be because they too are happy in their skin but their one weakness is the dazzling light as it draws them in. We see it all the time when a light is put on at night and a window is open. Nobody knows why they do it, but my guess is it messes with their heads, the brightness is too much. I draw the analogy that the moth represents everything that would want you to be normal, to fit in with society, in effect to live a life of mundanity that’s ok and no shame on the moth because you still love them.

But the butterfly shows you what you can be, what you can do by believing in yourself, and while you still have your vulnerable times is life’s purpose truly not in the continuous transformation we can make if we just choose to believe in ourselves. That is what the butterfly does….it leads by example, it lives and has a whale of a time before it then passes away. But in that short time what a difference it makes.

Live your life how you choose, but remember we always have the choice.

In love and light be guided.

©Timbo March 2020

The benefits of Lavender Essential Oil.

Lavender (French) essential oil has a fresh, sweet, herbaceous, floral aroma. Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils and is widely used within aromatherapy for its calming, relaxing and skin-soothing properties.

Lavender (French) essential oil can be used to treat a plethora of physical and emotional conditions. It is a calming, relaxing and balancing essential oil which is useful for treating stress, anxiety and mood swings. It is also ideal for use before bed to help with night time awakenings and insomnia.

Lavender (French) essential oil has long been known for its beneficial effect on the immune system and its antiseptic, skin-healing and pain-relieving properties. Lavender oil has a restorative, tonic effect and is a popular aromatherapy oil for relieving head tension. It is also commonly used within therapeutic blends to soothe the joints and muscles. This versatile oil is prized for its fragrance and is a popular ingredient in many perfumes and cosmetic products.

I use Lavender Essential Oil in a number of my products because of its wonderful properties.

Species: Lavandula angustifolia

Plant family: Lamiaceae

Origin: France

Extraction Method: Steam Distilled

Lavender (French) Essential Oil is distilled from the blue, flowering spikes of the lavender shrub. The plant is widely cultivated in Europe and a hybrid called Lavendin grows wild in the Mediterranean area. The lavender plant has been used in medicine since ancient times, and was first introduced to England by the Romans. The name Lavender actually comes from the Roman word “lavera”, meaning to cleanse, as they used it frequently in their bathing rituals.


Lavender (French) Essential Oil has antiseptic properties and is soothing and nurturing for the skin. It helps to tone and revitalise the skin and can be helpful for a range of skin problems including acne, oily skin, dandruff, burns, wounds, insect bites and stings. It is also an effective insect repellent


Lavender has a soothing and calming effect on the nerves. It can be beneficial for treating stress, anxiety, depression, nervous tension and insomnia. Use it in a diffuser to help you relax.


Lavender oil has pain-relieving properties that can be beneficial for headaches, muscular aches and pains (particularly when associated with sport), rheumatism and arthritis. The oil’s antiviral properties can also be helpful for colds and flu.

Never use essential oils undiluted directly on skin.

Chemicals found in skincare that you may not know about.


Do you know what’s in your face and body products? Did you know they contain harmful chemicals? Want to know more? Then read on.

Your skin is a living and breathing thing, so do you want to expose it to harmful creams etc? In my case the answer is a resounding NO!

In the next few days I’ll be posting each day about one of the harmful chemicals found in personal products to help you be informed.

1. Diethanolamine (DEA)

Diethanolamine (DEA) is a common wetting agent used in shampoos, skin care and cosmetics.

It creates a rich lather in shampoos and produces a nice consistency in skin care.

On its own, it is harmless, but when combined with other ingredients in a shampoo, cream or lotion, it reacts to produce nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), an extremely carcinogenic compound which can easily be absorbed through the skin.

It has been linked to stomach, bladder and intestinal cancers.

Avoid products with these ingredients:

Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine

DEA Lauryl Sulfate or Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate

Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolamine

Linoleamide DEA or Linoleamide Diethanolamine

Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolamine

Any product containing TEA or Triethanolamine

2. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

PEG isn’t a single ingredient but a class of ethylene glycol polymers that moisturize. This ingredients is most commonly used to keep products stable, and enhance the penetration of other ingredients. The trouble with PEG, is that in itself it is not too offensive (some studies claim mild skin irritation) but it is that it increases the absorption of whatever else is in the product – which could include any number of nasty chemicals.

3. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is becoming increasingly popular as a preservative to replace parabens. It prolongs the shelf life of skin care products etc. Researchers say the early test tube evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to MIT, or exposure to the chemical at high concentrations, could damage the nervous system as well as cause skin irritation.

Although it can be used alone, methylchloroisothiazolinone is often used with methylisothiazolinone (MI). Read the ingredients list on the product label and look for any of the following:

  • 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
  • 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one hydrochloride
  • 5-chloro-2-methylisothiazolin-3-one
  • 5-chloro-N-methylisothiazolone
  • Kathon CG 5243
  • methylchloro-isothiazolinone
  • methylchloroisothiazolinone

4. Parabens

Parabens are widely used preservatives first introduced in the 1950’s that prevent the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast in cosmetic products so prolonging their shelf life. 

“Since 90 percent of common items found in grocery stores contain parabens, the concentration in our bloodstream adds up,” says Dr. Chesahna Kindred, a dermatologist at Howard University in Washington, D.C. And because most people regularly come into contact with parabens, consumers want to know if there are any health risks involved with using products that contain them. 

There has been a huge awareness in the last few years about these additives, and one of the ingredients you will be most familiar with on the list to avoid. But do you know why? Well, in essence, there has been research that suggests parabens possess oestrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer.

Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of looking for ‘CONTAINS PARABENS’ on the bottle. 

When it comes to studying the label of your fave skin care product, the names to look out for are butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben which are the most commonly found parabens.

Are parabens bad for the environment? 

Parabens aren’t just bad for humans, they impact the environment too. ‘A scientific study reported that parabens have been found for the first time in the bodies of marine mammals’. Researchers believe that it is likely these parabens come from products we use that are washed into the sewage system and released into the environment.

5. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate – SLS and SLES

The main use for SLS and SLES in products is to create lather. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen.

Should You Be Going Sulfate free?

What are sulfates?

Sulfate is a salt that forms when sulfuric acid reacts with another chemical and has formerly been used as an industrial degreaser. It’s a broader term for other synthetic sulfate-based chemicals you may be concerned about, such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). These compounds are produced from petroleum and plant sources such as coconut and palm oil and mostly found in your cleaning and personal care products.

Are there dangers to sulfate?

Sulfates derived from petroleum are often controversial due to their origin. The biggest concern is the long-term side effects of sulfate production. Petroleum products are associated with climate change, pollution, and greenhouse gases. Sulfates can also be found in some plant products.

Sulfate concerns:

• Health: SLS and SLES can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs, especially with long-term use. SLES may also be contaminated with a substance called 1,4-dioxane, which is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals. This contamination occurs during the manufacturing process.

• Environment: Palm oil is controversial due to the destruction of tropical rainforests for palm tree plantations. Products with sulfates that get washed down the drain may also be toxic to aquatic animals. Many people and manufacturers opt for more environmentally friendly alternatives.

• Testing on animals: Many products with sulfates are tested on animals to measure the level of irritation to people’s skin, lungs, and eyes. For this reason, many oppose using consumer products that contain SLS and SLES.

So there’s quite a strong case for ditching these chemicals. Is it so important to have lather and bubbles that we ignore the health and environmental risks? I really think it’s time we switched to natural personal care and skincare products that aren’t harming us or our world.

6. Mineral oil & Petroleum Jelly

Both are petroleum derivatives that coat the skin and prevent it from breathing, absorbing and excreting.

Potential side effects

• Allergies: Some people are more sensitive and can develop allergies if they use petroleum-derived products. Always keep an eye out for irritations and adverse reactions when using a new product.

• Infections: Not allowing the skin to dry or cleaning the skin properly before applying petroleum jelly can cause fungal or bacterial infections. A contaminated jar can also spread bacteria if you insert jelly vaginally.

• Aspiration risks: Check with your doctor before using petroleum jelly around the nose area, especially in children. Inhaling mineral oils may cause aspiration pneumonia.

• Clogged pores: Some people may break out when using petroleum jelly. Make sure you clean the skin properly before you apply the jelly to reduce the risk of breakouts.

Research published in Pediatrics in 2000 found that extremely-low-birth-weight infants treated with petroleum jelly were more likely to develop systemic candidiasis; it created a warm, moist place for fungi to grow. There are times when you want skin to breathe and petrolatum is an occlusive barrier, locking in moisture – but it does not allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmos­phere. For example, lip balms with petrolatum and other petrochemicals can be less moisturizing than those with emollients that enable moisture exchange.

Looking for an alternative to treat dry skin?

Try Shea Butter or Sunflower seed oil. None of my products contain petrolatum, including my lip balm which I’m excited to tell you is coming to my online shop in April!

Is there an environmental impact?

Petrolatum comes from crude oil, and as such is not a renewable resource. Of course, the volume of the ingredients in one jar of petroleum jelly or a bottle of body moisturizer doesn’t come close to that used to fuel cars or run fac­tories. Still, we have to bear in mind the environmental impact of petrolatum in cosmetics.

7. Imidazolidinyl Urea

Look at some of your usual shop bought cosmetics, like your makeup, skin care, or hair-care products, and you may find listed there the ingredient “urea.” Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it? Turns out that it’s not.

Used as a preservative and/or a moisturiser, urea can increase your risk for contact dermatitis, and has also been shown to release formaldehyde—a carcinogen.

It says it’s moisturising, but what ingredient is it using to actually moisturise?

What is urea?

You may have heard that urea comes from urine. In a way, that’s true. It is an organic, waste compound produced by the body after metabolizing protein. The liver breaks the proteins down in a process that produces urea. It is then excreted by the kidneys in the urine. It is also excreted through sweat, and regular healthy skin has a small amount of urea on the very outer layer.

Urea in cosmetics, however, is man-made in the laboratory. Same chemical formula, just synthetically made. The raw materials are ammonia and carbon dioxide. Not something you’d think you’d put on your skin, right?

Manufacturers like it, though, because it slows the loss of moisture from a product during use, helping to extend shelf-life. Urea also makes it easier to add certain ingredients to a formula, maintaining pH balance. It also slightly alters the skin’s structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, which can increase the effectiveness of certain products. Finally, it increases the moisture content in the top layers of skin, so after you use a product with urea in it, you’re likely to feel like your skin is soft and supple.

What products contain urea?

It can be found in a large number of products, including the following:

• Facial moisturisers

• Facial cleansers

• Anti-aging creams

• Body lotions

• Eye creams

• Foundations

• Shampoos & conditioners, styling mousses and foams

• Acne treatments

• After shave

• Lip balm/treatments

• Mascara

• Sunless tanning products

• Antiperspirants/deodorants

• Cuticle treatments

• Nail polishes

Why are people concerned about this ingredient?

There are three main concerns with this ingredient. They include:

• Releases formaldehyde: According to a study published in 2010, ureas can release formaldehyde, which has been classified as a human carcinogen. In addition, the test found a clear relationship between patch test reactions to formaldehyde-releasers like urea and contact allergy to formaldehyde.

• Can be irritating: it can cause skin and eye irritation, and prolonged exposure can cause reproductive effects.

• Tendency to cause allergic reactions: Whether related to its tendency to release formaldehyde or not, urea has a tendency to cause allergic reactions. Those with sensitive and infected skin are advised to steer clear of this ingredient. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology has established diazolidinyl urea as a primary cause of contact dermatitis.

How to avoid urea?

So why use ingredients on your skin that a) provide no benefit, and b) are potentially harmful? Though urea may be slightly moisturizing, there are far better and healthier moisturisers, such as honey, shea butter, aloe, and more. None of my products contain urea. You can easily find the name on product labels. Avoid anything that lists the following:

• Diazolidinyl urea

• Imidazolidinyl urea

• DMDM hydantoin

• Sodium hyroxymethylglycinate

The art of sleep……

Photo Amy Chen

Have you ever noticed how often our pets sleep? Their sleep seems effortless, they’ll sleep (if you’re lucky) on your lap, on the floor, on the sofa, outside on a warm day etc. You might, if you’re a bit like me and have problems with sleep, lie there, wide awake and ask yourself the question, ‘why can’t I sleep like that’?

The simple answer is that animals don’t worry like we do. That doesn’t mean in my opinion that they don’t feel, of course they do. They feel fear, hunger and pain, but they don’t ruminate. This seems to be (as far as we know) a human trait. We worry about the mortgage, our kids (if we have any), our job, money, the list is endless.

For those of us with mental health problems the difficulties with sleep can seem insurmountable, as we don’t just worry but worry excessively. PTSD amongst others can play havoc with sleep. One of the definitive symptoms is hyper vigilance, which in effect means that you’re on guard all the time. This makes for a very shallow type of sleep where you don’t end up fully rested. On top of that add nightmares linked to your memories and you have a toxic mix that can cause long term insomnia.

My Amber

Such was my experience, resulting in years of pacing the floor, trying not to wake my other half. My cat Amber would always accompany me, she’d lie on the sofa watching me until I decided to sit for a while, and then she’d fall asleep on my lap. There really is something very soothing about gently stroking a pet, feeling their fur and the gently rising and falling of their breathing, and so, I’d eventually doze off.

Ok it wasn’t the deepest of sleeps but it gave me some rest and comfort. My cat never complained about my night time wandering, she was happy to just be there with me until I was ready to sit with her and for us to fall asleep together.

I think we can learn a lot from our pets. They don’t worry about today or tomorrow. They live in the moment, they live mindfully. The practise of mindfulness has been shown to be helpful for our mental health. For those of us that live with mental health problems this can be very hard, but practise makes perfect.

There are lots of helpful books and articles on the practise of mindfulness which I won’t go into here, an internet search will help you find lots of information. It’s definitely worth following up.

What I would suggest is next time you are filled with worries, can’t sleep, watch how your dog or cat sleeps, the gentle in and out of breath. Submerge yourself in that moment where you first concentrate on their breathing and then on yours, in, and out….., in, and out….., each time slower, your breath coming from lower down in your body (not your chest) and just stay with it. You will find that this can be very calming and with practise it will start to shut down those troublesome spectres of your mind. If you don’t have a pet, then just do the breathing exercise I’ve described and each time count to 3 or 4 between each breath.

I wish you a great nights sleep. In love and light till next time.

On the comfort of a bowl of soup and the mindfulness of chopping carrots.

Photo by Nanxi Wei

I’ve found that when I’ve felt down and my depression has kicked in the first thing to be affected is self care. There have been times when my other half has had to get me up and out of bed and into the shower as I was incapable of getting up. The darkness had taken hold of me.

Something else that was affected was eating and the preparation of food, it was all too much when I was consumed by the fog of my depression. So I would eat sweets and biscuits or nothing at all. Of course that only made me feel worse as self loathing which walks hand in hand with depression reared it’s head to mock me.

So where does the soup come in to it you may ask? Well someone bought me a book on self care, which I’ve got to admit I didn’t really use much, but what I did take from it was the idea of doing just one thing a day to take care of yourself, it suggested cooking a special meal. I personally found the thought of preparing and cooking a whole, ‘special’ meal overwhelming. The book suggested sourcing ‘special’ ingredients from a supermarket or farm shop.

Going out for me was a real issue, I was struggling to get out of bed every day never mind going to a supermarket. As for sourcing ‘special’ ingredients, that sounded expensive. One day whilst listlessly waiting for the kettle to boil my eyes fell on a piece of kitchen equipment I’d had for ages! A very dusty soup maker. I had a load of carrots in the fridge and thought oh well I’ll try the soup maker.

Being a creative person I’ve always found shape, pattern and colour fascinating, and as I took the carrots out of the fridge their colour, such an intense orange struck me, it reminded me of Van Gogh’s orange. The orange of the southern French sunset. As I slowly peeled the carrots and chopped them, I felt their texture, inhaled their scent and thought about how something so bright, grows out of the darkness of the soil.

So here is a parallel, out of the darkness of life’s sad, tragic and traumatic experiences we can grow to emerge into the light. If we’re struggling with the demons of our past, they have no power to hold us in the dark, as they are the past.

And before you ask, the soup was very good.

In love and light till next time.

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