• January 28, 2015

    Essential Oils: What They Are And Why They Work

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    I have talked a little in the past about using essential oils, but it has occurred to me that many people may not be familiar with them or why I would trust them.  I am certainly no expert, but I am learning and finding that each new oil or recipe I try is working.  With every story shared and every success I experience, I am becoming more and more a believer in these oils.

    And why shouldn’t I believe in their usefulness?  Essential oils have been used throughout history for healing, beauty, cooking, and religious ceremony.  Remember in the Bible when Jesus was born and the wise men brought him gold, frankincense, and myrrh?  Two of the three gifts given to the King of Kings were plant derivatives that were prized in that time (and even today) for their healing properties and religious significance.  People all over the world still use frankincense and myrrh today to treat ailments and worship God.  Frankincense and myrrh weren’t the only essential oils to be used in history, though.  In fact there is evidence of Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Europeans, and Persians using various oils for their healing properties long before the advent of modern Western medicine.  If there is such widespread use throughout history, there must be something to these oils, right?

    Let’s look a little closer at how essential oils are made and why they work: Essential oils are extracted from their parent plant via steam distillation or cold pressing and marketed as concentrated oils by companies like doTERRA and Young Living.  The essential oils that we use to heal our bodies are present in plants to do that exact same thing for the plant!  Peppermint oil protests and heals the peppermint plant, see?  Not all plants have these properties, but the ones who do usually translate well for human use.

    But how do essential oils really measure up against modern medicine?  I am certainly not going to suggest that oils can or should replace medicine or surgeries for people who are needing those things, but essential oils may play a role in healing significant illness or injury – that decision is between you and your doctor!  For less serious things – a minor burn or stomach ache, for instance – essential oils can be administered instead of or alongside other, more typical Western medicines.  When using essential oils for healing, you can place the oil on your skin, breathe it in, or ingest it (depending on the type of oil).  The oils will be absorbed through whatever human tissue they come into contact with and enter the blood stream.  The oils will enter cells, including bacteria and viruses, and share their properties to support health and kill toxins.  Most man-made medicines are not as effective in crossing the cell membrane, so often times, the essential oil actually works faster and better!  Additionally, the oils are gentler on your system than medicines are, so if your stomach is easily upset by aspirin, you might want to try some peppermint oil instead to ease your headache.

    If you aren’t so sure about using essential oils in place of some medicines, consider using them for cleaning , beauty, and aroma!   Remember how plants that produce essential oils use those oils to protect themselves?  Well, this means that a lot of essential oils have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and protective properties.  This means that you can safely use many oils to clean your counters, laundry, and other spaces.  You can also create bath-bombs, body butter, lip-gloss, and other body care products.  There are tons of recipes out there and you can bet I’ll be posting more in the future here too!  And sometimes, you just want your home to smell nice without the fake smell many candles leave.  Using an oil with uplifting properties will not only make your home smell clean and fresh, but it can help elevate your mood and actually make you feel better too!

    Essential-Oils

    If you are interested in learning more or using essential oils in your daily life, I want to point you to my friend, Joanna’s, youtube channel.  She goes into more detail about these topics and can probably answer any questions you have!  She also has some nummy recipes!  Check it out, do your own research, and ask lots of questions!

  • January 21, 2015

    Pet Bed DIY

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    For a while now, our cat has been sleeping on an old (ugly) bean bag chair that was carelessly left in our basement just long enough for him to get attached.  It’s hideous, but he didn’t have anywhere else (nice) to sleep, so the bean bag chair had to stay.  In a effort to take back my basement, I decided to make our kitty a new bed from a re-purposed t-shirt and some extra fleece fabric I had laying around.

    This is actually the second pillow/cover combination I have made – my dog has a bigger one made of old jeans.  I really like that I can pull the pillow insert out from the cover and wash the cover rather than trying to wash a giant pillow in my machine.  Not only is it easier on my machine, but it also gets washed a lot more frequently because it is so much easier!  Stinky pet beds are not something I am a big fan of.

    Supplies

    Items you will need:

    • Fabric for the cover
    • Old t-shirt or other fabric for the pillow insert
    • Pillow stuffing
    • Sewing machine, thread, pins, scissors, etc.

     

    Instructions:

    TShirt-Pillow

    To make the pillow insert, cut an old t-shirt right under the arms so it’s a square/rectangle.  I used one of my husband’s medium sized shirts and the dimensions came out to 19×12 inches.  You can also use new fabric and other sizes to accommodate what supplies you have available as well as your pet’s specific needs.

    Sew-Up-The-Sides

    Next, turn the shirt piece inside-out and sew up the sides, leaving a hole at the end big enough to turn it rightside-out.

    Stuff-Pillow

    Turn the pillow insert rightside-out and stuff it with the pillow stuffing.  Then, you will sew up the hole.  Normally, I would do a blind stitch here by hand so you wouldn’t see where the hole had been, but this is a pet bed and the insert will not be seen, so I took the lazy gal’s way out and used my machine to close it up.

    Measure

    To make the cover for your insert, lay the outer fabric out and place your pillow insert on top so you can get an idea of what size to cut it to.  For my 19×12 insert, I used 15×53 of the cover fabric.

    Hem

    Once your cover fabric is cut, hem both ends by folding in one inch and then rolling that again and sewing it down (after hemming, my cover measured 15×49).

    Right-Side-Out

    Now, fold over (inside out) 15 inches on one side and 13 inches up on the other side so they overlap each other.  Sew up both sides, leaving the open pocket.

    Turn right-side out and stuff the pillow inside the cover through the open pocket and you’re done!

    Happy-Kitty

    Give the pillow to your pet and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and a comfy pet.

     

    Pro-Tip: If you’re making this pillow for your cat and he isn’t terribly impressed by it at first, hide some catnip inside the cover.  This will encourage him to at least give it a try.  *grin*

  • January 14, 2015

    Books of 2014

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    Last year I challenged myself to read books whose titles start with each letter of the alphabet.  I am a somewhat slow reader, so I never expected to complete 26 books…. but 10 is significantly below my usual number of books in a year!  I’ve done a lot of thinking about that and I think the fact that the Game of Thrones books are all the length of at least 3 regular books should count for something here.  Right?

    *grin*

    Anyway, I think this year has been a pretty good one in terms of reading and feeling challenged overall by what I am reading.  So, without further ado, here is my 2014 reading list:

    An-Abundance-of-Katherines

    A – An Abundance of Katherines

    Not my favorite of John Green’s books, but still worth reading.  I enjoyed the book, but it was definitely a teenybopper book with a whiney protagonist.  I also thought the situation (road trip to get over a dramatic break up turned summer job and living with people they – and their parents – had never met) seemed too far-fetched for me.  Still, if you just accept the story and don’t think about the logistics too much, it was fun to read.

     

    Book-Thief

    B – Book Thief

    Great book!  I haven’t seen the film adaptation yet, but I think I will.  I love that the whole story was written from the perspective of Death.  I have always had an interest in World War 2, but I have never seen the story brought to life quite like this book was able to do.  I definitely felt connected to – and worried for – the “book thief.”

     

    Fault-in-Our-Stars

    F – Fault in Our Stars

    A much better book by John Green; I’ve rarely cried so hard over, well, anything.  The story is a little unbelievable and romanticized, but I don’t think that is a bad thing, here.  John did a great job pulling all the right heartstrings and wrapping it all up in metaphor.  And if you haven’t, see the movie too… they did a great job sticking to the book!

     

    Game-of-Thrones

    G –Game of Thrones

    Clash-of-Kings

    C – Clash of Kings (Game of Thrones 2)

    Storm-of-Swords

    S – Storm of Swords (Game of Thrones 3)

    The Game of Thrones series is amazing and I love it.  I love it so much!  *grin*  For those who are intimidated by the size of the books – don’t be!  They are well written and kept my interest throughout.  If you’ve seen the show, the books are SO worth reading because they go deeper and provide so much more insight into the lives and thoughts of the characters.

     

    Handmaid's-Tale

    H – Handmaids Tale

    I am much less enthusiastic about this one.  Don’t get me wrong, it was decent in its own right, I just don’t usually go for the dystopian/science-fiction genre.  Definitely some interesting perspectives and cautionary themes regarding extremism and religious oppression.

     

    Indian-Killer

    I – Indian Killer

    This book was also not one of my favorite genres, so I think I’m a little less enthusiastic than maybe I should be.  I’ve read Sherman Alexie’s short stories and young adult novels before, so I had something much different in mind when I started reading Indian Killer.  Alexie was clearly very angry when this book was written and most of the focus is on race and feels just too political for my personal taste.  Overall, the story itself was good and the characters were well written and interesting.

     

    Kitchen-House

    K – Kitchen House

    I really liked the Kitchen House.  This is a great historical fiction about a white servant girl who was raised by and works with black slaves on a plantation in the South.  This tugs at some heartstrings and was really hard for me to put down!

     

    Orphan-Train

    O –Orphan Train

    Orphan Train turned out very different than I had expected – and not in a good way.  I’ve read a lot of reviews , and it seems like Orphan Train is one that people either love or hate – very little middle ground here.  The author divides narration between a current day foster child and an orphaned girl from the early 1900′s.  I get the connection she was trying to make, but I feel it was poorly done; I would much rather have read a book about one or the other girls – not both awkwardly mushed together in one book.

     

    On the whole, I would recommend all these books – to the right readers – and genuinely enjoyed most of them myself.  For the coming year, I will continue to read through the alphabet and, with luck, I will actually have all 26 by 2016!

  • January 7, 2015

    New Year’s Resolutions

    2015

    Happy New Year!

    I am coming to enjoy this time of year for its reflective and forward thinking sentiments.  Last year was really the first time I’d done New Year’s resolutions, so this year it has been exciting to review and reflect on how that shaped my thinking and actions.  I was surprised that I actually tried to keep my goals and that I met most of them!  Probably, I am the only one who remembers what those goals were last year… so lets review!

    Last year’s resolutions:

    1.  This year I will update the blog on time (Wednesdays)

    • Mostly met – messed up pretty badly in September, but have usually been consistent otherwise. 

    2. Take more pictures

    • Mostly met – lots more pictures, but not quite as many or as candid as I intended. 

    3. Have more adventures and try new things

    • Met!  Went to Canada, had an archery lesson, went to my first renaissance faire,  went tent camping for the first time, did some great hiking in new places, and went to a concert.

    4. I will make more health conscious decisions with regards to food and exercise

    • Met!  Started walking 1/2 mile in the mornings and stick to a clean eating diet

    5. I will practice more self care (e.g.: yoga, relaxing with a book, walking the dog, etc.) to help cope with stress and anxiety

    • Somewhat met – I always read, but still struggle to allow myself to really relax – there is always something that “needs” done! 

    6. Read my way through the alphabet (in no particular order, because that would be really hard)

    • Working on it!  More on this later…

     

    With the progress from 2014 in mind, I have revised and added new resolutions for 2015:

    1. Continue updating blog on time and improving content.

    2. Take more pictures and improve quality; improve Photoshop skills.

    3.  Practice better self care.

    4. Go somewhere new.

    5. Renew old relationships and cultivate new ones.

     

    So, here’s to a new year, filled with new opportunities and experiences!