Make It Yourself Monday -Squash Casserole

I had never liked squash when my friend brought a casserole to the pee wee league football tailgate. After much harassment for not trying it, I finally had a bite. Then I had another bite, another plate, and another plate. It ended with my friend making me leave her tailgate so that there would be some for others!

So for today's "Make it Yourself Monday", I thought I'd get away from the beauty products and share that great squash recipe, after-all, food is a part of health and beauty too!

For this recipe you will need a squash, preferably a butternut squash, but I suppose this would be good with any type. You will also need an onion (match the onion size with your squash size), 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 to 1 1/2 cup(s) milk (2% or whatever type you prefer), butter round crackers (the name brand is not necessary, I buy the Walley world ones and they work just the same. But, do NOT use saltines, they change the taste and texture!)

Begin by slicing the squash. You want to get these as even as possible, so that they cook at the same speed. Then dice the onion into bite size pieces, again, making them the same size, and crush the crackers. Generally you will need at least one sleeve of crackers, two if you use a larger squash. Spray a baking dish with a non-stick spray coating and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
All the prep work done, you start by layering the dish with the squash, the onions, the crackers, and the cheese. Continue until you use all of the squash. Pour at least 1/2 cup (1 cup to 1 1/2 cups for larger squash)  over the casserole, cover with a lid or foil, place in oven and cook until the squash is done. This usually takes about an hour, you can check by running a fork through the squash. Keep an eye on the casserole while cooking and add more milk if it looks too dried out. You really don't need as much milk as you initially may think, so I recommend beginning with a 1/2 cup for a medium sized squash and 1 cup for a large one. You can always add more, but you cannot take it away!

The pictures here show my casserole prep and the almost finished product. My battery died so I didn't get the very last one, the one just before we ate. Also, I ran out of cheese and didn't layer the top as I normally do, since my squash was pretty large. I ended up using 1 3/4 cup milk in this one, and would have used about 3 cups of cheese, had I had it! No worries though, it was still quite tasty, and we have plenty of left overs!

Frankly Speaking Friday- Funny Friday

Today I am with the Grandbaby, so rather than going off on a rant, I thought I'd make today a "Funny Friday",  instead of a frankly speaking one!  I hope that you enjoy the following email that I received yesterday, I know I did! 

They're Back! Those wonderful Church Bulletins! Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences (with all the BLOOPERS) actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services 

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
Remember in prayer the many that are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow..
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered..
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
--------------------------Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance...
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours

Tripod Thursdays-Spring Beauty for a Dreary Winter's day

Since we were taunted by Mother nature last weekend, and given a few days in the 60's, it was even more upsetting than usual when we went back to the cold, dreary, blustery winter weather, and the sleet came and the snow spit! So here is my response to this abysmal, extended winter.......I hope that you will enjoy the beauty of  Springs past, and maybe, just maybe these will help to bring some Spring Beauty into your dreary winter day!

What's Happening Wednesday

This Wednesday I totally forgot to post what I was up too, so I apologize for doing it so late in the day. I have been very busy making different soap recipes so that I can decide which ones I want to use for my "base" recipes. Right now, I have at least 25 calculated out, and about 15 on my "to try" list. So far I have made 5 different batches, in 8 different scents/scent combinations.

Last night I attempted something I had not attempted before, and maybe should not have, lol! I made one large batch and divided it into three pots at light trace. I poured the first batch into a regular one pound mold
 It has sesame seeds throughout and some extra on top. It is scented with Arabian Spice. You see the crack? That is one reason that I said maybe I shouldn't have attempted this. I took so long to do all that I needed to do, I ran into some complications, and this was one of them. I should have had the lid with me in the kitchen, but I didn't, so it sat and waited while I mixed and poured everything.

Then I mixed another portion with a Berry Wine scent that included blueberry, mulberry and raspberry. Again, with time being an issue, it was very thick and had to be plopped into the mold. I did 2 different colors to mix into it, which didn't help with the time deal either.
And, on top of the time issue, but because of it, I didn't get the pours divided evenly either. So I ended up missing one cavity all together, and having more berry wine than zucchini flower, which was the scent of the last pour. I tinted it a light green and then added a darker green (in the picture it looks gray, but it looks more green in person). Now the berry wine has 2 colors in it, one made from blueberry fibers and the other from cranberry fibers. These should morph from what they look like now, which is a greenish/gray and a deep purple, so it should be interesting to watch!

Teaching Tuesdays -Words & Phrases You Need to Know part 2

This past Friday's post began with a rant on companies that "tricked" people with marketing words, and companies that simply didn't understand, or have  knowledge of their own ingredients. Either way, with some education, we can discern pure marketing strategies from proprietors that need more education. So, today's post is a continuation of words and phrases that we need to know more about!

"preservative free" - First of all, preservative free does not mean that the product is chemical free, fragrance free, stabilizer free, emulsifier free, synthetic free, or even sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) free, so it really means little, in and of itself. Then there are the handmade soaps that I have seen, advertising they are preservative free. Since a soap does not (as in never ever) need a preservative, using the phrase "preservative free" is either a marketing strategy simply used to sucker us in, or it shows the sellers' lack of education [about their product]. 

"Eco-Friendly"-This is such a "hot" button term now days, with everyone jumping onto the "save the eco-system" bandwagon. A great wagon to ride, but really, what is "eco-friendly"? What does it mean? There is no government, legally defined, "eco-friendly", so there are no parameters for its use. I have seen many claims of "eco-friendly" products, but what makes the solid deodorant or perfume a more eco-friendly alternative than their spray counterparts (remember, we are comparing to the Indie push sprayers, not the commercial chemical ones). The only possible, non-eco-friendly thing that I could come up with, was that the spray may miss part of its target, and then dissipate in the air. Is that enough to make it a non-eco-friendly choice? And, if it is, why then is the seller offering it along side their solid bars?  

"Hypoallergenic"- We all need to understand the definition of this phrase because could impact our health. This label does not mean that the product will not cause an allergy. By definition, "hypo" means "less than", so a hypoallergenic product is "less likely" to cause an allergic reaction, but there is still the possibility of one. It means that the maker of the product has either reduced, or removed ingredients, such as fragrances or preservatives (in jewelry this would likely mean nickel), that tend to cause allergies. Phrases like, "non-irritating", "allergy tested", "dermatologist tested" are all well and good, but they have no industry standard either, so they do not offer any guarantee against an allergic reaction either!

"Not tested on animals"- This one always makes me smile. Who would/could test on animals besides a large corporation? Even if the Indie business wanted too, they just don't have the resources, and in most cases, the education, to do this. Can you envision your local soap-maker going out into the woods to  capture raccoons so that they could test their soaps? 
The other aspect to using this claim, is that, while they can correctly say they have never tested on an animal, how can they be sure that none of their ingredients ever have? Ingredients come from all over the world, and unfortunately, this includes many places that are not known for their ethical behavior.  

"Prevents stretch marks" is another phrase that gets me going. This is not a medically/physically proven statement. Stretch marks are caused by your skin, and as such, have to do with your genetics. Some women do not get stretch marks at all, but that is due to the fact that her skin reacts well to expansion.  Look at your Mother, if she has stretch marks from her pregnancy, or from a rapid or large weight gain, then you will be more prone/likely to get them as well. While a lotion or cream will help to alleviate the itchy, uncomfortable feeling that accompanies the rapid skin expansion of pregnancy, it will not diminish your chances of getting the stretch marks. So use the oils, lotions, and creams to help you feel better, but do not expect them to alter genetics! 

"Does not contain any surfactants, which are detergents that the big commercial companies use"- I have seen this on a few Indie soaping and lotion sites. A "surfactant" is not necessarily a detergent! According to Wikipedia, "surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as wetting agents, detergents, emulsifiers, foaming agents and dispersants." 
We all know that oil and water does not mix, so haven't you ever wondered how lotion/soap makers get that to happen? They add a surfactant, that;s how. By necessity, you need to have a surfactant to get the oil and the water to mix and stay together. So, while a detergent could be a surfactant, not all surfactants are detergents!

"Organic" is probably the hottest, hot button today, but it is a legally defined phrase in many countries, of which the USA is one. The certification process varies from country to country, but all involve the setting of standards which  control everything having to do with the product. Each stage, every process, and all businesses that have anything to do with the product, has a set of standards which must be followed. These standards extend all the way from the seed stage to its final destination, be it a grocery store for resale, or a restaurant for consumption. 

Basically, "organic", when related to our crops, means that the use of anything synthetic has been avoided. Chemicals like pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms are not used. Additionally, the land used to raise organic crops has been free of chemical use for at least three years, and a physical separation is maintained between the certified [organic] plants and the non-certified ones in order to avoid contamination. Additionally, the grower is required to maintain  accurate records, with regard to their production, the production process, and their sales. Also, Inspectors can, and do, show up unannounced to inspect the property and crops.  

In the USA, these standards are set by the USDA, the Department of Agriculture. There are three different levels of labeling for organic products;

1. 100% organic-These products must contain (excluding water and salt) ingredients that are only organically produced. The processing aids must also be all organic, and they cannot be produced using any excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.

2. Organic products must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients 
must consist of nonagricultural substances that are approved on the National List, including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.

Any product that meets the requirements for either 100% organic or organic  may display the terms on their principal contact panel. Additionally, the USDA seal and the seal of the involved certifying agents may also appear on the product packages and in advertisements. 

3. Made With Organic Ingredients are products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients. These products are also allowed to list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. 

Processed products labeled “made with organic ingredients” cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. The 
percentage of organic content and the certifying agent seal or mark may be used on the principal display panel. However, the USDA seal cannot be.

There are certified [organic] and non-certified [organic] food crop producers. Because the certification process is so costly, many of the farmers simply cannot afford to become certified, however, they still follow the same regulations for food safety and agricultural processes, as well as all of the other applicable government guidelines. Their products will be labeled "non-certified organic". The quality should be the same, the only difference being that they did not pay for the certification process. 

Processed products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term organic anywhere on the principal display panel. They cam, however, 
identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced on the ingredients statement information panel.

A civil penalty of up to $11,000 can be levied on any person who knowingly sells, or labels as organic, a product that is not produced and handled in 
accordance with the National Organic Program's regulations.

And remember (see last Friday's post) that "all natural" and "made with organic ingredients" does not ensure you that there are no "bad for you" ingredients in that product! According to the FDA, "natural" means that the product does not contain any synthetic or artificial ingredients, and to be labeled "healthy" means that the product meets certain criteria which limits the amount of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and also includes specific amounts of various vitamins, minerals and nutrients. So again, you could have an all natural product that is not healthy, by the FDA's healthy standards. For instance, you could have an organic ice cream that is also high in saturated fats, therefore, unhealthy.

Any product labeled as organic must identify each organically produced ingredient in the ingredient statement on the information panel.The name of the certifying agent of the final product must be displayed on the information panel. The address of the certifying agent of the final product may be displayed on the information panel.

Be aware, there are no restrictions on use of other truthful labeling claims such as “no drugs or growth hormones used,” “free range,” or “sustainably harvested.” 

In the end, I hope that you will recognize that a company can do a great job of being "eco-friendly" without necessarily having the certification for being organic. Likewise, I hope that you also can see that words and labels alone do not make a truth or a good product. In the midst of some ill-informed, lack-luster shops, there are a lot of amazing companies out there, doing their best to bring quality products to the marketplace. It is our responsibility as consumers, to research and to seek out these companies!

Make It Yourself Monday-Another Dog Treat Recipe

Dallas and Gizmo recently told me that I have been spending more way more time on my soaps and bath/body products than I have on their doggie stuff, and they are NOT pleased! So I thought I'd better try to get on their good side. To that end, I am offering a dog treat recipe today, rather than a bath and body one! Although they may not like the implications of this recipe, they certainly do like the taste!

Bad Breath Banisher Dog Treat Recipe
2 cups brown rice flour
1 Tablespoon activated charcoal (you can find this at drugstores, do NOT use briquets!)
3 Tablespoons canola or any all vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped mint (fresh is best, but you can use 1/4 cup dried)
1/2 cup chopped parsley (fresh is best, but you can use 1/4 cup dried)
2/3 cup lowfat or nonfat milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. while you lightly oil a cookie sheet. Combine the flour and the charcoal, mix well, then add all of the other ingredients. Drop by the teaspoon-full on the oiled sheet, keeping about one inch apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes. After they cool, store in an airtight container. Keeping in the refrigerator will extend their shelf life.

Frankly Speaking Friday- If You Are Going to Make It or Buy it, You Should Know...

One of my greatest pet peeves is when someone just "decides" that they are going to make and sell something, without doing the proper research. While this might be okay if we are talking about hats, blankets or needlepoint, this is definitely NOT okay when we're talking about products that utilize ingredients which have the potential to harm, especially when the user isn't fully aware of the indications and properties of their own ingredients.

Another huge pet peeve of mine is when someone takes recipes from a book or a web-site, whips them up, and begins selling them like they were their own. Unfortunately these types of  thieves usually have a false sense of confidence. They think that, since their source knew what they were doing, they don't need to research or study on their own. Eventually though, these people tend to get a little brave, and they begin trying to alter a recipe, or add in something of their own. Or, worse yet, they include some wrong or incomplete information on their products. While research and study certainly do not guarantee that we will never have an issue, lack or research and education does guarantee that we are more likely to cause harm sooner or later.

While participating in various forums, I have seen a good many questions asked which have made my wonder, just how could the writer make "XYZ" without knowing the answer to their own question? To make matters worse, inevitably, if I visited their shop or website, I would read something that proved to me that they had NO real knowledge about their products. While this makes me mad, in truth, it really worries me more than anything!

While I have worked for years to create my own recipes, I still, even today, begin any new recipe by re-researching and re-studying the purposed ingredients and how they will work together. And, even though I was fairly knowledgeable to begin with, I would never have dreamed of making something to give away, much less sell, without first having researched it thoroughly. I still do not profess to be an expert, and I worry about providing sufficient, and correct product information. Am I perfect? Not hardly! Could I still make a mistake, or not know everything about a product? Certainly! But let's face it, would you rather put your trust in someone that studied and researched before they ever made a product to sell, or someone that copied recipes/formulas off the net one day and then began selling them the next?

I have been selling products for about 13 years now, and I know that, whatever your answer is,  there are some basic key words and catch phrases that you, we, should (all) understand. Knowledge is power, and in this instance, it can keep you safe and/or prepare you to decide with whom you should do business, and when you should run the other way!

First of all. "All Natural"  does NOT include the use of Fragrance Oils, unless that particular fragrance oil was made purely from essential oils, which most are not! And, if they were made with them, surely the maker would be proud enough that they would say so up front, not just after you ask about it.
The word "natural" is misused all the time, but it is a complete lie to use a synthetic (read here the word chemical)  fragrance oil and state that your product is "all natural". But really, there is not a legal definition of "natural" in regard to fragrances or other products, except for food.

Natural, as it applies to produce, means ingredients which have not been processed with chemicals and synthetics AFTER they leave the farm. So the farm may have maximized its spraying limits over the growing season, but if the plant isn't further bombarded with chemicals after it's picked, it can legally be called 'natural'. It can be difficult sifting through the marketing to find the truth, but it is worth it to you and your family. 

Natural-based/Nature based is another big catch phrase these days. Just what it really means is questionable. Everything is nature based in one way or the other. Think about it, even plastics come from crude oil, which comes from nature. So what does this claim really mean? Hmm, nothing much I am thinking! 

Naturally Inspired, yet another catch phrase widely used today, yet another legally non-existent definition. But let's break it down. Inspired by nature, meaning something in nature has inspired the creation of said product. Okay, so what? How does the fact that someone saw a pretty blue sky one morning really matter when I am buying their product? Would a product that was inspired by a sunset be better than one that was inspired by a flower? Hmm, I don't think so! So this is a nice story phrase, but it means next to nothing when it comes to meaningful ingredients in my products.  

Made Fresh. Really? Okay, but are all products that are made fresh also all natural? NO they are not. Are all natural ingredients necessarily fresh? NO, in fact many are dried, which does not make them bad or lessor ingredients. I dehydrate herbs and flowers all summer long for use during the winter months. My ingredients are all natural and all organic, but they are not always freshly picked. When they were freshly picked, they were dehydrated. Also, when I make products, I often make them to order, or fresh to order, as some would say. Can you see how the wording is just wording? 

Speaking of wording, this post is getting long in words, and I still have quite a bit more to go over. So this will be continue on Tuesday, where we will cover terms like "preservative free", "eco-friendly" and "organic". I will also be addressing words that Indie bath and beauty creators often misunderstand, and misuse. For instance, "surfactant".  Should surfactants be avoided? Are they really detergents? Come back on Tuesday and you'll get the answers to this and more! 

Tripod Thursdays-Soaps

In keeping with what was happening on Wednesday, I have uploaded pictures of the soap that I made today (actually late last night by my standards, and early this morning by yours, LOL), as well as some others that I have had in my shop during the past several months. The turmeric colored soap that I spoke of yesterday, is gelling and should be ready to cut and set to cure later today or tomorrow. Although it will be weeks before the verdict is in on it, the one I just made is smelling up the house in a wonderful way, and everything went well with its pouring, so I am looking forward to some great soap there! Now I will just have to come up with a name for its scent....hmm, maybe that will call for a contest!


The Goo soap is a great childs soap, it's a lot like slime, without the trademarked name! Orange is orange, green is pearberry, and I also have an oatmeal, milk and honey one.

The dog bone soap is a "bug be gone" blend of EO's for the pooch.

The white soapboxes were hand stamped and painted by me.

The green wedge is a sage-lemongrass soap w/ oatmeal.

The soap wrapped in cloth is my "bug begone" blend of EO's for humans.

The bottles are a liquid soap, in a variety of scents.

What's Happening Wednesday-

Yesterday's post on infusions inspired me to get some more chamomile comfrey and calendula steeping.
(-------------This is chamomile being infused into water.
This is calendula, also in water ------)

So, aside from watching a steeping pot steep, what's happening this Wednesday? Well, aside from my slowly, but surely going crazy, I'm not sure! LOL. Okay, so that's not exactly new,  nor is it limited to Wednesdays I know, but  still this is what's going on today!
Last night I made my first batch of cold process soap in quite a long while. Talk about crazy! I have spend a lot of time coming up with new recipes, making ingredient lists, lists of things I want to try, lists of scents I want to create, lists, lists, lists. First to make on that list is a new everyday bar. It looks to be a very moisturizing bar, with good, bubbles, and pretty creamy. So when I finally got the rest of my ordered oils in, I was anxious to make a batch of soap. I spent a few hours of going back and forth, finally deciding that I would use chamomile, lavender, and clary sage for the fragrance,  and I would  use a chamomile and calendula infusion too. A bit more anguishing and I decided on leaving the majority of the soap in its natural color, and adding a swirl of color by using turmeric.

All set, I weigh out all the oils, prepare the water and the lye, and stand ready to make soap. I am all set to get underway when I, for some unbeknown reason, take the entire container of turmeric into the kitchen with me. Silly, silly, girl! Yes, I know better, I can't say what I was thinking, obviously I wasn't. When my soap mixture hit trace a bit fast, I grabbed, and kind of dumped, the turmeric into the mixture, without measuring it. In addition to that mistake, I also retained way too much soap for just a swirl. I actually kept enough for an entire layer. So at this point, I have deeply colored soap, and a layer instead of a swirl.
Before I ever began, I knew that I would have more soap than I needed for one mold, so the plan was to put the excess into a one pound mold  for sample bars. What I wonder is, why, when faced with all this extra colored soap, didn't I just do the planned swirl and pour all of the extra into the mold for sample bars? Talk about loosing your mind! It never even crossed my mind until AFTER I finished pouring it. Just after! LOL. While I will be cutting the soap later today, it will take weeks before I will know if its usable, or if I over did the turmeric, ruining the batch. Oh what fun! LOL.

soap molds
getting ready to make soap
turmeric colored soap
preparing to make soap

So, a deep breath, a good nights sleep, and another batch of soap in the plans for later today. Of course I will leave the herb container in the craft room this time, and only take the measured amount into the kitchen. Naturally, I will have to agonize again my choice if scent and color, especially since I am still waiting on the arrival of that last supply box. It has blueberry fibers in it, which I am looking forward to using, so of course, everything I think of would just be right with gray/blue coloring. I am having difficulty coming up with a scent that I can't picture in blue! Lol!  So I am going to sleep on it, and hope that I don't dream in blues, but in a kaleidescope of colors. Then I am going to cut the soap, put it out to cure, and  re-line those molds. Then I am going to measure out whatever colorant I've decide to use, and I am going to prepare to make a big, beautiful swirl!!
Right now my eyes are crossed, and I am fighting to stay awake long enough to finish this post, which is really hard, because all I really want to do is to get to sleep. Of course, the sooner I get to sleep, the sooner I can get up, and the sooner I will be making soap! So I am going to say good night now, but since it's really  early morning, maybe I should say good morning to you, and you can say nighty night to me!

Teaching Tuesdays- How and When to make and Infusion

An infusion is simply a "tea". Every time you brew up a cup of Earl Gray, you are making an infusion. The act of pouring hot water over plant material makes an infusion. The stronger you desire the infusion, the more plant material you need to use and/or the longer you need to let it steep, just like when you are making tea! A decoction is a also a tea, just a more potent one. Decoctions are used for densely fibrous herbs, barks, and roots, because they can  "cook" longer. In doing so, they release their beneficial ingredients into the water, yielding a more concentrated extraction of the active ingredients.  

So, aside from wanting a nice cup of chamomile tea before bedtime,  when would you want ,or need, to make an infusion or a decoction?  If you are into using herbal remedies, you will often need to make infusions, either to drink, or to use in a poultice. Most decoctions, while not used for drinking, are frequently used in poultices.

Aside from this instance, if you make your own soaps, balms, lotions etc., infusions are a great way to incorporate the healing properties of  herbs, plants, spices, and/or shrubs into your product(s).  While essential oils will certainly add (much) desired properties, infusions can accomplish the same end result in a (much) less costly manner. In fact, I would venture to say that there are times when an infusion would be a more appropriate choice than the essential oil (EO), especially with regard to infant/child products.

So how do you do it? To make a fairly strong infusion, take 1/4 of a cup of the dried herb, or herb mix, of your choice, and  cover with one cup of boiling water. Then cover the pot, so that the vapors will be held inside while it steeps. Leave this sit for at least 30 minutes, then strain it, and either drink it, or pour it into a dark bottle. This is really a make it as you need it thing, and it should be used either that same day, or the next. Putting it in the refrigerator will help if you wish to keep it another day.

For some products, and in certain poultices, making an oil-based infusion is preferable to using a water-based one. You can accomplish this in much the same manner as you do the tea, except that you will not want to boil the oil. Different oils have different burning temperatures, so, while I can't give you a specific degree to heat the oil to, it is only necessary to slightly warm the oil. If you are using a microwave to heat oils, make sure that you only heat in short, 30 second, bursts, and that you exercise extreme caution. Hot oil can cause severe burns.

Put your choice of  plant material down into a jar, but before you add the warm oil, take a pestle or a spoon and lightly bruise the plant material. This slight maceration of the plant will  help to initiate the infusion process. If you are making a poultice, follow that specific recipe's instruction for the amounts, but if you are making it for use in your own products, you can achieve a fairly concentrated infusion by using three cups of plant material in about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of  (your choice of) oil. In either case, make sure that the oil completely covers the plant material, increasing the oil if necessary. Once you are sure you have enough oil to fully cover the plant material, cap the jar tightly and shake it for minute or two. Put the jar somewhere that is dark and cool to steep. It should not go into the fridge, at this point.

For one month, once a day, you will need to take the jar out and give it a good shake for a minute or two. When you are finished infusing, strain the solids from the oil. Since these aren't good for anything, throw them away and bottle the oil. Store the (infused) oil out of direct sunlight,  in a cool place. While refrigeration is not mandatory, it is acceptable, and in some instances, even preferred.. Depending upon the oil your chose, it should remain good for a year to a year and a half. Because of the strength of this infusion, you can further dilute it with more carrier oil, and still retain the beneficial properties of the plant material.

Of course, if you don't have a month to wait, you can infuse an oil in significantly less time, however it won't have the same strength, and it will need to be used without being diluted. Since it is difficult to estimate the quantity of properties being infused into the plant material, over what period of time, I suggest that you leave the infusion to steep for at least a full day, preferably two.

Make It Yourself Monday -Scent Pots, Air Freshener for The Home

So far this year, we've made throat lozenges, jar gifts, dog treats and even some great face masks. Now we are going to focus on something practical for the home. This something will save us money,  and will smell good while doing so! Most everyone uses some type of air freshener, and the gel fresheners at the grocery store can be quite costly, not to mention that they often have a limited choice of fragrance selection. So here is a simple, make-it-at-home, alternative for you to try!

First of all, you will need to gather some type of jars. Jelly jars or any other,  small, decorative jar will do. If you are not so concerned with aesthetics, recycled baby food jars (junior not newborn) will work just fine. This recipe is meant more for the  larger ones, but you could do the smaller ones too. If you do though, it will dry up a bit faster than the junior size. You will also need;

1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
4 packages of (Knox) gelatin
2 tablespoons of Everclear (or other 90 proof alcohol).*Since this is to prevent mold, you can eliminate it and use preservative if you happen to make your own bath and body products and have some on hand.

About 20 drops of fragrance oil or 6-10 drops of essential oil (s), you can use more/less if you desire, but this amount is average and should work well for most people. Depending upon how you choose to decorate, you may also want some colored tulle, and some matching, coordinating, or contrasting ribbon.

Begin by dissolving the 4 packs of gelatin in one cup of boiling water. Make sure that you stir it until it is completely dissolved. Once completely dissolved, add the cup of cold water, and the alcohol. If you are using essential oil(s), you should allow the mixture to cool off a bit before adding the fragrance, just  don't wait too long or the gelatin may begin to set. If you'd like, you can also add a few drops of food coloring to "pretty" it up a bit! 
Mix everything well, then pour it into your jars. Either have the jars on a cookie tray, or have them where they can stay so they can remain undisturbed while they set up.  

Once they are completely set, you can either set them out as they are, or you can further decorate them by covering the top with the tulle (which will allow them to breath and disburse scent), and adding a tied ribbon to the neck of the jar, which will hold the tulle in place. Now you that you have easily made several cute, smelly jars, why don't you wrap some up to share with friends!  These scent pots should last about six weeks or so before you have to make more. 

Frankly Speaking Friday- Internet Safety

These past few days have been a whirlwind of activity behind the scenes of a soaping forum that I recently joined. Why? It seems that one of the members joined under several names and posted as both genders, often speaking to themselves, about themselves. Why would this matter? Well, if you belong to a forum of any kind, I am sure that when you are there, you feel as if you know some of the people. In fact, you probably have some that you even consider as friends. While I have not belonged to this particular site for very long, I have been reading it off and on for two or three years, so I was familiar with some of the long-time members, which immediately lead me to a certain level of comfort with that group of people. But, on other sites, such as Etsy, I would go so far as to say that I have developed friendships, yes they are "internet" friendships, but they are friendships none the less.

In this particular instance, the avatar in question garnered trust, then gained a few real email addresses, and a more than one home address. The real "why" is not truly known, but of course we can all speculate. What is known for sure is that a female avatar privately contacted some people through the site, and talked up a male avatar, creating a "sisterhood" type feeling, and then, through a ruse, got the real email address of the target. Once contacted through the regular email, this female persona asked the target to contact her, and also sent a message through the forum, asking the same. When advised "her" email was received she proceeded to get more personal in "her" comments, and attempted to get the target to discuss the male avatar in greater depth.  Then the male avatar contacted the target and attempted to get the home address by offering his help with certain supplies.

In each case, the results were the responsibility and the fault of the target. Having been one of those targeted people, I can say this with assuredy, however, it could have been YOU! Now I didn't give out my address, in fact, I turned down the gift offer, but I did give out my email address, and I did participate in some banter with the female character that contacted me. It took a few emails for me to get uncomfortable and  terminate my response. In fact, had it not been for someone else's experience, I would probably still be thinking that this female was just a bit out there for me and that the make was just nice and I was silly for not accepting his offer. Shoot, even my own Mother asked me why I turned him down!     

Fortunately for me and probably many others, but not so fortunate for them, one person had  a scary email from the avatar and, not only reported it to the site administrators, but spoke out on the forum.While I dare say many sites would have removed her post immediately (read Etsy here), this one did not, and a number of people wrote to the original poster, echoing her experience to one degree or another. The original post did not mention multiple personae, but after I wrote to the OP and reported the exact same conversation that they had with the female avatar, I was warned and advised to not interact with the male avatar either. Several hours and a lot of investigation later,  the site admin wrote that there were four accounts banned as a result of the investigation surrounding this complaint. To my mind, this means that there were four avatars being used by one person, and who knows who was real. For that matter, was any persona real? Did this person ever tell the truth? What did they really want? Why did they do this? We will probably never know the real answers, but we do know that they were certainly up to no good!

Now, why did I bother to discuss all of this here? So that maybe, just maybe, you might take heed of my warning and be a bit more cautious in your internet dealings. Whether on an Etsy forum, or another type, new or been there for years, you simply cannot, should not, trust other posters with your private information. Even if most people are fine, nice, and honest, all it takes is that one that is not. ONE bad apple can ruin your day, your safety,  and even your life! Just like that one second that you take your eyes off the road can either be alright, or it cause you to wreck your car killing someone, that one time that you deviate from your normal, cautious self and offer your personal information  can lead to disaster. You are completely in charge of your destiny in this respect, so make good choices!

The Admin of one of my on-line forums gave us the following links to read more about safety. I am passing them along in the hope that you too will, not only look them up, but heed their advice. We all know what we should do, but we tend to become complacent, especially when nothing bad has happened to us, or someone we know, for a while. The longer we go without something bad happening to us, the more comfortable and complacent we tend to get. So let this be a wake up call to us all! Don't wait until something bad happens to you or a close friend of yours!  Be PRO-ACTIVE! ... index.html

Tripod Thursdays- Covered Bridge

Ohio has a large number of covered bridges, a good many of them still in use. I think that they are so beautiful and interesting! In Millersport, where I lived before moving to my current location, we had one moved to a permanent home in the Lion's park where the Sweetcorn Festival is held each year. We had another on the canal. by the fish hatchery, which you could see, but the road had been re-routed so no traffic went across it now days. Another was about 20 minutes away, in Lancaster, now in a field, instead of on the road. yet another was about 40 minutes away near Rock Bridge, Ohio. So many bridges, so little pictures. I lived in that area for twelve years and took the bridges for granted! I am told that Ohio has the largest amount of covered bridges, and that central Ohio, where I lived, has the largest concentration. When I moved to my current house, I was surprised to see a covered bridge on my way to Cincinnati. Determined to not miss another opportunity for pictures of these historical bridges, I grabbed the camera and headed down the road! Here they are, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

What's Happening Wednesday- To Buy or Not to Buy, a Walley World Experience

Here in Ohio it is still freezing and miserable! Oh how I long for a sunny, warm beach! Knowing this, my wonderful Son (of which I have 2, but this story is related to the eldest) gave me a gift of money and said that he wanted me to get an electric blanket. He had been to a store to purchase one for me, but then thought that I might be able to find a better deal where I live. Later that night he called and suggested that I look on walley* to see if  they had anything on sale. And I did, and they did! I input my size and color desired, and then saw the price. When I clicked on "send to store" I saw a large box with the note "this item is available at your local walley*world store", yippppeee, right?
So I decide to be brave and venture out into the sleet, so that I will able to have the warm blanket on me that night. Then, the next day, making it today, when it was supposed to be cold and nasty, I would be all toasty warm. So I get there, and sure enough, they have several  available, even in the color that I wanted. But then I noticed the sale tag. It priced the blanket at 14$ MORE than I was quoted on line. While I know that the entry page says that on-line prices may vary, the product page gave a specific price and said "it is in stock at your local store". To me, that meant, at that price!
I spent a good ten to fifteen minutes trying to find a sales associate, but evidentially everyone went home early due to weather. Finally I went to the front of the store and, after some hunting, found someone to speak with. I carefully explained the situation and was told that the on-line price was probably given because the next town's walley*world had marked their blankets down further than this stores'. The computer supposedly gave the lowest price, not my stores' price. While that is goofey, it said it was at my store at this price! Oh well, no problem because you price match, right? "Well yea, but not with other walley*worlds, just different stores."

Hmm, so they were telling me that they would not honor their own stores price/sale, but would honor a m*mart price. How odd is that? Let me tell you, it got worse! She proceeded to tell me that I could not speak to the section manager that I needed to speak to, because she left early due to the weather, however, I could either buy it and not open it, then return it if I wasn't satisfied....or I could drive back into town, yet another time, and speak to the manager another day......BUT, she doubted that it would make a difference because that is "just the way it is".

Cold, and now very depressed, I purchased the blanket and headed home. There was no way I was going to leave it in the box, but believe you me, I was fully prepared to return it if necessary. When I returned to the store earlier today, I found the manager that I needed and explained my dilemma to her. She reiterated much of what the worker from the previous night had told me, but she blamed the price difference on the web site versus the store. She suggested that I get on the computer and request a site to store delivery of the we stood in front of about 50 of the blankets in question. So........., let me get this straight. I purchased a blanket for 14$ more than your website said it would be. Now I am supposed to return the one I purchased, and then order a blanket to come here, to this store, where there are at least 50 of said blankets already. Yes! That about covered it!

Why does this seem stupid to only me? Actually, I was told that it was stupid in her eyes as well, but, in the past she had not been allowed to do anything for the customer complaining about this. Now that is stupid! Another stupid thing, the computer at the store, the one set up to order site to store items for customers, views differently than our home computer screens. I thought I was going crazy until a worker stated, "nope it is different, and it doesn't tell you that the price may not be the price in the store either."  She went on to point out to the manager that it was "confusing". With this in mind, the manager said that she would call and ask if she could do something for me or not, but no promises. She said, in fact, that she had called many times and had always been told no. In the end, she informed me that she would refund the difference in price. She said that she told "them" that she would be angry had she been in my position, and besides that, maybe I would spend that 14$ before I left the store.

Whatever their motivation, they made it right with me, but I am left to wonder why this is not the general practice or policy? Why is it set up to be confusing? Why does the manager have to call to take care of an issue that she saw and understood ? Maybe the problem lies in the fact that, from what I was told, walley world dot com is actually a type of sub-contractor for the walley*world (store) corporation, and is in fact, owned by another entity.  While I am not sure of the truth of this statement, it makes me wonder.

If you have had, or ever do have, a similar experience, it was recommended to me that we call 1-800- walley*world (use the real spelling of course) to voice a complaint. Actually I heard this number at least four times, from four different people, before I left the store. They sounded as if they were begging me to call. Why? Because they are tired of the insanity. In simple terms, they don't understand, nor do they like, having to enforce policies that defy logic.

Teaching Tuesdays - Anice, Getting the Most From this Licorice Scented Herb

A new acquittance and I were speaking in a soap forum the other day, about the benefits of herbal treatments and essential oils. Since most of you know that is a favorite topic of mine, I decided that I would delve into this subject again, trying to describe some that I neglected in the past. 

Anise (Seed), a licorice flavored (and scented) spice is used for a great many things, perhaps, predominately liquors, from Greek the ouzo to the French pastis, however, aside from its use as a flavoring agent, it, like most herbs and spices, has several [other] applications. Aniseed has been used medicinally since the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans. They frequently prescribed it for an assortment of issues, including relieving gassiness and bad breath, stimulating milk production in lactating Mothers, and helping to release excess phlegm. 

Today, herb experts believe that some of the ancient uses were spot on in regards to their claims, predominately, the ability of anise to benefit the digestive system. Anise is known to relieve gas, calm upset stomaches, and even relieve colic in infants. It is very safe for anyone to try, and, in fact, it has the same properties that dill and fennel have, which is what makes it effective for colic relief. To make a tea for an infant, dilute 1/2 cup of an anise seed tea with 1/2 cup of water, making sure that it is cool before offering it. For an adult who has stomach issues, or needs to have gas relieved, crush one teaspoon of aniseed and mix it into one cup of boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10-20 minutes and drink when cool enough. You can drink up to three cups per day, however, Dr. A. Duke, botanist, and author of The CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, recommends adding peppermint leaf (either fresh or dried) for to enhance the digestive relief.

The essential oil, pimpinella anisum, is steam distilled from the seeds of the anise herb. This is not the same as star anise, and they are not related. Anise, generally produced in China, India and Spain, produces a warm, spicy, sweet, licorice aroma. Because of its scent, it is frequently used in the making of pipe tobacco, as well as the liquors previously mentioned. It has some antiseptic qualities, along with antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, and  emmenagogue ones. (See definitions of underlined words on the Reference page, link at top of blog) Emmenagogue means a drug or agent that induces or hastens menstrual flow, which is one reason that this EO should never be used by a pregnant woman. 

Because of the properties noted, this EO is often used in preparations/ medications/ treatments to relieve symptoms of colds, bronchitis, coughs, and asthma, as well as, colic, gassiness, muscular aches, cramps, indigestion, and even rheumatism. Many people have nicknamed this EO scent "the Fishermans Friend". Supposedly fish are attracted to the scent, and the human scent is masked by its fragrance, which allows the fisherman to bait his pole without worry about off-putting his potential catch. When taken internally it helps with dry, irritating coughs, whooping cough and bronchitis. A drop can be taken with water to help with digestion, or the oil can be added to honey when taken for coughs or digestive ailments. Although this EO's use can be quite beneficial in several regards, it must be used in moderation because it acts as a narcotic, slowing down circulation, when it's present in large quantities. In fact, misuse can even lead to brain disorders. As with all EO's knowledge, care and careful use is necessary, but with these, we can benefit from the plants and their oils.

*See the reference page, link at the top of this page, for definitions and bibliography.

Make It Yourself Monday -Protein Face Mask

Since it is winter, even the oiliest of oily skin can usually benefit from using a moisturizing mask. It is quite liberating and enjoyable to treat yourself to a face mask once in a while, even if you do not routinely do so. Trust me on this one! It took me many years to break down and do one for myself. In fact, I had been selling mine for many years before I ever used one. I gave all of my new recipes to test subject and let them have all of the fun. Then I took their word that they were good and never felt like I should "waste" my time and money on myself. SILLY, silly woman! A couple of years ago, test subject short, my Mother agreed to use one only if I would also allow her to put one on me. She said that I was worth my own products. I always knew that my Mom was smart (even though I naturally hate to admit that), but let me tell you something, that woman is a God send! Not only did I LOVE my anti-aging face mask  but I loved the way that pampering myself made me feel. I had forgotten how using good product feels, and I am not saying that to toot my own horn, I'm saying that to get you to treat yourself! Don't wait as long as I did, treat yourself to whatever product makes you feel good about yourself NOW! YOU ARE WORTH IT!!

And, to that end, here is a wonderful beauty mask. It is excellent for any skin type, but benefits maturing skin greatly! It is simple to make and you will feel sooooooo good after you use it! You can use it weekly if you like.
Protein Face Mask
All you will need is; 4 tablespoons of chickpea flour (if your big box store doesn't have, check the health food store), 1 ripe banana, and 1 egg, beaten.  In a bowl, mix the chickpea flour and the ripe banana until it is like a paste. Then add the beaten egg, mix in and then apply to  the face and don't forget the neck. Leave the mask on for 15 minutes, then rinse it off with tepid water, and pat dry.

The chickpea flour has many advantages, it's a skin-softener, as well as an effective exfoliater. It also stimulates circulation while rejuvenating the skin tissue. Bananas, rich in vitamin A and potassium, as well as being a natural emollient, will help to reduce puffiness                  and redness.  The egg will serve to tighten pores and leave your face feeling rejuvenated

*see the reference page link (top of screen) for the bibliography of this post

After last weeks posts on roses, I remembered having this face mask, also a weekly one, but mainly for maturing skin. If you are fortunate enough to have rose essential oil, try this one!

Honey Rose Face Mask
Take 2 tablespoons of honey and mix with 2 tablespoons of sweet almond oil, the add 5 drops of rose essential oil.  Mix well and apply to your face and neck. Allow to rest for 15 minutes, rinse off and pat dry.

*see the reference page link (top of screen) for the bibliography of this post

Frankly Speaking Friday- Retail Therapy

TGIF! Yep, it's Friday again, but don't worry, I am not going to go off on another health care rant. This week I am going to tone it back and just tell you what's going on in my world. First and foremost, Sunday will be my youngest Son's 24th birthday, so Happy Birthday Jared!. They grow so very fast. Now he is an old married man and I am the old Grandma! And, as if I wasn't feeling old enough already, I spent a good deal of time on the computer this week, only to wonder when they (considerably) shrunk the print type! Seriously!

Speaking of needing to see the writing, the reason that I was on the computer was to compare prices from my favorite on-line venues. I generally try to make one large order a year for various categories of supplies. This way I save by buying in bulk, cutting the shipping costs, and, at the same time I limit the width of my global footprint. So once a year, in the winter, I try to check the prices for all my current suppliers, while attempting to find a new source or two. Believe it or not, I only began doing this about five or six years ago. Before that, I stuck with the stand up shop that I found years ago. I initially went there for candle making supplies, but when I began making Unique Garden Essences products, I found that they had great essential oils, salts and carrier oils. At that time I lived east of Columbus, Ohio and this is where they were located, so I just drove in. Even after they closed their Columbus shop, I continued to order from their warehouse until they discontinued one of my products. When I had to hunt for a replacement source, I was actually quite fortunate, because I found many, many suppliers that I would never have even seen.  And, although I have yet to find a better supplier of  (certain) oils, I now purchase less than ten percent of my total supplies from them. While this would be soooooo much easier for me if there was one super shop, where all the quality was impeccable and all the prices the lowest, this just hasn't happened yet.

This year's delve into the price/product comparison waters left me knowing that, while I haven't yet found that one super-great, superstore, the four places that I routinely use are very good. Over the years, I have been impressed with the quality of their products and their customer service, so I am quite happy to find that they are still competitive in pricing. I truly wish, however that I could cut one or two out so that i could make that footprint smaller!

Anyway, on this years annual pilgrimage, I found a few new sites that had me flipping through their pages. Earlier this month I mentioned that I was revamping my soap recipes in anticipation of making some cp soap,  after more than a years break. Well, one site I found  has extremely reasonably priced  wood  molds. They also have some great wood tags, as well as displays for all types of bath and body products, not to mention,  they do custom work as well! Ok, so I got excited and added a fifth place buy from instead of cutting down the number, but hey, I did get a really good deal! LOL. If you are a soaper, or if you find yourself in need of wood displays, go and take a look at the Candles and Wood Crafts  website.

I did finally manage to get myself together and place an order with While I wish that I was restrained enough to have only spent the gift certificate that I won,  I wasn't! Lol. I seemed to have found myself "needing" some great sounding fragrance oils and a few other things. I mean, gee, well I can't use my expensive Essential Oils to try out  new soap recipes, can I?  Besides, I did order one product that I could have gotten at another place a bit less expensive, but I put it in with this order to save on that footprint deal! So it made perfect sense to buy a few more extra things. While I think its called "retail therapy",  whatever it's called, I am now waiting on a pretty good sized box from the west coast! Footprint not withstanding, I am soooo excited!!!

With that order placed, still feeling the high of the retail therapy, I went to an old favorite and added a few more goodies. There is something to be said for retail therapy, but I think its more than that. I am really into working the New Years Goals and Plans that I laid out and it feels good to see it coming together. One thing is for sure, I am already finding it difficult to wait on these packages, global footprint not withstanding! After all, I can't be expected to pass up Beet Powder for soap coloring can I ? Lol!

Have yourself a great weekend!