What's Happening Wednesday- Wine

I have been interested in wine for many years, but on a trip to Florida a few years ago, my family and I visited a wine shop which featured wine made from everything EXCEPT grapes. Since I never realized that was even a possibility, it not only surprised me, but it truly intrigued me. After several tastings, we chose a nice sparkling champagne made from mangoes for my Son's engagement, but really loved the taste of the white sangria, a 5 wine mixture too. Of course the blueberry was a favorite of mine as well, but since it contains a lot of potassium, the nurse in me worried that I would want to drink too much of it, which could cause me some  heart issues, so I had to pass on that one. 

Wine first appeared about 4500 BC, and was quite common in ancient Rome and Greece. In fact, both cultures even had gods that represent wine. While Dionysus was the Greek god representing wine, and Bacchus the Roman equivalent, wine continued to play an important role in religion throughout history. In fact, the drink is still used in modern day Christian services to represent the Eucharist, and in the Jewish Kiddush ceremonies as well.

Wine is made from fermented fruit juices which, to spite my introductory statements, is usually made from grapes because of their natural chemical balance, which allows them to ferment without the addition of sugars, enzymes, acids, or other nutrients. Grape wine is created by fermenting the crushed grapes using various types of yeast. The yeast consumes the sugars contained in the grapes and converts them into alcohol. The different varieties of grapes, as well as different strains of yeasts, produce different types of wine.

Wine that is made from fruits other than grapes, is usually called the fruit they are made with (such as elderberry wine), generically called fruit wine, or they are called after the specific fruit from which they are made (such as elderberry wine). Actually, wine can also be made from flowers and vegetables as well. All home-made wine is generally referred to as "country wine". Country, as in "not the city", because presumably the ingredients originally came from the Earth/the countryside. Don't dismiss the country wine that you come across simply because it is home made, it can be just as good, or even better as any store bought bottle. And they are for sure less expensive than their store bought counterparts. 

Actually, because of the additives needed, non-grape wines may be technically more difficult to perfect, however they do not command the popularity, distinction, or the price that most grape wines do. This is probably also true of other wines, made from starch based materials like barley wine or rice wine (sake). In fact, these wines actually resemble beer more than they do wine. In these cases, the term "wine" refers to the higher alcohol content they posses, rather than the actual production process. Interestingly enough, the word "wine", as well as its equivalent in other languages,  is protected and defined by law in many jurisdictions.

Wine is not only tasty, but is very interesting. So interesting in fact, that I know several people who do not even drink, that are into making their own wines. While I kind of think not tasting your product is a little odd, as long as I get a glass to try, who am I to complain? Lol
If you are interested in possibly making your own wine, you may find this video  helpful.  And this site offers several references that will help to get you started. It provides material lists, articles about issues you may run into, introductory directions as well as more detailed and experienced ones, and even descriptions of various wine types. 

Crafting with Clay

Over the last day and a half, I was stuck on the interstate, broken down on the side of the road, and traveled about 900 miles to get back home to animals that think holding a grudge will make me stay home in the future, so I hope that you will forgive me for not getting the Monday post up in a timely manner.

I want to thank my guest blogger, Alyssa of Complex Beauty, for the great posts last week (Wednesday-Friday), and hope that she has a wonderful time on her vacation [in Texas] this week! I also hope that I can talk her into coming back and posting once in a while, as I really enjoyed her writing, and hope that you all did too! 

So let me back up and provide you all with a project, and then I will get some much needed sleep and try a more interesting subject tomorrow!

For a quick and easy craft project, one that will provide you with a few different finishing opportunities, try purchasing some modeling clay to make various animal decorations. Make sure to get the kind of clay that you bake to finish. You can find the white clay at a very reasonable price, in your local walley world, but if you want/need any colored blocks, you will need to shop your local hobby stores, but expect to pay a tad more, for a whole lot smaller block of clay.   

Try making a cute little sheep. It is easy and oh so adorable! To begin with, break off a small amount of the white and knead it until it is fairly pliable. Press it out until you have a nice oval shape for a body. Add a head, ears, nose and four legs in much the same way. Then make many small (very tiny works best) balls and press them into the body to create some "wool".  Before you bake it, make sure to decide how you want to finish the piece off. You can put a hole in it to allow for hanging (ornaments with an "ewes special" tag are always cute!) or you can glue  a magnet strip on the back for a fridge magnet. Then bake according to the package directions and finish by painting appropriately.

How about a cute pig? Use a toothpick to sort of give the hooves that cloven look.

Or a cow? This one's details are easily painted                  after its baked. I used white for all of these, and just painted the various colors needed. This made them less expensive to create and very easy to get the designs as I wanted.

So get busy creating, just let your imagination be your guide. You can create the whole barnyard if you want! 

Body Scrub for Sun Damaged Skin

Summer is coming to its end. We love the idea of the sun soaked days but by this time of the year we can see the toll those days have had on our skin! Here is a recipe to rid our bodies of those uneven tan lines and fade sun spots and help improve sun damaged.

Yogurt Body Bliss • 1/4 cup rolled oats, ground fine • 1/4 cup organic corn meal (blue is my favorite, it’s a pretty purple color) • 1/2 cup full fat yogurt • 1 Tbs sweet almond oil • 1 Tbs honey • 8 drops lavender eo • 3 drops palmarosa eo • 2 drops geranium eo • 2 chamomile eo Grind oats into a fine powder and mix with corn meal in a glass bowl. Stir in wet ingredients and essential oils. To use Rinse skin with warm water. Turn off water and use scrub all over body making sure to get the few ignored parts~ feet, hands, and armpits! Yes armpits need some love too! Leave on skin for a few minutes. The key ingredient in this body scrub is the full fat yogurt. Yogurt is high in Lactic acid, which is a natural chemical exfoliator.

What’s in your cup?

I grew up with “sun” tea on the farm. My father’s side loves their tea. Every family get-together there’s sure to be more containers of freshly brewed tea than anything else on the beverage table. I have a theory that most people who enjoy tea are those who grew up with it. I still feel the urge to brew tea outside during the long hot days of summer to taste that slightly bitter, refreshing good old fashion flavor. But now in my adulthood I have become a bit prissier with the teas I consume after discovering the world of fine teas and the wonderful benefits they bring to the table. High quality teas usually come in loose form. It is also important that the tea be free trade and organic. Here are the individual tea profiles White Tea • Contains cancer fighting anti-oxidants • Cooling and detoxifying • Has the lowest content of caffeine found in all teas • Anti-aging and anti-stress properties • High L-theanine amino acid content promotes longevity and concentration Green Tea • Contains the highest content of cancer fighting anti-oxidants than any other tea • Antiseptic and anti-viral effects: kills oral bacteria • Fights degenerative diseases and supports immune system function • Strengthens tooth enamel and fights bad breath • Potent source of vitamins and minerals • Effective for slimming and weight loss Oolong Tea • High content of tea polysaccharides • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar • High content of anti-oxidants • Strengthens tooth enamel • Potent source of vitamins and minerals • Effective for slimming and weight loss *New Beauty Magazine published recently “A study conducted by scientists at the University of Tokushima School of Medicine in Japan revealed that those who drank oolong tea on a regular basis burned twice as many calories as those who just drank green tea.” Black Tea • Heart Health: black tea can help prevent heart attacks • Helps prevent plaque build-up in arteries • Increases bone density • Oral Health: Kills bacteria in the mouth that can cause cavities • Fights bad breath All tea in general promotes mental alertness and clear thinking, improving learning function too. Tea offers a balance in energy during the day and rest at night. When drinking tea regularly, it can strengthen immune system and aid in lowering stress levels. Tea has a much lower caffeine content than coffee, so I ask “what’s in your cup?” DISCLAIMER these statements are not meant to treat, cure or prevent illness/diseases. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. *http://www.newbeauty.com/dailybeauty/entry.aspx?id=4800 *The majority of the info presented to you is sourced from Rishi Tea a favorite tea company of mine, highly recommend. https://www.rishi-tea.com/

The Wonders of Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse~ How to make it work for you!

Apple cider vinegar hair rinse has become a weekly beauty ritual for me, but wasn’t a treatment I was exactly taken away by at first it. What got me to try it out originally was that every book and online resource seemed to have something written about the amazing ACV rinse. At first go I ran into a few problems. The first of those woes were the smell. Even after a washing my hair it still carried that vinegar scent. The second problem was that my hair felt weighed down, the exact opposite in what I wanted the ACV rinse is to do. Third, it was hard to get the rinse to my scalp before most of it ran off. After my first experience, I figured it just wasn’t for me. But in about a year’s time I become in desperate need of something to rescue my flaky, dry, itchy scalp! I am unsure what exactly sent my poor scalp over the edge, but it was in some dire need of TLC. Nothing seemed to work, nothing. And time after time researching, I came across ACV hair rinse as healer of scalp issues. So I took another shot, this time I perfected the rinse and like I said earlier it has become a favorite beauty treatment of mine. Not only does the ACV rinse soothe my scalp but it improved the overall look of my hair. It makes sense~ healthy scalp equals healthy hair.

image~ http://www.etsy.com/shop/shannonpix?ref=top_trail

1. The perfect bottle is essential~ I found it difficult to get the rinse to the scalp with just pouring it straight onto my head. I came across a plastic bottle used for root color applications and this was the perfect thing to get the job done. The bottle is made with a comb like attachment with openings at the end of each tooth. This sort of bottle can be purchase at a beauty store like Sally’s. 2. The right balance of H2O and ACV is a must! Here is what I came up with and it’s perfect for my hair. As with most recipes you can always tweak it to fit your needs. • 40/60 Apple Cider Vinegar and water~ I wouldn’t go over 50 percent vinegar or it will be hard to rinse out and leave hair dull and limp. • 1-2 drops of rosemary essential oil. Rosemary essential oil is one of those essential oils that have been proven to help stimulate, refresh and soothe a badly behaving scalp. How to use Use this treatment once a week. Just get hair wet like usual in the shower and work AVC rinse into the scalp and to the ends of hair. Let it sit for a minute or two before rinsing it out with warm water and shampoo and condition like normal. But it is very important to make sure you get all of the rinse out. This is when the shower nozzle on high pressure comes in handy. Silky smooth, shinny, full bodied locks!! Please check out UniqueGardenEssences' other wonderful post on the benefits of ACV.

Teaching Tuesdays- Spices, Nature's Pharmacy

There are many spices that are known to have medicinal properties. You probably  already know that garlic and ginger benefit your health, but I have a few others you may not know about. ".. Most Americans don't take full advantage of the wonderful world of spices", according to author Bharay Aggarqwal, in his book, Healing Spices. This book highlights 50 different spices that are said to either prevent or heal certain medical conditions and diseases. Following are a few spices that I thought were a bit more "unknown" in regard to their health benefits.

When choosing a Bay leaf, look for the whole ones, and ones that are uniform in size and color, and are free from stems and bark. The darker the coloring, and the larger the leaves, the better. When cooked, the bay leaf releases an array of antioxidants. Bay leaves are a natural medicine for various forms of cancer, arthritis, ulcers, wounds, and even mosquito bites.

Interestingly enough, Cumin, in a study done in India, was found to be as effective as an anti-diabetic drug when given to lab rats. It has also been shown to protect bone health and to help prevent food poisoning. The book recommends  purchasing whole cumin seeds rather than the ground seeds. 

Horseradish is a spice that was actually used as medicine before it was used as a food. It can clear congestion, fight both viruses and bacteria, relax smooth muscles, and reduce inflammation. Aggarwal recommends buying it prepared and preserved in vinegar, although he does say that it won't give you the same zing that fresh horseradish does.  

One very tasty spice that is commonly used, especially in Fall and Winter dishes and drinks, is cinnamon. Cinnamon is another antioxidant with antimicrobial properties. It also improves insulin sensitivity while it lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. 

So try spicing up more of your foods and drinks to put these spices to the test with your numbers! 

***Remember,  you should never quit taking any medications without consulting with your physician. Especially diabetic medications. Doing so could adversely affect your health, and even potentially result in death! 
I recommend routinely adding these spices to your diet, then you and your doctor can compare your (laboratory) blood tests to measure their impact. Together, you and your physician can decide the best plan for you and your health needs. 

Make it Yourself Monday-Bath Salt Recipes

Here are a few quick and easy Bath Salt Recipes. Great for soaking away tensions after a long, hard day at work, or for easing the muscle aches of exercise. Whatever your reason, be sure to find one and enjoy a nice long soak!

Balancing Bath Soak

3 Tbs. Dead Sea Salts
3 Tbs. Baking Soda
8 drops Essential Oil of choice from the following list, or a blend of 3 or 4 of these oils, totaling the 8 drops. Use bergamot, geranium, lavender, palmarosa, rose and/or rosewood.

Buttermilk Bath 

1 cup your choice of bath salts (European, Dead Sea, Epsome or other specialty salt)
1 cup powdered buttermilk (get this at your local grocery store in the baking isle)
up to 24 drops of your choice of essential oils

Mix the bath salt and buttermilk powder together in a jar and add up to 24 drops of essential oil, or a blend, totaling no more than 24 drops of EO's into that jar. Cover and shake, shake, shake, blending well. Keep it sealed in the jar for several days before using, continuing to shake and blend daily. Store in the sealed jar when not opening for use. To use, pour 1/2 cup into your bath water and allow to dissolve before getting into tub. So this recipe makes 4 baths! 

Dreamy Soak

2 cups Dead Sea Salts
2 Tbs baking soda
5 drops rosewood Essential Oil
2 drops cedarwood EO
2 drops chamomile EO

Mix the salts and the baking soda in a bowl. Blend it very well. Then mix the oils in a small cup. Once mixed, take them and pour them evenly over the salt mixture, then blend very well. Let this mixture sit for at least one hour before placing in a jar and sealing. 

Tripod Thursday

The computer is still down, so no new pictures, but here are a few of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy!

What's Happening Wednesday-

While my computer is on the fritz I am unable to post stored pictures or information, so what is up this Wednesday is a search for a computer wizard, money to afford that wizard, and the hope that it can all be set to rights quickly! Lol

The evenings here in southern Ohio are starting to cool enough to open windows already. While we generally have one last bout of nasty heat sometime late August, early September, Autumn is definitely right around the corner. Many schools will be starting next week and the Fall Festival of the leaves is right around the corner too. All of my Autumn soaps are on the cure racks, and the Winter ones are being made. So far I have Mistletoe Whisper, Frosted Winter Berries, Winter Forest, and Spiced Lavender on the curing racks, with  Holly and Ivy and Chestnuts and Brown Sugar soon to be on their way there as well. Some scrubs, butters and lotions will be next on the to do list, along with a whipped cream soap, and of course my spectacular Heel and Elbow Cream. 

While my "to do " list may be a tad long, there are a few things that I have finished which you may not be aware of. I recently redesigned new labeling, which includes a plantable seed paper in every soap box. I also just received some new "basket" boxes, for gift sets. While these come in a wide variety of designs, I actually found one that almost matches my new label design exactly! Since I didn't even know that was possible, it was certainly a very happy and lucky find! Also, I purchased a very cute Christmas themed one, so I am very excited to begin putting some wonderful gift sets together! 

With all of the soaping and such, I still have managed to begin the packing and inventory process for Christmas at the cabin items. While I will have until the beginning of October to complete the ornaments, wreaths and other items I send there, I will need every minute of these weeks to make everything. Afterall, it takes a LOT of sock hats to get the snowman ornaments made, and a lot of clay molded to get all of the melting snowmen melting! Whomever said that summer was for vacation, obviously didn't do retail sales! 

So that is what is up with me this Wednesday, what's happening with you?

Teaching Tuesdays- What is Spirulina ?

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is shaped like a perfect spiral coil. As one of our   planets oldest inhabitants, it surprises me that it is not really commonly known. In fact, I had not heard of it until a few years ago, which is why I chose it for todays subject matter. 

Spirulina is roughly 3.6 billion years old. Yes, that's billion with a "B", and it grows on virtually every continent in the world. It grows naturally in alkaline lakes, very often near volcanoes. Currently, the best known producers are; Lake Texacano, Mexico; Lake Chad, Africa; and the Great Rift Valley, in East Africa. 

While there is evidence that our ancestors knew of, and valued spirulina, it was really "rediscovered" back in the 1960's. Since that time, many studies have been conducted and spirulina farms have popped up in counties. Spirulna makes a great crop because it uses 1/3 rd less water than that needed to grow soybeans and 1/50 th less than what is needed for beef protein. While it needs 20 times less land than what is needed for soybeans, and 200 times less than what is required for beef. Not to mention that the growth of the spirulina helps with global warming since it fixes carbon and produces oxygen.

So all of that is good and fine, but why would anyone want to buy spirulina, even if it was grown and just given to them? I will tell you. Very simply, spirulina is the MOST powerful and well balanced source of nutrition available in this world today. It has been named as a "Super food" by Scientists. It is made up of 60% all vegetable protein, essential vitamins and phytonutrients, such as essential fatty acids. It is cholesterol free, low fat, and low calorie. It also possesses antiviral and wound healing properties that combat free radicals in the body.        

In plain English, this very small plant packs a very powerful punch. A small quantity of this food source can feed the masses for less space, less water and  less money than any other food source, AND, all the while, do it more efficiently nutrition wise.  The more I study this unique plant, the more I want to grow it myself! 

Of course there are a good many implications for heath related to a diet rich in Spirulina. In fact, it has been given as a treatment for radiation sickness, and is known to increase wound healing, while decreasing kidney toxicity. But when it comes to the bath and body industry, I was unable to find a lot of uses, however, it does give a wonderful green color to your cold and hot processed soaps, and, like other algae, it makes a truly great, cleansing facial mask too! So it appears that Spirulina is food for the inside, as well as the outside of our bodies! 

For some interesting reading about a spirulina farm, see auroville.org

Make it Yourself Monday-Cool Drinks for Hot Days

With the dog days of Summer still ahead of us, I am happy to share with you some cool relief! Today's Make it Yourself Monday is all about cool drinks for hot days!


You will need;
4 cups of orange juice
4 scoops of vanilla ice cream OR orange sherbert
1 cup of chilled cream soda OR ginger ale

Pour 1 cup of orange juice into each of 4 glasses. Top each with a scoop of ice cream or sherbert and then pour in 1/4 cup to a full glass of cream soda or ginger ale, according to your tastes.


1 cup milk
1 cup orange juice
1 cup vanilla ice cream

Pour into blender and blend until smooth, or pour into glass and cover with plastic wrap, then shake until smooth.


1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup cream
1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Mix the juices and the cream together well, then top with the ice cream and enjoy! 


1 thawed (12 oz) can of frozen pineapple juice concentrate
2 quarts strawberries
2 pints strawberry ice cream, or vanilla if you prefer
1 (2 liter) cold lemon-lime soda pop

Mix the pineapple juice, strawberries and 1 pint of ice cream, blending until smooth. Pour into a chilled punch bowl and add the lemon lime soda, then spoon the remaining ice cream on top. Serve in punch cups. This makes about 18 cups of fruit punch.


1 peach or nectarine, pitted
1/2 c. milk or cream
4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 crushed ice cubes

Mix all together and blend for 1 minute.



2oz of amaretto (an almond tasting liquer)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
Just blend all together and serve immediately. This makes a single serving.


1 cup coffee ice cream
1 tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in 2 Tbs. of hot water and cooled
2 oz of sambuca (more or less to taste)
3/4 cup cold club soda
2 Tbs. finely chopped chocolate covered espresso beans

With a small ice-cream scoop or spoon, divide ice cream between 2 chilled stemmed glasses. Add espresso mixture, Sambuca and club soda, then top with the espresso beans.


1 oz vodka
1/2 oz Kahlua

1 scoop vanilla ice cream  
milk or fresh cream

You can either put the ice cream into your serving glass, then add the vodka and kahlua (after its mixed together well) OR you can make a true shake by blending all the ingredients together for an adult shake!  You may want to add a small amount of milk or cream if you desire a true shake.

Fur Friendly Friday

My computer has crashed, so I am on a borrowed one, which means that I don't have access to all of my research. So, rather than look into more, I am offering you a dog treat recipe today! This is one that comes to you taste tested by Dallas, and has been certified paw-licking and tail waggin' great!

Blueberry Peach Cookie

4 weeks whole wheat flour
1 cup water
2 Tbs. flax seed
1/3 cup blueberries
3 Tbs. finely chopped peaches
2 Tbs. canola oil
2 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 lg. egg

Combine the flax seed, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. In a food processor, combine the water, blueberries, peaches, honey, oil, egg, and vanilla and puree until it is smooth. Once smooth, pour it over the dry ingredients and stir until it is well mixed. Knead the dough, then roll it out to about 1/8" thickness. Poke holes over the surface with a fork, then using a pizza cutter or knife, cut it into bite sized rectangles or squares. Bake it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, and then allow it to cool completely. Then decrease the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until they are hard. Serve when completely cooled. These can be stored in an airtight container for up to 30 days, or frozen for six months. If you freeze them, make sure that you completely thaw them out before serving to your dog or else they can be injured. Thawing usually takes about 30 minutes.   


Tripod Thursday- Fall is On Its Way

Last night was a very cool night. So cool that I opened the windows and actually needed a sheet to cover with. This has my mind wandering to the Autumn and the changes that come with it. So today's photographs are of last years Fall changes. I hope you enjoy a preview of things to come!

Teaching Tuesdays - The Agave Plant

Agave, stemming from the Greek word agauos, meaning of kings and heros, illustrious, noble. This plant was likely taken back to Europe by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, but the plants became popular [in Europe] during the 19th century, when many types were imported by collectors. Some have been continuously propagated by offset since that time, and do not even resemble any species known in the wild.  

There are well over 300 species of Agave that have been described, but only about 200 that are currently recognised. It is a common misconception that agaves are cacti. In fact, they are not related to the cacti, nor are they closely related to the Aloe plant, whose leaves are similar in appearance. Although it is important to know how to handle this plant, and which species is which since the  juice from many species can cause acute contact dermatitis. It will create reddening and blistering of the skin that lasts from one to two weeks, and episodes of itching, even though there is not a visible rash, may reoccur up to one year after contact!  The irritation is, in part, caused by calcium oxalate raphides. While dried parts of the plant can be handled with the bare hands,  without any effects, if the skin is pierced deeply enough by the needle-like ends of the leaf, (from a vigorously growing plant), it can cause the blood vessels in the surrounding area to erupt and cause bruising in an area 6–7 cm across. This can last from two to three weeks, so you beter exercise caution and know which plant you are messing with!  

The Agave plants are perennial, and most flower only once, then die, which is refered to as monocarpic. They grow quite slowly, eventually reaching the flowering stage. During flowering, a tall stem or "mast" grows from the center of the leaf rosette and bears a large number of shortly tubular flowers. After development of fruit, the original plant dies, but prolific vegetative growth, and offsetting at the base of the plant usually maintains a clump of plants, thus compensating for loss of the flowering rosettes. These suckers which are frequently produced from the base of the stem, grow and become new plants. However, there are a few species that remain solitary, and rely on seed production for survival of the species. There are even a few species that can even flower several times during their life.  Whatever their growth habit, this plant is commonly referred to as the century plant, since it takes so long to flower. Many species of Agave produce musky perfume scents as attractants for bats, which pollinate them, but others produce sweeter odors, ones that attract insects which pollinate and propagate them. So species is quite a distnction for this plant. 

Chiefly Mexican, agaves are also native to the southern and western United States, as well as central and tropical South America. While Agave leaf fiber was used by natives, it is still of commercial importance today, being used to make clothing and rugs. The best quality fibres, coming from the youngest of the leaves. 

Additionally, carbohydrates, which are stored in the core of several species of Agave, were fermented by the natives to make a beverage that they used in ceremonies, called pulque, which is still enoyed today. Distillation of a similar ferment, made from the developing Agave flower bud, is the basis for the modern production of Mezcal. The best known mezcal is tequila. The agave flower shoot is cut out, the sap collected, then fermented. By distillation, the mezcal is prepared. In 2001, the Mexican Government and the European Union agreed upon the classification of tequila, and its categories. All 100% blue agave tequila must be made from the Weber blue agave plant, to rigorous specifications, and only in certain Mexican states.

The Blue Agave Americana occur in abundance in the Karoo, and arid highland regions of South Africa. Introduced by the British settlers in 1820, the plant was originally cultivated and used as emergency feed for livestock, but today is used [mainly] for the production of syrup and sugar. In fact, in ancient times, the bruised leaves afforded a paste from which paper was manufactured, its leaves supplied an impenetrable thatch for the more humble dwellings; thread, of which coarse stuffs were made, and strong cords, were drawn from its tough and twisted fibers; pins and needles were made from the thorns at the extremity of its leaves; and the root, when properly cooked, was converted into a palatable and nutritious food. In short, the agave was meat, drink, clothing, and writing materials, all the way back to the Aztecs! 

There are four major parts of the agave that are edible: the flowers, the leaves, the stalks or basal rosettes, and the sap which is called aguamiel, or honey water.  Each agave plant will produce several pounds of edible flowers during its final season. The stalks, which are ready before the blossom, during the summer, weigh several pounds each. When roasted, they are sweet and can be chewed to extract the aguamiel, which is like sugarcane. When dried out, the stalks can then be used to make didgeridoos. The leaves can be collected for eating in the winter and the spring, when the plants are rich in sap. As previously mentioned, some species are the source of pita fiber, and used as a fiber plant in Mexico, the West Indies and southern Europe.
Agave nectar (also called agave syrup), is a sweetener derived from the sap, and is used as an alternative to sugar in cooking. It  can also be added to breakfast cereals as a binding agent. 

People have found a few other uses of the plant aside from its several uses as food. When dried and cut in slices, the flowering stem forms natural razor strops. Natives of Mexico have used the agave to make pens, nails and needles, as well as string to sew and make weavings. Leaf tea or tincture taken orally is used to treat constipation and excess gas. It is also used as a diuretic. Root tea or tincture is taken orally to treat arthritic joints. 
Also, the expressed juice of the Agave leaves will lather in water, much like soap, so historically, it has been, and still is, used as a soap substitute, as well as a natural insecticide for plants. This sap is also used medicinally to treat burns, as it has a natural antiseptic quality. And water in which the agave fibre has been soaked for 24 hours, makes a great scalp conditioner. 

This plant, depending upon the variety, is almost like a wonder plant. From it, many foods and products can, and are being made. I really suggest that you check this one out in greater depth! 

For some pictures of many varieties, check out this web site;  http://www.succulent-plant.com/families/agavaceae.html

Make It Yourself Monday- Recipes for the Face

Creamy Face Wash Recipe

16 oz liquid Castile soap
4 oz of your a plain facial moisturizer (unscented)
16 drops bergamot essential oil
8 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine all of the above ingredients in a glass bowl and use a stick blender to mix it well. After its mixed, you can put it into a bottle and add a pump. This mixture is great for clearing up blemishes without drying your skin, and you do not need to use much of it to get the job done. In fact, using too much liquid will make it difficult to get your face rinsed quickly.

 Acne Steam  

This is an herbal water steam that is good for blemish-prone skin.
You will need; 

1/2 cup Calendula petals
3 drops Lavender essential oil
2 drops Bergamot essential oil
1 drop Tea Tree essential oil
2 tsp. raw honey
 a small amount of Jojoba oil

Boil 8 cups water, then stir in the 1/2 cup of calendula petals. Cover the pot and allow it to steep for 10 minutes, then add the essential oils and the honey. Mix well and then pour the herbal water into a large ceramic bowl. Sit down and put your face over bowl, draping your head with a bath towel.  Make sure to keep your eyes closed, and allow the steam to moisten your face until the water has completely cooled. Then pat your face dry and finish the treatment by massaging a small amount of Jojoba oil into your skin.

Exfoliating Facial 

3 oz. sweet almond oil 
4 oz. Almond meal
2 oz. Cider vinegar 
2 oz. Distilled Water 
6 drops Geranium Essential Oil (norm skin) OR 
Lavender (for oily or sensitive skin) 

Mix all of the ingredients together, blending until it is paste-like. This may take about 2 minutes, so don't loose heart. Once mixed, rub in a circular manner all over your face and neck. Exert a small amount of pressure, but be careful to not abrade the skin. Once applied, rinse off with tepid water, pat dry, and moisturize as normal.

Frankly Speaking Friday- Sea Buckthorn Oil

Although this post would nicely fit into a "Teaching Tuesday", I have been deeply rooted in the study of oils as of late, since I am reformulating many of my recipes and inventing a few new ones. While I have posted about this oil in the Exotic Oil series, it bears an additional look imho! 

Sea Buckthorn, botanically known as Hippophae Rhamnoides, is a small, scrubby shrub, native to Russia and the northern parts of China and Mongolia. It produces a fruit berry, which is then used to make the oil. The oil is made by cold pressing the shrub's berries, or the berry seeds, or a combination of the two.  A small layer of oil is isolated within a vat of pressed material, which is then vacuumed off and separated as the "pure oil". It takes around 10 pounds of berries, maybe more, to produce 1 pound of this pure oil. 

The oil itself is a deep orangish red color, and has the consistency and the viscosity of syrup. It posesses  large amounts of Phytosterol, Vitamin E, Beta-Carotene, Anti-Oxidants, and Carotenoid, which are responsible for its success as a skin repairing and conditioning oil.

Traditionally, sea buckthorn has been used to treat a wide range of skin ailments. It is known for its nourishing, regenerative, and restorative properties. Superficially, this oil is used to assist in the healing of skin injuries, burns, wounds, eczema, lesions, sun damaged skin, and abrasions. This oil is known for softening skin, regenerating skin cells, moisturizing, and also for its anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, this oil is great for helping to restore the skin's barrier function, and reducing the transepidermal water loss. Studies are currently being performed to determine Sea Buckthorn oil's ability to combat wrinkles, acute dryness and other symptoms of premature skin ageing.

Aside from being vey popular as a skin tretament, sea buckthorn oil has also been studied and tested for internal use, as a dietary supplement. The sea buckthorn berry is the least publicized of all the super fruits, but this tiny orange jewel delivers more than 190 bioactive nutrients, is packed with antioxidants, and offers twelve times the vitamin C of one orange. Studies have shown that it helps in promoting blood circulation, in the treatment of colitis, stomach ulcers, and is even a soothing agent for the intestinal tract.

This oil generally has a shelf life of about 6 months, and will solidify when it is exposed to low temperatures, so it should be stored at room temp. In its undiluted, concentrated form, this oil will stain the skin, surfaces and even your clothing, so exercise  caution when using, make sure to spread evenly and to dilute it appropriately.

Tripod Thursdays-Autumn Soaps, Fall Scents

I know we are in the midst of summer heat, but schools will be starting in just two weeks, and soon thereafter the leaves will begin to change, and the cool, crisp weather of Fall will begin. 
Since soap takes a good six weeks to two months to cure I am always a season ahead in planning,  and since I am just one person, and tend to be getting slower in my old age, lol, I really have to begin making the next season's products while they are far from most people's thoughts. 
Every August I begin by making melting snowmen, snowman face bulbs with hats, and sparkling, crystal Christmas ornaments, because about eight weeks before Christmas, I will be delivering at least four dozen ornaments to Christmas at the Cabin, as well as other craft items.
But, before the winter snow flies and Christmas comes, Autumn and the Wine festival will be here. So I have been busily creating fragrances appropriate for Autumn and in the spirit of the  wine festival. So today's Tripod Tuesday covers most of the soaps that I consider to be the Fall line. I still have an "Aged Oak Apple" that I am making this week, with Fosters Lager. It's a nice beer soap, with a scent that just speaks Fall to me! After this one, I will begin the more wintry and holiday blends. 
I hope you enjoy this soapy preview!

Teaching Tuesdays - Oils and Perfumes

Although there has been recent phenomenal growth in the "new age" practices of aromatherapy, holistic and herbal medicines, as well as various other treatments, in fact, these treatments are all quite old, ancient in fact. Massage therapy, reflexology and aromatherapy were all practiced in ancient Egypt, using many oils and perfumes that we are still familiar with today. The practical, therapeutic, social and religious uses of these oils and perfumes were depicted on many tombs and  temple walls, and recorded in texts, many of which were later copied by Greek and Roman scholars, who viewed Egypt as the source of all wisdom. It is from this documentation, thanks to Egypt's dry environment which preserved it so well, that the people of our time have been able to reconstruct many of the original ancient remedies and recipes.  

It has been proven that oils and perfumes were used in Egypt before 3100 BC., when Egypt became unified. Burials from the pre-literature period (the Predynastic period), even though they were little more than a hollow in the sand, have been recovered with "grave goods", indicating that they [already] believed in an afterlife. Aside from food and drink, the dead were often buried with cosmetics and the raw ingredients for their preparation. Of course, as the culture developed these rituals became better documented. But perfumes made of resin, lime and oil, as well as ingredients such as henna, oil-producing seeds, and imported resins, were discovered in several Predynastic era grave sites. In fact, one royal tomb, in Abydos, from c3000 BC., was found still containing jars that held their [original] contents of coniferous resin mixed with plant oils and animal fats. Another royal tomb at that same site, could easily be found by smell alone, as its sandy floors were saturated in perfume to a depth of three feet. It was still so strong that it permeated the entire tomb!

Almond oil was regarded as the finest oil in the Egyptian culture, forming the base of the majority of their most famous perfumes and medicines, as well as being used for massage. Also highly prized were the essences of lotus, cedar and cinnamon. These were prized for their own scents, as well as their value in recipes and remedies which were utilized in social and domestic contexts, religious rituals, and medicines, as well as massage and mummification procedures. In fact, these three fragrances represented the Egyptians view of life and death. The lotus flower symbolized the creation of life, while the cedar and cinnamon, both used in the mummification process, represented death and the afterlife. They played an integral part in religious ritual, which involved offerings of costly perfume, large floral bouquets and incense. The power of scent, of fragrance, was one of the ways that the Egyptians bridged the gap between the living world and the heavenly one. In fact, these fragrances were designed to reawaken the senses of the dead, which is why they were essential in the afterlife, and had to be buried with their dead.

I have read through some very detailed recipes from finds dating back to this era, and I have to say that they are recipes easily followed, and are similar to methods that were used until very recently. In fact, I believe that it is safe to say that, all perfumery and oil distillation methods grew from the ancient Egyptians, and many of these methods and recipes changed very little over thousands of years. So when you are discussing "new age" treatments and "new" fragrances, consider that your new is someone else's old!   

Make It Yourself Monday-Hair Care Recipes

I had a few more recipes for hair care than I was able to include the week we were concentrating on it, so that is what this Make it Yourself Monday post is about.....Hair care Recipes! I hope you make and enjoy them!

Here is a natural hair detangler that is similar to no more tangles. This one was found on a forum board, but no author was noted.
You will need;
8 oz. distilled water
1 tsp. aloe vera gel
1-2 drops glycerin
1-2 drops essential oil of choice
15 drops Grapefruit seed Extract

Mix everything together and put into a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Spray onto hair and use just like the name brand. I suggest a lavender and rosemary EO blend, 1 drop of each will do. I also prefer 2 drops of glycerin, but try it and see what your preference is.

Hair Rinse 

You will need; 1 heaping Tbsp of each [dried] herb that is listed for your type of hair. 
For dry hair;  chamomile, nettle, comfrey root and elder flowers. 
For oily hairlemon peel, lemongrass, and peppermint. 
For normal hair; nettle, elder flowers, rosemary, and burdock root.
1 quart boiling water 
And finally, here is an easy herbal shampoo recipe to whip up. Take 

3 oz Liquid Castile Soap
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

The first thing you need to do is to make an infusion [tea] of the herbs, making sure to steep at least 30 minutes [do not boil the herbs]. Once completed, strain, keeping the liquid and tossing the plant material. Then add the vinegar to the infusion and pour the mixture over your hair. Be extremely cautious to keep this out of your eye [rinse with clean water repeatedly if you don get into the eyes, seek medical attention if you feel it necessary]. Catch the run-off mixture in a bowl,  and use it to pour over the hair repeatedly. You will get the benefits of the herbs as the vinegar seals the hair cuticle, making the hair soft, shiny, and less tangled. Use this after each shampoo.

 Then finally, here is an easy to whip up, herbal shampoo. You will need; 3oz. of pure Castille liquid soap (make sure that the ingredient label lists only olive oil  on it), one heaping Tbs. of the following dried herbs; chamomile, sage, nettle, rosemary and lavender, some jojoba oil (this is for extra conditioning, you may leave it out if you wish), 2 drops of rosemary and lavender essential oils, and boiling water. 

Mix the herbs together in a bowl and add enough of the boiled water to cover them.  Cover and let steep for at least 30 minutes. Pour the Castile soap into the bottle of your choice. Once the steeping is complete, strain the herbs, discard the plant material and reserve the liquid. Using a funnel, add the herbs into the soap bottle, then add a few squirts of jojoba oil and the essential oils. Seal and shake well. Make sure to shake well before each use, so that you  will mix the oil with the soap. This shampoo will be very runny, but it will also be very concentrated, so use only a small amount when shampooing.