Make it Yourself Monday- Breakfast Casserole

With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, my thoughts tend to run toward food. Food, food, glorious food. Can you tell I like food? Lol I also like 
e-a-s-y! So for today's make it yourself project, I am going to share a great breakfast casserole with you, one that I make every Christmas eve day and bake every Christmas morning. While the kids open packages, this is in the oven baking, and by the time they are finished, so is it! Tasty and easy, the perfect combination! 

You will need;
6 slices of stale bread
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1 squirt spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 pounds cooked and drained sausage
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
2 ounces shredded jack cheese

Dry your bread out ahead of time, or place in low oven until dried. Spray a 9x13 casserole pan and lay the bread in the bottom of the pan. Then layer in the cheeses and the sausage. 
In a bowl, mix together the eggs, mustard, salt and milk. When mixed well, pour over the sausage and bread. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, cook covered at 325 for an hour, or until slightly brown on the top.

Add a fruit salad, some coffee and juice, and you have the perfect breakfast to get any holiday off to a great start.  An easy way to serve a crowd, without a lot of hard or time consuming work. trust me, try it, you like it! 

Feline Friday

I am the reluctant Mamma to two cats and two dogs. The dogs have been with me for the past 11 years for Dallas, the part chow, and 10 years for Gizmo, my 3 pound Yorkie. But the cats joined our family in the past few years, and have made themselves quite at home. Kiki is the one that has been here the longest, and she is the youngest. She arrived as a very sick, very small, 3 week or so kitten. Someone decided that they didn't need to care for this small precious thing, so she was dumped and found her way to our car port after almost being run over by cars. The shelter refused to take her, being full as usual, so they said that we could be a "foster" family and they would pay for a Vet visit. Well, that Vet didn't think that she'd live at all, but he gave her medicine and gave me instructions, and back home we went. Since she was found up by my Mother's, I made her a warm shelter in the carport and away from my 3 dogs (I still had custody of my college student Son's dog at the time, as well as my own) and my Mother's 3 Yorkies. All of the dogs just loved to chase cats and other animals, and frequently caught them, so I was very concerned, but she stayed on her side of the fence and out of the reach of the dogs as she grew and healed. As Fall began, she had gained weigh, grown, her and her matted eyes were open but she still had a cough so I took her back to the Vet. He was amazed that she had made it, but not very surprised when I told him that there was still no room at the shelter for her. As Fall progressed and her cough dissipated, she  began venturing over the fence and into the yard whenever we were outside. The smaller dogs chased her a bit, but she was pretty good at evading them. Amazingly enough, the largest dog, Dallas, never chased her. And Lucky, my Son's Corgie, a hunting breed, didn't pay much attention to her either. So, after Mom corrected her dogs, they eventually quit chasing the cat and she began spending more and more time in our company. Then one day my Mother called me and asked me to come up to her house. When I arrived she told me to look in the bedroom. When I did, I saw all of Mom's dogs asleep on her bed, and in the middle was the cat, curled up and sound asleep. Mom had left the door ajar for the dogs to come and go as they pleased but never saw the cat come in. From that day on the cat stayed in the house at Moms'.......until she didn't that is. 

But first, let me tell you how Kalley came to join our family. My Son took winter semester off of school to come home and finish building my addition on my house (there is a long story about a thieving contractor here for another time!). Since my Mother was out of town caring for an injured friend, we were staying up at her house with all the animals. During this time an older cat came to the yard and seemed to always be around. She was loud and very demanding of attention, but I instructed my Son to not feed it, we didn't need another mouth to feed and I thought it would go away. But "IT" decided to stay and every day it would follow my Son from Mom's to my house, winding in and  out of his feet, meowing loudly as they went, then would sit and wait for him to make the return trip to do it all over again. After about a week of "it" showing great tenacity, my Son told me that he thought that "it" was pregnant. Well I certainly couldn't continue to not feed a Mom to be, so we began feeding her, and I made another bed in the car port. I didn't think I could bring a stray into my Mom's house, since it was not my home, and I wasn't sure what all the other animals would think either. I sure did feel bad about the car port bed though, especially since it was getting pretty cold. But I made her a nice shelter, complete with warming blankets and whenever I felt her, she was always warm to touch. So she began to show that she was pregnant and she ate me out of house and home. My Son finished my place, I moved back home and Mom came back to her house. I was happy to be back in my cabin with my 3 dogs and Mom seemed content to accept the Mamma cat along with Kiki. She was even speaking of letting her in the house too. 

Then, one day I went to the grocery store and when I opened the door to go into my house, there was Kalley, Ms Mamma kitty on my porch, and Kiki was meowing inside my home. Upon further inspection, the litter box was in my house along with cat food!  WHY? Mother just laughed when I asked and refused to even consider taking them back. She insists that they "bonded" with me while she was gone, and that that was proven when Kiki jumped on my lap when I came to visit, yet would not come to her at all. Since she didnt even answer her phone or her door for hours that day, I got the idea pretty fast that this was a done deal, as they say. Kalley eventually came in the house too, and hasn't been back out since. She has had some major health issues, lost all of her babies, and still thinks that she may starve if no food is in her dish, but all in all, she settled into the family quite nicely. She even looks like she could be Kiki's Mamma, although Kiki likes to think she is queen of the roost. In fact, as I write this, Kiki is laying on Dallas' bed, ever so quietly exerting her superiority, and Kalley is laying at the end of my bed licking her paw and quite happy to just have a place to "belong". 

While I absolutely love my dogs, these cats are quite interesting and amazing creatures. They have attitude for days and quite the personalities. They are very different from each other and from the dogs. Kalley "speaks" a lot, while Kiki rarely makes a sound. Kiki has the energy of a kid, and since she is, I guess that makes sense, yet Kalley will occasionally take off running after Kiki for no apparent reason. In fact, every now and again she will just reach out and smack Kiki in the face. Being a Mom, I rather understand that desire, so I give her props for acting on it I guess, and I am grateful that she is not human and won't have to deal with child welfare laws! Lol  But in fairness, most often it is Kiki who starts the smacking and running, she just doesnt understand why Dallas and Gizmo don't want to play with her. She is cautious of Dallas, after all he is about 20 times her weight, but poor Gizmo.....she loves to play billy goat gruff with him. That is to say, she hides under the steps that he has to take to get up into my bed, and as he is walking up them, she jumps out and pounces on him. She has a blast with this game, but Gizmo isn't too keen on it!    

While I may have been a reluctant Mom to these two cats, I have to say that they have given, and continue to give me a great deal of pleasure. And as I look into their pretty faces, pet their warm, soft, fur, and listen to their low purring, I still wonder how anyone could just dump one on the side of the road.   

Tripod Thursday-Scenery, Misty Mornings

I am blessed to live in a beautiful, scenic, four-season area of our great country. I like to say that God paints beautiful pictures, and occasionally I am fortunate enough to capture these paintings. So here are some of God's paintings from my neck of the woods. I hope that you enjoy them! 

What's Happening Wednesday-New Items for Sale

This week, now that I am pretty much over the flu, I am preparing to take more items to the Christmas cabin. Here's what I have been working on.

The tin snowmen are unfinished in these pictures, they were drying for a second and more detailed coating. 

Teaching Tuesday-Homeopathy, What is it?

Especially in this day and age, homeopathy is becoming more prevalent, more pervasive in its use, but what is it? What exactly does homeopathy mean?

Homeopathy is basically the medicine part of the holistic approach. It is the alternative medicine form first put forward by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, in 1796. It is based upon the premise that "like is cured by like," otherwise known as the "law of similars."  In this form of alternative medicine the practitioners treat the patients using highly diluted preparations which are believed to cause the same symptoms as the ailment that they are fighting. In other words, if you have a flu, you would be treated with a diluted preparation that, if given to a well person, would produce flu type symptoms. Here is another, maybe better, example;  onions make your eyes water when you cut them. So, if you have a cold with a runny nose, the likely remedy would be AlliumCepa, which is made from onions. Homeopathic medicine is intended to stimulate the defense systems, thereby allowing the body to heal itself, and just like most holistic treatments, the effects take time, and improvement is usually gradual. Or at least this is the belief. 

Apart from the acute ailment's symptoms, homeopaths also examine the patient's mental status, psychological state, and their overall physical health status. They then refer to homeopathic reference books, known as repertories, and choose a "remedy" based upon the totality of the symptoms. In the context of homeopathy, "remedy" refers to a substance which has been prepared with a specific procedure, and is intended for patient use. This is not to be confused with the generally accepted use of the word,  "a medicine or therapy that cures disease or relieves pain".

Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution and succussion. Succussion is the term that homeopaths use to describe a shaking by forceful striking on an elastic body. Each dilution is then followed by succussion, and this is assumed to increase its effectiveness. They call this repeated process potentization. The potenization very often continues until none of the original substance actually remains. 

One of the better parts of homeopathy is that practitioners consider the patient's history and complete body before prescribing a treatment. In general, this is one large plus that holistic medicine has over the typical medical model, where the Doctor usually just sees the one ailment the patient is reporting. In holistic medicine, all symptoms are considered important.  They want to know about changes in feelings and mental status, as well as all of the physical symptoms. Usually this will mean that there are far more symptoms and issues being considered in the homeopathic and the holistic approach, than in the traditional medical model.

The basic premise of homeopathy, the law of similars, put forth by Samuel Hahnemann, is not a true, proven, law of nature based upon the scientific method. Some studies have yielded positive results, however reviews of these published trials have failed to provide efficacy, and many trials intended to duplicate the positive results, have failed to replicate them, thus failing to meet the scientific methods standards (results must be able to be replicated). Therefore, the scientific evidence of homeopathy shows it to be no more effective than a placebo. Evidence not withstanding, many people swear by these treatments and by homeopathy remedies.

Even though homeopathic medicine is greatly diluted from its original form, often in parts per million, supposedly, the more dilute the medicine becomes, the stronger its potency. This is unlike Bach Flower remedies, and most other holistic remedies or treatments. No matter what, homeopathy or holistic treatments are more than simply going to Aunt Susie's kitchen for a home treatment. Certainly, this is NOT the way to go. Homeopathy, just like any other holistic or medical remedy, is not something that is safe to self prescribe. While some of the remedies are low in potency and may actually be safely given by a knowledgeable lay person, most should be prescribed by the professionals, the ones who have studied and can accurately predict cause and effect. Danger abounds, possibly even death, when mistakes are made! Additionally, homeopathic remedies are very sensitive to heat and light, so must be properly stored. And they can be contaminated quite easily,  so extreme care must be taken to not touch the lid, the dropper, or the liquid. 

Make it Yourself Monday- Moisturizers

As discussed previously, there are five steps to having the perfect skin care regimen (see this post if you missed it!). So today I thought I'd offer recipes for the final step in skin care, moisturizing. While you may have many hand lotion recipes, do you have some specific for the face? Well now you will!

Aloe and Rosewater Moisturizer
 1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons aloe vera gel
3 Tablespoons beeswax (grated or granules)
3 Tablespoons lanolin
4 Tablespoons rosewater *see how to make your own below the recipe instructions.

Blend the olive oil with the aloe vera and leave it in a small bowl while you melt the beeswax and lanolin in a small saucepan. Make sure that you use a low heat and stir constantly or you will burn it. Once it is melted, remove it from the heat and slowly pour in the olive oil and aloe mixture, while continuously stirring. Add the rosewater and mix well, then pour it all into a blender and blend until it is very smooth. When it is at the proper consistency, pour it into a jar or jars and place in the refrigerator. As it cools it will solidify. You may use it and place a lid on any left overs once it is completely cooled. Since this recipe has water and does not have any preservative, it should be stored in the refrigerator and used within two weeks. 

Rosewater is a byproduct of rose essential oil, but can also be made by distilling fresh rose petals in water. Many roses are sprayed with chemicals to enhance their colors and increase longevity, so it is extremely important that you make sure that the roses you use are chemical free.

Take one cup of fresh rose petals and place into a bowl. Then cover with one cup of boiling, distilled water. Let this steep for a half hour, then strain the petals from the liquid, reserving the liquid and pouring into a glass jar. refrigerate the glass jar until use. *Again, because this is made with water and without any preservative, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator until use, and should be used within a few weeks time.  

Cucumber Cold Cream
2 small cucumbers, peeled and halved
1 cup lanolin
1/4 cup almond or apricot kernel oil
1/2 cup boiling, distilled water

Place the cucumber into a blender and blend until it is completely liquefied, then slowly add in the boiling water and set aside to cool. Melt the lanolin over low heat, in a saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and, while stirring constantly, gradually fold in the almond or apricot kernel oil. Then strain the cucumber pulp through a cheesecloth or very fine strainer, reserving the liquid. Gradually add the cucumber liquid into the lanolin and oil mixture, while continuing to stir. Once completely mixed together, place in a small glass or a plastic jar, and store in the refrigerator. Again, since this contains no preservatives, keep it in the fridge and use it with 2-3 weeks.

This really comes out like an old fashioned cold cream, and it is one that is perfect for cleansing sensitive skin, aging skin and damaged skin. It is very refreshing, and the cucumbers provide a mild astringent property, while the lanolin, which is more like a wax than an oil, will absorb water and hold that moisture near the skin. This is really a great, dual purpose product! 

No matter what you use, it is important to utilize a moisturizer in your daily skin care routine. It is the final step, the one that all the other steps prepared the way for. This step replenishes and protects the skin, so USE a moisturizer!   


Here are a few newly completed products, ready for the cabin. Thanks to the flu I am still needing to finish a few things, but I did make a good start at it.

This is a Candy Cane Bath Salt, made with Dead Sea Salts, and scented with essential oils.
These twist up lotion bars are made with jojoba shea butter and other great ingredients. Perfect for deeply moisturizing winter skin.

These bars are made with the same great ingredients as the twist up containers, just  without the container. These all weigh between two and three ounces, plenty enough to share with the family, or just enough to last you a good long while!

This is one of my newest essential oil blends, Spiced Lavender. Spiced Lavender is a mixture of several essential oils, with pure Bulgarian Lavender at its heart. Add to that some nice, warm, slightly sultry base notes and a light, airy, top note, and you have the perfect lavender, both for cold winter weather, and for steamy summery nights.

The scent of these heart shaped soaps take me on  a walk through snow filled woods, perhaps in search for the family Christmas Tree. Frosted Forest sounds  like the perfect name to me!

Next week I hope to finish with the cabin inventory, and I will then have a few more pictures to share with you. Think ice cube snowmen, ornaments, wreathes and more!
Enjoy your weekend and remember, Christmas is only a matter of weeks away! 

Tripod Thursday-Aquarium

A couple of weekends ago, before this nasty flu took hold, I was fortunate to be able to tour the Newport (KY) Aquarium. This was my second visit in the past three years, and it was just as exciting to me as it was the first time! Here are some of the wonderful sights!

Teaching Tuesday-Toners and Astringents

Last week I was asked to recommend products that would help to form the base of a good facial cleansing program. So guess what today's post is all about? You got it, face care! 

It has been a few years since we've discussed it in depth, so I will begin by reiterating that there are five steps to the perfect facial skin care regimen. Number one, you must cleanse the skin properly to rid it of makeup, dirt and excess oil see this post for recipes for non-soap cleansers. Number two, is to steam.  A good steam [which could be just a good hot, in the shower steam] opens the pores and increases the blood circulation in the facial capillaries, as well as deep cleansing the skin check this post out. for more about steams. Step three is using a mask or a peel to further remove residue, that which lies deep in the pores. They also nourish the skin, as well as replenishing it with essential vitamins and minerals. For more about masks, look here and hereStep four is the toner. A toner tightens the pores and prepares it to accept the final step, the moisturizer. The moisturizer replenishes the skin with fluid, and also provides it with a fine layer of protection. For more tips on the basics of face care check this old post.

So, let's go back and look at step four, since this is the one that usually trips up most people. Toners are skin care products that work to balance the PH of the skin, close the pores, remove excess dirt that was missed during the cleansing phase, and soothe irritated skin. As previously stated, toners are used after cleansing and before moisturizing. Generally speaking, toners can be used by any of the eight skin type categories (those being; dry, mature, oily, combination, normal, sensitive, sun damaged, and acneic, which means acne.

Astringents and toners are not interchangeable words, or treatments. Even though they are frequently used to mean the same thing by the unknowing, they are really two different skin care products, with two different end purposes. Astringents are similar to toners, in that they are used at the same time in the facial care process, and they both act to close the pores. An astringent though will not necessarily soothe irritated skin. It will, however, remove the dirt, debris, and excess oil that is found in oily or acneic skin types. The rest of the properties of the astringent depend upon the ingredient that is being used for the "astringent" action. 

Commercial astringents rely on alcohol to provide the astringent properties, which tend to excessively dry out the skin, and can even damage skin cells. On the other hand, organic skin care makers, such as myself, utilize witch hazel to create the astringent properties. Witch hazel, botanically known as Hamamelis Virginiana, is a deciduous shrub that is native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota, and south to central Florida and eastern Texas. Interestingly, its forked twigs are the preferred diving rod! But for the purpose of skin care, the leaves and the bark are used to create an extract, and you can find it in your local pharmacy, just look for witch hazel. 

Witch hazel has been used medicinally for centuries. Among other things, it is frequently used to treat insect bites, poison ivy, varicose veins, hemorrhoids (and is found in many commercial hemorrhoid preparations) ingrown toenails, to prevent facial sweating, as an aftershave, and as a natural remedy for psoriasis, eczema, and cracked or blistered skin. Witch hazel reduces swelling, has antiseptic properties, and while being a strong anti-oxidant and astringent, also acts to soothe the skin, which makes it very useful in fighting acne. And much more skin friendly than alcohol.

Because of the alcohol, commercial astringents are harsh, and can strip the skin of its natural PH balance, not to mention that they tend to sting when applied. Because historically the majority of astringent products have been,  made with alcohol, astringents have gained a bad reputation in the skin care world. Today, however, there is a movement toward more natural ingredients being included in skin care products. Not just the products that Indie companies make either, but some of the larger companies, seeing the swing toward natural, are beginning to incorporate some natural ingredients into their lines as well. You will still need to be vigilant when choosing a commercial brand, because many times they play up the one natural ingredient they have, only to hide several nasty ones. So make sure that you read the labels and know what those words mean. Remember, not all long words are bad ingredients. For example,  butyrospermum parkii  is the official name for shea butter, so do some research!

Now, back to toners and astringents. Unless you have very oily skin, are having an acne flare up, or are in need of a deep cleansing, you generally do not need an astringent, instead you should choose a toner. Even if you need the astringent, as soon as the need has past, change to a toner. 
That being said, with some Indie formulations you can manage to get a product that will offer the best of both worlds for your skin type. Of course this depends upon the sensitivity of your skin, the severity of your skin problems, and the knowledge level of your Esthetician. So again, research is extremely important.

If you have combination skin, or have problem "spots", you can always use an astringent on just those areas where it is needed, by applying with a q-tip or cotton ball, or you could always use the astringent in the mornings and the the toner at night, or the astringent on odd days and the toner on even ones. However it works best for you. With time and experimentation, you will discover what works best for you. Keep in mind though, the seasons and your activities will also play a part in your skin care needs. The harsh elements of Winter, forced air heating, cold, wind, and lack of sunshine, tend to dry out the skin. So switching to a mild toner is usually most beneficial, regardless of your skin type. 

Here are some recipes for toners and astringents       Here are some for moisturizers  

Make it Yourself Monday- Cuticle Treatments

Sometimes we get busy with our lives, our work, our families, and we forget to take care of all of ourselves. We put off cutting our hair, we give up many elements of our daily skin care regimen, and we ignore some of our own needs in favor of things that are more pressing. Well today's recipe is for a something that most people do not take the time to do anymore, unless they happen to get a day at the spa as a gift. I am here to tell you that, not only can you do this for yourself, but you deserve to take the time to do it AND you can do it so much less expensively than going to spa! Yes, I am talking about cuticle treatments! Cuticle treatments are not just a luxury, they will help to lock in moisture and condition, as well as strengthen and promote flexibility in your nails. So take a few minutes for yourself and give yourself a cuticle treatment! 

You will need;
2 Tablespoons of almond oil (you can sub apricot kernel oil if you'd prefer)
2 Tablespoon of jojoba oil
2 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of honey
4 vitamin E capsules, broken open and the oil squeezed into the mixture

Mix everything together. Soak your nails (don't forget the toenails!) in warm water for 10 minutes, then pat dry. Then massage the oils into your hands and feet, concentrating on the cuticles and the nails. Reapply after washing hands and after bathing/showering. This amount will give you enough for 2 complete hand and foot treatments, or 4 hand treatments.  

To make a nice hot oil treatment, just take 1/4 cup of olive oil and heat in a saucepan until warm. Make sure to allow it to cool until it is just warm to the touch, then add the liquid from 2 vitamin E capsules, and stir well. Massage  this mixture into your nails and cuticles, and use any left overs for your hands! 

Are your nails stained and/or dull? You can whiten your nails easily by simply soaking your nails twice a week, for 15 minutes, in a mixture of 1 Tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, mixed into 1 cup of warm water. After soaking, pat dry and moisturize your fingers and hands.

Need harder nails without using a commercial polish for strengthening? Castor oil is particularly beneficial for nails, hair and the lips. When you combine it olive oil, it will enhance the nails' flexibility, making them more pliable and less prone to chipping and breakage. Additionally, the other ingredients will provide antiseptic and bacteria inhibitors, help to replenish the skin and nail's moisture and nutrients, while the walnuts provide just the right amount of friction to scrub away dead surface cells. This is a wonderful treatment for both the hands and the feet.

You will need' 1/2 cup of shelled and ground walnuts
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon of castor oil
1 teaspoon of honey

Grind the walnuts until they are a coarse powder consistency. to them add the other ingredients to make a thick paste. Rub the mixture over the hands and feet vigorously, making sure you get the nails as well. Rinse with warm water, pat dry and then moisturize. This treatment works best when utilized twice weekly.

Teaching Tuesday-What Type of Clay for What?

When you are buying a clay mask, or clay to put into one of your creations, what type of clay should you be buying? Does the color make a difference? Is there really any difference in clay, isn't clay just clay?

Well, the short answers are; the kind best suited for your needs, yes, yes and no. LOL. Okay, I am writing this at four am, and I am a bit punchy, so while I thought that was funny, I am sure it really isn't. Please forgive me, and read on for a more detailed explanation.

While there are many colors of clay, many countries that harvest clay, and many different names of clay, there are basically just a few types of clay, and  some of these types of clay have several different subsets that belong in that group, kind of like a "genus" in relation to a "'species".  So let's look at the broad types of clay available. There is Bentonite Multani Mitti
Montmorillonite Illite, and Kaolinite clay.

Kaolin clay comes in several colors, all of which are Kaolinite clay. They are generally called by their color; yellow, pink, red, rose, and white. 
Kaolin clay consists of kaolinite, and is the mildest of all clay. 

The White, Yellow, and Pink Kaolin clay are suitable for all skin types, even for sensitive skin. They help to stimulate circulation to the skin, while gently exfoliating and cleansing it. Unlike most other clay, these Kaolin do not draw the skin's oils, which is why they can be used on all skin types, even on dry skin. These types are perfect in sensitive skin formulations.

The White kaolin clay is also sometimes called China clay, China white clay, or simply, White Clay. The Pink can be used in body powders to keep the skin dry. 

The Rose clay is tinted with iron oxides and gives a beautiful pink color to soaps and powders.

The Red kaolin, however, is mildly absorbent, and is used for drawing oils and toxins from the skin. It is suitable for inclusion in facials and body wraps for those with normal skin. It too can be used as a natural colorant in soap making.

French Green clay, often used in high end spa products and cosmetics, is primarily consists of Montmorillonite clay. This clay is highly efficient at drawing oils and toxins from the skin.Similar to many other clays, montmorillonite swells with the addition of water. However, some montmorillonites expand considerably more than other clay, due to water penetrating the interlayer molecular spaces and concomitant adsorption. The amount of expansion is due largely to the type of exchangeable cation contained in the sample.  French Green Clay is rich in important minerals and phyto-nutrients, and is the most commonly used therapeutic clay, most often for facials and body wraps. It can also be used in soaps and body/foot powders. But you should limit face applications to once a week on normal skin,  and up to two times a week on oily skin complexions. This clay should not be used for those with sensitive or dry skin types. 

Illite clay is very similar in structure to Montmorillonite, and it does not expand with the addition of water. Green Illite clay is used for the detoxification and exfoliation of the skin. It is efficient at drawing oils and toxins from the skin, and is frequently mistaken for French Green Clay. Of course it can be used in soaps and body/foot powders, but like the French green, it should only be used once a week on normal skin,  and up to two times a week on oily skin complexions. This clay should not be used on sensitive or dry skin types either. 

The Yellow and the Red Illite clay are also efficient at drawing oils and toxins from the skin, are suitable for oily skin, have structure similar to Montmorillonite,  and do not expand with water either. They too are used for detoxifying and exfoliating the skin, and their pretty coloring makes them great natural color additives for soaps, balms, powders and thick emulsions. 

Another red clay is Rhassoul, a Moroccan lava clay, it is a Kaolinite clay. 

Rhassoul is a super fine, ancient clay, found deep below the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Although it is difficult to obtain from the deep clay beds, it has been used for centuries. It is rich in minerals such as silica, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium and sodium. This clay is a strong cleansing clay. It will draw excess oils from the skin, stimulate the circulation, and act as a powerful astringent for oily skin and hair. It is used in many spas around the world, mainly for facials and body wraps. This pretty red clay also makes a nice, natural colorant for soaps and powders. Like the other strong cleansers, this should not be used on sensitive or dry skin, and applications should be limited to either once or twice a week on very oily skin. Those with normal skin may be able to utilize this clay once a week, but I usually suggest either a blend with a milder clay, or only using once a month. 

Bentonite Clay is a highly absorbent clay. It is actually a combination of montmorillonite and volcanic ash, and is considered one of the best choices for making a (clay) poultice. Like other clay, it pulls oils and toxins from the skin, and is best suited for oily skin types. Bentonite clay is great for making a shaving soap, and for use in oily scalp and hair treatments. 

Multani Mitti clay is better known as Fullers Earth clay, but is also sometimes called, Indian Fullers Earth. It is formed by the decomposition of volcanic ash, and is very similar in its nature to kaolin clay. Back in the day, Fullers used this clay to clean sheep's wool, prior to its being spun. That is how it came to be named Fuller's Earth. This clay is highly absorbent, and is good for drawing excess oils from the skin, while stimulating circulation to the skin. It is suitable for oily skin and hair treatments, but should not be used on sensitive or dry skin at all. Large area treatments should be limited to no more than once weekly, although spot treatments are usually well tolerated two to three times weekly. This clay is often used in making a "mechanics soap", as it works well combatting grease and dirt, and is a great hand cleaner.  

Sea clay is a kaolinite as well. It is a grayish green color, and has high concentrations of minerals present. While the clay draws the skin's oils, it also  remineralizes the skin.  It is suitable for all skin types.

Dead Sea Mud is also a kaolinite, one that is rich in the minerals found (only) at the bottom of the Dead Sea. Whether used alone, or in combination with other cosmetic grade clays, Dead Sea clay is suitable for facial, body wrap, hair wrap and soap formulations. It is suitable for all skin and hair types. I have done a couple of posts on Dead Sea Mud and Salts that go into great depth. So, if you missed them, please take a look!

Just a few notes/tips:

-When making a face mask with clay, use purified/distilled water to moisten your clay, you will only need a small amount.

-Always pour the clay out into another container [or your palm] before adding the water. Never mix the water into the clay container. Never put wet utensils or your fingers into the clay container. As long as the powder stays moisture free, it will last indefinitely. Moisture means the introduction of bacteria and contamination.

-When you add the liquid to the clay, do so slowly. You don't need a lot, only mix until you have a nice, paste consistency. If you desire, this is when you should add skin safe essential oil(s).

-The thicker the clay paste is when applied to the skin, the more drawing power it will have. So, when you need to boost the "power",  alter the paste thickness, so not extend the time you leave the mask on.

-You can substitute infusions, hydrosols, yogurt, juice, cream or milk for the distilled water if you'd like. Each has properties that may be beneficial to your skin, so research and experiment until you find the perfect blend for you!

-Always error on the side of caution. Begin with a thin or moderate paste, at the lower time frame, with the mildest clay and liquid that you have. See what it does to your skin, then make alterations based upon those results.

-When making cp soap and adding clay, generally you add 1 tablespoon per pound of oils (when using mild clay) and 1 teaspoon per pound of oil when using the stronger clay.  Since clay likes to clump when it's added to the soap pot, try removing about a 1/2 cup of batter adn mixing all of your clay into that. Use a frother to mix well, then add the half cup back into the whole pot and mix well.

Make it Yourself Monday- Facial Masks

Now that we are coming into Fall, it is really important to pay attention to your skin and take some time to prepare it for the harsh winter weather that we all hope we don't have! And, if you are blessed enough to live in the warmth, then you still need to care for your skin, because the sun is just as harsh as the cold, if not more so.

So here are a couple of easy to make face masks. The first one will mainly serve to detoxify and remineralize, while the second will be heavily nourishing. So one one week and one another would be perfect! 

Seaweed Mask

You will need;
4 tablespoons of kelp powder-[*See the 1st note below the recipes] (check your local health food store for this).
1/2 cup of aloe vera gel (you can get this in your local big box store or pharmacy)
3 tablespoons of distilled water

Mix the kelp powder and gel in a small bowl, then slowly add in the water until the mixture becomes a the consistency of a thick paste. You may use slightly less or maybe even slightly more water than the amount stated. That is ok. Just get a nice pasty consistency, one that you can easily spread. Then apply it to the face and neck, and leave sit for 15 to 20 minutes while you try to relax. When time is up, rinse with warm water and pat dry, then moisturize as normal.

This mask is gentle enough to be used routinely, so once a week is great, or alternate this one with others that have benefits you may need.

Vegetable Mask

You will need;
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 cooked and mashed medium sized carrot
1 peeled, pitted and mashed avocado
3 tablespoons honey

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl, mix well, and spread over the face and neck. Relax for 15-20 minutes, then rinse with cool water and pat dry. Moisturize as normal.

Clay Masks

You can take all manner of clay and add any type of liquid to it to make a mask. You can use milk or other dairy products (such as cream, yogurt, or milk), water or various juices. 

Just a few notes-

-There is more than one type of seaweed available. You need to make sure that you purchase one that is face safe. Some types are only for use as a body wrap, and those are too harsh for facial use. So make sure that you get one that is safe for the facial area.

-There is more than one type of clay available. Generally speaking, certain colored clay is better for certain skin types. Do not buy a certain clay because your friend has that clay. You need the type that is best for your skin! 
Want to know what is best for what? Tune back in tomorrow for Teaching Tuesday- Clay!

- Remember to keep the avocado pit because it is a great natural massage tool.

-If you use clay in a mask, the thicker the clay is, the more intense the drawing action will be, so keep this in mind as you prepare it. 

-Masks are designed with ingredients that are intended to pull impurities from the skin, then other ingredients are intended to either restore and/or put some specific properties back into the skin. 

-What your skin type is, and what it needs to restore balance, are the key factors that should determine the type of mask that you use.  When in doubt, study and ask questions! 

What;s Happening Wednesday

Here we are at hump day already, and another What's Happening Wednesday post is upon us! Of course the Christmas Cabin inventory is still tops on my list, but I did spend some time in the workroom these past few days. 

I had a client write and ask what I had that may benefit a person with pain and stiffness from MD. Immediately my mind went to the Raphael's Healing Garden Bath Soak, but with a slight twist, with some  spirulina added. If you missed the spirulina post, please click on the link and catch up on this wonder algae! So now I am left with another name challenge. What do you think of Healing Gardens Bath Soak? I am leaning toward this one for now. If you have suggestions, feel free to let me know!  

Then, what's a great bath soak without a wonderful massage oil blend to really work all those kinks out and keep them gone? So back into the workroom with about 20 essential oils pulled out on the table. About a half hour later, there I sat with a blend of about 15 EO's, all of which have properties that provide analgesia, soothe muscle aches, reduce/eliminate muscle spasms and cramps, increase circulatory blood flow and/or decrease inflammation. What an awesome blend! And the scent is not a slap ya in the face type, even though a lot of the individual EO's are rather strong individually. While I have several pain management and muscle soothing blends already, I am really excited about this newest blend. I think it will be a great, top of the line, super duper helper oil blend!

So what else am I working on? Well I have been making cute, seasonal earrings. Some Christmas light bulbs, in a variety of colors. Very cute, very trendy, and very inexpensive. Since I usually only make sterling silver and gemstone jewelry, these are a nice, fun departure for me, and hopefully for the cabin as well! 

And, of course soap continues to be made and set out to cure. Christmas soaps are running slightly behind, so hopefully I will be getting those finished in the next few days! Whispering Mistletoe, Christmas Eve, Frosted Berries, and Snowy Forest are all finished, but Flannel Sheets, Christmas Essence, Bethlehem, and Gifts of the Maji are all waiting to be poured. So much to soap and so little time! 

So that's what's happening here this Wednesday, what's happening with you?  

Teaching Tuesday- Frankincense and Myrrh Cont.

Both frankincense and myrrh are prized for their alluring fragrance, and both are derived from tree sap, or gum resin. Frankincense (a milky white resin) is extracted from species of the genus Boswellia, which thrive in arid, cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. The finest, most aromatic of this species is Boswellia sacra, a small tree that grows in Somalia, Oman and Yemen. These plants grow up to 16 feet tall with papery bark, sparse leaves  that are grouped in pairs, and white petaled flowers with yellow or red centers.

Myrrh on the other hand,  comes from species of the genus Commiphora, which are native to northeast Africa and the adjacent areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Commiphora myrrha, a tree commonly used to harvest myrrh (a reddish resin) is found in the shallow, rocky soils of  Ethiopia, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. It grows up to 9 feet tall, has spiny branches with sparse leaves that grow in groups of three. Myrrh is an oleoresin, meaning that it is a natural blend of an essential oil and a resin.  Myrrh gum is waxy when it first begins to run, but it coagulates quickly, then, after the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy. It begins by looking yellowish, either clear or opaque, but it darkens as it ages, and white streaks emerge too.

As previously stated, the processes for extracting the sap of both the Boswellia (for frankincense) and the Commiphora (for myrrh) trees are essentially identical. Harvesters make a longitudinal cut in the tree's trunk that pierces the gum resin reservoirs that are located within the bark. As the sap slowly seeps from the cut and drips down the tree it forms tear-shaped droplets that are left to harden on the tree. These "tears" are then collected after two weeks and taken to market.

The quality of the resin, especially with the myrrh, is dependent upon the variety of the tree that it is harvested from.  Myrrh from the Commiphora gileadensis is the Biblically referenced Balm of Gilead while many of the Commiphora and Balsamodendron species are used as perfumes, medicines (such as aromatic wound dressings), and incense ingredients. But a lesser quality myrrh is bled from the Commiphora erythraea tree, and "myrrh beads", while fragrant, are actually made from the crushed seeds of Detarium microcarpum, a completely unrelated West African tree.

So why did the wise men take frankincense and myrrh as gifts for the King of Kings?  Both of these resins were fairly expensive at that time, and held great  symbolic value, as well as many practical uses. Frankincense and myrrh were highly desirable for personal, religious and medicinal uses. In this time, before  bathing was a daily event, people would use the [sweet] smoke from the resins to make themselves smell better, a historic perfume so to speak. And ancient Egyptian women used the ash of frankincense to mix into their eye shadow. According to the Greek writer, Herodotus, the Egyptians used frankincense and myrrh in the preparation of animal sacrifices, and also in the preparation of human mummies, which was how humans were prepared for burial. Hebrews and Christians then incorporated frankincense and myrrh into their ceremonies during the third century and used then in both their religious ceremonies and burials. 

Frankincense, which was often burned, came to symbolize the people's prayers rising to heaven like the smoke, and the myrrh, which was often used in burials, symbolize death. (It is said that a mixture of wine and myrrh was offered to Jesus during his crucifixion). 

Medicinally, the priests of Papyrus Ebers in the 1500's ( BC)  prescribed both resins for the treatment of wounds. They were prescribed to cure many ailments, including; hemlock poisoning, leprosy, worms, snakebites, diarrhea, plague, scurvy and even baldness! The high demand for these "all purpose" healers created a booming trade in the Middle East which lasted several hundred years. At one point Arabia was recorded as producing approximately 1,680 tons of frankincense, and around 448 tons of myrrh each year. They exported frankincense across Mesopotamia, India and China from about 300 B.C. well into the third century, where the resins became entrenched in other cultures spiritual and medical history.

In fact, both of these resins are still used in traditional Chinese medicine, where myrrh is classified as bitter and spicy, with a neutral temperature. And  is said to have special efficacy on the heart, liver, and spleen meridians, as well as "blood-moving" powers to purge stagnant blood from the uterus. It is therefore recommended for rheumatic, arthritic, and circulatory problems, and for amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menopause, and uterine tumors. Its uses are similar to those of frankincense, and the two are quite often combined and used together in various decoctions and liniments, as well as incense. When they are used in concert, myrrh is considered "blood-moving",  while frankincense is said to move the Qi, making it useful for arthritic conditions.
They are often combined with herbs such as notoginseng, safflower, angelica, cinnamon, and Salvia, and are usually mixed in alcohol. They are used internally, as well as externally. 

In Africa, myrrh is very commonly used as an antiseptic in mouthwashes, gargles, and toothpastes. It is used as an active agent in the prevention and treatment of gum disease. Myrrh is also (currently) used in some liniments and healing salves, meant to be applied to abrasions and other minor skin ailments. There it is also  recommended as an analgesic, for use in cases of toothaches, and, in liniments for bruises, aches, and sprains.

Laboratory studies have been done to determine how myrrh improves sugar tolerance, after Kuwaiti diabetics were found to get positive results from a traditional herbal formula. The myrrh and aloe gums were found to effectively improve glucose tolerance in both diabetic and non-diabetic rats. Additionally,  
 myrrh was shown to produce analgesic effects on mice that were subjected to pain. Research showed that a couple of the terpens found in the myrrh affect the opioid  receptors in the mouse's brain, which influences the pain perception. In human testing, myrrh has been shown to lower the bad cholesterol, LDL, while increasing the HDL, the good cholesterol. 
Then there is an Egyptian drug called Mirazid, which is made from myrrh, and it has been investigated as an oral treatment for some parasitic ailments.  

As you can see, while frankincense and myrrh may not be as popular as they once were, they are still used today, and in some ways that you may not expect. Both resins are still common ingredients in modern perfumes and cosmetics, continuing a tradition that began thousands of years ago. But scientists are finding new uses for them as well. Recent studies suggest that frankincense may be beneficial to asthma sufferers,  people with rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, osteoarthritis and collagenous colitis. Researchers also have  discovered possible benefits of myrrh in the treatment of gastric ulcers, tumors and parasites. Frankincense has been clinically researched to combat cancer,  and for its value as an antidepressant. It is being researched for its ability to simulate human growth hormone production, and to assist in hormone balance.  In fact, frankincense is commonly used in European hospitals.

Frankincense and myrrh are used in essential oil form as a natural treatment for the skin, to strengthen the immune system and fight viruses and bacteria, and for emotional and spiritual benefits. Myrrh has been said to represent mother energy, and frankincense father energy. They are still used for spiritual “anointing” and in energy work, where the vibrational frequency of these oils can uplift the spirit, draw on spiritual and emotional protection, and aid in meditation. They may be diffused in the air, as at holiday time, or applied on the chakras or energy tapping treatment points.

No matter how you look at them, frankincense and myrrh are much more than old resins, and much better than good smelling resins. So this holiday season, when you smell the aroma of frankincense and myrrh, think about the history they've been a part of and wonder about the history they are currently making.  

Make it Yourself Monday- No Bake Cookies

  • We have been having cold weather here in Ohio (seriously, it was near freezing last night! But no worries, it's supposed to be in the 80's this week! Lol), so my mind has gone on to the holidays and to baking! Here is one of my favorite, extremely easy, no baking required recipes! 

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies 

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, bring the sugar, cocoa, margarine, milk and salt to a rapid/rolling boil, then allow to boil for one minute more. Once the minute is up, add the oats, peanut butter and vanilla to the pan and mix well. It is now ready, so work quickly as you drop the mixture by the teaspoonful onto some waxed paper, and allow it to cool. Then eat!