Make it Yourself Monday-Chicken Crock Pot Recipe

I found this recipe on and made it last weekend while we were at the wine festival, and will be making it again next weekend when we camp with the family. The smell alone send me over the moon! I read all of the reviews and alternate recipes and decided to add onions, wine and mushrooms. But, after we reached our destination, I realized that I had forgotten the cream cheese and/or sour cream. So I just added a bit of wine and it made a great gravy for the mashed potatoes that we did for dinner. Nope, it wasn't a stroganoff, but it was pot licking good for sure! 

Chicken Stroganoff


  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
  • 1/8 cup margarine
  • 1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • *mushrooms
  • *onions
  • *wine
  • *sour cream

  • (*) means optional


  1. Put chicken, margarine, onion if using, and the dressing mix into the slow cooker; mix together and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. You can add wine or water in the beginning, but leaving it out will give you a crispy chicken outside with a nice juicy inside, so resist the temptation! 
  2. Add the cream cheese and soup, mix together and cook on high for another 1/2 hour or until heated through and warm. Also add the mushrooms now if you are using them, and you can add some wine too! Just before serving, you can mix in some sour cream if you like. Then shred the chicken and serve over rice or noodles. If you don't make it white, try it over mashed potatoes to see how you like that! You can also use herb and garlic seasoning instead of the Italian dressing, it works the same way! 

What's Working Wednesday- Gift Sets

Hi everyone! Can you believe it is already hump day? We are almost to the long weekend that symbolizes the end of Summer and the beginning of the Craft and Holiday season. Time sure flies!

I recently came across some interesting boxes with a magnetic tab closure. The boxes looked large enough for two bars of soap, so I bought a few to try. They do hold two bars quite nicely, and I have had a blast decorating the fronts. So far I have made a Whispering Willow and Whispering Willow Rain box set, an Autumn Apples and Pumpkin Lager box set, and a Baby set that contains a lavender sachet, a bar of goat milk soap, a soap deck and a tin of Baby Bum and Body Balm. I have two other boxes with floral decorations that are just awaiting soap. I will be taking these to the Wine Festival (in Summersville, WV) in a couple of weeks. If they go well I will be making some more.

The curing rack is now holding some recently made soaps in preparation for the Wine festival, the Herb festival, and the opening of the Christmas Cabin. Pretty soon Chardonnay, Cabernet Vineyard, Currant Tea, Jasmine Nights Tea, Sea Spray, Clover Fields with Aloe, and Wild Berries and Herbs will be joining the sales racks! Additionally, I have some lovely sachets in Linen, Lavender Kissed Linen,  Sugared Chestnuts, Daisies and Jasmine Nights Tea. I also have 30 of the 50 Diffuser Bottles filled. So far I have made Linen, Lavender and Chamomile Kissed Linen, Apple Butter, Autumn Apples, and Candy Cane. I plan on doing the rest in Gingerbread, Christmas Berries and some type of Pine or wintry forest. I won't really know what it is until I finish creating it! Lol

Well I have tried to add photographs of the items listed here and for some reason blogger isn't cooperating today. I will keep trying though, so check back. If I can't get them added, then I will put them into a slide show for tomorrow's post.
For now though, I need to get back to work. I am making Christmas Bulb earrings and have about six pairs left to get finished. So as I sit sweating, I am thinking about snow and hoho!

Try an Herb Tuesday- Skullcap

Skullcap, botanically known as Scutellaria lateriflora, is known as a "calming" herb, one that is good for any stressful situation, but especially for those that are grief related. Historically, Skullcap has been used to calm the mind, to stop the cycle of circular thoughts, and to ease emotional stress and tension, especially when dealing with the pain of break ups or loss. It encourages mental clarity and brings a renewed focus to thoughts, as well as actions.  

It is usually made into a tincture or a tea, and has a somewhat bitter taste. Skullcap is known to stimulate digestion, and even to trigger feelings of hunger. Since the gastro-intestinal tract tends to become sluggish when we are stressed, the use of skullcap can help to return our system to health. It is said to relax tight muscles and to relieve headaches. It can be used when needed, or it can be taken daily, as a preventative treatment. When taken daily, it not only restores the body and the mind, but it works as a strengthener to prepare the body to better respond to future stresses. This herb is one that was likely in every medicine cabinet, and would do well in yours! 

Make it Yourself Monday- Holiday Decorations

Yes the air-conditioner may still be in use, but VERY soon, long before you think it should happen, well before you know it, the holiday season will be here. So now is the time to begin preparing, the time for making decorations, and the time to begin making your gifts. think about it, the more that you accomplish now, the less stressed and the more enjoyable your holidays will be! So today's Make it Yourself project is a very easy, yet very cute decoration. This one is so cute. Make several, some to keep for decorations and some to give as gifts!

You will need-
(plastic) ice cubes
paint (black, orange)
artificial snow
*optional components; remnant material for scarf, felt for hat, iridescent and/or textured snow, pipe cleaner, pom poms, and wood or cardboard for a base.

Glue three ice cubes together, either in graduating sizes or if they are all the same size, as mine are, just off-set them a bit for added interest. Leave sit until the glue is completely dry. Once dry, paint a face on your snowman and decorate with a hat and/or scarf. I like to glue some snowmen to wood or cardboard bases. Just paint the wood or cardboard and then cover it in the type of snow that you paint on. I prefer the type that is textured, as it looks more real, but the iridescent kind (that comes in a tube, similar to icing gel) is also pretty neat. These are so quick and easy to make you can easily do some of each! Just let your imagination take you to a winter wonderland, and have fun!

To make ear muffs, cut a portion of pipe cleaner and glue small pom poms to each end. Bend over the top ice cube and glue in place. To make a hat (you can buy these already made in your local craft store), cut red felt, fold in cone shape and glue edges in place. Cut a strip of white and glue to bottom edge, then glue a small pom pom to the pointed end. Once dry, glue hat to corner of top ice cube.
Due to a medical emergency in the family I have been unable to post for several days and will continue to be unable to post for the next few. I am currently sitting in the hospital and do not have access to my notes or books and do not really have the time to create a post. My sincere apologies and I will resume writing as soon as I am home. I hope you will continue to follow me when I get back, thank you for your patience!

What's Happening Wednesday- Prize Basket & Soap

Tammy Houchen will soon be receiving her goodie basket prize for naming the #77 soap, Morning Dew. Here is a picture of her prize basket. Thanks again Tammy, and congratulations! I hope you enjoy your gifts!

This has been a very busy few days, as I am preparing for the Art Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio this coming weekend, while also trying to get seasonal soaps and  crafts made for the upcoming Wine Festival, as well as the Herb Festival and the opening of the Christmas at the Cabin.

I made some whipped shea butter yesterday and today. So far I have Lavender, Lavender and Ylang Ylang, Sea Spray, Sugared Chestnuts, and Embrace. Since the printer is out of ink, I have labels to make still, but at least they are in their jars!

I am making at least one batch of soap a day now, and sometimes two or three since I am working on wine soaps, seasonal fragrances, and trying to replace  some popular ones that I am out of , or almost out of.

 I love the way this batch of Embrace turned out. It has such a pretty turquoise color in it. The pictures don't do it justice, so you will just have to trust that it is quite lovely!

More soapong pictires tomorrow!

Make it Yourself Monday-Sidewalk Chalk Paint

Here is an inexpensive, easy and fun craft project that you can prepare ahead of time and have ready for your kids and their friends to use, or you can let supervise the kids as they make it on their own. This is a recipe for making your own sidewalk chalk "paint". The so called paint really does look like chalk when it dries, and if the sun is out and it is warm, then it dries pretty quickly. 

You Will Need (per each color):
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
1/4 Cup Water
Food Coloring colors of choice

Mix the cornstarch and the water together, when thoroughly mixed (make sure all lumps are worked out), add the food coloring and mix it thoroughly. Be sure to add the food coloring one drop at a time and use the minimum number of drops to achieve the color you want. Remember that food coloring, when used in excess, can stain skin, and children are notorious for painting themselves as much as anything else! As long as you use it in moderation, there is no problem with washing it off. If you have  Repeat real small ones, or don't trust yourself with the food coloring, try using some of your soaping herbs for a natural colorant. They don't give quite the colors you get with the food coloring, but it's your choice.
 Anyway, repeat this process for each color that you want to make, then go on outside and paint! When you are done, cover the paint and store in the fridge for another afternoon of sidewalk painting! I am not sure how long the shelf life is on this paint, it's never sat around long enough to test!  But since it does have water in it, we know that it will grow nasties at one point or another. I recommend keeping it refrigerated and only making what you will use in a week or two. You may however, find that it stores longer, but I error on the side of caution, especially where children are involved. Be sure to shake or stir the paint well prior to use, and make sure to keep it stirred while you are using it, because the cornstarch will settle to the bottom of your container. 
If you want to make it easier to use several colors, try putting them in a multi-compartment something. Try a soap mold, a muffin tin, a brownie pan, or even an ice cube tray would work, although you may need two or three sections for each color. Use your imagination as you look through your kitchen cabinets!  


Tripod Thursday-Northern Ohio Country-Side

The winning name for soap #77 is Morning Dew. It was a very close race, but this name is in keeping with the unique freshness of the scent and it is in the garden every day! So my Thanks and Congratulations go to Tammy Houchen, as well as a bar of Morning Dew and a surprise or two!

Now for today's Tripod Thursday subject. This past weekend we took the rv up North to visit some of my Mom's friends. It is absolutely beautiful country and we had a wonderful time, so I wanted to share it with you! The first picture is of Kiki just before we left. I was looking all over for her and finally saw her sitting in the middle of a  grapevine wreath, on top of a stack of totes and boxes. She must love the spot, because that is also where I found her when we got home!


The Name That Soap contest is now closed. In no particular order, the top contenders are;
1)Spring Renewal/Renew/Renewal
2)Morning Dew /Dew Drop
3)Summer Rain

Remember, this soap has a grapefruit, lavender, and eucalyptus scent, and is colored with Nettle, French Green Clay, and Spirulina.

Please let me know what you think by casting a vote for the number you like best! If you have a preference for an alternative that is listed by that number, by all means, feel free to let me know that too!  The Winner will be posted tomorrow!

Teaching Tuesday- Calamus Root

Calamus Root, also called Acorus calamus, Sweet Flag, Cinnamon Sedge, Sweet Myrtle, Acorus, and Sweet Rush is a sharp-edged perennial. It is a semi-aquatic plant that grows in marshes and on the muddy banks of streams. Although experts usually say the plant has been used in herbal medicine as long as 4,000 years ago, the first mention of the plant as a medicine is in the Divine Husbandman's Classic of the Materia Medica, a Chinese medical text that dates  to about 2837 BC. The traditional use of the calamus was to "open the orifices"  to allow the inner spirit to reach out to the world. Chinese physicians (of old) reported that calamus "vaporized phlegm," but the word they used refers to not just physical phlegm, but to the "residues" of difficult emotions. Calamus was also used to treat winter-time joint pain, wounds, and sores.

In the United States and Canada, calamus was used to make calamine lotion, which was used to relieve skin inflammation, mostly from poision ivy, oak and summac. It was considered a sacred incense by the Sumerians and the Egyptians, and was planted by Native Americans along their migratory paths so that it could be harvested at later times, where it was commonly used as an antiseptic, mostly for headaches and toothaches. Oddly enough, it was also used as an attractant for muskrats, who voraciously ate the root, and often collected it and stored it in their nests for future meals. Native Americans would plant it on the edge of  their villages so that they could trap the muskrats as they came for the root.

The rhizome is dried and either chopped or ground, where it is typically and traditionally used to make a tea. Varieties of calamus that are traded in the United States (and all the varieties of calamus permitted for import by Health Canada) are most effective when used externally. Theses varieties are best used as bath additives, gargles, lotions, or washes, unless they are combined with other herbs from Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine.  As a bath additive, calamus helps with circulation and joint pain, used as a gargle, calamus relieves sore throat. In the United States and Canada, calamus has been used for many years to make calamine lotion, and to relieve skin inflammations of all types.

 Although we may best know calamus root because of calamine lotion, if you look at Walt Whitmans famous work, Leaves of Grass, he wrote 39 poems that referred to Calamus!  Even today, Ayurvedic medicine uses it as a rejuvenator of the brain and nervous system, as well as a remedy for digestive disorders. In modern Chinese medicine, calamus is used with platycodon to treat laryngitis, turmeric to treat deafness, magnolia to treat any kind of chest congestion, and is mixed with lychii fruit and chrysanthemum flowers to make a tea that is sold for use as an eyewash. It is, however, rarely found as a capsule or extract.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration in the USA) strictly prohibits the use of calamus in food products. They have regulated this herb for external use only. Its internal use as a medicinal herbal product should only be administered by someone with experience in using this botanical. Although global cultures have, for a great many centuries, associated the consumption of calamus with a long life and good health, the American government prohibits its use in that manner. 

Make it Yourself Monday-After Sun Spritzer

4 oz. Aloe Vera Juice (Water) *can be made from aloe powder
2 oz. Witch Hazel
1 oz. Distilled Water
30 drops German Blue Chamomile Essential Oil
15 drops Lavender Essential Oil
15 drops [Egyptian] Geranium Essential Oil
Preservative of Choice (use according to manufacturers directions)
*baking soda

Add all the ingredients together, mix well, then pour into a bottle with a spray top. While not necessary, storing this product in the refrigerator will extend the shelf life AND add to the cooling relief it offers.
Need more relief? You can mix some of the above with baking soda and apply a thin layer to a sun burn. This makes a wonderful cooling and soothing paste, much like a (facial) mud mask.

Tripod Thursday- Flowers are Good for the Soul!

Whether planted by Man or by Nature, in a yard or the country side, flowers and plants have much beauty to behold, and bring a joy that touches the soul.

What's Working Wednesday-Upcoming Shows

I am three weeks from the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts 11th annual Summer Arts and Crafts Fair. It is Saturday, August 18, 2012, from 10am to 4pm, at 4990 Glenway Avenue in Western Hills, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. I will be  among 60 or so Artists displaying mixed media products including; pottery, jewelry, water colors, photography, soaps and more! It is free to the public, so if you live in the tri-state area, I hope to see you out there!

In September, the 15 & 16th (yes that is a Saturday and a Sunday), I will be at the Kirkwood Wine Festival,  in Sommersville, West Virginia. It runs from 10am until about 8pm on Saturday, and until about 630pm Sunday. Please note that the wine tasting and sales do not begin until after 1pm on Sunday, due to the law. This is a great, family festival, down a nice country road, set on the beautiful property of the Isaiah Distillery and Kirkwood Winery. They have grape stomping for the kids, bands, step and square dancers, food and fun for all. There are also prize drawings, wine tasting, and several craft vendors available for your shopping pleasure. You will find jewelry, jams, purses, soaps, lotions and more. And don't forget to stop by my booth for your one of a kind wine charm, before you set your glass down! This festival would make a great road trip for anyone from WV or the surrounding states! The New River Gully Fest is also that same weekend. Camping spots and hotel rooms fill up fast, so make sure you book your spot in August, or plan on driving home or to another town for the night.

October 12,13,and 14, I am planning on being at the Wheatridge Old Tyme Herb Festival and Harvest Celebration. It is at the Grindstone Farm, 817 Taterridge Road, in Adams County, Ohio. This will be my first year there, but I am told it is a great time for all! This festival specializes in all things herbal. There will be lavender growers, herbal remedies, butters, jams and jellies, you name it! Of course there will also be the usual festival Artisans too, such as metal art, wood crafters, toy makers, basket weavers, photographers and much more. With over 150 Artisan booths, I am sure you will find something that makes you smile!

So plan for an interesting and fun-filled family weekend, and come out to one or more of these shows!

Try That Herb Tuesday- Jewel Weed

While most people use jewel weed to neutralize poison Ivy (actually to be more specific, it's the oily antigen, urushiol, that causes the irritation), it is also an effective remedy for poison oak, okra spines, stinging nettle, bug bites, heat rash, and other irritating plant reactions and other skin disorders. For more than a hundred years, a poultice made from this plant was frequently used to treat burns, cuts, sores, sprains, warts, eczema, and even ringworm. 

Often called the "touch me not" impatient it is botanically known as Impatiens Capensis, and is commonly known as Jewel WeedJewel weed produces trumpet-shaped flowers, which bloom from early summer to fall. They are under an inch in length and have three petals. One of the petals curls to form a long slipper, or sack shaped spur. They come in a variety of colors and like to grow near water or in shallow ponds. It's been said that jewel weed grows wherever Poison Ivy is found, but that isn't really true. Poison ivy can grow well under most any conditions, sunny or shady. But jewel weed is a shade loving plant, one that prefers valleys with rich soil and moist bottom lands. It may sprout in a sunny area, but it will not survive for long in the light. 

There are many ways to use jewel weed, but drying it is not practical because it has a very high moisture content. For this reason, the soaps, salves and sprays  made from this herb are made from either the fresh or from frozen jewel weed. 

One of the easiest ways to benefit from this flower is simply to take the stem and slice it, then slather the juice onto the skin that has come into contact with poison ivy. If you get it applied before the rash appears, it will generally prevent any from developing. If you already have a rash, it will help to ease the irritation. In fact, many people use the stem juice as a preventative treatment for poison ivy reactions, and it seems to work well.

When foraging, make sure that you are looking for the orange flowering jewel weed though, not the yellow. The yellow is less concentrated, and will probably not offer you the relief you are looking for. A fresh plant will last about a week in a sealed container when placed in the refrigerator, or you can make an infusion and freeze it for later use. 

To make an infusion, boil the leaves of the plant. Brew the chopped jewel weed leaves in boiling water, until you get a dark orange liquid in your pot. Then strain the liquid, and pour it into ice cube trays. Then, when you have a skin rash, just grab out a cube and rub the affected area with your "jewel cube". It will keep in the freezer for up to one year, or you can preserve the infusion by canning it (in a pressure cooker). 

You can make a tincture with witch hazel and the jewel weed juice or the infusion previously described. Preparing the tincture in witch hazel will help to prevent mold growth, if you want to keep some jewel juice unfrozen. 

If you want to make soap with the jewel weed, either make an infusion to incorporate as your liquid, or you can just use the jewel ice in place of all or a portion of your liquid. 

You can also make jewel weed ointment. Simply simmer a small amount of jewel weed in a light vegetable oil (do not use olive oil) for 10-15 minutes. Use only a small handful of jewel weed stems per quart of oil, or bubbles of the juice will form in the ointment, and they will cause mold. When time is up, strain out the herb and add a handful of beeswax, to thicken it, and heat until it is melted. Take out a spoonful and allow it to cool, to test the thickness. Add either more oil or more beeswax until it is the consistency that you prefer. Once it is just right for you, remove from the heat and pierce 2 gel caps of vitamin E, and add the contents of one oil-soluble vitamin E capsule, pour into a jar, and allow it to completely cool (with the lid off).

Whatever you do, do NOT make alcoholic tinctures from Jewel weed. Some people have had very bad reactions when mixing and using jewel weed with alcohol. 

Make it Yourself Monday-Bath Melts

After a long, hard day working or even a nice day relaxing at the beach or by the pool, a soaking bath can be very relaxing. Add some bath melts and it can also be quite soothing and nourishing to the skin! To make your own, you will need;

4 oz. Shea or Cocoa butter (or a mixture)
4 Tbs. Citric Acid
6 Tbs. Oatmeal
1 Tbs. Cornstarch
4 oz. Baking Soda
Essential oil or Skin safe Fragrance oil of choice. Check the manufacturer for the recommended usage amounts.
Mold of choice

Melt the butter in a double boiler, then set aside to cool but don't allow it to solidify. In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Once the butter is cooled a bit, add in the dry ingredients and stir. If you mix them when the oil is too hot it may fizz, and since you obviously can't mix it if the butter has solidified completely, timing is everything! Once mixed, quickly add in the essential oil or fragrance oil of your choice and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, work quickly spooning the mixture into your mold. I have found that silicone ice cube tray molds work great for these melts, and they come in a great variety of shapes. Check the dollar stores for great bargains too!  

To use, just toss one or more into your tub as it fills. They will melt in the warmth of the water and you will get a moisturizing treatment as you relax in the tub. Make these with the right choice of essential oil and you could also combine an aromatherapy treatment in there as well!  Just be sure to exercise caution when you go to get out of the tub, as these tend to make the tub slippery. The more you use, the more you risk slipping, so PLEASE be very careful!. 

Tripod Thursday-New Finds

Today's photographs are just a few odds and ends in my business collection. While I have to take product pictures, I truly enjoy finding and taking pictures of "different" things. I love hide and seek, and those small, but great finds in out-of- the-way places. So here are some of each. 

Don't you love this cast iron soap holder? I recently found this in the bottom of a sales bin, and was extremely pleased with the find, not to mention the price!
While most of my soaps are too large to fit into the regular boxes, I do make a few that are just right! 

I've had far too many requests for this product lately. I think everyone needs to relax a bit more and quit working so hard! Vacation!

Many of my customers just LOVE the whipped shea. Me? I love the ylang ylang scent. Ylang ylang means "flower of flowers", and its scent lives up to its name! I especially enjoy the lavender and ylang ylang blend, and since I can barely keep in stock, evidently I'm not the only one! 

What's Up Wednesday- Contest

Since I was preoccupied with my Son's wedding and the fact that nature slapped many of us with a prolonged power outage, I have extended the NAME MY SOAP CONTEST until August 4th! If your name is chosen you will win a bar of the soap that you just named and some samples of various other products!

For now the soap is just called number 77. The picture put up with the other posts was of Irish Rain, and NOT #77. My apologies about that, but, the description was accurate, except for the fact that this one does not have jojoba beads in it. It is colored with French Green Clay, Spirulina, and Nettle. The scent is (mainly) a mixture of lavender and grapefruit, with a hint of eucalyptus. While there are other essential oils tossed in there, these three are really the only notes that are easily sniffed out. It is a nice clean, fresh scent, with a bit of an after bite. It is a different one for sure, truly unique, and a great new scent! To enter, leave your suggestions in comments here or on my face book page; 

For the small print; This prize is only open to contestants who have mailing addresses within the continental USA. I will hapily mail the prize anywhere if the winner agrees to pay for postage, so enter if you like, no matter where you live.
Besides that, all entries should be "G" rated, as this is a family company.
Any entry that is deemed to be inappropriate or vulgar will be deleted. You may submit up to 5 different names. If the winning name has been submitted more than once, only the first to submit it will win the prize(s).
No trademarked names will be used, and should not be submitted. In the event that none of the submitted names are chosen to be used, one winner will be randomly chosen from all of the entries submitted, and will win the prize(s). That should do it for all the details, much luck!

Teaching Tuesday-Five Flavor Berries

The five flavor plant and berry, botanically known as Schisandra chinensis, is so named because the berries possess all five of the basic flavors used in traditional Chinese medicine, sweet, salty, spicey, bitter and sour. In fact, this plant is considered to be one of the "50 fundamental herbs" necessary to Chinese medicine.

While it is native to the forests of Northern China and Eastern Russia, it is an ornamental plant that can be found in gardens throughout the world. In the USA it is hardy to (USDA) zone 4.   You may be more familiar with the more common name, "Magnolia Vine". So called because of its ability to grow upwards, in a creeping fashion, it is a woody vine with oval, pink leaves and bright red berries. It is rather hardy, thriving in most any soil type, although it prefers moist, well drained soil. It also prefers to climb on a wall that has some shade. While the natural plant only bears fruit when the female plant is fetilized with pollen from a male plant, there is a hybrid, named "Eastern Prince", that has beautiful and perfect flowers, and is self-fertile.

The berries are most often used in dried form, where they are used to make a medicinal tea. Chinese folklore says that Schisandra can "calm the heart and quiet the spirit", and it has a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are over 19 species of the genus that are said to be used in Chinese medicine, largely for its (mild) sedative qualities and for tonic agents as well. Traditional Chinese Medicine has also used it as a lung astringent, coughs, and asthma, as well as using the vines and roots to make remedies for painful joints and rheumatism. It is also said to help with "wei chi", the defense energy of the body, helping to build resistance to infection. On the non-medicinal side, they also use teh berries to make a wine. The Japanese use the plant as a remedy for sea-sickness and colds. Russian hunters, on the other hand, have consumed tea made from it for centuries, to help with fatigue.

Most research having to do with this plant has been conducted in China, where double blind studies suggest that it has the ability to help those that suffer from Hepatitis. The lignans contained in the berry appear to protect the liver by stimulating cells which produce antioxidants. Also, because it has adaptogenic properties, it has been comapared to herbal medicines, such as Ginseng, that stimulating the central nervous system, increase brain efficiency, improve reflexes, and accelerate endurance. The powder made from dried berries can be used in capsules or can be reconstituted to drink as a tea or mixed in juice. Fresh berries can be eaten, mixed in foods/drinks, or allowed to steep in glycerin, which can then be drank or encapsulated.

Precautions: Botanical safety research (in China, Russia, and the U.S.A) has showed that Schisandra may, in rare instances, cause gastrointestinal upset. It should not be used by pregnant women, as it is a uterine stimulant. Since this plant possesses sedative qualities it may enhance the actions of prescription medications. Therefore, care should be taken, and the possibility of decreasing a prescription dosage should be discussed with your physician.

Make it Yourself Monday-

Today's Make it Yourself Monday recipe is for some refreshing, Summertime drinks!

We will start with a nice Lavender Lemonade. To save calories or make for a diabetic, try using splenda or another sugar substitute.

You will need;
1/2 gallon of water
1 cup sugar or the equivalent in your choice of a sugar substitute 
1/3 cup lavender blossoms
6 large (whole) lemons

Boil water and pour the lavender buds. Allow it to infuse for 15 minutes, then strain the botanicals from the tea. Toss the solids and retain the liquid.

Juice the lemons, leaving 1/2 of a lemon for a garnish. Add the lemon juice to the lavender tea, then add the sugar or sugar substitute. You can add more or less than stated, depending upon your preference. Once mixed, slice the half of lemon  you saved for the garnish and float them on top of the pitcher. Chill the pitcher and serve the contents cold, or over ice. Enjoy! 

This next one is a Citrus Smoothie/Slushy. Healthy, tasty, and great for a hot Summer's day, this one can be made without any added sugar at all! 

You will need;
2 ripened oranges, peeled and chopped
1 lime, peeled and chopped
1 tray of ice cubes
2 ounces of orange juice

Toss everything into the blender and blend until smooth, pour into a glass and  refrigerate for five minutes. If you like you can add sugar or sugar substitute to taste. Drink up and enjoy!

Wedding Pictorial

So as not to bore anyone, I have put together a highly condensed slide show from the wedding day.
The handsome little ring-bearer is my Grandson, and his birthday is today, so Happy second birthday from Nana! I love you soooooo much!
Next week I will get back to our regular schedule, barring any unforeseen acts of nature, so look for a new recipe on Monday. Until then, have a great weekend!

Hi there! I am finally back! Once again I must apologize for the interruption in blog posts. Unfortunately my guest blogger was hit by a long power outage after a bad storm hit our area. While some people just got their electricity back a few days ago, everyone is now up and running again. The majority of central and southern Ohio was declared a disaster area, but repairs are almost, if not completely done now.

Meanwhile, I did manage to complete the flowers for my eldest Son's wedding, and, although exhausted, the wedding festivities were truly memorable! My Grandson even got to spend two nights with his great-grandmother and myself. It was quite a memorable weekend! Needless to say, I am still tired ! Funny how a two year old can wear you out! Lol! Actually, he won't be two until this weekend, so it will be another fun-filled, but tiring weekend!

Anyway, here are the promised flower arrangement photographs. I hope that one of the wedding pictures shows the bridal bouquet better than these. For some reason I just didn't seem to get a good angle. Still, I think you will at least get the general idea and feel. I hope you like them!
Due to storms and power outages this blog will be down until Thursday, July 5, so sorry!

Tripod Thursday-Wedding Flower Components

These are the components, wait til you see the finished products! The wedding countdown has begun! Next pictures will be of boutineers! 

What's Workin' Wednesday

This week I am working on a few new projects. First off, my eldest Son is getting married July 14 and I am doing the bridal party flowers. I just completed  all of the boutineers,  and have the bride's maids bouquets almost finished. I am doing the bridal bouquet last, but I already have it tossed together, so just some tweaking and some bling, and it will be ready to be wrapped. The Bride chose some roses, lilies and orchids for her flowers. I have to say, they are very pretty! Don't be surprised if tomorrows photographs have a few flowers in them! Lol

Work wise I am trying to prepare for some end of Summer and Fall festivals. I am working on a set of wine soaps, as well as a set of tea soaps. It is a lot of fun, and should make for some great soap sets when I am finished!

Besides that, I currently have some rosemary and sage leaves drying, have new lavender and tomato plants growing, and have Canyon Sunrise, English Rain, Black Forest Sage, Lavender, Sweetgrass, and number 77 curing on the soap rack. What is #77?  Well, #77 is one of these soaps that I am having a terrible time naming! It is a green on green, on green soap, made with French green clay, spirulina and nettle for coloring. As for scent, it is mainly a mixture of lavender and grapefruit, with a hint of eucalyptus. While there are other things tossed in there, these are really the only notes most people could pull out. It is a nice, clean scent, and a different one at that. Since I am at a loss, and my usual name that soap person have up on this one a while back, shame on you Cathy! Lol, I am going to open it up to you all! I will take name suggestions until July 15. The person who submits the name that is chosen will win a bar of this soap.....and maybe a surprise or two! So put your creative thinking caps on, and tell all of your friends to do the same! Leave a comment on this blog post to enter the contest, making sure you leave an email address for notification.

The small print; This prize is only open to contestants who have mailing addresses within the continental USA. Sorry! Besides that, all entries should be "G" rated, as this is a family company. Any entry that is deemed to be inappropriate or vulgar will be deleted. You may submit up to 5 different names, but each must be submitted in its own post. If the winning name has been submitted more than once, only the first to submit it will win the prize(s). No trademarked names will be used, and should not be submitted. In the event that none of the submitted names are chosen to be used, one winner will be randomly chosen from all of the entries submitted, and will win the prize(s). That should do it for all the details, much luck! 

Teaching Tuesday- Dandelions

While most people spray their lawns and try to kill the yellow "weeds" that pop up every Spring, otherwise called Dandelions (botanically known as Taraxacum officinale), most of our Grandparents, if not parents, use to gather these "weeds" for food and medicine.

Over the years, much has been written about the dandelion and its uses, and I encourage you to check into it further. While the dandelion is now considered a common weed, one that disgraces lawns everywhere, it didn't start out that way. The dandelion plant is not native. It was purposefully brought to North America by the Europeans. They brought the dandelion, chose the dandelion, because they considered it to be a valuable resource. In fact, this plant helped to keep our ancestors alive.

While we may have forgotten about this plant, it is wondrous one. In fact, every part of the dandelion can be used as food or medicine. When the first Spring leaves pop up out of the ground, dandelions can be easily harvested and eaten fresh in salads, made into a pesto, or even dried for tea. Their leaves are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and several other vitamins and minerals. While long-term use of dandelion is needed for the best results, the leaves do possess diuretic properties, which makes it an inappropriate choice for anyone with low blood pressure, excessive urination, or kidney impairment. But most people tolerate dandelions just fine. 

My Mother told me about gathering dandelions when she was young. They used to have them fresh, in salads, and cooked with other "greens" as a side dish. They also made poultices with dandelions, but she was too young to remember the details of making one. One use that I recently read about, but had never heard about before, is dandelion coffee. Of course you can make a dandelion tea just by drying the dandelions and then heating them in water, but making the coffee takes a bit more. Here are the directions that I found in the Healing Herbs book, written by Rosalee de la Foret. 

Dandelion Coffee
• Prior to decocting the dandelion root, roast the dried chopped root in a
cast iron pan until it is fragrant and has changed color from being offwhite
to light and dark brown.
• For each 8 oz of water you are making, use 1-2 teaspoons of the
roasted root.
• Add the root to simmering water and continue to simmer while covered
for 7–15 minutes. The resulting brew will be darkly colored.

You can add milk to it, as the author of the book does, or you can add honey to sweeten it, and take the edge off.

Make it Yourself Monday- Easy Chicken Stroganoff

  • It's been a while since we have done a food recipe, so today's Make it Yourself Monday is all about dinner! Especially good for busy, hot days, this crock pot chicken recipe will be hot and complete when you get home from work, or a day at the beach! 

  • You will need;

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts - cubed
  • 1/8 cup margarine
  • 1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can (condensed) cream of chicken soup
  • 1 pint myshrooms, halved  *optional
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced  *optional


This recipe is super easy. Just cut the chicken into cubes and put it, the margarine and the dressing mix into the slow cooker. Stir it up to coat the chicken well, then cover the crock pot and cook on low heat for 5-6 hours. Do not be tempted to add any liquid, your chicken will get a nice crust this way. About a half an hour before you want to eat, mix the cream cheese and the soup mix together and pour that mixture over the chicken. Turn the crock pot up to high and cook for another thirty minutes, or until the cheese is heated all the way through. While the cheese is heating, cook some noodles or rice to serve under the stroganoff, for the perfect finishing touch!

Dieting? You can make this recipe more weight watcher friendly by omitting the butter and adding 1/2 cup of water instead, and substituting fat free cream cheese and reduced fat soup. You can even add onions and mushrooms when you add in liquid, if you want. To complete your healthier version, make sure that you serve it over whole wheat noodles or brown rice. Using this healthier method will make the meal only 5 points per serving, plus the points for the noodles or the rice.

Teaching Tuesday- All About Hot/Cold Therapy Pillows

Today's post is all about yesterday's project. It is a great project, easy to do, very cost effective, and quite useful. But there are a few hints and tips that will make your experience safer and easier, so let's get going, shall we?

 As stated in yesterday's Make It tutorial, you must use a 100% cotton fabric for the bag that is heated, while the pillowcase can be of any fabric. The thread should be cotton as well, if possible, but a blend will work alright most of the time. As for what is inside that bag, the substance that is heated, there are several choices available. Some people use (uncooked, long-grain) rice, some wheat, some buckwheat hulls, others barley, oatmeal, or various types of beans. Some even use flax seed or cherry pits.

I would be cautious in choosing flax seed, as flax consists of  30-40% linseed oil, which can be explosive in the presence of oxygen.  In fact, flax heating bags have been known to explode, so I think it may just be best to choose something else.  

I found several websites, including some fire stations', that warn that wheat is a fire and explosion danger, due to the small grains being susceptible to drying out. This is, in fact, a danger for most fillers. Generally speaking, you can reduce this risk by placing a half glass of water inside the microwave whenever you heat  a therapeutic bag, or at least every few heats. But you also need to be cautious with the water, watching its use closely, as wheat will rot when it gets too moist. While excessive moisture will cause any filler material to rot, wheat takes a lessor amount than other choices. 

Aside from the fact that cherry pits are an expensive filler (they cost at least ten times more than corn, without any evidence of providing greater benefits), their insides are poisonous to children and dogs, should they chew them open.  Also, the innards may soak through the fabric and cause poisoning issues if any of the pits dried out and cracked open. So, to me, this is another ingredient that is best left off the filler list.

Coffee beans are a new twist on old fillers, and are quite aromatic. The problem is that they burn easily, and scorched coffee isn't great smelling. So watch how long you microwave them for, and this is probably not the best choice for bags you are planning on giving away.

Lentils are a less than best choice, as they only hold heat for about twenty minutes, and they naturally contain a lot of moisture which will cause them to rot sooner than other choices. Kidney beans also contain a good deal of moisture and, on top of that, they also have a scent that most people will find unpleasant (when heated).

Some people enjoy mixing herbs, spices, and/or essential oils into fillers. I would NOT recommend using essential oils at all, since they all have different flash points, and microwaves heat unevenly. If you use are going to use herbs or spices, they need to be dried ones, not fresh.  Probably the best way to utilize herbs and/or spices, is to simply make a separate bag for them, adding them to the inside of the grain bag, after the grain bag is heated. This way, the herbs and spices are kept from moisture, yet will still be exposed to the heat (radiating from the grains), which will release their aroma. Try some lavender, rose petals (make sure they are organic or you will be exposed to chemicals), cloves, nutmeg, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, mint leaves, or even some teas. If you are using a separate herb/spice bag, you can also add essential oils without having to worry about the temperature and/or fire. Just remember that you only need a few drops of an EO or EO blend, otherwise you may be overwhelmed by the smell, which is not very relaxing or therapeutic!

Rice is a very popular filler choice, but it is quite small, and does scorch pretty easily. To avoid this, make sure that it is completely cooled before you reheat it, and don't heat it for too long at any given time. Make sure that you don't use minute rice at all, you need to use the long-grained rice, the kind that you have to cook for a long time. Keep an eye on the rice too. If it is clear instead of white, that means that it is too dry, and that it is a fire hazard. While using water in the microwave will decrease the chances of burning, increased moisture will hasten spoilage. No matter what, rice bags will need to be changed out sooner than some other grains, as it tends to develop a rancid odor over time. Also know that a rice bag won't stay as warm for as long as some other fillers, because it is a smaller grain, with less surface area. Still, many people prefer a rice filler for its softness and mold-ability.  

Perhaps the best filler choice is feed corn. It must be feed corn, or else it will simply pop when heated. One great plus for using feed corn is that it is very inexpensive. Feed and agricultural stores sell it year round for about twenty cents a pound, in 40 or 50 pound bags. In the Fall, Wal-Mart sells it as "deer corn",  in 40 lb bags for under five dollars. While Wal-Mart sells "extra clean" bags, the feed stores tend to contain more materials that you will need to toss. Wherever it comes from, go through it and remove any cob chunks, rocks, or bugs, then proceed to heat it as discussed.  Do be sure to get the whole corn, not cracked corn, which would be a fire hazard.  

No matter what filler you use, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, any grain can harbor bugs or bug larva. To avoid having anything hatch inside your bag, make sure to follow the heating instructions offered in the tutorial, and be sure to allow the bag to completely cool in between the heating cycles. While this has proven to be sufficient, some people also like to place their chosen grain inside (sealed) plastic bags, and then freeze those bags for three to four days prior to thawing, then heating (per the tutorial directions) the grain. 

Whether you do the freeze and heat or just the heat method, you will still need to change out the filler bag once it gets old. When will that be? That depends upon too many factors to make a blanket statement. Keep your nose on it, and try to ensure that that it dries out in between uses. I have known some who have opened their bags after more than a year, and still have good, in-tact grains, yet others have not even lasted six months. You need moisture at times to keep the grains from drying too much and becoming a fire hazard, yet too much moisture will encourage rotting. So moderation and caution are the words of the day. 

The next issue is storage. Any grain may be attractive to mice, but sometimes even a child or a "good" pet may find your filled bag interesting. You can avoid a torn up bag and any potential choking or poisoning issues by simply storing your unused therapy pillow in a child-proof cabinet. As for the grain itself, once opened, it is best to use all of the container. If you don't, make sure that you put the unused portion inside a sealed container. If there are any bugs or anything ready to hatch, you certainly don't want it crawling out and running around your house. As routine practice, I would microwave the grains as previously instructed, and then place the unused inside a plastic container with a snug lid, just in case. 

Once your filler is chosen, cleaned, properly heated and stuffed into the bag, a pillowcase made if you want one, your therapy pillow is ready to be used. They can be frozen for cold therapy use, or they can be heated for heat therapy. If heated, most of the fillers will be good at 1-2 minutes. But you will need to test to verify the time for your chosen filler. Remember that there is a difference between using the bag on an adult who is awake, alert, and has a normal sense of feeling, and is capable of moving the bag themselves, as opposed to an adult with circulatory issues (including, but not limited to diabetes), mobility issues, and/or cognitive issues. When using on an adult with issues, a child  (do not use on infants) or a pet, be sure to  verify the heat. I would start with cutting the time in half, at minimum. If you heat four cups of corn (in the microwave) for two minutes, it will be between 120 and 140 degrees for the first 15 minutes after it is removed. Even at a minute and a half, it will be between 110-120 degrees, so this is not a toy or something to be taken lightly. It is a therapeutic tool and deserving of your caution and respect.

In a  9 inch (wide) by 11inch (long) bag, filled with four (level) cups of feed corn, you can heat for two minutes maximum, no more than a minute and a half for patients with special circumstance/conditions. This bag will stay warm for an hour or two.  If you use a different amount of corn, or if your bag is a different size, you will need to experiment to see how long to heat it, and how long it lasts.   
If you reheat the bag before it is completely cooled, only microwave for a maximum of one minute.

The grain filled bag should not be washed unless absolutely necessary. This is the main reason why a pillowcase is a great idea. Some grains won't hold up to a wash at all, but the corn bag can. Although frequent washing is not recommended at all, it is okay to freshen your (corn) bag once or twice a year. The best way to clean the corn bag is to scoot all the corn to one side, then carefully wash the fabric on the opposite end of the bag.  Move the corn to the other side and then finish washing the fabric as fast as you can. The idea is to try and keep the corn from getting any wetter than necessary.  To dry the bag, toss it in the microwave for two minutes*, two to three times,  allowing it to completely cool off  in between each heat cycle. *If your corn bag is a different size than the one I described, or if it contains a different amount of corn, use how many minutes you normally use to heat the bag. If your bag is in need of a more all over washing, 
do not wash it any longer than absolutely necessary. Once washed, hang it up to  drip dry on a line for a few hours, then put in the dryer for thirty minutes on the gentle cycle.  When you get it out of the dryer, heat it in the microwave for two minutes, allow it to cool completely, heat for another two minutes, allow to cool and reheat again. Depending upon how much water gets into the corn, it may take more than three times in the microwave. It is important to get rid of all the moisture that is absorbed by the corn during the wash or else the corn will soften and hydrate, which will lead to rotting. Hopefully, most of the moisture will be removed in the dryer, you really don't want to microwave too much and risk    cooking the corn!  

If you are making these hot/cold therapy packs for gifts, make sure that you include instructions for heating and for cleaning. Also be sure to warn them about  the consequences of overheating. You certainly don't want them to think that if two minutes is good, four is better, only to be calling the fire department in five minuets! If a fire does start, exercise extreme caution, even after putting it out. 
In at least one case, a therapy bag that had caught fire and was extinguished, was left outside on a porch, only to reignite and burn the porch down.

Warnings aside, this bag can be a wonderful, therapeutic tool, and a great gift idea. Just be smart and follow the tips and directions.

Make it Yourself Monday- Hot/Cold Comfort Pillow

Instead of using an electric heating pad or a hot water bottle to help you with aches and pains, you should try one of these (microwaveable) comfort pillows! Need an ice pack instead? No problem, you can freeze this pillow and use it instead of an ice pack! These are often marketed as; bed buddies, therapy pillows, stress busters, magic bags, corn cozies, hot/cold rice bags, or comfort bags. But, no matter what they are called, they are basically the same thing. They come in various sizes and shapes, but all are some type of bag that holds a material that can be heated or cooled. The bag and stuffing material is pliable and will mold around body parts, to provide the heat or cooling necessary for pain relief and comfort. The only real difference between what you can find in the store and what you can make is MONEY! In stead of paying out $10-$40, you can spend fifteen minutes and less than $2.00 and make yourself one! Better yet, make several and solve your Christmas shopping dilemma!

This is a "sew simple" project, so no worries if you are not an accomplished  seamstress. There really is no need to even follow a pattern, just cut two pieces of material in the size and shape that you want your bag to be, making sure that you leave a half inch seam allowance.  That's it!  If you have a specific use in mind already, you should think about a shape that will work best for that particular body part. My Mom has neck and head pain stemming from an automobile accident, so she has a long, narrow pillow that easily wraps around from shoulder to shoulder, while I have a wider, shorter one for back pain.

There are a few things that you do need to keep in mind as you gather your materials. First and foremost is safety. You will need to use cotton material only. You do not want to risk fire. You can use plain, prints, flannels, or even denims. In fact, you can use (old or new) washcloths or towels. Not only do they work well, but then you don't need to worry about purchasing or cutting material. Even old socks work well. As long as you use a cotton material for the inner bag, you can let your imagination run wild. Think fluffy, think soft and go for it!    

Once you determine the size and shape you want, cut it appropriately and then sew the wrong sides together, leaving a few inches on one side open for filling. Remember to leave about a half inch seam allowance.  Turn it right side out and fill it from 1/2 to 3/4 full [of your chosen filling material]. You will need to experiment to decide the right amount for you. Just remember that you want it empty enough to allow the bag to mold itself around your body. Once it is full, finish sewing it closed by hand, double stitching for added security. This could be the end of your project, but I find it a lot nicer if you go on to make a removable case for this bag, a pillow case of sorts. By providing a pillowcase you make it easier to handle cleaning, and you can use whatever material you like, without worrying about its type. As long as you only heat the inside bag, you can use whatever you want for the case. You can leave the end open if you'd like, or you can use a velcro strip to close the ends, or if you are a seamstress, you can even put in a small zipper. 

Now, you may be wondering just what "filler material" will work best for the inside of your bag(s). There is no one perfect filler, rather there are several choices for you to experiment with, and to decide what suits you, what feels best to you. Most people go with either (long grain) rice or (feed) corn, but you can also use;  wheat, buckwheat hulls, barley, oatmeal, and various beans. 

Before you use the bag or give it away to be used, you will need to heat the bag three times, for three minutes each time.  You will need to allow the bag to completely cool between heat cycles, so that any bugs, eggs, and/or spores that may be hiding in your seed are killed off. This process also serves to remove any initial excess moisture. Once completed, your bags will be ready to use or give away. 

While you now have the very basics, there are some more safety guidelines, a few tips and tricks, and even some health considerations that will help you make the most of this therapeutic product. So come back tomorrow and check out the Teaching Tuesday post, "More About Making Comfort Pillows"

A few things to be included in tomorrow's post; 
-What not to use for filling
- Heating directions 
-Did someone yell FIRE?
-What else can be put into the bag?
-How to mask the odor of some of the fillers
-Figuring the cost per bag
-Tips and Tricks; Things to Watch out for