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

Teaching Tuesday-Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is probably the most widely known and most often used cosmetic additive. In fact, many families keep a bottle of the gel in the refrigerator year round, for sunburns and minor incidents. So, as Summer is upon us, I thought we'd take a more in depth look at this additive in today's installment of  Teaching Tuesday!

The Aloe vera plant is a stemless, or very short-stemmed, succulent plant. It grows from 24–39 inches tall and spreads by offsets. The leaves are green to gray-green, and are thick and fleshy. Some varieties have white flecks on stem surfaces, but not all. They flower in the Summer, with pendulous, yellow petals that extend from a spike that may shoot up to 35 inches tall. Like other aloe species, aloe vera forms arbuscular mycorrhiza, which is the formation of an unique fungus that penetrates the cells of the roots of a vascular plant. This fungus forms a symbiotic relationship that allows the plant to have better access to minerals and nutrients in the soil.

While the aloe vera plant looks like a member of the cactus family, it really belongs to the lily family! The name actually comes from the Arabic word  alloeh, which means "bitter" , stemming from the bitter taste of the liquid that is found in its leaves.  The aloe vera plant is made up of about 96% water, but it also contains other active ingredients, such as steroids, minerals, vitamins, essential oil, glycoproteins, amino acids and enzymes. Research has shown that the aloe vera gel penetrates human skin almost four times faster than water does. It is this ease of permeability that makes it a highly effective additive in moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and other products.

The plant is used for both its gel and its latex. The clear, see through, jelly-like gel that is contained in, and harvested from the plant's pulp, inside the meaty leaves is the gel. Aloe latex is yellow, and it comes from just under the plant's skin. Some aloe products are made from the entire crushed leaf, so they will contain both the gel and the latex.

Some aloe medications are made to be taken internally,  usually from the latex. These medications are often for the treatment of constipation, colds, asthma, osteoarthritis, bowel diseases, ulcers, diabetes and a few others. However, the most popular and familiar use is the use of aloe gel, topically. In fact, it has been used as a remedy for skin conditions such as burns, sunburn, frostbite, psoriasis, dandruff, cold sores, and minor wounds for thousands of years.

There is promising, albeit preliminary data, from laboratory studies of animals, as well as humans, that support the suposition that topical aloe gel has immunomodulatory properties which [may] improve wound healing and skin inflammation. In fact, some studies purport that aloe contains active compounds that [may] decrease pain and inflammation, as well as stimulate growth and repair. It appears that some chemicals in the aloe gel are able to increase circulation in the small blood vessels of the skin, as well as kill bacteria. Together, these effects seem to make aloe effective in speeding wound healing. The University of Maryland reports that " one study, burn sites treated with aloe healed completely in less than 16 days compared to 19 days for sites treated with silver sulfadiazine. In a review of the scientific literature, researchers found that patients who were treated with aloe vera healed an average of almost 9 days sooner than those who weren't treated with the medicinal plant."

There is however, also evidence that certain wounds should not be treated with aloe at all, as the healing will be dealyed and/or the tissue health risked. Most literature agrees that this is true with surgical wounds and severe (3rd degree) burns.

Powdered aloe, which is simply aloe that was freeze dried then pulverized, is frequently used in facial formulas, body wraps, bath salts, milk baths, soaps, body scrubs and the like. It, as well as the gel, are often touted as being perfectly safe for everyone, with some even saying that it is "hypoallergenic." While the topical use is generally considered safe for most individuals, according to health information disseminated by the Mayo clinic;

"People with known allergy to garlic, onions, tulips, or other plants of the Liliaceae family may have allergic reactions to aloe. Individuals using aloe gel for prolonged times have developed allergic reactions including hives and eczema-like rash. Aloe injections have caused severe reactions and should be avoided." 

They also report that;
-Aloe used on surgical wounds has been shown to slow the healing process.
-Aloe juce applied to the face after dermabrasion (a skin-peeling procedure) has been reported to cause burning and redness in some patients.
-Using aloe prior to sun exposure may lead to a rash once exposed.

They specifically warn that the use of aloe or aloe latex, when taken internally for laxative effects can cause cramping or diarrhea. When Use for over seven days may cause dependency or worsening of constipation after the aloe is stopped. Ingestion of aloe for over one year has been reported to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. 

-Individuals with severe abdominal pain, appendicitis, ileus (temporary paralysis of the bowel), or a prolonged period of time without a bowel movement, should not take aloe by mouth at all. 

In fact, they state that there is a " of hepatitis (liver inflammation) with the use of oral aloe".

-They also warn of the "...potential for electrolyte imbalances, including low potassium levels, caused by the laxative effect of aloe. This effect may be greater in people with diabetes or kidney disease."

-They caution that "...Since low potassium levels can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and/or muscle weakness, this is something to be watched closely, and people with heart or kidney disease, or electrolyte abnormalities should not ever take aloe by mouth. And healthcare professionals should be advised, and be monitoring for changes in the electrolytes of any individual taking aloe [by mouth] for more than a few days."

-"Additionally, aloe taken by mouth may lower blood sugar levels, so extreme caution is advised for those with diabetes and/or hypoglycemia, as well as those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that may affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare professional, and medication adjustments may be necessary." 

-"People with thyroid disorders, kidney disease, heart disease, or electrolyte abnormalities should also use oral aloe only under medical supervision."

They also recommend that everyone "avoid Aloe vera injections, which have been associated with cases of death under unclear circumstances."

-As far as pregnant and breast feeding women, they state that, "..although topical (skin) use of aloe is unlikely to be harmful during pregnancy or breastfeeding, oral (by mouth) use is not recommended due to theoretical stimulation of uterine contractions. It is not known whether active ingredients of aloe may be present in breast milk. The dried juice of aloe leaves should not be consumed by breastfeeding mothers."

From personal and family history, I will say that I love using aloe topically. I am one that has a plant growing most all times, ready to cut and use whenever needed. And I do not recall too many Summers, where a bottle of gel wasn't stashed in the refrigerator for use after a day at the beach.

Make it Yourself Monday-After Sun Body Mousse

With Summer beginning here in the USA, today's Make it Yourself project is for an after sun lotion. This lotion is easy for your skin to absorb and will soothe and nourish sun baked skin!

You will need;

16 Ounce Aloe Butter  or the butter of your choice. Avocado or Shea make a good alternative for conditioning, but the aloe is best for soothing sun damaged skin!
1 Teaspoon Corn Starch *if desired
The liquid from 2-3 Vitamin E Capsules
Your choice of Fragrance Oil (about 2 Teaspoons) or Essential oil (you will need check for the proper usage amount for your eo/eo blend choice)

Put the butter into a bowl (microwave safe, if need be). If the butter is very hard (which it will be when it is cold) put it into the microwave and zap it until it is soft, about 20 seconds for most microwaves. Just be sure to not over heat it, you just want it soft and workable, not cooked.  Then, using a regular hand mixer, not a stick blender, whip the butter until it's fluffy. Once fluffy, stir in 1 teaspoon of corn starch (I use this to help reduce the oiliness of the butters, but it is not necessary if you don't want to use it or don't have it), 1/2 teaspoon of vitamin E oil, and your scent choice. Mix it again until it is well incorporated, then place it in a jar. Store it in a cool place so it will remain whipped. So, if you don't have air-conditioning, keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. 

Tripod Thursday- An Organized Oil Room

Today's Tripod Thursday is the record of my reorganizing the oil room! I finally cleaned every essential oil drawer, reorganized the soap racks and cleaned all the packaging drawers, herb shelves, and everything in between. Then, once all organized, I covered the racks to allow the air to allow the air to circulate, yet to keep the dust away from curing soap. I still need at least one more soap shelf unit, but that will have to wait until I move, which I am hoping will be soon!

What's Workin' Wednesday-Products Not in the Shop

I have many products that have yet to make their way to my Etsy store front. Of those, there are at least 50 soap batches and probably a good 8 to 10 other products waiting for me to find the time to add. I have the products already made, in fact, most have been staples in my inventory for years, but right now they only get sold to the people who know about them and to those who visit with me in person. So today I would like to share a few of these lessor known products with you.

Now this first one is actually already in the Unique Garden Essences store front, but it was recently reformulated and renamed, so here it is. It is a facial/eye serum that I have named "Go Away". Go away is a blend of of vegetable and plant oils, including meadowfoam, sea buckthorn, jojoba and others. Each ingredient, including the proprietary essential oil blend, has been chosen for the properties it will contribute to the blend. A little of this oil in your daily facial care regimen and I believe that you will soon detect a noticeable, healthy difference in your skin tone. These oils are purported to not only rejuvenate the skin, but to regenerate damaged skin cells, and decrease the signs of aging.

This next product is such a fun and kitschy one. I began making them because I enjoyed them myself, but I was basically coerced into continuing to make them and to offer them for sale in the shop by several of my friends and long term clients.  What am I talking about?
The cupcake bath bomb, of course! Look how cute they turn out! The sprinkles are actually tiny jojoba beads. They come in a multitude of colors and really look like the candies used to decorate the edible cupcakes!
I can't tell you how many people  thought they hit the jackpot, at my last craft show, when the afternoon hunger pains set in! Lol

The next product I'd like to introduce to you is one of my favorites. Why? Because I originally made it for a friends' grandson, and later for my own!  It is Baby Bum and Body Balm. This balm is herbal infused greatness that is equally wonderful for chapped, reddened faces as it is for the private area, in between diaper changes. In fact, this balm is perfect for all sensitive skin, even when you aren't a baby! 

And the final product for today's What's Workin' Wednesday is an Air Diffuser.
This cute, 6 oz. diffuser is cut glass. The cork seal has a shrink band to keep it secure in transit. Once home and ready to use, all that you need to do is to remove the cork, place the reeds into the bottle, and find a nice place to set it, where its beauty will add to your decor. The fragrances can be colored or left clear, and the scents are as varied as the minutes of the day. While I usually take a few different fragrances to a show, these can be ordered in just about any scent desired. Packaged nicely, these also make great gifts! 
There are some more products for me to show you, but we will look at those next week. There will be solid perfumes, lotions, body mousse, whipped shea and more to look forward too!  Even a whipped soap, including a shaving soap for Dads, Hubbies and Gals alike! All next What's Workin' Wednesday

Before you go  take a look at these recently completed (special ordered) gift sets.  Made in a variety of styles and price ranges, they are always fun to work on and even more fun to watch the recipient open! 

Teaching Tuesdays- Calendula Infused Oil

Calendula, known botanically as calendula officinalis, is another name for the pot marigold flower. This  perennial grows from one to three feet, and blooms once a month during season, but is usually treated as an annual in both the very cold, and the very hot climates, where its survival in the extremes is problematic. It is, however, easily grown  from seeds, although they do germinate better if they are stored for 6 months prior to planting. They are easy to grow, as they tolerate just about any type of soil condition. The flowers bloom all summer, and come in vibrant yellows and oranges. But, while they resemble a marigold, they are not a true marigold, and should not be confused with such. 

The petals of the calendula flower are the part that is used in the steam distillation to create the oil. It is classified as an infused oil because the petals are steeped, infused into a carrier oil. The petals of the flower can also be dehydrated and used whole, ground into a powder, or even eaten raw. In fact, calendula flowers are often added into salads and other dishes for their color. While its stems are technically considered edible, they actually don't taste very good, so are best avoided.                            

Calendula flowers contain calendulin, beta-carotene, other carotenoids, isoquercitrin, narcissin, rutin, amyrin, lupeol, sterols, and volatile oils. It contains a high amount of antioxidants, which protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals, called flavonoids. Research into this flowering plant has been ongoing for years, yet researchers are not sure what active ingredients are responsible for its healing properties, however, it does appear to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial effects. 

Calendula has been clinically shown to speed the healing of wounds and to help prevent dermatitis in breast cancer patients, while they are receiving radiation treatments. This is potentially because the calendula increases blood flow to the affected area. The calendula infused oil is very mild and soothing, and it is a preferable treatment for dry, damaged skin, such as burns, rashes, wounds, and inflammation, or just dry, chapped skin. In fact, calendula oil is so mild that it makes an excellent oil for babies and those with sensitive skin.

The dried petals of calendula are best made into an aromatic infused oil, a tea, or a tincture. The dried petals themselves, or the oil infused with them, make a great base for balms, salves, face creams, and other natural cosmetics. They are also used in soap, for the properties or even just for the nice yellow coloring.
The dried petals are often used in tinctures, ointments and washes to aide in the healing of cuts, bruises, burns, and the minor infections that these can cause. Don't think it works? The next time you or your child has a bee sting, try chewing some calendula petals, then place the masticated petals on the irritated area and just wait and see how fast the stinging goes away. Of course, if you really don't want to chew them yourself you can just add some fresh petals and water to a blender, reduce them to a paste, then place the paste directly on the affected area. While you have that paste out, you may as well go ahead and slather some on any varicose veins you may have. Calendula has a proven track record for treating and even for healing varicosities! 
The tea, or tincture in water, can be swished and swallowed to help heal sore throats, gastric ulcers, or oral lesions. There are several other applications where calendula may be beneficial, both internally and externally. For more detailed information you can check out one of the many home herbal medicines books available at your public library for FREE, or check out the several on-line sources available, some for free and some for a fee. 

As previously stated calendula is very mild and, unless you are allergic to its family, it is considered one of the safest herbs for use. It is quite frequently  recommended for use in baby products, and is found more and more in commercial products, right along with lavender and chamomile. While some sites state a concern that it may [potentially] cause miscarrage, but from what I can see this is limited to its internal use. To be safe, until more is known and documented, I would advise against its use during pregnancy, internally. And, since its safe use during lactation has not yet been studied and established, it is also best to avoid it while nursing. We do know though that Calendula may be a central nervous system depressant, causing sleepiness and drowsiness. Therefore taking it, along with other sedative medications, could cause increased drowsiness. This is especially true when combined with other pharmaceutical medications, especially those that are used during and after surgery. In order to avoid potential issues you should make your physician aware of your intake and stop taking the internal calendula at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery. Also, be aware that if you are allergic to ragweed or other plants in the asteraceae/compositae family (such as chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies and others). You should check with a physician prior to using any product that contains calendula powder, petals, or oil that has been infused with calendula, whether its for internal or external use, as you may be sensitive to it. 

Make it Yourself Monday- Hot Oil Treatment for Hair

My Mom visited the hair salon recently, and she was told that she needed a deep oil treatment for her hair. So naturally she asked me to concoct one for her. It turned out so nicely, I thought that I'd share it with you all.

I used;
1 part jojoba oil
1/2 part meadowfoam seed oil
1/4 part wheat germ oil
1/2 part coconut oil
1 part avocado oil
I also used
6 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil in about 3 1/4 ounces of oils.

I had her heat all the oils together and, after the coconut oil was melted, rub this mixture into her newly washed and towel dried hair. She then put a shower cap on it and sat for ten to fifteen minutes. Then she washed her hair again. It really did the trick, conditioning her hair and rejuvenating it! While I think she needs another one next week, her hair was very damaged. If yours is not, just once a month I would think will do the job for keeping your hair conditioned throughout the long, hot summer!