All posts by Deborah

Allergies and Essential Oils

Over the last 50 years, the rise in prevalence of allergic diseases and disorders has continued in the industrialized world. Hay Fever and what’s behind the unpleasant seasonal allergy symptoms we all know so well, develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment.allergic diseases

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, 40 to 60 million Americans today are affected by allergic rhinitis and the numbers continue to grow, especially in children. When left untreated, allergies can cause blocked and runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches and an impaired sense of smell.

People who suffer from allergies are often told to avoid triggers, but that is nearly impossible when the seasons are changing. Thankfully, essential oils serve as a natural and safe way to treat the symptoms of allergies and boost our immune systems.  More than the substances themselves, it is our body’s reaction to them that decides the occurrence and severity of allergies. The release of histamines by the body is what triggers these reactions. Antihistamines that counteract the histamines are the first line of treatment against allergies.

 How Can Essential Oils Fight Allergies?

One of the most amazing benefits of essential oils is their ability to fight inflammation and boost the immune system. Essential oils for allergies will help to detoxify the body and fight infections, bacteria, parasites, microorganisms and harmful toxins. They can reduce the body’s susceptibility to outside sources and reduce the overreaction of the immune system when it is faced with a harmless intruder.

Top 3 Essential Oils for Allergies

  1. Peppermint Oil

Inhaling diffused peppermint oil can oftentimes immediately unclog the sinuses and offer relief to scratchy throats. Peppermint acts as an expectorant and provides relief for allergies, as well as colds, coughs, sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis. It has the power to discharge phlegm and reduce inflammation — a leading cause of allergic reactions.

Uses: Diffuse five drops of peppermint essential oil at home to unclog sinuses and treat a scratchy throat. This will also help to relax the nasal muscles, enabling the body to clear out mucus and allergens like pollen. Peppermint tea or fresh mint added to a smoothie can also help. Peppermint oil can also be applied topically to the chest, back of neck and temples – always dilute peppermint with carrier oil before topical application.

  1. Eucalyptus Oil

eucalyptus-essential-oil-usesEucalyptus oil opens up the lungs and sinuses, thereby improving circulation and reducing symptoms of allergies. Studies have shown that it produces a cold sensation in the nose that helps to improve airflow. It contains citronellal, which has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects; it also works as an expectorant, helping to cleanse the body of toxins and harmful microorganisms that are acting as allergens.

Uses: To treat respiratory issues associated with allergies, diffuse five drops of eucalyptus at home or apply it topically in carrier oil to the chest and temples. To clear the nasal passages and relieve congestion, pour a cup of boiling water into a bowl and add 1–2 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Then place a towel over your head and inhale deeply for 5–10 minutes.

  1. Lemon Oil

Lemon oil supports lymphatic system drainage and helps with overcoming respiratory conditions. Studies have shown that lemon essential oil inhibits the growth of bacteria and boosts the immune system. When diffused at home, lemon oil can kill bacteria and eliminate allergy triggers in the air.Lemon Oil

Lemon essential oil can also be used to disinfect your home, without depending on alcohol or bleach. It will remove bacteria and pollutants from your kitchen, bedroom and bathroom — reducing the triggers inside of your home and keeping the air clean for you and your family.

Uses: Add lemon oil to your laundry detergent, mix a couple of drops with water and spray it on your couches, sheets, curtains and carpets.  Adding fresh squeezed lemon to water also helps with pH balance. Lemon water improves immune function and detoxifies the body. It stimulates the liver and flushes out toxins that can lead to inflammation and an over reactive immune system. Lemon water also stimulates white blood cell production, which is vital for immune system function because it helps to protect the body.

Many more essential oils contain anti-inflammatory properties and work like antihistamines. So the next time you feel a tickling in the nose or itching of the skin or eyes, turn to your essential oil stash for relief.

General: As with all essential oils, never use them undiluted, in eyes or mucus membranes. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children. If applying an essential oil to your skin always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Skin Care Resolutions

In the middle of July as the dog days of summer approach, I like to revisit skin care resolutions I made at the start of the year.  I like to think that I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to my skin, but I know there are things I can do to improve my skin and make my complexion cleaner and clearer!

Skin Care Results
Skin Care Results

Skin care resolutions don’t have to be boring and tedious; they can be fun and relaxing! I planned to get a facial each season this year because there isn’t a better way to get a deep cleaning, exfoliation and hydration without any effort on my part! Facials also help stimulate your skin and keep it in tip top shape so your skin care products are more effective and your beauty products go on more smoothly!

When it comes to caring for your skin, you want to create a routine you can stick to. What’s the point in spasmodic skin care? Just as your skin is getting used to a certain product or treatment we go and change the routine! Create a simple daily routine and stick with it!

Skin Care Product Mountain
Skin Care Product Mountain

One of your top skin care resolves should be to stop making impulse #skin care purchases! How many times have been suckered into buying skin care products that promise you the #world and you are left with nothing but an empty wallet!

In addition to only buying quality skin care products, just purchase skin care products that you need. At one point I had 5 exfoliators, 6 moisturizers, 6 cleansers and countless samples of eye creams and serums that I hardly used! #Skin care products aren’t good forever so I decided to cut back on buying products just for the sake of buying them or because they’re on sale.

A big part of caring for your skin involves tools so make sure clean and replace tools on a regular basis. I don’t know about you but I can easily forget or be too busy to wash or swap my makeup brushes, #face cleaning brush or loofah on a regular basis. We can undo all of our hard work taking good care of our skin if we’re using dirty or worn-out tools so this is a biggie when it comes to the health and upkeep of our #skin!

Skin Care Brushes
Skin Care Brushes

We’ve all heard about the importance of sunscreen in our skin care routine a million times but I’m not always consistent with it. You should always apply sunscreen to face, neck, chest, hands and any other place that happens to be exposed on the regular. I’m pretty good about applying sunscreen on my #face but my chest and hands are usually left vulnerable to the ravages of the sun. Learn from my mistakes and protect yourself!

These simple skin care resolutions are easy ways to make a big impact on the condition of your skin! Start incorporating these small changes and you’re sure to see the results of your hard work and consistency in your appearance! Have you ever made any skin care resolutions? What are you resolving to do differently with your #skin next year?

Knock Knock – Who’s There? Squash. Squash Who? Zucchini!

So, you planted a few zucchini and yellow summer squash in the hopes of some yummy fresh veggies on the table. If you are in New England, like northern New England, they have just now started to fruit. Thanks to the fabulous weather this summer they are going to fruit, and fruit, and fruit. Bumper crop coming in and OMG, you can’t give it away. Because everyone else has the same bounty. And it is sooooo good.summersquash

However, the ways to use that bounty are so varied, that If I see one more recipe for the “best” zucchini bread ever I may implode. Zucchini Bread is good, but did you ever think of maybe translating that recipe into, say something a kid might like? I am giving a shout out here to my friend Tracey who started The Blue Egg Baking Company in Newburyport, MA,  unfortunately now in hiatus.

She took zucchini and carrots and yellow squash to new levels. Her philosophy: Baking mixes that make kids (& moms) smile. Whole grain, high fiber, outrageously delicious. Want more? Add fresh veggies…no one will know! Tracey shredded vegetableswas such an innovator with products like Outrageous Chocolate Brownie, Gluten-Free Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Chocolate Cake, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Chocolate Spice Cake and Gluten-Free Chocolate Spice Cake.  Just add shredded or grated veggies and voila – amazing and super moist and nutritious.

I was inspired by Tracey’s mission and started trying some different combos in sweet treats and came up with my husband’s favorite  – Red Beet Brownies. Holy Moly! Shredded red beet in a simple dark chocolate brownie recipe is divine. And incredible, …oops got off track. Beets won’t be ready till September. But anyway, try adding shredded veggies to your regular baked goods recipes, it’s a wonderful boost.

Creole-Pasta-PrimaveraMy favorite way to use zucchini and yellow squash is in a simple Primavera. As our tomatoes are also ripening and young onions are up it is the perfect summer meal with pasta or rice or just spread on a grilled flatbread or crostini. Cook it up fresh for tonight’s supper or if you feel adventurous put it up for a mid winter treat! So easy, even if you have never canned veggies before.

Recipe:  1 small onion diced. 3 cloves garlic, minced. Saute in 1 tsp. basil infused olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup chopped or sliced zucchini, 1 cup chopped or sliced yellow squash, 1 cup chopped fresh tomato. Saute until wilted. Add 2 leaves of fresh basil, a bit of fresh oregano and a knob of butter(like a golf ball). Simmer 30 minutes or less if you like your veg crisper. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta Primavera – it’s whats for dinner at my house tonite!

My Inheritance From My Maternal Grandfather

mushroomman
Granpap

My earliest memory of my Granpap, as we called him, was him heading out into the hills down to the river behind the family house in a coal-mining Patch Town in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He was going mushroom hunting, and would not let me come with him for all my pleadings, I was only 4.  My mother patiently explained that he was afraid for me as there were copperheads in the fields he would walk through.

I was 8 when he finally relented and I was allowed to accompany him on the hunt. That first time out, he actually killed a snake with his Miner’s Belt, a heavy piece of leather he wielded like a whip. So, first piece of knowledge, use the tools you have at hand and make sure you know how to use them. Next was learning the difference between edible mushrooms and the poisonous look a likes. That was a bit longer lesson.

mushroom2
The Silent Hunt

My grandfather was a quiet man with few words. An immigrant from Poland, he spoke broken English, but enough to be understood. I unfortunately never learned anything of the Polish language. But he taught me about growing things and finding food in the wilds.

The Patch Towns were very poor, and so most families grew much of their own food and raised chickens, pigs and maybe a cow if they could afford it. I loved working in his vegetable garden every summer when we visited for several weeks. As I got a bit older I convinced Mom and Dad to let me go for the whole summer.

I learned how to start seeds, when to plant, how and when to harvest and how to put up food for the winter. To this day I still grow my own tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, corn, beets, potatoes and onions and either freeze, can or store them in our root cellar.

My grandfather was a poor coal miner who raised 11 kids, clothed, housed and fed them with his hard work in the mines and in the garden. The man woke at 5am every day and worked until sundown. The most valuable inheritance I could ever have hoped for was his teaching and his determination. Oh, and I now have his habit of waking at 5am and working until sundown. Thanks Granpap!

Mountain Hiking for Business and Life

I hike the trails around my town everyday as a part of my morning ritual – it prepares me for the day – but usually just a 1-2 mile trek with my faithful Golden Retriever at my side. I was reflecting the other day about the mountains I have hiked since I relocated to the White Mountains of NH. It is not that many in retrospect, and not all have been in NH, but it occurred to me that four of these ascents have inspired me to make major decisions regarding my life and my business.

I read an article in the NY Times YOUR MONEY section last June written by Carl Richards. It was entitled “What Mountain Climbing Can Teach You About Business”. A lot of what he said was very apropos to my lifestyle and my business style. This quote resonated with me deep down as I had actually been through this with both, “Learning about alpine-style climbing helped me see that what we think we need, and what we really need, are usually two very different things. Getting clear about the difference allows us to drop the obsession for more stuff and instead focus on enjoying the experience.”

Kearsarge
Mount Kearsarge Fire Tower

When I look back to my first mountain hike in 2000, I fully believed I needed a bunch of what I now know was extraneous stuff. I never made the summit. And it was only a 10 mile round trip hike. I turned back after the first mile – completely unprepared for what I was attempting. It took me 4 tries to finally reach the fire tower at the summit, and each try I shed a bit more stuff, so I finally realized that simple was better. I had already begun shedding stuff in my home life and this was before I started my business as a Maker.

Ivens2
Top of Red Mountain, Ivens, UT

I visited a health spa in Ludlow, VT in 2005,  year 4 of my business when I hit an early plateau of deciding the next steps.  Again – mountain hiking gave me the focus I needed and I returned to NH determined to take my production out of my kitchen to an actual studio and shift from tradeshows/markets to opening a B&M store. That took 2 years, but it was a year ahead of my 10 year plan.

The next mountain that inspired and challenged me was actually in Ivens, Utah as part of an intensive 3-week fitness retreat aimed at improving my health. Every day at 6am our group was required to hike up an excruciating 5 mile trek, which got steeper and more challenging every ½ mile. Plus it was 100 degrees outside! It took me 2 hours and 10 minutes the first day. Some of the group never made it to the top. By the end of week three I had trimmed it to 1 hour and 22 minutes, and everyone had made some kind of progress.

That retreat was in 2009, year 8 of my business and I was on the verge of expanding the business.  I came back with a renewed energy for surmounting the obstacles of taking my production from my studio to my B&M store. That took 2 years, but it was a great move at the time.

Backtracking a bit, in 2006, I joined the Board of my local Not-for-profit, Jen’s Friends Cancer Foundation. This is the charity which my business donates to in the memory of my sister and mother-in-law. Their major fundraiser is The Climb Against Cancer – yep, another mountain trek. I became the organizer of that event and managed it for 4 years – but never climbed the mountain. After stepping down from the Board in 2011, I finally made the hike and it once again changed my business outlook.

I realized I had expanded into a space much too large, with more equipment than I needed, and therefore generated the need for more work than I wanted to handle. I began simplifying once again and by 2013 had found Goldilocks’ dream – a store/production space not too small, not too big, but JUST RIGHT.

Mountain
A future hike

So, now I find more joy in my experience as a Maker by shedding the obsession for more stuff and the need for growth beyond my capacity. I now focus on what makes me happy in my business and subsequently in my life. I am due for another challenging hike soon and wonder what changes that will bring? I know I am ready for something because I feel the travel itch starting – maybe a trek abroad is due. I am giddy with anticipation.

Mmmmm…Aromatics From Garden to Table

Working with aromatics and essential oils is my business as a Maker. I love creating new combinations for the aromatherapy benefits, and for the allure of the scents that are possible as well. I am also an avid home cook and gardener, with a large herb labrynth garden, several perennial flower gardens and seasonal vegetable garden. I use these in my home kitchen as well as in my professional kitchen to create my signature bath and body products.

AROMABookCombining aromatics with the bounty of the gardens to create some wonderful recipes is another passion I have discovered thanks to some inspiration from Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson, authors of “AROMA” published by Artisan. It is a lovely book exploring “The Magic of Essential Oils in Food & Fragrance”.

We are all familiar with the phrase, mmm that smells good enough to eat. Well let me just say that working with aromatics, herbs and edible flowers in the kitchen is the epitome of those words. Having essential oils as a part of your pantry is like having an herb garden in full bloom 365 days of the year!

Because of the strength of essential oils, they must be used sparingly and wisely and always diluted before applying to the skin or being using in the kitchen.  The best way to do that in cooking is by using fat, which will also fix the flavor. You can make flavor-infused oils by adding a few drops to a fruity olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil or any favorite cooking oil. Never use them “neat”, or straight from the bottle, on your skin or in your food.

I have made infused oils for my bath and body products using both fresh herbs as well as essential oils. When you don’t have fresh spearmint, rosemary or basil at hand in the kitchen, the pure essential oil comes to the rescue. Or, if you want an extra burst of flavor for vinaigrette, adding a few drops of lime, orange or lemon essential oil to your carrier oil and fresh squeezed juices gives it a phenomenal kick!

Fennel Avocado Salad with Blood Orange

One of my favorites is a Fennel and Avocado Salad with a herb citrus vinaigrette. 4 cups of shaved fennel, 1 ½ cups of blood orange segments (6 oranges), 6 cups of a spring greens mix and 4 sliced avocados. For the vinaigrette you need ¼ cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice, 2 tsp of a white wine vinegar, and ¼ cup of infused rosemary/blood orange olive oil. Use about 3 drops each of Essential oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tarragon and Lavender are at home in my kitchen too. A classic poached chicken gets a lift from a few drops of Tarragon essential oil in addition to the fresh herb.  Roasted chicken perfumed with fresh lavender and basted with Lavender infused butter is divine. Tuna Tomato Tartare gets a lift from a bright Lime and Dill dressing and a simple cream of asparagus soup is infused with Mint and Basil .

AROMAstrawberries13
Marinated Strawberries with Rosewater

My love of roses finds a place in a simple dessert of strawberries marinated in Rosewater. Two Tablespoons of Rosewater to Ten cups of strawberries, a sprinkle of sugar and a sprig of mint –  Wow! Here I only use fresh rose petals to create the rosewater, not the essential oil. I choose only edible roses – Rosa damascena, Rosa centifolia and Rosa gallica. 1 cup of petals to 2 cups distilled water. Simmer this for 20 minutes, let it cool and then strain into a glass jar. Adding 1 tsp vodka will preserve the rosewater longer.

Whatever your favorite herbs are to use in the kitchen, you can always find more in the garden. Lemon Verbena Lemonade anyone?

The Balancing Act of Work vs. Play

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber’s book The Art of Time details how people today get more done, but with less satisfaction. He and others note how we confuse quantity of things done with quality of experience enjoyed.  He writes, “We now tend to simply do nothing thoroughly, we just try to do more of it.

In my career as a Scenic Designer and Painter in the theatre for 25 years, I worked hard and I played hard, but it there was no real balance. It was one or the other and in binge doses at that. I loved every minute of it, but that kind of living takes its toll. Upon retiring I was ready to practice the art of relaxation and enjoy more satisfying “play” time. However, after years of fast-forward days, weeks and months that always seemed to be speeding out of control, I found I had forgotten how to unwind at a normal pace.

Heart and Head for Music

Eventually, we arrive at the point where we lose the ability to concentrate, and as a result, unable to enjoy slower personal moments. Many experts believe that until we become more aware of the pace at which we live, we will never be able to slow down and control our natural rhythms.

Before I decided to resume working, I first had to ask myself some questions, as I did not want the new work to consume me in the way my first career did. I needed to be sure I could run down the path following my heart without compromising the work  values in my head, so I did a work/play assessment with the following questions:

  • How did I differentiate work from play?
  • What constitutes play in my life?
  • Does my current breakdown of work and play support a happy, healthy, and balanced life?
  • Would I benefit from more play and less work?

I was determined to combine the things I desired in my leisure time into the work I would be doing. Gardening and growing food, creating with my own hands and traveling to find new experiences, people and traditions are all woven into my work as a Maker of artisan bath and body products. I believe I have achieved a fairly balanced life today. I have managed to channel play into my work and work into my play, and that is a huge difference in what my day can be. A good part of my balance is that I love my job. I would hope so, as I shaped it.

monarch-butterflyThe way we use our time is most often an expression of our innermost values. Once we determine how not to abuse our work/play time, we can then use our “free time” more purposely and in a much more fulfilling way. We can improve the quality of our free moments by choosing to spend them in ways that more closely align with our passions and true nature.

If you find your joy, health, or relationships compromised, it might be time to explore your work to play ratio too, and to inject more play into your life.

What is so special about a Sea Salt Bath?

Dating back to Cleopatra, the seas have been known for the power to heal and rejuvenate. sea salt 1Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, discovered the therapeutic qualities of seawater by noticing the healing affects it had on the injured hands of fishermen. The seawater not only restricted infection risks, but patients who followed treatments involving the use of seawater found that it also promoted pain relief.

It is now known that sea salt therapy is an effective treatment that assists in the rejuvenation of the cells and also induces a healthy exchange of minerals and toxins between the blood and the water. Sea salt is hailed for its health-enhancing minerals, therapeutic properties, and all-natural harvesting process. Adding a little sea salt to the bath can stimulate circulation, ease muscle cramps, help relieve stiffness in joints, aid with arthritis or back pain, and soothe achy, overworked legs and feet. Plus sea salt helps cleanse and detoxify the largest organ in the body—your skin.

Bath Salt Crystals are produced through the natural evaporation of sea water. Salt water is captured in shallow ponds and allowed to evaporate by means of the sun and wind. The typical salt crystal “crop” takes from one to five years to produce. In high mineral salt production, the environmental conditions directly influence the salt quality through the quality of its main raw material – sea water. My favorite sea salt is from the coast of Brazil. The sea water used to make CEARA™ Bath Salt Crystals is especially clean as it is collected from a mangrove area, an ecosystem that removes undesired elements from the water.

Some of the most beneficial minerals found in Sea Water are as follows: Magnesium is important for sea salts 2both combating stress and fluid retention, slowing skin aging, and calming the nervous system. Calcium is effective at preventing water retention, increasing circulation, and strengthening bones and nails. Potassium energizes the body, helps to balance skin moisture, and is a crucial mineral to replenish following intense exercise. Bromides act to ease muscle stiffness and relax muscles. Sodium is important for the lymphatic fluid balance (this in turn is important for immune system function).

Water therapy is the combination of sea salts and water and is the basis of many powerful therapeutic treatments. There are numerous types of Water Therapy administered at spas, ayurvedic & holistic centers, and health clinics around the world. Sports therapy clinics use Hydrotherapy Baths to help patients recover from joint and muscle injuries. Dermatologists are recommending Sea Salt baths for patients with psoriasis, eczema and other dry skin conditions. Estheticians emphasize the cleansing properties of a sea salt bath to clean pores and to detoxify the bodyCancer patients use water therapy to help deal with radiation treatments.

If you are like me, there is not always time to visit a resort or spa. There are several therapies I enjoy at home with little or no mess and preparation.

1. Thalassotherapy Bath: Draw a warm bath (100-104F) and add a cup of Mineral Bath Salt Crystals. Dim the lights and soak for 20-30 minutes. Music will also add to the experience. Drink plenty of water during and after your soak. Pat skin dry when finished and wrap in a warm bath robe. You’ll feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

2. Salt Scrub: Apply an oil or soap-based salt scrub to dry skin. The shower is the perfect, easy to clean up, place for this. Be sure to massage entire body. The salts will exfoliate your skin allowing the nourishing essential oils to be absorbed. Be careful not to slip as the oils can be slick. Can also be used in the bath.

3. Detox Therapy Bath: Use an unscented combination of Epsom salts – high in magnesium  and sulfur – and sea salts – 2 cups to a bath. Detoxification of your body through bathing is an ancient remedy that anyone can perform in the comfort of their own home. In detoxification circles, your skin is known as the third kidney, and toxins are excreted through sweating . It is believed the application of seawater allows magnesium and potassium to be drawn into the blood stream while toxins are actively eliminated.

bathtub-woman1Another wonderful side effect of a hot bath is that it promotes an easier sleep and helps to overcome insomnia. A sea salt bath is my weekly ritual on Saturday nights – whether I need it or not!

Mother Nature’s Medicine Chest – Lavender

The surging popularity of essential oils and aromatherapy may seem like a New Age trend, but they’ve actually been around for centuries. They are natural remedies with incredible power and there are many essential oil resources online giving worrisome blanket advice about their use. Because of the strength of essential oils, you should always be cautious of over-using them.

In most cases, essential oils should not be used undiluted on the skin. Due to the small molecular size of essential oils, they can penetrate the skin easily and enter the bloodstream. As a general rule, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil like jojoba  or grapeseed, 3-5 drops of essential oils per teaspoon of carrier oil. Undiluted use can cause irritation or an allergic reaction in some people, and can cause a permanent sensitivity to certain oils after using it on broken skin. Some, like lavender, rose and chamomile are typically considered safe for undiluted skin use.

This isn’t to say essential oils should not be used, but they should be used carefully, with proper education and in safe amounts. Let’s take a look at ever-popular Lavender in this blog.

 LAVENDER OILLavenderEssentialOil

Imagine a flower being able to calm your nerves, help reduce inflammation and swelling, promote faster healing for minor burns, decrease muscle pain, alleviate insomnia, and work as a natural bug repellant? That purple colored flower named lavender, which is derived from the Latin word lavera meaning “to wash”, is one of the most versatile essential oils the plant kingdom has to offer.

 Types of Lavender:
Lavandula angustifolia is the most common type of lavender and is referred to as true lavender. Any true lavender will have the botanical name of “lavandula” as the prefix. (There are up to 39 different species, including lavandula officinalis and lavandula vera, yet they will all be simply lavender). The reason the “true” lavandula angustifolia genus is so popular is due to the low rate of camphor, less than one percent, it retains after distillation. This lends the essential oil a strong floral aroma, but it also makes it quite effective in aromatherapy usage, especially in accelerating the healing of minor burns. Lavandin, (also known as Dutch lavender), yields a similar essential oil, but with higher levels of terpenes including camphor, which add a sharper overtone to the fragrance. Camphor is a chemical constituent that you don’t want near a burn, and other versions of lavender,  which can contain up to 8% camphor—are not effective for soothing delicate skin tissue.

 My Favorite Uses for Lavender:
Bath soak ~ All you need is approximately 10 drops in your bathtub of warm to hot water and you should find yourself relaxing.
Diffuser ~ Add a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser. Lavender will fill the room with its soothing floral aroma and relaxation should follow.
Sachet ~ Add dried lavender buds to a small muslin bag and store in your drawers/cupboards, and especially where linen is stored. This method also works well as a natural bug repellent if you hang a scented lavender sachet in your closet(s) on a hanger.

General: As with all essential oils, never use them undiluted, in eyes or mucus membranes. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children. If applying an essential oil to your skin always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier.

Cakes, Candles and Cones – Oh My!

As I am observing another trip around the sun today, I thought I might reflect a bit on the traditions behind birthday celebrations. In research, I found that many of the customs surrounding birthdays have evolved from Pagan ritual, but have been embraced by countless cultures and religions worldwide.

For thousands of years people all over the world have thought of a birthday as a very special day. Long ago, people believed that on a birthday a person could be helped by good spirits, or hurt by evil spirits. So, when a person had a birthday, friends and relatives gathered to protect him or her. And that is supposedly how birthday parties began.

birthday-cake-with-candles-wallpaper-4

The idea of putting candles on birthday cakes goes back to ancient Greece. The Greeks worshipped many gods and goddesses. Among them was one called Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The Greeks celebrated her birthday once each month by bringing special cakes to her temple. The cakes were round like a full moon. And, because the moon glows with light, the cakes were decorated with lighted candles.

More and more, though, people the world over attach a certain magic to their actual date of birth. . . We may wear a ring with our birthstone in it for good luck. And when we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, we are careful to keep what we wished a secret. The mythology behind this tradition is actually Wiccan. Fire is a symbol of power and when you extinguish the flame the rising smoke carried the secret wish into the skies.

BIRTHDAY_CAKE

Though there is no one origin of the pointy party hat, this distinctive headgear has been around at the very least since 2800 BC, and was recognized as a symbol of power. In Wicca, the cone of power is the name given to the union of witches’ forces gathered around the circle, aimed at a common goal. In parts of ancient Syria, the cone was a symbol of Astarte (Asherah). Overall, these cylindrical birthday hats continue to be the proud tradition in many different cultures, with the point of the hat elevating the wearer to the status of royalty—which, we all agree, a person becomes on their birthday.

I personally celebrate my birthday without much fanfare. A hike in the mountains, a swim in the ocean or the lake and the enjoyment of some of my favorite foods with friends make my day complete.   The day of one’s birth is not the important thing.  It is merely the beginning of our life’s journey.  And I have enjoyed all 62 of these trips around the sun – with or without cake, candles and cones. Onward and Upward!