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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An American Soldier

Two months ago we had made a trip to Fort Jackson, S.C. 
A lot of pride and emotion was wrapped up with that reunion because as most people know basic training pushes one to their limits, emotionally and physically. There is no contact other than postal mail which leaves a parent's tendency for worry wide open. The AIT training which immediately follows basic training is intense but our soldiers are allowed phone privileges and limited internet service, so with improved communication it is easier on everyone.
AIT Graduation 1-29-13 Fort Eustis, Virginia
The conclusion of the AIT training is without fanfare as the soldiers are quick to pack up and quickly disperse so as not to miss their means of transportation and be on their way to the next chapter in their lives.
Some will return home to continue their education or resume a profession.
 Others report to their next post and assignment.

This video by Toby Keith, "An American Soldier", is a wonderful tribute to the commitment and sacrifice of those who voluntarily choose to dedicate a portion of their lives for their country. 
For this we thank you.
Best wishes, safe travels and God bless.

Official soldier in the Army Transportation Corps.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January Blues, Seasonal Color Deprivation

January means different things to different people.
For some it is a time of excitement with a blank calender of new opportunities and plans for a new year. For others it is a time of quiet reflection as life calms down after the holidays. It is easy to feel yourself sinking into a sense of aloneness and even depression as it seems everyone goes back into their own little world. It doesn't help that with winter comes cold, gray, dismal days and not near enough cheerful sunshine. 
The key to the quiet months following the holidays is to liven things up in your own life. Fill your home with the green of plants, the sound of music,enjoy the company of a pet. Get those creative juices flowing by reorganizing or redecorating. With social media it is so easy to just not read a book anymore. Rediscover the pleasure of disappearing into another world in another time.
Once the Winter Solstice passes, our days begin to lengthen again. Take note and you'll notice that we gain a half hour of daylight with every month until the Summer Equinox.
"Is not January the hardest month to get through?  When you have weathered that, you get into the gulfstream of winter, nearer the shores of spring."
Henry David Thoreau
Think of the color wheel as you plan ahead and enjoy the beauty of our natural world throughout the four seasons!  

While we wait for spring, enjoy the onslaught of gardening catalogs that usually come in the mail this time of year. Start plotting and dreaming of your ideas for gardening or landscaping next spring. Think of the kaleidoscope of color nature offers and enjoy the show.

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.  ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther
Tiger Swallowtails on Eupatorium

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.... People think pleasing God is all God care about.  But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.  ~Alice Walker, The Color Purple, 1982


New England Fall Asters

Globe Thistle



Butterfly Weed


Dolly Parton Rose Hybrid Tea
Lava Flow Florabunda



Chocolate Bergamot
Roman Chamomile

  Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.  ~John Muir

 Nature holds all the answers - go outside and ask some questions - open your heart and listen to the response!  ~Amethyst Wyldfyre,

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Rose Speaks of Love


As pure and gentle as the petal of a rose,

As harsh and sharp as the venom of a thorn.

So easy to hurt, to prick one's tender soul

The rose has a pull over us that draws us close to touch, sniff and revel in the velvet softness of its petals.Wandering through a rose garden can take both men and women down a path of nostalgia as they recall memories of special people in their lives.
The rose is the one flower most steeped in legend as the flower of love.
"The rose speaks of love silently, in a language known only to the heart."   Author Unknown

 According to Greek mythology, the rose was born and crowned the Queen of Flowers by Chloris, the goddess of flowers.
Upon finding the body of a beautiful nymph, she asked the Three Graces, Aphrodite, Dionysus and Zephyr to create a flower in her honor. The Graces added joy and charm, Aphrodite gave the flower its beauty, Dionysus added a special nectar, and Zephyr, the wind god, blew away the clouds so the sun could kiss the petals.

Roman mythology tells how the color was obtained when Jupiter caught Venus bathing and her blush turned the white rose to red. The Greeks claim the deep color stems from when Aphrodite scratched herself on a rose thorn and in sympathy red roses sprung up from the blood.

In Eastern traditions, when a soul knocks on the door to the next world, only the rose is allowed to follow, leaving all other possessions behind.
Early Christians symbolized the red rose with martyrs' blood and life after death. The white rose portrayed the innocence and purity of the Virgin Mary.

The cultivated rose was most likely from Northern Persia or what is now Iran. From there it traveled to the Mediterranean where we so often hear how the Romans lavishly used rose petals in their baths, banquet halls, marital beds and funerals.

Avicenna in the 10th century was the first to make rosewater. Pliny listed 32 medicines prepared from roses. Otto or attar of roses was discovered in the 16th century in Persia and is now a major ingredient in perfumes and the world of aromatherapy.

Oil of roses is used for depression, anxiety, emotional health as well as physical problems surrounding PMS and skin conditions. Being so labor-intensive, rose oil is among the most expensive of the aromatic oils to produce. It takes over 200 pounds of rose petals to produce one ounce of rose oil. Aromatherapy often offers rose oil diluted in jojoba oil. Pure rose oil is found in many of the more costly perfumes. Synthetic fragrance oils are commonly used to make this wonderful scent more affordable and can be found in air sprays, candles, body sprays, etc., but realize that the synthetic equivalents to the real thing won't carry the therapeutic value of true rose essential oil.

" I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck."
Emma Goldman

The items shown below are handmade, utilizing only synthetic free, paraben free, all-natural ingredients. High quality, affordable, personal beauty and body care; custom made if necessary to meet the customer's needs. These products are made to order or in small batches, therefore there is no need for potentially harmful additives and preservatives found amidst the cosmetic industry where products are made in bulk. We plant our gardens so that our food is fresh and of higher quality. Wouldn't you want the same for what you put onto your body as well?

"Won't you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you."
Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Aloe Rose Soapfree Facial Cleanse
Rosewater Facial Toner

Rose Facial Cream
Rosewater Glycerin Facial Wash, Toner or Mist

Rosewater, Elderflower Vinegar Astringent
Rose Glycerin Hand or Body Lotion
Rose and Elderflower Vinegar Sunburn Soother

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Raynaud's and Winter's Chill

As uncomfortable as is the cold of the winter season, for someone suffering with Raynaud's Syndrome, cold hands and feet just may be a way of life. Anybody out in the cold too long knows the pain one feels in the hands and feet once returning to the warmth of the indoors again. Imagine going through that just by grocery shopping in the frozen foods section, or digging through the freezer looking for something for dinner.

A person may have Raynaud's Syndrome as the primary condition or it may be part of an underlying autoimmune condition such as Rheumatoid  Arthritis,  Scleroderma, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  Raynaud's is a very annoying condition in which the constriction of the blood vessels in the affected areas is exaggerated. Usually this involves the fingers and toes but the nose, ear lobes and lips can also be affected.

Attacks are usually triggered by exposure to the cold or even emotional stress. A decrease in blood supply to the extremeties causes discoloration such as the skin turning white. Under normal exposure to cold the body slows the loss of heat to maintain core temperature. Blood vessels which control blood flow to the skin move blood from arteries near the surface to veins deep within. In a person  with Raynaud's phenomenon, this reaction goes overboard. The blood  vessels constrict tightly, starving the tissues of  blood,  however,  circulation  to the rest of the body is perfectly normal. These attacks are quite painful and can last for just a few minutes up to a few hours. When blood flow returns to normal, the white color turns to blue, then red, then back to a normal pinkish skin color.

Of course prevention is moving to a warm climate or by bundling up before going out in the cold weather, but even so, it isn't easy to avoid simple everyday things like air conditioning or holding a cold drink at a social gathering.

There is medication to dilate the blood vessels but usually the physician will first have a patient try lifestyle management. Besides being prepared for exposure to the cold, one must absolutely not be a smoker. We know how cigarettes compromise the circulation system and in a system already not working properly, to smoke is just asking for trouble. Emotional stress is another culprit which can trigger a flair.

A medication used to help increase blood flow to the extremities and heal tissue damage and ulcerated skin is Procardia , generic name being Nifedipine. It is taken at bedtime since it may cause dizziness. Grapefruit juice is to be avoided while taking this medication.
Besides the pain involved, the fingertips and toes can become chronically tender to the touch and may drive one crazy with itch. This photograph of the toes shows what can happen over time to toes that are continuously irritated. The tips are sore, hard, peel and itch all at the same time. There may be periods of time where just wearing shoes is painful.

It is very important to take care of your toes. Should the wearing of shoes irritate the tips and ulcerated sores develop take measures to help these hard to heal areas. When circulation is compromised we need to pay attention before things get any worse.

To reduce the risk of infection, (this soak is great for wounds in general), Prepare an epsom salt and tea tree oil warm water soak to help reduce inflammation and oxidize the wound. The heat and salinity inhibit proliferation of bacteria. Epsom salts are crystals of hydrated magnesium sulphate.
 According to the Epsom Salt Council, epsom salt soaks can raise magnesium levels and improve blood circulation and skin integrity. Adequate circulation and oxygen saturation are necessary for wound healing. Epsom salt is not like table salt, it will not burn. Don't put salt directly on the wound.

Tea tree oil is known as the Australian wonder, renowned for its unbelievable antimicrobial qualities.  It can be found at most pharmacies and natural food stores. Look for it in 1 oz. amber glass dropper bottles. You want true therapeutic essential oil.

1. Fill a basin with warm water
2. Add a few tablespoons of Epsom salts and stir till dissolved
3. Add 10 drops of tea tree oil
4. Soak for about fifteen minutes
5. Let the area dry thoroughly
6. Repeat the soaking 2 -3 times a day
  • Ask your doctor if epsom salt soaks are appropriate for your wound. Do not use epsom salt soaks on an actively infected wound or a wound with nonviable tissue. 
Lavender Honey
 Once the toes are thoroughly dry, apply a dab of raw honey to the pad of a band-aid along with 1 drop of lavender essential oil. Cover the toe tips loosely with the band-aid. If using the lavender honey listed here than additional lavender essential oil isn't necessary.
Be sure to use raw honey, not the pasteurized type found in the grocery store.  Raw honey will help draw fluid away from your wound and suppress the growth of microorganisms. Part of what gives raw honey its antibacterial properties is an enzyme called glucose oxidase, which the worker bees excrete into the nectar. This enzyme releases low levels of hydrogen peroxide when the honey makes contact with your wound. Heated honey will destroy this perishable enzyme which is why you want to only use raw honey for this application.When applied to the skin, honey may serve as a barrier to moisture and keep skin from sticking to dressings.
Lavender has been called the 'mother of all essences'.  A very important property of lavender is that it stimulates the regeneration of damaged tissues.

Like most of the symptoms associated with an autoimmune condition, these flairs come and go. It is imperative that the patient pay attention and take care of his/her body. Always carry a pair of gloves in your purse or glove compartment. These liner gloves are awesome to still be able to work while wearing them, and these make excellent liners underneath heavier gloves in the winter.

While the fingers or toes are returning to normal, it is okay to let warm water flow over them but do not use hot water. Too hot water will damage the tissues.

Liniments and massage oils can also be a comfort and offer relief for the numbness and tingling as blood flow returns to fingertips and toes.
Herbs rosemary and peppermint combine with aromatherapy for a blend which helps with circulation and pain relief.
Another option is the benefits of ginger root. Known as one of the "hot" herbs, ginger root helps to bring blood to the surface of the skin. By increasing circulation, ginger's warming qualities help to decrease muscle soreness and stiffness.

Warming Liniment Pain Relief
Ginger Root Warming Massage Oil

Other than the pain associated with the loss of blood flow during a flair, one has to understand that there may also be no feeling and clumsy numbness in the finger tips or toes. This can put one at a very real risk of injury. The fine tactile abilities of our hands and feet are usually not fully appreciated until one loses these functions. Be very careful when handling knives or power equipment while going through a Raynaud's flair. An injury such as a deep cut or near amputation can occur very quickly and without any initial pain other than a feeling of a thump. Looking at the injury will seem surreal until the blood starts to flow and the pain kicks in.

Living with a chronic condition such as Raynaud's Syndrome doesn't afford one the excuse of being careless with one's safety.

The winter cold is brutal for everyone. Take advantage of a hot cup of cocoa, tea or coffee. Sit in front of a wood or coal stove or fireplace. And by all means, take the time for the wonderful, enveloping heat of a warm bath.

Ease the Ache Bath Oil

Heat Holders proved to be a godsend.
Thick and chunky, chronically cold feet or tender, sore toe tips can find relief from cold floors. A tog rating of 2.34, these socks use heavy bulk yarn with extreme thermal qualities. Anyone with either diabetes or circulation problems should have a few pairs of these socks. Even if you find them too thick to be comfortable in your shoes, they are awesome for around the house or to wear with outdoor boots that have more room.

They also carry gloves with the same heat holding qualities to help protect those fingers from the bitter cold temperatures.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Coconut Oil - Healthy Alternative

Coconut Cranberry Oat White Chip Cookies
Whether used in the kitchen for cooking or in your collection of skin and hair care products, coconut oil has made a major comeback. Because it is a saturated fat we were told to steer away from it in our diets. We now know that not all saturated fats are the same.
According to Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association,
“Different types of saturated fats behave differently.
The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two."
According to an article in the Health section of the New York Times:
"Two groups have helped give coconut oil its sparkly new makeover. One is made up of scientists, many of whom are backtracking on the worst accusations against coconut oil. And the other is the growing number of vegans, who rely on it as a sweet vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature and can create flaky pie crusts, crumbly scones and fluffy cupcake icings, all without butter."
 Most cookie recipes call for either shortening or butter.
We know that shortening is a trans fat known as hydrogenated vegetable oil, and although we are aware how harmful it can be, we often use it for our baked goodies simply because that is what the recipe calls for.
Butter makes for delicious cookies but may not be an option for people trying to avoid dairy.
Now that we know that coconut oil is, in fact, a healthy addition to our diets, using it as a butter or shortening substitute in our cooking and baking is wonderful.

For those who like the coconut taste and enjoy how it can enhance a recipe, they can purchase extra virgin coconut oil. For those who don't want to taste coconut, they are to use the refined or deodorized coconut oil. Be aware though that extra virgin coconut oil may only be found at health food stores and probably will cost more than the refined coconut oil, which can be found at many supermarkets.

Keep in mind that coconut oil is solid at room temperature but will melt at temperatures above 76 degrees F.

Note: The butter or shortening ratio to coconut oil isn't exactly a 1:1 ratio. There is no water content in coconut oil, so being more dense use slightly less. So if the recipe calls for 2/3 cup or 5 oz. of butter or shortening, use 4 oz. of coconut oil.

Here is a very nutritious, high fiber cookie recipe from Ocean Spray made even healthier with a few substitutions: Both versions are below:


2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened   or  slightly less than 2/3 cup coconut oil, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour    or   3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Beat softened butter or coconut oil and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl till light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

In another bowl, combine the flour or flours, baking soda, salt and sift together. Add the oats.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the oil, sugar and egg mixture and mix well.
Stir in the dried cranberries and the white chocolate chips.
Batter will be stiff.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Baked for 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

 So, if you want an excellent alternative to butter or shortening and don't mind paying a bit more in comparison, then coconut oil just may become a staple in your pantry.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Healthy, Happy Snacking!

Every New Year we have very good intentions on improving our diets with healthier food choices. Meal planning can be easy enough but the downfall is usually with snacking. If your family is like mine, the first thing they do when they get home is open up the cabinet door and blankly stare. Hungry or not I think it is all part of the de-stressing routine of coming home. 
In our attempts to steer away from processed foods, this involves the discipline of preparation of my part. Rather than just grabbing chips, pretzels and sweets off the store shelves to keep the family in supply, try planning ahead and stock up on supplies in bulk to make some of these healthy snacks. It is so easy to buy all this stuff and then you never find the time to do anything with it. But once you get comfortable with the recipes, making them won't be such a big deal.
Trail Mix
Trail mixes are ideal lunch box, travel snacks or just a healthy concoction to keep handy in the food cabinet.  You can easily find prepackaged assortments at the grocery store, but if you want more control over what is in it then gather the ingredients separately and put it together yourself. 
Some suggestions:
 Raisins, Peanuts, M&M's, Sesame Sticks, Roasted Soybeans, Roasted Sunflower seeds, Roasted Pumpkin seeds, Roasted nuts such as Almonds, Walnuts, or Cashews,  Chocolate covered Raisins, Chocolate covered Peanuts, Banana Chips, Dried Pineapple chunks, Dried Cranberries or Blueberries, Dried Apple bits or rings. 
Peanut Butter Chocolate Coated Sesame Balls 
These are wonderful snacks for children and adults alike. They are a nutritious sweet treat without the empty calories of a candy bar.
                                                      3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine these three ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
3/4 cup skim milk powder
1 cup oatmeal
Combine these two ingredients in another bowl.
Gradually add the oatmeal/milk powder mixture to the peanut butter mixture, blend thoroughly, mix will be stiff, may need your hands.
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (toast seeds in a preheated 200 degree oven for 20 minutes)
2 tbsp. boiling water
Blend the seeds and the hot water into the mixture.
Using your hands, shape into 1-inch balls. (The mix will be sticky so wet your hands periodically with cold water.)
Roll the balls around in a bowl containing finely chopped nuts, almond meal, wheat germ or ground flax seeds.
Place the balls onto wax paper lined baking sheets. 
Place the baking sheets in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Place a pound of chocolate coating wafers or a 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips along with 1 tbsp. shortening into a small microwave safe bowl (or melt using a double boiler).
Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, stir, another 30 seconds, stir till smooth.
Dip the balls into the melted chocolate using a strong sandwich pick. Place onto the wax paper lined baking sheets to harden.
This batch makes about 3 dozen.
 Homemade Granola

This granola is very versatile. You can add or substitute ingredients to your liking. Granola is an excellent staple to keep in your cabinets. It can be served as a very healthy breakfast cereal, a lunch box trail mix type snack, or a topping for yogurt or ice cream.
6 cups rolled oats
2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped nuts (almonds or pecans)
1 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup roasted soybeans
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (don't add these until after baking or they may get too hard)
Combine the above dry ingredients in a large bowl.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine the above wet ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat and stir till smooth.
Stir the heated wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and blend well. Spread the granola out onto two greased cookie sheets. If cookie sheets are small use a third, you don't want the granola layers too thick. Bake at 250 degrees F for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, till golden. Stir in the raisins. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Roasted Chickpeas
Chickpeas are best known served on salad bars or hummus but they also make a nutritious snack for guilt-free nibbling.
 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
Be your own judge with how much to use of the following spices:
Paprika, Cumin, Black pepper, Salt and Cayenne pepper
Some people prefer simply Salt and Garlic powder.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Rinse and dry the chickpeas.
Toss with the olive oil and spices till well covered.
Bake until lightly golden and crispy, about 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cool completely before storing in a tight container.

Baked Kale Chips
Kale is a cold season leafy green vegetable available at the best price from November through March. It is such a nutritious vegetable that it is called "King of the greens".  It can be eaten raw in salads, added to soups or sauteed in olive oil as a side dish. For those who turn their noses up at this member of the Brassica family, try this healthy alternative to potato chips.

Fresh kale is very voluminous but when cooked or baked, it shrinks down considerably. To make it worth your while expect to use a few bunches. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash the kale and tear the leaves into large pieces. Tear them off of the tough inner stems.
Dry off as much of the excess water as possible. A salad spinner works well for this or dab well with paper towels.
Put kale pieces into a large bowl.
Toss with olive oil, starting with about 1 tablespoon and be your own judge. You want a light coating but not too much or the chips will be greasy and limp.
Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to your own taste preference.
Layer the leaves onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Lay them in a single layer so as not to be overlapping. They won't bake uniformly if too close.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, checking periodically to toss and make sure they aren't about to burn.
Remove from the oven and cool.