Herb of the Week: Echinacea

The information provided below is for reference only. It is not to be used as a medical manual or as any guide to treatment. These are merely meant to be a way to learn about herbs and their uses in history and today. Seek medical advice before using any herbs as they are often dangerous when used without guidance.

When I begin researching an herb I typically start in two places: Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (by copy is from 1987) and the PDR for Herbal Medicines (Third Edition). So since I haven't actually referenced a written work since college, I'll point out what information I have gotten from which source the best I can)

This weeks herb is: Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia
Common names: purple cone flower, Sampson root, Kansas niggerhead, Black Sampson, Hedgehog, Red Sunflower, Rudbeckia

(from Rodale, pages 176-177 )

History: Echinacea was used as a remedy by Native Americans more than any other plant in the plain states region. It was used to treat snake bites, insect bites, burns, and was also used during traditional purification rites and rituals. By the 1920's it was the most popular drug plant but fell from popularity during the 1930's due to the advent of new drugs.

Today, it is still used to facilitate wound healing. The roots contain a substance called caffeic acid glycoside, which is the root of its healing properties. In folk medicine, Echinacea was used as a blood purifier, and was thought to treat or cure many ailments, including rheumatism, bee stings, snake bites, tumors, gangrene, eczema, and other wounds. It is still regarded as an immuno-stimulant and an effective antibiotic.

If growing your own, wait until after the plant has weathered a few frosts, then harvest the root, clean thoroughly and dry it.

PDF for Herbal Medicines (pages 267-274)

Effects: The herb has demonstrated antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, metabolic, immune system enhancement, infertility, wound healing, antineoplastic, and antiseptic properties, depending on the plant species. Preparations are commonly given in Europe for the prophylaxis or treatment of bacterial and viral infections and as an adjunct treatment to more severe infections. Extracts are commonly used to treat upper respiratory infections, influenza like infections, and is reported to significantly reduce the symptoms associated with the common cold. Extracts may lessen the severity and lead to an earlier resolution of the common cold when taken soon after exposure. It is also used as an adjuvant therapy for recurring infections of the urinary tract.

Unproven uses: Acute and chronic respiratory tract infections of viral or bacterial origin, increased susceptibility to infection due to temporarily lowered resistance, treatment of leukopenia following radio and cytostatic therapy, and in support of anti-infectious chemotherapy. Burns, swelling of the lymph nodes, and insect bites. Pain associated with headaches, stomach aches. Measles, coughs, and gonorrhea.

Precautions: It should not be administered in the presence of: tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, leukosis, collagenosis, AIDS or HIV infection, and other autoimmune diseases. Diabetes may worsen and administration should not be used in patients with tendencies to allergies. It is not to be used during pregnancy.

Short term fever reactions, nausea, and vomiting can occur. Hypersensitivity reactions with anaphylaxis have been reported. Dizziness, headache, skin irritation, or allergic reactions are possible. Rashes, itching, occasional swelling of the face, breathing difficulties, dizziness, and a drop in blood pressure have been observed after administrating Echinacea. Erythema, exanthema, and pruritus have been reported. High concentrations of Echinacea may have an adverse effect on fertility.

Drug Interactions: May interfere with drugs with immunosuppressant effects, it should be avoided during therapy with these drugs. It may interfere with the cancer chemotherapeutic effect of corticosteroids, and should be avoided during corticosteroid therapy.

Toxic cellular effects were only seen at very high, clinically irrelevant concentrations. Very high doses may have a depressant action.

The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman 1991 (pages 150-154)

History: Echinacea has had a long and varied history, from being a primary medicine of the Plain's Indians, to an ingredient in early "snake oil" patent medicines in the 1870's, then gaining popularity again in the 1920's, and losing it again to "regular" medicine in the 1930's, only to be a main staple of the herbal revival of the 1970's, it has survived a roller coaster of popularity.

Contemporary herbalists still tout it as an antibiotic and immune system stimulant. And many recommend taking it daily as a infection preventative.

Healing: It kills a broad range of disease causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It contains a natural antibiotic (echinacoside) comparable to penicillin that has a broad spectrum activity. It can strengthen tissue against assault from germ attack. t may also prevent infection by enhancing the immune system.

Safety Factor: It often causes a tingling sensation of the tongue, which is harmless. There is no reports of Echinacea toxicity. The FDA lists it as a herb of "undefined safety", but for non nursing, non pregnant, otherwise healthy individuals, it can be considered safe. It should only be used in consultation with your doctor, stop using it if you experience diarrhea or stomach upset, and see your doctor if the symptoms for which you are using the herb do not improve significantly in two weeks.

It takes three or four years for roots to grow large enough to harvest. Pull them after the plant has gone to seed. Roots greater than 1/2 inch should be split prior to drying.

July 23-29, 2007 Week 30

Monday: It was the usual, pay bills, run credit cards, do inventory, input the mailing list additions, and go to the bank to make a deposit. But I also had a ton of orders that came in on Sunday and Monday, so I had to get those filled and mailed, I mean it was an unusual amount of orders for two days, but I’m not complaining. I also ran to the grocery and picked up some dill so I could make dill pickles, which I did, and they are way to dilly for me. I also harvested my first big crop of green peppers from the garden and got them cleaned and chopped and frozen for future use. That is one thing about me gardening; the harvest starts when I eat the least- craft show summer season. So I am learning lots of preservation techniques, such as pickling and freezing. As for the business, I also did some dishes, washing soap pots, and doing a bunch of filing, but that’s it!

Tuesday: Chores, Chores, Chores. Poured some Soap on a Rope (only a few more batches left), filled sachets, milled soaps, and did some major accounting catch up.

Wednesday: I caught up on my blogs (4 days worth!), filled sachet bags (almost done now), milled more, and mailed a few more orders. Busy week…and that day my throat felt scratchy and dry, but I just thought I was talking too much…

Thursday: Blogged and then met with B for our bi-monthly kick each other in the butt meeting that we call UWBW (United Wonderful Business Women). But I was coming down with a cold for sure. I couldn’t swallow very well, and my head was full of, well, snot, for lack of a better term. We got lunch, and met, and then when she left, I slept, and slept, and then slept some more…

Friday: The morning was full of chores, and along with them I printed flyers for the show, did some laundry, and blogged. K came and we packed the van for the show. I wanted to do more, but my body just wouldn’t let me. We drove around getting me medicine and stopping to check inventory at Out of Our Hands, waiting for a local place to open for lunch, that didn’t open that day. And then, after she left, well I slept.

Saturday was Emmaus Heritage Days. I finished packing the van, and my lunch, folder flyers, jumped in a shower and then C came with me to help me set up. The rest is in another post.

Sunday: I got up and printed handouts for my demo and started gardening until the rain came down hard. I prepped for the demo anyway and then ran to the grocery to get what I needed for the demo. I forgot to get avocados and realized it when it was too late and stopped at another store to pick them up. I then went over to Out Of Our Hands and it was just pouring so they cancelled them demo. I went across the street to the Farmer’s Market and got great plums, eggplant, and wax beans, along with some blackberries, and edamame. After I got home, about an hour later, the rain stopped and the sun came out (sort of) but it was too late to do the demo. So really I just stayed home, still a little sick.

July 28, 2007 Emmaus Heritage Days

Well I have to admit, it was a disappointment. Typically the days are held downtown by what locals call “The Triangle”, because well our “town square” isn’t square, it’s a triangle… Anyway…this year The Triangle is going through some major construction renovations forcing the heritage day’s vendors up onto Ridge Street near the library. Boring… no traffic…music you can’t hear from the booths, not many vendors, and a day that was just too many hours for what it was (10).

But the plus sides… I was with Out of Our Hands and helped promote the store, and in turn, didn’t have to pay my booth fee, so even with paying K to be with my sick self all day I turned a profit. If you look at it mathematically, it was my best show all year. (Booth Fee (had I paid it) * 6 = sales). So for what it is, a small community day, I got what I paid (or would have paid) for. If they move it back to The Triangle next year maybe I’ll try again…

Minuses… I was fighting a heck of a head and throat cold. Friday I spent the day drugged, asleep, in bed, at least Saturday I could talk, although I didn’t have too many people to talk to. I plugged the store, and my demo the next day. But it rained like crazy on Sunday, canceling the demo. Maybe I’ll hold a class in a few months instead. I think I bored K to death because it was sooooo slow. And it was HOT, I fried.

Ingredient of the Week & Yarny Sunday- on Hiatus

Well it’s Tuesday and here I am behind in blogging again. So I am going to put my weekend blogs- Ingredient of the Week and Yarny Sunday on hiatus for at least a few months. I have shows almost every weekend till the end of the year and so many of them set up on Saturday, making it a long, long day that the last thing I feel like doing is blogging. It is also the time of year that the only thing I seem to knit is washcloths and bath mitts, pretty boring stuff. And since I am trying to knit from my stash and not buy and new yarn, well, I don’t even have cool new yarn to blog about. So thanks for understanding and hopefully this reduce a little stress over the next few hectic months and I’ll get back to them soon!


Recipe (or Tip) of the Week- Take it Slow

Today’s tip can be used in many situations, including life and business: Don’t make too many changes all at once. You might regret it and it is harder to see what is working and what isn’t. This has been my life lesson for the past week in a sense.

It started last weekend at the Blueberry Festival. A new steering committee along with a new partnership with a local arts organization infused the show with ideas, and I dare to say, cash. They moved the stage, brought in new entertainment, added stages, added children’s games, brought in a car show, changed ticket prices, added a charge for parking, and added a day to the festival- all this year. I just don’t know how you can effectively look at all these changes and see what it was exactly what impacted attendance and impacted fundraising, there are just too many variables.

This week I have had several opportunities come my way- special order products, starting a line of soaps for bridal showers/ wedding favors, and possibly getting a wholesale distributor. It’s just too much for me to do all at once. I have to break down each opportunity, see how it pans out, and then decide to add the next opportunity or not. I could jump in and do them all, but keeping tract of what is working and what isn’t may just be, well too much work and too distracting from my core, reliable, business.

And the same goes for me personally. We had some work done on the house, and I thought I would also take that time to start changing my diet, and my exercise schedule, and other personal things. It was just too much, so my floors are done and look great, but I haven’t gotten back on my exercise bike yet.

So my tip for the week is to take it slow, one step at a time, and sure it seems too slow sometimes, we all want instant gratification, but taking it slow lets you really figure out what is working and what isn’t.


Links of the Week

So I hope you enjoy my links for the week, they really are a quite eccentric bunch today.

So first up is some Poetry. Edna St. Vincent Millay has always been one of my favorites and What Lips My Lips Have Kissed…I memorized in high school and can still recite it to this day (along with a bit of Chaucer I was forced to recite in college.) So when I stumbled upon this, I just had to share.

The second link is for two completely different reasons. First, it is a goal of mine to learn some Spanish this year (it was last year too, and will be again next year). It has more to do with the fact that it is C’s first language, and most of his family is more comfortable speaking Spanish than English, than the fact that it is being spoken here in the States more and more lately. I really don’t want to talk to anyone but family…So here are some great places to get some lessons and tips for free. Now what’s the second reason, because I think Mahalo is a cool search engine. It is human powered, with Guides filtering out spam. If it works and gets out of Alpha phase it may be a great search engine!

Maybe it is just because I make soap and I often trade it for other handcrafted goods that I use for gifts, therefore I have lots of odd shaped gifts to give, but I can never wrap them in a cool way that enhances the gift itself. So now that I found Wrap Art I have ideas on how to wrap everything.

And finally, what soapmaker doesn’t love a huge Rubber Ducky?


Wednesday Rant

What is up with my shopping cart? I have gone over my code, again and again and cannot figure out why it adds up my orders, the sales tax, and shipping incorrectly. It’s only off by a few cents but it is such a pain! And it is even more off if you pay via pay pal, which means I have to refund people money after their order. I MUST figure this out! I also can’t figure out why its sends out duplicate order confirmations to some people and not to others, and why sometimes it emails me the order like it is supposed to, and sometimes it doesn’t, making me log in to check for orders every day, like I already don’t have enough stuff to do!

BTW, I am using OS Commerce, so if anyone out there has a clue, I sure would love for you to leave me a comment and help me out.

And on to other rants: what is eating my tomatoes and why does it only eat half? Does forget each night that it really doesn’t LIKE tomatoes? And why does it have to eat half of two or three of them, can’t it just eat a complete tomato and get it over with?

And what is up with the fact that I need to catch a cold just a week before the busiest part of my summer show schedule? I’m sniffly, my throat hurts, and I just want to go to bed.

And finally, I am ¾ of the way through Harry Potter and I still have NO IDEA what is going to happen, and I have it from a reliable source that the last chapter and epilogue provide no clue either (they flipped to read the end, those cheaters). But don’t tell me, I’ll finish the book tomorrow most likely, and then I’ll have to hold my tongue so others can enjoy this excruciatingly painful pleasure of reading it without the plot being spoiled, just like I get to do

Herb of the Week: Dandelion

The information provided below is for reference only. It is not to be used as a medical manual or as any guide to treatment. These are merely meant to be a way to learn about herbs and their uses in history and today. Seek medical advice before using any herbs as they are often dangerous when used without guidance.

When I begin researching an herb I typically start in two places: Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (by copy is from 1987) and the PDR for Herbal Medicines (Third Edition). So since I haven't actually referenced a written work since college, I'll point out what information I have gotten from which source the best I can)

This weeks herb is: Dandelion Taraxacum officinale

Common names: Swine's snout, yellow gowan, Irish daisy, puffball, peasant's cloak, blowball, priest's crown, cankerwort, Lion's tooth, Monk's Head, Wild Endive, Witch Gowan, piss-in-bed

(from Rodale, pages 141-142 )

History: Dandelion first appears in the tenth century in the medical texts of Arabian physicians. By the sixteenth century it was a valuable drug in British apothecaries, and by the nineteenth century, it was potherb in both Europe and America. Today, it a most often considered a weed in ones lawn.

Uses: As a medicinal herb, the dried root is listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, but there is little evidence for its use. The juice of the root is believed to treat diabetes and liver disease, as well as curing anemia. It is also considered a diuretic as well as a mild laxative, a digestive aid, and an appetitive stimulant. Dandelion wine can be made from the flowers and tastes much like sherry. Dandelion roots can be roasted ad added to coffee, much like chicory. Dandelion greens can be used in salads and older leaves can be steamed like spinach. The flowers can be used to add color to butter and to vinegars. The flowers can also be used to make yellow dyes for wool and the whole plant produces a magenta when used for dying.

PDF for Herbal Medicines (pages 252-254)

Effects: Increases the flow of bile in the upper intestinal tract. It may promote the excretion of salt in the urine. Used for urinary tract infections, liver and gallbladder complaints, loss of appetite and indigestion.

Unproven uses: hemorrhoids, gout rheumatic disorders, and eczema.

Homeopathic Uses: acute mastitis, agalactia, ulcers, tuberculosis, flatulence, colic, and jaundice.

Precautions: Consultation with a doctor is needed by persons with biliary ailments as the biliary ducts may close, they may experience gall bladder infection, and bowl obstruction. Superacid gastric complaints are possible and there is a weak potential for sensitization reactions.

The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman 1991 (pages 143-146)

History: Chinese physicians have used dandelion to treat colds, bronchitis, hepatitis, boils, ulcers, obesity, dental problems, and itching. India's Ayurvedic physicians have used the herb similarly. Arab physicians were the first to lean that the herb increases urine production. In Europe during the middle ages, it was used as a cure for jaundice and gallstones and as a diuretic. Early settlers introduced dandelion to the Native Americans, some of whom adopted it as a tonic.

Healing: Contemporary herbalists recommend dandelion for weight loss, menstrual discomforts, swollen feet, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure, mostly because of its diuretic properties.

Safety Factor: It may produce a skin rash but is listed on the FDA's list of safe herbs. For otherwise healthy, non- pregnant, non-nursing adults, dandelion is considered safe. It can cause minor discomforts such a stomach upset or diarrhea, and it use should be stopped if these symptoms are experienced.

Blueberry Festival at Burnside Plantation July 20-22, 2007

Well this year the festival really pulled a fast one on me. First, a new committee totally revamped the show, adding new stages, new entertainment, a car show, and also rearranging the layout of the show as well. On Friday set up went reasonably quick and getting in and out seemed easy as well. I was worried about the new layout as well as the location for my booth, because on the map my space seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but once I got there it didn’t seem so bad.

On Friday I was hoping to be able to set up early, come back home and then go back for the show start at 2 pm. But at least I was smart enough to pack my lunch and other stuff just in case I didn’t make it back home, which I didn’t. It took me a little longer to get the inside of the booth set up than I had anticipated, and then B came and M had to work so he couldn’t help her so I helped her a little too, before I knew it, it was just easier to stay than to drive home for only and hour or two. The show started at 2 and ran until 8 pm. The attendance was small and many vendors I know did not sell a thing that night. I was lucky and did pretty well; surprisingly well in fact, but not good enough for me to know for sure that this new set up was a good one.

Saturday sales were fine, but this year Friday + Saturday = last years Saturday. Attendance didn’t seem as high as I had hoped although I haven’t heard any real figures on how many people attended. It may just be the new layout and my booth location that kept me from getting a true perspective on how many people came to the event. Mostly I heard through the grape vine that sales were terrible and many people claimed to be unhappy. But really now, so often us crafters are “unhappy” no matter what, we just don’t want to admit it when a show is good, so I can’t have been the only person doing OK that day.

Sunday blew my mind; it far surpassed any sales goals that I had expected. Sales on Sunday were even better than Saturday which is so unusual. From the people I could see and talk to, many people also did better on Sunday (and still others did not). I got lots sales from out of the area, I could tell from the zip codes and phone numbers from the credit card sales. I am wondering if they got any tour busses that day.

All in all my sales were up dramatically from last year. I think some of that is due to the fact my pricing has changed from 3/$10 to 6/$20 so each individual sale was higher this year than last year. I also think that some of it had to do with the weather, it was absolutely beautiful (and it rained last year). And I am sure the increased days and hours along with the increased publicity helped me some too.

I was disappointed with some of the changes, some of the vendors, and some of the set up/ flow was bad. But I think that they may be able to fix it next year. I hope that they do and I hope enough people pulled out an OK show to come back, some I know won’t be back next year and left very disappointed, but I wasn’t one of them.

July 16-22 Week 29

This was a strange week indeed. J lost her grandmother’s husband (I know that translates to grandfather to most people) and I once again was brought face to face with a few things: 1) how inflexible my schedule is sometimes, and 2) how much I give up for work. It is a tough thing to go through the year being so flexible most of the time, but having a set craft show schedule keeps me from doing some things that I should do. Like going to the funeral, like going up and being with J’s mom and grandmother because she couldn’t be there. Those are things that I should have done, but I couldn’t, I had a show and I couldn’t get help, and I couldn’t not to the show. I know many other people who give up things too for their 40 hour a week job, but I always think that these are the reasons I work for myself and no matter what, I still have to give up some things.

Monday I did my usual routine (blogged, paid bills, post office, etc). I didn’t have to do laundry because I only have a few things to wear while the house is still in turmoil, so I have to keep doing laundry in order to stay dressed. I made soap on a rope, K labeled and shrink wrapped lip glosses, I made samplers, and later went to Target and Staples. I spent the morning arguing with my bank about security questions, what a hassle.

Tuesday K labeled the last of the glosses whule I make soap, made a special order of lotion, filled orders, did accounting, put together a gift basket for a friend of my dad’s, and did my Tuesday chores. Later I went to the bank, and then the grocery store to get things to make Bread & Butter Pickles, Zucchini Relish, and Squash Pickles, which I made later in the evening. I received a purchase of some new clothes which I tried on and sent back a bunch of stuff that either didn’t fit or was way ugly compared to the picture online.

Wednesday I did laundry, made soap, filed, K and I filled sachets for a few hours, and later that night I got my hair cut. J lost her grandfather and in a way since we were so close as kids, so did I. At least it brought back all the memories of loosing my grandfather almost 15 years ago. I wanted to be there but I couldn’t get there and back again in time for my show on Friday.

Thursday K and I packed the van full of inventory and ran to the bank for change. Later I went to the grocery store for lunch food for the weekend, stopped over at the post office, and later painted my toe nails bright purple. It was fun and its been a long time since I had fun toes.

Friday In the morning I did my chores and then finished packing for the show. I also sent in all my sales tax for what is starting to feel like a bazillion states. It takes forever! C came with me and helped me set up the tent and then I helped B set up a little and then the show started. By the time I got home I was just so tired I curled up, turned on the TV and went to sleep.

Saturday: The show started in the late morning so I got to run some errands and do some chores before I left. I gardened, ran my credit card purchases from the day before, packed my lunch, etc...before finally heading out. The show ended at 8 and once again, I pretty much came home and went to bed.

Sunday: another late morning start, but I slept a little later too. I ran my credit card purchases, packed my lunch, and blogged before heading out. C didn’t get called into work so he did stuff around the house and then came over to the show to help me pack up. When I arrived home I had the greatest surprise- my bed was back in the bedroom where it belonged! I got the best sleep ever!


Yarny Sunday

So this week I have primarily been knitting for the business. That means lots of washcloths and bath mitts. I use only natural fibers and although cotton is cheapest, I do use soy, bamboo, flax, linen, and even corn when I can get them and afford them. This year I have started keeping a book of all the yarns I find and use, as well as their prices and yardage, so when I find a sale I have a good idea if it is a good sale or not. I have over 50 different yarns that I have worked with so far this year alone.

So to keep with this weeks yarny theme I am reviewing a few of my favorites and linking to a few places to get them if I can.

So first up are the good ol’ staples of Sugar & Cream and Peaches & Cream. They are a great cotton yarn, wash well, and seem to hold their colors well too. I put a few others in this same category, Bernat Handicrafter Cotton, and Village Yarn Craft Cotton. To me they all feel the same; the colors seem similar, for all I know they are all made by the same place, just packaged different. So I tend to pick these up when they are on sale at my local AC Moore, Michaels, or Joanne Fabrics, but online I like Herrschners and Elmore-Pisgah.

One of my favorite that is still reasonable priced, and usually I can get three washcloths from a ball, is Reynolds’s Saucy. I get it at my local yarn shop, The Needle Arts Studio in Emmaus, PA, and I have also found it lots of other places. Since I typically don’t buy it online I have no link for ya, sorry.

And lastly, the yarn that I would make all my washcloths with, if I could afford to… Plymouth Yarn Royal Bamboo. Soft and delicate it just feels so luxurious. Unfortunately, I could never make a profit if I made everything from this, so I watch for sales (sorry to admit but typically yarn shop going out of business sales are best) and pick up all I can when I can afford it. You can go right to the Plymouth Yarn web site and search for a store in your area that carries it. It would cost a fortune, but I have a deep desire to knit a long sleeved night shirt from this, its that soft…

Ingredient of the Week- Whoops, no post!

So I thought that this daily posting would be difficult to keep up with, and it is, but so far in the last three weeks of trying I’ve only missed this one. I have been doing the Blueberry Festival at Burnside Plantation this weekend and the hours are not excessively long, but it has been a while since I have done a show, and it is really making me tired. Add to that we still haven’t gotten the chance to get all the furniture back since the floor refinish (read here: I am still sleeping in my living room), and that makes for a bad night sleep to start with.

So meet me back here next week for a new Ingredient for the Week… I am off to type a Yarny Sunday…


Recipe (or Tip) of the Week- Tembleque

This week’s tip/recipe of the week is going to be short, well, because I’m tired. I started out early this morning setting up for a craft show, then helped B a little set up too, then sat through a gruelingly boring show with few sales and little to do….oh woe is me….

So a recipe it is for one of my favorite desserts that I just don’t get often enough and that I really should make for myself and maybe I will next week…

Tembleque (Coconut Custard)

3 cups unsweetened canned coconut milk (or fresh if you can get it)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch

Blend everything together with a blender. Transfer to a saucepan and bring to boil while constantly stirring. While still stirring, reduce the heat and simmer till the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4-5 minutes.

Pour into custard cups, cover with plastic wrap (prevents skin from forming), refrigerate overnight (or 4 hours if you just can’t wait)



Links of the Week

First up this week is Pick The Brain. Like most self-help web sites, it does nothing more than point out things to you that you know already, but that you choose to ignore. So think of this site as a gentle reminder about things you should be doing to lead a productive life and maybe you may learn a few tips along the way. I like its lack of “follow this and your life will be perfect” jargon.

Next is a site sent in by one of my readers: Chacodog. Angela, who sent it to me said “As you know, not only is it a great source for Traditional Revival style Native American jewelry and pottery, it’s very informative about the artists, silversmithing and, of course, turquoise…”. I have to admit, I have contacted Jim myself about some hard to find pieces that he is keeping his eye out for if they ever come up. And although I have never purchased from the site myself, I totally respect Angela and when she says “He’s a super nice guy and not only great to do business with, but a good friend too”, then a friend of hers is a friend of mine and deserves a little plug whenever he can get it…

Third is Dandy Brand. I just think these pins are adorable, and since B collects Owls, who knows, maybe I see a Christmas present in the future….

And last for this week (since I don’t want to bore you too much) is Every Day People Cartoons. These just make me laugh and laugh, and are often poignant at the same time. This one is one of my favorites and since I have been going through a bit of a hard time about how I am changing and ageing right now, it sits prominently in my mind, every time I look in the mirror.


Wednesday Rant

Wednesday Rant(s)

Why is it that when you are having 80% of your households carpet replaced, your cats still need to throw up hairballs on the 20% that is staying?...

Why does it take more than 4 hours to get software installed on Vista? Didn’t the major manufacturers know that it was coming?

What is up with these security questions to be able to use my online banking? I mean I can’t remember my “favorite book”, it changes weekly. So how secure is it when I write the questions and answers on a paper and tack it to the bulletin board next to my computer. Forget about hacking, start breaking and entering, I can’t be the only one with this problem.

So when I was in my 20’s I had this bad habit of not telling anyone, especially my significant other, my work hours and location (I worked in theatre so they changed a lot). I thought I was being “independent” and a “strong woman”. Now fate is getting revenge. Enough said.

My newspaper failed to bill me and then called to yell at me about the fact that I hadn’t paid. I yelled back and cancelled my subscription. No wonder so many people are getting their news online. No hassles.

And in case you wondered, men and women do speak different languages. Women ask questions assuming they will be answered, men think that “I’m sorry” answers them all. Enough said.


Herb of the Week: Calendula

Herb of the Week

The information provided below is for reference only. It is not to be used as a medical manual or as any guide to treatment. These are merely meant to be a way to learn about herbs and their uses in history and today. Seek medical advice before using any herbs as they are often dangerous when used without guidance.

When I begin researching an herb I typically start in two places: Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (by copy is from 1987) and the PDR for Herbal Medicines (Third Edition). So since I haven't actually referenced a written work since college, I'll point out what information I have gotten from which source the best I can)

This weeks herb is: Calendula Calendula Offoconalis

Common names: Pot Marigold, Goldbloom, Golds, Holigold, Mary Bud, Mary Gowles, Ruddes

(from Rodale, pages 60-62)

History: The ancient Romans cultivated Calendula just because it was pretty and boomed consistently over a season, although it was used for scorpion bites as well. Since then it has been used to treat headaches, toothaches, red eyes and fevers. Nicholas Culpeper (famed 17th century herbalist) claimed that it strengthened the heart.

Calendula has also been believed to possess magic. It has been an ingredient in concoctions believed to help you see fairies, and others to help you choose your best suitor.

During Elizabethan times Calendula was used prominently in cooking. It was used is stews, vegetables, puddings, and even wine.

During the Civil War Calendula was used to help stop bleeding and to promote the healing of wounds.

Uses: Calendula tinctures have been recommended for a variety of uses: cramps, toothaches, fever, flu, and stomachaches. It is believed to aid digestion and act as a general tonic. In the 1960's there was brief, but unfounded hope , that in Calendula lied the cure for cancer. It is often used externally for sores, cuts, rashes, and burns, even beestings. A Calendula rinse brings out the highlights in blond and brunette hair, and when used in body applications it is believed to be a stimulant. Calendula can be used as a dye- the flowers make a yellow dye for wool when using an alum mordant.

Toxicity: None

Ornamental: Breeders have developed many varieties and colors range from creamy yellow to bright orange.

PDF for Herbal Medicines (pages 545-548)

Effects: The essential oil may have astringent attributes. Flowers are considered anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antilipid. It is thought to relieve gastrointestinal issues by reducing spasms and stimulating the production of bile. Calendula promotes the healing of wounds through formation of granulation tissue.

Unproven uses: Ukrainian and Russian folk medicine used an infusion made from marigold plants to treat hypotension. Also circulation, ulcers, spasms, jaundice, and swelling of the glands. In Russia it is used for strep throat, the Canary Islands use it for coughs and cramps and in China it is used to treat irregular menstruation.

Homeopathic Uses: Used for the inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, for poorly healing wounds, leg ulcers, to clean wounds and for chronic and acute skin inflammation. As folk medicine it has been used externally for varicosis, vascular disease wounds, inflammatory skin disease, eczema, and conjunctivitis. Also used in treatments for dry skin, bee stings, and frostbite. Internally it is used for the inflammatory condition of internal organs, gastrointestinal ulcers, constipation, and as a diuretic.

Precautions: Low potential for sensitization after frequent skin contact. Efficacy has not been proved, so therapeutic value is uncertain.


July 9-15, 2007 Week 28

The week my life has been in turmoil. We are having some work done on the house- having the hardwood floors refinished. This means that three bedrooms and one and a half baths along with my dining room are off limits to me. I can go in the kitchen, the living room, the office, my workshop and the bathroom. The cats are in worse shape, they don’t get the living room or the kitchen because of how the house is set up, and they are cranky cats for sure. For the lack of anything else to do, and the fact that C has been working late a lot, I have been getting lots of things done, if not just to try and stave off full boredom.

Monday: Monday chores (bills, blog, laundry, cat pan, change sheets etc…). I folded newsletters and addressed envelopes, and stuffed said newsletters into the envelopes. I made my last batch of shampoo bars, and another batch of soap on a rope (just 6 more to go). I worked on lip glosses and a special lotion bar. I also went to the bank and to Target in the afternoon. When C got home we moved some furniture in prep for the floor work. I also emailed A about getting B & H onto the MLAC mailing list and installed more software onto my new computer- this time it was so I could ship out an order, I needed my postage software.

Tuesday: Chores (check hot tub chems, bring out garbage, and post to the blog). I made up a special order of lotions for a loyal customer, worked on lip glosses more, put stamps on and return address labels on my newsletter and got it mailed out. Cut up soap and put it in the cure racks, packed the spare room and moved more furniture when C got home. I also made pesto, my basil was about to flower so I cut it back and made a bunch of pesto to stick in the freezer.

Wednesday: I posted to the blog, filed, did some paperwork, and cleaned my desk while I spent over 4 hours on the phone with QuickBooks trying to get my Credit Card Processing Kit to install on my computer. It is supposed to be Vista friendly, but it wasn’t. C and I moved the last of the furniture when he got home and our bed is now officially installed in our living room for the next week to ten days.

Thursday: I work up early, because sleeping in the living room sucks. The light os different, the sounds are different, blech! I blogged, cut soap and got it in the curing racks, cleaned my soap on a rope molds to get them ready for the next batch, mailed an order, cleaned up my kitchen, vacuumed the carpet that was being taken out the next day (can’t have the workmen taking out dirty carpet now can we?), chores (cleaning the cat bowl, groceries, pot office, and hot tub), and met B for our UWBW meeting. As usual the meeting was great. What we do is try and meet every two weeks and check up on one another, we have lunch, get goals to reach by the next meeting, talk about things we are having trouble with accomplishing, and pretty much lend each other both support and a kick in the butt all at the same time. I love these meetings and don’t know what I would do without them; they really keep me focused and on task, even through all the personal drama.

Friday: 8 am sharp the floor work began. A small crew of three came in, ripped up all the carpets, installed a new floor in my half bath, sanded all the rooms, and put down the sealer on the floors. The sealer smells terrible and the work was loud. The cats were scared all day and hid in the garage. I tried to spend as much time down near them as possible, hoping my presence would calm them some. Before they arrived I brought out the garbage, and cleaned the cat pan. After they arrived, I ran to the drycleaner before C went to work, blogged, and worked on my web site just about all day. I finished my contact page, and started my photo gallery pages, and started writing my FAQ as well. My new blocking board arrived, and I spent some time in the garden- my first cherry tomato was ripe for the picking, so I picked and ate it, yum! Once they were gone I ran to Joanne Fabrics for T pins and some unexpected yarn, as much to get the T-pins as to get away from the smell.

Saturday: The floor work continued as they installed new molding, buffed the floors, and put down the first coat of finish. It looked beautiful and smelled awful (but not as bad as the sealant). I worked most of the day in the office, blogging, and finishing both my FAQ page and my photo gallery pages. In the garden I harvested my first four cucumbers, two of which I made into freezer pickles that night. And I blocked my sweater!!!

Sunday: The floor work was finished with the last of the buffing and the second coat of finish being applied in the afternoon. Just 24 more hours before I can walk on it and another 24 before we can start moving in some furniture. I should be sleeping back in a bedroom by Wednesday night, hopefully! I posted my blog and worked in the garden- finishing planting some plants in the front landscaping and finishing putting in the mulch there as well. C helped me with the mulch which was awesome, because those bags are heavy. I saw my first slug in my garden, time to get the beer out and get rid of those critters. And I did laundry, just a few more days till I get my closets back and I can put it away, for now I live off the clothes on top of my washer & dryer…


Yarny Sunday

So I think it was last week that I introduced you to Fun With Yarn. Well I had purchased some yarn with my birthday money and started working on a sweater. In fact I was knitting the Basic Pullover in Sally Melville's The Knitting Experience: Book 2: The Purl Stitch. A few weeks ago, I finished everything but the collar (it needs to be assembled before finishing the collar). And then it sat here... waiting to be blocked...have I ever told you how much I despise the finishing process? Well I do, and this would be my first time ever blocking a sweater, as well as my first time knitting a sweater, as well as my first time using yarn that was so darn expensive... Needless to say I have some stress going on about finishing this project because I know that good finishing can be the difference between a beautiful sweater, and one that looks, well handmade (in a bad way)...

So my first objective was to buy a blocking board. I know you can cheaply make one, but honestly, having all the measurements printed on it already made me smile, so I bounced around the blog sphere and found a few references to the Sew E-Z Board. I finally received it on Friday and was very impressed with the workmanship, the size, and how easy it was to carry. In a burst of excitement I traveled down to Joann Fabrics as soon as I could leave my house and bought some T-pins (and a bunch of yarn on sale as well, I claim its for mom, but it may never leave).
Saturday I started blocking. The first photo is an arm before blocking.You can see how the stockinette stitch is all curled up and it barely looks like anything you could fit on your arm.
Next is a picture of the arms- one during blocking and one after. The nice thing about the pattern I was using is that the blocking dimensions are given ad easy to understand, no figuring on gauge needed, which was good for me because 1) I hate to gauge and 2) the math in this project was hard enough and I was given most of the measurements I needed.
And a few more pics of the front and back in progress. I put them outside in the sun so they dried quickly. And now today I need to go to my local yarn shop and look for something I can assemble this with because I don't have enough yarn left to put it together and to finish the collar.. I also don't think this yarn is the best for assembly as it is thick and pulls apart. I'll have to see what my local yarn guru has to offer.
Maybe next week I'll have this assembled...


Ingredient of the Week- Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil-Prunus amygdalus dulcis

There are two types of almond oil- sweet and bitter. Although typically thought of as a nut, almonds are actually considered drupes (like prunes, cherries, and peaches), but instead of a sweet flesh outside, the almond has a hard, leathery hull which contains the edible kernel we call the “nut”.

Wild almonds still exist today in the Mediterranean and are toxic. Crushing, chewing, or otherwise injuring the seed produces hydrogen cyanide. It is believed that before cultivation took place, these wild almonds were eaten, but probably roasted to remove their toxicity. These wild almonds mutated into a non-toxic form that became on of the earliest domesticated fruit trees. The earliest domesticated almonds appear 3000-2000 BCE and almonds were even found in King Tut’s tomb.

The Food and Agriculture Organization figures there are 1.5 million tons of almonds produces each year. With the U.S. leading as the world’s largest almond producer, countries such as Spain, Turkey, and Greece also produce almonds.

Because of Salmonella traced to almonds in 2001 and 2004, as of September 2007 Raw Almonds will no longer be available in the U.S. (I’m getting me a load of them at Trader Joes before I can’t get any more!). After this time, “raw” almonds will be steam pasteurized or chemically treated to prevent Salmonella.

The current bee blight (colony collapse disorder) will most likely effect the nations’ almond production. The California pollination of their almond crops is the largest managed pollination in the world with nearly 1 million hives taking part. I believe that we as consumers will see an increase in the cost of almonds and almond oil due to the drastic reduction in the nation’s bee inventory. This blight will make the pollination much more costly, if not impossible depending on the severity of the blight as it spreads.

The sweet almond plant produces white flowers while the pink flowered plant produces bitter almonds.. Bitter almonds may yield 6-8% hydrogen cyanide and in large doses can be deadly. It is the sweet almond oil that is popular today to be used in massage oils, soaps and lotions, as well as other cosmetics. This oil is obtained from the dried kernel of the plant typically through a process of steam distillation. Sweet Almond oil is known for it emollient properties.

I use Sweet Almond Oil in my Lotion Bars because of its emollient properties. I also use it in Bath Fizzys because it does not feel “heavy” on the skin and soaks into the skin without feeling greasy.


Recipe (or Tip) of the Week- Basil Pesto

This weeks both a tip and a recipe and regards growing Basil and using it for Pesto.

One important thing to remember is that you should not allow your Basil to bloom or flower if you plan on using it to eat. Once the plant flowers, the flavor of the leaves change and can become somewhat bitter. Pinching back the flowers also allows the plant to concentrate on growing those yummy leaves.

Pesto is best preserved by freezing and can last up to a year in a freezer kept at proper temperatures. It is easy to make, consisting of basil leaves, nuts, garlic, olive oil, and cheese.

I find pesto top be fun to make because you can vary the ingredients, getting unique flavors from one basic recipe, this allows you to eat it more often without feeling bored.

Here is how I make pesto (and some variations)…

2 cups clean, healthy, basil leaves
1/3 cup nuts (pine nuts are the norm, try walnuts, cashews, or macadamia nuts for variety)

Grind these together in your food processor and scrape the sides a few times as you do it.

The equivalent of three garlic cloves, minced (fresh is best, from a jar is fine)
1/2 cup virgin olive oil (different types will change the flavor)
1/2 cup grated cheese (Parmesan, Romano, or try ricotta)
Salt and Pepper (I used Adobo) to taste

Mix well in the food processor. Best if used immediately, can be refrigerated for a week, freeze in small containers or flat in freezer bags for up to a year. The least air in the containers as possible, the better the shelf life of the pesto.

I typically use 1/2 cup of pesto to 1 lb of pasta, but you can always use more (or less) if you'd like!


Links of the Week

This week links for the week are a pretty diverse lot….

Let’s start with Farecast. This is a web sit that can help you predict airfare changes. I like to use it in conjunction with either Expedia or my airlines website. For me, often I know that I have a block of days that I want to travel, and I typically want to get my ticket as early as possible, but this helps me decide if I should wait a bit or not. A great example is that if I wanted to go and visit J the first week in August, it predicts an 80% the fare will rise, so I should buy now… I think that is great to know and it has worked for me so far…

Next is The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Now this is not for those on a diet, and something makes me think that this site will soon become a best selling cookbook, and maybe even a show on Food network, however, this gal can cook! And I’m not taking a Rachel Ray, jazzed up, 30 minute rendition of an old family favorite, I mean down home, takes a long time, cooked mostly from scratch, yummy recipes. I love the detailed pictures that are well shot and actually informative.

Third on this list is Not For Children Books. I have obsession- children’s books, I collect them from just about all of our travels (even travels to the local bookstore) and signed books are a priority (by author or illustrator). But I have no kids, so I have a growing collection of books that look lie children’s books and sound like children’s books, but are books that I wouldn’t read to a child. And believe me, after just a few trips into this web site, the baby’s are gonna be all mine one day!
And for one I just found this morning and am still exploring... try the Very Short List. This is a daily email (or just check the web site daily) about books, movies, music, videos, and generally just some culturally entertaining things. I have a feeling that some of their daily finds will end up on this list soon enough


Wednesday Rant - Just Give Me High Gas Prices, Please!

My rant this week is about "going green" and how much it is costing. I think on a whole we as a nation are "going green" much too quickly and without any plan or leadership.

On whole, this countries response to high fuel prices, to our dependency on Middle Eastern oil, is causing a raise in demand for ethanol, a fuel that is made from corn. When not being used for ethanol, this corn is typically used as animal feed, specifically feed cows. So beef prices are up, so is the price of milk (some say it will be at $5 a gallon by the end of summer), and cheese prices are way up as well. Since beef is getting expensive the demand for alternatives like chicken and pork is on the rise and high demand + low supply = high prices for those proteins as well.

Where else does this hit us in places that we don't think about? Well if cheese prices are up, then the prices of pizza and other foods dependant on it are up. My local paper claims that Pizza Hut and Pappa Johns have already raised their prices in response. Milk is in a lot of chocolate, so those prices will soar. Along with that milk, your corn based cereals price will rise and corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup, whoops there goes the prices for a bottle of cola, or our favorite cookies…

But the really hidden costs? Soap prices will go up. What am I talking about, how is corn related to soap? Well "as The Wall Street Journal notes, soap makers are getting hit particularly hard, as prices are up for beef tallow, a kind of fat that is an important ingredient in soap. Also, there's a new subsidy for companies turning animal fat directly into fuel, which will further shorten supplies of this ingredient. (Pasted from Techdirt.com)." Now I don't use beef tallow in my soaps, but I do use soybean and "the heightened demand for corn has decreased the supply of other grains, including soybeans, because farmers are shifting fields to make room for corn. Soybeans are a key ingredient in trans-fat-free cooking oils now in high demand as cities and counties ban fatty oils in restaurants and bakeries." (Pasted from The Philadelphia Inquirer)." So there is another ingredient with a rising price.

I know this sounds terrible but just give me high gas prices. I will know how much gas costs and can budget accordingly. But instead, gas prices will remain more stable, but I will pay through the nose for just about everything else in my life.. No thank you…


Herb of the Week: Barberry

The information provided below is for reference only. It is not to be used as a medical manual or as any guide to treatment. These are merely meant to be a way to learn about herbs and their uses in history and today. Seek medical advice before using any herbs as they are often dangerous when used without guidance.

When I begin researching an herb I typically start in two places: Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (by copy is from 1987) and the PDR for Herbal Medicines (Third Edition). So since I haven't actually referenced a written work since college, I'll point out what information I have gotten from which source the best I can)

This weeks herb is Barberry (Berberis Vulgaris)

Common names: Oregon Grape (Berberis Aquifolium) (a closely related American variety), Berberry, Pipperidge, Jaundice Berry, Sow Berry, Mountain Grape

(from Rodale, pages 20-21)

History: Throughout history barberry has been linked with its edible and medicinal uses. Ancient Egyptians took a barberry and fennel syrup to prevent plague. People of the Middle Ages in Europe took early medicines made of barberry as antiseptics. Native Americans have used the root bark to improve the appetite and to restore general body health.

Uses: Barberry is a multiuse plant. It has a long history of medicinal use, but it also can be used in cooking, and in natural dying of fabrics. Folk medicine uses barberry as an astringent and antibacterial- try blending crushed barberries in water and using it as a gargle for a sore throat. The root can also be used to help control diarrhea by making tea. You can harves the berries in autumn and use in cooking. The berries taste much like cranberries but are more citrus in flavor. They can be made into jellies, jams, and preserves. They can even be candied. The roots should be harvested in late summer or fall to be used ad dye and make a nice yellow color for wools and cottons. No mordent is required, but using alum mordent for wool will provide a lighter yellow.

Toxicity: Low doses have been found to be stimulating on the heart, high doses depress respiration, stimulate the bowel and uterus. Overdoses bring about a light stupor, nosebleeds, vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney irritation. The treatment of poisonings is carried out symptomatically.

Ornamental: Barberry is easily trained and lends itself for use in hedges. There is a dwarf species of barberry as well as an evergreen variety. The evergreen varieties lend themselves to beautiful flowers, but often their berries are less attractive. Deciduous varieties typically have brighter berries and beautiful fall foliage in autumn.

PDF for Herbal Medicines (pages 63-64)

Effects: The root bark is a good source of vitamin C thus increasing the immune system, preventing scurvy, and increases immune system activity. With varying doses both positive and negative effects on the heart have been noted.

Unproven uses (fruit): Decoction or extract used for lung, spleen, and liver diseases. Jam or wine can relieve constipation and stimulate appetite. Alcoholic extracts for heartburn and stomach cramps, feverish colds, and diseases of the urinary tract.

Unproven uses (bark): Aid in withdrawal from drugs (such as morphine). Used for liver malfunctions, gallbladder disease, jaundice, indigestion, diarrhea, and urinary tract disorders.

Homeopathic Uses: kidney stones, gout, liver and gallbladder disorders and dry skin diseases.

Pharmaceutical Uses: a syrup for masking flavor

The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman 1991 (pages 59-61)

History: India's Ayurvedic healers prescribed it for dysentery. European herbalists in the Middle Ages also used it to treat jaundice. Traditional Russian healers recommended it for inflammations, high blood pressure, and abnormal uterine bleedings. Once introduced into North America, many Native American tribes used it to treat mouth ulcers, sore throat, wound infections, and intestinal complaints. By the 19th century, American Eclectic physicians prescribed it for jaundice, dysentery, eye infections, cholera, fever, and syphilis.

Safety Factor: Those with heart disease, or chronic respiratory problems should take this herb only with the knowledge and approval of their physicians. Pregnant women should not use barberry as it stimulates the uterus. It should not be used by women who are nursing, and barberry should not be given to children under the age of 2. Older children and people over 65 should start with a low strength preparation. Barberry should only be used in consultation with your doctor or trained herbalist. You should stop using barberry if your experience: stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness or faintness.


Monday Recap July 2-8, 2007 Week 27

Well I made it through my first week of blogging every day. Whew, it is a lot f work but I am really enjoying it. I have already heard some positive feedback and I hope that you all are enjoying it.

This past week was a momentous one- I have officially finished my “starting” inventory for the year. This was meant to be complete before I started doing shows in April, but life was well, busy, and I finished it just about 2 ½ months later than I thought. But it is a good start- about 5400 bars of soap, 3000 bath fizzys, 900 lotion bars, 1050 lip balms, 360 bath salts, and 450 lip glosses. There are also hundreds of bath mitts, soap savers, wash cloths, soap samplers, and sachets in that list as well. Some of these things will last me the year, others I will need to make more of in just a few months time. I hope that in October/November I can start on stuff for next year and really be able to meet my goal in 2008- inventory complete, BEFORE I start shows!

Monday: Paid bills, caught up on two weeks of blog, did laundry, and figured out the dinner menu for July 4. In the garden C and I finished installing the edging, bought stones and put them down (realizing we STILL needed more). We worked on the front landscaping buying plants and mulch, we decided on mostly annuals for this year and next we will research and plant perennials, this planting every year is too much work.. I pickled my beets from my garden- 6 beets got me 1 pint, and it is harder and messier than I expected it to be, but it was fun and now I don’t want to eat them because of all my hard work.

Tuesday: I did my typical Tuesday chores, planted some pepper plants I had bought the day before. I had planted green peppers when I started the garden, but decided early on that I should have put in yellow or red peppers as well, so when we were looking at plants for the front of the house I found some yellow pepper plants and decided to try and see if I could get them not to die and actually produce peppers. I picked up groceries for the July 4 BBQ. In the front landscaping C and I mulched around the plants that we got installed, and still have just a few more to do before we can call that section done.

Wednesday: In the morning we cleaned up the house and B&M came over for what is now our annual July 4 BBQ. We had burgers and hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw, and cucumber salad, brownies, and fruit salad. We hung out for quite a few hours and we all had a lot of fun. It is so nice to have a relaxing day with friends and not have tons of drama and stress. The rains came so we didn’t even have an opportunity to see fireworks even if we had wanted to…

Thursday: I finished and e-mailed my July/August Newsletter. Made soap and made lip glosses. It was a day back to work, but it was exciting because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and it was just a few more days……

Friday: More soap and more lip glosses made. I also did my Friday chores. I wrapped some Soap on a Rope, and printed my Newsletter so I can get it mailed soon. I also poured some lotion bars that I am working on in a research and development sort of way.

Saturday: In the morning I worked on the garden cutting back tomato plant suckers and replanting some seedlings I have sprouting. We went to see the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute with B&M. It was amazing to see. The quality of the workmanship and to think how old everything is, that it was all buried, just mind boggling. The Egyptian pharaoh wanted to “live forever” and if you believe that eternal life comes through being remembered, well than they sure have reached their goals. After that we went to the Chester casino. The place was packed because the PA gov’t was most likely shutting down in a few days so everyone had to loose their money before it did. Actually C and I did well, almost doubled our money, not bad. We had a great buffet. B & M both got the extra crab legs and since they couldn’t eat them all, I got some too, yum!

Sunday: I woke up with a terrible headache and didn’t do all that much all day. I picked up groceries for the week and then C and I started to clean out our bedrooms so the floors can be refinished. We brought all the clothes into the attic and much of the other stuff was loaded into the bathroom. We have to work on it a little every day till Friday when they come. While I napped in hopes for my headache to stop, C went and bought the last of the stones for my garden and some potting soil so we can finish the front landscaping. Later, once the sun went down and it cooled off a little I finished putting down the stones in the garden.


Yarny Sunday

Happy Sunday! This is so often typically the day that if I don’t have a craft show, I sit and watch the NASCAR race and knit, knit, knit… but the race was on last night, and I woke up with a monster headache today (and not a drop of alcohol to blame for it either!), and when I do get this headache to go away C and need to start to empty the house so the floor refinisher can come next week and redo my 50 year old wood floors. Whoo Hoo!

So the knitting post will be short today….

Here is a link to my favorite yarn in the world. FUN WITH YARN. Michele is just a wonder. You must join her mailing list so you can learn when she updates her site, because her creations go fast. I used my birthday money from my mom, and some from my grammie, to buy myself enough to knit a sweater. I’d post pictures, but since it still needs to be blocked, right now it just looks like a rolled up mess. Hopefully my new blocking board will arrive soon and I can get it finished.

For all of you Harry Potter fans like myself, here is a link to buy CHARMED KNITS, patterns inspired by the books and movies. I can’t wait to add this to my shelves, even if it is just for the scarf; I love thick, warm, real scarves.

And finally a link to my next project…SOCKS. I had started a pair using a pattern that I wasn’t too happy with and have stopped knitting just a few inches in because I am dreading starting the second sock already. So after finding this I am ripping out what I have and starting again because this pattern seems much simpler and more like what I am looking for in a sock.

Of course I will start the socks after I finish B’s afghan (just needs to be put together), after I finish my knitted hedgehogs (they need to be stuffed, put together, and have their eyeballs sewn on), finish blocking and assembling my awesome sweater, and finish knitting, blocking, and assembling a vest that I am working on (and praying I don’t run out of yarn… it will be close).

Hopefully soon I can post pictures, we need a new digital camera and I think C will be getting one soon!


Ingredient of the Week- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate

Ingredient of the Week:

I chose this ingredient because it was the first things listed on C's shampoo bottle. The interesting thing I found about this search for information is that I didn't jump around the web looking for damaging and incriminating information about this ingredient, I followed a trail, a trail starting from a company that uses and profits from using this ingredient, and the trail led me to the information below. The trail is longer and I can get deeper in depth, but that is for another post… maybe next week...

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate

Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) is an anionic surfactant considered to be gentle and effective cleansing agent and used in many shampoos. The CIR (1983) concluded "ALS appears to be safe in [cosmetic] formulations designed for discontinuous, brief used followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin". In products, intended for prolonged contact with skin, the CIR recommends concentrations at or below 1%. The concentration can be higher in rinse-off products such as shampoos.
ALS belongs to a class of compounds known as alkyl sulfates. Among the man-made anionic surfactants used in detergents worldwide, alkyl sulphates (AS) rank third in tonnage used, after soap (#1) and LAS (#2). They are used in Beauty Care products such as shampoos as well as laundry detergents. Many AS variants are made from natural sources such as coconut oil and animal fats, while others are derived from petrochemicals.
AS are rapidly biodegradable, aerobically as well as anaerobically. AS are nearly completely removed (more than 99%) by traditional wastewater treatment operations.

The information above was pasted from the Proctor and Gamble web site. As you can tell it leans a little to their side. What I find interesting is that this same site goes on to list HERA- The Human and Environmental Risk Assessment on ingredients of household cleaning products as a resource for the above information. If you go to the HERA website, you can easily notice that their Human Health Risk Assessment for Alky Sulphates was "preliminary" back in 2002, and that the full risk assessment is still "in progress".

This same web site also uses the NLH- National Library of Health as a resource. Going to their web site lists products that use ALS, as well as synonyms for it. One of these synonyms is "Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, ammonium salt". I don't know about you but the sulfuric acid reference really turns me off as a consumer. ALS sounds so much more inviting, doesn't it?

And going further into the NLH databank to the Hazardous Substance Databank that site goes on to list studies that find ALS skin irritating, eye irritating, and can be drying to the skin, to me that sound a long way away from the "gentle" claim at the P&G web site.


Recipe (or Tip) of the Week- Tub Teas

A great way to sooth yourself after a long day in the garden is with a tub tea. Even better, you can use herbs that you have grown yourself.

Start with ½ cup each of the following herbs dried
Lavender buds
Peppermint (or Spearmint, or even Catmint) Leaf
Rosemary Leaf

Add to that ½ cup of ground oatmeal.

You can optionally add any (or all) of the following: (1/2 cup)
Dried Rose Petals
Dried Basil
Dried Parsley
Dried Sage
Sea Salt

Mix together and fill a muslin bag. No muslin? Tie up in a few pieces of cheese cloth…Tie your bag tightly closed. Hang the bag under the tub spout and as you fill your tub have the warm water flow through the bag and its contents. After the tub is full you can additionally add the bag of herbs to your bath water.

Properties of the herbs listed above:
Lavender: intended to aid stress and promote relaxation
Peppermint Leaf: Soothing and cooling to the skin
Rosemary Leaf: Energizing

Rose: adds vitamins and nutrients
Basil: helps with fatigue
Parsley: soothing and helps open and cleanse pores
Sage: sooths muscle and joint pain
Sea Salt: naturally rich in minerals


Links of the Week

This week I am pretty light on interesting links, but that should change in the coming weeks. I am going through and reorganizing my Internet "Favorites" list and that typically brings up some great stuff that I have forgotten all about.

So for now satisfy your urge to knit by checking out the free knitting pattern of the day over at the Daily Knitter. Besides the great patterns you can search for Yarn Shops, Product Reviews, and even a great list of charities you can send your yarny creations to.

When was the last time you needed to tie a knot and your boyscout or girl scout (or theatre) training totally escaped you? It happens to me just about every weekend when I need to either tie down my tent, or tie down something in my car, or at the house. My mom would be so glad that my theatre training has gone completely down the toilet. So refresh your skills, or learn new ones at the Animated Knot Tying web site. I suggest everyone learn the truckers hitch.


Wednesday Rant

My rant today is about truth in advertising. In short, I am tired of being lied to and I am tired to competing with companies who lie. Don't they understand?

Lying to me assumes that I am an idiot and that I take what you tell me at face value. It assumes that I will never catch you in your lie, and assumes that once I do, I'll forgive you anyway and keep buying your product or using your service. WRONG! I research, I enjoy researching, and once I find you out, I will stop using you and tell all my friends to do the same. It may take me a while to find your secret, but be sure, I will….
Lying ruins the game for everyone else. Take for instance my business- natural soap making. There is no FDA rule about using terms like "natural" or that you can only name your company "XYZ Organics" if your product is actually organic, so companies bend and push and downright lie about exactly what is in (or not in) their products. This means once their customers find out their lie- many assume the whole industry is lying, and they are not. It also means there is a small percentage of the population with small enough minds that they blindly believe the lying company and thus assume everyone else is, well, full of lies.
Lying is not a long term business plan. It can't be the way a company that plans on being around for 100 years plans to do business. It is a quick way to make money and then disappear once you are found out. Now I understand there is, lets say, puffery- making your product sound high class when it is a notch or two lower, but please, I am tired of people trying to put one over on me.

What started me on this rant you ask.. Well go here and find out. http://www.drbronner.com/soap_test_video.html. The music is a little loud, but basically it is all about truth in advertising. It covers what I was talking about in note #2 and I hope you find it enjoyable, I sure did…


Herb of the Week: Aconite

The information provided below is for reference only. It is not to be used as a medical manual or as any guide to treatment. These are merely meant to be a way to learn about herbs and their uses in history and today. Seek medical advice before using any herbs as they are often dangerous when used without guidance.

When I begin researching an herb I typically start in two places: Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (my copy is from 1987) and the PDR for Herbal Medicines (Third Edition). So since I haven't actually referenced a written work since college, I'll point out what information I have gotten from which source the best I can)

This weeks herb is Aconite (Aconitum Napellus)

Common names: Wolf's Bane, Wolfbane, Monkshood, Blue Rocket, Friar's Cap, Auld Wide's Huid, Helmet Flower, Mousebane, Priest's Pintle, and Soldier's Cap

(from Rodale, pages 1-2)
It is a perennial herb that flowers late summer and fall. The flowers are typically violet but there are both white and mauve varieties as well. It grows 2-4 feet tall and is native to the mountains of France, Switzerland, and Germany, but is widely cultivated in Europe and North America.

Aconite is a very poisonous plant and has been used throughout history as a poison. On the island of Ceos, aconite was used for euthanasia of the old, and hunters used it on arrow tips and in bait to hunt wolves. In Europe and Asia it has been used during ancient warfare to taint the water supply of enemies.

Not just a poison, it was introduced to "modern" medicine in 1763 and was added to the London Pharmacopoeia in 1788 and also the first U.S. Pharmacopoeia.

It slows the heart, decreases blood pressure, induces sweating and reduces inflammation. Topical application results in numbness of the area.

The therapeutic dose of this plant is very close to the toxic dose and thus this herb should never be used for treatment. The entire plant, but especially the root is toxic. The alkaloids present in the plant first stimulate and then suppress the nervous system.

Although hardy in zones 2-7 I will not provide any additional information on cultivating this plant due to its toxicity. Cases of poisonings have been reported when the leaves were mistook for parsley or the roots for horseradish. Children and pets must be kept away from this herb! If you bust grow it, handle this plant only when wearing gloves to slow the oil absorption into the skin.

PDF for Herbal Medicines (pages 571-572) (Monkshood)
This book claims no useable medicinal parts because it is a DEADLY POSION (my added emphasis).

In experimental pharmacology Aconite is used due to its ability to trigger cardiac arrhythmia. The fist sign of poisoning is a tingling of the mouth, fingers, and toes, which spreads over the entire body and then changes to a "furry" sensation. Body temperature decreases quickly and nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and urination follow.

In fatal doses breathing will become irregular and the heart beet slows and becomes arrhythmic. Death follows in about 6 hours, typically due to heart failure or asphyxiation. Medical intervention is necessary to countermeasure the poison, often including gastrointestional emptying, and administration of drugs to fight bradycardia and arrhythmias.

The 1996 edition of the National Herb Garden Guidebook (medicinal garden section) also references Aconite under Monkshood (page 62) and claims that Russian botanists and cancer specialists recognize it as having anti-carcinogenic properties .


New Blog Format

New Blog Format:

So I decided that the blog format was getting pretty stale and that I want to use it less as a diary (like I feel it has become) and more as a dialogue. So I am attempting to post every day. This may not happen during bust show times but I’ll try.

Here is my plan:

Monday: Weekly Update (I pretty much do this already)

Tuesday: Herb of the Week (I am always researching; now I’ll share)

Wednesday: Wednesday Rant (I’m sure something will set me off)

Thursday: Links of the Week (Cool things I have found online)

Friday: Tip or Recipe of the Week (Most likely bath and beauty you can do at home, but may be some good food, or other craft related as well)

Saturday: Ingredient of the Week (this may be one I use, or one I don’t, but we all should learn more about what we put on our body)

Sunday: Knit Post for the Week (I have become an obsessed knitter and this is a place to share my obsession)

So I hope to see you tomorrow~

June 25-July 1, 2007 Week 26

The week started out slow but still much was accomplished. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and soon I shall have my inventory complete (only two months later than I had planned, but complete none the less). With the push of shows soon upon me I am searching for balance and harmony these next few weeks. This means working shorter days, eating well, finding solace in hobbies, sleeping enough, and generally enjoying my last few weeks of freedom. Although I do shows in April, May and June, I really think if my “season” as starting mid-July. This is when the fun starts- five shows in a row (18 days total), two weekends off, then six more in a row (10 more days total), two weeks off (our vacation cruise), then 8 more in a row (26 days total) . It means that soon I am in reaction mode and all the planning in the world is out the window…

Monday: Monday chores, making cutting and putting soap away. Made soap samplers.

Tuesday: Tuesday chores- which were interrupted by an almost 2 hour power outage leaving me to find things to do that didn’t need electricity (finally got the new bird feeder up). Since we bought new bath towels over the weekend that meant I got all the old ones as shop rags, so I went through and threw out the worst of the worst of my existing shop rags. Made soap, cut soap, got soap out of molds, cleaned molds and all that good soap making stuff. I finished knitting my sweater and bought a blocking board online. I can’t wait till it comes so I can block and assemble my sweater…

Wednesday: More soapmaking~ put away molds, cut soap, made soap, sent out an order, cleaned molds & pots and made lip glosses (my almond oil had arrived. I started knitting a new vest out if banana silk- weird stuff to work with, and when C got home we emptied the hot tub and refilled it. It is supposed to be done twice a year and we were a little overdue..

Thursday: I answered a huge pile of emails that had been building up, sent out show paperwork that was due, made soap, worked on lip glosses, and spent a good part of the day knitting.

Friday: Busy day~ Friday chores (cleaning the cat water bowl and cat pan, taking out the garbage, stuff like that). Made soap- cut soap, milled soap….all that jazz…I also sent out an order, a box of samples to a wholesale inquiry, and stuff out to J she wanted. I also worked on my newsletter and on information for an upcoming demo I am doing.

Saturday: Started the day in the garden staking the pepper plants and thinking that I will be over run with cucumbers this year. I brought in some beets to pickle and got them boiled. C and I tried to rearrange our living room furniture and gave up. We try this every few months- move things around and the don’t like it any more than the previous configuration, only to move everything back the way it was. Its good exercise… C hooked up my new computer and now I have a tone of things to install, fix, and just generally make it the way that I want. While he messed with it I took a nap. Then I made a late lunch/early dinner and we were amazed by how quickly the day passed us by.
Sunday: I ran to Michaels in the morning to get cotton yarn that was on sale. Then I started working on my computer- installing office, configuring my e-mail, wondering why everything in Itunes was doubled and how much of a pain it will be to fix it. And then we gardened- we clipped back this tree that we dislike into something that looks like it just came from a Dr. Seuss book. We ripped out a huge thing of creeping Juniper, which made my arms itch and turn red. We went and looked at plants at a local nursery and sort of decided on a few we like. I made lunch while C cleaned up some of the yard waste and after that we went back out looking for plants. But the places were closed. We went to dinner with B &M which was good food- but the menu was SEVERLY limited by what they were not out of and we were disappointed that we felt like we had no choices. But the company was great and B gave me some awesome retro knitting pattern books that I can’t wait to look through and try some stuff from.

June 18-24, 2007 Week 25

It always seems that when C goes away for a few days I have this huge burst of energy to get things done You would think it would be the opposite, that I could let the house get dirty and only eat cereal for dinner, and hang in my PJ’s all day, but instead I work long days uninterrupted by cooking dinner or other household tasks.

Monday: I always start Mondays doing my chores- bills, blogging, laundry, etc…this week I also washed my table covers for my display, since next show I do starts the mayhem and I won’t have time again till late August. I worked in the shop unmolding soaps, cutting soaps, pouring soaps, milling soaps, putting soaps away, and making soaps. I also started labeling inventory for Out Of Our Hands since I finally received the organza bags I was waiting for.

Tuesday: The morning started with me taking C to the airport, he needed to go to Mexico for a few days. On the way back I stopped at the Post Office, I never check my box mail enough I think, although most of the times when I do, its empty, and only when I miss a week is there an order waiting~ more soap made, cut, milled, and labeled. I finished labeling the Out of Our Hands inventory, this will being them lots of stock and get them 99% of everything I make in stock as well. I started making lip glosses, I really want to get these done in the next few weeks. I ordered the almond oil in order to be able to finish the glosses~ what was cool was a place I order from used to do a “points” rebate and they discontinued the program, however, I still had enough final points to get a bunch of supplies for only $5. That was a nice surprise! And then I knit. I have been working on this great sweater and don’t have much left to finish it…

Wednesday: C still being in Mexico I worked long & hard yet again today. Mostly it was the usual: making soap, milling soap, cleaning molds, sending out orders, I poured a batch of Soap on a Rope but I mixed it too thick and it wouldn’t go into the molds- I hate it when I loose a batch like that. I ordered some more displays to use both at shows. The new ones I got earlier this year for lip balms and lotion bars seem to be working very well and sales of lotion bars even seem to be up. Sales of baths salts seem to be up as well. I think this is because they used to share a display with lotion bars and now that they are on their own they command more attention, thus bringing more sales. I spent the evening filling sachets. I have TONS of sachets to fill and it is one of my most unfavorite things to so. I just need to sit in front of the TV and do them, ick….

Thursday: I got a box of stuff out to my dad and ran errands: bank, grocery, post office, and delivered the inventory to Out of Our Hands. I ordered mold and tins for a project that I am researching- it’s a secret but it has to do with Lotion Bars…Then I relaxed and knit until I had to go pick up C from the airport. The plane was actually on time for once, pretty amazing…

Friday: Does it surprise you I made more soap? Cut soap, unmolded soap, cleaned soap molds and equipment, and in general just had a soapy day.

Saturday: I started the day going to a neighbors yard sale. Its sort of voyeuristic to see what they are getting rid of, but it also gave me a chance to meet a few more neighbors. I then worked on the garden for a while till C got up and we went to breakfast, Target, Best Buy, Wild Birds Unlimited, Harbor Freight Tools, Office Depot, Marshals, and Dan Schantz’s Greenhouse, as well as dropping some stuff off at charity. Then we stopped for dinner at Red Robin and then went to BJ’s before heading home. It was a good 9 hours of errands, whew; we were tired (and broke). Then when we got home I started laundry- washing the new bath towels we had just bought…

Sunday: I worked on accounting in the morning and then went to the grocery store before coming back and cleaning up the house. B & M came over in the afternoon so we could help them get plane tickets for their vacation. After that C had to pick up a coworker at the airport so I sat around, knitted more and watched the NASCAR race…