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H. A. O'Connor

Two Butterflies went out at Noon, Emily Dickinson

Earthy, Feels Friday!, For the love of animals, Poetry!, Write Away 1 Comment
Two Butterflies went out at Noon, Emily Dickinson

In honor of the butterflies we’ve been “raising” (post on them to come), I thought I’d share Two Butterflies went out at Noon, by Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson was born (1830) and died (1886) in Amherst, Massachusetts. She lived in relative isolation throughout her life, although her family provided her with intellectual and emotional companionship. The rare visitors to her family’s home also had a significant impact on her, as can be evinced throughout much of her work. Though she was not publicly recognized for her writing during her lifetime (her first volume of poems being published posthumously), she is considered to have helped create a unique, distinctly “American” poetic voice.

I love Emily Dickinson’s poems, not only for their natural themes, but also for their seeming simplicity which often belies deeper meaning.

Two Butterflies went out at Noon

Emily Dickinson1830 – 1886

Two Butterflies went out at Noon—
And waltzed above a Farm—  
Then stepped straight through the Firmament  
And rested on a Beam—  
And then—together bore away 
Upon a shining Sea—  
Though never yet, in any Port—  
Their coming mentioned—be—  
If spoken by the distant Bird— 
If met in Ether Sea
By Frigate, or by Merchantman— 
No notice—was—to me—

Thank you for reading! Hope you’ll join me in wishing our two butterflies well as they enter the Firmament!

H. A. O'Connor

I Heart Argan Oil

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I Heart Argan Oil

Dear RSO (Rosehip Seed Oil),

You haven’t seen my face for about a year, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that there’s someone else. You see, Argan Oil and I were introduced at about the same time you and I started having troubles. I thought it was a rebound thing, at first, or maybe infatuation, but it’s real. Everyone has an oil that’s right for their face, and as much as I love you, Argan is the one for me.

Image via pixabay/oceanverde

Argan Oil has staying power, not that you don’t. Still, women in the Mediterranean have been pampering their skin with it for centuries. It’s full of Vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, plus it’s great for my hair. That makes it multi-faceted, a truly deep kind of oil. It’s generous, too–it helps with anything from eczema and rosacea to fine lines and wrinkles. You can’t find support like that just anywhere. Not to mention how light an oil it is, or how easily it absorbs into my skin. It’s like wearing nothing at all…very freeing, you understand.

I know some people pay a fortune just to have Argan Oil in their life, but I still get mine from *Mountain Rose Herbs. They’re every bit as trustworthy as when I first discovered you among their online shelves, Rosehip. I believe in my heart of hearts that others will find you there, too, and appreciate you for all that you are.

Before you ask, of course I still need a third, for the moisturization to be complete. Water has been fine–I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that I always begin my moisturizing with clean, damp skin–but I think Argan and I have found something that takes what we have and makes it even better. White Rose Hydrosol…maybe you’ve heard of it? I understand, the rose thing probably hurts a bit, but you know the scent of roses has always been one of my favorites. It always will be.

Dear Rosehip Seed Oil, please try to remember: it’s not you, it’s my face. Honestly, I’d love to stay friends and keep you in some of my other skin products, but I’ll understand if you’d prefer that we go our separate ways. No matter what, we’ll always have body butter!

Love you, my special friend.



See what I mean? Even goats love Argan.

Images via pixabay/jackmac34 and remilozach

*Mountain Rose Herbs is not a sponsor; I’m just a fan. Natural products are not regulated, so it’s difficult to know if you’re getting what you pay for. I trust MRH and have always been pleased with whatever I’ve ordered from them. Just an FYI, in case you’re shopping around.

H. A. O'Connor

Herb’s Garden

Earthy, Living Sustainably, Natural and Noteworthy, Neighborhood Homesteading 2 Comments
Herb’s Garden

How do you say it: herbs (pronounced like a man’s name) or (h)erbs (silent h)?

I usually say “(h)erbs,” (silent h) because I’m from the US. Still, when my family and I visited a lovely, family-owned plant farm near Lancaster, PA, Groff’s, the conversation in the car went something like this:

Husband: What are you getting at this place, again?

Me (wearing an overly giant smile): Herbs.

Husband: did you just say herbs?’

Me: Hm. I did. …Maybe they sell ‘Herbs’…as in the guy. A garden of Herbs.

Husband: Who says ‘herbs’…the British?

Me: Yes. And Martha Stewart.

Well, I’m neither British nor Martha Stewart, so I guess I’m not supposed to say herbs. In honor of my mistake, I’m unofficially dubbing our garden: Herb’s Garden. Now, my kids are sure to have as much trouble remembering which way to say it as I apparently do. You’re welcome, kids. 🙂

Anyway, I left with a nice little haul of (h)erbs and companion plants, and thought I’d share some helpful info I’ve dug up on each. (Bad pun intended. Very sorry.)

*By the way, although the edible herbs I’ve mentioned below offer various health benefits, they can also have some pretty significant side effects, especially if taken in large amounts (particularly for pregnant/lactating women). I plan to eat them as part of my meals, in amounts typically consumed.


Image via pixabay/tookapic

Have any tomatoes? Mozzarella? Well, then. You need basil. In addition to tasting delicious, basil contains Vitamins K, A, and C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, among other nutrients. It also contains DNA-protecting flavonoids and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is antibacterial as well, and has been found to be effective in treating drug-resistant bacteria strains. Basil also acts as an adaptogen, to help the body fight the effects of stress.


Cilantro (+coriander seeds)

Image via pixabay/Hans

Since it is high in antioxidants, cilantro not only benefits our health, but also prolongs freshness when added to other foods. It is also antifungal, promotes skin health and may help combat the effects of UV B radiation from sunlight. In addition, it is antimicrobial, and is believed to help detoxify the body. Coriander (the seed produced by cilantro) has anti-inflammatory properties, but studies have found that imported coriander is often contaminated by salmonella; I suggest growing your own.



Image via pixabay/ustalij_pony

Due to the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) it contains, comfrey is toxic to the liver and is not recommended for internal use. (*Note: the levels of PAs change, depending upon the time of year, age of the plant, and throughout the different parts of the plant–e.g. newer leaves have more PAs than older ones and the roots contain the highest amounts by a large margin.) However, comfrey serves many other purposes in the garden. It is a great healer and has been acknowledged as such for thousands of years (dating back to ancient Rome). This is due to the allantoin it contains, which is known to aid in cell formation. Though it shouldn’t be applied to open wounds, comfrey’s crushed leaves, poultices, or creams can be applied externally to injuries, to promote healing. *Note: the toxins present in comfrey can be absorbed through the skin, so care must be taken not to overuse. It is not to be taken while using acetaminophen or similar products, because of the heightened risk of liver damage.



Image via pixabay/ruslanababenko

In addition to tasting delicious in pickling recipes and egg salad (which is how my grandmother used to make it–yum!), dill contains Vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants. It is also a good source of calcium, manganese, and iron. Dill was once believed to harbor protective forces, which would help ward off witchcraft. Handy, no? Today, it is sometimes used to treat problems with digestion, menstruation, sleep, urinary tract disorders, and to help boost the immune system. Not for use by diabetics, pregnant/nursing women, or by those with allergies to plants in the carrot family.

I can attest to the fact that dill is highly prized by swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. This cute little guy and his buddies ate all of ours.

The parsley in the background survived the onslaught; the dill, sadly, did not.



Image via RGBStock/Babykrul

All nine known species of echinacea are native to North America and were used by Native Americans medicinally. All parts of the plant are used, and can be taken internally (as teas, tinctures, in capsules, etc.), as well as applied externally. Echinacea boosts the immune system, in order to help ward off the common cold and flu, and also to help fight infections. Its widespread popularity declined with the introduction of antibiotics, but appears to be growing once more, particularly in Germany, where it is approved for medical treatment by the government.

Longterm use has not be evaluated, and some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to echinacea. (It may also increase allergic reactions to other stimulants). Contraindicated for use by individuals with auto-immune issues and not recommended for use in pregnant or breastfeeding women.



Image via RGBStock/AYLA87

Fennel has a delicious, licorice-ish scent and flavor, which I love. I particularly love the coloring of the bronze fennel, so I picked some up to add to my garden. Its leaves are gorgeous and feathery (they look like actual feathers as they start to emerge). Fennel’s a perennial herb, which can be used in foods and teas. It’s not only attractive to the birds and the bees, but is also a host plant for the Anise Swallowtail and the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies. Cheers to more butterflies!


Holy Basil (Tulsi)

Image via pixabay/shajis001

This plant has been grown in India for over three thousand years and is revered as a symbol for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. It is valuable medicinally because of its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and pain-killing properties. It acts as an adaptogen, improving the body’s response to stress. It can be taken as a tea (safe for daily use), pill, tincture, etc. It is used to help regulate diabetes and also to promote wound healing. It is believed to help lower cholesterol, ease joint pain, and protect the stomach, as well. It should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.



Image via Unsplash/Ray Hennessy

Sure, its fragrance is absolutely delicious, but it tastes good, too. Dried lavender buds can add flavor to your desserts, from ice cream to baked goods to yummy summertime drinks. (I found some great recipes from Country Living.) I love adding lavender to my soaps, and I often wear lavender essential oil on a clay diffuser necklace. Its scent is calming and soothing, perfect for combatting stress or promoting sleep. It can be brewed in a tea and cooled, then sprayed over burns, bug bites, or troubled skin, to bring relief and aid in healing. Lavender plants in your garden can also help keep mosquitoes and other pests away from the area. Bees and butterflies, on the other hand, tend to love it. I’m with them!


Lemon Balm

Image via pixabay/cocoparisienne

Lemon Balm is an herb in the mint family, with a bright, lemony scent. It can add flavor to foods or teas and has been used since the Middle Ages to help relieve anxiety. Likewise, it works well in promoting sleep (often paired with valerian) and regulating stress. Lemon balm is also used to help treat stomach upsets, including cholic, and has shown promise in relieving some of the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. In cream form, it is used to treat cold sores. Lemon balm seems safe to use medicinally in limited amounts and durations, even by infants, under the guidance of a physician. However, long term studies have not been done and, as with any herb, it is probably best avoided by pregnant women. It may increase the effects of sedatives, as well.



Image via pixabay/sarangib

Lemongrass smells like a fresh, sunny summer day, don’t you think? Go ahead and smell some; I’ll wait. Lemongrass is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. What’s not to like, right? Hang on, because there’s more. It’s also antifungal, antimicrobial, and can help regulate cholesterol levels, as well as detoxify the body. It is good for digestion and for regulating blood pressure, plus it also helps boost your body’s metabolism. Its vitamins benefit hair and skin, and its nutrients can help treat joint pain and fever, as well as colds and flu. Due to its ability to stimulate the uterus, it is not safe for pregnant women; also, because it can lower blood sugar, it should be avoided by people with diabetes.



Image via pixabay/ballonimals

First and foremost: monarchs! Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed, so without it…no caterpillars. No caterpillars means no adult butterflies. You get it. You know how this nature thing works. Second: they’re beautiful plants, and there are over a hundred species native to North America. Mine, however, are perennials, which seem to be more readily available (since native milkweed was often considered a “pest” and chased off the land. Shame on us humans, once again.)

Besides being essential for the monarchs, milkweed can be beneficial for us. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the strong fibers of milkweed were used to make rope and fabric, and the fluffy floss of the seed pods was used to stuff bedding or to act as tinder for fires. It was even used to stuff lifejackets during WWII!

As useful as milkweed is, the plant is mildly toxic, so only experienced foragers should ever consider consuming it. The juices of milkweed can also be a skin irritant, so wearing gloves while handling is recommended.

I hadn’t even planted my milkweed in the ground, when the first monarch appeared. She immediately started landing on the leaves and curling her abdomen around to lay her eggs on the undersides. Which means…we now have a monarch nursery!

Six babies in this pic and I found a dozen overall!

Cute, chubby baby monarch!



Image via pixabay/strecosa

What’s better than mint, I ask you? Chocolate mint, of course. While I love peppermint (and have some growing in a container, currently, because mint loves to spread), I thought my kids might be more apt to enjoy the chocolate variety. Truth be told, it smells more chocolate-y than it tastes, but I’m not complaining. I love mint and I love chocolate, so there can be no loss if the two are involved.

Mint is of course used to flavor foods, from savory dishes to ice cream. As a tea, it is said to help reduce stress. Mint compresses can help cure headaches and the herb can also be added to personal care products, such as a vinegar-based hair rinse or witch-hazel face toner, to increase their benefits. Dried mint also works well as a pest repellant. Use with care, though, because in large amounts, mint can affect the endocrine system, and like many herbs, over-use by pregnant or lactating women is warned against.



Image via pixabay/AllNikArt

In addition to adorning plates and combatting breath issues, parsley is also high in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It helps promote healthy bones and good vision, while boosting immunity. It is also believed to help prevent diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and even some types of cancer. It is not safe for pregnant women to consume large amounts, as it can promote uterine contractions.



Image via pixabay/Justugly

This plant has been used throughout history as an herb, although it is said to have some toxicity and should never be consumed in large amounts (it’s probably best for pregnant/nursing women to avoid it completely). So, like many others, I’ll consider rue an ornamental herb and just hope it brings all the butterflies and bees to the yard.

Rue works well as a companion plant, because its scent often keeps animals and pests like Japanese beetles out of the garden. (In fact, the dried leaves can be kept as a bug repellant.) It’s important to wear gloves when handling rue, because it can cause rashes and phototoxicity (which may create blisters in response to sunlight).



Image via pixabay/marionkollmeier

Got ghosts? No problem. Do a sage rubbing and drive off any unsavory spirits. My tongue may be in my cheek right now, but many people value sage for this use. I’ve never had the need, but if I did? Point me to the nearest smudge stick.

In addition to being a ghost-fighter and a culinary herb, sage is also used medicinally. The leaves are said to help relieve digestive problems, menstrual issues, and possibly even combat the chemical imbalances that cause Alzheimer’s. It can be applied directly to the skin to help treat mouth and nasal irritation. Sage tea can be used to dry up breast milk during weaning. It can also darken graying hair (with repeated use), and be used topically to help combat oily skin or acne.

Because sage contains thujone, a chemical known to cause seizures and/or damage to the liver and nervous system, large doses or prolonged use are to be avoided. Not safe for use in pregnant women, those with diabetes, hormone-sensitive conditions, or blood pressure issues.



Image via pixabay/Hans

I bought the creeping variety of thyme, hoping it will act as a ground cover in my garden. Anything that helps control weeds is a friend of mine! Also, though I don’t have any issues with deer, it acts as a deer repellant and may deter them from consuming nearby plants. Like other types of thyme, it is edible. Either the leaves alone can be harvested or sprigs can be snipped off and dried, and the leaves removed later. It smells and tastes fairly similar to mint and can be used to flavor foods or in teas. Last, but not least, it is loved by bees!


That’s it for now, as far as our garden grows, but how about you? Do you have an (h)erb garden or a Herb’s garden? What herbs do you like best? I’d love to hear recommendations!


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


Sources and recommended reading:

H. A. O'Connor

Hot Process Soap – *Ready to use quickly!* – Green Marble (Citrusy Bergamot)

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Hot Process Soap – *Ready to use quickly!* – Green Marble (Citrusy Bergamot)

When I recently noticed my family was running low on our homemade soap, I knew hot process was the way to go. Why? It’s easy to make (as long as you don’t mind dedicating a slow cooker to soap making–you might pick one up secondhand, if so). It’s also ready to use much sooner than cold process soap. Instead of taking four to six weeks (or longer) to cure, as cold process soap does, hot process soap is technically ready to use within days. That said, allowing it to cure for a week or two will help any remaining moisture evaporate, making the soap harder and longer-lasting.

I really enjoyed making this soap and hope you’ll enjoy watching! Even better, maybe you’ll even give this homemade, hot process soap recipe a try!

*Note: I used a recipe from one of my blog posts to make this soap, which includes the lovely scented Aroma Foundry Bergamot Essential Oil. The original blog post can be found here.

*In case you have any trouble finding the recipe in that post, I’ll share it again here:

Citrusy and Simple Bergamot Soap: (formulated using the lye calculator from

8.36 ounces distilled water

3.24 ounces lye (NaOH)

10 ounces coconut oil

8 ounces grapeseed oil

4 ounces olive oil

0.5 ounce Aroma Foundry Bergamot Essential Oil

optional–approx. 1 tsp clay (e.g. rose, kaolin, bentonite, etc. – I used green zeolite clay)

optional–mica (as desired, for color)

Directions: add the lye to the water (NOT the water to the lye)–*Important: lye/water solution will heat up quickly and give off fumes, plus it can burn skin (so, do this step in a well-ventilated area, wearing protective eyewear, gloves, etc., and allow the solution to cool quite a bit before using–I find it easiest to work at somewhere between room temperature and 100 degrees F). (Note: lye reacts to aluminum, so don’t use any while soaping.)  Melt the oils together over a double boiler, add clay (if using; clay can also be added later, with the essential oils). Once the lye/water solution has cooled, mix into the oils, using an immersion (stick) blender. Add essential oil. Color with mica (if using). Pour into a soap-safe mold and allow at least 24 hours for soap to set and 4-6 weeks before use.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy!

H. A. O'Connor

Saving the Green: Earth-wise, Budget-friendly Choices

Earthy, Living Sustainably, Natural and Noteworthy, Neighborhood Homesteading 2 Comments
Saving the Green: Earth-wise, Budget-friendly Choices

Green is one of my favorite colors. I like it in terms of growing, planty things, and I like it in terms of cash. Nope, I’m not materialistic, but I am a realist (as much as reality requires, anyway).

Since nature and I are already on pretty good terms and because I’m trying to form a nice, healthy friendship with money, I’ve been looking into ways people can help save the green (both kinds). Here’s what I’ve found, so far:

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

General Household:

Reusable/washable “paper” towels – leftover fabric (flannel, fleece) can be cut into squares and used to wipe counters, tables, etc., as an alternative to paper towels. Some people go the extra mile, add a terry cloth backing and store them in a pretty basket, but I’m easy (lazy): I keep mine in a drawer and, once used, throw them in the wash.

Hand towels – if you’re not already using hand towels in your kitchen, trust me, they work just as well there as they do in the powder room. I usually hang two: one for drying hands and the other for drying dishes. Again, they’re easy to toss into the wash and they further reduce the need for paper towels.

Stainless steel straws – have you seen the video of the poor sea turtle with the plastic drinking straw lodged in its nostril? No joke, I ordered my stainless straws the day I saw it. Here’s the video, if you want to see. You may never be the same again. *Warning: contains strong language and graphic images. 

Stainless/glass water bottles – bottling your drinks at home is cheaper than buying bottled water, etc. No plastic is even better than recycled plastic.

Reusable bags – we use these whenever we can; however, when we do get plastic bags from the store, we reuse them at home (and recycle the torn ones). That said, our goal is to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) our use of plastic bags in the future.

No-throw lunch items – when packing lunches, we use washable containers (plastic or glass), stainless steel bottles (rather than juice boxes, etc.), and forks/spoons from home–no need for the use-and-toss stuff. Beeswax-coated fabric is a great alternative to plastic wrap, too (from what I’ve heard–I still need to try it), and a cloth napkin can be brought home and washed. Also, we use insulated lunch bags, which usually last a couple of years (and we save brown paper bags for school field trips).

Image via pixabay/falco


Back to nature – in terms of food, closer to nature is generally better for our health and the environment. This is especially true with locally grown food–there are more nutrients in fresher foods; plus, when food travels a shorter distance to get to you, that equals less pollution. You can trying growing your favorite herbs, vegetables, fruits, berries right in your own back yard (or in containers on a patio or balcony). Good soil, clean water, and sunlight are pretty much all it takes.

Foods as medicine – healthy foods, even right down to common yard weeds, have traditionally served both as preventative healthcare and as medicinal treatment. I say, Eat your weeds! (Too far? Sorry if you’re not with me on that one yet.)

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

Personal care:

Safety razors with replaceable blades – these are on my wish list, because I haven’t made my way through my plastic razors yet…

Simple oils as moisturizers – I just apply a simple oil to damp skin and it keeps my largest organ happy and healthy. For my body, I’ve been using grapeseed oil, which is light, absorbs easily, and contains a lot of skin-loving Vitamin E. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find, plus it’s not loaded with chemicals or preservatives. Likewise, for our faces, my husband uses rosehip seed oil and I use argan oil, which I adore… (More on that in another post.)

DIY self-care products (from the same basic ingredients) – I make soaps, body butters, balms (including lip balms), homemade deodorant, and much more, using a fairly small group of ingredients (things like coconut and olive oil, beeswax and essential oils)…I’ll share the list once I compile one (a task which I’m now adding to my to-do list…) *By the way, as I mentioned in another post, milk of magnesia also makes for a great, safe deodorant…one without chemicals or additives.

DIY makeup – although I still buy foundation and mascara, I make the rest of my makeup myself. As I’ve shown in my YouTube video, I use colloidal oatmeal tinted with cocoa for face powder, activated charcoal for eyeliner, and arrowroot powder, mica, and cocoa powder for eye shadow. Yes, that’s right. Food on my face.

Cloth diapers – I absolutely love my babies (as big as they are now), but I changed my millionth diaper long ago and grandkids are still a long way off, so you’re on your own with this one…

Feminine products – menstrual cups and washable cloth sanitary pads are becoming increasingly popular; they’re two options for women which not only benefit the environment, but also protect us from the harmful chemicals that can be found in many mainstream products. These items can also help save money (after initial purchasing costs).

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0


White vinegar = use in dishwasher as a drying agent, and in clothes washer in place of fabric softener

Vinegar (diluted) = windows, tile floors, etc.

Vinegar (diluted) + baking soda = scrub tubs and sinks, helps clean out drains (*Also: hydrogen peroxide + baking soda = stain-removing scrub, safe for some surfaces)

Vinegar (diluted) + essential oils (peppermint, tea tree, lavender, and lemon are some of my cleaning favorites–they kill germs while freshening the house) = cleaning spray for counters, cabinets, etc. *Vinegar may not be safe to use on some surfaces, so please do your research and use with caution

Vinegar (diluted) + essential oils + liquid castile soap = great when you need a little soapy-ish boost (although castile soap doesn’t really lather, so don’t expect bubbles)

Image via pixabay/Alexas_Fotos


Pet towels – we’ve designated old bath towels for use on the pets, for bath time or muddy feet. They also double as great picker-uppers if the pups get sloppy with their water bowls or if one of the humans spills a drink.

Dawn dish soap – this works well if you have a flea problem–wash, rinse, repeat (and then probably repeat again in a day or two)

Security system + smoke detector + fire alarm + crumb cleaner-upper + stress reducer + cheerer-upper + seat saver + foot warmer + all-around snuggly cuddler = pets (*Note: cats reserve the right to leave all–or most–crumb cleaning-upping to the dogs)

Images via pixabay/teadrinker

Last, but never least: Reduce, reuse, recycle always and in all the ways you can. (At least that’s something to strive for.) Those three Rs will reduce landfill fill, while saving money. Win, win. No question.

This is what I call a “living list.” It will evolve as my knowledge and experience do. All in all, though, I think the best rule of thumb for saving the green (if that’s your goal) is to make the transition how and when you’re able. Rather than seizing everything you own and dumping it all into a landfill somewhere, make good use of the items you have and recycle or reuse them as you’re able. When the things around you need to be replaced, that’s the time to go for the green–doing some research can help you find the eco-friendly items which will best suit your needs.

It might take some time to adjust to a greener life, but I’ve found it addictive in the best way. I can’t help hoping it’s contagious.

H. A. O'Connor

Homemade Happenings…with Aroma Foundry Essential Oils

Earthy, Natural and Noteworthy, Natural Beauty 1 Comment
Homemade Happenings…with Aroma Foundry Essential Oils

I recently received an invitation to sample some essential oils from Aroma Foundry, so of course I immediately broke into my mad scientist laugh and began plotting world domination planning what I would do with them. *Here* (<- click) is an accurate portrayal of my reaction. No lie. 😉 (Anyone who loves essential oils will completely understand.)

CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=638306

I cackled and paced my way into some semblance of self-control, and then I whittled down my intentions to a few favorites (which, by the way, I’ve listed below.) Before sharing them, though, I wanted to mention some of the things that are particularly exciting about Aroma Foundry’s Essential Oils. They are:













*100% pure–undiluted, with no synthetic additives

*Sourced in individual locations–in the US or wherever the native habitats are (each source location is shared on the website and individual bottles)

*Hand-bottled in the US (Sunny Cali)

*Guaranteed to be of consistent quality

*Produced in small, artisanally crafted batches

*Reasonably and competitively priced

*Good looking! From the bottles, to the labels, to the individual boxes

*They’d make great gifts (*wink wink, nudge nudge*)

Now, get ready…’cause we’re cookin’ with oils! 


Image via pixabay/JPSSantos
*Warning: cold-pressed Bergamot is phototoxic, which means it can produce a bad burn if left on your skin and exposed to the ultraviolet portion of sunlight. For safety’s sake, I’ve opted to use it in a soap recipe.

Citrusy and Simple Bergamot Soap: (formulated using the lye calculator from

8.36 ounces distilled water

3.24 ounces lye (NaOH)

10 ounces coconut oil

8 ounces grapeseed oil

4 ounces olive oil

0.5 ounce Aroma Foundry Bergamot Essential Oil

optional–approx. 1 tsp clay (e.g. rose, kaolin, bentonite, etc.)

optional–mica (as desired, for color)

Directions: add the lye to the water (NOT the water to the lye)–*Important: lye/water solution will heat up quickly and give off fumes, plus it can burn skin (so, do this step in a well-ventilated area, wearing protective eyewear, gloves, etc., and allow the solution to cool quite a bit before using–I find it easiest to work at somewhere between room temperature and 100 degrees F). (Note: lye reacts to aluminum, so don’t use any while soaping.)  Melt the oils together over a double boiler, add clay (if using; clay can also be added later, with the essential oils). Once the lye/water solution has cooled, mix into the oils, using an immersion (stick) blender. Add essential oil. Color with mica (if using). Pour into a soap-safe mold and allow at least 24 hours for soap to set and 4-6 weeks before use.


Image via Unsplash/Annie Spratt
Mentholy-Mix Balm: (*adapted from humblebee & me’s “Cool & Clear Eucalyptus Balm”)

.4 ounces beeswax

1.28 ounces olive oil (*mine was infused with broad leaf plantains–I have a how-to video on infusing oils, here)

15 drops Aroma Foundry’s Eucalyptus Essential Oil

5 drops Aroma Foundry’s Lavender Essential Oil

5 drops Aroma Foundry’s Peppermint Essential Oil

5 drops Aroma Foundry’s Rosemary Essential Oil

Directions: melt beeswax into olive oil over a double boiler. Add essential oils, stir. Pour into a container. (*I’ll use one of my Infinity Jars, so it will keep as long as possible.) Allow to cool before using.


Image via Unsplash/Callum Cockburn
Lavender Lotion Bars (*adapted from The Nerdy Farm Wife’s Calendula Lotion Bars)

3 ounces beeswax

3 ounces shea butter (or other butter of your choice)

3 ounces sunflower oil (an infused oil is even better–I used a wild violet infused oil. Watch my YouTube video on infusing oils, here).

10-20 drops Aroma Foundry’s Lavender Essential Oil

Directions: melt beeswax, butter, and oil together over a double boiler. Mix in essential oil and pour into small molds. Allow to cool before use. Refrigerating will extend the life of your bars.

Ylang Ylang

Image via pixabay/mayapujiati

Ylang Ylang Body Butter (*adapted from Wellness Mama’s Natural Whipped Body Butter)

6 ounces shea butter

6 ounces cocoa butter

6 ounces coconut oil

6 ounces sweet almond oil (or other skin-friendly, light oil)

10-20 drops Aroma Foundry’s Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Directions: melt oils and butters over a double boiler. After heating, stir in essential oil. Chill until oils begin to harden, then whip until light and fluffy. Store in containers and refrigerate to prolong the life of the body butter. *Remember when applying: a little goes a long way; best when used on damp skin.













Hope you have fun with these recipes if you get a chance to try them! Can’t wait to get to work! Mwuhahahahaha… 

H. A. O'Connor

What You Wish For

Earthy, Ethereal, For the love of animals, Parenting, Searching for Inspiration 2 Comments
What You Wish For

There are times in my house–quiet times–when you wouldn’t know we had any pets at all…unless you looked around, that is. Dogs seem to be dozing all over the place (often with our lone cat somewhere in their midst). Don’t even get me started on the other evidence: fur.

At other times, even if you closed your eyes, there’d be no mistaking that there are more than a couple of dogs here. They burst into activity and seem to be everywhere at once, wrestling and chasing one another, barking or play-growling, hunting down and dismembering unsuspecting chew toys.

Here’s a little clip of most of them, doing a bit of their doggy thing.

Today, during one such moment of canine chaos, I thought, I feel like I’m living in the middle of a wolf pack. The thought, in turn, struck a memory: I once wished for this.

Years ago, I’d read about a couple who lived in a national park somewhere, surrounded by nothing but woods and wildness. They were there to study the wolves, and could sometimes even watch the pack’s interactions through the windows of their home. How peaceful, I’d thought. I could do that. Part of me–most of me–could really love that life.

Image via pixabay/Der_Windsurfer

Another time, I’d read an article about a family who’d adopted a great big bunch of kids–all colors and creeds, ages and sizes. That, too, I felt I could love. I’ve discussed adoption with my husband many times over the years, and at one point, “the more, the merrier” sounded really, really good. I’m someone who enjoys quiet and craves solitary moments, someone who loves a tidy, clean house–not that I remember how it feels to have such a house–but I was willing to trade those preferences in return for so much giving and receiving of love. I wanted to expand our family by opening it to those who didn’t have one. I wanted to love multitudes.

Image via pixabay/Theo_Q (image is cropped)

The funny thing is, I feel like the universe has granted me those wishes in a roundabout way. Sure, they’ve been altered, but still…

I have my wolf pack. Not only can I watch their wild play through the windows, but they also carry it indoors, often right up onto and across my lap. True, only one of them can really qualify as lap-dog sized, but on the upside, there’s no such thing as catching a chill when you’re resting in this house–not with a dog curled up in front of your chest, another behind your legs, maybe one nestled by your feet, possibly another perched along the top of the couch, and the fifth and final (and largest) lying on the floor next to you. It can get pretty cozy, living inside a wolf pack, but that’s not so bad.

I have my adopted family, too. Our dogs certainly don’t qualify as children, yet we’ve taken those who were without families and we’ve opened our home and hearts to them. Not that I wouldn’t love to welcome a child or two (maybe more?) into our family–if I had the money and the time and the sanity to spare–but the older I get, the more I have to acknowledge that ship has most likely sailed. Yet we love our dogs and you’d better believe they give that love right back, with some to spare.

There are definitely times when I fantasize about having only one or two pets (not that I’d trade any of ours for anything). Days when I’ve just finished sweeping or vacuuming and already there are little wisps of fur floating toward the floor. Moments when I panic. So. Many. Dogs. What have I done? It can be a little too much of a good thing, but in my defense (probably my only defense), it’s hard to say no to kids and puppies, especially when you love them both. Regardless, I asked for this…in some way or another…and the universe saw fit to give it to me.

There’s a Buddhist quote that says, “Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.” (From The Dhammapada; for the complete quote, visit: King’s Lynn Triratna Buddhists: Dharma Quote of the Week.) Though this quote has much more depth of meaning than what I’m discussing here, I feel the two ideas are related. If you think a certain way, your mind begins to focus in that direction. Your perspective will be affected, your choices will align with your beliefs, and the course of your life may become deeply altered over time. I think of this, in very basic terms, like driving a car: if you turn your head one way or the other, there’s a pretty good chance your steering wheel will follow.

The moral of my post? You know it already: watch what you wish for (because you just might get it).

Is there anything in your life that could make you think, I wished for this? How do you feel about it? Was this something you simply wanted, or was there some part of it you truly needed? Are you on the right road, or Is it time to straighten the steering wheel?

H. A. O'Connor

Some Essential Oil Essentials

Earthy, Natural and Noteworthy 3 Comments
Some Essential Oil Essentials

Essential oils. You’ve heard of them, right? They’re being used all over the place, these days. Yet, they’re not always being used safely.

Recently, Aroma Foundry invited me to sample some of their essential oils and share my thoughts. I’m really looking forward to trying them out (they smell absolutely delicious!), but I thought that even before I share my experience with them, I’d better go over some essential oil basics.

So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I mean, what are essential oils?

Image via pixabay/kerdkanno

Essential oils are made by plants and stored either internally or on the plant’s surface. They serve a number of purposes: to attract pollinators, to help plants compete with other plants (e.g. by limiting or preventing the growth of other, nearby plants–“allelopathy”), to deter would-be predators, and to maintain plant health, through the oils’ antifungal and antibacterial properties. (Information summarized from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA).)

The essential oils are collected from the plant, either through steam distillation or cold pressing. During the distillation process, plant materials (leaves, flowers, etc.) are suspended over boiling water; the steam pulls out the plant’s essential oils as it rises, and then it is gathered, via a tube, carrying the essential oils with it. During cold pressing, essential oils are collected from applying pressure to plant material, to express the oils (e.g. citrus oils are pressed from the skin of citrus fruit).

Image via Unsplash/Jonathan Pielmayer

A very large quantity of plant material must be used to obtain essential oils. For instance, Mountain Rose Herbs says that 60 whole roses are used to produce only one drop of its rose essential oil. It is this factor that makes essential oils anywhere from 50 to 100 times more concentrated than those oils in the plant (Tisserand).

It is because of this high concentration that essential oils must be respected and treated with care.

It may help to think of it this way: if you drink a cup of tea for health benefits, it is made from only about a teaspoon of dried leaves, diluted in water. You’re only consuming a very small amount of plant constituents. However, if you add even just a few drops of an essential oil to a drink, you’re getting a very, very strong dose of that plant’s components. Furthermore, essential oils don’t dilute in water, so you are likely to be receiving a fully concentrated dose, which has the potential to be very dangerous.

Image via pixabay/mitchf1

Since essential oil safety is so important, I’d like to share some Basic Essential Oil Safety Guidelines:

(*There are literally books upon books published on this subject and I am in no way an expert on essential oils, so I can’t go into any real depth here. Please consult a professional aromatherapist, herbalist, and/or doctor before using essential oils; also, please refer to the resources at the end of this post for additional information.)

*Don’t ingest, unless you really, really know what you’re doing (*most people don’t have this level of knowledge about essential oils, so I would strongly recommend against ingesting any essential oils. I do not ingest them.)

*Don’t apply to mucus membranes, which, as Robert Tisserand (one of world’s leading experts in aromatherapy) says, is another way of saying don’t put them in your mouth

*Don’t apply to skin “neat” (undiluted)–always dilute with a carrier oil, before applying to skin. (*Some examples of carrier oils are avocado oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, hemp oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, sweet almond oil, etc.)

*There is a risk of allergic reactions with essential oils, which increases with use, especially if ingested or applied neat

*Even when properly diluted, you must always be careful about the types of essential oils you apply to skin (some oils are phototoxic, which means they react to sunlight and can give you a very, very bad burn–even if diluted properly; some oils can cause allergic reactions; some can cause irritations)

*Essential oils do NOT dilute in water, so drinking them or using them in a bath exposes you to the full concentrate of the oil and can be very dangerous; essential oils must be diluted in carrier oils (such as jojoba oil, olive oil, etc., as mentioned above)

*Don’t inhale directly for an extended time (15 minutes or longer); diffused oils are safer to inhale, but exposure still should be limited and only used intermittently

*Essential oils are flammable; do NOT use near an open flame

*Keep in a safe, secure place, away from children

*Don’t use with babies or young children unless very, very diluted and even then, with extreme caution. (I would not use on or near babies or young children, personally.) Always do your research and err on the side of caution when using with older children, as well. (*Also, never use on or near children who aren’t your own, without first obtaining parent/guardian consent–I’ve heard many stories of people being furious with nannies or daycare providers for exposing children to essential oils when it wasn’t approved)

*Be extra cautious about essential oil use during pregnancy or while nursing (consult with a professional first and do your research)

*Be very wary of applying to pets (consult with your veterinarian beforehand; take precautions as you would with a child)

*Be careful of using around people with allergies

*Be respectful of the fact that not everyone will enjoy your essential oils as much as you do

*Essential oils, like many other natural products, are not regulated and therefore, you may receive something other than what you’re expecting. Essential oils that are not pure (mixed with unknown substances) elevate the risks listed above. Do your research and choose a reputable company as your source for EOs.

*Tisserand and others offer reference charts for essential oil dilutions, etc.

Image via Unsplash/Katherine Hanlon

Whew! Now that we’ve gone through the worrisome stuff, here’s a little intro to the fun part…Some Essential Oil Uses:


*Homemade personal care products (things like soaps, body butters, sugar scrubs)

*Homemade cleaning products, to boost cleaning power

*Pest deterrent (e.g. ants don’t like cinnamon or peppermint, etc.)

*Diffusers, including wearable clay diffusers (here’s mine: I put a drop of oil on the side of the clay pendant that doesn’t touch my skin)


I’ll be revisiting essential oils soon, with more of the fun stuff to share!

For now, here are some great resources for more information:

FREE Aromatherapy courses: from Aromahead Institute, Robert Tisserand’s FREE mini-courseThe School for Aromatic Studies, and others

Some good sources for learning more about essential oil safety: Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals by Robert Tisserand and Rodney YoungTisserand Institute Safety Guidelines

Websites:–Li is a qualified aromatherapist and herbalist, and she gave me some great recommendations while writing this blog (Thank you, Li! :)) She just relocated to this new website, and plans to offer online classes soon!

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA)

H. A. O'Connor

Happy (Belated) Beltane!

Earthy, Ethereal, Natural and Noteworthy, Searching for Inspiration 4 Comments
Happy (Belated) Beltane!

Well, spring was here…and gone…and here…and…so I’ve decided it’s all right that I’m a little late with my Beltane wishes, which should have happened around the first of May. Beltane is one of a number of seasonal celebrations based on ancient Celtic festivals (and often practiced by modern pagans–and others, like me).

The Celtic festivals centered around the seasons: four of them mark the change of season (solstice or equinox) and four mark the midpoints between. Beltane marks the point between the spring equinox and summer solstice, also known as one of my absolute favorite times of the year.

By User:The Wednesday Island, after en:User:Brenton.eccles –
Based on en:Image:Wheel_of_the_Year.gif but redrawn, Public Domain,

I consider myself essentially to be a Celtic mutt, based on mostly a mix of Irish, Scottish, (probably) Welsh, etc. ancestry, so I’ve long been interested in these ancient festivals. Since I’m refreshing my memory on them, I thought I’d share.

The word Beltane is Celtic for “fires of Bel.” Belenus was one of the most widely worshipped Celtic gods, apparently known as “The Bright [or Shining] One.” Beltane was celebrated at a time when the barren landscape of winter had begun to burst forth again into life. The Hawthorn, or May-tree, was showing its abundance of snowy white blossoms and the land was coloring itself a fresh, vibrant green. People would be preparing to turn out their livestock into summertime pastures, so at Beltane, they’d burn ritual fires for the animals to pass between. This, they believed, would help protect the livestock and ensure their fertility. Fertility for the people themselves was also of the utmost importance, so Beltane was often a time for couples to court or marry.

Hawthorn, or May-tree, in bloom

Some of the ways people celebrated (and continue to celebrate) Beltane, was by lighting these bonfires, which were central to the festival. The merrier the bonfire bash, the better, no? Also, maypoles aren’t phallic by accident. They represent the fertility of Beltane, with its burgeoning life. People have historically danced around maypoles, while decorating them with colored ribbons and flowers, including those of the Hawthorn.

I’m not an ancient Celt or a practioner of paganism, but I’m perfectly prepared to celebrate Beltane (even belatedly). I can offer gratitude for the physical fertility I’ve had in my life (no need for more of that, thank you very much), but I can also welcome in other types of fertility and abundance–creative and spiritual fertility, and maybe some financial abundance would be nice. Spring is here, with its new beginnings, and bountiful summer is on its way. I don’t need a better reason to celebrate, do you?

If I dance around my May-tree, you’ll join me, right?

H. A. O'Connor

Liquid Gold–My Favorite Golden Milk Recipe

Earthy, Natural and Noteworthy No Comment
Liquid Gold–My Favorite Golden Milk Recipe

Turmeric has apparently been used medicinally for about 4,000 years…so you might say I’m hopping onto the turmeric bandwagon a little late. It’s all right if you are, too, though. There’s plenty of room!

Previously, I’ve taken turmeric as a supplement and even added it to my homemade cosmetics for a touch of warm color, but I only got around to trying Golden Milk a week ago. Here’s the picture to prove it:

I was so excited, I posted a photo to my Instagram account

For that first attempt, I went with a basic cow’s milk recipe: Wellness Mama’s turmeric tea/golden milk. Very simple and tasty. Next, a really nice friend shared some of her Golden Milk Powder from Gaia Herbs with me. (Thanks again, Colleen!) That was yummy (I especially liked the spices) and it was also super easy to make–just add a teaspoon of the powder to whatever kind of warm milk you prefer and give it a stir. Another recipe I tried and enjoyed was Minimalist Baker’s Easy Vegan Golden Milk, which used almond milk and coconut milk, rather than dairy. I thought this one was pretty great, but I still wanted to make my own version. So, I did some tweaking and came up with this recipe–a yummy, decadent-ish drink that’s good for your health, to boot.

(*Adapted from the Minimalist Baker’s Easy Vegan Golden Milk)

Image via pixabay/Ajale

My Favorite, Easy-Peasy, Yummilicious Golden Milk Recipe:

400 ml (about 1 ¾ c) coconut milk (*canned or from carton—I used 1 full can)

400 ml (about 1 ¾ c) unsweetened almond milk

1 ¾ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 ¼ TBSP coconut oil

Pinch ground black pepper

½ tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)

Honey, maple syrup, etc. to taste (optional; also, don’t choose honey if you want the drink to be vegan)

(*Those are the basic ingredients, but if you’d like to spice things up a bit, here are some options:

pinch cardamom

pinch ashwagandha

very small pinch cloves

very small pinch saffron)


In a saucepan, combine the ingredients over medium heat. I chose to combine them with a stick blender (while heating), until everything was emulsified and frothy; however, you could also use a regular kitchen blender to combine (before heating) or whisk by hand (while heating). Makes at least two, guilt-free, good-for-you servings.

*Note: black pepper and coconut oil are believed to aid in the absorption and/or delay the breakdown of turmeric and prolong exposure–therefore both increase turmeric’s numerous benefits (which are listed below).


Image via pixabay/Mareefe

FYI–Health benefits of the spices in golden milk:

*I’m not a healthcare professional, so please check with your doctor regarding these ingredients if you have any concerns. 

Turmeric (thanks to its main active ingredient–curcumin) is the star of golden milk. It is anti-inflammatory (helps treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases), antibacterial, and antioxidant; it can increase levels of the brain hormone BDNF (which boosts the growth of new neurons and fights degenerative processes); it helps fight heart disease (anticoagulant, regulates cholesterol, etc.); it may help prevent and even treat cancer; may also help treat Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes, and depression; acts as a digestive aid; helps manage pain; and has anti-aging properties. Risks: anti-coagulant, large doses may increase risk of bleeding.

Ginger takes on the role of best supporting actor in golden milk. It is great for stomach upset (reduces nausea and vomiting); anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant; stimulates circulation; acts as a digestive aid and helps prevent stomach ulcers. Risks: contains oxalate, so people with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones may need to avoid.

Cinnamon contains antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal; reduces high cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as high blood pressure; helps fight diabetes by improving sensitivity to insulin and lowering blood sugar levels; helps improve brain function and defends against neurological disorders; may help lower cancer risk; boosts immunity; boosts oral health; helps fight allergies; improves skin health. Risks: may cause skin irritation; cassia cinnamon in very high doses can be toxic, especially to people with liver problems; lowers blood sugar, so this will need to be considered by diabetics taking cinnamon supplements.

Black Pepper increases the absorption of nutrients (*note: some say black pepper increases the absorption of turmeric, while others say it helps prevent the breakdown of turmeric in the gut and liver and allows it to remain in the body longer; either is a benefit); aids digestion; contains antioxidants; helps fight cancer, arthritis and depression; benefits oral health. Risks: can cause skin irritation or respiratory irritation if inhaled; use is contraindicated for people taking certain drugs (cyclosporine A, cholinergic, digoxin, and cytochrome P450); can cause stomach upset.

(Additional/optional spices):

Cardamom aids digestion; is antibacterial and contains antioxidants; helps fight cancer; helps treat asthma symptoms; helps detoxify the body; high in heart-healthy minerals. Risks: in large doses can cause problems for people who have gallstones (can cause spasmodic pain/gall stone colic).

Ashwagandha boosts immunity; combats anxiety and depression; helps treat infertility, inflammation, diabetes, and cataracts; stimulates thyroid; is antibacterial; helps strengthen the heart and manage cholesterol. Risks: should not be used during pregnancy, because of the risk of miscarriage; should not be used by nursing mothers; should be avoided by people who are allergic to nightshade plants (Solanacea sensitivity); patients with hyperthyroidism should consult a doctor before use.

Cloves help improve digestion and treat nausea and vomiting; treat joint pain and respiratory problems; improve headaches, earaches, and acne; help treat stress. Risks: overconsumption can thin blood and increase risk of bleeding; lowers blood sugar; may cause sensitivity in the mouth or skin; can cause allergic reactions or respiratory issues; large doses can cause seizures.

Saffron is high in minerals, such as copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium; aids in digestion and can work as an anticonvulsant; contains antioxidants and can help combat depression and anxiety; may help treat PMS and Alzheimer’s Disease. Risks: sleepiness, headache, upset stomach; in higher doses, may thin blood and also cause mood swings; should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.

Image via pixabay/pexels

Natural supplements are not regulated, so it’s best to buy your ingredients from a reputable source. I bought my spices (in bulk–yay!) from Penzeys and am really pleased!

Newest release! Take a peek:

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