Category: Earthy

Nov 28

Instant Puppies, Just Add Water

Turns out I’ve become an instant puppy mom (and, yes, they do need water). Food, too. Plus, lots and lots of newspaper for potty time.

I volunteer at a wonderful animal rescue, where dogs and donkeys, peacocks and pigs, egg-layers and an emu named Simon all live on a lovely little farm with a spectacular view. Once a week, I get to visit all the newly arrived dogs, as well as the long-time residents, a trio of little old men–two Doxies and a Chihuahua–who each¬†own a part of my heart. There’s one place I don’t often go, though, and that’s the puppy room. Sure, I take a peek every once in a while, to see all those darling baby faces, but my volunteer job isn’t to walk the puppies, so I keep my distance. Too much tugging at heartstrings. I’m sure you understand.

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Simon: emu, flirt.

Well, the pups tracked me down, anyway. In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, a large litter of ten puppies arrived at the shelter. Five were in good shape and five were smaller and underweight. With ten mouths to feed, it’s a wonder their poor mother was able to keep any well-fed. A foster home was needed for the five neediest puppies, but volunteers were scarce because of the holiday. Cue: me.

“Sure, I can do it,” I offered. It’ll be tough, I thought, but how hard can it really be? They’re only puppies.

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C Puppies: Cassie, Carson, Clara, Charlie, Cooper

My mantra soon became: what’s harder than taking care of five puppies? Answer: taking care of five sick puppies.

They weren’t sick, not really. They’d been through a lot. Shifted from one place, to the next, until they landed in my home. Their environment was new; their food was new. That can be difficult on puppy tummies. Very difficult, apparently. Now cue: round the clock digestive troubles. I went through several rolls of paper towels, several containers of cleaning wipes, and a large pile of newspaper, carefully saved since last winter, intended to help start our fireplace. Also, I gave up sleep. Lots and lots and lots of sleep.

Regardless, we got through it without any crying. Close, but no crying. I promise. I’m also not talking about the puppies.

All that tough stuff aside, can I tell you? Puppies. A-dor-a-ble. Sweet, round, shiny eyes. Soft, downy fur. Little tiny feet. Darling smily faces.

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Carson and Charlie, and Charlie and Carson

Now might be a good time to confess that we’re adopting two of the five. Yes, “No more puppies,” has been my go-to response, my eternal vow–for the last three years, anyway. My Bodhi was supposed to be it, the last of our puppies. Adult-only adoptions from here on out.

“I don’t have any puppies left in me.” I’ve actually said those words to people. Turns out, there were two puppies hiding.

Why two? Because: Murphy’s Law. Why would my animal-loving children fall in love with the same puppy, when they could fall in love with two different ones?

Why not five, though? Don’t get me wrong. These are all wonderful, sweet, adorable puppies. We’ve fallen in love with every single one of them, truth be told. If it were at all possible and if I’d fallen even farther off my rocker, we might actually keep these five. (Thank goodness we didn’t agree to foster all ten.)

Itty Bitty Cooper, full of spunk

It’s just the tiniest one was so tiny, and he needed to be held a lot when we first got him. We weren’t sure he’d make it. So, there was the first instance of puppy love. My daughter fell hard. Even my oldest son, who was with me on the “No more puppies” train, admired the little guy’s spunk. Then, a quiet, gentle female happened to remind us all of our dear black lab mix, Missy, who we’d lost years ago to old age and cancer. Another son, down.

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Sweet little Cassie, gentle and quiet

Honestly, I was right there with my kids, but I was still holding firm. No more puppies, remember? Hello? Anyone, remember? (My husband remembered well, but let’s quietly give that topic a little space for now.)

So, what can I say? Time passes, love grows, and mom vows wither.

We’re adopting two of our five foster pups. We’re also hoping friends, neighbors, family–people we trust and care for–are the ones to provide homes to the other three. Heck, the other seven would be nice. No pressure, anyone, but we’re counting on you. ūüėČ

Why do we do it? Why foster? Why adopt? Because there are so many–babies, adults, seniors. So many going hungry and unloved, so many mistreated. One is too many, so we do what we can.

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Carson, showing his interest in the big game, Clara waiting for a ride, Charlie trying to help her make the stroller go

As for us, I can’t say we pamper our dogs. They don’t go to salons or wear bows in their hair. Although, Nellie does occasionally get her nails painted. (It’s a thing¬†she and my daughter share.) Still, one thing all our dogs do get, in big, heaping doses, is love. Oh, plus toys. Toys, and of course they regularly take over our sofas. Still, love is the big one.

Yes, two more puppies will be an adjustment; they’ll also mean I’ve become the crazy dog lady I vowed not to be. I’ll be honest–I’m worried, but I’m not too worried. What they’ll need most is love and that’s one thing we have in large supply. Turns out, the more love you give, the more there is waiting in reserve. So crazy how that works, isn’t it?

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Puppy love

I sincerely hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving. Turns out, despite all my anti-puppy mantras, I’m thankful not only for all my wonderful, kind, amazing and loving loved ones, but also for puppies.

Nov 14

Just the Pits – Natural Deodorant Options

Are you looking for a deodorant that works well and doesn’t contain potentially harmful ingredients? I know the search, and it can be the pits. (Sorry, had to go there.)

Finding a healthy deodorant option doesn’t have to be so difficult, though. Here’s the lowdown on armpit alternatives:

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Pamper your pits, for the good of you and those closest to you

Image via pixabay/Peter Kraayvanger

Natural deodorants – Since there are oodles of options, narrowing down the field can be a big help. That’s why I was really interested when Jessica from Reviews.com reached out and told me they’d done a broad comparison of different natural deodorant brands to come up with the most pit-pleasing results. The info they presented was definitely worth a share, so I welcome you to check it out:¬†*The Best Natural Deodorant*.

Storebought natural deodorants are a great option, but some can be¬†pretty pricey. Another possibility, especially if y ou’re a DIYer like myself, is to make your own version.¬†I recently made a video of how I make my homemade natural deodorant, with ingredients like coconut oil, baking soda (optional), and arrowroot powder. (You can watch it here.)

*Note: as I mention in my video, some people find that baking soda irritates their skin. Personally, I find that applying a bit of milk of magnesia (see below for more info), seems to prevent me from any sensitivity towards the baking soda. Another option would be to leave the baking soda out of your homemade recipe or, before applying a baking soda-containing deodorant, spray/pat some apple cider vinegar onto your armpits and let it dry. The acidic vinegar and alkaline baking soda should balance one another, which will benefit sensitive skin.

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Image via FreeImages.com/SlawomirRodak

Milk of magnesia – Yes, we’re still talking about deodorant. Milk of magnesia is otherwise known as MOM in the “crunchy world.” I swear by it, as do many others. Most days, I swipe some milk of magnesia under my arms and am ready to go. Other days, I add a little of my homemade deodorant and everything’s peachy. I apply the MOM wet or as a thicker cream. ¬†(*I make the cream by pouring a small amount of the milk of magnesia into a cup–the little cup that comes with the bottle works great. Then, I wait for a day or two, while the excess water evaporates.) You might think it’s icky, but I simply apply it with my fingertips. They work better than cotton balls and I’m left with no waste. Whether I apply it as a liquid or a cream, I let it air dry and I’m on my way.

*Note: if you give this a try, you’ll want to buy the plain milk of magnesia (not mint or cherry) and check the inactive ingredients to be sure it doesn’t contain sodium hypochlorite–not all brands do.

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Images via pixabay/artemtation

Apple cider vinegar – This may work well, especially if you’re someone whose skin is irritated by the alkalinity of baking soda. The vinegar is acidic, which might be just right for your body’s needs, and it’s also a natural antiseptic. The vinegar scent is pretty pungent at first, but will fade as it dries. Consider spraying this under your arms rather than applying with a cotton ball; it’ll reduce waste.

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Image via Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Lemon juice – This works on the same principle as the apple cider vinegar. It may require a bit more effort to spray or dab your armpits daily in lemon (or lime) juice, but some people prefer the fresh scent. Just watch out for anything acidic if you’ve recently shaved!

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Image via Unsplash/Tirza van Dijk

Plain coconut oil – All hail coconut oil, right? While it doesn’t cure cancer (although that might be worth investigating?), it does help combat a lot of ills. For instance, being antimicrobial, coconut oil should kill some of the odor-causing bacteria in your armpits. On its own, though, the oil can be…well, oily, so a little might go a long way. As I mentioned above (and below), you can also try mixing it into a paste with some baking soda.

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Image via pixabay/manueltapi

Baking soda – You can make a paste of this by mixing it with some water or coconut oil, or you can try mixing a little baking soda into some organic cornstarch. When applied to underarms, the baking soda should help prevent odors. (Cornstarch should help absorb wetness.)

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Image via pixabay/evitaochel

Rubbing alcohol¬†–¬†Rubbing alcohol (or vodka) sprayed under your arms should help kill odor-causing bacteria. It can be used alone or along with a few added drops of tea tree oil or skin-safe essential oils. Again, this may sting for a bit if applied to skin that’s been shaved recently. I sometimes use EO’s deodorant spray in lavender (ethanol + essential oils) and really like it.

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Image via FreeImages.com/Jayesh Nair

Witch hazel – Witch hazel is an astringent and will help rid your skin of any trapped oils or moisture. Like rubbing alcohol, it will help kill odor-causing bacteria and can be sprayed alone on your armpits, or mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil, lavender or other skin-safe essential oils.

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Witch hazel flowers

Image via pixabay/condesign

Crystal¬†Deodorants – These are large crystals of potassium aluminum sulfate. It is believed by some that the larger molecules of aluminum in these crystals will not be absorbed through skin. Others don’t feel comfortable using aluminum at all. Personally, I tried a crystal deodorant many years ago and didn’t have any luck, but I’ve heard it works well for some.

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Image via pixabay/wingsofcompassion

Be warned, it may take a little while for your body to adjust to going au naturel, but an armpit detox¬†can definitely help speed up the process. I found this great one on wellnessmama.com, which is made up of bentonite clay, apple cider vinegar, and water, and should help rid your pits of toxins. I find that sitting with arms akimbo, airing your clay-ified pits has the added bonus of providing some family entertainment. Never a dull moment when you’re trying to live on the crunchy side of life.

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Embrace yourself, pits and all

Image via pixabay/glisando

Just to add a few quick disclaimers, these are all deodorants–not antiperspirants–so they won’t keep you from sweating. That said, you do know how chemical-based deodorants keep you from sweating, don’t you? That’s right. They stop up your pores with aluminum. Kind of makes sweat seem a little more benign.

So, when it comes to your pits, I hope you’ll decide to pamper them. Remember, our body absorbs a lot through our skin, so going with something more natural should¬†benefit your health. There are plenty of options out there. It might just be a matter of finding which one works best for you, so you don’t end up smelling like…the pits. (Sorry again. I blame the subject matter.) ūüėõ

Oct 20

Cause For Celebration!

Since I’ve already shared this on my facebook page, I knew I needed to add it here!

It’s been a great week, so far, and I’m very grateful!

(1) First and foremost, I found out my little, old Nellie (aka sweetest beagle ever), despite her respiratory issues, does not have heart problems! Yay, Nellie Bean!

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Remember Nellie? (Of course! How could you forget a face like that!)

(2) My awesome cover artist finished working on both my covers and gave me the thumbs up to share the makeover for My Watcher’s Eyes. Thanks so much for all your hard work, BJ!

img_0322My Watcher’s Eyes has a new look!

(3) Got an “OMG!” from the copy editor who worked on my sequel, When No One’s Watching. Thank you for making my day–no, my week!

(4) I get to volunteer at a doggy rescue Friday! Puppy kisses!

Hope your week is equally wonderful! Thanks for your support and I’m looking forward to sharing my upcoming release, When No One’s Watching (January 1, 2017). XO

Oct 17

Which Witch?

Can I make a confession? I kinda sorta love witches. In fact, I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid.

Which kind, you might ask? (I hope you do ask, so my title makes sense.)

Whether you’ve asked or not, I’ll answer. Not the evil kind. I’m not really a fan of Disney’s animated Maleficent or the evil witch in Snow White; I don’t prefer¬†the ones¬†in Roald Dahl’s The Witches, either (though I do love Dahl’s writing). The White Witch in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe¬†and Harry Potter’s¬†Bellatrix Lestrange are both equally magnificent¬†and repulsive. I wouldn’t want to know either one personally. Oh, and the Wicked Witch of the West¬†and her flying monkeys? Forget about it.

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You know who this looks like, don’t you?

I like some dark stuff, but not that dark.

So, which kind of witch do I enjoy? The cool kind, of course. The powerful and independent kind, even the mystical¬†and spooky kind. (Nah, Glinda the Good Witch of the South, with her cotton-candy sweetness, isn’t really my type, either.)

Pop culture has some pretty awesome ones: there’s Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the ones I adored in childhood, Samantha from Bewitched ¬†and¬†Dorrie the little witch, from the series of books by Patricia Coombs. The witches from the Harry Potter series truly are some of the best: Hermione and the ever-awesome Professor McGonagall, to name the best of the best.

Yet, I had to go back to the late 1800s to find some witches who, in a single image, embody what I’m trying to express. Thank you for your glorious creations, John William Waterhouse. I’ve chosen three of his beautiful paintings to help capture what I love most about witches.

The first, and the one which most closely represents my meaning, The Magic Circle (1886).  john_william_waterhouse_-_magic_circle

John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
PD-1923‚Äď published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

I mean, really, check her out.

There’s some darkness in this painting: the woman is alone in the middle of a barren landscape, working her magic under the scrutiny of a flock of ravens. If you’ll notice, though, inside the circle where the woman is, there is fire and light and beauty–she, herself, is beautiful, as are the flowers growing near her. The woman is connected with the earth physically through her bare feet and the moon through the sickle she holds; she is associated with nature and warmth and creation. Yes, I think Waterhouse must have kinda sorta loved witches, too.

Here’s another, Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses (1891):¬†Circe, by John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
PD-1923‚Äď published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

Who’s the star now, buddy?

So, who is the VIP in¬†this painting? Circe, the witch? Or Ulysses, the guy we see reflected in the mirror, bending into a bow? That’s right, it sure¬†isn’t Ulysses. (He looks kind of inconsequential for an epic hero, don’t you think?) Just look at Circe’s body language. She’s peering down on us (and Ulysses) from high up on her throne-ish seat, emanating regalness in her form and beauty. Time to drink up, hero boy.

My final share is another of the mythological Circe, Circe Invidiosa (1892):

Circe Invidiosa, by John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
PD-1923‚Äď published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

Can you say, “Intense?”

In this one, Circe is standing above (or on) her rival, the beautiful nymph, Scylla, whom she’s already turned into a grotesque sea monster with her baptism of poison. Here, we have the witch as femme fatale. Maybe not the most flattering depiction of female power, but enough to make you pause and take heed.

Waterhouse clearly loved the power of a woman in her state of independence. So do I. Though I am not always strong and my independence has certainly lessened some over the years (which is another topic entirely), I love it whenever I feel capable¬†and self-sufficient. In some ways, I am and have always been a free spirit. Yet, I don’t believe any of this does anything to detract from myself as a woman or as a mother and wife.

As Helen Reddy said, “I am woman, hear me roar.”

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Image via pixabay/Cupoheld

Come on, ladies, let me hear it!

To me, Waterhouse captures how witches should be represented: attuned to their own strength and female powers (their intelligence and intuition, their ability to give birth and nourish life, their embracing of their sensuality and sexuality, their strong ties to nature, and so on). To me, witches can and should revel in their independence and uniqueness.

Waterhouse’s subjects claim their spots in the limelight, nudging aside the males who normally dominate their stories (Circe from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Echo from the myth of Narcissus, Medea from the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece, etc.). These heroines are full of life; they lose nothing in claiming their innate power. Some men might shrink before such blatant femininity, but Waterhouse doesn’t. Yay, Waterhouse!

Thankfully, he’s not the only man who can appreciate female strength. My husband, for example, seems perfectly fine with my mine, whenever it shows itself. Also, just recently, I read a writer friend’s blog post, in which he discussed witches and helped inspire me to go ahead with this and related posts.

Since Walker said it so much better than I can paraphrase, I’ll quote him directly.

“Witches: Given the origins of the ‚Äúwitch‚ÄĚ concept in western culture‚ÄĒfear of female power and independence‚ÄĒit surprises me that this remains such a common fiction menace. Maybe it‚Äôs been stripped of its cultural origins‚ÄĒthe witch in Blair Witch is little more than a faceless supernatural¬†threat. Fortunately, the ‚Äúwitch‚ÄĚ concept is also used to denote positive female empowerment, as¬†in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and countless others.” – Walker McKnight,¬†It’s Hard to Build a Monster

So, yes, I love witches and I love the power of women, in general. After all, we each have our own sort of magic, don’t we?¬†As I said in my last post, fall is utterly witchy. As such, it seems like a perfect time to reclaim our inner witchiness.

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Image via pixabay/27707

Of course I can drive a stick!

How do you feel about witches? What about how they’ve been represented throughout the ages? Since I love witches so much, I know I won’t be able to limit myself to one post on them. Hope you’ll come back for more!

 

Oct 06

So, Here’s My Ode to Autumn

Whenever the seasons change, I’m filled with nostalgia. Half-formed memories tug at my brain, promising to return a forgotten moment from childhood or, more often, to steep me in the sense of infinite possibility, which lit up like fireflies inside me in my younger days (and, sometimes, still does).

Today, the fall sunlight carried me back to my grandfather’s home. I lost both of my grandfathers when I was ten, so this must have been in the years before that time. Garden plants grew gangly around me, with leaves edged in brown. Bits of sawdust filtered through the air, glinting bright in the fading sun, which left the last of its warmth on my skin. I remember noticing it all, trying to hold every facet of those moments in my little-girl heart.

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Image via Unsplash/Kristopher Roller

There was a later time, too, when I was doing the same thing–trying to grasp¬†a feeling, knowing it was fleeting even as I tried to grab hold. I was in my favorite park on my favorite hillside, sitting by myself on a blanket. I was surrounded by trees and, beyond them, was a garden I loved–a formal garden that had learned to run wild. I wish I could go back there, just for a while, to¬†spend the afternoon writing and painting like I used to do in college, when everything was possible. Then, I believed I could claim every part of myself and my story. Today, I still feel like I might have a chance.

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Image via pixabay/labenord

I’m not one to adhere to the beliefs or practices of any one religion, but this time of year, I want to get my pagan on so I can celebrate the harvest. I want to dance in the orange light of a bonfire, beneath a silver moon. If wolves howled from the darkness around me, I’d be more than tempted to join their ranks.

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Image via pixabay/mikaelelmgren

Still reading? Okay, so not everyone is affected by fall in the same way I am, but to be fair, fall is a strange time even for me. It‚Äôs a yin yang of emotions. Nostalgia and d√©j√† vu are playing tug-of-war with my senses. I feel equal parts sadness for what has passed and can never be again, mixed with the hopes and promises, which fall dances before us–lightly, evasively, like a breeze that waltzes with brittle leaves, only to drop them at our feet on its path to someplace else.

I know I‚Äôm not the only one feeling this mystical energy. Let’s face it, fall is¬†utterly witchy.

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Image via pixabay/ebpilgim

Historically, this time of year meant we should pull in our harvest, gather close the abundance of a summer‚Äôs worth of labors. As autumn days shorten, life begins to slow, and a warm, firelit hearth calls to us, as it must have done to our primitive ancestors. We‚Äôre preparing for the quiet of winter. I‚Äôm not a big fan of winter, but I’ll hunker down and do my best to hibernate my way through its long, gray days.

For now, though, I‚Äôll drink in the crisp, yellow sunrises and smoky, amber sunsets. I’ll go for long woodland hikes on warm afternoons, and wait for the sunlight to come in at that ‚Äúcertain slant‚ÄĚ through the trees, casting everything in a golden glow. Fall may be a time for reaping and slowing down, but to me, it‚Äôs also a season of perfect possibility.

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Image via pixabay/tookapic

Please tell me fall casts a spell over you, too. Happy Autumn!

Sep 02

Natural and Noteworthy: Aloe Vera

My thumb isn’t exactly green, but it has developed a vaguely-greenish tint over the years. It’s maybe a chartreuse by now.

(Side question: how many of you think of chartreuse as being a color in the pink-red-purple range, instead of the yellowish-green that it is? I’m genuinely curious, because it seems to be a “thing.” I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)

via FreeImages.comSarah Williams

Image via FreeImages.com/Sarah Williams

So that’s chartreuse??

Back to my chartreuse thumb–I love plants, but I have a system of what I loosely label “natural selection” happening at¬†my house. If a plant can survive my sometimes-sporadic care, it is welcome to stay and thrive all it wants. If it doesn’t make it? Cue the guilt.

Aloe vera is a plant that falls somewhere in between for me. I can keep an aloe plant alive for a fairly long time, but then, all of a sudden, the decline begins and I start covering mirrors in my house. (No, not really.) Still, aloe vera is a wonderful, multi-purpose plant, so I love to have one here.

*NOTE: Aloe vera is toxic to cats and dogs, so if you choose to have an aloe plant, keep it somewhere pets can’t reach! If you’d prefer not to keep an aloe plant at all, aloe vera gel is available. Just check the label, to be sure it’s pure.

How do I love thee, aloe vera? Let me count the ways:

via pixabay courtesy of unsplash

Image via pixabay/unsplash

  1. Helps to treat minor burns, including sunburns–This is why I usually keep aloe handy, somewhere in the vicinity of my stove. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, aloe compounds help reduce pain and inflammation, while promoting skin growth and repair. Just snip off an aloe leaf (as close to the base as possible, without disturbing the roots–although I sometimes only take the tip of a leaf), split it open to access the gel and rub the gel over the burn. DON’T apply to open wounds.
  2. Bug bites or minor skin irritations–As with treating minor burns, aloe’s antibacterial properties can help heal skin irritations and bring relief to bug bites (it helps with pain and discomfort very quickly).
  3. Bruises–Aloe is said to speed up recovery time when applied to bruises, by sealing the skin and offering healing properties.
  4. Rashes, cold sores–Since aloe has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it can help heal minor rashes, itchy spots, and cold sores. Simply apply the gel to the area three times a day, until the rash, etc. has healed completely.via pixabay courtesy of Birgit_H¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Image via pixabay/Birgit_H
  5. Acne–Aloe has been shown to help heal existing acne and acne scars, but it probably won’t prevent future breakouts.
  6. Moisturizer/aftershave lotion–Although aloe vera is not sufficient to moisturize skin properly on its own, it can act as a soothing component to a moisturizing system (when combined with emollients–e.g. jojoba, rosehip, or avocado oils; shea or cocoa butter–and humectants–e.g. lecithin, glycerin, or panthenol/Vitamin B5). Such a moisturizing system would work great as an aftershave treatment, as well.
  7. Face mask–To improve skin’s color and texture while reducing inflammation, apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel to your face and let dry, then remove with warm water and a wash cloth. Some people may find this drying to their skin, so be sure to follow with a moisturizer (see above).
  8. Anti-aging treatment–As part of a moisturizing treatment (see above), aloe is believed to help reduce and/or prevent wrinkles.

via pixabay courtesy of PollyDot

Image via pixabay/PollyDot

More about aloe vera:

Aloe vera is a succulent, one of hundreds of varieties of aloe plants. Though cactus-like in appearance, it is related to lilies and onions.

In caring for your aloe vera plant, you can mix some sand in with your soil and allow it to dry between waterings. Drench the soil completely when it’s time to water your aloe, but make sure the soil drains well. Aloe plants do not like standing water.

Aloe vera does not need to be fertilized, but if you choose to add a fertilizer to the soil, do it once a year (in the spring) and use a very diluted version of the fertilizer (if using your aloe for medicinal purposes, make sure you use a fertilizer for edible plants). Aloe plants are accustomed to growing in harsh conditions and usually do better in similar environments within your home.

To propagate, remove “pups” or small offshoots with their roots intact and replant. Wait until the pup is about one fifth the size of the mother plant before separating. (Sometimes they will need to be cut away from the mother plant.)

Propagating the plant through cuttings can also be done, but it is tricky and not often successful. Cut the leaf close to the base of the plant, allow the cut area to dry (one week) before replanting, to avoid infection. Dip in a rooting hormone and replant.

**Some people recommend taking aloe internally, but not enough research has been done to convince me. It is known to be dangerous when taken internally by pregnant (also possibly lactating) women. I feel similarly reluctant about using aloe to treat dental or mouth issues. Also, some people are allergic to aloe, so you should stop using it if you develop a rash or any other symptoms of an allergic reaction.

***This post is intended as a reference only and NOT to take the place of any medical advice. Always check with your doctor before trying any new treatments, including natural ones.

via pixabay courtesy of strecosa

Image via pixabay/strecosa

So, do you keep aloe vera in your home? Have you tried using it¬†for any of the above issues? Any last thoughts on the color chartreuse?? ūüôā

Aug 30

My Favorite Coffee Substitutes

I’d so like to be a “real” grownup and have a love affair with my daily cuppa: Joe, Mud, Brew, Java, Daily Grind, Bean Juice, Brain Juice, Go Juice, Jitter Juice, Battery Acid, Cup of Jolt, Liquid Lightning, Mojo, Tar, and my current¬†favorite, Brewtus. But alas, no. Coffee is just not that into me (see: Jitter Juice), so we’ve agreed to keep it platonic.

Sylwia Bartyzel

Image via Unsplash/Sylwia Bartyzel

*sigh* unrequited love

So, how¬†have I been filling my coffee-deprived mornings? Well, I drink tea sometimes, but … besides that? Pets. You heard me right. Pets.

Unless it’s raining buckets or bum-freezing cold, I plunk myself down on my front step first thing in the AM, sporting whatever mismatched concoction served as last night’s pajamas, topped off with my crazy morning hair. Then, I hang for a while with my four-leggeds.

Sure, it takes some finesse to pet four furry beings at once (side note: I’ve been brainstorming ways to add extra hands to busy-mom torsos, but still have only two as of yet. I’ll update you if there are any changes on that front). A cup of Brewtus ¬†might give me the energy boost all that petting requires, but since coffee and I are still only friends, I rely on the sparkle of sunlight, the freshness of morning breezes, and the faces of these four lovelies to start my day off right:

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Beloved Queen Molly, ruler of all. She mainly divides her time between permitting¬†well-deserved head pets or perfectly-placed chin scratches, and surveying her royal subjects from the elevation of a nearby table top. She also occasionally likes to swat at lowly canines, but only as a hobby. She is a Master Purrer and goes by the nickname World’s Bravest Cat, for consistently tolerating the obsessive stares and stalkings of a certain infatuated¬†Golden Retriever.

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Nellie Bean, aka Sweetest Beagle Ever. She tap dances when she gets really excited, but usually starts her morning with a short explore, before returning with a crooked smile and a distinctive waddle on her four-inch legs. She’s so thoughtful, she’ll even lift her front paw to make tummy rubbing an easier task. She can’t get enough of kisses or cuddles and does a spot-on impression of a stuffed animal (only her snoring gives her away). This senior-aged pup honestly couldn’t be more wonderful if she tried.

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Miss Tess or Tessa Monster, depending on how high she’s set her sass meter at any given moment. She goes from attaining a state of perfect zen inside the house (have you ever seen a dog meditate? because I have), to becoming head-spinning incensed that a bee has dared to look at her family the wrong way. She’s also the universe’s fastest runner and a world-renowned escape artist (the two titles go hand-in-hand from what I understand). She has appointed herself guard duty over our morning porch sessions, but every so often she stops by for some ear rubs and a kiss–or two or five–on the head.

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Last, but never least (especially if he has anything to say about it), is our Bodhi Bear. No, he should definitely NOT be sitting on that seat¬†in the photo above, but what can I say? The dog sees a chair and believes he belongs in it (just ask our vet) and, besides, he has a pretty fantastic smile. (We made him get down immediately after the photo-op, by the way!) Mr. Bodhi Licious is certain he’s still a very tiny puppy, so he spends our mornings on the front step squeezing himself between “Mom” and any furry family member who is vying for attention. All too often that ends with him plopping his 70+ pound self¬†onto my lap.

So there you have it, a glimpse of the magic that gets my mornings going. It’s no Cup of Sludge, but it’ll do. Besides, two of our furry loves were recently diagnosed with illnesses (thyroid and heart conditions) ūüôĀ and are also into their double-digits, so we’re treasuring every moment we’re given.

Our motto: seize the morning and the day will follow!

 

*One more aside: three of these four were official rescues and the last was “rescued” from a less-than ideal¬†situation, so as you can see, we are all for adopting! Including these guys and former pets (whom we’ve loved into old age and beyond), we’ve adopted from small, local animal rescues, as well as larger shelters.

Please spay and neuter and remember to support your local rescues and shelters! ūüôā

Aug 28

Taking Back Sunday

No, not the band. The concept.

Today is the last Sunday of summer break, so it seems even more important than usual for my family to take back the day. Where did it go, you might ask? Oh, it was stolen–by the work, technology, and myriad of other distractions that fill virtually every minute of our daily lives.

We as a people are stressed, aren’t we?

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Image via pixabay/dpkumarjt

Stress? Who’s stressed??!

The lines between worklife and homelife are increasingly blurred–in fact, many of us work from home, which has numerous benefits, but also means we lose much of the workplace’s social aspects along with the regularlity of a 9-to-5 day. Whether WorkAtHome-ers or not, we habitually¬†toil¬†through lunches, endlessly check emails, and often chug away at projects round the clock.

As for technology … ugh. People who know me well¬†know technology and I aren’t the best of friends–in fact, we’re barely on speaking terms–but I won’t launch into (much of) an anti-tech diatribe here. Instead, I’ll sum it up with one thought: technology is supposed to make our lives easier. It has done so in many ways, except in the ways it hasn’t. In today’s world, we’re busier than ever. “Downtime” has become a foreign concept, as we jump from checking emails to texting to Pokemon Go-ing (you know I had to mention it) and so on. People are having an increasingly difficult time disconnecting from the constant barrage of information and stimulation. We hardly ever take the time to be–just be–anymore.

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Image via FreeImages.com/Sarah Vaughan

Can’t we all agree to communicate through smoke signals??

So, today, this is what I want to do: be with my family.

Summer vacation is slipping through our fingers like sand. Working, texting, emailing, etc., will only make it spill faster.

This Sunday, therefore, the emails can quietly wait. The laundry can stay cuddled up in overflowing hampers. Yesterday’s unopened mail can rest easy alongside the general clutter, while outside, the weeds and grass get to soak up the sun and stretch a little taller. Today, those things can all just be–same as us.

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Image via Unsplash/Elizabeth Lies

Time to be, grass

Yes, my family and I are taking back this Sunday and then we’re going to take a walk together–at a park, maybe through the woods, somewhere beyond where the voices of our neverending chores can be heard. We’ll eat together. We’ll talk and laugh and breathe. Today, we’ll pet our dogs and cat. Maybe we’ll sit with a chicken¬†or a guinea pig in our lap.

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Just be today, Charlie

My family will take back our Sunday because we deserve it–a day of rest, a day to enjoy living, a day to be.

Happy Sunday to you–hope you take yours back, too. ūüôā

 

Jul 27

Sharing Some News, 7-27-16

Signed my publishing contract today (Woohoo!) and work is already getting started on releasing my sequel asap! :D (Looks like it will be available for pre-order December 1st and the release date should be January 1st.)

(Also put up a youtube video on how we made our chicken tractor. The girls say “Hi!” at 08:00!)

Jul 25

The Noble Act of the Dumpster Dive

Think about it, just for a moment. Dumpster diving probably doesn’t conjure up pretty images for most of us. Not for me, either.

The other morning, though, I was needing a little self-TLC, feeling tired and a bit lost, so of course I found myself on youtube, looking up videos of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. What else, right? I watched a few and then I came across a video of a single mom, raising her kids on a farm and supplementing their lifestyle with dumpster diving. Since dumpsters don’t sound like pleasant places to dive, I opted instead for another video of bouncing (literally) baby goats. But that mom and her children¬†and their dumpster trips were still there, along the side of the screen, waiting patiently with all their viewing potential.

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Image via pixabay/jlwaswilson

Hmm, baby goats? Dumpsters? Baby goats? Dumpsters?

Okay, I’ll bite, I thought. So, I watched, ready to cover my eyes if the woman¬†started sifting among messy, smelly dumpsters. Instead, what I found was a sweet young mom, raising her family on a farm in the midwest, spending her day feeding chickens and ducks with the help of her kids, going over homeschool lessons, pushing them on swings and sharing quiet laughter. It all looked pretty peaceful, to be honest. Sure, there were piles of clothing on her furniture and clutter in the corners of her rooms. She’s a single parent of four. I’m a co-parent of three and there are days when I wonder what the Health Department would have to say about our¬†house. Still, she had yet to take her viewers on a dumpster tour, so I wasn’t sold on anything.

I didn’t have to wait for long. The woman broached the topic by mentioning she’d recently picked up some coffee from a dumpster, saying the package had been resting on the top–sealed, uncontaminated. Still, my stomach waited, threatening to turn. I don’t drink coffee (caffeine doesn’t like me), so this remained safely-distant territory.

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Image via pixabay/Glen Carrie

No coffee for me. Definitely no dumpster coffee for me.

Cue the next scene: the woman¬†parked beside¬†a dumpster outside of a craft store, pulled out one of those long, reachy, grabby things (sorry–dysnomia moment), and got¬†to work. Instead of extracting an item that looked like it was ready to crawl from a lagoon, she pulled out package after package of…craft supplies, each one perfectly sealed and clean as could be. On another stop, she found brand-new toys and, later, games, and books.¬†All these items–the ones she plucked from the dumpsters–were fine. Better than fine. If someone had put them back on the racks inside the store, I suppose anyone would have bought them. Instead, for whatever reason, these items had been tossed into a dumpster and were destined¬†for a landfill.

I started thinking: if I were in this woman’s shoes (she also found a pair of unused shoes in her size, by the way), would I do this? Well, maybe I’d cross state lines first, but…. Really, though, who am I to judge her? Pride is stupid. It’s useless. So, what is this woman doing? She’s going around pride. She’s doing the best she can for her family, simple as that.

I am not a single parent of four, but I do know something about having to struggle with finances. So many of us do, don’t we? Times are tough and people’s salaries aren’t necessarily keeping up with the demands. My husband is talented at what he does, but his paycheck doesn’t always reflect this as much as we might wish. I, on the other hand, have gone from being a stay-at-home mom for a decade and a half, to working 30 hours a week and writing on the side, to dealing with health issues that have me home again and looking for a work-from-home situation, which hasn’t shown itself on the map yet. So, yes, we are financially stressed and, no, I don’t usually treat my kids to many extras, unless it’s to celebrate a birthday or a holiday or an end-of-year reward for good grades. That said, my kids are fine. They’re happy and healthy and I couldn’t be more grateful. They understand there are limits to the things we can afford, but not to love.Ben Kerckx

Image via pixabay/Ben Kerckx

Love? Priceless

I have to confess, since watching a couple of these videos, I haven’t dived into any dumpsters. Yet, this woman still has me thinking. There are ways to provide for ourselves and our families outside of what might be considered the norm. Should there be shame in that? I’ve been trying to shift my family’s lifestyle into a homesteading one–keeping chickens, growing our own herbs and vegetables, making soaps and other personal care items. I began it to help us live a healthier lifestyle, but I love the self-sufficiency of it just as much. Dumpster diving doesn’t completely jibe with my view, since I’m trying to streamline our lifestyle, minimalizing things we have around the house and don’t need, but then again, what if a dumpster somewhere contains a nice, clean, unbroken version of something we DO need? If you never seek, how can you find? Reduce,reuse, recycle, dive? Maybe that ought to be the new-and-improved way to provide for your family, while *bonus* helping to protect the environment?

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Image via pixabay/Brooklyn Morgan

Reduce, reuse, recycle, DIVE?

All I can say, is after watching that mom doing the best she could to make her family’s life better, working within what was available to her, I didn’t feel the least bit judgy. I felt ashamed, in fact, of the way I’d reacted when I first saw the headline to her video. Eww, dumpsters had changed to something else. This woman had shared a glimpse of her life and, afterward, I wanted to¬†shake her gloved hand, maybe even peek with her into the next dumpster she visited.

So, I did something–took a very, very small step. I clicked “Subscribe.” Like I said, it’s not much. Maybe, though, it’s a move toward something bigger, a change in perspective. I just can’t help thinking there might be some important lessons to be learned from a woman who is noble enough do dive into dumpsters for the sake of her loved ones.