Saturday, July 25, 2015

Coloring

Wow! It's been nearly two years since I've written anything here. What does that tell you? Life is busy? I am lazy? I have nothing to say? 

Life is busy, I am not lazy, and people who know me know I have plenty to say. Maybe too much sometimes. lol Work has been hectic the past few months, full of change and challenges which can be stressful. So, how do I relieve that stress? In one word: color.

About a month or so ago, a friend posted on Facebook a page she colored from an "adult" coloring book. As a child, I loved to color. When the kids were little, we colored together. It's been years since I colored. My friend, Susanne's, picture was from "Creative Cats" by Marjorie Sarnat. Susanne's drawing was beautiful.

Hmmm. Perhaps I should look into coloring, I thought, and off I went to amazon.com. At the site, I discovered so many coloring books to choose from - stress-relieving patterns, enchanted forests, cats, city-scapes, city skylines, flowers, mandelas, whimsical owls, fanciful faces, paisleys, dreamcatchers, beauty in the Bible and more. After looking and looking and looking, I decided I wanted something simple, so I chose "Floral Bouquets" by Charlene Tarbox. And, because I loved Susanne's picture, I chose the "Creative Cats" book. Next up was colored pencils.

People use Sharpie's, gels, pens, water soluble colored pencils and more. I chose USArt Supply pencils and Sargent pencils. When I get more creative, I'll look into some of the fancy-shmancy coloring tools and learn shading techniques.

In the July 10 "Parade" magazine is an article titled "50 Shades of Happy: The Joy of Coloring," by Hillari Dowdle. To read the entire article, go to http://bit.ly/1gbxhFl

Dowdle writes about being "in the zone" and how the "world and its cares have dropped away." I understand. The act of coloring is relaxing. As Dowdle notes, "work concerns, money worries, health concerns" and arguments with her 9-year-old son fade away.

"Others have caught on to the magical, mood-lifting power of their erstwhile childhood pastime," Dowdle writes, "and together we're giving rise to a craze unsurpassed since the days we had Donny Osmond fever" -- in my day, for me it was Davy Jones of the Monkees -- with a world of gorgeous coloring books aimed at adults. 

And guess what? We are "snapping them up like hotcakes," she writes.

By the millions. That's right, that's not a typo. An Associated Press article in the New York Post on July 15 claims Dover Publications has sold more than 3 million adult coloring books and Quarto Publishing will have 1.3 million books in print this year. And "Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt," by Johanna Basford, still is a top seller on Amazon two years after its initial publication.

At the time I ordered "Floral Bouquets" and "Creative Cats," I wanted "Secret Garden," but it was sold out. Now I know why.

According to the article,"adult coloring books occupied as many as eight of the top 20 slots" on Amazon's best seller list the week the story was published. Two of the best sellers were "Creative Cats" and "Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns."

Quarto's head of marketing, Amy Yodanis, said they cannot print the coloring books fast enough. "We are getting orders of 60,000 at one time from some of our biggest retailers," she said in the article. Wow! That's a lot of coloring books.

Coloring is therapeutic and choosing colors can affect our mood. Check out this image from the "Parade" article:


Coloring contests, coloring clubs and hundreds, if not thousands, of coloring posts are showing up on social media, including Facebook. I joined the "Coloring for All" group on Facebook where people share their work, offer information on coloring techniques and more. Check out the page at http://on.fb.me/1I0MKyH

If you want to try your hand at coloring, but aren't quite ready to buy a book or two, "Parade" magazine offers some free downloadable coloring pages here: http://bit.ly/1D1rDPW. And, in May, Dover Publications named Aug. 2 National Coloring Day. For a free packet of downloadable coloring pages, go to http://bit.ly/1MtrcAV


Flowers in Bloom by Nancy Edwards
Nice Kitty by Nancy Edwards
I admit, I am a coloring addict. It is soooo relaxing. And though I could go on and on about coloring, I won't. Instead, I am going to share some of my work. The image above left is my first attempt from the "Floral Bouquets" book. The image above right is from "Creative Cats." When I started it, I thought, "Oh my, too much detail," but once I got into it, that thought whisked out of my head. So much so, that I colored a second page - at left below.


Sleeping Beauty by Nancy Edwards
I Feel the Beat by Nancy Edwards
This morning I woke up at 3:45 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up, washed my face, made some java, went into the dining room, sat down at the table with a steaming cup of coffee, picked up a colored pencil and ... can you believe it took nearly two hours to color what you see above right? Me either. As the saying goes, "Time flies when you're having fun."









Sunday, August 25, 2013

Patricia Cornwell - One of My Favorite Authors

Patricia Cornwell
The book that started
my liking for the
 Kay Scarpetta character.
    I have been in a book-reading mode lately. While dusting a while back, I stopped to peruse my collection of books by Patricia Cornwell. I have been a fan of hers since being introduced to her first book, "Postmortem," back in 1990 by a friend and co-worker. As I sat on the floor dusting the area with Cornwell's books, I recalled how I couldn't wait until one of her books was published and when it was available in the bookstores, I'd rush down, buy it and devour it from front to back - in one sitting.
     As the years passed, I was not as in tune to when her books came out. But, when Steve and I would stop at Barnes and Noble at the Jantzen Beach shopping center in Portland, I would look through the Bargain Books section where I would pick up one or two of them.  I would buy them, take them home and set them aside, telling myself I would read them one day. 
    In my job, I read a lot of words :-) so when I get home from work, reading is one of the last things on my mind and that saddens me. Instead, I veg out in front of the TV, getting whisked away into another time so to speak.  I enjoy the shows we watch - "Pawn Stars," "Storage Hunters," "Rizzoli and Isles," "Burn Notice," "The Bridge," "Under the Dome," "Major Crimes," "Suits," "Perception," ... and the list goes on - but since dusting off the Patricia Cornwell books, a nagging voice in the back of my mind kept telling me I need to read more. So ... over the past few weeks I have been working on getting back into it. After all, books can take me "away" just as easily as watching TV.
    Even though hubby and I still "veg" out in front of the TV while eating dinner, it doesn't occupy all my moments from the time I get home from work until it is bedtime. First on the agenda - when the weather cooperates (which it has for weeks now) - is to change clothes and head outside to sit on the patio or in the yard for an hour or so to decompress. With a favorite beverage on the table between our chairs, we talk about our day, pet the cat, watch the deer if they come into the yard, listen to the birds chirp, oggle at the butterflies and dragonflies and  enjoy each other's company. Then it's back in the house to prepare dinner and relax in front of the TV. About an hour before "bedtime," we head into the bedroom and read. :-)
    On a recent week off, I read the 492-page "The Scarpetta Factor." It was great - as is usual with books by Patricia Cornwell. I started "Blow Fly" and finished it yesterday. It was another 400-plus page book. And last night, I began "Trace."
   Of the 21 books in the Kay Scarpetta series, I have all but three of them - "Port Mortuary," "The Bone Bed" and "Dust," which is scheduled to come out in November of this year. I am not as far behind as I had thought in reading the books in the series. Of the 18 I have, I have four left to read. 
    In addition, Cornwell wrote three books in the Andy Brazil / Judy Hammer series. I am happy to say I have read them. I also read the two she has in the Win Garano series. 

    For those of you who have not heard about Patricia Cornwell, she was born in 1956 and began her career in 1979 as a crime reporter for the Charlotte Observer. She worked for the medical examiner's office in Virginia as a technical writer and computer analyst, and volunteered to work with the Richmond (Virginia) Police Department.
    Her character, Kay Scarpetta is a medical examiner, who solves crimes and loves to cook.
    Cornwell also wrote two books with recipes from the series, one is called "Food to Die For" and contains recipes from Scarpetta's kitchen. The other is called "Scarpetta's Winter Table," and is an intimate look at how the main characters in the Scarpetta series celebrate the week between Christmas and New Year's with recipes such as Pete Marino's "Cause of Death Egg Nog," Lucy Farinelli's "Felonious Cookies," Scarpetta's "Holiday Pizza," "Bad Mood Pasta Primavera," "Childhood Key Lime Pie" and more.
     Cornwell wrote a biography of Ruth Bell Graham, who was her friend; and a non-fiction work, "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Cased Closed," a "self-financed search for evidence to support the theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper," notes several websites including famousauthors.org/patricia-cornwell.
    To read more about Cornwell, her work and her life, visit her official website at patriciacornwell.com.
    Below is a list of her books I found on Wikipedia in their appropriate "series" and in the order they were published. I highly recommend reading them.

Kay Scarpetta series
    1. "Postmortem" (1990).
    2. "Body of Evidence" (1991).
    3. "All That Remains" (1992).
Coming out November 2013
    4. "Cruel and Unusual" (1993).
    5. "The Body Farm" (1994).                                                        
    6. "From Potter's Field" (1995).
    7. "Cause of Death" (1996).
    8. "Unnatural Exposure" (1997).
    9. "Point of Origin" (1998).
   10. "Black Notice" (1999).
   11. "The Last Precinct" (2000).
   12. "Blow Fly" (2003).
   13. "Trace" (2004).
   14. "Predator" (2005).
   15. "Book of the Dead" (2007)
   16. "Scarpetta" (2008).
   17. "The Scarpetta Factor" (2009).
   18. "Port Mortuary" (2010).
   19. "Red Mist" (2011).
   20. "The Bone Bed" (2012).
   21. "Dust" (November 2013).

Andy Brazil / Judy Hammer series
    1. "Hornet's Nest" (1997).
    2. "Southern Cross" (1999).
    3. "Isle of Dogs" (2001).

Win Garano series
    1. "At Risk" (2006).
    2. "The Front" (2008).

Children's book
    1. "Life's Little Fable" (1999).

Non-fiction
    1. "A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham" (1983).
    2. "Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham" (1997 update of "A Time for Remembering").
    3. "Scarpetta's Winter Table" (1998).
    4. "Food to Die For: Secrets from Scarpetta's Kitchen" (2002).
    5. "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed" (2002).






Friday, August 2, 2013

Using herbs and vegetables in homemade 'beauty' products

    The fall 2013 issue of "Herb Quarterly" arrived in the mail the other day. I love, love, love this magazine and have subscribed to it off and on for many, many years. The fall issue is number 136. Wish I had them all ...
Herb Quarterly
     Anyway, I couldn't wait to open it and devour every word. This is a magazine I can sit down and read cover to cover. It always contains tons of wonderful information. 
    My husband, Steve and I, enjoy reading. We have been known to spend an entire weekend day in bed reading, only getting up long enough to use the bathroom or get a bite to eat. We still read, but I don't read as much at home as in the past.
    In my job as Community Editor at the local newspaper, I read and write nearly the entire day. My food column, "On the Table," appears in the newspaper every other week. I spend a number of hours reading up on whatever that week's topic is going to be. When I get home from work, I usually don't want to read another word, but lately, we decided to head to bed an hour earlier than normal and spend that hour reading. And, I must say, I am certainly enjoying it.
    Back to the "Herb Quarterly." If you are not familiar with it, I recommend buying an issue. It costs $5.99, but if you like it, a subscription is $19.97 for one year, which is four issues - winter, spring, summer and fall. 
    Healing Children with Herbs, Herbs for Digestion, Elderberry: 2013 Herb of the Year, DIY Herb Oils for the Home, Transitional Gardening, A Vegan Holiday Table and Herb and Veggie Beauty are the featured articles.
    Regular features include Medicine Chest, Herbal Healthwatch, Herbalist's Notebook and The Organic Gardener, among others.
    One article I particularly enjoyed reading was "Herb and Veggie Beauty" by Janice Cox. Janice, a regular contributor to the magazine, lives in Medford, Ore.

    Janice is the author of "Natural Beauty at Home," "Natural Beauty for All Seasons," "Natural Beauty Beauty from the Garden." 
I own this book. :-)
    According to her website, her passion for home beauty started out of necessity ... natural bath and beauty products were hard to come by ... and it was an easy way to save time and money.
     "Get her book and you'll never look at fruit the same way again," notes the Times Picayune newspaper. "You'll also never pay high department store prices for creams and lotions that can be made simply and cheaply at home."
    For more on Janice, visit her website janicecox.com.
    Now, on to the "Herb Quarterly" article.
    Because vegetables have an earthy scent, Janice notes that pairing them with fresh herbs improves the vegetable fragrance in recipes. She recommends leaving the peels and skins on the vegetables when using them in the recipes.
    Here are some of the recipes from the article.

    Fresh Carrot and Clary Sage Mask
       1 fresh carrot, grated (approximately 1/2 cup)
       1 tablespoon fresh chopped clary sage
       1 tablespoon white kaolin clay
       1 tablespoon pure honey

   Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend on high until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
    Yield: 4 ounces
    To use: Spread the mixture on your face and neck using your fingertips or use a small pastry brush. Let sit for 20 minutes then rinse with warm water followed by cool water. Pat skin dry.
    Store any remaining mask in the refrigerator for up to one week.

   Janice notes that carrots are rich in vitamin A. Fresh carrots and carrot juice have antiseptic qualities, and clary sage soothes, cleanses and adds moisture to dry complexions. Look for the clay, also called white China clay, in a health food or natural food store.

    Sweet Potato Facial Mask with Chamomile
       1/2 cup fresh sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
       1 tablespoon fresh chamomile or 2 teaspoons dried chamomile tea
       1 egg

    Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
    Yield: 2 ounces
    To use: Spread the mixture on your face and neck using your fingertips or use a small pastry brush. Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water followed by cool water. Pat skin dry.
    Store any remaining mask in the refrigerator for up to one week.
    
Looks good enough to eat.
    Sweet potatoes - and regular potatoes - are an old folk-medicine remedy for cleansing skin and removing surface impurities, Janice writes in the article. They help with blemishes and eczema. Chamomile is calming and contains antibacterial properties useful for keeping a clean and clear complexion.

    I just whipped up a batch of this mask and put it on my face and neck, strategically avoiding where my reading glasses sit. The timer is on and I'm enjoying a glass of Kona Koko Brown beer. Let's hope the sweet potatoes don't turn my skin orange. 
    Timer went off. Rinsed my face in warm water, then cool water, then patted it dry. It feels soft and smooth. No discoloration. Will try it again tomorrow and for the next few days and see what happens. :-)

     Corn Oil Cold Cream
       1/2 cup borax powder
       1/4 cup distilled or filtered water
       1/2 cup corn oil (or vegetable, soy or canola oil)
       2 tablespoons beeswax

    In a glass measuring cup, dissolve the borax in the water and set aside. In another glass measuring cup, mix together the oil and beeswax. Place the glass cup in a pan on the stove with 2 inches of water, making a water bath. Gently heat the oil-wax mixture until the wax begins to melt (8-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
    When the wax is melted, place the cup with the water and borax mixture in the water bath and heat until hot (do not boil). You want both mixtures to roughly be the same temperature.
   Add the hot water mixture to the oil blend to make the cream. You can do this by hand-stirring constantly, but a blender makes the process much easier and produces a well-blended cream. Place the oil mixture in a blender and turn on slow speed. Pour the hot water in a slow, steady stream and then process the cream on high. Spoon the cream into a clean container and let cool completely. You may want to stir one more time as the cream cools.
    Yield: 8 ounces.
    To use: Massage a small amount of the rich cream into dry skin spots. To use as a makeup remover, massage into your skin, then wipe off with a soft cotton tissue or cloth. 

    I read this recipe to hubby Steve and he wants me to make it for him to use. :-) 

    Cleansing Tomato-Parsley Hair Rinse
       1 cup fresh tomato juice
       1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
       1 cup pure water
       1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

    Place all ingredients in a blender and process until well-blended. Strain out the solids and pour into a clean container.
    Yield: 16 ounces.
    To use: After shampooing, pour the rinse over your hair and massage well into your scalp. Let sit for a minute or two, then rinse with the coolest water you can stand.

    Janice writes, "This cleansing rinse gets hair looking fresh and smelling sweet. Tomato juice is the classic cure for removing harsh smells, such as campfire smoke, from your hair. Parsley also naturally cleanses and deodorizes. This rinse will deep clean the scalp keeping it healthy and promoting new hair growth."

   This next recipe is such a good idea. The benefit of a loofah to scrub the skin with the soap "built in."

    Loofah Slice Soap Bars
       2 bars of natural soap such as glycerin or castile, chopped
       1 tablespoon water
       4 slices dried loofah sponge

    Find a small pan or plastic dish to use as a soap mold that's approximately the size of the loofah slice (muffin tins and candy molds work well). Place the loofah slices inside the molds.
    In a double boiler place the chopped soap and water and heat gently until the soap begins to melt. Remove from heat and continue to stir the soap until it's completely melted. Spoon the melted soap inside the loofah slice molds and allow to cool completely until hard.
    Remove from molds and trim the soaps with a sharp knife.
    Yield: 8 ounces, 3-4 bars of soap.
    To use: Enjoy as you would any bar of soap, but do not use on your face or other sensitive skin areas as it may be too harsh. 

Loofah growing on a fence. It does resemble a cucumber.
    And, did you know that you can grow your own loofah? I did not. Here is what Janice says: "... the loofah sponges available in bath and body shops are actually vegetables." Amazing, right? Well ... to me it is. The loofah belongs to a family of plants that includes cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins and squashes and are the most closely related to the cucumber in appearance and growing habits.

Dried loofah.
    Janice notes that seeds - and sometimes the starter plants - are available at garden centers. Though I have never looked, I wonder if they are available locally. We have a lot of gardening businesses in our area. And, of course, they are available from online seed catalogs. 
    She writes that loofahs like to climb so they should be planted next to a fence or a trellis. A ripe loofah has a dark yellow or brown outer skin that needs to be removed. She notes that you need to "clean the inner 'skeletons,' removing all seeds. Then let it dry in the sun.

    Janice also offers several easy ways to use vegetables on the skin and hair.
    Artichoke hearts blended with a bit of lemon juice conditions the hair before shampooing and is an effective treatment for dandruff or flaky scalps.
    Blend chick peas and garbanzo beans with a little honey or olive oil to make a protein-rich and soothing facial mask. This is good for people with dry or sensitive skin.
   Lettuce juice is a good skin toner. It also soothes skin that has been sunburned.
   Mashed and cooked parsnips can be used on the feet and hands to help brittle nails and dry, rough skin.
    Use potato slices to reduce under-eye puffiness. Lie down and place a freshly cut slice on each closed eyelid. Leave them there for 5 to 10 minutes.
    Lastly, tomato juice can be used as a skin tonic and toner. Janice writes that it restores acidity to people who have oily skin.

          I think I've done enough writing for today ... two posts in one day. Wow! And that's after not posting for nearly a year. Shame on me.

Nighty night and sweet dreams. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!




Houseplants ... and how they clean the air

     My houseplants have needed transplanting for quite some time. Honestly ... I am embarrassed to admit many of them have been in the same pots for, umm ... years. Yikes! I water them, so I'm not that bad, right? Who am I kidding? I have been neglectful - and I am sorry.
     During a recent week off from work, I bit the bullet ... no, I grabbed the shovel and decided I must take the time to do the dirty deed. Over the course of two afternoons - apparently I like to take my time. :-) - I hauled them out one by one and transplanted them under the shade of the apple trees in the back yard.
     After giving 20 of my 35 houseplants a new pot to live in with fresh dirt and water, I quit - only because I ran out of potting soil and was too lazy to run to the store to buy more. It's OK, though, the other 15 were re-potted not that long ago, so they are not quite ready to be transplanted. I will purchase more potting soil on the way home from work one of these days so I will be prepared when those plants are ready for a new home - uh, pot.
     And since I was transplanting them, I may as well clean the leaves right? You bet! I meticulously wiped each plant's leaves with a clean wet cloth, which made me think of the days when I slathered mayonnaise on the leaves and wiped it off, leaving a beautiful shine. Was that really a good idea? Probably not - and, needless to say, I only did that a few times before discovering a spray-on product that made the leaves sparkle. I am sure that product in the long run was not good for the plants either.
     Oops! Getting off track. I will not diverge the amount of time I spent cleaning the leaves, partly because I didn't keep track :-), but considering how long it took me to transplant, it was hours and hours. 
     The roots were a tangled mess. How could I let that happen? I carefully untangled the roots and trimmed them. One plant's roots were at least 18 inches long. Poor things. They were circled around the inside of the pot with nowhere to go.
     Afterward, I gave each one a shower with the garden hose. Oh, how they loved that. I should have taken pictures, but that never crossed my mind. 
   
     I love houseplants - and yes, I know I need to take better care of them. Besides the ones at home, I have 18 in my work space at the newspaper. They add character to a room - or to a work area. :-) Their shapes can be a perfect compliment to a piece of furniture or fill a void.
     But most importantly is what they can do for the indoor air quality of our homes. I have a clipping on the bulletin board in our home office titled "Plants That Clean the Air." It is from the March 1993 issue of "Success" magazine. No, that is not a typo. It is from March 1993 - I've been hanging on to that for more than 20 years!
   The lead-in to the lists of plants reads like this:
    "According to Haworth Inc., you don't need an expensive machine to cure your office of 'sick building' air. The noxious chemicals that accumulate in a workplace can be absorbed the same way most smog gets cleaned up - by green plants. The following is a list of plants and the toxins they're best at absorbing:"
     Oh, by the way,  Haworth Inc. "designs and manufactures adaptable workspaces, including raised floors, movable walls, systems furniture, seating, storage and wood casegoods," according to Wikipedia.
     I did a quick search on the Internet for the 10 best plants to clean the air and came up with tons of good information, most notably from the Mother Nature Network, English Gardens, This Old House, Sustainable Baby Steps, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Naturopathic Thoughts.
'Dracaena deremnsis'
     Dr. B.C. "Bill" Wolverton, an environmental scientist working in the late 1960s with the U.S. military to clean up environmental disasters left by biological warfare centers discovered at a test center in Florida that swamp plants "were actually elmininating Agent Orange, which had entered the local waters through government testing near Eglin Air Force base," states the spinoff.nasa.gov website.
     He spent two decades doing studies discovering  "which plants could remove toxic chemicals from the air for use in space stations," notes naturopathicthoughts.com.
     The top plants on his list are mass cane (dracaena massangeana), pot mum (Chrysantheum morifolium), Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonil), warnecki (dracaena deremnsis "warneckei") and the ficus (ficus benjamina)

     And here is what is on the magazine clipping:
     TOXINS AND THEIR SOURCES                                             PLANTS THAT EAT THEM
     Formaldyde - foam insulation, plywood, particle                    Boston fern, chrysanthemum,
     board, pressed wood products, grocery bags, waxed            Janet Craig dracaena, areca
     papers, facial tissues, paper towels, water repellents,            palm, ficus benjamina, peace
     fire retardants, cigarette smoke, natural gas, kerosene,         lily and corn plant.
     and adhesive binders in floor coverings. 

     Xylene - solvents, lacquers, dyes and rubber cement.           dwarf date palm, dracaena
                                                                                                        marginata, corn plant and                                                                                                                       peace lily.

     Benzene - inks, oils, plastics, rubber, dyes                             bamboo palm, snake plant,
                                                                                                        English ivy, warnecki, Janet                                                                                                                   Craig, chrysantheum,                                                                                                     gerbera
                                                                                                        daisy, dracaena marginata and
                                                                                                        peace lily.

     Trichloroethylene - metal degreasing agents,                      Gerbera daisy, peace lily,         
     dry-cleaned fabrics, printing inks, paints, lacquers,                 warneckei, chrysanthemum,
     varnishes and adhesives.                                                         dracaena marginata and
                                                                                                       bamboo palm.

Spider Plant
     The Mother Nature Netwok at mnn.com recommends the peace lily, golden pothos, English ivy, chrysanthemum morifolium, Gerbera daisy, mother-in-law's tongue (snake plant), bamboo plant, azalea, red-edged dracaena and the spider plant.
     The areca palm, raphis palm, bamboo palm, rubber plant, Janet Craig, English ivy, pothos, ficus alil, Boston fern and peace lily are the recommendations from englishgardens.com.
     And at sustainablebabysteps.com, the recommendations are aloe vera, areca palm, baby rubber plant, bamboo palm (aka reed palm), Boston fern, Chinese evergreen, mass cane (aka corn cane), dwarf/pygmy date palm, English ivy, ficus alil, Gerbera daisy, golden pothos, Janet Craig, lady palm, Kimberly Queen fern, dracaena marginata (aka Dragon tree), moth orchid, chrysanthemums, peace lily, philodendron, snake plant schefflera (aka umbrella tree), spider plant, warneckei and the weeping fig (aka ficus tree).
    I am happy to report we have several of the recommended plants throughout our house, including the peace lily, spider plant, bamboo, rubber plant, golden pothos, snake plant and dracaena.

     English ivy, lacy palm, Boston fern, snake plant, golden pothos, wax begonia, red-edged dracaena and the spider plant are the plants of choice at thisoldhouse.com,
     Dr. Wolverton recommends placing as many plants as you can take care of in the rooms you use the most - at least two plants in 10- to 12-inch pots per 100 square feet of space.
    During a remodel, use more plants and, do not over water them. If the dirt is too wet, mold can grow on the dirt and on the plants.


English Ivy
    English ivy is a hearty, climbing vine. It thrives in small spaces and does well in rooms that don't have many windows and/or little sunlight. Its foliage absorbs formaldehyde, commonly found in wood floor board resins and synthetic carpet dyes.
    The peace lily can adapt to low light. It requires weekly watering and it is poisonous to pets, so keep it away from your animals' feeding areas. Our cats have not tried to eat the leaves, so that's a good thing.
Lady Palm
   This plant "rids the air of the VOC benzene, a carcinogen found in paints, furniture wax and polishes," notes thisoldhouse.com. And, it sucks up acetone, which can be found in fingernail polish remover. Acetone can be discharged from electronics, adhesives and some cleaners. Check the ingredient list on your favorite cleaner. I'm thinking I need to make my own natural cleaners from here on out.
    The lady palm is easy to grow, notes the site, but might take a while for it to shoot up. It has fan-like leaves that "add charm to any spot." The plant targets ammonia, which is hard on the respiratory system and can be found in cleaners, woven cloth or fabric, and dyes.
    The Boston fern is considered one of the most efficient air purifiers. I have never had much luck growing Boston ferns, though I have tried.
   One time, Safeway had huge ones on sale for $6 each, so I bought two. They were beautiful with their bright green, feather-like leaves and curved fronds.
    We have four windows (each about 36 inches wide and 48 or so inches tall) that go across the front of our living room. Two more are sideways from those, giving the area where the couch sits a feeling of a "bump-out." Anyway ... I placed one on each side of the couch. They were gorgeous - for about a month and then they started dying. I thought it was me ... well, it was me, but Boston ferns can be hard to grow because they need constant moisture and humidity. I tried spraying them, but ... it wasn't enough.
    The fern is another plant that removes that nasty formaldehyde. And, according to thisoldhouse.com, some studies have shown the Boston fern can remove toxic metals, such as mercury and arsenic, from soil.
Snake plant
   The snake plant - or mother-in-law's tongue - has long, pointy leaves. It thrives in low light and during the nighttime, it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. This is the reverse of what most plants do.
   The site suggests putting a couple of them in the bedroom for a "slight oxygen boost while you sleep." Ours is in a corner of the kitchen near the stove.
Golden pothos on a support
    The fast-growing golden pothos vine "has a reputation for flexibility" notes the website. It can be planted in a hanging basket, in a pot with something in it to help it stand up or you can train it to climb on a trellis.
    We have several of these around the house, two which are in the bathroom. Ours hang.
    The site notes that it tackles formaldehyde, like many other vines, but it also tackles carbon monoxide and benzene. It is suggested to put one in the utility room or entryway where car exhaust fumes - which are laden with formaldehyde - can filter inside from the garage. We happen to have two nearby the door that goes between the house and garage along with a couple on top of the refrigerator.
    Next on the thisoldhouse.com site is the wax begonia. I love these and had not thought to have some in the house. These plants require lots of sun. It is a semi-woody succulent - which I did not know - that produces lovely clusters of flat pink, red or white flowers during the summer months.
   Apparently, it is a good filterer of benzene and chemicals produced by toluene, which can be found in some waxes and adhesives, according to a University of Georgia study.
  The red-edged dracaena grows slowly, but can get up to 15 feet tall. It requires moderate sunlight. Gases released by formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene will be taken care of by this plant. Those gases can come from lacquers, sealers and varnishes.
     The site recommends placing a spider plant on a pedestal or in a hanging basket close to a sunny window. This plant also is a good one for people who don't have a "green thumb." It reproduces fast. It has long, grassy-like leaves and hanging stems which will sprout little plantlets that look similar to a spider.
   Well ... now that I've had my lesson for the day, I think it's time to buy some more houseplants. 

     

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Natural Body Care

     In between power-cooking and catching up on game requests on Facebook today, I have been going through old magazines trying to de-clutter. My magazines are organized neatly, but seriously, how many different magazine issues do I REALLY need?
     I have numerous years of Oprah's magazines starting from the very first issue. Hmmm. Should I hang on to those? Will they be collectible one day? A quick eBay search resulted in a few of the premiere issues available. Starting bids range from $5 to $19.99. Well, I won't get rich at those prices, but having that first issue makes me feel like I was part of the beginning ... like being on the ground floor of a new investment. Silly? Perhaps. But ... that's how I feel.
      I also have many issues of the "Food Network"and "Every Day with Rachael Ray" magazines. My reasoning for hanging on to them is I can use them for research for  my newspaper food column.
     There are a multitude of issues of Cook's Illustrated," "Eating Well," "Vegetarian Times," "Cooking Light," "Taste of Home," "Cuisine." The list goes on. Oh, my!
     There are many issues of "The Herb Quarterly," dating back to 1987 when I first discovered that wonderful magazine. I have been a subscriber off and on since then. Ditto "The Herb Companion." And, of course, I must keep the issues we have of "Smithsonian." And don't forget those "National Geographic" magazines dating back to the 1960s.
     My husband and I sold bundles of magazines at garage sales - "Cooking Light," "Better Homes and Gardens," "Sunset," "Woman's Day," "Good Housekeeping," "Family Circle" "JP," "Popular Science," "Popular Mechanics," "Road and Track," "Car and Driver" and more. We have donated magazines to the Longview Public Library for its magazine exchange program. 
     Yet we continue to be overwhelmed with magazines - and newsletters. When I first started writing my food column, I subscribed to numerous newsletters - "Cinnamon Hearts," "Food History,"  "The Culinary Sleuth," "The Art of Food," "Home Food Preservers," "The Recipe Detective: Gloria Spitzer's Secret Recipes," "Cook Speak" and more. I admit I am not ready to give them up.
     But ... I have been poring over magazines. I told myself I wasn't going to rip out pages of recipes and info, but that didn't work out. Instead, I am making a "mess," so to speak, by placing the torn out pages in boxes. I will go through them one day and organize them. I will. I know I will.
    In the meantime, I am enjoying looking through the old issues.
    I came across an article in the May 2007 issue of "The Herb Companion" by Janice Cox who happened to write the 2002 book "Natural Beauty at Home," which I have a copy of - somewhere among the stacks and stacks of books we own.
   The article is titled "Baby Yourself with Natural Body Care" and was written for new and/or expectant parents with recipes for Cocoa Butter Cream, Buttermilk Baby Bath, Lavender Scented Dusting Powder and more. 
     You don't have to be an expectant parent to pamper yourself with these little gems.
     Enjoy. Oh ... and please note, none of these images are mine. I found them online.

Cocoa Butter Cream
     1/4 cup grated cocoa butter
     1 teaspoon almond oil
     1 teaspoon light sesame oil
     1 teaspoon vitamin E oil

     Place all ingredients in a glass container and slowly heat in the microwave or in a water bath until the cocoa butter is melted and the oils are well-mixed.
     Pour into a clean container and allow the cream to completely cool.
     To use, massage a small amount into your skin as needed to soothe and soften.
     Yield: 2 ounces


     
Buttermilk Baby Bath
     1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
     1/4 cup whole dry buttermilk
     1 tablespoon cornstarch (I prefer arrowroot powder)
     2 to 3 drops sweet orange essential oil or favorite essential oil, optional (I like jasmine, gardenia and peppermint)

     Mix together all ingredients and pour into a clean, dry container. 
     To use, for adults, pour 1/4 cup of the bath powder into a full bath of warm water. For infants, pour 1 tablespoon into a small baby bathtub.
     Yield: 4 ounces

Lavender Scented Dusting Powder
     1 cup cornstarch (I prefer arrowroot powder)
     1/2 teaspoon light oil, such as almond, sesame or sunflower
     2 to 3 drops lavender essential oil

     Mix all ingredients in a resealable plastic bag. Seal bag and massage the powder until all of the oil is evenly distributed. 
     Store in a clean, dry container.
     Yield: 8 ounces

Honey Facial Mask
     1 egg yolk
     1 teaspoon honey
     1 teaspoon almond oil
     1 teaspoon vitamin E oil

     Place all ingredients in bowl and stir until smooth.
     To use, massage onto face and neck. Leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water and pat dry.
     Yield: 2 ounces

Peppermint Leg Gel


     1/2 cup aloe vera gel
     1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (again, I prefer arrowroot powder)
     1 tablespoon witch hazel
     3 to 4 drops peppermint essential oil 

     Combine the aloe vera, cornstarch and witch hazel in a glass container. Warm the mixture in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or in a double boiler until it is the consistency of honey.
    Let mixture cool, then add peppermint oil and stir well. Pour into a clean container.
    For instant rejuvenation, massage onto legs and feet.
    Yield: 4 ounces

Cinnamon Massage Oil
     1/2 cup light oil (canola, almond or sesame)
     1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     1/2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

     Mix together all ingredients and pour into a clean container. You may need to shake the oil gently to blend before using.
     To use, massage a small amount into skin. This oil also makes a nice bath or after-bath moisturizer.
     Yield: 4 ounces





     

Monday, July 1, 2013

10 healthy home remedies via Woman's Day magazine / July 2013


     I can't believe it's been nearly a year since I've written anything here. The saying, "How time flies" certainly is true.
     And, I must say ... I greatly admire the people who devote time each day to their blogs. It takes self-discipline to write every day, log recipes and photos and offer helpful hints and tidbits.
     Which brings me to this post. I need someplace to "store" the mounds of information I glean from magazines and books. I have torn pages from magazines and placed them in boxes. Some are in three-ring binders, but most are piled in boxes stacked in our home office. Not a tremendous amount of boxes, mind you ... only three or four - and believe me, that is enough paperwork to intimidate me. One day, it all will be organized, but for now, oye vay.
   Even this past weekend while reading magazines, I found myself ripping out the pages. It's like an obsession. I .... must .... do .... it. For this moment, however, I am going to document the next tidbits of info I want to save right here. Yep, that's right. I know it isn't truly going to be better organized, but at least I know where to look. And, at some point, I will learn how to add pages to my blog and categorize all this wonderful information.

     Today's "10 healthy home remedies" comes directly from the July 2013 issue of "Woman's Day" magazine.

     1.) Soothe a sunburn with plain white vinegar. The clear liquid eases the pain and itch of a sunburn and could possibly prevent blisters from forming. The magazine notes if the burn is on your face, soak a cotton ball with the vinegar and dab it onto your face. If the burn covers more of your body, use a wash cloth or paper towel and cover the skin for 15 minutes.

           When I was growing up, my dad had me put vinegar in mineral oil and that's what I used for a tanning lotion as opposed to Coppertone or any of the other over-the-counter lotions. Obviously, I smelled like vinegar until I showered, but, in the privacy of my parents' back yard, I didn't care. And ... whenever I used it, I did not burn. I believe the oil encouraged tanning, while the vinegar deterred me from burning. Back in those days, I used to take a nap in the sun. What was I thinking. Nowadays, I limit my sun exposure to about 10 or 15 minutes at a time - unless my husband and I are working in the yard. Then, we take a break every 30 to 45 minutes for 15 to 30 minutes, making sure to keep hydrated. It takes us a long time to get the chores done, but that's just fine with us.

   
 2.) Fade sun or age spots with lemon juice. The citric acid in lemons apparently helps dissolve dead skin cells, which in turn, exposes fresh skin. Lemons also contain the antioxidant vitamin C to protect the skin from future damage. 

"Woman's Day" suggests cutting a lemon in half and squeezing the juice into a container. Dab the juice on the spots with a cotton swab and leave on the skin for 1 to 2 minutes before rinsing it off. This should be done before bed, not in the morning because the fruit contains a compound that may cause your skin to darken when it is exposed to sunlight.

   3.) Relieve an itchy bug bite with a banana peel. Peel a banana and eat it. :-)  Apply the inside of the peel directly on the bite and leave it there for 2 to 3 minutes.

    4.) Reduce swollen skin with green tea bags. According to article author Betsy Stephens, the tannins and caffeine in tea helps reduce swelling and green tea works best because it also contains the anti-inflammatory compound EGCG. For swelling, put your used tea bags in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then put the bags on the swollen skin. 
     A bonus benefit is the tannins in the tea also help clot blood. So ... if you have a paper cut or scrape, clean the area well, then place the tea bag directly on the cut and press gently for 5 minutes.

          I've also used sliced cucumbers for swelling, especially after crying. :-) I put them on my eyelids, lay back and relax for 10 to 15 minutes.

     5.) Use rubbing alcohol to prevent a poison ivy rash. Put two parts water and one part 70 percent rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Shake well. Spritz the liquid as soon as possible after exposure onto the skin that may have been exposed. Let the liquid air dry.

     6.)  Use duct tape to get rid of warts. Seriously? Hmmm. Apparently the glue in the duct tape softens the wart so the wart can be removed easier. Oh, my! The article in the magazine says to cover the wart with duct tape for six days. Remove the tape - can you say yeowww! Soak the wart in warm water for about 15 minutes. Rub it with an emery board or a pumice stone. Leave the wart uncovered overnight. Repeat until the wart comes off.
     Just think, with all the colors of duct tape these days, you can color-coordinate to your outfit. Well, if you wear the same color family for six days, that is. :-)

     7.) Smooth cracked heels with papaya. The enzymes in the fruit help smooth rough skin. Mash chunks of the fruit in a large bowl or bucket. I think I'd use a dish pan. We have two - one for me and my feet and one for Steve and his. Many times on beautiful sunny days, we'll soak our feet on the patio while reading magazines. We get to enjoy our back yard, the trees, the birds and the sun all while making our feet "pretty." :-) 
     Oops ... getting carried away. Back to the mooshed papaya. Rest your feet in it for 30 minutes, rinse them and then apply a moisturizing lotion. I prefer a lotion with green tea extract in it because it smells so wonderful.

     8.) Heal dry or chapped lips with olive oil. Because the oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, it is a good source of moisture. Cells can easily absorb the fatty acids. A little dab will do ya - just like Brylcreem. Oh, my ... that certainly ages me. LOL Anyway, dab a little on your lips every few hours until they feel soft and smooth.

     9.) Whiten yellow nails with hydrogen peroxide. Mix a tablespoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply it to the nails. Repeat daily until the yellow color fades away - a week, maybe even longer.

   
 10.) Repair damaged hair with an avocado. Hair that breaks from sun or chlorine damage can be strengthened and nourished from this buttery colored fruit. Mash a ripe avocado. Apply it to your hair and leave it in for a half hour. After the half-hour, rinse it out and shampoo.

Note: Credit for these ideas goes to the July 2013 issue of "Woman's Day" magazine.