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Archive for September, 2009

bath suppliesAs you all know, I’m still working full-time (well, more than that frankly) and I’ve been a bit cranky lately pining about my dreams of homesteading which is so polar opposite to my current situation.  I probably don’t make it any easier on myself when I spend all my downtime researching craft/hobby ideas, how to make more home-cooked meals, how to simplify life and expenses, etc…It just makes the waiting all that more unbearable. 

However, it’s sometimes the little joys, the simple pleasures that help you to refocus upon goals and reset your mind/body/soul.  One cherished event this week was taking a hot aromatherapeutic healing bath.  I love taking baths; it seems so refreshing, relaxing, indulgent…but as much as I love them, I don’t seem to take them that often.  It’s time I change that!

But I don’t just soak in hot water, nor do I immerse myself in toxic bubbles.  Instead I opt for an aromatherapeutic  healing bath using items that can usually be found in my pantry.  Here are some tips to make your next bath a truly healing event:

  • Oils:  pour oil into the tub while the water is being drawn (I like jojoba oil, fractionated coconut oil, almond oil, but you can easily use olive oil from your pantry – really good for the skin – or even a mild canola oil); you skin will drink it in and will remain oh-so-soft, especially if you jump into cotton Pjs and go off to bed giving it time to really soak in and moisturize your skin
  • Non-fat milk and/or Oatmeal:  these items are great in a bath especially if your skin is sensitive, dry, irritated (you can put directly into bath or put into a clean sock and hang below the faucet so the warm water can run through the sock thus infusing your bath)
  • Tea bags: Herbal tea bags can also be a great addition to your bath; for example, chamomile tea is great for relaxing, calendula tea is great for healing irritated skin, peppermint tea, citrus teas or green tea is good for morning baths if you are looking to get invigorated (if this is the case, better to use tepid rather than hot water which can induce sleepiness)
  • Honey:  you might be thinking “sticky” but honey is actually very soothing and healing to the skin and will liquify in a hot bath; a tablespoon will do the job and will leave your skin supple rather than sticky
  • Dried herbs: are great in a bath, especially, my favorite: lavender buds; use the sock method above or a drawstring mesh bag (which often is used to giftwrap small items, so hold onto those); doing so will prevent you from emerging from your bath looking like swampthing!  Rosemary is another common pantry herb that is great to put in a bath when you feel under the weather, have a headache or have irritated skin; you can also grab some rose petals from your garden and toss in as well
  • Salt: Epsom, Sea and Dead Sea salts are excellent additions to a bath for a variety of reasons: Epsom salts contain a high amount of magnesium and are especially useful in soothing sore/tired muscles; Sea Salts are rich in minerals and used to draw toxins from the body (other, more expensive salts are Dead Sea and Pink Bolivian/Himalayan salts which are reputed to have even greater healing effects, however not likely to be sitting in your pantry); you can even use regular, non-iodized table salt for its mineral source and soothing results)
  • Essential Oils:  we’re talking pure, therapeutic grade essential oils, not fragrances; the aromatherapeutic effects and thus healing impact can be great with these.  There are so many options to choose from, too many to list here, so check out one of my favorite books: “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy” by Valerie Ann Worwood or for quick reference, go to www.aromaweb.com(just remember to add a couple drops of oil after your bath has been drawn to make the scent last longer)

While my bath is being drawn, I like to make a simple body scrub which not only exfoliates the skin, but allows you to add natural scents which further creates a healing experience.  Here’s how I make my simple sugar scrub (sugar is much gentler on the skin than salt)

  • 1 c. brown sugar (in the cooler months) or white sugar (in the warmer months)
  • 1/2 c. oil (use whatever you have on hand, however, olive oil should only be used for no more than half this amount as it tends to lend a strong scent which can conflict with any scents you add
  • herbs/spices/essential oils to desired scent – for this recent bath during a cold spell, I sprinkled in pumpkin pie spice, additional cinnamon and vanilla extract to make an autumn scented scrub)

Voila, consider yourself indulged.  It’s such a simple thing, but there’s something about taking an aromatherapeutic healing bath that helps me to “reset” my brain and emotions.

Let me know of your favorite all-natural tips for the bath!

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This doesn’t suck

tootsies in pool 2

Doesn’t it always figure that the last day of vacation is always the best in terms of weather/conditions?  Well Murphy’s Law prevails in Vegas.  We dealt with 100+ degree weather all weekend, enough to make me break out in my typical heat rash (this mountain girl *really* can’t handle the heat) and today it’s breezy, 95 (though it feels about 85) and is really low-key at the pool, my favorite place in Vegas.  And the irony is that my husband sent me pictures of the 3 inches of snow that landed at our house today, the first snowfall of the season at our place.  Dang, I missed it…but this doesn’t suck either.

Trying to avoid the overconsumption and downright excess in this city is hard…the herd mentality definitely strikes here, but I’m trying to keep my very-excited sister and her desire to do everything in a short amount of time in check.  I’m learning that the voluntary simplicity movement is all about keeping things in balance.  You can’t have it all, so you just make wise choices, prioritize your spending and forsake frivolous purchases in order to have more in the piggy for the things you truly value.  Staying by the pool during the day instead of engaging in all the expensive activities or worse yet, shopping, leaves cash available for a show at night or a really wonderful meal.  And dare I say…(disclaimer: I’m about to sound just like my mom here) that we’ve been using up every “2 for 1″, “free with” and “1/2 off” deal/coupon/promotion we’ve been able to get our hands on, so all our show tix have been 1/2 off, so have all of our breakfasts, our drinks by the pool have been free or we’ve been refilling our water bottles every day for free drinks at the pool/on the strip, and yes, we even made a visit to the health food store where I work to pick up snacks to nosh on  to hold us over from breakfast to dinner.  I think I made my mom proud! 

Being frugal/thrifty doesn’t mean living like a pauper, but to really make conscious, planned decisions.  Spend money on experiences that will create lifetime memories, not on material things and being here this long weekend with my sister for our annual sisters gathering feels like that mission was accomplished.

Our date for the evening...

Our date for the evening...

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Picture this…

Me: student of the voluntary simplicity movement, lover of her quiet mountain home and appreciative of the simple comforts of her husband’s embrace, a sniff and lick from one of her pups, and the opportunity to bake homemade bread to the tune of cajoling coyotes…now walking through an incredibly smoky, noisy hotel casino with flashing lights that could bring an epileptic to his knees and the ding, ding, ding…chink, chink, chinks of thousands of slot machines.  Yes, this is the fake world of Las Vegas.

And being the empath that I am who readily can pick up on people’s energy, I feel like I’m drowning in the sadness and despair all around me.  Watching people just spend all their hard working dollars on a machine that is computerized to take it away begs the question: what the hell is wrong with people?  Why do people fall for this fake world of pseudo-excitement only to return home with empty pockets and the same problems they left with?

up in flamesI just wanted to get to the restaurant so I could get my turkey burger and quickly make my way back to the “shelter” of my quiet hotel room.  I am only here because I have to be for work.  But oh, the irony gets even better: here I am, waiting for my meal, reading “Shattering the Two-Income Myth” – about how smart financial decisions and downshifting your expectations of instant gratification can allow you to successfully thrive on a single income – in a place that prides itself on spending copious amonts of money further promoting the idea that people need to make more money so they can spend it all.  Seeing the hundreds of robotic bodies with vacant stares tethered to their slot machines by way of their “frequent player card” cords is downright depressing.   How did people come to accept this as the new norm, the vision of the “good life?”

Call me boring, call me a prude, but I think that the good life is spending TIME with the ones you love and cherishing the simple pleasures that are naturally created by the universe; you know…engaging all five of your senses.

These are just a few of my favorite things: the scent of warmed pine in the air, the sight of deer milling about our yard, the taste of slowly savored wine rolling on my tongue, the sound of my partner’s soothing voice, the feeling of my dog snuggling up close to me under the covers…

In our high-tech world and warp-speed life, we often forget to appreciate the little things, the free things that Mother Nature has so graciously bestowed upon us.  We get so focused on things, or lack thereof.  So tomorrow, be sure to take a moment and engage all your senses in the simple pleasures we so readily take for granted.   Doing this little practice on a daily basis will make you realize how truly rich you really are and soon you won’t find yourself needing to be jolted with artificial stimuli.  Then you’ll come to see that the simple pleasures in life are all you really need.

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Bring on the cool…

This weekend really felt like fall had landed…the leaves started to turn yellow…it’s been getting down to the 40′s or lower in the evenings…you need a hoodie in the morning…and although it was a cold rain here on Saturday, there even was a little bit of snow in the mountains that we face on Sunday morning:

raindrops on arm rests

 

snowy fall 2

And I tell you what, that’s fine by  me!  I LOVE the fall…it is hands down my favorite season, with snowy winters following close behind.  There is something about the cool weather, breaking out the long sleeves, cuddling up at home and baking/cooking seasonal foods that brings out the nesting instinct.  I am naturally a homebody (which makes my work travel schedule that much more challenging), but I find myself wanting to “nest” even more when the weather cools.

One of my girlfriends loves Halloween like no other person I’ve ever met and she proudly proclaimed to me last week that all her Halloween decorations were already up.  She lived in Vermont for many years which is the quintessential Autumnal Locale.  I was born and raised in New England and being the kindred spirits that we are, we both long for those New England falls out here in Colorado. 

One of my absolute favorite spots in this country is Stowe, VT and I was fortunate to spend many fall weekends there.  Let me lay it out for you: Stowe is a quaint, European-esque, chalet-dotted ski town at the base of Mt. Stowe.  Not only can you find fabulous restaurants, but the shops are quaint and cozy, the people are relaxed and the road leading up to Stowe is home to the world-famous Ben-n-Jerry’s factory (where said girlfriend worked), Cold Hollow Cider Mill – where you not only sample but see cider being pressed and get to taste other homemade goodies like maple mustard, pumpkin butter and a slew of other fresh-baked goodies (conveniently set up across the parking lot from a wine tasting shoppe) and then, (yes, it gets better!) down the road to the trifecta of food love – a single building that houses Green Mountain coffee, Cabot Cheese and Lake Champlain Chocolates.  If they had chairs there, I could easily park my ass in there for 6 hours and happily slip into a diabetic coma served up with a side of heart disease.  This area of Vermont certainly has a piece of my heart.  And the bed-n-breakfasts are also charming, the spas lovely and the great walking paths alongside the river offer ideal photo opportunities.  There is nothing I don’t like about this place and it’s the one place I really yearn for this time of year living in Colorado.  I’d post pics, but I don’t have any digital shots, only prints, but trust me on this one.  If you ever get the chance to visit…

Luckily David and I have found a cousing of “Stowe” right here in Colorado called Crested Butte.  It’s a sweet, charming town with a population of 650.  The entire town is tightly wound in a small,  easy-to-navigate grid, with tiny Victorian homes lining the communal streets and locals riding their basket -toting cruiser bikes up and down the main road.  Even the lawns on just about every yard are just littered with carefree bikes strewn about.  There are incredible, jagged mountain peaks all around the town yet lots of local, organic farms that supply the busy weekly farmers market in town.  This is a place that prides itself on local, handmade/homemade goods.  My kind of place.  And the restaurants and B&B’s, like Stowe, are also fantastic! 

There is a windy road, Kebler Pass, that takes you up into the mountains that you meander on for miles and miles.  Here are some pics from our visit last year:

web - cow panoramic

web - Kebler Pass 2

web - towering aspen

The picture at the top of this very blog under the header is from Buena Vista, which you pass on your way to Crested Butte.  David and I hope to make that area, deeper in the mountains, our home one day.  There is such an incredible energy in that area.  Can’t wait to go again this fall.  Not to mention that they host the Colorado Wildflower festival every summer (we were slated to go when I got offered the trip to Costa Rica, so we’ll be certainly checking it out next summer).  Once again, if ever you get the chance…

Meanwhile I need to break away from my crimson leaf dreams to go pack for my next road trip to Las Vegas…talk about uprooting from the start of a cool fall – it’s still in the high 90′s there…uggh.  The good news is that my sister is joining me out there for our annual Sisters Getaway for a 4 day weekend, so there will be much relaxing by the pool (slowing down, as you know, is my kind of thing, so it’s really not all that bad!).  You can assured that I’ll be posting pics of my piggies taking a dip in the pool.  Then I’ll be back to happily discuss the wonders of fall again!  (:

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David catching some flies, er, Zzzz's rather! ;)

David catching some flies, er, Zzzz's rather! ;)

Gosh, I love the weekends…I mean I REALLY LOVE the weekends.  It means not working, slowing down, cooking homemade food and doing the things that you enjoy doing…I mean, what’s not to love about that?  I think it *really* helps that we don’t have kids, so we don’t have any responsibilities except to ourselves and our dogs which makes life a million times easier.  To make the day even better, it’s drizzly and cold which makes it ideal for another Saturday in bed!

Actually, this morning started off with another great recipe I’d like to share with you; 1 hour Blueberry Pancakes (1 hour because that’s the time you wait for the batter to expand and season, and yes, I’ve tried it both ways and it really does taste better if you wait):

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Todds-Famous-Blueberry-Pancakes/Detail.aspx

That combined with some authentic Grade B maple syrup (B  meaning tapped from maple trees later in the season, darker in color from the higher molasses content and thus more nutrient dense) and some turkey bacon from Applegate Farms (hands down the best turkey bacon) and pumpkin coffee from Green Mountain Roasters and I’m in fat lady heaven!

Today I plan on making more handmade recycled greeting cards (to see a sample of some I made last week, see: http://www.greenearthgoodies.com/other.htm), will make some all natural cleaning products since I’m running low, and the cool weather is putting me in the mood to make some fall-scented handmade body scrubs for gifting.  I’ll also probably do some more “business planning” since I know that every little bit of research and planning I do now puts me in that much more of a favorable position for when I leave the corporate world and take on a very small, home-based business.  Ahhh, another great day on the books!

Here are some pics of my silly girls this morning:

Pretty eyes

Pretty eyes

Wandering eyes

Wandering eyes

Bug eyes

Bug eyes

Hope you are able to enjoy some downtime this weekend too!

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plastic cardsFor this installment of “Don’t trash that yet!” I’ll be sharing the myriad ways to reuse non-working credit cards and depleted gift cards.  This also works with those unsolicited “YOUR NAME HERE” cards that come in the mail or for hotel key cards if you, like me, forget to leave them with housekeeping for reuse and find them in your pocket at the end of the day instead.  Since most of these cards are made of PVC plastic and thus are rendered non-recyclable, why not find another use to extend the life of these cards and keep them out of the landfill a little bit longer (and also save you from buying some other cheap piece of plastic in the meantime)?  Here are some ideas:

  1. keep in your kitchen drawer as a “scraper” – use the sides or even cut a diagonal angle into the edges of one of your cards to help you scrap stubborn stuck-on food on pots/pans/plates and even countertops (can also be used throughout your home to scrap gum residue, dried candle wax, etc.)
  2. use as a light ice/frost scraper off your windshield
  3. paint and use as luggage tags/identifiers
  4. punch a hole through one corner, put on key ring with others and give to kids to play with (not for very young kids who are likely to put these in their mouths as PVC is really bad to ingest)
  5. use it like a putty knife to apply spackle, grout or wood filler
  6. use as a shoehorn to get your tootsies into your shoes without stretching out your socks or crushing your fingers
  7. make a cool mosaic with several cards; see: http://www.craftstylish.com/item/39111/how-to-make-a-mosaic-with-your-old-plastic
  8. make bracelets, earrings, even guitar picks (search online for pics and tutorials)
  9. use to smooth out things (I use them to crease folds when making handmade greeting cards)
  10. send into Earthworks Systems where they repurpose plastic cards into new sheets of 100% recycled plastic for new cards. According to www.fakeplasticfish.com :

Both individuals and businesses can send in used gift cards for recycling. While the company would prefer to receive the cards in large batches (why not set up a collection at your office or school?) they will also accept cards from individuals. Mail them to:

Earthworks c/o Halprin Ind.
25840 Miles Rd.
Bedford, Oh 44146

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • if you have leftover gift cards, why not see if they are reloadable, for yourself or to gift upon someone else? 
  • keep in mind that the strip on the back of credit cards may still contain your data, so it might be wise to sand down so that it can’t be used if there’s a possibility of these leaving your home (or if you feel more comfortable, shred the credit cards and save the above ideas for gift cards which hold no personal information)

Just think, you can give years of life to something that would otherwise end up in the landfill (as well as save you from buying something that can easily be done with these cards and would also end up in a landfill later as well!). 

Remember, Reduce first, Reuse next, Recycle as a last resort.

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Yummy dinner

Don’t have anything fun to report or witty to say, but I did want to pass along two great recipes we tried tonight (well, I picked out the recipe but David gets all the credit for cooking/grilling):

Grilled Marinated Shrimp:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Grilled-Marinated-Shrimp/Detail.aspx

grilled shrimp

Curry Couscous:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Easy-Curry-Couscous/Detail.aspx

Mmmm...leftovers!

Mmmm...leftovers!

I highly encourage you to give both a try…they were both quite yummy!  (Oh and don’t forget to take advantage of the hot grill, like we did, and follow up with some good ol’ fashioned S’mores).  Closing the evening with happy tummies. *contented sigh*

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Have flowers, make wreath

lavender wreath

Okay, so my plants didn't yield many *live* flowering buds today, so I decided to make a wreath with what little I had instead. Thanks mom for teaching me wreath-making skills as a teenager! Wait 'til the holidays, I'm gonna have sap-infused fingertips sticking to everything! (:

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Okay, so while I’m in a self-deprecating mood regarding my garden, here goes some more which should surely bring you some comic relief for the day:

While everyone is complaining of a bumper crop of zukes, I'm grateful to have 3 growing, albeit only the size of mylittle fingers *sigh*

 While everyone is complaining of a bumper crop of zukes, I’m grateful to have 3 growing, albeit only the size of my little fingers *sigh*

dead tomato

And here I thought tomatoes were easy to grow? This poor guy is burnt to a crisp and has 2 little zebra tomaotes hanging on for dear life; guess I’m making fried green tomatoes as an appetizer tonight! (p.s. there are many more dead/crispy plants, but I’ll spare you the carnage)

This brings a whole new meaning to the term "baby carrots"

 This brings a whole new meaning to the term “baby carrots”

And go figure, the one thing that actually grew in magnificent proportions (in comparison to the rest of my pee-wee garden) is chard and I don't even like it that much!

 And go figure, the one thing that actually grew in magnificent proportions (in comparison to the rest of my pee-wee garden) is chard and I don’t even like it that much!

Now David made me this beautiful gardening box last year since we live in bear/dear country and it’s very difficult, even ill-advised to put a garden into the earth.  But it was just my luck when one day David points to something below the deck and says, “honey, what’s that growing over there?”  To my surprise, one of my lettuce seeds had apparently blown over the side and grew to about 12″ tall, obscured by the mountain brush that landscape our lot and far out-growing anything I tried in our box:
Mountain Lettuce

Mountain Lettuce

Laugh all you want family!  I may be defeated this year, but not discouraged…maybe next year I’ll have more time to devote to gardening and can attempt a critter farm in the ground.  I’ll just be sure to keep bear spray nearby!

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My not-so-abundant lavender harvest!

Only took me about 20 minutes to harvest...sheesh!

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