Monday, March 30, 2015

Sage #Skincare Advice

     As a young girl I would sit quietly as my mom and the neighborhood ladies chatted over coffee.  I listened deeply to all the stories.  My "uncle" Charlie called me Pinocchio saying I was nosey but really I was just soaking up all the wisdom and since I was well behaved the women didn't mind.  I learned from their mistakes.  Why repeat lessons that were already learned.  Don't misunderstand, I made mistakes and poor choices at times but they were fresh mistakes - ones I hadn't learned about through stories and others life lessons.  Maybe the stories we tell around our dinner table will help our children glean some lessons not to be repeated.
     Some of the lighter lessons I learned was how to care for my skin. Gem number one was, "If you only moisturize your face and not your neck your face will look great and your neck will look like crepe paper."  Now, that made perfect sense to me and it was such a small step in my routine that I wasn't going to take any chances.  I've done both since junior high.
     The next gem took a little longer to fully get.  It was at one of those make up parties that  my girlfriends had way back in the day.  Cleanse, tone and moisturize each day for great skin.  And with this very expensive 3 step process of ours you will look fantastic.  Which when I was young and had no real bills to speak of was fine.  But, as youth departed and school, rent and car payments came in I needed to rethink where my hard earned money was going.  The light bulb went off and I realized that I could use other products in the three step process.  As I started making my own products I looked to make my own three products. My business started out really selfishly by making products for myself.  I have expanded over the years by listening to my customers to meet the needs of others as well as myself.

     My attitude changed over the years from solely wanting to look fantastic (though that is a bonus) to wanting to be as healthy as possible.  I look for products with pronounceable, organic and GMO free ingredients.  My beauty routine is simple - soap, toner and moisturizer.  Yes, I said soap.  Real soap (combination of fats & lye) - not detergent ( a cleansing agent made from chemical compounds).  All my soaps are made with clay to pull out the impurities in the skin, buttermilk for smooth skin and lush organic oils to moisturize.  My oatmeal soap is the exception containing oatmeal instead of clay for a gentle soothing effect on the skin.  I use toner made with calendula flowers which are extremely beneficial to the skin  followed by face & body lotion which has a base of organic avocado oil and aloe vera gel.  The avocado oil has so many benefits that I wrote an entire blog post about it (Snow Day)  and aloe vera tones the skin.  About once a week I use an exfoliating cleanser.  The esthetician at the spa was so impressed with the results from the cleanser on my daughter's skin that she bought some.

Friday, March 20, 2015

#ColdProcessSoap Making Class

Come join the fun.
March 29,2015
11:00 AM to  1:00 PM
At Whiting Mills Studio 418
100 Whiting Street, Winsted, CT

We will make a batch of soap together.
Learn how to make cold process soap and walk away with the skills and confidence to make it yourself. Plus receive a basic recipe with tips on altering it to make it your own and a list of resources.
Setting up for Soap Making

Parking:  There is a parking lot behind the building on Whiting Street.  You may park here.  From this level go up one flight of stairs and look for the more studios this way sign on the wall.

OR you can park on the Holabird Avenue side of the building.  The lot is in between the fire house and the college parking lot.  Cross the street and enter through the door that says hobby shop above it.  Take the stairs all the way to the top and take a right.  Go through the door and you are looking at my studio.   It's in a beautiful old mill with many hall ways and friendly artists who will point you towards the fourth floor and studio 418 if need be.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

#Menopause the Mental Journey

      I wrote a few weeks ago about menopause - my journey and the herbs I use.  But others have very different journeys.  And let's face it walking from motherhood (or the possibility of it) through the door to crone (elder, wise woman) is a big transition both physically and mentally.  For some growing older is more mentally challenging than physically challenging.  I know I have been "older" than my own mother for eight years.  She has been 39 for more than a few years now.
     There are many factors that cause women in this culture to not relish growing older.  It's heartbreaking to see.  My recommendation for this is learning to love yourself and who you are. I know this can be much easier said than done for many. My advice, for what it's worth is to start by ignoring the media, the airbrushed magazine photos and the lies.  Find things you love and do them. Find inspirational older women and learn from them. Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women by Prill Boyle is a great book to remind you that life does not end in mid-life. I had the privilege of meeting Prill and she signed my book, "May you never stop listening to your heart & flying with your dreams."  This is key for all of us I think.
     Creative endeavors - painting, writing, cooking, sculpture, gardening are great ways to get out of your head and into yourself.  You don't have to be "good" at them.  You don't have to show people or publish - you just have to create for yourself. I love to cook, counted cross-stitch, gardening and making skincare products.
     Yoga is my answer for a lot of things.  It helps with posture and flexibility.  It helps with balance so you are less likely to fall.  It calms your nerves.  And there are so many types of yoga you are bound to find one that fits your personality.  Maybe it is gentle and restorative or maybe vinyassa or hot yoga are more your style. Try a few until you find one you like.  And dance...  belly dance has been my cure for midlife angst.
     The New England Journal of Medicine published an article discussing leisure items that could reduce your risks of dementia.  These included cognitive items such as crossword puzzles as well as physical activities such as golf, walking, swimming and dancing.  Dancing was the only physical activity to reduce your risk of dementia.
     Belly dance is one of those things I've always wanted to try but never did.  I saw an advertisement for an introductory class and jumped in.  The welcome letter said to where comfortable clothes - yoga pants were great.  I tried to find a pair to wear and they were all six inches too long and gave me camel toe ( I have since found brands made for women of average height with a little junk in the trunk).  I showed up to my first class in sweats.  The kind I only wear at home.  I felt fat, defeated and ugly.  By the end of that first class I was hooked on the dance and felt more beautiful than I had in ages.
     My point is to get out of your own way and find something you enjoy that makes you feel alive and beautiful even if at first you feel clumsy, awkward and defeated.  Our motto at belly dancing is to "embrace the train wreck."  We are each learning new ways to move our bodies and it doesn't click at first try (or second or third) but we keep dancing, moving and eventually our bodies take over and the moves become more fluid. I find this a perfect metaphor for life; things may not click the first time (or second or third) but we keep trying and eventually we find what brings us joy.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

#CraftFair Season Begins

     I have a special fondness for the fire department.  Not only are my children and handsome hubby volunteer firefighters but I served for years myself and am an honorary member of the Winsted Fire Department Support Services. As a fund raiser they host a Craft & Vendor fair each year.  This year it will be on Sunday, March 22, from noon until 4.   They have more to offer this year than ever plus food from S&S Sweet Treats and jewelry from Dawn Hill Designs. Unfortunately this means the studio will be closed but, the show is only a few miles away. I'm looking forward to the start of craft fair season.  I get to meet lots of wonderful people, get some amazing feedback and ideas for new creations plus I get to show off a bit of what I have been creating this winter.

75 Rowley Street, Winsted, CT  is the Green Building behind the playground.  Plenty of parking and no stairs to climb.  Hope to see you there.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mullein for #colds and #asthma

     I was having a conversation with two beautiful herbal women the other day and we started talking about colds and respiratory ailments.  One turned to a tincture of mullein to help with her upper respiratory infection.  She said it not only helped but made her feel like she was being wrapped in a great big hug.
     It reminded me of my oldest son who has asthma.  Mullein is a huge relief for him.  With a cup of mullein tea each morning he was able to get off of his medications and only rarely needed his rescue inhaler.  He went as far as doing an experiment for a high school project.  He charted his breathing and use of his rescue inhaler without his mullein tea and with it.  The project lasted over three months and the difference was significant.
     Mullein is considered a weed by most.  It is found in fields, pastures, along roadsides and in waste areas from Maine to Minnesota.  But, as the sign in my studio states a plant is only a weed if you do not know what to do with it.  All plants serve an ecological function for their environment.  Mullein will blanket the land where fire has cleared forests.  It appears to be invading the land at this point but after a year or two, new plant species emerge and diversity expands.  The mullein acts as a balm for the earth covering its internal burns and helping regenerate new growth; this is what it does for your lungs in a way.
Mullein - Verbascum thapsus

     I call mullein the phallic symbol of the garden.  Its soft fuzzy leaves grow wide and low and then the flower stalk grows straight up reaching as high as six feet producing tiny yellow flowers.  It is the leaves that are good for the lungs.  The flowers can be collected steeped in olive oil and used for ear infections and eczema of the external ear and its canal.
     The leaves are demulcent, antispasmodic and an expectorant.  They are beneficial for coughs, especially dry , hoarse coughs which occur chiefly at night, and bronchitis and tracheitis.  They will reduce mucus formation and stimulate the coughing up of phlegm.  They are also slightly sedative.  I believe this really helps with the stress and panic my son would have when having an asthma attack.  It also tones the the mucus membranes of the respiratory system and reduces inflammation.  As a daily tea and can be used indefinitely.
     The soft mucilaginous leaves although soothing to the skin and mucosa when prepared as a tea or poultice are actually irritating when fresh.  The leaves should be picked in mid summer before the leaves turn brown and dried in the shade.