Monday, October 31, 2011

Gettin' Thrifty at the Thrift Shop

This is me sporting my thrifty skirt and blouse!

Do you ever shop at thrift shops? I've tried it before in a different state and didn't have much success. Where we live now, however, we have a wonderful thrift shop that is so big you could spend all day in it. We recently did just that and came home with a large bag of loot! The great thing is I got a lot of items for  ninety-five cents and, except for one shirt, nothing was over two dollars. It takes some time to sort through everything but its well worth the effort. Luckily Thomasina Tittlemouse wears just about the same size I do, so I could be daring and buy something that is a little out of my normal style knowing I could send it over to her if I decided I didn't look right in it.

Here's Mopsy modeling one of her new jumpers
The hardest thing about going to the thrift shop is trying  not to buy everything you see that looks pretty! It's awfully hard not to buy a blouse that cost ninety-five cents just because its outs of season. For ninety-five cents why not get it and save it!

The "I know its summery - but its so cheap!" collection

You  can even get some great brands at a fraction of what you would pay if you bought it new.

Button-down shirt from J-Jill!

So go out there and find yourself a good thrift shop. Once you do, you'll be addicted to the savings!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Herbal Infusions

If you are new to using herbs for your health, I have a great way for you to get started: herbal infusions.
Basically, an infusion is like a very strong tea that you drink daily for its health benefits. By letting the herbs steep for 5 to 12 hours, you draw most of the vitamins and minerals out, giving you something akin to a natural vitamin supplement. The great thing about this type of supplement, however, is that it is much more easily assimilated than synthetic vitamins.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
In my humble opinion, the best herb to use to begin your journey into herbal infusions is stinging nettle. ( Urtica dioica ) Maybe you have accidentally run into this plant. You will surely know if you did, because it has a nasty sting. You may rest assured, however, that when cooked or dried the sting is no longer present. (Incidentally, the juice from the plant is said to counteract the sting.) If you are sure that there are no pesticides used in the area, you can harvest your own. If you can't find any growing wild, or simply don't want to attempt to harvest it, you can buy it at most herb stores. I buy mine at Mountain Rose Herbs .
An infusion of nettles can restore energy, and long term daily use can help combat allergies, hay fever, and Epstein-Barr virus.  It also acts a an kidney and adrenal tonic, improves digestion, and strengthens the respiratory system. On top of all of this, it is also beneficial to your hair and skin.
Mineral-wise, nettle has an incredible amount of calcium and magnesium. It is also very high in chromium and zinc. Other vitamins and minerals that are abundant in nettle are cobalt, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, (which is showing itself to be importaint in cancer prevention) thiamine, vitamin A and vitamin C. Whew! That's quite a list. Who would have thought that annoying weed in your back yard was actually a nutritional power house.

you can also eat your medicine - how about nettle fritters?
Making an infusion is very simple. Take about 1 ounce of nettle and add it to 1 quart of boiling water.  Stir your infusion to make sure all the herb is submerged. Keep your infusion covered on the counter for at least 4 hours - I try to leave mine overnight. When its ready to drink, just strain out the herbs and you're all set. Drink at least one cup a day, though the whole quart would be ideal. Now, I would be remiss if I did not tell you that the first time you have nettle infusion you may....well....think it's so gross you want to puke. It's very good for you, but the taste leaves something to be desired.  Rest assured that for most people it becomes more bearable the more you drink it, and some people actually end up thinking it tastes good. I'm afraid I'm not one of the latter - but I don't think its as bad as I used to. Someone suggested to me that I eat  it with a piece of chocolate, that definitely helped. Another good idea is to add mint leaves in with the nettle leaves to cover the taste.
One more word of warning. Nettle is a diuretic, so if you tend to be a "dry" person, you may find it too drying. If this is the case, you can add marshmallow root or slippery elm to the mix.  Nettle can also be cooling, so some people like to add a slice or two of ginger. Whatever way you drink it, you are sure to reap its many benefits and will find your daily infusion to be a worthwhile habit indeed.

All pictures via Bing Images

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Home Style a la 1920's

I realize this really isn't the time of year for this post - but my dream house has one of these:

No, its not a bedroom - although I do want bedrooms in my dream house. This, my friends, is a creation of the 1920's - the sleeping porch.

It seems that back in the 20's these little gems were built onto the second floor of your home. In the summer, you could sleep there with the windows wide open to get fresh air. Doctors believed that the fresh air was good for respiratory diseases, and people liked to escape the summer heat that built up in the house during the day, since there was no air conditioning at the time.

 Personally, I think it would be a grand place to sleep and relax in the warm summer months. It is definitely part of my dream house from here on out.

 I just want it to have heat -  so I can be warm as toast in the winter -  and air conditioning for when I really don't feel like I need fresh air after all!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Feast of St. Raphael

Saint Raphael, whose name in Hebrew means "God has healed", is one of the seven angels who "stand before the Lord" (Tobias 12:15). In Latin, sanctus (saint) translates to holy. There is no doubt as to Raphael's holiness, therefore it is accurate to call him by the title of Saint.
Many believe that Raphael was the "Angel of the Lord" mentioned in John 5:4 who stired the waters at the pool of Bethsaida in order to cure the infirm. He is, however, mostly known from the book of Tobias. Here we learn about Tobias the younger who had to travel to collect a debt for his ailing father, Tobias the elder.  Before he sets out on his journey, he mets up with Saint Raphael, unaware, however, of his heavenly dignity.  Through the course of their journey, many exciting events transpire. (Feel free to read the details yourself in the book of Tobias.)  It is not until young Tobias returns that he finds out he has been keeping company with an Angel of the Lord. It is due to the miracles obtained for Tobias that Saint Raphael is know as the patron of happy and holy marriage, travelers, the sick, and those in financial distress.  He is also referred to as the "Physician of God" since the Bible tells us "The Holy Angel of the Lord, Raphael, was sent to heal them" (Tobias 3:25)
God sent Saint Raphael to assis the younger Tobias largely because of the great piety and patience of Tobias the Elder.  He had a "perfect resignation to the will of God.  His humble prayer was heard, and the angel Raphael was sent to relieve him: he is thankful and praises the Lord, calling on the children of Israel to do the same" (Douay-Rheims notes on the book of Tobias)
Although we may not be as Holy as Tobias the Elder, we can beseech God for his diving mercy by means of prayer.  According to St. Alphonsus, God grants everyone the grace of prayer and wishes that all should make constant use of this grace, in order to obtain all other necessary graces.  We should pray without ceasing, but we can call on the aide of our dear friends in heaven, who are only too glad to assist us in our prayers. This practice was part of the church as early as the year 100 AD, and  actually started with the Jews, who would honor prophets and holy people with shrines. There are many examples of people in the Bible interceding for others, (Moses in Exodus 32; Jeremias in Jer. 7:15; Aaron  in Num. 16:46) so we can have confidence that God will hear the prayers of his saints that intercede for us - especially on their feast day! So why not take advantage of the Feast of St. Raphael and ask him to intercede for you!

Prayer to St. Raphael for Help
O Glorious Archangel, St Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, illustrious by thy gifts of wisdom and grace, guide of travelers by land and sea, consoler of the unfortunate and refuge of sinners, I entreat thee, help me in all my needs and in all the trials of this life, as tho didst once assist the young Tobias in his journeyings. And since thou are the "phusician" of God, I humbly pray thee to heal my soul of its many infirmities and my body of the ills that afflict it, if  this favor be for my greater good. I ask especially for angelic purity, that I may be made fit to be the living temple of the Holy Ghost.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crafting Your Own Cold Cream

WHEN a pot of cold cream to Eliza you send,
You with words to this purpose your present commend;
Whoe'er with this cream shall her countenance smear,
All redness and roughness will strait disappear,
And the skin to a wonder be charmingly clear;
If pimples arise, this will take them away;
If the small-pox should mark you, those marks will decay;
If wrinkled through age, or bad dawbing the face is,
'Twill be smooth in a trice, as the best Venice glass is;
All this, and much more (could I spare time to write it,
Or my pen go as fast, as your lips would indite it)
You affirm of your cream: and I would not abuse it,
But pray tell me one thing—Do you yourself use it?
-Dr. Russell, 1814

Autumn is the time of year in which I like to make homemade cold cream. My skin gets so dry in the winter that it really needs the extra oil that cold cream can provide. Cold cream is said to have its origins in the second century, when it was invented by Galen, the famous Greek physician. This version contains two oils, olive - which was the original oil used - and Macadamia. Macadama oil has a high concentration of palmitoleic acid, which is especially beneficial for dry and mature skin.
My recipe is a modified version of the one found in the book Natural Beauty at Home: More Than 250 Easy-to-Use Recipes for Body, Bath, and Hair.

Greek Cold Cream
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. vitamin C powder
1/4 cup distilled water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup macadamia oil
2 TBS beeswax pellets
1 tsp. rose water

Step 1: Mix the water, vitamin C powder, and baking soda in a microwavable glass and set aside.

Step 2: Mix the oils and beeswax in an oven proof bowl, like pyrex.

Step 3 : Place the oil/beeswax mixture in a preheated 170 degree oven.

Step 4: Nurse the baby, change the toddler, put the laundry in the dryer - do whatever you need to do while the beeswax is melting in the oven. Occasionally go back and stir the mixture until it is crystal clear.

Step 5: When the mix is clear, take your water mixture and microwave it for about one minute.

Step 6: Slowly stir the hot water mixture into the oil mixture.  This is best done with a fork, in my opinion. It will start out quite watery, but as it cools it will begin to thicken. Continue to go back and stir it up until it is just about room temperature. At this point it looks a lot like pudding.

Step 7: Add the rose water and stir again.

Step 8: Place your cold cream in a jar and make a pretty label for it. It will still be quite soft, but as it continues to cool it will get harder.

Now you're ready! Before you go to bed just rub some on your face and tissue it off. The residue that remains will help to moisturize your skin as you sleep. Remember, this is only for dry or mature skin - do not use it if your skin is oily.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lessons in Etiqutte From a More Genteel Era

Standard etiquette for all occasions: What to do, what to say, what to wear by Ethel Cushing Brant gives us a glimpse into the manners and behaviors that were expected to be practiced daily by anyone claiming to be civilized. It is a shame that in today's world there is such a breakdown in our culture that people feel manners have no place anymore. Rules of etiquette actually made life much easier for everyone, since all knew what was required of them in every situation. In honor of these traditons that we have left by the wayside, I'd like to quote a passage from Ms. Brant:

Invariable politeness must be practiced as well as taught in the home. "Please" and "Thank you" should be insisted upon and appreciation of all kindness should be voiced at once by some happy remark. When answering mother and father and all older people, children should be taught to say "Yes" or "No" distinctly, followed by the person's name.
Teach them that it is vulgar and common to shove, jostly, or speak at the top of their voices, and we shall not have that all too frequent feeling of disgust and annoyance toward children whom we encounter in public places.
Children stand until their elders are seated and should be taught to allow older people to enter a room first. Boys should always allow their sisters as well as other little girls to take precedence. When older people enter a room where children are seated, they should arise at once and allow the older person to select the chair he desires. They must avoid passing in front of people if possible - if this cannot be avoided, a quiet "Excuse me" should be said. At table boys seat their mother and other ladies present, and it is a courteous thing for them to seat thier sisters. An appreciative smile from mother must always be ready when little acts of politeness are performed. It is excellent training for children to remain at table until the elders are finished, but it is permmissible for them to ask mother "May I be excused?" and slip quietly away.
Children should be taught not to interrupt the conversation of their elders--they can wait for a lull and then make their request or remark  in a quiet voice. Boys should learn to raise their hats promptly when a lady speaks to them or they speak to her. Little girls must give a quick  and pleasant smile when speaking or spoken to. Consideration and kindness should be shown at all times to old people, invalids, servants, working people - in short any one who is not as fortunate as oneself."

If we could implement at least some of these things, just imagine how much nicer our lives could be. As a parent, think what peace would rule in your home! Wouldn't it be nice to go into the grocery store and see all the children behaving acordingly? Sure, we might never return to the days when a brother seated his sister, but just a touch of civility could go such a long way. Why not make it a goal? I think we will.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Here We Go Again!

Yes, another birthday! This time it was Thomasina Tittlemouse, who turned sixteen. Its hard to believe my little Ms. Mouse is so grown up now. It seems like just yesterday she was a new baby, only three pounds and nine ounces. What a fine, mature, young lady she has turned out to be. I'm so very proud of her and I know that whatever she chooses to do in the future she will be a great success. Hopefully she had a nice day, despite some sickness that has infiltrated our house. So without further ado, here are some scenes from the day.

Ptolemy Tortoise wrapping the cool present

two eager helpers

"I think we should have used NASCAR paper"

"Now I'm set for all night blogging!"

"I wonder if they hid the paperwork for my driving permit in here?"

 Happy Sweet Sixteen!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Ptolemy Tortoise!!!

Ptolemy Tortoise circa 1999
Today is Ptolemy Tortoise's 14th birthday, and of course the only reason to have a birthday is to have cake! It was agreed by all  (except Mr. Bouncer ) that it should be a chocolate cake. In the past I have made some fancy cakes (see exhibit A and exhibit B) but this year the cakes are more modest than their predecessors. That, however doesn't mean we don't want them to be tasty.

exhibit A

exhibit B (and yes, the whole thing is cake)
This time I am not ashamed to say I took the easy way out. Why spend a lot of time mixing your own blend of gluten free flour when Betty Crocker can do it for you? Since I have an allergy to eggs,  (and I wanted to eat cake) I had to substitute the 3 eggs called for on the box with egg replacer. In order to not lose some of the moistness I used a secret ingredient. (SHH! Don't tell the children!)

Now mix the secret ingredient with these other chocolate lovelies,

and you end up with this:

and this:

and this:

I think the Fierce Bad Rabbit liked it too.

Besides helping to finish the cake, everyone helped wrap presents.

 Happy Birthday Ptolemy Tortoise!!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mary, Our Most Wonderful Mother

Traditionally, in the Catholic Church Saturdays are dedicated to the Blessed Mother, so I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about her today. I think there are some misconceptions by non-Catholics as to what we actually believe about Mary. The love we feel toward this most holy mother is not worship but rather homage and reverence. Just as you can turn to your mother on earth for aid, so can you turn to your mother in heaven. If you believe that a soul who dies in a state of grace can gain eternal life in heaven, then you know God is a God of the living and not the dead. Therefore if the Mother of God is alive in Heaven, would not her most perfect Son hear her intercessions for us? And why would a mother of such caliber  not intercede for her children when they ask her to?  In the words of St. Louis De Montfort in his book True Devotion to Mary :
Inasmuch as grace perfects nature, and glory perfects grace, it is certain that Our Lord is still, in Heaven, as much the Son of Mary as He was on earth; and that consequently, He retained the obedience and submission of the most perfect Child toward the best of all mothers. But we must take great pains not to conceive this depenence as any abasement or imperfection in Jesus Christ. For Mary is infinitely below her Son, who is God, and therefore she does not command Him as a mother here below would command her child who is below her. Mary, being altogether transformed into God  by grace and by the glory which transforms all the saints into Him, asks nothing, wishes nothing, does nothing contrary to the eternal and immutable will of God......If Moses, by the force of his prayer, stayed the anger of God against the Israelites in a manner so powerful that the most high and infinitely merciful Lord, being unable to resist him, told him to let Him alone that He might be angry  with and punish that rebellious people, what must we not, with much grater reason, think of the prayer of the humble Mary, that worthy Mother of God, which is more powerful with His Majesty than the prayers and intercessions of all the angels and saints  both in Heaven and on earth?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Back

Summer's waning; things are no longer as they were. The cover of darkness comes earlier each day. There is a crispness in the air calling to you, whispering to your very soul. Birds hear it, squirrels hear it. "Retreat", it says. "Fall back into the shelter of your home - prepare - be ready. The time for the careless play of summer has ended. Stoke up the home fires, settle in, winter is coming.  Is your larder stocked? Are the herbs  bought and mixed, ready to defend against coughs and sore throats? Are the candles made? Their light will be a beacon of warmth in the ensuing darkness. Fortify. Stews and pot pies are the fare of the day. Watermelon breakfasts and salad lunches will not be enough to strengthen you against winters assaults.
Remove those light and airy curtains from your windows. Now is the time for a protective veil to keep away harsh winds and biting cold. Delicate lace coverlets, you have no place here. Down quilts and flannel sheets must replace you, for you can offer no shelter against the coming cold.  Barefoot nights on the porch chasing the glow of fireflies are no longer. Now we must be diligent - ready to pick up arms of woolen mittens and caps. Replace your sandals and have your feet shod with more protective gear - a damp cold lines the path in front of you. Settle in, but do not settle down, winter's shadow can already be seen approaching in the distance.....are you ready?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Herbs and Fever - Part 2

Yesterday I talked about some of the herbs that are helpful in fevers where the person needs relaxing. Today I'd like to tell you some more about the stimulating herbs. These aren't herbs that are stimulating in the sense that coffee would be. Think of it more as the type of stimulation you get from a good back rub. These herbs will take the heat from inside the body and bring them outward. Think of these for the patient that has that cool clammy feeling to their skin. They tend to be pale, giving you a sense that things just aren't flowing properly, and probably feel pretty weak.
The first herb in this category is cayenne. I think everyone can agree that cayenne is stimulating to the system! All you need is a small bit and it will help get the blood going.  I have seen mixes of hot chocolate with Cayenne in it, but you could do that yourself with your own cocoa. Incidentally, Dr. Christopher, a famous herbalist, loved cayenne and took a teaspoon of it three times a day starting at age 30. When he was 45 he was told he had the veinous structure of a teenage boy and perfect blood pressure. He used it for heart conditions, ulcers, asthma, digestive issues and who knows what else, all with success. It is also great to stop bleeding. Taken in a bit of water it will stop bleeding in about 30 seconds. Its a wonderful herb - but back to fever.

Probably everyone knows of ginger's warming qualities and its usefulness for nausea. This would be great for the cold clammy patient who feels like they can't keep anything down. This is best in small sips.
Cinnamon, another well known herb, is called for when the person is experiencing fever combined with diarrhea. It is also helpful to stop someone who is sweating profusely while cold and clammyat the same time. Be diligent in a situation such as this, as it can be a sign of dehydration. To make a tea of cinnamon, you can use regular sticks that you get from the spice section in the grocery store and simmer them covered for about 15 minutes.  Another side note, cinnamon sticks simmered in milk (or any number of milk substitutes if you live in this house) with a bit of honey in it is a lovely warming drink in the winter.

Yarrow is something you may see growing around your house, but did you know it was good for fever?  I've never tried it, but I hear that it is pretty unpleasant tasting so you need to mix it with something else.  Yarrow taken as a hot tea is diaphoretic (simply put helps you sweat buy increasing circulation) but when it is cold is diuretic. For our purposes we want it hot.
Other herbs that are warming are black pepper, nutmeg, and cloves. These are spices that you are sure to have on hand and can easily be mixed into a chi tea. I'm sure recipes abound on the internet.  Packaged blends will work as well if there are real herbs in the mix.
You may often be faced with a person who exhibits symptoms that would suggest both relaxing and stimulating herbs. Fell free to mix the two together based on the individuals symptoms, or try something from the mint family. Peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm  are all in the mint family and will have both properties. They will all help with circulation, nausea, and digestive complaints. When in doubt, these are good safe herbs to try, and are readily available throughout the year.

all pictures via google images

Now lest you think that I used my uncanny intelligence to come up with all this information on my own, I must tell you that my information is based on a lecture from Jim McDonald, who is a herbalist in Michigan.  Jim suggest that before cold and flu season hits, you should prepare yourself with 3 basic blends for when the time comes. His suggestions are

Middle of the road blend

Stimulating blend

Relaxing blend
lemon balm
rose hips

Have these ready and when the time comes, make up a thermos full and put it by your patient, letting them sip it throughout the day. Before you know it they will be right as rain!