March 31, 2009

Happily Handmade

Do you Indie? I do. What's an Indie? Glad you asked! I quote the from the Happily Handmade Giveaway website: "Indie is more than a word, it’s a state of mind. It’s about supporting small businesses and independent artisans. It’s about cherishing the quality of something handmade, not mass produced. To be indie means to ascend to a new level of creativity, originality, and forward-thinking, challenging the notion that quality is synonymous with size. To support indie is to make the conscious decision to purchase from an independent crafter and not a big box retailer."

Want to get in on some of this indie goodness? It's easy! Just enter the Happily Handmade Giveaway starting Wednesday, April 1st by visiting Bidwell Botanicals or any of the Indie Shop Sponsors. Look for the Happily Handmade Entry Site badge and follow the instructions to enter. You may enter once through each of the Indie Shop Sponsors’ sites. Visit them all to increase your chances of winning! Be sure to follow the steps listed on each sponsor website for specific entry requirements, as each site is different.

The giveaway entry period runs from April 1st through May 13th. No entries will be accepted before or after these dates. Winners will be notified on May 18th, and an official list of winners will be posted on the Happily Handmade website as soon as they have been confirmed. To get the scoop on the rules and preview the indie goodies being given away visit the Happily Handmade website. Good luck!

March 19, 2009

Lovely Lavender

To celebrate our spring-like weather I offer you a short course on herbs. We'll start with my favorite (hey I'm the author!) Lavender. This pretty purple flower is well known for its unique fragrance. The Greeks and Romans favored it in their bath water. Its name is derived from the Latin lavare, "to wash" so that makes sense. Lavender was used extensively in Europe during the 17th Century to mask household smells and stinking streets. Stories that the glovers of Grasse, who used lavender oil to scent their fashionable leather, were remarkably free from plague, encouraged other people to carry lavender. Ladies of refinement carried lavender sprigs tucked into their tussy mussy. A beautiful addition to any bouquet, it was also a very good way to daintily avoid unpleasant odors.

Lavender has long been used medicinally, the oil of the flower being the most popular. The flower is also infused as a tea to soothe headaches, calm nerves, ease flatulence, fainting, dizziness and halitosis. It is said that if you add 6 drops to an irritable child's bathwater it will help calm them. Now that's a bonus! Lavender was used during the World Wars as an antiseptic and is to this day, a dominating choice in the fragrance industry.

Essential oil of lavender is one of the safest and most widely used oils in aromatherapy for its calming and antifungal properties. We use lavender oil in many of our bath and body products not only for it's heavenly scent but also for its ability to relax and soothe. While it is relatively safe, remember the oil is essentially a plant derived concentrated medicinal and as such should be used with care and never at full strength on the skin or taken internally. If you have plant allergies you should be wary of products containing essential oils as they could cause a reaction. It's always best to test first than be sorry later.

Lavender in many forms is readily available at plant nurseries and home improvement centers. Do yourself a favor and buy a pot as it's hard to grow from seed and will flower faster. Put it on your deck or plant it in the garden in a sunny spot by favorite chair so you can enjoy the fragrant flowers all summer long.

March 10, 2009

Spring Cleaning

The past few days have been insanely beautiful here in the south. It feels like spring has arrived and many of our trees are bursting with bloom - oh and pollen. Yes, that lovely yellow demon powder that coats anything that holds still long enough including our outside kitty. So while we're tempted to just throw open the windows, having to clean all that yellow powder off everything and dealing with the allergic reactions it causes in my son is not, to borrow a phrase, a good thing.

Spring is also the time to think about refreshing your home. Here's a tip to bring out the shine in your bathroom and kitchen. Need to scrub and don't want to use the harsh stuff? No problem. Just whip out the multitasking baking soda and add a touch of lemon juice for grease cutting and whitening power. Using a damp sponge scrub away the soap scum and grime. This is less abrasive than your average cleansing powder, is non-toxic and it will leave the tub and sink sparkling clean and smelling fresh. Pouring a bit of the baking soda down the drain will to help freshen there as well.

As for the yellow demon dust: swish, rinse, repeat... swish, rinse, repeat... you get the idea.