5 Things I Learned In March

I am a wimp when it comes to books about tragedies and the strain they create on relationships. I really wanted to read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey–the writing is so beautifully stunning I was re-reading passages by the second page. And the atmosphere is instantly palpable, but the depth of desolation and the emotional distance of the two characters was overwhelming. I’ve read a couple of sad books in a row lately and knew my sensitive heart was not going to be able to handle this tale. At least for now! (But if you are made of stronger stuff, please read it!)

Deadlines make me move forward. I knew I needed to put my aromatherapy certification to good use, so I scheduled aromatherapy events on Facebook and began inviting my friends, emailing folks on my list, and getting the word out. Terrifying, yes, but I’m such a perfectionist I would wait forever if I didn’t take Seth Godin’s advice and just “ship it”! And both my aromatherapy classes were so much fun–I am going to keep creating deadlines to challenge myself toward constant learning and growth, both personally and with my business.

The women in my second aromatherapy class.

I really can avoid a cold. All my life, I thought there was nothing I could do once that scratchy, sore throat started. But now I pull out my arsenal and fight back. My weapons of cold virus destruction? Essential oils such as Lemon, Tulsi, Black Spruce, Niaouli, Cypress, Frankincense, and Helichrysum gymnocephalum. All of them are immune strengthening, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, a lot of them are anti-viral, anti-microbial, analgesic, help with energy levels, etc. This last weekend, I diffused for several hours a day, made myself a personal inhaler, put some on my throat area (diluted, of course), and did self-massage. I also ate plenty of dark, green vegetables, stayed away from sugar (I usually do anyway), and drank tea (Tulsi, Throat Coat, Green). By the second day my sore throat was gone and by the third day, my energy levels rose. Because I want to be sure, I’ll continue to diffuse daily. Click here to read my post on Black Spruce and get some diffuser blends.

I actually like herbal teas. I used to just drink tea for medicinal purposes, but now I’m finding the taste is pleasant. This month I began drinking Lemon Balm when I’m feeling anxious or stressed. I definitely feel calmer. Tulsi tea is another favorite–it’s immune strengthening and it is an adaptogen, which means it should calm me when I’m anxious, boost me when my energy has slumped. I’ve only had a few cups so far, but it seems to have more of an energizing effect. Every body is different, though, so you’ll have to try it for yourself.

Live Streaming on Social Media is fun the second time around. I’ve set up a schedule for Facebook and Instagram Live for my business, Delicata House, and for our musical duo, The Inner Crazy. Since I’ve only done it a few times, I’ve felt unprepared, nervous, and breathless when I go Live on Facebook. Then when I head over to Instagram right afterward and go Live, I feel warmed up and more relaxed. (I know it’s possible to go live on both platforms at once, but I don’t have another spare device to do that right now.) Each week, it gets slightly better as I think about what went well, what didn’t, and how I can improve.

If you want to check it out, my Delicata House schedule is every Tuesday Facebook Live 12pm ET, Instagram Live 12:15 ET. I’m doing a series called “What Should I Do With My Oils?”. Our duo The Inner Crazy does a Facebook Live at 8pm ET and Instagram Live at 8:15pm ET every other Tuesday where we perform a couple of songs and talk all things music-related. Follow Delicata House on Facebook and Instagram and The Inner Crazy on Facebook and Instagram to stay informed of our Live events!

Alright, now it’s your turn! What have YOU learned this month?


The Gown (Book Review)

When I first spotted The Gown by Jennifer Robson at our local Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to read it. I assumed it was about the royal wedding and would center around the royal family. Instead, the focus is on two women, Ann and Miriam, who are embroiderers in the Normal Hartnell fashion house, as well as Ann’s granddaughter, Heather, who, years later, discovers that these two worked on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

This is one of those books where the story switches between past (1947) and present (2016). I honestly didn’t think Heather or the switch between times was necessary. There wasn’t much of a mystery to unravel, and I felt that the fact that Heather’s mother knew nothing about her own mother, Ann’s, history a bit too convenient and far-fetched. I would’ve preferred to read more about Ann and Miriam than to read of the granddaughter’s thoughts and discoveries, but maybe there wasn’t enough material to fill a novel otherwise.

Aside from this, the two main characters had enough depth and vibrance to their personalities to keep me invested in their story. The description of their work at Hartnell’s fascinated me, and provided them with a way to slip into a world of luxury and beauty, in sharp contrast to their stark, post-war, rationed existence. Within these pages you will read of a blossoming love story and a brutal betrayal, of healing, friendship, and the resilience of women in the face of hardship.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy wartime or post-war fiction, anything to do with England, art, or fashion.

 

Black Spruce (Wellness Wednesday)

The lovely women in my aromatherapy class last weekend.

Yesterday on Facebook/Instagram Live I began a new series, “What Should I Do With My Oils?”. I know a lot of people who own plenty of essential oils: I meet them in doctors’ offices, at the hair salon, at the library, and in my home! But once they get these beautiful oils, they don’t always know what to do with them. So I thought I would highlight one oil per week, talk about its benefits or “core therapeutic actions” as my aromatherapy school says. Also, I’ll share any safety concerns, how to use it and include a few recipes so you can make your own blends at home.

Black Spruce is this week’s essential oil. Latin name is Picea mariana, and it is part of the Pine/Conifer family (Latin: Pinaceae). The part of the plant distilled is the needles. Storage: Always store your essential oils in a cool, dark, place. A little fridge for your oils is a good idea!

Core therapeutic actions or benefits: Anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, immune system stimulating, eases muscular aches and pains, joint stiffness, tension, is a decongestant, can help with colds, spasmodic coughs, bronchitis, moist coughs.

So, how can Black Spruce help you? Well, this time of year, colds are flying around. I narrowly avoided one this weekend because several friends and family members were sick. The good news is, I did not get a full-blown cold–I was able to use herbs and essential oils, including Black Spruce, to fight it. As a performing singer, I do my utmost to keep myself healthy because getting a cold means it takes me about four to six weeks before I get my voice back.

If you’re concerned about getting a cold and want to keep yourself strong and the air in your home clear, Black Spruce can assist you. You can use Black Spruce in a diffuser or in a personal inhaler to keep yourself well and to fight off cold viruses that are flying around.

I made this inhaler blend for myself this weekend, to fight off the cold.

Kim’s Inhaler Blend: 5 drops Black Spruce, 6 drops Tulsi, 7 drops Lemon, 3 drops Cypress, 5 drops Helichrysum gymnocephalum

I put a similar blend in my diffuser to keep the air clear, boost my immune system, and help with congestion.

Kim’s Diffuser Blend: 2 drops Black Spruce, 3, drops Lemon, 4 drops Tulsi, 3 drops Helichrysum gymnocephalum

Sandy and I were choosing the oils for her inhaler. (Thank you, Susan G. for the photo!)

And here is a personal inhaler blend I made for my friend Sandy, who was recovering from bronchitis this past weekend.

Sandy’s Inhaler Blend: 5 drops Black Spruce, 4 drops Helichrysum gymnocephalum, 3 drops Frankincense, 6 drops Lemon, 6 drops Clary Sage.

You can also make a salt scrub to boost your immune system. Here is a simple, but effective recipe:

Immune Boost Salt Scrub: 1 cup sea salt, 1/2 cup sesame oil, 16 drops Black Spruce, 6 drops Niaouli, 10 drops Lemon. Mix together and place in 8 oz PET plastic or glass jar.

If you already are down with a cold and congested and/or coughing, you can try this:

Decongestant Diffuser Blend: 5 drops Black Spruce, 5 drops Niaouli or Helichrysum gymnocephalum, 2 drops Frankincense.

You can also use Black Spruce to ease muscular aches and pains. One way is with a massage oil or lotion blend.

Sore Muscle Relief Blend: In a 2 oz bottle, combine 12 drops Black Spruce, 6 drops Roman Chamomile, 6 drops Frankincense, and 12 drops Helichrysum italicum (very different from the Helichrysum above!). Fill with sesame or jojoba oil or fragrance free lotion, screw cap on and shake well. (This is a 2% dilution.)

And if you like roll-on bottles as a way to bring the goodness of essential oils wherever you go, here is a roll-on blend. Some of us made this in the aromatherapy class I taught this past weekend.

Jenny had a lot of fun experimenting for her roll-on blend. (Thank you, Susan G., for the photo!)

Spring Wellness Roll-on Blend: 1 drop Black Spruce, 1 drop Frankincense, 2 drops Cypress, 3 drops Lavender, 2 drops Orange, place drops in 10ml bottle, fill with sesame oil, put roller and cap on, and shake well.

I hope this gives you some fun things to try with your Black Spruce this week! Let me know what blends you enjoy making. Also, please follow my Delicata HouseInstagram and personal Instagram and Delicata House Facebook pages for info about Live streaming, future classes, and new products in my shops on Etsy and Shopify. Thanks!

To read more on Black Spruce, here is a blog post from my aromatherapy school.



Flourless Chocolate Cake, Gluten Free, Dairy Free (Recipe)

Last year, right before our birthday (Alan and I share the same day), I began looking for a cake recipe that I would actually like. I’m not much of a cake person–I like not-too-sweet chocolatey, creamy or fruity desserts and pies–as long as they are free of gluten and dairy. I started thinking about flourless chocolate cake and came across several that looked tempting. I decided on one from The Spruce Eats and gave it a try.

It was so easy to make and IT WAS DELICIOUS!!! I made it again at the end of September when some friends came for dinner and again at Thanksgiving. Then I forgot about it until last week when I suddenly wanted dessert and couldn’t think of anything to make, until, suddenly, the vision of flourless chocolate cake danced in my head! It was just as delightful as I remembered, so I am sharing it with you. (Recipe slightly adapted from The Spruce Eats)

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 cup or 6 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate bars broken into chunks or chips

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup sunflower or other mild-flavored oil

1 Tablespoon brewed coffee or just use water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 large eggs

1/2 cup of cacao or cocoa powder

About an hour before, set eggs on counter so they’ll come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 F and oil either an 8-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper or a 8 or 9 regular cake or tart pan (if you’re feeling lazy).

Carefully melt chocolate in the microwave or stove top on super low heat, stirring often to prevent burning/scorching. (Yep, I’ve done it!)

Transfer melted chocolate to mixing bowl, add sugar and blend with mixing paddle. Add in the oil, coffee or water, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.

Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition.

Add in the cocoa powder and mix well.

Pour batter into pan, even out with a spatula, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top has a thin, shiny crust and toothpick comes out mostly clean.

Place pan on wire rack to cool. When cool, if using a springform pan, unlatch the side and invert the cake onto a plate. If using a regular cake pan, just serve and enjoy!

It’s really good with Coconut Whipped Cream and/or raspberry sauce!

I forgot to take a picture before I dug into it–it’s that good!

Eating Frogs, Spring Cleaning, and Other Fun Things

A long time ago, a dear friend of mine had the habit of cleaning her home on Mondays. When I asked her why she chose Monday as her cleaning day, her practical answer was that Mondays are a day that no one looks forward to. So she felt that getting the cleaning out of the way paved the way for a happier outlook for the rest of the week.

This is the mentality found in Mark Twain’s frog quote: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

We all have places we want to go in our lives: personal goals and dreams that we are reaching for. But we have to do the hard and tedious stuff first. It’s necessary! Whatever it is you don’t want to do right now (and these are on my list this week): call the insurance company, get a new social security card, find a way to make a wireless printer work with my new 5G connection…just do it. Quit procrastinating! Use Mel Robbin’s 5 Second Rule if you need to…Make that dentist appointment, finish a sewing project and ship it, declutter the back room, clean the bathroom…just pick one and do it first thing in the morning. I promise you will feel better knowing you did that hard thing first.

In her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis shares a pretty clear message: you have to do the work and be the hero of your story. No one will do the hard things for you. Dreams are important and you need them, but, as Rachel says, you can’t live on hope. To make those dreams a reality requires a lot of uphill effort. In her podcast episode 72 about the daily practice that changed her life, she tells us we should write out our dreams, like it’s already reality, and then begin to reverse engineer what it will take to get you there.

So make your list and eat a frog first thing tomorrow morning!

And, in case you are doing some cleaning and want to know what cleaning products and tools (and a few books on home organization/care) I use, here’s my list of favorites. In my own life, having a clean and organized environment is necessary for my mental and emotional health. I am with Marie Kondo on this–the more clean and uncluttered your living spaces, the more you will enjoy your life.

Home Comforts

Organized Simplicity

Biokleen All-Purpose Cleaner

7th Generation Glass Cleaner

7th Generation Wood Spray

7th Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop

Shark Steam Pocket Mop

Microfiber Cloths

Share your frogs and cleaning adventures in comments!

Links I Love

Here is where I will share my sources of inspiration and food for thought from the past week.

Podcasts:

Roxanne Coady’s Just the Right Book had two fabulous episodes I listened to this week: Searching for America’s Moral Imagination & ” The Common Good” in which Roxanne interviews former Secretary of Commerce Robert Reich in a very interesting conversation that includes Capitalism, Progressivism, Trump, and more.

The second episode was her interview with author Dani Shapiro about the uncovering of a family secret that led to the writing her latest memoir The Inheritance.

And Dani Shapiro now has her own podcast, in its very first season! It is called, very appropriately, Family Secrets. Give it a listen!

I discovered another new podcast this week: Flowerlounge with Katie Hess. I listened to the latest episode about the dangers of the birth control pill. And as someone for whom the Pill was not an option, due to miserable side effects, I am glad there is information and discussion about alternatives, if you know where to look.

Blog posts:

Seth Godin’s post How big is your unfillable hole will take some time to think about. What are my weaknesses and how can I learn to dance with them?

Books:

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein. I haven’t read this yet, but I have many questions. I have a small business and a big dream for serving people in our community and much to learn!

Building a Storybrand by Don Miller. I listened to him interviewed on Amy Porterfield’s podcast this week and immediately set to work clarifying my message. I need to get a copy of this book to work through the steps and make sure I’m doing the work to tell my brand’s story in a clear way that is easy for potential customers to engage with.

So what is inspiring you this week? I’d love to know!

In So Many Words, (or A Roundabout Way To Write About the Last Three Years)

It’s not easy to walk toward authenticity, to pursue that will o’ the wisp

happiness. She’s elusive. You have to come at her from another angle

entirely. You waver for years wondering is she worth it, are you brave

enough. And one day, you get a glimpse of the other side, and you start

walking. Break with false selves and all the pretenses. Strip away the

supports and crutches, raze all the monuments you built to your good

name. You let go the loves you have known, their faces forever in your

soul’s vision. Look deep into the black river of your fear, and plunge in.

Like a stone you sink with your guilt and grief, into bottomless night.

No way to breathe through the pain, nothing to grasp. You fade in and out

of the senseless dark for a lifetime. Maybe you never were alive or

shouldn’t be anymore. Fading, fading, until hands catch at yours and pull

you into sunlight. It’s been so long since the sun kissed you, since you’ve

been held and known. Someone is holding you and calling your name,

singing. You allow yourself to be sheltered, fed, and comforted. Like an

injured bird you are tenderly cared for. Your many wounds begin to heal

and each day you can let in a little more light. One day you feel possibility

playing with your hair, like a breeze from the open window. Someone

stands at the door and calls to you. You smile at him and he comes close.

You are being told how loved you are, how lovely, how much you are

cherished, and what you mean to him. You’re dimly aware of his tears.

He is kneeling before you and you slowly comprehend that you are being

asked to make a home here. To belong. This house is spacious and set on a

hill. The one who saved your life has patient, joy-filled eyes that crinkle as

he laughs. He is gentle, kind, gives you the best rooms in the house, gives

you everything he has. You melt into his love. You are made new.

You think about the people you love across the river and your heart aches.

Months pass, and one day you see two figures coming toward you and it is

your loves. When you look into their eyes you see how they’ve been

marked with the pain of your leaving. You see how they try to understand,

how they’ve forgiven you. Tears come but they embrace you. You

bring them into your new home and feed them and listen to their beloved

voices. They meet this new man and graciously accept him. Your heart is

full, and at last, there she is–happiness– flitting around the table and

shining on every face.