Green Day in the FLX

I woke at 6:38 in the morning, just 22 minutes before my alarm would go off. I’ve been waking before my alarm most days this spring, but lie there hoping I can get just a little more sleep.

After driving my daughter to school and eating breakfast with Alan, I decided to dedicate my day to working on making un-paper towels. One of the many ways we need to change our habits is to stop using, or at least drastically cut down on our use of, paper towels.

I’ve been scrutinizing the family’s paper towel use and notice most of the time we are using them to wipe up a minor spill, dry hands, or dry a cup or dish. It’s true that I use them to clean, but I have microfiber cloths, rags, and sponges, so I just need to stop reaching for paper towels.

With fabric I had, I sewed up a dozen towels that are flannel on one side and muslin on the other, and another half dozen with linen on one side and muslin on the other.

The pattern was a 13″ x 12″ rectangle, that, when sewn with a 1/2″ seam on each side, made 12″ x 11″ un-paper towels, which is the same size as the brand of paper towels I’ve been buying. I drew a pencil line across at the 6″ mark, and then sewed along the line, so they easily fold in half. And then I folded them in thirds, Kon-Mari style. Since I have a vertical paper towel holder, I couldn’t roll my new towels, so I removed the roller and stacked them in the space.

Now that I’ve successfully made my first un-paper towels, we have to form the habit of using them. Keeping a fresh supply next to the sink will help. Of course, I’ll keep a couple rolls of paper towels in the house for really dirty jobs, but if they’re out-of-sight, I hope they’ll be out-of-mind too.

This was a tiny step toward a more planet-friendly daily life, but it felt like a positive one. Alan and I have been increasingly saddened by the continuous photos of plastic waste in the oceans, on beaches, and harming and killing sea birds and animals. We are examining our habits and purchases and asking ourselves: Is this necessary? Is there another way? What can we do right now?

And, in fact, there are so many practical actions each one of us can take right now to honor and protect the planet we call home. Because, as the slogan I’ve seen on Instagram a lot lately says, “There is no Planet B.”

I’d love to be inspired by how you are finding ways to live in a planet-healthy fashion. Here are a few places where you can go to learn about plastic waste in the oceans and to explore ways you can reduce your plastic usage.

My Plastic Free Life

How to Reduce Plastic Use in Your Home

Green Education Foundation

Oceanic Society

Evening Poetry, April 9

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

Logos

Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?

If you say the right words, the wine expands,

If you say them with love

and the felt ferocity of that love

and the felt necessity of that love,

the fish explode into many.

Imagine him, speaking,

and don’t worry about what is reality,

or what is plain, or what is mysterious.

If you were there, it was all those things.

If you can imagine it, it is all those things.

Eat, drink, be happy.

Accept the miracle.

Accept, too, each spoken word

spoken with love.

This poem can be found in the collection Why I Wake Early.

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!

What is Saving My Life Right Now

How was your Monday? I felt like I didn’t move very quickly from one task to another today. My theory is that my body gets to the point where it just has enough and purposely slows down. The weekend was full with late work hours and going to see my daughter in The Addams Family Musical at her high school on Friday and Sunday.

On Sunday evening after the show, Alan and I made a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie and Gluten Free, Dairy Free Irish Soda Bread while listening to Celtic music in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. It felt good to return to a tradition I enjoyed with my children when they were younger and had let go of in the past few years. I am looking forward to the rest of this week and to another celebration– the first day of Spring!!!

So here is where I follow several bloggers who have taken a cue from author Barbara Brown Taylor to answer the question: “What is saving your life right now?” Here is my list of current or ongoing lifesavers.

My Bullet Journal Notebook: I’m not going to stop singing the Bullet Journal’s praises, so if you’ve never heard of it, here’s an in-depth delve from Lazy Genius into the Bullet Journal world. (It really is the ultimate guide and will answer lots of your questions.)


The Bullet Journal is this ridiculously simple analog method of keeping your life together in one place. It works for everyone, is completely customizable, and once you start using it, you will be lost without it. This year, I got Alan on the Bullet Journal train and he’s enjoying using it to keep his life organized. This is my fourth year and I am continually finding new ways to entrust my life to its pages. The good news is, you can start it anytime. Check out the Bullet Journal website for short videos showing what it is and how to use it. Once you start, you won’t look back.

My diffuser: I haven’t been sick once all winter and I credit my diffuser, as well as my diet full of whole and green foods and low in sugar! I have several essential oil blends I’ve made and tested to keep me healthy. I’ll be sharing a few blends this week on Wednesday’s post.

My Blackwing Palomino 602 Pencils: as a left-handed writer, my hand tends to cramp up and get tired fairly quickly. There is a fluid elegance and ease to these pencils that have earned them high praise from many famous creatives.

Glo, formerly YogaGlo, is the primary way I practice yoga. In early December, I signed up for the free trial and never looked back. From 5 minute meditations, to 90 minute yoga classes, from super chill restorative Yin and gently Hatha to a sweaty Vinyasa Flow, there are choices for everyone.

You can search by time length, by instructor, by style, by body part you wish to focus on, by time of day, etc. As I work toward my goal of yoga and meditation everyday, Glo provides me with a feast of opportunities to practice.

Barre3 is the other exercise life-saver that I am in love with. It is a combination of ballet, Pilates, cardio, and yoga and is always low-impact. You will sweat, but you will never jump. Even their Barre3 Burpees are slow and much attention is paid to proper alignment, so my wrists and knees have never been sore afterwards. My butt and legs have, though!

It is a workout unlike any other I’ve experienced and the Barre3 message is body-positive and affirming. They’re never pushing you through a workout so you can look great in a bikini. Their language is aimed at building strength, confidence, and feeling good in your own body. They encourage people to pay attention to how they’re feeling (example: “If there is any tension in your neck, lower your arms, etc.”) and to modify each move to make it their own. Here is $10 off if you decide to join!

I’d love to hear what is saving your life right now! Please share in the comments below. Also, I will be giving away my copy of The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll and a couple other goodies on Instagram this week. So head over to my Instagram tomorrow Tuesday March 19 to enter. (US only)