Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beach Bummer

We spent the past week on vacation at the beach with my parents, the first such vacation for nearly a decade. I've been looking forward to the trip for over 6 months. We rented a place within sight of the Calibogue Sound and a short walk to the beach, so my allergies would be pretty much nonexistent.

The trouble started a couple weeks ahead of our trip. First, our 13 year old Sheltie suddenly started to show her age. She couldn't seem to get her bottom out of the way when she used the bathroom, necessitating frequent baths. She's also been really grumpy, snapping at me when I tried to groom her. As a result her fur became matted. I thought she was having mobility issues so I've been rubbing pain oil on her joints. Then I caught a cough and sore throat and ear ache I couldn't get rid of. I tried to boost my immunity with nutrition and essential oils but in the end had to go get some antibiotic ear drops. I was worried about leaving the dog but know our extremely capable pet sitter would take care of her. I arrived at the beach full of hope for some relaxation so I could just recover and de-stress.

I had a couple blissful days before the worst case reared up: the pet sitter called to say Ilse, the dog, was very sick with what later turned out to be colitis and pancreatitis. So Ilse spent two nights at the vet's, during one of which she chewed through her IV line, picked the lock to her cage, and ran around visiting all the other dogs! So the remainder of the week was spent taking the family to pre-planned activities while at the same time negotiating the dog's care with the vet and pet sitter long-distance. We also had record-breaking heat, both at the beach and at home. We visited Savannah on a day when the heat index reached well over 100 degrees. On the last day I ran out of sunscreen and couldn't reapply it after swimming and before a boat cruise, so all the non-Chinese members of the family got sunburned. We arrived home to find several of the vegetables and plants dead, despite our setting up a timed watering system. It's just so hot there's not much you can do for some plants.

So, it wasn't our best vacation ever. I am grateful for the moments of peace in the water I enjoyed, and I got to go horseback riding and experience many favorite activities. The dog is much better than she was but still pretty shaky and our other dog showed some possible signs of illness yesterday. The vet bill so far is $800 and with the pet sitter's charges we are over $1000 in the hole. It's the worst possible summer for it to happen, since we also have our 10 year reunion in Kansas City planned with the other girls from our daughter's orphanage next month. Therefore, I am having a sale in my Atelier Mandaline store to (I hope) raise some quick cash. I hope you'll check it out. You can also browse my catalogue.

Here's our Ilse girl, on the mend, we hope. She was so stinky the groomer went ahead and just gave her a short summer clip. She doesn't like it at all and hid under the table when I first tried to take her picture. It's so much easier to keep her clean, however, I'm thinking of giving our Spitz the same treatment!

The dog on the mend.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summertime Cissy

This week has been seriously crummy. We've had the hottest weather for almost 150 years, we are in the midst of a drought, and our neighborhood pool is out of commission due to unsupervised teens who dropped a glass drink bottle by the pool so that it broke and glass fell into the pool. So, the pool is closed while the management company drains, sweeps, refills, and treats it. Not only can we not swim, our swim team is having to rent pool space all around the area so I've been having to drive all over taking the kids to meets and practice. My eBay store has had only ridiculously low offers (like people offering $20 for a $200 doll) for days. Then, to top it all off I somehow managed to get an ear infection in this 100 degree heat! I'm just on antibiotic ear drops, thank goodness, since the last time I took oral antibiotics I reacted badly to them and gained 20 pounds. One of the only bright spots all week is the new Cissy I finished. I sweated it out, literally, in my hot attic office and restored not just the doll but her dress as well. The result is really feminine and summery and over the top.

Cissy before restoration.

Her fingernails had been painted.

I ordered this early Cissy doll because her wig, which is an unusual golden blond, was advertised as being wonderful and she didn't seem to have too much damage. When she arrived I found her wig just okay, not really great, and also saw she'd gotten some bad repainting along the way. Cissy had a chip near her lip paint and someone painted her mouth in a bubble gum pink enamel that might possibly have been nail polish, smearing some on her face when they did. Her body had a repaint with too-pink paint and that was dripped on her torso. Her fingernails were black from dark nail polish applied long ago.

I think the dress was originally #2143.

The dress is tagged.

The fabric was disintegrating.

There were a lot of stains.

The dress had heat damage from ironing.

The lining showed the dress was lavender.

Cissy herself was in terrific shape when compared to her dress. I believe this is the dress from the 1957 outfit #2143. It would have originally been trimmed with roses here and there and would have come with a matching bolero jacket. It's a little later piece than the doll herself. The dress is tagged, which is pretty much the only thing it had going for it. It was stained all over and had many tiny holes, probably where the floral decorations were once attached. The taffeta was disintegrating along the hem on one side. I could see from the lining the color had been lavender, but now it's faded to a pinkish beige.

I added side panels to the skirt.

I attached a tulle crinoline.

I made a peek-a-boo skirt.

I dealt with the shredding hem by treating the fabric with Fray Check to keep it from tearing any further. Then I turned both sides under and hemmed them and ruched the skirt up into panniers. I made double-layered panels from vintage flocked handkerchiefs of the same period and allowed them to show. Under the skirt I attached a metallic gold tulle crinoline. Every bit of this alteration is hand sewn! I kept a purple and yellow theme throughout the ensemble for a classic summer feel.

Flowers and beads cover stains and holes.

Where the dress had damage from a hot iron, pinholes, and stains, I scattered flowers and beads. I wanted it to look as though a storm of blossoms blew across the dress. I hand applied all those. Then I added a gold tulle sash with long streamers arranged across the back of the skirt to hide stains there. When Cissy wears her picture hat the streamers on the hat fall down and line up with the dress sash to appear almost as continuous. A gold tulle attached stole wraps around Cissy's shoulders. Real Swarovski crystals wink from the folds of the tulle and taffeta.

Stains in back of the skirt are covered by tulle streamers.

The hat streamers line up with the dress sash.

To restore Cissy herself I had to give her a really good scrubbing. Then I styled her golden curls, gave her a partial eyelash replacement, and refreshed her cheek blush. I also painted over her poorly restored mouth and torso. I repaired the chip in her paint near her mouth. I painted her fingernails to cover the old nail polish and re-strung her with elastic cord. Cissy does still have her original eyebrows and painted lashes and even a touch of her original smoky eyeshadow. Cissy has some typical paint scraping in her joints. Her hips are a bit stiff but she can sit and stand alone and her knees bend. She poses quite well for a high heeled doll.

Cissy's wig after styling.

Cissy's knees bend.

There is paint scraping in the joints.

I painted over old nail polish.
To finish off Cissy's fabulous outfit I gave her a vintage pendant of purple resin with real dried flowers inside. I found it in a thrift shop months ago and have just been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. This is surely the moment! I added a vintage Premier doll bracelet of yellow beads and a yellow silk doll handkerchief. The handkerchief has a small dark stain that is not visible when Cissy holds it in her hand.

I made Cissy a new pair of shoes with clear gold-flecked bases, gold elastic, and purple floral and bead trim. These are entirely handmade as well, other than the plastic bases of course.

I made matching shoes.

The stockings have some tiny holes.
For underclothes, Cissy wears vintage Alexander pink stockings with a couple tiny holes here and there and a really nice pair of seamstress made satin panties with lace trim. Cissy's enormous picture hat of golden sintamay matches her hair. It's trimmed with a profusion of tulle, flowers, Swarovski crystals, and even a purple butterfly, so elaborate Cissy looks like she's ready for tea with the queen! I sure wish I had Cissy's figure and haute couture wardrobe! You can purchase this Cissy and many other lovely dolls, including more Cissy dolls, in the Etsy and eBay branches of my store, Atelier Mandaline, so please check.

Cissy's picture hat has elaborate trimming.

I sure hope next week is better than this one. With the heat and my ear I've had trouble sleeping. I haven't felt well enough to work out so I'm sure I've gained weight. I did find a fabulous diet in Women's World magazine. You MUST drink 5-10 ounces of red wine each night. Finally, a diet I can stick to! It would sure be nice if I really lost weight on it. As much as I prefer to prevent illness with my Young Living oils, I have to say after one dose of antibiotic ear drops I was able to take a two hour nap, so my hope is for uninterrupted, healing sleep tonight. I truly hope your summer has started off better than mine! I'm taking a week off starting Saturday but I promise to get back to creating and blogging next week, and of course you can always follow my adventures on Instagram.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Young Living's New Starter Kit

I've had exciting news from Young Living that I've been keeping under my vest for the past couple months and I can finally reveal it: Young Living has premiered a new starter kit! The kits are an amazing deal because they come with the exclusive Dewdrop diffuser and a whole new set of 11 oils! Today's the DAY (June 19th)! The kits are available and I'm holding a launch party at my house tonight but online all day. If you order yours from me I will send you a list of recipes for everyday uses of the kit oils and a sample. To order just go to my web site and select "Choose Your Membership" and sign up for the Premium Starter Kit.

The new premium starter kit

My favorite thing about the new kit is the packaging design. You get 11 oils in the 5ml size in a fitted box with magnetic closure. There are spaces for 10 oils in a lift-out panel and underneath is a deep box with one 5ml oil space and several areas to hold Ningxia samples, sample bottles, larger oils, etc. A pocket in the lid holds printed materials. This is great to carry to classes or to take with you for everyday use. I commend Young Living for making it so easy to share the oils without lugging a ton of stuff with you.

The kit comes in a fitted case.
The only thing that doesn't fit in the case is the diffuser, but it comes in its own box, so you could carry it that way. The ultrasonic Dewdrop diffuser, by the way, is very pretty. You can run it with or without the colored LED light. It's extremely versatile and can be used as an atomizer, vaporizer, and humidifier. I'm thrilled to have a second diffuser. I have the Home Diffuser downstairs and now the Dewdrop can go upstairs. It also allows us to use them in different bedrooms if more than one person has a cold or cough.

I absolutely love Young Living. I started in December and really got the hang of it around January. We are saving so much money on toiletries, supplements, and cleaning supplies, and I have the pride of knowing I'm bringing extra income to the family as well. I am proud my family is contributing to the health of the planet using natural products. I choose to have a business membership but it is not necessary. Once you purchase a Premium Starter Kit you have a Young Living Wholesale membership and get wholesale prices on all YL's wonderful stuff! I can't recommend it enough!

The Dewdrop diffuser

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Garden Secrets

Homemade Pesticide
It's been a long time since I've written a garden post, I know. This is not because I haven't been working in the garden; on the contrary, I've been so busy it's hard to find time to write. I was also really frustrated this spring with the garden and haven't felt like talking about it. Today the kids and I are all sick, so I have time to write while I lie around coughing. Despite my oils and attempts to get more sleep it seems like we catch everything there is to catch. My husband however manages to stay well always, even though he rarely sleeps and hardly eats and never takes vitamins. I wish I had his immune system!

Things in the garden were looking a little better at last, but we have a new problem as usual. Last week I noticed woolly apple aphids on my Stargazer lilies. These are my favorites; I wait all year for them and now this summer I won't have any. I'm so disappointed! One lily was completely engulfed by the aphids and another was well on its way. I used my homemade solution and the aphids are still gone a week later, but I can see the one flower bud that grew has been killed and isn't going to develop. You might notice one of the jars of my pesticide is marked "Furniture Polish." That's because this useful recipe can work for both!

One Woolly Apple Aphid

Woolly Apple Aphids are so darn cute. There's one walking on my potato plants in the photo above. They remind me of Tribbles from that old Star Trek episode, or tiny fluffy Pomeranian puppies. Don't let their warm and fuzzy appearance fool you, however; these little guys quickly envelop a plant and suck the life out of it. I tried potatoes in large pots this year rather than in the ground, and they're doing fantastically well. The stalks are over three feet tall! So, I certainly don't want to lose them to aphids.

An aphid colony
The first step for this treatment, which works on any soft-body insects and even will help control Japanese Beetles, is to mix one part liquid dish soap with water in a jar. Basically you are making your own oil soap with this two-part solution. Dip the infested leaves and stems in the mixture and rub it all over the plant. For beetles, try to catch the beetle and throw it into the jar to drown it, or tip the leaves into the jar so it falls in. Cover any affected areas of the plant, and don't forget the undersides of the leaves.

Spray the plant all over with the oil mixture.

Now, to keep the insects from re-appearing, spray the plant all over with my furniture polish, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves. This is equal parts olive oil, lemon juice or water with lemon essential oil, and either white vinegar or witch hazel. I made mine with witch hazel this time because the last time I made it I used the vinegar and everyone fussed about the smell. I like the smell of vinegar. It reminds me of my childhood Easters because we always used it to make egg dye. We would make a snow bunny and have our egg hunt indoors until one memorable year when an egg was forgotten behind the piano and the resulting stench a few months later drove the egg hunts forever after outside to the snow. It's very easy to find colored eggs in the snow, another plus! Anyway, I used 1 cup each of the liquids and added 10 drops of Young Living lemon essential oil, which you can order here.

My lime tree one week after treatment.
My lime tree had the aphids last week as well and I used this method of treatment. You can see the yellow leaves, which were affected at the time, are still yellow, but there are no bugs of any kind on the tree now and the damage has not spread. It's rained a couple times, pretty hard, too. I have been so impressed over the years with this treatment it's pretty much all I use in the way of pesticides any more. Entomologists now believe even natural pesticides previously thought safe for bees are contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder and the disappearance of the honey bees and I don't want to add to that problem! The yard was full of bees when I was working this morning, and I was glad to see it. I am working hard to add more blooming flowers to this yard so we can draw more bees to pollinate the vegetables and fruits, but we have so much shade it's really difficult.

The previous garden

The old vegetable garden was doing so badly last year I spent quite a lot of time over the winter covering it with compost and sheeting it with plastic to try to cook the soil and sterilize it to help control fungus. This spring, however, even some of my rhubarb, which was traditionally our best performer, didn't return. My husband suggested we give up on that area and turn it into the fire pit he's been wanting. So, we built a fire pit with a patio around it and rebuilt the flagstone path to the area, which was dug up by moles. We have one block left to cut and place, which is driving me kind of crazy, and plan to add a border of either logs or metal banding to keep the stones in place. I'm all for the free log border but my husband is leaning toward the metal.

My "Lasagna" garden
We have a ton of logs because we limbed out several trees in the yard and cut down some saplings to create two sunny areas. In the smaller one I built a bed according to Patricia Lanza's instruction in her Lasagna Gardening book. That's a great book and I highly recommend it. It shows how to create rich garden beds through layering compost materials rather than digging. I have tomatoes I grew from seed for a late summer harvest in that bed, along with the relocated rhubarb, marigolds I grew from seed, and pots of carrots, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I have a few pumpkin seedlings along the back edge. Everything seems to be doing well.

The raised beds
In the larger sunny area my husband and teen built me raised beds and I have tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, eggplant, and herbs over there. These are doing quite well. Since I put transplants over there the plants are further along and we will be harvesting at least one pepper and tomato, probably within a week.

Giant Marconi pepper

I was fortunate to find Giant Marconi peppers this year, at last. Year before last I bought some peppers labeled as Giant Marconi but ended up with purple bell peppers. Our local nursery has nice plants but does a rather poor job with labeling. If you ever see any Giant Marconi plants or seeds, snap them up! These are small plants that produce enormous sweet banana peppers. Each pepper is as big or bigger than the plant itself and they have a prodigious yield. The last year we had these I made Chiles Rellenos about once a week and still froze a year's worth of peppers! The size and shape are perfect for Chiles Rellenos, by the way.

A tomato is almost ripe.
I have what appears to be a large orange plum tomato nearly ripe as well in the raised beds. This was supposed to be "Better Boy" and clearly is not, so I don't know the name. It's not red enough to be Roma, I don't think. I try to patronize our local businesses, but it's an adventure with the nursery here!

It's always funny to me how the garden changes from year to year. Last year we had huge amounts of rhubarb, strawberries, and blueberries and not much else. This year the hydrangeas and roses look amazing, after doing nothing last year, but the rhubarb is mediocre and the berries are a bust. We haven't gotten a single one because the squirrels beat us to the few that came out. The roses and hydrangeas are thanks in part to the insect control system shown above. I hope it works well for your garden too!

French Mophead Hydrangea
A perfect red rose, labeled Mr. Lincoln, but I don't think that's correct.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Ultimate Sunscreen

Sunscreen with Insect Repellent

Over the years, ever since I read a National Geographic article about scientists who study nanoparticles, I have been pursuing the perfect natural sunscreen recipe. One of the scientists in the article related how commercial sunscreens containing titanium dioxide are believed to actually cause skin cancer because of the way it affects cells at the nano level. As I have a family history, and thus a high risk of skin cancer, I wanted to avoid anything that might make it worse.

I've made zinc oxide barrier sunscreens that work but leave a white film over the skin, which is not desirable. These also tend to stain clothing, I found. I tried adding cocoa powder to darken the mix, which helped some, but still stained my swim suit. Besides that, the cocoa sunscreen smelled like brownies and kept making me crave chocolate cake! But this year I think I've finally done it: I've developed a recipe for clear, waterproof, insect- repelling, all-natural sunscreen in a roll-on!

All Natural Sun and Bug Screen

1 cup unrefined coconut oil
1/4 to 1 cup cup beeswax pellets
80 drops Young Living carrot seed essential oil
40 drops Young Living Purification essential oil
20 drops Young Living lavender essential oil

In a saucepan melt the coconut oil and beeswax pellets together. For a roll-on use equal amounts, in this case 1 cup each, wax and oil. For a lotion use 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup beeswax until the mixture is the thickness you desire.

Melt the oil and wax together.

When the wax and oil are completely  melted and combined remove the mixture from the heat and cool about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat when the mix looks like this.
When the oil mixture is just starting to cool enough to solidify place the pan back on the warm burner or a burner on low and add the essential oils and whisk together.

Add the essential oils at this point.

Carefully pour the hot mixture into a cleaned out or new roll-on container if you're making a roll-on. Don't get it on your hands, as the wax will make it stick. I learned this the hard way (lavender oil is good for soothing minor burns, FYI). Allow the roll-on to cool completely and then it's ready to use!

The finished roll-on.

If you want sun lotion you can pour the hot mixture into a jar and let it cool like the roll-on or you can whisk the mixture as it cools so it has a consistency like frosting (or a thinner texture if you prefer; use less beeswax for thinner lotion). When you have the texture you want place the mix into a jar, but remember to use a plastic container if you plan to use this at a pool. Most public pools do not allow glass near the pool.

Sun lotion

This recipe has been extensively tested over the past week. My sister had my nephew's birthday party at the Triangle Volksmarch, where we walked around various state parks in the sun and woods completing activities. Nine people, adults down to babies, wore the sunscreen. No one got burned. The tops of my feet, where I applied less sunscreen and didn't reapply it, got tanned but that was all. My son got one mosquito bite toward the end of the day, several hours after the application. I should have re-applied it but forgot. One adult got three bites on his legs where he did not apply the roll-on. The Purification oil is the bug repellent, so you might want to use more of that if you're really susceptible. Since the Volksmarch I've used the roll-on at a swim meet and two practices and haven't gotten any sun or bites, even when working in my yard in the evening.

I would have tested less and posted sooner, except that over the past two days we have hardly been home, with all the end of school and swim team activities. I have orders to complete for my eBay store as well. I woke up around 4 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. I should have just gotten up and finished some things but instead I tossed and turned. I suppose extra product testing never hurt anyone, though! I get sick of making blog recipes that don't turn out. The original recipe was not supposed to be a roll-on, but as I made it the result was so thick I realized it would never go through a squeeze bottle. I remembered I had a cleaned out deodorant roll on jar for just such an occasion, so I cleaned it out and filled it. I filled two other jars of lotion besides that with the recipe. So, rest assured, this recipe has proven itself to us! I really like the texture of this too; it's not greasy or sticky, at least to me. My teen said he found it greasy but he was the only one who thought so and is inclined toward contrariness at this point in his life.

The coconut oil and carrot seed oil are the sun blocking ingredients in this recipe. The more unrefined coconut oil is, the higher its natural SPF, so you will want to try to find an organic one that still really smells like coconut. I heard about this years ago from residents of the Dominican Republic. Whenever I travel I try to find some local people off the tourist track and see what they can teach me about their world. I wasn't too sure about trying oil for sunscreen but it turns out it does work! This particular ratio is supposed to provide an SPF of around 30. The beeswax does make it waterproof, but I always still re-apply after swimming or sweating to make sure I'm covered. The lavender oil is in there to soothe the skin, just in case you forget to re-apply and get too much sun or bug bites. Lavender is very good to soothe everyday skin irritations. You can purchase the ingredients for this recipe, sign up for a Young Living wholesale membership, and learn about Young Living here. Make sure to like my Naturally Amanda Facebook page as well for all kinds of recipes and information about natural products. I hope this improves your summer as it has ours!