Posts tagged projects

Crafting with Gourds

Every year the harvest of Gourds begins in the fall and fills the groceries and natural food shops with fresh Squash, Cucumbers, Luffas and Melons. There are also the Calabash Squash, which is the most common Gourd. Luffas and Calabash Squash have to be harvested very young to be edible. If they are harvested after they have dried out, there is nothing to eat but their skins make fantastic containers, scrubbers and other tools. The Loofah or Plant Sponge is often used in sandal making and other crafts. You know it because you’ve seen in the bath section of the department store, where it’s sold as a body scrubber. Loofahs are also used to make the sponges you use in the kitchen and have been used in certain types of constuction.

The Calabash Squash is the one you are most familiar with when you think of Gourds. They are often called Bottle Gourds because the older, larger ones have been used as containers for generations. You are familiar with a form of Gourd use through the use of Pumpkins as decorations at Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pumpkins are a form of Squash that has Gourd properties. You can scrape out the Pumpkin and eat the insides but use the thick skin as a container for candles and you can carve it out in designs, the most popular being a face. This is a form of Gourding.

However, in short time, your Pumpkin wilts and shrinks and collapses and ends up in the trash. You cannot get a long lasting decorative collectible this way. So I suggest sticking with the hard, inedible, bitter Melons and Squashs that are referred to as “Ornamental Gourds”. These are a distinctively different variety than the edible Squash you see in the stores and they are never edible. They are purely for ornamental use. You will find them in the grocery stores, in the vegetable stands, in the craft shops and health food stores during the fall and winter season. They are there right now. So read this article and get an idea of what kind of Gourd you want to use for what project and then scoot on out and get it. You will be amazed at how fun this is and you will end up doing every year from now on.

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Flowers as Gifts: Going Beyond the Bouquet

Just about everybody loves flowers. Flowers are a beautiful gift from nature that smell great, look great and have come to represent love to most of us. They are the most popular gift in the world, given for the many events in our lives, from Mothers Day to birthdays to weddings and even at our funerals. They seem to be everywhere, popping out of the foilage around us, brightening the world whereever they are. We love to give a bit of that beauty to our loved ones when we can. But did you know that flowers are useful in gifts other than bouquets? That you don’t have to put them in vases to give them and there are a lot of ways you can give flowers as inexpensive gifts, even at Christmas. You don’t even have to know anything about flowers to take advantage.

As fall peeks around the corner, we start to see the summer blooms fading and falling in our yards. The grass is littered with slowly wilting bright colors and the last scent of the blooms lingers in the air. Why not capture this now and make gifts you can give later? Homemade food gifts like pickled flowers, flower honey or flower jellies and jams. Homemade beauty gifts like floral perfumes, toners or cleansing creams. Homemade floral soaps, potpourri or candles. Cards and stationary made with pressed flowers. All personalized and special, made by you. And you don’t have to be some creative genius to do these things because I have the recipes, the plans, the step by step instructions. All you need is to round up the dieing blooms you find in your yard and beyond. So get the basket and go picking!

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The Magic of Mullein

From soothing your cough to flavoring your liqueurs, Mullein has a lot of uses, some of them you’ve never heard of. The seeds are cheap and they are easy to grow; simply put in a pot full of soil and water. And if you don’t want to grow Mullein, there are many sources for it online, most of them inexpensive. There are about 250 genuses of Mullein, which is a member of the Figwort family. Mullein is also called by about 30 common names including Velvet Dock, Candlewick Plant, Cow Lungwort, Hags Taper and Aaron’s Rod. These cultivars grow all over Europe, Asia and the Meditteranean. They are also widely cultivated in North America and can sometimes be found growing wild. Very common varieties include Moth Mullein, Dark Mullein, Wooly Mullein and Common Mullein. The cultivar I have used the most and whole heartedly recommend is Verbascum Thapsus or Common Mullein. This particular cultivar has been naturalized all over the US, mostly in Hawaii and also in Australia. So it can be grown almost anywhere. I highly recommend planting Mullein in your garden and using it year round. I have recipes and guidelines for you to use when making use of the plant so bookmark this page for after your plants are growing and blooming. You can use Mullein for many things during every stage of it’s growth so it is well worth the few cents it costs to buy a packet of seeds.

Mullien was considered a magical herb in antiquity and it was given to Ulysses to protect him from the magic of Circe, who had changed his crew into pigs. The soft fine hairs on the leaves and stems of this plant makes a superb tinder and it was used this way throughout history. Hence, the popular name, Velvet Plant. These same soft hairs protect the herb from moisture loss, creeping insects and grazing animals because the down irritates mucus membranes. So this plant has few enemies in the garden, making it even easier to grow. So here are my hints on how to cultivate Mullein and how to use every part of the plant in every stage of it’s growth.

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Heal the Body with Foot Massage

I am sure you have heard of healing foot massage. In fact, it was a big craze a few years ago and people couldn’t keep foot massagers in stock. But what many people discovered was that general foot massage, with no goals in mind, is only good for relieving foot pain or general foot exhaustion after being on the feet all day but it did nothing for general well being. But this is only because a general foot massager won’t do the trick. You have to know what parts of the feet directly influence which parts of the body in order for food massage to help with healing your body. Also, you can find out where your body is in trouble with foot pressure and I will show you how to do this, too. It’s all really the same thing. If you know what’s wrong with you.. ie, you have a headache, then you can go to a certain portion of the foot, massage it and get releif for your headache. Conversely, if you don’t have any idea why you feel like crap, you can feel around your foot, applying pressure and rubbing gently, until you uncover the area that gives you grief. That area will directly relate to a part of the body and it is this part of the body that is in need of help. Sound hard? Sound complicated? It’s not! I will show you with diagrams and written directions how to do all of this just by rubbing your feet.

This type of massage is called reflexology. However, I do not have training in theseĀ  methods so I am just passing on what I have experienced through my own massage therapy. I will not claim this to be “reflexology” but sort of my own map of the areas on the foot that will help relieve physical pain and discomfort. Now, I will include maps of the feet to show you where to find the area on your foot. Also, conversely, I will show you which area of the body is indicated by pain or discomfort in your feet. But do not consider these maps to be related to reflexology or to have any connection to that practice. These are not reflexology maps. In this method, which is not relexology, you will also use essential oils in a base massage oil while you do it. You will use the oils whenever you massage, although massage without the oils won’t do any harm. The technique is just far more productive with the oils. I will give you the recipes for the oils you will use on each part of the foot and you should follow them exactly and not improvise. It’s far better to do without than to work with only a part of a recipe or an improvisation that may not only be ineffective but could be harmful. So follow instructions.

I want you to begin the process by sitting down when you have the time and won’t be interrupted. After you get good at it, you can massage your feet on a quick break at work but at first you should have quiet time to concentrate. Start by washing your feet so you won’t be distracted by any smells or end up rubbing glass or stones into your feet. Your feet pick up all sorts of stuff even when you have shoes on so be mindful of that. After washing and drying your feet, sit down and start rubbing the bottom of the foot. You can start anywhere, just be sure to rub every part of the foot, moving from area to area and paying attention to how it feels as you do it. There will be really sensitive areas, areas that cause pain or discomfort and areas that feel so good you might even get ecstatic. Pay attention to what areas on your foot create each sensation. Be especially mindful of strong physical responses, even good ones. If there is repulsion or irritation when rubbing a certain area, please be mindful of this as well. You do not have to continue massaging that area right now but you should be aware that this area will be cause for concern. So start rubbing your feet, moving from area to area, from the toes to the heel, and pay attention to the responses your body gives you. And then move on to the instructions and charts I am providing you in order to start the healing process.

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Natural Safe Ways to Freshen the Air

The smells inside our caves can get pretty rank, even if we’re really clean and neat. I am constantly cleaning myself and the trash alone makes the living room smell like a dumpster. And then there’s the cat boxes in the bedrooms, the left over lingering odor from several cooked meals a day, the smelly shoes that my sister loves to leave all over the place.. etc.. You get the picture. You know it in your own home. The temptation to grab the Lysol or the Febreze is almost overwhelming. I am guilty of this, too. When the cats make a mess or my father spills his coffee, I reach for a can. The couch actually smells like a Febreze factory. But I am a hypocrite because I am a believer and a promoter of natural living and this is a far cry from natural. Chemical fragrances are dangerous. I have already done a post on that and you can read it HERE. So why would I use them? Oh, they are convenient and I am so busy. It is much faster to grab a can and spray than it is to devise another solution at the moment. But it really isn’t all that hard to fix this problem and I am going to start doing it this weekend.

In the past, I have also turned to candles and incense. This has been a time honored international tradition that we borrowed from the Middle East and Asia. But it’s a dangerous one. The smoke from these burning scents are dangerous for our lungs, sinuses and overall health. I discovered my chronic sinus problems at the time were caused by the smoke from the incense I loved so much. So I just don’t recommend Incense. Candles have been proven to cause cancer in much the same way cigarettes do. It is not a good idea to stand around burning candles or to suck in the fragrance from a burning candle, no matter how lovely that fragrance is. So I am not going to recommend using candles or incense to solve odor problems.

But I do I have some great ideas for odor control. Some require recipes while others require a simple change of habit. Some of the things we get used to doing day after day make the matter worse. I, myself, get into habits and patterns that I am reluctant to change because I think it’s going to be hard or tiring or take up too much time. Don’t wait until you are sweating over the broom or the vacuum before thinking about making a change. Get started while you are sitting around or planning your day. The most important part of any change is making the mental note and the decision to do it. We gear up for change, toy with it in our minds, work up the energy and determination needed for it. But the decision to start is a big step. Once you focus yourself on the change needed, you will eventually find yourself just doing it. So let’s get started today!

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Easy Spring and Summer Flower Projects

Isn’t it just wonderful that Spring has finally arrived? If you are in a part of the country where Spring is taking it’s time, you will just have to get an early start on the melt! There is nothing more cheery and lovely about Spring and Summer than flowers. April brings the rains and May brings the flowers, or so goes the rhyme. There will be blooms everywhere, if not today then very soon. And those blooms need to be captured and made use of; don’t leave them to rot on the ground! I have great simple and cheap ideas for decorating your home with flowers for Spring and Summer. Bright yellows, blues, greens and whites. Lovely brash, happy colors to make your home just glow with cheery sunlight.

Be prepared for some very simple ideas and projects. These could actually cost you very little or even nothing at all if you have old containers in your home that are packed away and flowers growing in the garden outside. Otherwise, you can get containers and other items at the flea market or thrift store and pick flowers in the neighbor’s garden (with permission, of course!). So get out the floral supplies from last year and clear the winter decorations from the table.. you are about to make some great decorations that will help you welcome Spring with open arms.

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Handmade Egg Basket Easter Decoration

Full of spring flowers, bursting with bright colors and stuffed into a beautiful, big handwoven wicker egg basket! This is the consummate table decoration for Easter. It is also a big project so you should get started right away to have it ready for the big Sunday events at your home. The basket decoration is not hard to make in and of itself, it’s the expedition you will embark on first that takes the time and money. You will have to locate the precious flowers and plants that go into making this gorgeous creation. I have not included a picture of the final product because the true product will depend on you. I made one for myself following this recipe and found that it looked nothing like the original I had seen. You should not compare your project with anyone else’s because whatever you come up with will be fine. It will be yours.

The heart of this project are the beautiful flowers you will use in making it. Many can be found in the grocery store or florist and used fresh. Others will have to be used dried and are found at craft stores. Some will grow wild in your area and you can just go out and pick them. Perhaps you have flowers in your garden. If you have trouble finding one specific kind on the list, feel free to substitute to your liking. I have included vivid photos of the flowers that are called for in the ingredients list and a photo of the type of egg basket I used. You are free to use any kind you feel like using. I did not use the same type of basket that the original designer of this arrangement used. If you would like to see the original basket by the designer, you can find it in the book, Nature Crafts and you can see it and buy it HERE.

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