Monday, December 28, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday, uh, Monday?

My schedule was even more messed up than usual last week with the holidays and whatnot and I totally missed posting Simple Joy Sunday. I'm in a fairly foul mood today, so I'm hoping that thinking of some nice stuff from last week will help cheer me up.

Who knew I would have so much fun making cookies? Especially for a first try.

Okay, something weird happened this week. One of the guys that Scott had over playing games owns a spice, culinary herb, and tea shop. I know he said that they are looking to sell, but don't know if it's next month or next year. I am in no way ready to own a store yet and it's really far away, but how's that for serendipity?

My Jedi Kitty Jack loves his Christmas present: a catnip light saber from GEEKitty!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookie Bake-a-thon!!

I fully admit that I am not the world's best cook. Far from it, but I keep trying nonetheless. So far as baking goes, my experience is pretty limited. I've made scones from scratch but that's pretty much it; all other baking endeavors have come out of a box. Last week I was dying for Christmas cookies, so I took it upon myself to give it a shot.

I stuck with some straightforward recipes, but had what I thought may have been an ambitious quantity on the list for a first try. With supplies and ingredients ready to go, holiday music playing, and wine in hand I started my cookie bakeathon. I made Monster Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chips with walnuts and orange, Shortbread, and Hershey's Peanut Butter Cookies. I have the dough for Sugar Cookies and Gingerbread chilling in the refrigerator for tonight -- I just didn't have it in me to finish making them yesterday.

All in all, I think I did well. The very first batch that I made were the Monster Cookies: some were done, some weren't completely done. It was weird. Chocolate chips came next and I made the mistake of using a couple of pans that I'm not too fond of and they stuck a little bit but they're still tasty. The rest of them came out really well though, I think! With only two of us in the house, we now have an overabundance of cookies, so I may be bringing some in to work. It was actually a lot fun making them and I have more confidence to try different stuff next time. Wish me luck with the Sugar Cookies and Gingerbread!

UPDATE: The sugar cookies came out somewhat less than exciting. They just didn't taste that rich. They won't be the first to go, but they certainly won't go to waste. The gingerbread, despite having been chilled for 24 hours isn't that firm and is still a bit sticky. Not sure what happened there. I put them in the freezer and thought I'd see how they look tomorrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

It's a little late, but we finally put the tree up. Our schedules have pretty much been in opposition lately, so this really is the first opportunity Scott and I had to do it. No sooner was it up than Jack was under it. The crazy cat loves to chill under the tree, but doesn't like the tree skirt. He usually takes it upon himself to just push it out of the way. He also let me put a cute little elf collar around his neck which he was having NONE of last year. Either I caught him unsuspecting or this shows how much he's grown to trust me in the last couple of years since I brought him in. Later in the week, I spent some time wrapping presents and it is just packed under the tree. Jack now needs to lay behind the tree if he still wants to be under it.

The people in the Ivory Tower here at work are at it again. I heard a couple of months ago that there would probably be layoffs by Christmas. I heard that rumor again yesterday morning, but by the afternoon that rumor changed to by March. Getting strung along like this sucks, but it's a bit of a relief to think that I may continue to get a paycheck for another few months.

Had a fun evening this week drinking wine and playing a Louis Armstrong Christmas album while I sorted through another box of herbs I just received. My work room closet is being overrun with Mason jars stocked with lovely dried herbs and my kitchen counter is being overrun by various jars of herbs brewing into one concoction or another. I recently added a jar of St. John's Wort Oil to the kitchen counter. When the herb is done working its magic in a few weeks, the oil will be an amazing blood red. I really can't wait to see it. Another day was spent filtering my herbal vinegars and rebottling them for gifting as well as making Kloss's liniment and Echinacea tincture. I am so happy making my herbal remedies.

I made two sales this week! The first sale was my Spirit of the Sea Mojo Bag in my Artfire shop and the second was a set of Chain Maille Juggling Balls in my Etsy shop. Both shops have been pretty quiet, so last week's two sales plus these made me smile big.

Scott and I tried a new place for dinner in between shows this week called Daily Eats. It's diner style and very much reminded me of a place around the block from my college dorm that I loved called Chat and Chew. Funny because both places have killer sweet potato fries. We even had cupcakes for dessert. I was so stuffed afterwards, but luckily we had time for a little walk before having to go back to work.

Today I'm embarking on a marathon cookie baking extravaganza! I've made scones from scratch, but aside from that all of my baking has been out of the box so this is kinda huge for me. Wish me luck!!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Finds - Fantasy Winter Wonderland

Since we decorated the tree this week, I've been in quite the holiday mood. I've even been humming holiday tunes throughout the week (very much something that I wouldn't normally do).

Here is some of my favorite fantasy winter wonderland art:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Herbal Concoction: Lavender Honey

I love lavender. I love honey. Not only does lavender calm nerves, ease depression, and lift your spirits but it also smells and tastes amazing. When I found the video to make Lavender Honey through Mountain Rose Herb's YouTube channel, I knew I had to try it. I wanted to embed the video for you to watch it here, but it's not cooperating. Simply click on this link to be brought to the video directly on YouTube.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

I had a crazy work schedule this week. Just a few long days anyway. So, needless to say, not too much exciting has happened outside of work. Let's see if I can come up with a few simple joys for the week anyway.

I really, really don't like mall shopping. Actually if you ask other crafters or artists they would probably tell you the same. The big box, generic quality of everything bores me and I simply don't have the patience to deal with holiday shoppers. This week, however, I made a quick trip to the mall to pick up the couple of things I couldn't buy online or make and it was relatively painless. With the exception of an overly talky cashier who seemed to be a bit confused (but even she wasn't that bad because she gave me an extra 25% off) it really wasn't that bad. I even found a cute little shirt I liked at Old Navy for only $7. Score.

I found the most awesome toy for Jack (The Official Cat of Athena's Armoury) for his Christmas present: it's a light saber from GeeKitty! I'm getting it for him in purple which is the color of Mace Windu's light saber (Sam Jackson played him in the movie). I didn't know this story, but apparently he requested that the letters BMF (a reference to a something expletive he said in Pulp Fiction) were inscribed onto it. Kate (from GeeKitty) wrote to me and asked if I would like her to include that. Wasn't that awesome of her? I'm very excited about this present for my Jedi kitty.

I happily made two sales this week in my Etsy shop bringing my number of sold items up to 55. That's a nice even number. It made me happy. Plus, one of the sales was a pair of earrings that I've had in my shop more or less since it opened. It's so nice that they've finally found their home.

I'm very excited about the package I put together for my FAE swap giftee! I can't share because I don't want to give it away. I hope she likes it!

Despite, a trip that should only take an hour, hour & a half actually taking three I still had a nice time at this year's Atomic Holiday Bazaar. I got to see some fellow crafters that I usually only get to see at craft fairs and I picked up some fun booty including a Ganesh pendant (at right) by Demigod as well as one of her Buddha trays. The fun faux gauge earrings by Meandering Mimi also caught my eye.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Herbal Concoction: Fire Cider

Fire cider is great to have on hand when you have sinus colds and congestion, but it certainly isn't for the faint of heart. The herbs used in the recipe are warming and stimulate the immune system. You can take a tablespoon straight, add to herbal tea, or even use it in soups and other cooking creations.

There are many different variations to the recipe attributed to many herbalists, but many people seem to associate the original recipe with Rosemary Gladstar. Since most of the herbs used are antibacterial and stimulate the circulatory system, some people use it as a tonic and drink small amounts daily in the fall and winter. Others use it at the first sign of a cold. Some folks let it steep for two weeks, others two to three months. This is the first time I'm making it, so I'm going to try steeping it for two months (seems like a good average) and see how it goes. I used traditional ingredients including: ginger, horseradish, garlic, onion and cayenne in a base of apple cider vinegar.

Basic Recipe
1/4-1/2 cup horseradish root, grated
1/8-1/4 cup garlic, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup ginger, grated
1/2-1 whole fresh cayenne pepper OR 1 tsp dried cayenne powder
apple cider vinegar, preferably organic
honey, to taste

Place herbs in jar. Pour vinegar and cover herbs by one to two inches. Seal jar tightly and let steep desired amount of time (as I mentioned, I'm trying two months). Strain herbs and pour the filtered vinegar into a glass jar. Add honey to taste, if you'd like to sweeten it. Fire Cider may be kept unrefrigerated since vinegar is a natural preservative.

To Use
If you'd like to use it as a tonic, 1-2 tablespoons per day would work. Take 1-2 tablespoons at the first sign of a cold or upper respiratory infection and continue throughout the day (every 2 to 3 hours) until the symptoms subside. Drink it straight or dilute it in a bit or water or even tomato juice.

It can also be used as a base for salad dressings, a seasoning in soups, or even to flavor steamed veggies.

Externally, rub it directly on the skin or use as a compress for sore muscles or to aid in peripheral (hands and feet) circulation. You can also soak a clean cloth in it to be placed on a congested chest.

Some Beneficial Properties of the Herbs
Ginger aids in stomach issues including nausea and vomiting and sluggish digestion. It also stimulates circulation. Ginger is useful for all types of congestion in the body.

Horseradish has antibacterial properties and is of benefit in respiratory tract and urinary tract infections. It is also often used as a digestive agent. Horseradish is a good diuretic that promotes perspiration. It is also an expectorant and mildly antibiotic.

Garlic is an amazing antimicrobial and antibacterial making it useful in treating bladder and kidney infections, yeast infections, strep throats, and ear infections. It supports healthy immune function and opens the pores of the skin to lower a fever. It also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and has an overall beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.

Cayenne is an intense circulatory stimulant, promotes the movement of mucous from the body, and is an anti-inflammatory.

In addition to just being tasty, onions are also antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and high in anti-oxidents.

**Please consult with an herbalist or your doctor before using Fire Cider if you are taking any medication with blood thinning properties.**

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

For the second year in a row, I nearly walked right into Randy "Macho Man" Savage at the annual Florida Orchestra Concert sponsored by the New York Yankees (aka George Steinbrenner) for inner city kids. Both times we each apologized and laughed it off. Strange tradition to start, but he cracks me up, so it's fun.

Shortly after bumping into Macho Man, I hear on the backstage speakers that they are introducing Tino Martinez to the stage. Tino Martinez is a former New York Yankees first baseman and one of my all time favorite players. I literally ran to the stage. He gave a very sweet inspirational speech to the kids and then came off stage wiping his brow as if he were nervous. We had a brief chat and then a coworker offered me his camera and Tino was gracious enough to take a picture with me.

I was pretty much beaming for the rest of the day.

After the amazing meeting with Tino, I was on my cell phone outside (telling my mom, who is also a huge fan, about what happened) when I found a $50 restaurant gift certificate. Sweet.

My Queen of Hungary's Water was fully extracted and ready for use this week. I strained my herbs, mixed in the witch hazel and a few drops of tea tree oil, and was good to go. It smells great and left my skin feeling all tingly.

Scott is STILL working 16 hour days, but one day this week he broke for dinner a little early and I was still around. We ran over to The Cheesecake Factory and got some dinner with a gift card that my mom sent me a while back. It was so nice to be able to spend some time together.

I made my first couple of pomanders this week based on this tutorial over at The Essential Herbal Blog. I'm hooked and totally want to make some more to add to my Christmas presents this year. My nails were dyed a dark brown from working with the cloves, but my hands smelled amazing!!

I also made some valerian tincture. I love playing with herbs, but the waiting is brutal. It took all of a minute to put the tincture together, but now I have to wait six weeks for the herbs to work their magic to be ready for re-bottling!

When I was wandering around CVS the other day, a Navy Blue nail polish caught my eye. Although I always keep my nails well groomed, I very rarely give myself a manicure and when I do it's never with a dark color. This was totally out of character, but I gave myself a mani (partially to hide the dye from the cloves) pedi with this Navy Blue nail polish and I love it!!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Herbal Concoction: Miracle Grains Facial Cleanser

The herbs for my Queen of Hungary's Water will be done extracting this week, so I thought I would make a cleanser to use with it. I've been buying handmade facial soaps for a long time, but I wanted to try something different. Enter Rosemary Gladstar's recipe for Miracle Grains. Cleansing grains are a mild, nourishing soap replacement that is suitable for all skin types. One of the things that I love so much about it is that it's completely biodegradable: it won't hurt the environment or leach toxic chemical into the water as some commercial cleansers do.

There are many variations that can be made to this basic formula; it practically begs for creativity. I decided that for my first batch, I would only use the basic formula to get a feel for it and then play with it after I see how my skin responds to it.

2 cups white clay
1 cup finely ground oats
1/4 cup finely ground almonds
1/8 cup finely ground lavender
1/8 cup poppy seeds or finely ground blue corn (optional)
1/8 cup finely ground roses

1. Combine all the ingredients. Store the grains next to the sink in a glass container or in spice jars with shaker tops. (I prefer the glass container with a well sealing lid to keep the moisture out.)

2. To use, mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of the cleansing grains with water. Stir into a paste and gently massage on the face. Rinse off with warm water.

Here's a tip: if you're going to be making a lot of your own homemade cosmetics, invest in a coffee grinder. I bought a cheapie one at Target for $15 and that's what I used to grind up the grains and herbs in this recipe. Just keep in mind, however, that you do want to leave some grit to them which is what serves as the cleansing "grains." *Don't use your regular everyday coffee grinder for this unless you want your herbal products to smell like coffee beans and your coffee to taste like roses and lavender.*

As soon as I made it, I realized that the glass jar that I picked up at Goodwill over the weekend would be the perfect container. And the shell that I found on the beach that I knew would make a perfect scoop actually measures a teaspoon. The whole project came together so beautifully!

Needless to say, I had to try it immediately. My skin has never felt so soft! My Queen of Hungary's water isn't ready yet, so I just used some witch hazel as my toner. It truly was a miraculous result, these miracle grains! I love how my slightly troublesome skin glowed after using it. These light grains gently cleanse, distribute excess oil, remove dead cells, and improve circulation.

I haven't tried it yet, but they can also be made moist for ease of use as well as the benefits of the additional ingredients.

1. Combine the dry Miracle Grains with enough honey and rose water (or plain distilled water) to form a paste.
2. Gently massage onto the face. Rinse off with warm water.

The honey serves as a natural preservative for the grains and also adds moisture. Rose water has light astringent properties. Only mix enough moist grains for a week or two to prevent spoilage, however. If the grains do spoil, it's because the ratio of honey to distilled water was off. The distilled water should simply give the mixture a smoother consistency; you don't need much.

This blog post is a part of the December blog party on the topic of Herbal Aesthetics hosted by Aquarian Bath. I love this topic and I'm really looking forward to reading all of the entries.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

This week kind of escaped me, so here are a few highlights.

Monday night I went shopping for birthday and Christmas presents for my best friend's little boy. While I was out, I found my new tree topper. I picked it up and put it down three times and then wandered around the store wondering if I should go for it. Finally, I decided that I could always return it. Enter Yoda wielding his light saber...

I have to admit, I really love him.

Spending time on a rainy day cuddled up on the couch, reading my book, and drinking tea.

Spending time with family on Thanksgiving. Scott and I went to his parents house and all of the siblings and all of their significant others and kids were there. It was really nice to see everyone.

Driving home from Thanksgiving, I saw a shooting star. First one I've ever seen in my whole life. It was so beautiful and so freaking cool.

Spending time making more herbal concoctions. I am so behind on blogging about what I've been making lately, but I promise I will share soon! On Saturday, I made Miracle Grains Facial Cleanser, Thyme Syrup, and Yogi Tea from scratch by decocting spices.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

American Version of Running with the Bulls Sale

One of Scott's sisters made the joke that this weekend is the American version of running with the bulls as a joke about the crazies people get as they hit all of the sales. Personally, I will not go into a retail store this weekend, but that won't stop me from shopping online. Or from offering some sales of my own.

In honor of the insanity of the Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Athena's Armoury will be offering sales in both Etsy and Artfire shops until midnight EST on Monday night.

All orders will ship for free (except armor) and come with a free gift. The free gift will be a suprise, but it can be anything from a cell phone charm, a pendant, a bracelet, or a pair of earrings.

So, come check out Athena's Armoury Etsy Shop or Artfire Studio for special sales for this weekend only.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Don't forget, my birthday celebration is continuing until midnight tonight! Check out this post for more details.

Finding the simple joys each week...

Making pumpkin bread. I love pumpkin bread. I had the stroke of brilliance of adding chocolate chips after it was already in the oven, though. Undoubtedly, there will be more pumpkin bread to come this season... I'll have to do it then.

Awesome happy surprise on Monday morning. A work friend said that he was shopping over the weekend and found something with my name written all over it. It's a Wonder Woman mug!! I love it and I love how sweet he was to think of me. That was a really great way of starting what was looking to be a dismal Monday morning. =D

Got home Monday night to a sale in my Artfire Studio! It's just a little pair of earrings, but a sale is a sale and it always makes me happy.

Had a really nice time at this month's FL Herb Society meeting. We made herbal vinegars.

I thought I might add jogging/running to my work out schedule, so I gave it a shot on Wednesday. It really wound up being walking with short stints of jogging, but I'm just starting. It was fun to work out outside and I enjoyed the feeling of strength that came with running.

Thursday night, a lighting designer friend of mine was in town. I don't get to see him that often, so we were going to get together for a drink. Once he found out my birthday was the next day, he insisted on taking me to dinner. Italian food, drinks, and good company. It was a really fun evening.

I've felt all kinds of love from friends for my birthday: an unexpected e-mail, a postcard joke, love from friends on Facebook & twitter, a card from a group of friends at work... Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Scott really tried to make the day special for me since I was at work during the day and he was at work until midnight. I walked into my office full of presents, flowers, and a cake: it looked like my birthday exploded in there. And then later on during the day, he arranged for another cake and singing from all of my stagehand friends. He's such a sweetie.

Scott and I had a nice time yesterday wandering around downtown St. Pete. We went to the farmer's market and an art show. We were planning on going to the movies, but when the website was wrong and the movie we wanted to see wasn't playing, the manager gave us free passes for next time. Sweet. We hit Haslam's (an independent new & used bookstore) and some thrift stores before heading home to for some yummy pizza, leftover birthday cake, and catching up on our tv shows.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Birthday Presents for Everyone!

I was originally thinking that this week's regularly scheduled Friday Finds blog post was going to turn into a general wish list for me because.... today's my birthday! Instead, however, I thought it would be more fun to give gifts to all of you! And you can choose what gift you'd like! And it's not just good today, but all weekend!

For every purchase in either Athena's Armoury Etsy Shop or Artfire Studio, choose one of the following:

-Free gemstone & sterling silver earrings
-Free shipping
-Free Euro 4-1 bracelet
-20% (for November 20th, my birthday!) off

Make your purchase and leave me a note with which free gift you'd like. If it's free shipping or 20% off, you can either wait for me to send you a revised invoice before you pay or feel free to pay the full price and I will send you a refund through Paypal.

The celebration will last all weekend until 12:00am (midnight) on Sunday, November 22, 2009.

**20% off not good on armor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

FL Herb Society Meeting: Herbal Vinegars

As of last night, I'm officially a member of the FL Herb Society. Really nice group of ladies, a topic I enjoy, and an excuse to get out and do something. Okay, I'm in. =)

At last night's meeting, we had an herbal vinegar hands on workshop. Beautiful bottles filled with fragrant herbs and some good quality vinegar equal a really pretty, easy to make project that will last throughout the year. Herbal vinegars are a simple way to add flavor to salads, soups, stews, marinades, beverages, and even desserts without added calories, fat, sugar, or salt.

We were told to bring some herbs and bottles, but it turns out that they supplied an enormous amount of gorgeous, fresh herbs and some complimentary bottles (someone had a lot of those little wine bottles laying around!). There were a lot of amazing suggestions for herb & fruit combinations. I made two vinegars while I was there and another when I got home. Since I love Italian food, I made an Italian inspired vinegar while I was there (basil & garlic). I also used one of the suggested combinations of cranberry & rosemary because it just sounds amazing and looks so beautiful in the bottle. Since I had collected a bunch of my own herbs, I made one more vinegar when I got home with basil, rosemary, oregano, and garlic. I used red wine vinegar for all three.

A good rule of thumb is one cup of fresh herbs to flavor one quart of vinegar. Use a good quality vinegar between 6-8% acidity. Clean your herbs and pat dry. There are many recipes that call for heating your vinegar, but it's not necessary. Heating it will infuse it quicker, but the results of the slightly longer wait are supposedly more than worth it (it's my first try, so I don't know yet). Loosely fill your bottle with your herbs of choice and then fill with vinegar. Cap (you should probably use a cork or wax paper with a rubber band since the vinegar's acid will eat away metal) and store in a cool, dark, dry place for 4-6 weeks. When you are satisfied with the flavor, strain through white paper towels or coffee filters until the paper is clean (it may take several tries). Add some fresh herbs to a clean, sterile bottle, fill with the filtered vinegar, seal & label.

Fruit vinegars are made a bit differently. Combine all your ingredients (fruit and vinegar alike) in the top of a non-aluminum double boiler. Simmer, uncovered, approximately 10 minutes. Place in a large glass jar and store 3 weeks. Strain, pressing the fruit to get the juice out. Filter. Add a few berries, fruit, and herbs to your sterilized bottle and fill with your filtered vinegar. Seal and label.

Flavored vinegars will keep up to 18 months or longer if stored in proper containers in a cool, dark place. Some fruit sugars are likely to caramelize after a while and turn slightly brown. It's not attractive but it isn't harmful either. Use fruit vinegars within 3 months to avoid this. Vinegar is a natural preservative, so refrigeration is not necessary.

Cleanliness is essential. Be sure to wash all utensils, bottles, and equipment in hot, soapy water and then rinse in hot water. Always use non-reactive materials such as glass, plastic, or stainless steel.

If you are making some herbal or fruit vinegars for gifts this holiday season, dip your cork into hot wax, add a label, and write a recipe for its use on a small hang tag to tie around the neck of the bottle.

Of course, herbal vinegars can be used medicinally as well as culinary. Herbal vinegars are nutrient dense containing large amounts of calcium, the nutrients from the individual herbs used, and the healing properties of vinegar.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Herbal Concoction: The Queen of Hungary's Water

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. What many people don't think about is that what they spray and slather on their skin is, in fact, absorbed into their bodies. For this reason, I really started reading the labels of my personal care and body products a few years back. There were ingredients in there that I couldn't pronounce and that the European Union's version of the FDA won't allow into products due to their many harmful effects. I started to not only buy handmade, but also all natural and organic products as much as possible. In the past year or so, as I started to make my own household cleaning products, I also started to make some of my own personal care products (deodorant powder, lip balm) as well. I'm taking it a step further with my herbalism studies now.

I recently made a batch of The Queen of Hungary's Water. It has as many uses as it has variations, but my primary intent for this batch is to be used as an astringent (or toner). Astringents are used to remove excess oil, dirt, and cleanser from the skin. They tone the skin and help prepare it for moisturizing. While astringents are especially appropriate for oily skin, all types of skin can benefit from their pore-tightening effects.

Legend has it that Gypsies formulated The Queen of Hungary's Water and touted it as a cure-all using it as a hair rinse, mouthwash, headache remedy, aftershave, footbath, and I'm sure more. Another legend states that Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary originated this as a perfume to either preserve her youth or catch a husband, depending on which version you read.

This is one of the world's finest cosmetic formulas. It combines gentle common herbs in a masterful way, it's easy to make, and it's a versatile formula that serves many purposes. Not only can it be used as an astringent, but it can also be used as a rinse for dark hair; or as an ingredient in deodorants, herbal baths, lotions. The Vinegar of the Four Thieves is a variation of The Queen of Hungary's Water and can be used as a disinfectant.

Here is the formula I used from Rosemary Gladstar.

6 parts lemon balm
4 parts chamomile
4 parts roses
3 parts calendula
3 parts comfrey leaf
1 part lemon peel
1 part rosemary
1 part sage
vinegar to cover (apple cider or wine vinegar)
rose water or witch hazel extract
essential oil of lavender or rose (optional)

1. Place the herbs in a widemouthed jar. Fill the jar with enough vinegar that it rises an inch or two above the herb mixture. Cover tightly and let it sit in a warm spot for 2 to 3 weeks.

2. Strain out the herbs. To each cup of herbal vinegar, add 2/3 to 1 cup of rose water or witch hazel. Add a drop or two of essential oil, if desired. Rebottle. This product does not need to be refrigerated and will keep indefinitely.

After the photo above was taken, I added more vinegar for it to rise the full inch or two above the herbs (the jar was full). You can see in this picture all of the beautiful colors of the herbs. Well, it's been infusing for a little more than a week and you can actually see the vinegar taking on the properties of those herbs. The vinegar is turning a gorgeous deep rose. I'm going to let it work it's magic for the full three weeks. I can't wait to try it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

Although, I didn't get to the beach early enough last Sunday to go for a good walk, I still enjoyed my time there. Not only was it a delight to my senses, but I got some pretty pictures, too.

On Monday, I had a pretty crappy day at work. I let a lot of little things get to me. I know it wasn't personal, but it bothered me nonetheless. When I finally got home late that night, however, the day finally turned around. There were two packages waiting for me by the front door. One was from Tropical Tea Company. I had some problems ordering from their website, so I have to admit that I kind of had my doubts about the order. When I opened the box, I discovered my order plus another full size package of tea, a smaller one, and an individual serving; all of various other flavors that they carry. I thought maybe the order got confused, but they did include a note about the free samples. Score.

The second package was addressed to Jack (The Official Kitty of Athena's Armoury) from my mom. You can check out my blog post from earlier in the week detailing the antics that ensued after opening that box.

I randomly found out that a guy I went to high school with will be in the theatre where I work for the next month or so. He was a few years younger than me and we were in the theatre group together. Sweet guy and very talented. I'm glad to see how well he's doing! Talk about a crazy small world!

This week at work FLEW by! It's amazing how fast time goes when you actually have something to do. The work I was doing wasn't particularly exciting, but it kept me busy and I wasn't quite as miserable there as I usually am.

Because I was so busy this week, though, I still haven't had a chance to blog about some of my recent herbal concoctions. I made three different things last Sunday (Lavender Honey, Goldie Locks Vinegar Hair Rinse, Queen of Hungary Water), another during the week (Fire Cider), and I suspect I will be formulating again today. I'm hoping to tell you more about them this week.

Yesterday, Scott finally had a day off (this was another week of 16 hour days for him) and we had such an amazing day. It was an absolutely gorgeous day out, so we grabbed our bikes and road down to St. Pete. It wound up being about an hour to get to downtown. We had a super yummy lunch at Lucky Dill and then hopped back onto the bikes for the return trip. We were both kinda sore and tired on the return trip and were riding against the wind, but we made it. It was such a fun day. Happy.

In other news, I've been pondering the meaning of life (well, my life anyway) and am starting to feel like I'm getting back on track. A few different people have said things to me recently that have really struck a chord and made me think. Here's to hoping!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Finds - Biking Accessories

The weather is finally starting to cool off down here in the Sunshine State. This weekend, in fact, it's supposed to be in the mid to upper 70's. I've been really looking forward to getting the cooler weather mainly because Scott and I got these amazing bikes over the summer and I can't wait to be able to get out and ride! We tried when we got them, but I nearly collapsed from heat stroke. Not fun.

We got Giant bikes and this particular model can be used both on the street and off road. Me being me, I had to get a standard bike instead of one specifically built for women. Partly because I hate the fact that things are considered either standard or for women (women aren't normal, I guess?) but also because the women's bike fit me a little too small (I'm a bit Amazonian). The regular bike also, somehow, felt more rugged and I like that (I miss my Jeep).

Because my bike is so rugged feeling, a handlebar pouch just doesn't feel right (and don't even get me near a handlebar basket!). I really like this hip pouch for carrying the necessities.

It's important when going on long rides to make sure you've got your miscellaneous bike repair accessories with you: bike tool, extra tube, pump, etc. This is such a great little roll up case to store everything in. Plus, it attaches under your seat. Click on the link to see it stored.

Right now, our garage is so packed with stuff, it's difficult to move. If I can find a bit of wall space, our bikes would be up out of the way and showed off quite nicely on these wall mounts.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Attack Cat

It has been a long, long time since there were any gratuitous cat pictures on the blog of Jack, The Official Kitty of Athena's Armoury. So, today Jack gets his own blog post.

My mom had made me a crocheted lap blanket once upon a time. Last winter, I had been keeping it out to be all cozy like in front of the TV. Well, there were quite a few times that I would wake in the morning only to find it pulled off the couch and on the floor. Then one day, I caught Jack, red pawed, with it *in his mouth.* Needless to say, the blanket only came out when I wanted to use it after that.

Along with so many other people this year, my mom's company downsized and she was let go. She was starting to feel besides herself lately with nothing to do, so I suggested that maybe she should start crocheting again. She asked if there was anything that I needed. Me? No. Jack? Yes. Maybe if he had his own blanket, he'd leave mine alone.

Monday night, I arrived home to a couple of boxes: one was Jack's blanket. It came out adorable! I didn't know she was going to do this, but my mom sewed felt letters onto it spelling out his name. Upon closer examination, I realized that they were filled with catnip. I couldn't help but laugh, but also had the realization: "Oh, no... He's going to destroy this..." Well, here's the progression from innocent, discovering kitty to evil kitty.

Loving my new blanket. Look! It even has my name spelled out in felt letters! It gets even better!!! The letters are filled with catnip!!!!!!

Must Get to Catnip
(Blanket licking quickly proceeds to pulling at, burrowing in, and playing with the blanket.)

(Evil kitty takes over and attacks the brand new kitty blanket.)

What? Did I do something wrong?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beach Walk

Despite living only about ten miles away from the beach, I somehow only managed to get there a handful of times this summer. Lately, I've been feeling the need to connect with Mother Nature so I've been trying to make up for the lack of summer beach time. I'm trying to make a weekly ritual to get there for a walk, meditation, or just enjoy a sunset. This past weekend, I got there fairly late in the day and it was super cloudy and windy out, so I spent some time taking pictures and just "being".

There is only very limited parking, but what is available is free. Makes parking on beautiful summer days a little difficult, but not so much in the cooler weather. This is the pathway from the parking area down to the shore.

The very first thing I do whenever I go to the beach is immediately take off my shoes and put my feet in the water.

There was some rough weather in the Gulf with Hurricane Ida, so the surf created these little sand cliffs when the tide came in earlier.

Depending on the time of day, tides, and even weather, you will find powdery soft sand on our Gulf beaches or you may find patches of broken shells.

Please keep off the sand dunes and do not pick the sea oats. There are some endangered plant and wildlife species that inhabit these areas. The dunes also capture sand from being blown into populated areas. Not only are sea oats beautiful, but they also preserve and stabilize the sand dunes. It is illegal to pick sea oats.

It may have been cloudy, but the sunset was still beautiful creating a play of light through the clouds.

It got dark pretty quickly after the sunset, so I was forced to end my time visiting Gaia.

Thanks for visiting the beach with me!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

After I posted last week's Simple Joy Sunday, I went on a walk to the beach. I adore the beach and am totally befuddled as to why I don't go more often. Upon arrival, I promptly took off my shoes, sunk my feet into the sand, and deeply inhaled the magnificent salt air. Listening to the waves on the shore, I walked in the surf for nearly an hour before just camping out in the sand for a few minutes. The water was incredibly wavy (totally not the norm for the Gulf); you can even see a surfer in the background of this shot I got on my phone.

It felt wonderful to clear my brain and get outside and spend time with Mother Nature for a while. I really think this needs to become a weekly ritual for me. (Don't know if it's going to happen today: there are supposed to be gusty winds up to 30mph. That may not be that fun with sand whipping around. Sad.)

Spending time with my herbs made me incredibly happy this week. I managed to find some more Mason jars (who knew they were so hard to come by?) so I was able to store all of my bulk herbs (the closet in my workroom is being taken over!). I mixed another batch of my Nerve Tonic Infusion to make throughout the week. I also made my first tincture: Brain Tonic Tincture. It is so grounding working with these amazing plants. I can't help feeling like a wisewoman (even though I know I still have a long way to go). It's so medieval. ;)

I made some special time for me at work on Wednesday. I made time to do some things I enjoy:
-I gave the blog some love
-did some herbal studies
-I lit a lovely vanilla candle
-at the suggestion of Julie at Mermaiden Creations I created a new channel on Pandora and gave Kate Bush a listen
-drank some of my soothing Nerve Tonic infusion

Scott's been working an insane amount of hours lately. I'm talking 8am until 10pm for about two weeks straight; and it's not going to ease up for probably a month. Luckily, though they will start to have Saturdays off at least. Friday night, he called me on the way home from work to see if I wanted to go out and get a drink. It was a really fun, last minute idea. I haven't really seen much of him lately, so it was really nice.

I spent the day Saturday cooking a TON of food. With Scott's crazy schedule, I still want him to be able to eat halfway decent. So, I stocked up the fridge with a massive amount of food that can easily go into Tupperware and be heated up in the microwave. Although cooking isn't one of my favorite things to do, I was pleased with how much good food I made:
-turkey tenderloin with ginger and teriyaki
-chicken & apple sausages
-zuchini & squash
-stirng beans & tomatoes
-chicken broth enhanced brown rice
-rosemary roasted potatoes
-a whole chicken seasoned with lemon, parsley, and rosemary; with a ton of potatoes and veggies surrounding it
Having a full refridgerator is a very, very good feeling.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Finds - Avalon

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is one of my favorite books. It recounts Arthurian legend from the point of view of the women involved. It is a truly unique, detailed version of a tale steeped in myth. I highly recommend it for fantasy lovers, feminists, faery folk, Goddess worshippers, and everyone in between.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Herbal Concoction: Brain Tonic Tincture

Among the many gorgeous, incredibly fresh herbs I received from Mountain Rose Herbs I got the ingredients I needed to make a Brain Tonic Tincture. This tincture is excellent for calming and strengthening the nervous system and increasing memory. You won't wake up overnight feeling like Einstein, but after consistent use (daily for anywhere between one to three months) there will be a subtle but noticeable increase in memory and mental alertness. I figured since I'm studying herbalism, this would be a great introductory tincture for me!

Herbs included in this tincture include: Gota Kola, Gingko Leaf, Peppermint, Sage, and Rosemary. The herbs are being extracted in vodka for six to eight weeks. You can see in the picture above how the herbs settle to the bottom of the jar: a simple shake daily keeps the herbs and vodka mixed.

People say that I must be very patient for making chain maille. Making maille doesn't need patience, but working with herbs does! It takes time for them to work their magic.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys that keep me going each week...

I was so excited to find out that three of the guys that I toured with years ago (in what feels like a previous life) are in town this week. I love these guys and was so happy to see them! Scott and I went out for drinks with them and had such a good time.

My Chain Maille Dice Bag was included in a maille treasury by jsanderso at Sartorial Steel.

I had an amazing time on Monday night. I had a severe case of the Mondays and needed a pick me up. I got some supplies on the way home and made my first concoction with some of the new herbs I have on hand. You can read more about it here. Beyond that, I ate sushi and a brownie, watched Eastwick (a new guilty pleasure), read some of my book, and had a glorious night's sleep.

Because I worked a really long day on Wednesday, I got to be off on Friday. We all know how happy that makes me! I made a tincture that I'll have to tell you about in a future post.

Halloween wasn't too terribly eventful here. I wound up re-organizing my closet to make room for all of my herbs and doing some of my herbal homework in the afternoon. When Scott got home from work, we threw a pizza in and watched The Crow in the dark. We made some spiked apple cider for dessert. It may not have been exciting, but it was nice.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Finds - An Ode To My City

I may currently live in FL and admit that I love the beach, but in my heart and soul I am a city girl. My city is New York. I was brought up first in Queens and then on Long Island, but escaped to the city as often as I could and went to school in the city. I love the electricity, I love the grittiness, I love that there is always something going on and something to do, I love the culture, I love everything about it. It's my heart. It's my home.

One of my most favorite places in the city is The Cloisters. The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that specializes in the medieval. The place is like stepping back in time to a different world. Part of the art is the architecture itself.

I went to school in the city and the campus was basically the village: Greenwich Village. The village is alive with history and culture. Between amazing thrift stores and all of the designers having boutiques, the shopping was amazing (even if it was usually just window shopping for a poor college student!). The bars are literally historic from having operated during prohibition, had been men only, and yet another one in particular being the birthplace of punk.

I went to school for theatre. Yes, I love the spectacle of Broadway and the grand musicals that it's known for, but what I studied and love is experimental work that is more commonly found off Broadway. Actually, more specifically it's found off off off off Broadway. Amazing places like Todo Con Nada, The Wooster Group, and PS 122 among others.

I hope you enjoyed visiting some of my favorite places in my city.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Subversive Halloween Costume

I work in theatre. Theatre is typically a very creative environment. Unless it's being run by corporate bean counters. Like here.

The people in the Ivory Tower have declared that we are not allowed to dress up for Halloween. Of all of the work environments around, I can't think of another better suited to celebrate Halloween than in theatre.

That said, I typically do not wear anything special to work for the holiday and, sadly, can't remember the last time I was able to get dressed in costume to go anywhere.

For some strange reason (I wonder why...), I really would love to be something fun at work this year. But it has to be subtle and subversive.

My ideas so far:
-Wear a track suit and be The Bride from Kill Bill.
-Jeans, T-shirt, leather jacket, motorcycle boots, and my maille gauntlet to be Sara Pezzini from Witchblade.
-Shorts, boots, tank top, sunglasses, & guns (?) to be Lara Croft.

I think Witchblade would probably be the easiest to pull off and not get noticed.

So, my creative friends, any ideas? What do you think I should be that the bean counters wouldn't notice?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Herbal Concoction: Nerve Tonic

I've been feeling the stress of work creeping back into my heart and soul lately. Admittedly, nothing in particular has happened it's just the life sucking ability that place has over me when I let it (which is more often than I care to admit). I received my herbs last week and hadn't done anything with them yet. As a little pick me up, I decided that needed to change. On my way home from work yesterday, I picked up some supplies that I need to start playing and experimenting this week. I still need to get some mason jars and jars to put final products in as well as some tincture bottles, but I think I have enough stuff to at least get started.

My first lesson with Rosemary Gladstar focuses on the Nervous System and since work is stressing me out, I thought an appropriate concoction would be to brew my first Nerve Tonic Infusion. The herbs in it provide nutrients that help strengthen and support the nervous system. Unlike allopathic medicine which usually works fairly quickly (by deadening nerve response), natural therapies take time and consistency is key. When used over an extended period of time, nerve tonics can rebuild the nerve connections and create a lasting flow of energy. In essence, herbal nervine therapy increases our ability to cope with the stress of daily life. Just what I need.

The Nerve Tonic that I decided to make includes lemon balm, chamomile, oats, chrysanthemum flowers, rose petals, and lavender flowers. I must admit, I was was in awe of how incredibly beautiful the herbs looked all mixed together. They have a sweet, floral smell. Steeping time can vary for an infusion anywhere between ten minutes and an hour. Since this is a medicinal infusion, I tried 30 minutes. It's a very soothing flavor that I think I enjoy without the need to add stevia (yes, it's an herb) to sweeten it. Next time I try it, I may let it steep for a bit longer to see how it effects the herbs and changes the flavor. Since this formula needs to be taken over time, it's actually easier to make it in batches instead of a cup at a time. I'm going to play with steeping time first and then make a day's worth at a time.

Most natural therapies for nervous system disorders are based on nutrition, herbs, exercise, and a reevaluation of lifestyle. I already do eat fairly healthy and drinking this fortifying tea will only benefit me. Unfortunately, working out has fallen by the wayside lately and that needs to change. I've also let myself get complacent about things that I love doing: namely being in nature and making my maille. It's hard to care about anything after having your life force sucked out of you for eight hours at a time, but again: that needs to change. On a side note: I've been having problems sleeping lately. I don't know if this tonic did it or just my feelings of happiness (or exhaustion?) when I went to bed, but I slept very well last night. Happy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

A happy little surprise came this week when I found my Chain Maille Mantle included in a treasury made by merigreenleaf at Elbit Enterprises.

I did some more from scratch cooking this week: four cheese macaroni and cheese with chicken and broccoli. Didn't come out half bad, actually. Another night I made a honeyed ham, some steamed veggies, and garlic mashed potatoes. Between both of those meals and the the beef stew I made last weekend (some in the fridge & some in the freezer) we've got leftovers for days. Leftovers makes me happy.

My big box of herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs arrived on Thursday!! Everything is so fresh! I can't wait to start playing with all of it.

I had two people that I haven't seen in a while notice that I lost weight PLUS I got a sweet, unexpected compliment from a couple of the guys at work. Makes a girl feel good.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?