DIY Rescue Salve

DIY Rescue Salve

diy-healing-skin-salveThis pleasant-smelling, easy-to-make all-purpose salve requires only a few basic ingredients and helps soothe common complaints such as dry, itchy winter skin or minor cuts, scrapes and other owies. I like to rub it into rough elbows and my cuticles and fingertips to protect against the painful cracks so common at this time of year – much-needed rescue from cruel winter weather!

The shea butter, coconut oil and sweet almond oil in this salve leave the skin feeling instantly soft and smooth. The lavender essential oil lends just the right amount of fragrance; plus, lavender is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and is thought to help heal wounds, reduce scarring, and act as a pain reliever. The aromatherapy benefits alone are a good reason to include lavender essential oil in this salve. (Note that lavender can be an allergen to some folks; you could substitute rose oil for skin-soothing benefits.)

The small amount of beeswax (which adds hardness to a preparation) relative to the larger quantities of oils and shea butter gives this salve a light, soft consistency that’s very easy to rub in and doesn’t feel too greasy.

This recipe makes about 100 mL (3.4 fl. oz.). I filled the 50 mL and two 20 mL jars shown here and still had a little left over. (Note that this recipe is too soft to work in a lip balm tube.) Keep a jar at home, one in your purse and one at the office, or give away as gifts!

natural-skin-salveGillyflower’s All Natural Rescue Salve

In a Pyrex measuring cup inside a double boiler filled with a couple inches of water, melt together over medium heat, stirring occasionally:

1 tbsp beeswax, chopped in small pieces (or use pellets)
1 tbsp deodorized shea butter (you can use raw unrefined, but it will give your salve a more noticeable, nuttier smell)
1/8 cup coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature)
1/4 cup sweet almond oil

Remove double boiler from heat and let sit for 5 minutes (adding essential oils to a very hot mixture may denature them). Stir in 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Remove measuring cup from double boiler and wipe any moisture from the outside to prevent water from getting into the salve. Pour immediately into small glass jars or tins. Lay a paper towel over the tops of the jars (to prevent dust, etc. getting into your mixture) and let solidify overnight before adding lids.

homemade-rescue-salveI made simple labels using Word and printed them on cardstock (top of large jar) and paper (smaller jars). As I often give my homemade goodies to family and friends, I like to list all the ingredients. Including the product size is also helpful in case I’m asked for a refill. 🙂

Wishing you happy winter skin!

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Snow Magick

Snow Magick

winter-snow-sceneOne Christmas Eve when I was a kid, we had a deep snowfall just in time for the Big Day. After dark, our family took a walk around the neighbourhood to admire the holiday lights. On every tree and shrub, puffs of fluffy white icing were illuminated from within, creating a wondrous fairyland of softly glowing, ethereal colour and light. I don’t recall such a perfect and perfectly-timed snowfall happening since, so it stays in my memory as a truly charmed experience.

In this part of the world – and probably in many, many others – we don’t get the snowfalls we used to. Oh yes, we still get a couple of good wallops a year, but you can no longer count on snow for Christmas – or for much of the winter. I can usually get away with wearing shoes or sneakers (and a light jacket; my friends and family think I’m crazy) all season long!

I love snow. I used to ski on it and make angels in it. I adore watching the gentle drift of a silent snowfall on a lazy afternoon, and the crunch it makes underfoot is delightful. I admire how snow muffles sound in a sleeping forest, and the colours of a shadowed snowdrift are many: pale blue, lavender, indigo, slate. I look at snow closely to pick out the miracle of one-of-a-kind flakes. I’ve been known to collect and bottle snow as a magickal winter talisman.

snow-algonquin-parkSnow Spirits
Water and snow possess feminine energy and are associated with healing, cleansing, purification and transformation. Snow is the insulating blanket of winter’s dark slumber which inevitably gives way to light, fertility and new life. This could be the reason so many ancient winter deities are female.

Boreas is the Greek god of the cold north wind (hence: boreal) and the bringer of winter. His daughter, Chione, is the goddess of snow.

Hulda, Hlodyn or Frau Holle is a Scandinavian/Germanic woodland winter spirit whose feast day is December 25. Sometimes appearing as a young, fertile maiden and sometimes as a toothless crone, she holds dominion over the coldest, darkest months. Her symbols are the evergreens which appear around Yule, including holly and mistletoe, and she is associated with women and the domestic tasks performed around the hearth in winter such as spinning, weaving and sewing. Her connection with snow comes from Norse mythology; snow is said to be the white feathers which fall to earth when Hulda shakes out her mattress.

Morana is the Slavic goddess of winter and death. When she arrives in the guise of an ugly hag, she is greeted with fear. (For those who aren’t afraid, however, she takes the form of a beautiful young girl.) Her departure at the spring equinox is still celebrated with song, processions and feasting.

ice-crystals-on-frozen-pondSnow, like water, is considered yin, or feminine, in Japan. The Yuki-onna is a terrifying, mountain-dwelling female snow spirit whose pale, almost translucent skin and white kimono allow her to blend into the wintry landscape. Able to transform into a cloud of mist and float across the snow, she preys upon hapless travelers with her icy breath, or leads them astray to tumble down valley slopes. She also tries, through the use of various tricks, to steal children away into the snowy night.

In Gaelic mythology, the Cailleach is a weather deity who rules the land between Samhain (October 31-November 1) and Beltane (May 1). A hag whose staff freezes the ground, she is known as the bringer of storms. On February 1, when the land is still deep in snow, the Cailleach ventures out to gather firewood. If the day is fine, it means she’s able to collect lots of wood to keep her warm, so the winter will last longer. If the day is foul, she’s still asleep and unable to find wood, meaning spring will soon arrive. (This legend is probably the origin of Groundhog Day.)

red-berries-in-snowHarnessing Snow Power
The conditions in which snow is collected are thought to affect its qualities: a raging blizzard gives it high energy and power; a gentle snowfall imbues a quiet, peaceful calm. Whether kept frozen or left to melt, snow water is a powerful element. Here are a few ways to use snow’s power:

• Be a kid again and make a snow angel. When the seasonal blues are getting you down, bundle up, get outside and snow angel the heck out of Mean Ol’ Man (or Woman) Winter!
• Draw a sigil in the snow anywhere you wish to evoke power or mark your intent; a symbol drawn in melting snow helps banish or release negativity.
• Before driving in dangerous winter conditions, sketch a safe travel bindrune on your car’s frosty windshield.
• A snowman is an oversized poppet – a doll-like symbol that can protect your home. Build one in your garden, at the border of your property or near your front door as a household guardian. (Don’t forget to dress him up!) Even a tiny one set on a fence or wall is a magickal way to harness snow’s sheltering power.
• Freeze a negative thought, emotion or situation in its tracks by writing its name in the snow.
• Pack up frustration, stress or worry into a snowball and throw it far away! (Just don’t aim at anyone.)
• Make a snölykta, a traditional Scandinavian snow lantern – a pyramid of snowballs into which a light is inserted.
• Symbolically cleanse your body or wake it up with a rubbing of fresh-fallen snow (brrr!).
• Take a walk in the woods during a gentle snowfall or after a storm. In the quiet tranquility, listen carefully to what the whispering trees have to tell you. I always take a pocket of wild bird seed with me for our winged friends; feeding birds from the hand is a beautiful experience!
snow-quartz-crystal• If you don’t have access to snow, carry or wear a piece of snow quartz. This milky white quartz with microscopic water bubbles is associated with dispelling negativity and destroying boundaries, improving clarity of mind, and fulfilling hopes and dreams. With its soft, feminine energy and yin-yang balancing properties, snow quartz is said to help thaw icy relationships.

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Window into January

Joining in on Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up in 2018 was a lot of fun. For 2019, instead of having a theme that changes monthly, the format is a little different. The prompt for the entire year is Windows – which, along with doors, is one of my favourite photographic subjects. Lucky me!

Laura-Secord-Homestead-Niagara-on-the-LakeFrom my archives comes this charming vignette taken at the Laura Secord Homestead in Queenston, near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. History buffs will know that American-born Laura Ingersoll Secord (1775-1868) lived with her husband, James, in this house during the War of 1812.

James Secord served in the 1st Lincoln Militia under Isaac Brock when the war broke out, and was amongst those who carried away his commander’s body after Brock was killed in the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812. Secord himself was seriously wounded during the battle, and his wife Laura oversaw his months-long recuperation. In May 1813, Queenston and the Niagara area fell to the Americans with the capture of Fort George. The town was occupied by U.S. soldiers, some of whom billeted in the Secord home.

Laura Secord’s claim to fame as a Canadian heroine came when, according to tradition, she overheard the soldiers discussing plans to ambush British troops stationed at nearby Beaver Dams in the summer of 1813. Leaving behind her wounded husband and their five children, 37-year-old Laura set out early the next morning, making the 20-mile (32 km) trek through dense bush, clad only in her regular clothes and ballet-slipper-like shoes, until she came upon a camp of Mohawk warriors. Guides led her the rest of the way to the British headquarters, where she warned their Lieutenant of the impending attack. Because of Secord’s information, the British and their Indian allies were ready for the ambush and defeated the Americans at the Battle of Beaver Dams.

We toured the historic homestead just one year shy of the 200th anniversary of Laura Secord’s heroic odyssey. The photo shows a games table set for the pleasure of two gentlemen, perhaps James and a fellow military man, with their wine glasses, playing cards and pipes at the ready.

Finding Magick in the New Year

Finding Magick in the New Year

Scandinavian-star-Christmas-tree-ornamentsThe weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s were hectic and full of busy-ness, as they are for most of us. For me, they were a whirlwind of work deadlines (it’s our busiest season), enduring oral surgery and the ongoing healing process (I never want to eat pudding or jello again), organizing family gatherings, and spending late nights in the elves’ workshop finishing handmade gifts. Boxing Day brought shock and sadness with the sudden loss of a beloved cousin, and our Christmas get-together on the 30th saw tears and nostalgic remembrance alongside the laughter and celebration.

Although my family opted out of gift giving years ago, there are still some of us who sneak in “just because” gifts. This year, I wanted to put my sewing machine to good use, and I dusted off long-unused knitting needles. My focus was winter warmth, so each person received something designed to be cozy and comforting. There were rice-filled microwaveable hot packs/hand warmers for those wintry aches and pains, flannel infinity scarves in colourful plaids, knitted alpaca fibre leg warmers, and fabric bookmarks for a long evening’s read. Each one was a warm hug from me to my loved ones, and it brought me joy to give them.

Scandinavian-birdseed-good-luck-traditionI wasn’t the only one to “break the rules” and slip in a small gift here and there. My sister handed out these adorable good luck seed packets. There is a Scandinavian tradition that says that feeding the birds on Christmas morning, thus including them in the feasting that takes place inside your home, is an act of kindness which brings luck for the coming year. On New Year’s Day, I will be sure to scatter these seeds on our apartment balcony for the sparrows who often come to visit.

In 2018, I have tried to bring a little bit of magick into everyday living. Magick can take many forms, from small – like brewing a soothing cup of tea or giving a pair of snuggly socks to an aging mom – to the more showy and grandiose. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I’m all about rustic simplicity and the wisdom and tradition of the past, so I like to keep my “magick” on the uncomplicated, more mundane side.

plaid-flannel-with-oil-lampWhat do I find magickal? Pausing for a few moments at night to stargaze and pay homage to the Moon. Spending my lunch break at the local new age emporium, letting the crystals and gemstones tumble through my fingers. Soaking up the past in an antiques shop. Breathing in mint-scented fog, loving the rain, or wondering at the beauty of first snow. Gathering a nosegay of wildflowers and “weeds” for a homey bouquet. Filling my pockets with pebbles, acorns, moss or bark from a woodland walk. Hearing an owl call outside my window. The aroma of grassy meadows. Sunlight sparkling like diamonds on water. The warmth of a cat’s fur, and the bliss of its purr. Old typewriters. Eating my first macaron. Making an old family recipe, or working my way through a new craft project. Battered wooden tables, honey, rosewater and flannel. Stained glass. Peeling paint. Parchment and frankincense. Children’s laughter and the kindness of strangers. A new day, rife with possibility. Doing a job, and doing it to the best of my ability – then learning how to do it better.

Are you looking forward to the New Year? One of my faults is that I’m too pessimistic; I tend to “sweat the small stuff” – and I don’t suffer fools gladly. A comment from my brother last night about how he handles bad drivers (he doesn’t let anyone ruffle his feathers) inspired me to lighten up a little. Letting go of the stuff that doesn’t matter and focusing on the good – and the magick – in them, and in all of us, will go a long way to making 2019 a healthy and happy year.

Blessed be.

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Yuletide Craft: Nature’s Ornaments

Yuletide Craft: Nature’s Ornaments

wreath-with-natural-ornamentsThese rustic decorations speak of an earlier time when folk used whatever elements they had on hand and brought nature indoors to brighten up their homes for the holidays. I used natural materials such as muslin, twigs, dried oranges and the fragrant spices and herbs – cinnamon and nutmeg, star anise, bay leaves – so evocative of our seasonal celebrations. With a bit of glue and a drill (optional), it was very easy to put these homespun ornaments together.

cinnamon-stick-ornamentThis spicy little “yule log” is made of several cinnamon sticks (about 4 inches long) wrapped in a scrap of gauzy ribbon and cotton lace. I glued the fabric seams at the back and added a whole anise as a starry embellishment.

cinnamon-stick-star-ornamentFive-pointed stars or pentagrams are traditional symbols of luck and protection. I hot-glued 6-inch cinnamon sticks together, then wrapped baker’s twine around the joints for added interest and stability (you can skip the glue if you wish, as it’s easier to get the right shape just by tying). A sweetly-tinkling silvery bell adds another element to this scented ornament.

mini-besom-ornamentBroomsticks or besoms, whether full-size or miniature, symbolically sweep away negative energies from the home. For this little besom, a twig with a hole drilled at the top for hanging serves as the handle or stave. I cut 4-inch lengths of green twine, folded them in half and hot-glued them (with the folds facing up) about 1.5 inches from the bottom of twig. When the glue was dry, I snipped open the folds, then rubbed each strand between my fingers to unravel them and fluff the “bristles” up. Add a band of binding with more twine – or tightly-wrapped 18 gauge copper craft wire, as shown here.

Scandinavian-star-ornamentOnce I’d made this folded Scandinavian or Swedish star of nubby, unbleached muslin, I aged it by dabbing the fabric with a strongly-steeped tea bag. (The effect is a little hard to see in the photo.) Forest-coloured buttons add woodsy interest. Nestle these stars amongst tree branches as-is or add a hanging loop.

cinnamon-stick-ribbon-tree-ornamentA six-inch cinnamon stick forms the trunk of this ribbon tree. Use a square knot (right over left, left over right) to tie on grosgrain ribbon, cut the “branches” to shape, then carefully singe the ribbon ends with a flame to prevent fraying. Thin strips of fabric would also work well. I drilled a hole at the top of the stick for hanging (I suggest doing this first, in case the cinnamon stick shatters – or use a twig), but you could also glue a hanging loop on if you don’t want to bother with a drill.

orange-and-spice-natural-ornamentThis spice ornament brings together pretty colours and those classic Christmas scents. Dry thinly-cut orange slices (1/8” to 1/4” thick) on a baking sheet in a 175°F oven for about five hours, turning occasionally. (Watch for signs of scorching; lightly cover with parchment paper if desired.) The oranges may still be slightly sticky; poke a hole in one segment and hang to finish drying over several days. I drilled holes in cinnamon stick fragments and a nutmeg and strung them with bay leaves on twine. Apple slices, cranberries, other types of nuts or clementine leaves would be beautiful, too.

Enjoy nature’s bounty this season – or any time of the year!

Glitz

Glitz

tree-with-white-lightsSeasonal decorations, with all their glitter and shine, are pretty much a given for Wild Daffodil’s December photo challenge, Glitz. And what greater way to celebrate the winter solstice – when the wheel of the year turns, and we anticipate the return of the sun and longer days – than with a twinkle or two? A couple of evenings this week after work, I roamed the streets of Victorian-era Brampton, delighting in the display of lights, festive music and wintry activities. I even visited familiar friends, all decked out for the holidays. The old city may not have snow at the moment, but it’s got an abundance of glam and glitz!

gage-park-bandstand-christmasIn the winter, Gage Park, nestled beside City Hall, is transformed into a public skating trail. The rink winds through illuminated trees and sculptures, and in the centre sits an historic bandstand, dressed to the nines for Christmas. Here, the ice had just been groomed, so it looks like the pavilion sits beside a glassy lake. As I snapped this shot, families were having a grand old time skating and bopping along to “Feliz Navidad” over the loudspeaker.

winter-trees-christmas-lightsThe park’s many trees are so artfully lit. Some are dressed in single colours…

christmas-lights-on-tree…and others wear rainbow hues.

moose-christmas-light-sculptureThere are also lighted sculptures dotting the trail, a moose family amongst them.

fairy-door-with-lightsMoving from the holiday hubbub of downtown to a quiet residential neighbourhood, I revisited some whimsical installations which I first wrote about in May. I was happy (and not surprised) to see they bear all the trappings of the season! The first is Haywoods Hollow, a tree house extraordinaire occupied, obviously, by décor-conscious faeries. This 7-foot-tall house boasts illuminated windows with homey scenes inside, a lantern, a tree-mailbox bearing the street number of 17 ½ (I tried to leave an offering inside, but it doesn’t open), and a brightly-painted door guarded by a wizardly Father Christmas. There were gifts from other passersby, including pots of greenery, shiny baubles and snuggly faerie-sized sweaters, hats and mitts. Of course the house has its own faerie lights, a wreath and a stocking ready to be filled by Santa. You can read about and see more pictures of Haywoods Hollow here.

miniature-castle-with-holiday-lightsAnd in another garden is this “miniature” stone castle, built in the early ’60s by the homeowner for his children. The castle of Kodor’s House is also a famous local landmark. I see that its complement of gnomish guardians, which you can just see peeking from the window, bottom right, has increased since the last time I visited. Clearly, they’ve been taking their decorating duties very seriously, festooning their abode in festive finery and creating a garden candyland.

sparkle-winter-treeMy last stop – a showstopper, to be sure – was Garden Square, a public meeting place located at Brampton’s original four corners. This huge, stunning tree is a wonder of gently-twinkling, snow-white lights – and the message it bears is just so beautiful. I spent a magickal few minutes alone in the deserted square, sitting on a bench sipping a hot drink and gazing at it, mesmerized. It was as if the tree was there, silent and sparkling, just for me.

Wherever you are this Yuletide, whether or not you celebrate – I wish you a wonderfully relaxing and meaningful holiday – sprinkled with a dusting of glitz!

Yuletide Craft: Scandinavian Stars

Yuletide Craft: Scandinavian Stars

“Starry, starry night…” – Don McLean

diy-scandinavian-fabric-starsThese no-sew 8-pointed fabric stars are based on traditional Scandinavian or German folded paper stars, which are themselves a variation of the three-dimensional Moravian and Froebel stars popularized in Europe in the 1800s.

The symmetrical, three-dimensional Moravian star, which has 20, 26, 32, 50, 64 or 110 points, originated at a German boys’ school as a geometry lesson, quickly became an Advent and nativity symbol in the Moravian church, then spread worldwide. The 16-pointed Froebel star was supposedly invented by Friedrich Fröbel, founder of the Kindergarten, who encouraged paper folding as a way to introduce simple mathematical concepts to preschool children – although the form may have been around far longer than that.

Scandinavian stars are a fun and easy type of “fabric origami”, for it requires only folding and weaving. Making them can be quite meditational once you get on a roll; after you make a couple, they get easier and faster! I learned how to make them from this tutorial by Betz White.

origami-fabric-starFor each star, you need four 3” x 14” strips of cotton fabric, so it’s a great way to use up scraps or fat quarters from other projects. I used four different prints for each one, but I’ve also seen them done in a single colour, or two patterns for each. I’d like to make some from unbleached muslin with a dusting of glitter for a natural yet shimmering Yuletide adornment!

The only other supplies you need are a ruler, scissors and an iron (but see below for a couple of suggestions which will make your star-making life easier).

You can try making these stars smaller, which will be a bit fiddly, or larger, at which “point” the stars will start to get a little floppy. The ones shown here hold themselves together nicely and are the perfect size for all kinds of different uses.

A couple of suggestions: as you’ll see from the tutorial, you need to feed each fabric strip in between layers of other strips, which can be snug. I used a pair of blunt tweezers to reach up underneath and pull the fabric through; much easier than using my big ol’ fingers! A grippy-type bodkin would be ideal for this, too.

Once done, you can leave the stars as-is, as they should stay together pretty well. However, I’m a cautious lass who never likes leaving anything to chance, so I used my trusty Weldbond glue (fabulous stuff – can’t recommend it enough!) to tack down the raw ends of each strip. They are hidden under previously-woven sections, so no one will ever know the glue is there! I think the glue just adds a bit more stability to the finished product.

swedish-star-ornamentsThis craft is great for when you need homemade gifts quickly; you can make up a bunch in an evening, especially if you have a “bee” going on. (Bring on the nog and gingerbread.) Adult supervision is needed if kids are going to make them, as there’s cutting and pressing involved.

I’m going to add hanging loops to each star with gold or silver thread to make these into tree ornaments. The purple ones will be a gift for a friend who decorates her Christmas tree exclusively in that colour. Another stack, bundled up with pretty ribbon, will go to a co-worker. You can bedeck a wreath or garland, too (my photos of these stars on an evergreen wreath sadly didn’t turn out). String them together on their own to make a starry garland, or use them as colourful gift tags or package embellishments.

And you don’t have to limit their use to Christmas, either. Depending on your fabric choices – of course you can use all sorts of pretty paper, too – they’d be appropriate all year long!

fabric-scandinavian-stars“We are all of us stars and we deserve to twinkle.” – Marilyn Monroe