Steep Yo’self – Herbal Bath Teas

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Good Monday, Hackers!

It’s coming on that time of year that so many of us love; and yet, it creates a large amount of stress. Many of us make a variety of gifts and goodies for our friends and loved ones, we prepare for hosting family, we decorate (that in and of itself can wipe a person out). So many things topple onto our plates in the month of December that it can be easy to forget to just stop and breathe. Tea has always been touted as a soul-soothing remedy but did you know that you don’t just have to drink it? You can bathe in it too!

One of the best things about this stress reliever is that you can either grow your own herbs for these bath teas or you can buy them from a store or local market. If you’re growing your own, you’ll want to dry them (Organic Authority has a lovely blog post with three methods found here.)

Items you will need along with your herbs are muslin drawstring bags or double layered cheesecloth (but if you want to repurpose those old stockings or save a little money, you can use nylons or support hose as well). All you need is something that water can move through but these three things work best.

You can mix and match, use whichever herb combinations you would like. Chamomile, rose petals, and lavender are all soothing ingredients while things like lemon, peppermint, and sage can be revitalizing & rejuvenating. When mixing your herbs in the bag, you’ll want to keep the portions as even as possible. Each bag should have up to 6 tablespoons of herbs so if you’re going for a rose petals and lavender blend, you want three tablespoons of each herb. Essentially, this is just like making yourself a cup of hot tea, just on a bigger scale. You can use more than 6 tablespoons for a stronger tea but it isn’t necessary. Sometimes less is more.

You can add things like oatmeal or milk powder but these things are not necessary. The herbs themselves are going to do the heavy lifting; additions to the bag can be used to contribute to softer skin and the like.

To use your bath teas, I know the knee-jerk reaction may be to run the water and toss the bag in to steep. This is not the best way to steep your tea bag in a bath. Instead, you will want to hang the bag from the faucet and simply run your bath. It doesn’t need to be boiling to “brew” the tea; you can run it at the normal bath temperatures and it will be just fine.

As per usual with my posts, these fun little DIY items not only benefit you, they also make wonderful gifts. So on top of getting some you time in this stressful holiday season, add a little something to your loved ones’ stockings as well. Spread the stress relief!

Happy steeping, Hackers!

~Scribe Sarah~


Wrist Exercises Take 2

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A few months ago I posted some great videos for stretching your wrist muscles and just generally helping them keep the more common wrist injuries at bay. Well today I’m back with some more, and they’re from an unlikely inspiration.

From Splatoon 2 enthusiast and Tumblr user comes a great reference guide to help the average person take care of their wrists before strenuous use. While they were inspired by long play session of Splatoon 2 for the Switch, these are really wonderful stretches that anyone can do. If you’re seeing a medical professional for an existing condition however, be sure to clear it with them first. Per the artist themselves:

I drew a quick chart about good wrist and finger exercise before playing Splatoon (or engaging in any other intense activity such as but not limited to gaming in general, programming, drawing, computer work etc.)
As with all stretching exercise, these should only be done in moderate speed. You only want to loosen up, not break your hands!!

Great advice, and I’d even recommend doing it at a very slow pace at first to help you get the feel of what the stretch should feel like and not hurt yourself. When done properly everyday, these stretches can definitely help the longevity of your very useful wrists. 🙂


Labor Day Celebration: Relax yo’self

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Hello my beautiful Monday Hackers! And a happy Labor Day to you all!

In honor of the holiday, I wanted to spend a little time on relaxation and rest. It is important to maintain a balance in our lives, which is part of the reason our country celebrates this holiday. As such, I wanted to give a few ideas for things you can do to help rest and restore yourselves from the stresses of every day life.

One of my absolute favorite ways to relax is to take a long, hot bath. Adding bath salts and fragrances add a lovely level to your relaxation time. In a post a few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for making your own bath salt. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive and you can find that recipe here. Some great relaxing scents you can use for this (or for a spray that can be misted over your bed before you go to sleep) are lavender, rose, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile, and frankincense.

In addition to the salts in your bath, having a good book with you can be a super addition to your rest time. Sometimes, taking a journey into a fictional world while inhaling calming scents is just what a human needs to fully decompress.

Another way to pamper yourself is to mix up a homemade facial mask. Many of these can be made with items you have in your kitchen, some are a little more detailed. But sometimes, unclogging your pores can really help unclog your mind. This may be construed by some to be a rather ‘feminine’ thing to do but I feel this is a great thing for any gender. Clean skin makes anyone feel better about things. Below is a quick and easy hydrating mask for dry skin.

Cocoa Dream Hydration Mask:

Mash up one quarter of an avocado and add one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of cocoa powder. Apply the mixture to a clean face and let sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat face dry. (I like to follow things like this with my favorite toner, Pacifica’s Coconut Micellar Water Cleansing Tonic, which can be bought at Target, Ulta, and Sephora or online at Amazon. Pacifica’s products are also all cruelty free and 100% vegan!)

Another fabulous homemade mask ingredient is bananas. Bananas are great for skin as they are high in antioxidants and moisture. This mask is super easy and great way to get glowing skin.

Organic Banana Face Mask:

Mash up half a banana and add one tablespoon orange juice (fresh squeezed is best!) and one tablespoon of honey. Apply to a clean face and leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.

One of my favorite ways to relax and de-stress is by doing a little yoga. Even the most novice yoga practitioner can accomplish these basic poses for relaxation. As with any physical exercise, make sure that you are trained on how to do these poses correctly by a licensed yoga instructor. Doing yoga poses incorrectly can actually damage your body. This webpage has five easy to achieve and fully relaxing yoga poses. Other poses that I enjoy and that help relax and relieve tension are locust pose and supine leg twist. For anyone who is a yoga practitioner who wants to have yoga on the go, I highly recommend the apps FitStarYoga and Asana Rebel. They are easy to use and show videos on the poses as well so it’s great for people who are not yet proficient.

I’d like to end my post on the most efficient way to de-stress, relax, and recharge. It’s quick, it’s easy and you can literally do it anywhere. Deep Breathing. Some people call this meditation and it is. However, all you really need to do is take in oxygen in order for your body to naturally relax and find serenity. Sit somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. If you can’t find a somewhat quiet spot, put in earbuds and start whatever relaxing music you like (I personally go straight for Chopin’s Nocturnes). Close your eyes and take one slow, deep breath in, then slowly let it out through your mouth. Repeat this for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, however long you feel you need to fully let go of your stress and find peace. Don’t think about anything; no mental lists of what you still have to do for the day, what you’re going to have/make for dinner, if you need to stop at the store on the way home for toilet paper. All those things will be there waiting for you when you’re done breathing. Just focus on the slow intake of oxygen and the release of breath out. Imagine all the bad thoughts and feelings you have exiting your body with the exhale. Even just 5 minutes of this can make all the difference in your mental state and how you approach or deal with your day.

Our weekend is long and for that, we are all grateful. Who doesn’t love a day off work? But remember the real reason for it and that is to take care of and treat yo’self. Happy Labor Day, kids!


DIY Bath Salts (part two): Know your ingredients

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Last week, I showed you how easy it is it make your own bath salts. As with any recipe, they are not set in stone. You can certainly customize these recipes just as you would food recipes. However, as with the food you eat, it is important to know which ingredients are good for you and which are not. That’s what this Monday’s post is all about.

There are three main ingredients in most of the DIY bath salt recipes you will find online; salt, essential oil, and the carrier for the essential oils (usually another oil). Some of these recipes will add baking soda but I have found it isn’t absolutely necessary. However, it does provide some health benefits in its own right! Let’s start with the salts.

There are four kinds of salt that are most beneficial for bath salts. The easiest to find is, of course, Epsom salt. Anyone who has played sports or been active knows that Epsom salts are incredibly helpful in soothing sore muscles. It also helps when you’re sore from a bad fall…not that I have any personal experience with that part at all…. I’m lying, I fall on my face frequently. But Epsom salt (and really all salts listed here) are a great source of magnesium. Epsom salt is actually composed of tiny crystals of magnesium and sulfate, making it very different from your run of the mill, regular table salt. Our bodies need magnesium for a number of reasons, one of which is that it helps our bodies produce serotonin. Serotonin is that fun little chemical in our brain that helps make us happy. Low levels of serotonin can be a key indicator of depression in humans.

Magnesium also helps relax us and reduces irritability. This is something that can come in handy for us females during certain periods of time. *winknudge* Another huge benefit of magnesium is that it helps eliminate toxins from your body. Soaking in this will allow your body to expel toxins through your skin, which helps to keeps us healthy and happy. Some people even believe that soaking in magnesium sulfate can help purge your aura of negativity. For some other ways that Epsom salts can benefit you, please see this article over at Natural Living Ideas.

The other salts I mentioned earlier also contain magnesium, so some of the benefits are the same. Himalayan Pink sea salt also has antibacterial and antiseptic properties which makes it really soothing and beneficial for skin problems like eczema, acne, and psoriasis. Also, it’s natural coloring makes it popular for bath salts since you don’t need to use artificial coloring then. Only downside there is that it only comes in pink. Dead Sea Salt is one of the most natural bath salt ingredients you’ll find. These salts are extracted directly from the Dead Sea and undergo very little (if any, in some cases) processing. This one, however, is a little more difficult to come by and can cost more. The biggest difference between Epsom and sea salts is the composition: while Epsom salts are purely magnesium sulfate, sea salts are mineral rich. They contain important minerals like calcium, copper, iodine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and zinc. These minerals are all natural and things that our bodies need to be healthy. Our lifestyles in today’s society tend to be deficient in a lot of these minerals so this is a lovely way to replenish them to our bodies.

A fourth salt that can be used is standard kosher salt. This works great to mix with the Epsom salts. This way you get the benefits of the magnesium sulfate from the Epsom salt and the minerals of the sea salts.

The other important ingredient is what is called a carrier or base oil. This is what you will add the drops of your essential oil to in order for it to mix with the water of your bath. I personally like to use oils because of the benefits to skin but you can also use things like castile soap or shampoo. I’m going to focus on the oils that I have used in the past. One reason I like these is because you can mix the essential oils with these and use them as moisturizers instead of mixing with the salts. Some of my favorites are apricot kernel seed oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, vitamin E, and grapeseed oil. You can also use green tea seed, olive, jojoba, sesame, and hemp seed. All of these oils are great for moisturizing skin but most of them also have antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties.

As I posted in last week’s post, if you are using a base oil like sesame or sweet almond, make sure that the person using it is not allergic to it. DIY bath salts are super easy and inexpensive gifts for showers and holidays but you don’t want your gift to make your friend or family member to break out in hives or, ya know, go into anaphylactic shock.

Basically, these things are easy to make as long as you know and respect the ingredients. Some wonderful resources to look through if you want to research your own can be found here and here.

 

~Scribe Sarah~


DIY Bath Salts (Part One)

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It’s been a long, hard day and all you want to do is soak in a hot bath, maybe with a book or some soothing music. Adding aromatherapy to this scenario will take your relaxing bath to a whole new level. Some people use incense or Scentsy wax. But there is a little something that anyone can whip up quite quickly that will make that bath not only soothing but also beneficial to your health as well. Add a little bath salt.

There are a bunch of different recipes that you can use to make a simple, scented bath salt. I’m including the one that I use more frequently. This recipe is simple and all the ingredients are easy to obtain. Most items can be found at a grocery store and things like the essential oils can be found at stores like The Vitamin Shoppe. Be aware that essential oils need to be understood and used with care. I did a lot of research about how to use essential oils safely and the chemistry involving how these oils interact with your body.

There are many types of salts that can be used in bath salt recipes but Epsom salts are usually the easiest to find. Next week, you can read about the different types of both salts and carrier oils that can be used in the making of bath salts. A carrier oil is a seed or vegetable oil used to dilute the essential oils before they are applied to skin. If you try to put straight essential oil into your bath water, you’ll notice that your skin will start to burn and irritate. This is because oil and water do not mix so the essential oils tend to float on top of the water. Then you get into the bath and the oils are attracted to the lipids in your body, causing irritation (usually made worse by the heat of the water). You should never add essential oils directly to the bath water, always make sure you are diluting them with either a carrier oil, salt or both.

The recipe I use most uses both a carrier oil and salt. I like this recipe because Epsom salts are not only easy to find but it also helps sooth sore and achy muscles. This is especially nice after a hard workout or if you’ve taken a fall. You will need the following items:

  • 1 cup Epsom Salt
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • ½ cup Baking Soda
  • 2 tbsp carrier oil of your choice
  • Essential oils (whichever scents you want)
  • A large bowl
  • A small bowl
  • A whisk
  • A rimmed baking sheet
  • Aluminum foil
  • Mason jars

To begin, combine one cup of the Epsom salt, one cup of the kosher salt, and a half cup of the baking soda into the large bowl and mix together.

Once you have those things mixed well, place off to the side and in a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of your carrier oil. For the batch I made today, I used sweet almond oil. Be aware that if you plan to make a gift of these, check with the person about potential allergies! You don’t want to give someone who is allergic to almonds a bath salt that is made with almond oil.

Next, add 20 drops of your essential oil to the carrier oil. You can mix different scents if you like. I used eucalyptus, lavender, and spearmint for a relaxing and head-clearing bath salt. Stir the essential oils into the carrier oil. At this point, if you want to add a color to your salts, you can do so by adding a drop or two of food coloring to the carrier oil and mixing it in. You do not have to do this. Take your large bowl with your mixed salts and add the now mixed carrier & essential oils. Mix thoroughly with the whisk. (Make sure the dishes you are using for this either get cleaned really well or use dishes that are not used for food items).

Once the carrier oil is thoroughly mixed into the salts, spread some aluminum foil onto the baking sheet and then spread the salts out onto the foil. Let sit for about 15 minutes. This allows the salts and the oils to dry out a bit and bond together. Then you can carefully pull up the corners of the foil and use this to pour your salts into your Mason jars for storage. I like to use Ball Mason jars because they have measurements on the side. 1 cup of the finished salts equals one bath.

     

I hope you enjoy this recipe and there are a number of other recipes and tips to try from the internet as well. One can be found here along with a number of other fun DIY items (the focus of the webpage is for brides but some of the items can be for every day use also).

~Scribe Sarah~

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La Chacha Soaps

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Good morning, Thursday Crafthackers!

I bring to you a small business who I really enjoyed meeting a few months ago. This is La Chacha Soaps, which is a company that makes a wide collection of skincare products that are all hand made in Canada. Hand made in Canada, that’s what I like to hear. It has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? What’s even better is that this is a family owned company and it is their business philosophy to create high end, non toxic and all natural skin care products.

I love that they don’t just make soaps, though. They have a huge variety of skin care products that are made with love. Bath bombs, deodorants, face serums, shampoo bars and lip balms. You can of course see all the things they offer at the different shows they attend, and you can shop on their website also.

One thing that I loved was that when I visited this booth, the young lady who helped me (she must have been in her teens), was the one who was manning the booth and man was she informed about the majority of the products that they carry. She was able to explain much of how the different products worked and what ingredient in them made them exceptional, like their muscle and joint body butter. I love that they have a natural, topical alternative to muscle pain.

I also talked with this young lady about their facial serums and about what products that they might have that would be beneficial to eczema sufferers and I loved what she had to say and the products that they offered. It was quite a lovely experience, and I love the diversity of the skin care that they offer. You can check out their Facebook here, as well as their Instagram to follow and keep up with the goings on of the business and for new products.

I hope you enjoyed meeting them as much as I did.

Happy Crafting!

~ Megan


Exercises for your Hands

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A different kind of post for today. This is a subject that’s been weighing on me personally the past year, and I wanted to share my findings and help my fellow artisan crafters and artists out there. As much fun as it can be to make really cool items by hand, it’s equally important to make sure you’re taking care of those hands. Just like the tools you hold, your hands are an important and vital part of your crafting that can be worn down if not given time and treatment. So the first thing I’m going to start out with is a video on exercises you can do for your hands.

These exercises are designed to help prevent and/or cure injuries such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. While traditional 2D artist are most known to have these issues, as a crocheter I’ve come to find this video invaluable. Less then 5 minutes a day is all you need to run these stretches and the benefits are already starting to show for me. I would recommend doing these daily for anyone that creates things with their hands; yes even writing. Your future self with thank you.

Since it was important enough to be the top comment, I want to include David Kuckhermann‘s addition on feeling a stinging pain while doing the stretches.

for those of you guys who ask about the stinging pain in the thumb/wrist while doing the stretches –  This is how it went for me: I had the same sharp stinging pain in the area that was inflamed while I did the stretches. The doctor I consulted with advised me to do the stretches anyway – once every hour or so for 8-10 seconds. I was careful to not overdo it but to stretch enough to still get the stretching effect on the muscles. In the beginning it was very painful but already after two days I felt a big positive change and had much less pain.

Note that I am not a medical doctor, so if you experience severe pain you should definitely consult your doctor before continuing these exercises.

The next advice I want to touch on is taking vitamins. This seems silly, but hear me out. I’m already required to take them as I have a genetic iron deficiency (my body doesn’t have/make enough naturally) that a simple multi vitamin takes care of. If I have super dark circles under my eyes when you come by at shows….it’s cause I’ve forgotten to take them regularly…again. Personal needs aside though, one of the muscle pains I can develop from crocheting is along my tendon muscle near my elbow. It can feel almost like a knot is sitting there, not unlike a charlie horse issue in your leg, that feels more sore then shooting pain. After consulting with my doctor, he suggested I try adding extra potassium to go with my multivitamin as it was possible I wasn’t getting enough in my diet. After about a week I noticed a marked difference and have been attempting to keep up with it. Potassium is an electrolyte and besides helping with your blood pressure, it also aids in electrical impulses carried through your body for proper nerve and muscle communication. Think of it like lubrication for your muscles. 😉

The last bit to add here is the one everyone knows and no one wants to hear.

Rest.

Yup. Take a break. Do anything that doesn’t put high stress on your hands/arms. Play some video games, watch movies, whatever you like. Give your hands a rest as much as you can before doing more creating. When you do jump back in don’t go ‘nose to the grind stone’ either to try and ‘make up time’. You’ll just undue all the rest you gave your poor hands and get you back to square one. I took a week off with no crocheting after NYCC last fall cause my hands/arms were so sore, and even though they felt normal after only 2 days, I stuck to the plan and then went at a slightly slower pace for a bit when I started back up until I felt I could resume normal activity/speed.

While none of the 3 suggestions I’ve listed are full proof and you should always consult your doctor first if you have severe pain or injuries, these are good places to start finding a plan that works for you and gives you & your hands a nice long working relationship. 🙂