Monday, December 26, 2011

Navigating The Tightrope Called Family During the Holidays, Or Any Other Time

Navigating along the tightrope called "family" can be pretty tricky even during the best of times, but when it is the Holiday Season many of the spiritual lessons and ideas that we try so hard to incorporate into our everyday lives - well, they hit a brick wall.  They often seem to be much harder, if not impossible, to maintain.  I've noticed this year for some reason, many of the friends and acquaintances that I have were expressing quite a bit of family frustration and discontent.  I know there are no easy answers when it comes to family issues and that everyone's situation is unique, but here are a couple of thoughts that may help you with your individual balancing act.

First, I think it's really important for people to remember one simple phrase - 

 "They are not you... and you are not them".

True with your family, friends, and even in your work situation.
Yes, you may be a reflection of each other and have influenced each other at some point, true.  But you are "not" them and they are "not" you. Your choices of how to act, react and live your life are yours and yours alone.  Once you fully accept that fact that you are YOU, an individual human being and stop conforming automatically to a family group identity out of habit and history, your life and the choices you make will become much clearer and easier.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world".

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying:

"If you want to to change the world, first try to improve and bring change with yourself.  That will help change your family.  From there it just gets bigger and bigger.  Everything we do has some effect, some impact."

I believe that there are many lessons for us to learn from and work through during this lifetime, but for some people the toughest learning lessons stem from family situations.  Our family members are the people who can provoke emotion from us the easiest.  We often get frustrated with them the quickest, and the emotional buttons that they can push ultimately cloud our judgement and clear thinking.

Yes, that's what your family can do, but they don't have to.  It's all in how you choose to react to it.  Individual choice - individual - that word once again. How you choose to react to a situation "does" cause a ripple effect and effects those around you.  It can make things better, and it can also make things worse.  Even your very presence in some situations can diffuse a situation or make it much more difficult for everyone involved.

Which leads us to another point to consider...

"You don't always have to go somewhere and be with people just because you are invited, or because you are related to them."


"It's OK to say no".

How many times do we accept invitations from family and friends (Holidays or not) simply because we do not want to hurt their feelings or appear rude?  But the whole time that little voice inside of us is screaming NO, NO please don't GO!  Kids and younger people I can understand, but if you are over 30, even 40 years old and you still feel you can't say no to your parents, friends or siblings - or suggest a revision to their plans - then maybe that's something you need to seriously re-think.  The bottom line is, you don't have to always go because you are asked.  And if you do chose to go, you certainly don't have to stay.

I saw a perfect, but extreme, example of this in the movie The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo this weekTwo different times in the movie, two separate characters find themselves in horrific situations simply because they did not want to appear rude by saying no to an invitation to go into a house.  Even though most situations are not that extreme in life (I hope), there was a lot of wisdom written into those examples of what can happen to people who can't seem to say No.

"Don't keep making yourself feel bad wishing for a family situation you never had."

Not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up in a healthy and happy family situation.  So quit beating yourself up over it and move on.  People can find themselves in therapy for years over serious family issues, but at the end of the day it's up to you to let it go and MOVE ON.  Not necessarily forgive and forget (although that would be nice) ... but just plain old "move on".  You create your own reality in life.  The family that you were brought up in does not have to be the family that you create as an adult.

And finally:

I read a lot of quotes that come through on my Facebook page.  I know that a quote will often awaken something inside of us that we need to hear or re-think.  Right before Christmas I read a quote that said something like:  "Ask yourself this... During the Holidays, will the people who are around you find themselves better off by having been in your presence?"

Reflect on the last few Holidays that you have had.

What's your answer?

And in turn, what was their affect on you?

~ diane fergurson

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Amy Zerner

When I started the Artist Interview Series for the Mind Body Spirit Odyssey back in January, I never imagined that by the end of the year I would be interviewing one of the leading collage artists in the world.  You may already be familiar with the Enchanted World of Amy Zerner and her husband Monte Farber through one of their many publications, such as the Enchanted Tarot, but Amy's work is much more far reaching.  A recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts, tapestry artwork that has appeared in over 40 books in twelve different languages, a jewelry line, handmade garments that are sold at Bergdorf Goodman - Amy's work has touched and inspired many people in numerous ways.  It was really a pleasure to interview Amy for this series and I appreciate how generous and forthcoming she was.  I was also very happy to hear how much she has enjoyed reading our Artist Interview Series this year.  Thank you Amy!
                                                                                                                  ~ diane fergurson

MBS: Can you tell us a little about your background?  How you got started in art?

Amy:  I come from a family of artists. My dear angel “Ma,” as all of my friends used to call my late mother, Jessie Spicer Zerner, supported our family as an illustrator of literally hundreds of children’s books and greeting cards. She made it seem normal to me to make books and illustrate them and I am still doing it.

My late father Raymond was always admiring and encouraging of his children’s talents and made us feel special because we were “artists,” like the woman he loved.  My grandfather, Clayton Spicer, was a painter. My very first memory in life is sitting on his knee painting leaves on the trees of one of his paintings. For this and many other reasons, I cannot think of a time when I did not think of myself as an artist. 
Ma was always creating fun and exciting things for me to do, projects of every kind and not just artistic ones. She used to do ESP experiments with me a lot starting when I was eight years old. I think that is one of the main reasons that I developed my imagination, my intuition, and my sense of wonder and faith in the absolute magic about every day of life in equal measure.

It may have been because of my family history, but making my living as a professional artist was a normal thing for me to do. I never had a second choice as to what I should do. I just always felt like being an artist was my natural state. Unlike many artists who work at other jobs to support their making art, I have never worked as anything other than an artist; I have never even considered it.

MBS:  I'm sure growing up in an environment that valued and fostered creativity
made a world of difference in how you developed as an artist.  It sounds like you were very lucky in
that respect.  How do you think the imagination and freedom you were allowed as a child has
influenced how you work as an adult artist?  The choice of materials that you use in your pieces (mixed media), for example, or how you approach your work?   Also the subjects that you choose to explore.

Immortal Love
Amy: Looking back now, I see how my own art career has included elements from the careers of my mother and maternal grandfather. I have been a commercial artist and a writer, but first a painter. However, when paint seemed too inadequate a medium to convey the multidimensional nature of life I was starting to see, I started making paintings out of layered fabric, trimmings, appliqués, ribbons, and found objects.
I believe our consciousness is connected to the Higher Forces and I make images that use existing fabric elements to surreally portray the unseen forces the surround, sustain, and connect us. To me, we strive to be directly connected to the God Force, the Higher Self. So, we are trying to make this clear channel between us, and the Higher Forces.

This image has appeared in many of my tapestries. The image is a sort of ladder or a veil or a connection that reaches from the earth to the Higher Plane. Still always having the opposites, they become much more symmetrical with a seemingly architectural basis for the whole energy pattern, whether it is swirling or glittering. Moreover, the outer symbols I feel are representative of the flashes of insight of the invisible world that affects us now.
All those energies are described in my work, all the way down to what is right here, the flower at our feet, up to the Higher Forces of the planet. I try to put it all in there – that complexity, and make a balance out of it all. It’s just the vibrations of energy that change as the light changes and as our moods change. It elevates us from the mundane and lifts us out – definitely entering the world there that reminds us that this perfection and this symmetry exists and this truth and beauty. It’s definitely about beauty! It’s about reaching up and reaching within. It’s an active, sort of feminine, approach, but it’s all heaven and it’s grounded.

I think that I was influenced by my idyllic childhood in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania, but I am also influenced by the fact that Monte and I have actually created in our own life the kind of heaven most people think is impossible to create. We show each other more love, respect, and support in a day than some people ever have their whole life, unfortunately. We have no doubt about whether or not we love and trust each other completely. That alone can change your life and I think it has helped me feel secure in creating the worlds of wonder that I make because I know that heaven can be created on earth.

MBS:  I first became familiar with your work years ago when I was researching tapestry artists.  All the tapestries that you created when you did the Enchanted Tarot Deck - just breathtaking.  A couple of questions...  As I sit here and look through the book I have that came with the card deck (1990 St. Martin's Press) I've always wondered what the original dimensions of those tapestries were.  Also, how did you become interested in the tarot and creating a deck from tapestry imagery?

Atlantia - Goddess of the New
Amy:  Thank you so much! Monte and I have used the primal concept of the oracle as a starting point on many exciting creative collaborations.  We have married together my art with his interpretation of the intuitive and universal wisdom in my images as well as the wisdom of the ancient metaphysical traditions to bring these beautiful, eminently practical, and timeless truths up to date for all of us to use in very practical ways.  We can turn to oracles for wisdom, inspiration, and solace when life is so rapid and chaotic.  Oracles help us to make poetry out of chaos and to bring light to the self with conscious knowing and participation. In 1974, when I met Monte, I was studying astrology and the tarot, and these archetypal languages became our language of love.

In 1988 I began work on The Enchanted Tarot.  It is an epic series of seventy-eight fabric collages. Rather than work on one fabric collage at a time, I chose to work on the Major Arcana as a piece and then on one complete suit at a time.  My work area lies beneath a cathedral ceiling twenty feet high with skylight.  It was here that I would lay out all of the individual background fabrics for each suit.  The creation of one piece would bring inspiration regarding another and so I would move from one to the other like a bee in a flower garden.  In this way I was able to give each suit a look of continuity and make sure that all issues relating to each were symbolically represented by either the human figure(s) portrayed, by the images, shapes, and colors surrounding them, or by the card's border.  I  worked so intensely on this project.  Nearly every day and night was completely devoted to making sure each piece was true to itself while fitting in with the rest of its suit.  It was only after I had completed each suit that Monte would write down the meanings he saw in each piece to "illustrate" my art with his words in the deck's full-color companion book. Each finished original tapestry from The Enchanted Tarot (I prefer to call them tapestries, not quilts) is 12" X 24".

Divine Order
MBS:  For our readers, can you explain what you mean when you are referring to " the primal concept of the oracle"?

Amy:  An oracle like the tarot is a form of do-it-yourself analysis – a way of unlocking secrets of the self and providing directions towards manifesting your goals.  It is a support system that can be relied upon as a friend that can give you helpful advice.  It is also a great brainstorming tool that can enhance your creativity.  Using an oracle as a meditation tool helps you to dialogue with your higher self.  Consulting the cards creates a safe, spiritual haven where you connect to positive energy and positive emotions.  It helps us discover what we really want in life and what we must do as our next step on the path.  And you can use the cards whenever you need clarity on an issue, or as an everyday meditation.  When you read your message, your attitudes, desires, and strategies for the best course of action can be reflected upon.

The process requires opening your mind and trusting your intuition to interpret the answers.  An oracle is a tool that helps you tap into your psychic power. It is primal because it is a ritual. Rituals acknowledge the existence of a Higher Power in ourselves and in our world. One of the primary functions of ritual is to build a spiritual connection in our daily lives. They also reinforce our desires and strengthen our intent as we work to materialize those desires. At the same time, they remind us of our inseparable connection to the natural world. Rituals can help us to remember that we are part of the rhythms and cycles of Nature. Many people use our oracles every day as part of their daily spiritual practice. We do. too!

MBS:  I've noticed recently that your work has evolved into another direction - designing clothing and jewelry.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Amy:  In 1991 I started making one-of-a-kind garments for myself, with my tapestry art on the back, to wear to my gallery shows. My gallery owner liked them, so I began creating more of them to include in my exhibits, and they started to sell. In 1999, Bergdorf Goodman took my line, and I have been selling there ever since. I really love designing clothes and I love being in the most beautiful store in the world! Each of my handmade garments is a work of art, a delicate balance of chic, classic lines and unexpected details, composed of rich, luminous fabrics and embroidered with a magical touch of extravagance and romance.

My couture jackets, caftans and coats are unique, created for the woman pursuing her dreams with style and spirit. I feel that my garments radiate serene self-confidence, glamour, imagination, and sensuality because they are works of art. They are in the fashion collections of many amazing women, and also have been collected by some of our culture’s legendary goddesses, including the late Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Patti LaBelle, Martha Stewart, and Oprah Winfrey.

The intricate tapestry art panels that are my signature are composed from many precious and unusual textiles, ribbons, and trims; hand painting; beading; rare appliqués; and vintage images. Each piece is unique; birds, animals, dream metaphors, mythological beings, and universal symbols are sewn harmoniously together to create lush, layered landscapes that suggest the many complexities of life and nature.

Our creative spirits are full of exciting colors and textures. Dressing up and adorning ourselves give us permission to feel great and grateful allowing our true radiance to shine.
One thing leads to the other, and I have always designed jewelry but last year Bergdorf Goodman took my line and it has been doing great. also carries it, as well as Liberty of London. My talismans are imbued with special sacred symbolism and mystical messages.

MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you? 

Amy:  Monte and I live a very healthy lifestyle. We do yoga together, try to eat organic food. We don't drink, we try not to eat sugar. We work hard. We get massages and acupuncture regularly. We laugh a lot. We love our cat Zane. We are surrounded by art. We are very blessed.

MBS:  What advice do you have for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Amy:  My advice for those wishing to pursue an artistic path is this:  We once visited the Library of Congress - I don't know if you have ever been there but it is the most incredibly beautiful place.  It was a time in our life where we really needed to remember what was real because it was a rough time.  And we came upon this place which had this inscription "For a web begun, God sends thread". WE were so touched that it brought us to tears. I believe this to be true, and it has been true for me. So my advice is, just start…have faith and trust that if you follow your bliss, work hard, believe in yourself, then magic happens.

MBS:  What's next for you?

Amy: I currently have shows of my fashions and jewelry every 2 months at Bergdorf Goodman, so I am constantly creating new styles and designs. My next show is January 10-13.

Monte and I are also planning a one day conference "Ask the Oracles" in New York City on Tuesday, April 17th at the 92nd St. Y. Please write to us at info@TheEnchantedWorld for more information.

~ thank you Amy!

Amy's Art, Jewelry & Fashion website:
Amy & Monte's Books & Oracles website:

Amy's Jewelry is Available:

At Bergdorf Goodman:
At Neiman Marcus:
At Liberty of London:


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                                You can read additional interviews from our artist series here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Baking Gluten Free Rice Krispy Treats

I originally posted this recipe for Gluten Free Rice Krispy Treats on my blog, In A Creative Context, and it received so much attention I decided to share it again here.  Fast, easy, gluten and wheat free - this is an easy, delicious cookie to make this Holiday Season that everyone will enjoy!
                                                                                                          ~ diane fergurson

Ever since my daughter became gluten-free, I've been experimenting with different baking options.  I've found that introducing new flours into the diet and also experimenting with different leavening agents to actually be rather enlightening, as well as extremely interesting.  Since I've always enjoyed cooking, it's been more of a discovery of sorts.  Through this process I've also realized that for people with a yeast allergy (like myself) many of the foods and baking ingredients that you will end up cooking with and eating also tend to be gluten-free.

The other day I was trying to think of something simple to make, that would satisfy my sweet tooth, as well as hers, so I thought about some of the foods she use to like when she was growing up.  I decided to make some "Rice Krispie" treats.

It was pretty simple.  Instead of using the "normal" brand of cereal I used the Whole Foods 365 brand, Brown Rice Crisps (healthier).  The gluten-free marshmallows came from Whole Foods as well (in the baking department) - and I also noticed that they are Kosher.  So if you are looking for gluten-free marshmallows in a regular supermarket, if it has a Kosher section try looking there.

All you do to make the treats is melt 2 Tb. of butter together with the sack of marshmallows (7oz) in a non-stick saucepan.  Stir quickly.  When it is melted, poor the mixture into 6 cups of the brown rice cereal and "very" quickly stir it together.  Transfer it to a pre-buttered, non stick 9x13 pan and press down on the top to even it out.  One trick to do, is butter a piece of wax paper in advance and press down using it instead of your hands.  Cool and then cut into squares.  enjoy!

                                             Another Buddy Fergurson approved recipe!

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Herbal Boutineers and Corsages For the Holidays

Herbalist and proprietor of Aquarian Bath, Cory Trusty, shares with us how to make fresh herbal boutineers and corsages for the Holidays! 

You can make fresh herbal corsages or boutineers with Rosemary and other evergreen herbs and shrubs from your yard or neighborhood. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs for the holidays, but these kinds of arrangements with other herbs as well. I've just been having fun with rosemary and red pepper.

You just need a few tools. You will need wire snips, florist tape and florist wire. You can get these from a craft store.

I choose herbs with fairly sturdy stems, but you can also use herbs with more delicate stems if you wrap them together with sturdy stemmed herbs. Strip the foliage from the bottom inch or 2 of the stem.

Poke a hole through the the green tender part of the herb stem and wrap the wire around the stem to stabilize it.

Stretch the tape and start wrapping it tightly at the base of the plant and continue down to the end of the wire.

Once you have the stems wraps you can combine them together however you wish. Finish by wrapping them all together with a new piece of florist tape. Here is a simple Rosemary and Hot Pepper boutineer.

You can also make and hanging ornament, a small wreath or corsage with additional herbs of your choice.

Cory Trusty, soap maker and herbalist, resides in Daytona Beach, FL.
  You can find more items for the Holidays by visiting her shops AquarianBath and DelicateAdornments.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Odyssey 2011 Gift Picks

The Holiday Season is upon us, and once again we have put together some of our favorite Mind Body Spirit related items that we found online this year.  Some of these products may be familiar to you because they were previously featured on the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace Facebook Page, which is updated with new items everyday.  Others are personal favorites.  Some of the products are handcrafted and available from independent shop owners; others are traditionally manufactured and sold through online retail sites.

I'd like to thank Abby Horowitz from Abby Horowitz Designs for selecting some of her favorites to add to our list this year.  For additional gift ideas revisit our 2010 Holiday Gift Pick list.

A lot to look at and enjoy.  I'm sure you'll find something for everyone on your list - and even for yourself!

I hope your Holiday Season is a healthy and happy one.  Stay positive and thank you for following our Facebook Page and supporting our blog.

                                                                                          ~ diane fergurson

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Abby's Gift Picks

I first discovered Diana Bower’s work on Etsy.  She creates wonderful
ceramic mugs, bowls. platters, candle trays, pendants, earrings.  She infuses
the clay with Reiki energy and embellishes them with images of crop circles.
These special elements make her work so original and one of a kind.
What wonderful gifts! Truly magical!
I love this pair of custom made coffee mugs! 

Sue O’Keiffe creates beautiful digital Mandalas from the natural world
around her. Recently she began a new series of Mandalas based on the newly
discovered Auralite Crystal. You can read all about it on her website.
In her shop you will also find a wonderful selection of Mandala
greeting cards.

Miranda Gray Studio
Miranda makes the most wonderful prayer flags from organic cotton.
I love these Hanuman Ganesh Prayer Flags.  What a great gift they
would make!
Glimmering Gems  
You’ll find one of a kind gemstones, crystals, and minerals at GlimmeringGems.
This Amethyst Stalactite Pendant Druzy Slice is definitely a favorite of mine.
What a beautiful necklace it would make.  You’ll find an amazing selection of
wonderful gift items in this shop. Make sure to check it out!
Catfishcreek Candles
I’ve purchased quite a few beeswax candles from this shop over the
past year.  I'm especially in love these Buddha Head Candles.  I have one
in each color! The natural beeswax scent is heavenly!  You’ll find
something for everyone here!
Star Essences
A few months ago I purchased several flower essences from
this website.  They create vibrationally infused remedies made from
living, organic, wild crafted flowers and specially selected precious
and semiprecious gemstones.  They are simply wonderful!  There are
essences that will assist in every aspect of your life.
Definitely worth checking out!
Young Living Essential Oils 
I’ve been using these oils for many years.  They make wonderful
Gifts!They can be used for so many things and on so many levels:
physical, emotional, spiritual.  There are so many to choose from.
See what resonates for you or that special someone.
Indira Govindan creates jewelry, arts and crafts inspired by India and donates
all the proceeds to the Sukriti Social Foundation, which support handicapped children
and adults in India.  You will find hand made journals, jewelry,
hand painted decorated boxes, yoga art, silk sari scarfs, and beautiful wall art.
You’re sure to find that perfect gift in her shop!

 The Hidden Messages in Water 2012 Wall Calendar

This calendar presents the revolutionary work of renowned scientist
Masaru Emoto, who has discovered that molecules of water are affected
by our thoughts, words and feelings.
If you haven’t read his books, you are in for a treat.  This wonderful
gift item and so many more can be found on the Shamans Market website.

Soul Connection Double Dream Catchers.
I’m always on the lookout for DreamCatchers and when I discovered this
website I think I hit the jackpot!  So many special ones to choose
from. I had never seen a double one before. Here’s what they have to
say about them: “Soul Connection Double Dream Catchers. It is by
sharing ourselves with another that we come to truly learn about who
we are. Soul Connection Dream Catchers honor this relationship between
two people. This beautiful dreamcatcher is detailed with feathers and
a Swarovski crystal.”  This one will be on my Christmas wish list for
Thank you Abby!
Jewelry by Abby Horowitz can be found in her shop on Etsy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Diane's Gift Picks

The Elemental Alchemist designs jewelry that reflect the natural and organic world.
Rough, raw cut stones and unusual mineral specimens are combined with a variety
of metals to create this stunning, unique work.  This seller is located in Canada, so
please allow a few weeks for your purchase to arrive.  I have ordered from this shop
several times and have been very pleased with the quality and craftsmanship that goes
into these beautiful jewelry pieces.


If you are interested in Runes or know someone who would like a set as a gift,
Lilya at Spellbinderscorp on Etsy creates the most beautiful hand carved and
painted rune sets. The sets are made from naturally shed Deer Antler bone and varied high
quality Gemstones.  Each set is cleansed before it is shipped, and also
comes with information on their use.  Great gift idea!
If you are interested in learning more about Casting the Runes, here is a link to an article Spellbinderscorp shared with our blog earlier this year.
Children's Animal Spirit Cards by Dr. Steven D. Farmer

I did a review on this set of cards recently for the blog.  The Children's Animal
Spirit Card set has won a multitude of awards from Parent and Education groups.
Beautiful illustrations...  In the introduction to the deck, the author explains that
animals are  unique expressions of Spirit/God, and that where they appear as a symbol,
dream, statue - or even through the cards - there is an  important message that is trying to be communicated through that particular animal.  The cards can act as a catalyst for guidance and support.
They can also be used as a tool to open up a discussion between the parent and child
using the animal, it's qualities and purpose as a focal point.

This deck can be ordered directly from Satiama, the publisher or through Amazon.
Psychic Intelligence: Tune In and Discover the Power of Your Intuition
by Terry and Linda Jamison (The Psychic Twins)

I'll admit I wasn't that familiar with the Jamison Twins and their work until I
saw them promoting their book on The View (and personally witnessed them predict
the Hurricane that ravaged the East Coast earlier this year).  They predicted 911
two years before it happened - and the Government shut down their website
at the time as a result.  They claim a 95% accuracy rate for their predictions. That aside,
this book is much more then just predictions. First, it's an interesting look at the relationship
between twins. The book also discuss the connection between the heightened development
of their gifts and their Buddhist Meditation practice.  The one thing that really impressed me
with this book however, was their thorough explanation of the Four Clairs...which
many books on psychic development either gloss over or leave out completely.
This book is a good choice to add to your own Holiday Wish List or to give as a gift to
someone who has an interest in this area.
It can be ordered through Amazon or from their website.

Yucca Bloom

Colorado's Yucca Bloom combines the spirit of the West and Southwest, with a
carefree spirit.  Beautiful designs, good craftsmanship, this shop is a favorite
for sure!
You can find yuccabloom on Etsy.
Aquarian Bath
In her shop, Aquarian Bath, herbalist Cory Trusty offers a variety of
bath and body products that are palm oil free, unscented or lightly scented with only
the purist essential oils.  Aromatherapy items, Holiday gifts, gift sets and kits.
If you have any questions or particular needs, you can always contact her too.
Available through her store on Etsy and also through her website.

Jude McConkey Photos

Michigan photographer Jude McConkey has a new item in her shop!  A gorgeous
monthly calendar featuring her beautiful art photography.  To learn more about this
artist and her work, you can read the artist interview we did with her earlier this
year on our blog.
The calendar is available through her shop JudeMcConkeyPhotos on Etsy.
The Yankee Woodsmith 

You may remember Ken Cayer, The Yankee Woodsmith from our Holiday Gift Picks last year.
His beautiful meditation benches were featured. This year we noticed that Ken has been
designing altars. The gorgeous altar pictured above was handcrafted out of ash and mahogany. To learn more about Ken and his stunning work, visit his website. 
Quinoa, The Everyday Superfood 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

I originally purchased this book in Canada when it was first published in 2010.
Since then it has gone on to be an International Best Seller.  If you or
someone you know is looking to introduce new grains into your diet or if you
just like to cook...this book is for you!  Great recipes...beautifully designed!
Available through Amazon.

Probably one of the more unique items I've come across this year, the gorgeous
Ojos de Dios by Jay Mohler is the perfect gift selection for anyone interested in
spirituality and art.  Jay starting making Ojos de Dios back in his hippie days,
in the late 60's, after seeing Ojos sent as part of an exhibit sent by the Dalai Lama
of Tibet.  The Ojos from Tibet were almost exactly the same as ojos he'd
seen earlier made by Hucholes in Mexico. Over the years, Jay has evolved his own
work to 12-sided designs which he believe encompasses the patterns of many
beliefs systems around the world.
Available through his shop, JaysMandalas, on Etsy.

These lighted Geode sculptures from Colorado artist CrowsFeathers on Etsy are just
beyond amazing. What does the name "Crows Feathers" mean? In Native American folklore
the Crow is often associated with magic & change...bringing thought into physical
form, transformation, the passing from one realm into another. These pieces start much
in the same way: first, a feeling/thought that slowly transforms into a physical form
- a different reality/dimension (the artwork). Each piece being one of a kind.
Pictured above: Tree Of Life Winter Ancient Spirit sculpture on polished lamp;
natural Brazil Geode Agate slice with Citrine Quartz Crystals added.
Available in their shop on Etsy.

These beautiful note cards from Colorado photographer Julie Magers Soulen were one
of the highest viewed items during 2011 on our Facebook Page.  Just gorgeous!
You can find them in Julie's shop on Etsy, along with her other stunning work!

Original Artwork, Prints and Jewelry by 
Diane Fergurson can be found in her shops on Etsy 
and ArtFire. 
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Enjoy your Holiday Season! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Make Herb Infused Oils

A big thank you to Cory Trusty of Aquarian Bath for sharing such a well informed article with us.

How to make Herb Infused Oils
by Cory Trusty, Aquarian Bath

A herb infused oil is a base oil such as Extra Virgin Olive oil or Coconut oil that has been steeped with freshly wilted or dried herbs. Herb infused oils are fun to make and can be used for many purposes including culinary, for anointing, as body massage oils, for general skin care, or as a base for natural salve, lotion & balm remedies. Infused herbal oils are similar to essential oils in that they contain volatile oils from the herbs used to make the infusion, however the concentration of the volatile oils within an infused oil is significantly lower compared to essential oils. For this reason herb infused oils have a number of advantages for the average person compared to working with pure essential oils. First herb-infused oils are very safe, whereas working with essential oils is relatively dangerous and requires extreme care in regard to storage and dilution. There are many recipes in books and online for using essential oils, which are not particularly safe. Second, herbal infused oils can be made easily in the home with abundant herbs which can be harvested ethically, respectfully and sustainably in your local bioregion. For example, in Central Florida common plants like Southern Plantain, Elderflower, Pine.  Plants that are harvested lovingly and respectfully will generously share their healing magic. This is not something that is quantifiable, though many successful herbalists will tell you that the harvester's intention and interactive relationship with the plants is paramount in medicine making. While the energy of infused oils may appear subtle, the healing plant spirit shines through in herbal infusions in a way that is not quite comparable with essential oils, though preparations made with organic and wild harvested essential oils do have their purpose in providing stronger medicine for more stubborn conditions.

There are a variety of methods for making herb infused oils, and each has its own advantage. They each have in common that fresh wilted or dried herbs are used to make the oil. Generally leaves, flowers, twigs or resins are used. The first method for preparing infused oils is the 'cold' method in which chopped herbs are added to a clean glass jar, filled with oil and left to steep in for a number of days. This method has it's advantage in that no external energy is required to make the oil, however with this method the chance of spoilage increases when using fresh herbs due to the residual water content in the plant material. Also infused oils cannot be made effectively using resins with this method. A second method is the crock pot method. This method is very convenient in that it is self contained, however much care must be taken to ensure that herbs are not overheated and burned. The third method, which I will present here, is the water bath (Bain Marie) or double boiler method. This is the method gives me the best results. Using a water bath herbs are heated slowly in a glass or ceramic container which sits within a larger container of hot water. This method is fast and convenient, there is little chance to overheat the herbs, and there is low likelihood of having residual water in the finished oil. It is important that the oil remains water free, because water-containing preparations are susceptible to bacterial growth.

Materials for Making Infused Oils by the Water Bath Method
~ Electric or gas burner
~ Freshly wilted wild harvested or home grown herbs OR dried wild harvested or organic herbs
~ Stable base oil (preferably organic) appropriate for either culinary or external use depending on your choice of herbs and your plan for the finished oil: Extra Virgin Olive oil, Coconut oil, Fractionated Coconut oil, Jojoba Wax, Sesame oil, Lard. Fractionated Coconut oil and Jojoba wax have an unlimited shelf life. When making body oils, persons with sensitive skin may wish to avoid coconut oil or use it at not more than 50% of your total oil solution.
~ Double boiler which can be made with a small pot and a Pyrex glass container, a mason jar, or other heat resistant glass or ceramic container. Use a glass container than you don't mind recycling if you are working with a resin.
~ Very clean utensils including: spoon or chopstick, knife, funnel, glass storage jar for finished oil, small plate, and cutting board for working with fresh plants.
~Cheese cloth
~Sharpie pen or sticker label & regular pen
~ Vitamin E
~ Pipette
Clean and clear your workspace. Gather all necessary utensils and containers. Clean containers and utensils thoroughly in a dish washing machine or by hand with hot soapy water and a small amount of borax. You may also chose to sterilize utensils in the same way that one would do for canning. Another option is to wipe down utensils with high proof alcohol. Let containers and utensils air dry. Oil containers and utensils must remain free from water throughout the infusion making process.

Gather your herbs. If you are working with dry herbs, then organic or wild harvested are the best choice. Mountain Rose herbs is a good source for dry herbs. For fresh herbs, gather plant material with consideration to the ecosystem from properly identified specimens that are free from blemish and are at least 8 feet away from any roads. The best time to collect herbs is late morning when there is no dew or rainwater on the plant. Collect not more than 10 percent of a wild population of plants.   Depending on your belief system you may wish to ask permission from the plant, explain your intentions, and leave an offering for the plant such as a stone, tobacco, or one of your hairs. Especially for making oils for medicinal purposes it is believed that your oils and medicine will be more potent if you have a good relationship with spirit of the particular plants that you harvest from.  Chop herbs coarsely and let them wilt in the shade for a few hours. Wilting herbs decreases the water content of the herbs.

Fill your clean jar or glass or ceramic container with herbs, then cover with the base oil of your choice. Coconut oil and Extra Virgin Olive oil are my personal favorites. I also use Sesame oil very often. Place your herb-oil container in your water bath and turn on heat to medium-high. Ideally you can cover your herb & oil container partially but not completely with a lid. Next let the herbs infuse in the oil for approximately 1-2 hours. The oil should get warm, but not so warm to burn the skin. You will need to monitor the oil and adjust the temperature. To check the temperature of the oil use your clean spoon or chopstick to drip oil onto your wrist. The oil should feel warmer than your body temperature but not so warm to burn the skin. After testing the temperature place your oily spoon on your clean plate. Be cautious throughout this step not to let water from your boiler to splash up into your herb and oil container. You will know when your oil is becoming ready when it has taken on the color & scent of the herbs. If you have used fresh herbs then you will want to steam off any excess water remaining in the oil before decanting. There are two good ways to check for lingering water in the infused oil when working with fresh herbs. First check the herbs with your spoon, they should have a crisp feel about them. Second, use your lid to completely cover the oil for a minute or two, then look under the lid for condensation. If there is condensation, then continue to infuse the oils with the lid partially covered so that water can steam out of the container. Check again until you are satisfied that the oil is water-free.

Next turn off the heat and remove the oil container from the water bath. Carefully dry the outside of the container and prepare to decant the oil. Place the clean funnel in your clean dry glass storage jar, and line the funnel with a couple of layers of cheese cloth. Pour the oil and spent herbs into the funnel and let strain. When the oil is strained completely, you can squeeze or press the cheesecloth to maximize your oil yield.

If you would like to make a double or triple infused oil then you can repeat steps 3 and 4 with this freshly infused batch of oil.

Double check your infused oil for water if you used fresh herbs. Let the jar of infused oil stand over night. Check the bottom of the jar for water droplets. If there is any water at the bottom of the jar, then you will want to pour the oil into a fresh jar, or pipette out the water droplets.

Storage and shelf life: Now you should have a fresh batch of infused oil that is clear with no remaining leaf or flower pieces. Oils, including infused oils go bad after a time because of oxidation. Rancid oils are oxidized and will have an off scent. To maximize the shelf life of your oils, put it in a container with a small amount of air overhead, keep it cool and dark. Add a small amount of Vitamin E to extend the shelf life of your infused oil.

Suggestions for Herb Infused Oils
Culinary: Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Mint
General Skin Care: Calendula flowers, Mulberry (Morus alba) leaves, Elderflowers, Plantain leaves
Invigorating Massage oil: Mugwort leaves, Camphor resin, leaves or twigs, Lemongrass, Goldenrod flowers
Congested Chest Massage oil: Camphor resin, leaves or twigs, Lemongrass, Pine twigs & needles, Mint leaves
Anointing oil: Frankincense resin, Myrrh resin, White Sage leaves
Extra strength: double or triple infuse your herbal infused oil
Locally grown: What is growing in your back yard or neighborhood in abundance? Check out a field guide from your local library. There are many medicinal wild weeds, trees, and ornamental plants with culinary or medicinal value that would be great to experiment with.
Natural colorants: Annato seed (below), Alkanet root (see first blog image)

Article by Herbalist and Soap maker Cory Trusty in Daytona Beach.  Visit Cory’s online at twitter, Facebook or Shop at Aquarian Bath.

Copyright 2011 Cory Trusty, Aquarian Bath.  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover

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