Sunday, January 29, 2006

Happy Chinese New Year!

Xinnian kuai le! Happy New Year! Gong xi fat cai! I wish everyone much health, luck, and happiness in the coming year :)

Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Chantilly, VA (Festival information)

For those of you that live in the Washington D.C. area, today (Sunday the 29th) is the last day of the Sugarloaf craft festival in Chantilly, VA at the Dulles Expo center. There will be 350 artisans there, showcasing a wide variety of crafts from papermaking to metal work to pottery to glass work to jewelry and more! The festival will run from 10 am to 5 pm, and costs $7 but if you check out the website, you can print out discount coupons for $1 off of the regular admission price. Children (12 and under) can get in for free!

I'm definitely going to try to catch this festival at least for an hour or two today!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Quick remedy for inflammed skin and information on latin names (Skin care/aromatherapy)

During the winter skin can become super dry, cracked, and red. For extremely irritated, dry skin skin add 2-4 drops of essential oils to 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of aloe vera gel or juice. Good essential oils to use are lavender, blue chamomile, roman chamomile, or helichrysum. This remedy is also good for sunburn or as an all natural toner.

Always check the latin name of essential oils before purchase, as there are many different plant species (for example there are over 17 different species of lavender), and not all essential oils are suitable for usage in aromatherapy.

Lavender latin names: Lavendula officinalis, L. vera, or L. Angustifolia

Blue chamomile latin name: Matricaria chamomilla.
Other Blue chamomile common names: German chamomile

Roman chamomile latin name: Anthemis nobilis

Helichrysum latin name: Helichrysum Italicum
Other Helichrysum common names: Everlasting, Everlast, Italian Everlasting, and Immortelle

Sunday, January 22, 2006 Cheap Textbooks, books, music, and more! (book resource)

If you're a student like me, you're probably on a budget and constantly looking for the best place to purchase textbooks at a cheap price. One great place to check out is This search engine finds and compares prices between online booksellers--from the mega giants of Amazon and B&N to medium and smaller vendors such as E-campus and Abe Books. Other things you can search for are dvds, music, games, and other supplies! I've been using this search engine since my undergrad days, and I've found I generally save anywhere from $5 to $25 or more for each textbook. Once, I found one of textbooks super onsale for under $8!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bar Soap Mania part 1 (Natural Skin care)

I am obsessed with bar soap. I'm one of those people that have no less than two bars of soap in the shower, and sometimes as much as six! Now, of course, I'm not talking about that synthetic crap that is sold as soap, that strips the skin so much of its natural oils that it becomes red, itchy, inflammed, and chapped (this happens to me whenever I am shopping or at school or out in general and forget to bring my natural liquid soap with me). I'm talking about real soap: the kind that is made with vitamin-rich vegetable and nut oils, a wide range of herbals, with most if not all of the natural glycerin retained*.

One thing I don't get is people's reaction to the price of natural, real soap. True, it is generally more expensive than your typical bar of Dial or Dove, but they are a lot gentler and more nourishing for your skin (natural, real soap usually costs anywhere from $2-8, or more if made with expensive essential oils). And most important, they won't leave your skin red and itchy. And considering a bar of natural soap generally lasts 3-5 weeks, I really don't think they're expensive at all! If you've never used real soap before, try some of the companies listed below. Once you try one, you will never go back to the chemical stuff.

I love the soaps made by Karla the soaplady. Her soaps are definitely my favorite for my face, and are fast becoming my favorite overall. In the past, I used liquid castille soap for my face, since most bar soaps dried out my facial skin too much. As always when I buy a new brand of bar soap, I'll try it on my face, just in case. After I tried her bar soaps, I was amazed at not only how well they cleaned and how silky the lather felt, but also how it did not leave my skin feeling dry and 'tight'. And the scents, truly delicious! The only qualm I have is that while most of her soaps are 100% natural, some of them contain synthetic fragrances. They are sold at Karla's own company: Heart of Iowa Soapworks, and also at Jlynne Cosmetics and Prarieland Herbs. I usually buy them at Jlynne, since they have samples of the soaps and I can buy mineral makeup at the same time!

Aubrey Organics. If soaps smelled like heaven, then these would be pretty close! These soaps are probably my favorite body soaps out of all the brands I've tried. They are all natural, handmade in France, produce a very rich and dedacant lather, and smell absolutely wonderful. Aubrey offers tantalizing (and expensive) scents that most other soap companies don't have, like honeysuckle, sandalwood, and jasmine (they use real essential oils). They also use base oils that have many skin nourishing benefits like rose mosqueta oil (rosehip seed), camellia, and sea buckthorn. Those that are allergic to peanut oil may want to avoid these.

The Bee Folks. I just tried one of my soaps from the Rennfest. And I've got to say I simply love these soaps. These round soaps are made with a lot of nourishing honey--a wonderful substance that gently removes oils, dirt, and other toxins from your skin, yet doesn't dry out my skin. Their essential oil scent combinations, like ylang ylang, sandalwood, nutmeg, cinnamon are extremely lovely.

*An interesting note is that many people have never tried a bar of real soap before; the majority of the stuff that is sold as soap (which should be more adequately called cleansing bars, and sometimes called beauty bars) actually isn't real soap, but a blend of synthetic detergents/surfactants. The only bar of real soap that I can think of that is sold in your average grocery or drug store is Ivory (which is not what I would call a quality natural soap since it is very drying, and made with tallow!).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Cheetahs and Sustainable Development (Environmental News)

Here are a couple of interesting articles from the Washington Post over the last couple of days. The first is an article about drought, starvation, and sustainable development in Kenya, and the second is an article on cheetahs in Ethiopia. The article on Kenya could have addressed sustainable development a little more in depth, but it does mention some of the most important issues that the people of Kenya face, such as poverty and food shortages. I found the cheetah article very interesting; it addresses several issues such as animal treatment, and the factors that influence conservation or the lack of conservation in some areas. Both articles nicely highlight the complexities of environmental issues, which are often entwined in social or political issues.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Simple, natural remedies for cold feet (natural health remedies)

Cold feet??? Here are a few simple but effective remedies to warm cold winter feet.

Wear hiking socks:

Hiking socks are made in different weights (including heavy-weight). They can be a bit pricey (compared to regular socks) but they sure keep my feet warm (when I'm inside or when I'm hiking!). You can buy them in any hiking/camping/sports stores like EMS or LL Bean. Also, I found some in Costco once!

Wear a hat:

Not kidding :). The body's priority is to keep the head/brain warm, so if you cover you head and keep it warm, your body can utilize its resources for other parts of the body.

Drink hot liquids:
I like drinking ginger tea to ward off the chill; ginger helps improve circulation. I usually make lemon and ginger tea (which is also great at warding colds). If you find this combo too strong tasting, you can add a spoonful of honey to it.

Try an aromatherapy foot bath:
Add 2-4 drops of your favorite essential oil to small tub filled with very warm or hot (but not boiling) water. Soak your feet for 10-15 minutes, preferable while sipping tea! Good essential oils to try are ginger, peppermint, cypress, and rosemary.