Sunday, December 23, 2012

Eco Living: Green, budget friendly gifts. And greening your holiday!

I usually don't post about old articles (unless they haven't been blogged about yet).  But I decided to  post again about last year's holiday related articles.  The first eco living article is on how to green your holiday (ideas on how to make your holidays a little more eco-friendly).  The second is on green and budget friendly gifts.  Lots of ideas on simple to make, nice gifts that are also easy on the wallet.  :)  I have included lots of links to my old recipes too.  Have a Merry Christmas and wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Eco Living: Candy Cane Toner

When I was writing my newest eco living article earlier this month, I really wanted to share a recipe utilizing vanilla since last month’sarticle was on making vanilla products.  So I decided to share my recipe for my candy cane toner!  This toner smells like candy canes (peppermint and vanilla) and is simple to make.  Best of all it is totally all natural too!  Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eco Living and DIY Natural Beauty Formulating: Age Spots

I just wrote an article on using natural ingredients to help improve the appearance of age spots.  The article started as a response to a question from an all natural beauty website reader (I am anb’s eco living and DIY natural beauty formulating expert), and Sharon (owner of all three of the anb websites) decided to make it all natural beauty website’s December All Natural Info article too!

There is a wide array of natural ingredients that can help improve the appearance of the skin, but I only wrote about using local, food based, or easy to find ingredients; many of which can be found in your cupboards or fridge or a local health food store.  I also included links to some of my previous eco living article recipes utilizing most of the ingredients! 

I listed a lot of different ingredients (since different ingredients work for different people, and I personally believe a combination of different ingredients is needed for best results), but that only scratched the tip of the ice burg!

One thing I love about all natural ingredients is that they have multiple properties.  So all of the ingredients listed in my article may be helpful in improving the look of brown spots.  But all of them are also great for a wide range of other skin issues and conditions too.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Eco Living: Vanilla :)

I haven’t posted here in a long time (I’ve been focusing on taking care of my health and my dad too).  But I am going to start posting again more since I have a backlog of posts I need to write (I need to post all my previous eco living related articles, as well as new posts exclusive to here). So here is the first of the posts. Last month's eco living article was on vanilla! I included lots of recipes on vanilla extract (alcohol and glycerin based), and vanilla infused oil.  Both can be used in baking or for skin care (if using for consumption, make sure you are using food grade ingredients).

It is usually best to buy vanilla beans online, since it is much less expensive and the quality is superb.   You can get 1/2 to 1 pound for much cheaper than buying in a super market, and if you buy from a vanilla vendor, most likely the beans will be fresher since they have a higher turnover rate so the beans won’t be sitting around for several months on a store’s shelf.  There are a couple different grades of beans: I always try to buy organic beans and to get the highest grade possible since higher quality beans have the best flavor.

There are also a few different species of beans, which vary in flavor.  Most people are familiar with Vanilla planifolia, which yields a rich vanilla flavor.  Vanilla tahitensis is vanilla, floral, and fruity.  Both make delicious vanilla products!

For best storage, I wrap a few beans in parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Then I package it in zip lock bags, and I make sure to push most of the air out (I try to use biodegradable zip lock bags which decompose in landfills in a few years, you can find them at whole foods or other health food stores).  Then I put that in either another zip lock bag or a glass container.   I learned the parchment paper/plastic wrap tip from a coop I was in a few years ago: but I use the zip lock bags or glass containers to really keep the air out.  This helps keep the beans moist and plump: my beans have stayed fresh for a long time using this method.

Quick tip if you have really dry beans and don’t want to make extract or an oil: you can grind them up and make vanilla powder.  

There is also a vanilla paste: one of these days I am going to try to make my own!

For more information on vanilla in skin care products check out my vanilla post on Earth Alkemie’s (my skin care business) blog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

0082912 Blog updates

Answered a comment on an old post on vegetarianism and hypoglycemia.  Thanks Louise for your comment!  I wil try to post more on this topic in the future.

Please note all comments are moderated.  Spam and any comment with a link it is immediately deleted. Thanks for understanding!

Jasmine Infused Oil

Pictured: Jasmine Infused Oil

A week or so ago I bought a jasmine sambac plant.  Right now it has mostly buds and only a couple flowers, so hopefully in a few days more buds will open and bloom.  Jasmine is one of my favorite scents.  There is nothing like the scent of jasmine; many people have never smelled the real thing.  Most of the jasmine scents on the market are synthetic since a single ounce of real jasmine absolute or the co2 extract is really expensive: anywhere from $150-300 wholesale, so most companies don’t use the absolutes. I use three jasmine absolutes (from different species) and two jasmine waxes in perfumery and natural skin care.  I have also tried the co2 extract as well as the organic extract (which is made similar to the absolute but made with benign and organic solvents). True jasmine is sensual, deep, sweet, and honeyed.  The plant I have smells similar to its absolute, a bit less intense but still heady. Its scent is pure heaven! :)

A few days ago I started making jasmine infused oil, which is similar to making other herbal infused oils (just made with fresh flowers instead of dried, and it will require multiple infusions).  My plant is medium sized, so far only two flowers have opened, and it has just a handful of buds, so I imagine it is going to take me a while to make the infused oil.  I placed the first of the flowers in a few ounces of carrier oil (I used fractionated coconut oil for its long shelf life but any oil can be used).  I’ll be doing each infusion for shorter amounts of time (just a few days each time, since this is using fresh plant parts, and I am doing multiple infusions—whenever the flowers bloom).   I used a jar for now (easier to strain or pick out the spent flowers) but will place the final product in a bottle later.  This will probably take me several weeks to months to complete, so a bit longer than the typical infused oil, but I am sure it will be well worth the wait!

I can’t wait until it is done so I can compare the scent of jasmine infused oil with (diluted) jasmine sambac absolute and jasmine sambac wax.  I’ve had jasmine plants in the past but I have never made a jasmine infused oil before, so I am excited to see how it turns out!  Definitely will be using the final product in perfumery or skin care!  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Eco Living: Reusing Packing Materials

I try to be as green as possible.  So before I throw anything out, I always first try to find a way to reuse it or recycle it, and only throw things out as a last resort.  So recently when cleaning out my business supplies, I found myself faced with mounds of packing materials (my skin care business has been temporary closed for a while, and I just restocked all of my ingredients in anticipation of my reopening.  So I had a lot of excess packing/shipping materials lying around!).  So for this month's eco living article I have written ways to reuse packing materials.  Hope you like the article!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Eco Living/DIY Home Formulating: Powdered Fruit Extracts in skin care recipes

Another awesome question from K!  My most recent eco living/diy home beauty formulating question was on powdered fruit extracts.  Powdered fruit extracts and fruit powders are a wonderful way to use fruits in cosmetics.  K asked me if they can be subbed for juices in natural, fresh, kitchen cosmetic blends.  The answer: it depends since there are a few types of fruit extracts.  I use them extensively (both in crafting for myself, and I used them in crafting my skin care line too).  In the article I described the different kind of powdered fruit extracts and powders that I am familiar with, and offered some advice on subbing them for juices in the recipes.  Enjoy!

There are also liquid fruit extracts too, but I did not go over them since the question was specifically for the powdered kind.  But the liquid ones are all of the usual herbal and lab types of extracts: tinctures, vinegars, glycerites, oils, and also lab concentrated fruit extracts.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Eco Living: Water Conservation

One of my focuses in grad school was conservation, so it is a subject near and dear to my heart (I hope when I get way better--health wise--that I can return to environmental biology/conservation field work or eco community work!).  As our population continues to rise, and as we face more and more ecological changes, I believe it is more important than ever to make changes in how we live and how we do things.  It doesn't have to be complicated, but even simple changes in our every day lives can make huge impacts.

I wrote my most recent eco living article on water conservation, mostly a few tips on how to reduce indoor water usage during showering and bathing.  

I hope you like the article!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eco Living/DIY formulating: Green cleaning and scenting melt and pour

Here are my last two Eco Living/DIY formulating articles!  I answered them in late June but due to many different reasons didn't get to post until now.

The first one is on cult classic fels naptha soap and green cleaning.  When I got this question I was very interested in researching this soap.  I hadn't heard about it before but I found out it had been around over 100 years, and I love learning about historic products.    But the ingredient list made me cringe (it is owned by Dial now), it was far from 'natural' or non-toxic as many have touted.  So in my article I broke down potentially toxic or irritating ingredients, provided references and other informative articles.  I also recommended other laundry alternatives that were truly naturally and relatively non-toxic (as long as the ingredients are correctly used).

My second article was an article on heather blossom melt and pour soap.  (Thanks K for the question!).  I make many kinds of soap (melt and pour, hot process, rebatch) but the article was specifically on melt and pour soap.  K wanted to dupe a scent from a product, but heather essential oil does not exist, so I recommended some other types of extracts she could use.

Hope everyone enjoys my articles!  :)  More posts to come!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eco Living/DIY formulating: Natural vs lab actives, and spas

I have been working on a few different questions as all natural beauty's (anb) Eco Living and DIY Natural Formulating Expert.  A couple days ago, I answered a question on spas, and the effectiveness of natural versus lab actives.   I will be posting two more answers to questions very soon! 

I posted some more additional thoughts on Earth Alkemie's (my business) blog about this topic, including an example of many of the uses and nutrients in a single plant ingredient: camellia oil. Here are some more random thoughts related to my anb article.  :)

Many people think that lab actives are always a better choice for everyone.  Personally I don't use most lab actives because currently my skin tends to react badly to many of  them (though there are a couple my skin likes).  For example many people use retinol, lab derived/concentrated acids (like glycolic, lactic, or mandelic acids.  Some may be naturally derived but they are still lab actives), and vitamin C serum (people call this natural but it is a lab active; it has been concentrated in the lab) because they work for them.  These ingredients do not work for me at all, and when I tried retinol many years ago (before I began learning about skin care) it severely damaged my skin (just from using it literally only a few times).  My skin does not react well to many forms of lab derived vitamin C (especially the most common form), and it has only liked one kind of lab vitamin C I have tried (tetra C).  I have never been able to use the lab derived acids because they are extremely irritating for me (even the more gentle ones), and many years ago I could not even use the natural version found in many fruits on my skin (certain fruits contains low amounts of these acids and also enzymes), though my skin loves the natural acids and enzymes in fruits now!  (I use fruits in scrubs and masks to exfoliate my skin).

People's skin also change over time too, so what works for someone now may not work for them later.  I used to not be able to use one lab active, hyaluronic acid or HA, on my face (but my body skin loved it) but now my skin likes that lab active very much (I only use it occasionally though and not on a regular basis, since my skin likes other ingredients more!  Also HA is often derived from roosters, so I use vegan HA instead of the kind derived from animals).  I try the lab vitamin C from time to time, as well as natural ingredients that didn't work for me in the past.  (I will NEVER try retinols again though, because the past damage was that bad.  Plus I like natural ingredients, like vitamin A in plant ingredients, better anyways).  Many other herbalists who have been using naturals for decades have amazing skin.   I truly believe natural ingredients are one of the reasons why my skin is so healthy despite my health issues.  But as mentioned in my anb article, what works for someone else, may not work for you.  So good skin care always takes a bit of experimentation to find out what is right for you, whether you choose something natural, naturally derived or standardized natural extracts, or lab actives (which range from natural to synthetic, and everything in between).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Just wanted to wish all the dads a Happy Father's Day!

I hope everyone is taking the day to spend some time with their dads.  If you can't, at least call and talk to him, and let him know you love him.  :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

All Natural Beauty Website's Summer Sampler, and June Anniversary Giveway

Keeping this entry kind of short, since I just wrote a long entry about it on Earth Alkemie's blog (my skin care business blog), and I really do try not to post too much business related stuff here on SKEB.

The all natural beauty (anb) websites are having a great summer sizzler sampler.  This sampler contains a lot of products from many different natural vendors, including Earth Alkemie.  I always plug about the anb websites' samplers (there are two to three of them each year), even the times when my products aren't featured in them, because it is an excellent deal!  I really love the products from one of the other companies featured in this sampler: Monave (a wonderful mineral makeup company).  They have really nice lippies and powder (which are offered in this sampler).  I met the owner, Deb, once during one of her classes a few years ago: she is very knowledgable about her craft, a great business woman, and super nice too!  I haven't tried the other companies, but some of them have very good reputations, and the rest look like they have nice products too.

The anb websites are also having a June Anniversary Giveaway for a lot of free products (including another Earth Alkemie product).  There will be a total of ten free prizes.  Just wanted to mention for these giveaways you don't need to buy anything, share any personal information, or sign up for anything.  See the link for details on how to enter!

I wrote more about the sampler and giveway on my other blog, along with info on the products I have donated to the samplers and giveaway.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strawberries and Eco Living article on strawberry leaf infusion

I had never gone strawberry picking until a couple weekends ago.  It was so beautiful in the strawberry fields, and I had a lot of fun spending time with family and friends and eating the ripe berries (despite being in a lot of pain that day.  But like most days I just grin and bear it).  The strawberries were so different than the store brought kind, they brought to mind the few small strawberry plants we used to have when I was very, very young.  They were very tender (melt in your mouth), juicy, and sweet (the sweetness was in some ways more subtle, but in other ways more explosive in taste).  And the fragrance: the boxes filled my sister's whole kitchen and my car with its sweet scent!  Pure bliss!  So if you have strawberry farms in your area, I highly recommend visiting one!  Fun activity for the family, and the strawberries are not only super delicious but very inexpensive too.

So for my newest eco living I thought that I would write about strawberries, but decided to focus on the leaves (which are often thrown out instead of used).  My article is on strawberry leaf infusion.  The leaves can be made into an infusion and drunk, or they can be used in skin and hair care!  Very simple to make, and your skin and hair will look great!  Not to mention it tastes pretty good too.  In the article, I included a link to a previous eco living article that included a strawberry scrub recipe.

Last week (a few days after berry picking) I also made chocolate gluten free, no refined sugar strawberry shortcakes with garden fresh mint (I looked at a lot of recipes online but made my own).  I used a little agave to sweeten them (but not too much).  They came out alright, but since I made a recipe off the bat, I think I need to make it a few more times before I perfect it!  It was so nice making a no refined sugar, flour free dessert though (I used to bake a lot, but in past years not that much but trying to bake a little more again).  I used coconut flour so the combo of organic chocolate/cocoa, coconut, fresh peppermint from my sister's garden, cinnamon, strawberries, and organic whipped cream was yummy (needed more organic cocoa powder and to be a little more moist though).  Working with coconut flour is tricky because you have to use a lot more eggs than usual but I really like using it as a flour, and I seem to do well with the combo of not using a grain flour in desserts and eating something high in protein.  (I still use whole grain flours in other desserts though, but the combo of whole grain, agave, AND fruit--so all three-- is often overkill for me: too starchy/sugary and would make me react). I froze most of my berries (we gathered a lot) but used fresh berries in this.  So yummy!

Perfumes (Crafting all natural perfumes)

I have a backlog of posts (what else is new, LOL!) that I will be posting over the next few days.  For some of the posts the same topics will also be posted on my business blog (but even when cross posting, I will still be writing a new post here; it will just be on the same topics.  So there will be some of the same info and some different info in those posts).  But other posts will be totally new posts, only posted here on SKEB.  :)

I try not to post too much business stuff here (though over the next few days will be).  But just posted a post on perfumery and crafting perfumes for a business (what goes into it) on Earth Alkemie's blog.  Part 1 is mostly on the research, and so will part 2.  Part 3 will be on the actual perfume.  I just posted part 1, and thought people might be interested in what goes into perfume making from a small business outlook, so decided to mention it here on my personal eco blog (it is not just crafting it, but perfume making takes a lot of research and experimentation).  Hope you enjoy it!

On a related side note, a few days ago I received the perfumes from the perfume swap I am in.  They all look gorgeous (I wasn't able to smell them yet because I have been so congested but hopefully soon).  I am so excited to receive them and hope to sniff them soon!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day and new article on ticks and essential oils

I hope everyone is having a good Memorial Day weekend.  Today is the day we honor those who have fallen serving our country.  I hope that everyone is spending time with loved ones today.

I just answered a question on essential oils (I am the allnatural beauty website’s Eco Living and DIY Natural Beauty Formulating Expert, so answer questions on anything green, and also how to make natural skin care).  I was asked if tea tree essentialoil was effective as a tick repellent, and if it was safe for children andpregnant women (thanks Barbara for the question!).  I also included information on two other essential oils (lavender and citronella) for tick repellency, and information on using herbs on cats and dogs.  There is also information on what to use on insect bites too.  So even if you don’t plan on using it on kids, or if you aren’t pregnant, there is still a lot of good information in the article.

I have been using essential oils as insect repellents for many years (since I started learning about aromatherapy so eleven or so years), and have found them to be very effective in many different types of environments, and against many different types of insects too (some essential oils are better general repellents, while others are better for repelling only certain types of insects).  I love using essential oils as repellents because they not only are effective, but smell great!

Hope you enjoy the article!  Feel free to ask me or any of the other anb experts questions (be sure to ask your question through the anb website, or on the anb’sfacebook page).  I also wrote more about this article and insect repellents on Earth Alkemie's blog (my blog for my skin care business) too.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eco Living: Kale, Spinach, and Chard Chips

I love kale, chard, and spinach chips.  But I don't have a food dehydrator yet so I created a recipe for making them in the oven.  For May's Eco Living article I have shared my recipe for kale, chard, and spinach chips.  They are so good: they are nutritious, healthy, but taste delicious.  And less expensive to make too (many health food stores sell the dehydrated kind, that are kind of pricey).  I have included lots of notes in my article on ingredient subs, and you can cater them to your tastes by using different oils, spices/seasonings etc.

I hope everyone has a Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Eco Living and DIY Formulating Expert

I am so excited!  I have just been made the Eco Living and DIY Natural Beauty Formulating Expert over at the all natural beauty websites!  I posted a long entry explaining this on my other blog (my business /Earth Alkemie's blog).  Read my newest EA blog entry for more information!

I am so honored to become an expert, because some of the other anb experts are some of the best in the natural fields (including aromatherapist and herbal pioneer Jeanne Rose!).  So feel free to ask me or the other experts a question (right now when you ask a question, you will also be entered in a monthly drawing for free products from the different anb partners/ vendors.  So you could win some nice products too, in addition to getting your questions answered!).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day and Month!

I hope everyone is having a Happy Earth Day! Though this month is Earth Awareness Month, I have not been posting as much as I’d hoped. ☹ I’ve written parts of many different posts (for both this blog and my business blog) but I’ve been dealing with many personal issues (my own health, my dad’s health, etc) and I have been focusing on working to get my business reopen (I still have so much to do before then!). So I haven’t had as much time to devote to writing as I’d like.

 For the local peeps (VA/DC/MD), George Mason University has been having many different activities and events this month. For the next several days they will be having a lot of activities. These activities will be focused on more ‘local’ green tips and activities. I hope I will be able to attend some of them (but I have lots of testing and doctors appointments—both mine and my dad’s—to go to this week, and I take care of my dad during the day, so may not be able to this year). I have gone to some activities in previous years though, and they were all very informative and educational, but fun! I am proud of my school (I attended grad school there) for becoming more and more eco-aware and green, due to many wonderful professors (including my advisor/committee chair), current students, GMU’s Office of Sustainability, and alums (some of which who work in the OOS). Here is the link to the list of activities.

 If you don’t live the the DC metro area, places you can check for local green activities this month include local colleges, other local schools, community centers, and environmental non-profits. Local newspapers may also have a listing of activities or a list of simple green practices. You can also check your favorite green organization for eco tips (it doesn’t have to be a local organization). Lastly there are many great eco tips on this blog (there are over 200 entries here) or my eco living articles (there are around forty articles or so) on anb (all natural beauty) mall. Not all of my posts are listed on the right side of this blog, and not every eco living article is listed on the main page of anb mall’s eco living section, so you may have to do a search for the topic you are interested in. ☺ There are also some eco tips on my business (Earth Alkemie's) blog too (mostly in relation to natural and organic ingredients and herbs).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eco Living: Conservation and Preservation

Happy Earth Awareness Month! For April's eco living article on anb (all natural beauty) mall I have written an article on conservation and preservation. Basically I have explained the differences between these two terms, and I also provide a few quick eco tips and lots of links to environmental, ecological, conservation, and preservation non-profit organizations.

So like many of my previous eco living articles, I am sharing my extra thoughts and notes on this subject, here on my personal blog. :) I won't define the difference between the two words here (since I already did that in my article) but here is more food for thought.

Many people mix up the terms conservation and preservation nowadays. In the early 1900s, there was a very clear cut distinction between the two terms (in the U.S.), and in my opinion, there was still a pretty strong distinction up until maybe a decade or so ago. I remember when I was a teen (when I first learned about environmental issues; so about 19 or so years ago) and during my undergrad years (studying environmental issues/biology), I learned about the differences between the two. But sometime between the time I graduated college and now, I've noticed a lot of people (the general public) use the terms interchangeably. I even noticed that many (though not all) of my fellow grad school classmates (when I was getting my masters in environmental science and policy not too long ago) also used the terms in place of each other. And sometimes the wrong word comes out of my mouth too (slip of the tongue!), even though I know the difference! ;P The lines between the two have become blurred, at least in the public eye and even to various degrees in the environmental field itself.

As an environmentalist I am an advocate of both conservation and preservation (a lot of other naturalists and environmentalists support one or the other, though many support both like me). I think both conservation and preservation are needed. In theory, preservation probably sounds the most ideal to many 'green' advocates: that we (humans) should leave the land, animals, and plants in a 'pristine state', and that the environment should be preserved for its own sake. I think that preservation is needed, because of the utter devastation we have had on this Planet. In my mind and heart, not everything is a resource to be exploited: we share this Earth with a vast array of fascinating creatures large and small, and humans are not the center of the universe (even though many people think we are). Some land should be relatively untouched in my humble opinion. Advocates of preservation disagree on the level of human involvement in preservation. Some people believe that no management is the best policy (to leave the wild area totally alone), while others believe in limited management (that humans should oversee an area or species to prevent issues such human development in an area, but for the most part nature is left alone).

But there are other things to consider. A lot of habitat and ecosystems are not in 'pristine conditions'; there is habitat loss, deforestation, threatened and endangered species, pollution, etc. That's where conservation comes into play: to manage habitats, ecosystems, and species and to take responsibility for our actions, and try to reverse some of the damage we have done to the Earth. And for that conservation management and human involvement is needed. Conservation is about WISE human usage. Humans live, breathe, and need to consume (some) resources to survive. But we should use natural resources wisely, so that they are there for future generations.

So in a nutshell, I think both preservation and conservation are important and needed, especially in modern day times. I think that it is important to distinguish the two terms, understand the difference, and realize that one is not necessarily better than the other and that they are both needed (or at least that is what I personally believe).

Friday, March 30, 2012

033012 Li's Crafting Notes (Perfume Crafting)

It's been a long time since I've written a crafting notes entry. Much of my crafting in the past couple years has been devoted to my business and many of the new products I have crafted have eventually became Earth Alkemie products (I try to keep business information on my business blog, and personal information here) or they have became recipes on my eco living articles. Because of that, time, and health constraints I haven't been posting much about what I've been crafting for myself (or much on this blog for that matter)!

Since I've been posting much more regularly here again, I thought it was time to post a new 'Li's Crafting Notes'! Basically most of what I've been working on the last several weeks are perfumes. I am working on a perfume for my business called Chen (a few entries on crafting Chen will be posted on Earth Alkemie's blog over the next few weeks) and also perfumes for a perfume swap I am in.

I am a long time member of 'The Dish' forum, which is one of the largest soap and crafting forums online. I like many of the people there and I have participated in a few of the swaps. This is the third perfume swap I have been a part of.

Basically for this swap or challenge, we have to create a perfume that must contain five basic ingredients: lavender, fir, labdanum, clove, and ambrette. We are allowed to use any form of these so we can use the essential oil, absolute, co2 extract, tincture, etc (if available), and also allowed to add whatever other ingredients to the perfume. Since it is a natural swap, we are only using natural ingredients and no fragrance/synthetic oils. (Commercial perfumes are either completely or mostly synthetic with either no or little natural ingredients. But there are a few natural perfumers, including me, that make 100% natural perfumes, and there are a few other mostly natural perfumers that make nearly all natural perfumes with traces of synthetics). Making a natural perfume definitely costs more (since the natural ingredients cost a lot more than synthetic fragrances) but I think they are worth every penny!

I have been working on a few different perfumes (perfumes take time to age, so their scent greatly alters over time, so crafting a few to see which one matures the best!). So far I have crafted three and I will see which one ages the best. There is still a month until the due date since it was extended again (so I have time to craft maybe one more if I make it within the next couple days, but it is kind of pushing the time frame it will need to age).

I am trying to use some of the more unusual forms of the plants, like lavender absolute or Himalayan lavender essential oil, and ambrette co2 extract. I also have some rare white rose co2 extract I am using in some of the perfumes (white rose essential oil is pretty rare, and the co2 extract is even rarer. To my nose: white rose's scent is very intense, sweet, and very 'rosey', and has less of the herbal/green notes than damask rose essential oil).

I've crafted three perfumes so far. One of them I absolutely adore so far. It seems to be aging well. One of the additional ingredients I used in it was frangipani absolute, another kind of rare absolute (there are several species of frangipani that are used in making absolutes). Most frangipani scents on the market are not the real absolute but are the synthetic fragrance. I think this is one of the best perfumes I have crafted, made with pre-dilutions.

The second I like but it seems to be missing something so I will be tweaking that. In this one I tried to use lavender as a top note (most sources say it is a middle note, though a few people consider it a top note or a top to middle note) and I think I definitely like using it as a middle note better; in most of my past perfumes I have always used lavender as a middle note. I think that is why my nose thinks something is missing since the other tops notes (not including lavender) in this perfume are small, and when I smell lavender, though it is the first thing I smell in this perfume, my mind doesn't register it as a top note. As time passes this one smells better and better though so maybe I am just being too picky. :)

The third one I really like too but some notes, especially the lemon myrtle, are still a little strong. But as time passes it is becoming more mellow, so over the next week or so I will see if it needs tweaking or to leave it as it. The lemon myrtle is potent, I didn't add too much but it kind of has over taken the perfume, but as it ages, and that note becomes softer, and the other notes are coming out to play, I like it more and more.

If I have time I will work on a fourth one (but will need to do that over the next few days so it has some time to age).

It has been a challenge since I have never worked with fir absolute (I am also using a different fir for some of the perfumes too) or ambrette. I am also working with pre-dilutions (that is diluting my essential oils etc with carrier oils, and then using the dilutions to make the perfume), which I hardly ever do. Many other perfumers like working with dilutions, but I prefer to dilute everything afterwards since I think I am a better perfumer doing it that way.

Also for this challenge, I am not working with accords to save some time in crafting. I love using accords when making perfumes (since I am better at creating extremely complex perfumes when I use that technique) but sometimes I use them and sometimes I don't in perfume making. It depends on the perfume; I have crafted some beautiful perfumes without accords, and for most of my aromatherapy blends I don't use accords either. But some of my favorite and best perfumes were made with accords.

After I craft the perfumes I will submit the best smelling one I have for the swap. I can't wait to smell everyone else's creations!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eco Living: Potato Eye Remedy

My newest eco living article is up on anb mall! Since it is almost St. Patrick's Day I decided to write about an Irish associated ingredient that is used in natural herbal skin care: the potato! My eco living article is called "Potato Eye Remedy" since I have posted a few recipes for eye skin care using the humble potato!

Raw potatoes are great ingredients to use in skin care. In these recipes I have used a few common household ingredients like potatoes, organic whole milk, and chamomile (the herb or the tea). These recipes can help brighten and lighten the eye area, banish some types of dark circles, and may also help eye puffiness in some people. Two of the three recipes are vegan. I have listed a few of the properties of these ingredients too. And most people probably already have all the ingredients in their cupboards!

Notes: make sure the potatoes are raw, uncooked. And the remedies work best chilled.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

All Natural, Do It Yourself Skin Care Recipes and Books

One of the things I love doing most is crafting all natural skin care. So I love sharing recipes for making simple, natural, 'kitchen', DIY (Do It Yourself), MIY (Make It Yourself) cosmetics. There are many recipes located on this blog (you may have to do a search in the search box--located in the upper top left hand side of this blog--to find them, because although some of the more popular posts are listed on the right hand side of this blog, there are over two hundred entries on this blog, so I can't link all of my posts on the right side). Search using the name of the herb/plant first (such as 'aloe'), and if that doesn't help, then I recommend searching for the basic type of recipe (like 'brown sugar scrub').

Here is my list for other good (free) recipes online:

One of my friends, Sharon, has three amazing all natural beauty (anb) websites, and all three websites have skin care and hair care recipes from herbalists, aromatherapists, natural skin care formulators, skin care business owners, and/or diy recipe enthusiasts, including herbal and aromatherapy pioneer Jeanne Rose and aromatherapist Alexandra Avery. I have posted many recipes on all three websites too (either under Li Wong or the user names Snowcat or Solarkat). I have been posting recipes and articles on the anb websites for many years (years before I ever started my all natural skin care and DIY ingredient business, Earth Alkemie). I am proud to say that Earth Alkemie is an all natural beauty partner to all three anb websites! (The criteria to become an anb partner is very strict, especially for anb portal and all natural beauty website). There are so many amazing recipes, articles, and other companies listed on her websites, so I highly recommend checking them out.

The all natural beauty website has a nice recipe section. Be sure to also check out the articles (many of which discuss ingredients and herbs) and also the list of all natural companies too!

There are a lot of recipes on anb portal. Some of the recipes are the same as the ones on all natural beauty website, but others are exclusive to the anb portal.

There are several beauty recipes on anb mall.

I have many recipes in my eco living articles on anb mall. This includes recipes not posted in the anb mall beauty recipe section above, and my articles also include more in depth notes. I have also written a lot of articles on green house cleaning (including recipes) and many other eco living topics.

The other article sections (beautiful living, inspired living, and the general article section) of anb mall have some recipes too.

One of my favorite forums, skin care talk has a nice recipe section too. I have posted one recipe there (for a vinegar based toner).

Here are some links to several good book reviews or book lists:

A long time ago I wrote several posts on book recommendations or book reviews on natural skin care (herbal, aromatherapy, and other books) here on this blog. The link will bring you to many of my previous posts. :)

This is Sharon's list of books and their links to amazon, and some reviews on anb portal.

In my spotlight (about my plant background) on the anb websites, I have listed many books, scientific journals, and other resources (it's a long spotlight, so you will have to scroll down in the article for this info).

My friend Markey of Garden of Wisdom has also listed some of her favorite books on her website (she offers a lot of nice ingredients too).

Amazon has great prices for used books (many of them are only available used). A few of the more popular ones may be available as an e-book, but many of my favorites are not yet available as e-books.

Your local library may have some books or you can request them through interlibrary loan. Sometimes libraries have annual (old library book) sales too. Another good place to try are local used book stores.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Black Bean Brownies with Agave (Hypoglycemic and diabetic friendly, gluten free, flour free, vegetarian recipe)

Many years ago I used to love to bake (my sister used to call me cookie master!). But when I discovered I was hypoglycemic I stopped eating sweets and stopped baking for a very long time (usually the only sweet thing I will eat is fruit, with lots of protein, but no real desserts). Nowadays, every once in a while (maybe once every couple months) I will get a craving and actually bake or make a dessert. When making desserts, I use sweetener alternatives that don't make me react that much, such as agave. Too much still makes me feel ill, so when baking or making sweets I still have to watch the amount of alternative sweeteners, and make sure the dessert is protein rich. I also try to limit my other carbs too, and really watch the serving size (wish I could eat larger servings, since I love sweets and I need to gain weight, but since I get sick if I eat too much, I need to limit myself strictly to one small serving). So it can be difficult finding recipes that I can eat or that I can easily convert. A lot of the time I look at vegan, gluten-free, and sometimes raw websites since often these recipes are made with ingredients I can eat, or I only have to alter the recipes a little.

One of my favorite recipes is a black bean brownie recipe from 'Baking with agave' by Ania Catalano. The recipe is posted on the 101 cookbooks website. This recipe is not only delicious, but it is made with agave, a single serving does not make me react (I like to drink organic soy or cow milk with the brownie, for extra protein and since the combo of milk and brownies is yummy!), and I didn't need to change the recipe at all. Catalano has hypoglycemia so she uses agave and alternative sweeteners, and also does not use white/refined wheat flour in her recipes. I have seen other so called 'hypoglycemic' recipes that don't use white sugar but that use refined/white wheat flour, so it is nice that she really knows how to bake for this condition, since she has it herself too! Her recipe is also gluten free and grain/flour free (basically the ground nuts serve as the flour). Now some of her other recipes still have a touch too much agave for me (different people have different reactions to sweeteners so some people may be able to tolerate much higher amounts of agave than I, and others may not be able to tolerate it at all). I highly recommend getting her cookbook too.

For agave brands, I basically just get whatever organic agave brand is onsale or least expensive at whole foods or another natural foods store (I have tried a few different brands and they are all pretty good). There are two versions of agave: light/regular and dark. The light version is sweet and heavenly, while the dark version is a bit richer in taste and tastes a little like maple syrup (not exactly like it but it reminds me of it). Agave is technically sweeter than white sugar, so when using it in recipes, you need to use less than the amount of other sweeteners. But Agave is mostly fructose and low glycemic.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eco Living: Rose Cosmetics

For my newest eco living article on anb (all natural beauty) mall for the month of February, I choose to write about the rose: a symbol of love and beauty.

Rose is one of my favorite skin care ingredients. Since this article was an eco living article, and I try to keep my eco living tips simple, I decided to write about a cosmetic that anyone could easily make, and that had multiple uses (I love multiple use cosmetics; it makes skin and hair care much easier!). So this month's anb mall's eco living article is on using rose infusion in cosmetics. I posted my recipe for organic rose infusion (tea), the properties of rose infusion, and also how to use rose infusion in skin and hair care.

Additional notes, not posted in the article: there are many good vendors for organic roses. You can buy them already dried, or you can dry fresh organic roses (just hang the bunch upside down and let it dry out). I had planned to carry some in my store (but at the time of this writing, I am currently on hiatus, so Earth Alkemie is closed right now, but check back later! I hope to reopen this spring). You may be able to find them locally: either buy fresh organic roses (Whole Foods usually carries them, and you can get a small bunch for only a few dollars--surprisingly much cheaper than other food stores and floral shops--at least in my local store), or check the dried herb or the tea aisle of health food stores. Your local small natural skin care company may carry them. You can find some on amazon. Also one of my favorite herbal vendors, Mountain Rose Herbs carries some.

Just wanted to mention that my recipe is for an infusion (which is pretty much a strong tea) which is different than a hydrosol, floral water, or an aromatherapy (essential oil) spray .

I hope everyone enjoys the article!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A New Beginning...

It's been a very long time since I've posted on a regular basis. A few years ago I stopped posting regularly because I was completing my master's in environmental science and policy (my research and thesis), moderating and answering questions on Garden of Wisdom's forum (which was very time consuming and extremely busy back then), and writing Eco Living articles for the anb (all natural beauty) mall. After I graduated I started an all natural skin care and mineral makeup business, Earth Alkemie, and in the past couple years, much of my online time was devoted to writing entries for Earth Alkemie's blog and EA's forum and EA's face book, answering EA emails, other emails and PMs etc, posting on various other forums, and writing my monthly Eco Living articles. With my health issues (and also helping my dad with his health issues too) that didn't leave me much time to post here.

But I miss posting on Solarkat's eco blog. I loved posting on this blog in the past since this has always been a place for my own thoughts on a wide range of subjects: plants, aromatherapy, herbalism, natural products, eco living, vegetarianism, ecological issues, etc. And even a few things that have nothing to do with some form of environmentalism, like my favorite musicians. Just basically whatever was on my mind on the moment. :) And I have missed having that outlet. I do have a personal face book page and also post regularly on EA's blog, but it is not the same as posting on a personal blog. I am just too wordy and there are some thing that just don't belong on a business blog.

So I am going to try to start posting regularly again. Right now I am on hiatus for my skin care business (because of health reasons) so posts will probably be more often now than in the future when I reopen Earth Alkemie (which I hope will be sometime in March or April. No set date yet). But for now, I will start posting again. :)