Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday is Creativity Day!

Henceforth, Monday will be known around here as Creativity Day!  I spend so much time taking inventory of supplies & product, filling orders, & making more inventory of established products of mine that I hardly get a chance to experiment with new products & scents.  I'm dedicating Monday to creativity, as well as internet marketing by posting on social media, my blog, Etsy forums, and doing general updating to my website.

Today I'm going to play with solid perfume & lotion recipes, and new perfume & room spray scents for Fall/Winter.  I'd like to utilize the scents of Honey, Neroli, Nag Champa, White, Green & Black Tea, Almond, Juniper Berry, Fir, Patchouli and Anise more than I have in the past. Earlier I placed an order for new flavor oils for Fall/Winter lip balm: Maple, Candy Corn, Marshmallow, and Pumpkin Pie!  It will be fun playing with these new flavors next Monday.

Feel free to leave your suggestions for new products & perfume/room spray scents in the comments!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Quinoa Noodles with "Sausage"

I'm a vegetarian, and sometimes I get really bad with eating too much starchy carbohydrates and not enough fruits & vegetables.  According to a holistic dentist I used to see I have a very slight intolerance to gluten, but not an allergy to it.  In the end it is best that I eat breads, pastas, & other starchy carbs in moderation.  Also, now that I've been diagnosed with Stills Disease I am following the great  Dr. Andrew Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Food Pyramid which, with the elimination of the Fish & Seafood level and substitutions for the Other Sources of Protein level.  I'll be keeping a vegan kitchen at home, but allowing myself dairy & eggs on special occasions when I go out.
Dr. Andrew Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

One way to make a gluten-free substitution is Quinoa pasta.  Honestly it tastes just like regular "white" pasta and is very high in protein, a big plus for vegetarians!  I have found it at my local Giant, Whole Foods, and Wegmans grocery stores.  I like to pair it with Tofurky or LightLife brand Sausage.  Here is the recipe.

Portion out your noodles depending on how many people you are feeding (usually 1-2 cups per person is good).  Put the proper sized pot on the stove and fill about 3/4 of the way full with cold water.  Set stovetop to a high temperature to bring water to a boil.  (You can prepare the sausage while you are waiting for the water to boil, see the next step below.)  Once boiling, add your noodles and set stove temperature to medium or low.  Boil until pasta is soft, about 8-10 minutes.

While you are waiting for the noodles, remove the sausages from the package and place on a cutting board (again, the number of sausages depends on how many people you're feeding, or how hungry you are!).  Cut into slices about 1/2" - 3/4" thick.  Place the slices in a frying pan that has been greased or coated with your favorite cooking oil or spray (like PAM).  Arrange sausages flat on the pan and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, or untill brown.  Feel free to add any additional spices or veggies if you like.  Carefully flip each sausage over with a fork & knife and cook the same way on the other side.

Cut into 1/2" - 3/4" slices
LightLife brand Smart Sausages - Italian style

I've added some herbs & chopped onion.

Next you can begin to heat up your favorite pasta sauce in a pot or microwave according to the instructions on the jar.  Once the sauce is hot I like to add the sausages in, but this is totally up to you.  When your pasta is done cooking, drain and serve hot.  Finally, I love sprinkling on top lots of my favorite Parmesan cheese alternative, Veggie Topping.   Now wasn't that easy?

Served without sauce, just olive oil, herbs & spices
Served with sauce & vegan Parmesan cheese
Just one of many brands of vegan Parmesan cheese, but my personal favorite.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meet my Kittehs!

I'd like to introduce my 3 furry babies, Liu Jun Pei, Balthazar, and Ghost.  I have a million and one pictures of each of them, and picking just one was so hard!  If you'd like to see more follow me on Instagram.  Here they are in all their feline glory, with a little peek into their personalities & backgrounds.

Stepping out onto the back deck for some fresh air
I got Liu Jun Pei (pronounced Loo June Pay) in 2002 from a no kill shelter that kept cats in my local PetSmart.  Initially I was going in to check out aquariums and fish (I was studying Marine Biology at the time).  Growing up we always had cats, and I have a huge heart for them.  Of course I ended up meandering over to the cats for adoption area, and a lady asked if I'd like to go inside the little room to see them.  Like a bleeding heart fool I said yes and ended up going straight to the sickest, most pathetic kitten there.  A few days later, she was mine.  She had been dumped behind a diner and had an upper respiratory infection, sticky eyes, runny nose, and ear mites.  With some TLC and medication she was 100% healthy in a week or two.  She's quite the shedder, and has a heart of gold.  She can be a bit skitzy though, and doesn't like to be chased by the boys.

I have a bad habit of jumping on the counter
Balthazar, a Bombay, was wandering around our street in 2010, a year after we moved into our new home.  There is a church across the street from us with a huge open yard space - this is home to many stray cats and they are fed regularly by me and the church folks.  Breaking the mold, Balthazar liked to come up on peoples patios and be social.  He was skinny and had a collar on, so we assumed he was abandoned by his former owners.  After a week or two of feeding him and petting him outside, we decided to take him in.  For at least a week he howled at the door to get back out, which broke our hearts.  We keep our cats indoors, safe from the dangers of cars, insects, disease, and fights with other cats.  But soon he acclimated to our house and became more comfortable with his new surroundings.  Jun surprisingly took to him very well.  They had their little squabbles here and there, but generally got along.  When we took him to the vet for his initial check up we were told he was about a year old.  Unfortunately he is also FIV+, but we decided to keep him despite the vet's recommendations.  He doesn't scratch or bite the other cats, its just his sweet nature.

Our Ghosty-boo, before we took him in.
Ghost is the newest (and hopefully last - you can't save them all, I'm told...) addition to our family.  Like Balthazar, we found him hungry and collared, crouched outside on a neighbors patio, mewing in a way that told me he was lost and scared.  Waiting a few weeks to see if he belonged to anyone, we finally assume he was also abandoned.  We fed him daily, and eventually he felt comfortable enough with us to snuggle up and let us pet him.  When we finally decided to take him in he instantly claimed the house as his!  We kept him in the bedroom away from the other cats at first.  Here he jumped onto the bed and fell right asleep.  After a couple days I let him out to explore the rest of the top floor - the bathroom and my office.  A few days later we let him go downstairs and meet the other cats.  The introduction again went better than we expected.  Today, our little Ghosty has grown much bigger than we imagined he would!  We've been calling him new nicknames like little Beastie, Fruit Brute, and Boo Berry. He's an angel baby.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cozy Up for Fall Ladies: Etsy Treasury

It's Treasury Tuesday - a new feature I'm trying! (My automatic scheduler dropped the ball, so I'm posting this on Wednesday)  Check out my latest Etsy Treasury of comfy, cozy Fall wear for women: 

My own style of unusual cuts & accessories, lots of black, and vintage flair is well represented.  Below is just a few of the items in the treasury. 
Light Brown Woolen Dress with Metallic Pearls by LeMuse

I just love the back of this sweater.  The extra fabric hanging delicately off the shoulder and metallic pearl buttons add a unique feminine touch.
Wool Cape/Winter Hoodie Coat by RenzRags
Anything military style is an A+ in my book.  The muted army green color of this fabric is fantastic.  My new obsession are these cape style coats that don't have sleeves, but rather two openings in the front for your arms.  The addition of a hood makes this wool cape perfect for chilly fall days.

The Raven poem on an infinity scarf by LiteratiClub
Ah, The Raven - one of my favorites.  As a goth chick I grew up reading Poe (even named our family cat after him).  This is such a fantastic, subtle accessory for your inner gothness, no matter what your style!

Black floral lace boot cuffs by JLeeJewels
Last year I admired all the boot cuffs I saw on Etsy - this year I've vowed to actually sport some!  Whether bought online or made yourself, I think they are such a whimsical accessory for a little Autumn flair.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Hotel Keurig Hack

Last May I stayed at the Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ while vending at Steampunk World's Fair.  There was a Keurig coffee machine in our room, but only 1 caffeinated K-Cup!  Being an avid coffee drinker I had already brought a bag of coffee thinking I would have a traditional coffee maker in my room.  So what's a girl to do??  Rather than bother housekeeping for more, I decided to try an experiment.
**For this hack you will need your own coffee, some painter's or masking tape, and a used K-Cup** 

First, I removed the top of the used K-Cup, threw out the old grounds, and rinsed it out.

Next, I took out some blue painter's tape (because everyone carries painter's tape when traveling, right?) and covered the bottom of the cup.  Then fill it up with your own coffee & cover the top with your tape.  **Be advised that standard duct tape or clear plastic tape may not work - I used painter's tape for its paper-like texture so that the Keurig machine could easily penetrate it for brewing.  Masking tape may also work well.**

I placed my new, highly attractive K-Cup into the machine, closed it securely, and brewed as normal.  Voila, it worked!  Good luck, and don't forget to pack the painter's tape for your next hotel stay!  :P

PS - Many stores also sell reusable K-Cups that you can fill with your own coffee anywhere you go!  This may be a better option... ha ha ha!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Amazing Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is my best friend right now - here's why, along with some great cosmetic & health uses:

For the past 2 months I've been taking steroids to treat my Stills Disease.  One side effect of long term steroid use is thinning of the skin causing dryness and flaking.  Let me tell you, my entire body "shed" like a snake.  My skin was flaking off in the way skin does after sunburn, and wherever I sat or lay down I left little white specks like dandruff.  It was horrible!  I was washing my bed linens daily, and constantly wiping down all surfaces in my house.  Had I not used coconut oil during this time, and since, I would not have gotten through that most uncomfortable situation.  Thanks goodness I had 7lbs of it laying around, ha!  I only have about 3 weeks left on my steroid regimen, and I slather myself with coconut oil at least 3-4 times a day to prevent another awful flaking episode.  I swear by coconut oil, and will continue to use it forever in lieu of traditional lotions.
Coconut oil comes in solid form, and melts at 76 degrees F.  It is extracted from the coconut "meat".  It is safe to use in both cosmetics and cooking.

Cosmetic Uses:  Since coconut oil melts at 76 degrees applying it directly to the skin creates a silky, spreadable moisturizer that once absorbs leaves no greasy residue. A little goes a long way, so just start out with a pinch of oil.  I recommend applying right out of the shower to towel dried skin.
   Use just a little on hair to detangle and give a silky shine, especially on those dead ends.  To maximize its moisturizing effects, coat your entire scalp and hair, throw on a shower cap, and leave in for 30min to an hour.  Wash & style as usual.  This is also helpful if you have a dry scalp or dandruff.
   It can be used in almost anything including soap, lotion, body butter, lip balm, and more.  Coconut oil has a very long shelf life, so no need to worry about your product going bad.
There is also a liquid form called Fractionated Coconut Oil, in which the longer chains of fatty acid are separated causing the liquid state.  I use this as my perfume oil base.

Health Uses:  Consuming coconut oil has been shown in studies to boost the immune system against viruses, bacteria, and yeasts.  It can also boost your metabolism & energy levels by supporting thyroid function.  As an excellent moisturizer it has been used to treat Psoriasis and Eczema. There are some indications that support that it can be beneficial for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's Disease, Diabetes, PMS and Alzheimers. Try using coconut oil in cooking to take advantage of all its health benefits!
Sources: The Dr. Oz Show Website , WebMD 

Have I convinced you that Coconut oil is the greatest thing since sliced bread? Awesome!  Now let's go get you some.  You can find coconut oil in health food stores like Whole Foods, but my goodness is it expensive!  I've seen jars of less than 16oz. go for $10 or more!  If you want it right away and don't want to pay shipping than buying it at the store may be the way to go.

However I recommend purchasing it online from one of my favorite suppliers, Brambleberry (right now 16oz. is only $2.30!)  I buy it in 7lb quantities, which comes in a convenient bag with pour spout.  You can also find it on eBay, Etsy, and many other websites that sell health foods or cosmetic supplies.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cemetery Room & Body Spray Contest!

New Contest for Halloween: Cemetery Room & Body Spray Giveaway!

Halloween is right around the corner, so I am offering my Cemetery 2oz. Room & Body Spray.   You too can make your house smell like your favorite graveyard, Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

"Cemetery is the scent of moist earth, freshly manicured plots, and the smell of roses freshly laid on the graves. It is a bittersweet scent reminding us of the peaceful resting place of our loved ones."

The contests starts today, and all entries must be received by 11:59pm on 10/15/13.  Winner will be chosen randomly & notified by email on 10/16/13.  See all contest rules below.  Good luck and happy haunting!

No purchase necessary.  One entry per person please, open to US residents only.  All entries must be received by 11:59pm on 10/15/13.  Winner will be notified by email on 10/16/13.  If the winner does not respond within 7 business days with their mailing address I will choose another winner.  The item will be shipped USPS First Class within 2 business days of winner's response.  Once mailed, the winner will be announced on the blog, website, and the next month's newsletter.  For privacy reasons only the first name and last initial will be used.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stills Disease: My experience

Today I updated the About page on my website with the story of my experience with a rare condition called Stills Disease:

In July 2013 I had to put my business on hold as I was diagnosed with a rare condition called Stills Disease (read about it HERE).  It is in the family of rheumatoid & auto-immune disorders, with symptoms including joint & muscle pain, sore throat, splotchy rash, and fever spikes.  There is very little documentation or research about it in the medical community, and there is no specific treatment plan or medication designated.  My rheumatologist says it is treated for the most part as one would treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. Initially the doctors didn't know what I had - I was tested for almost all infectious diseases, from Lyme to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to even Syphilis (everything came back negative).  My diagnosis of Stills Disease was made after everything else was ruled out.  There is no test specifically for Stills Disease; it is a "diagnosis of exclusion".  Similar to diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Stills disease is not contracted from an outside source, nor is it hereditary or contagious.  My doctors believe that exposure to an infectious disease such as Mononucleosis, Parvovirus, or even Strep Throat within the previous 6-12 months brought the disease out, even though I did not contract anything.

Trying to stay positive during my 10 day hospital stay as doctors worked to find out what I had

Due to extreme pain in ALL my joints, which went away after 2 weeks and was replaced with full body muscle pain & weakness, I was unable to walk, sit up in bed, stand, sit down, use the bathroom, bathe, or make or eat meals without assistance for about 6 weeks.  Around 2-3 times per day for about 8 days I experienced uncontrollable seizure-like shivering (called Rigors) preceding fever spikes as high as 104.4 degrees F. These went down in about 2 hours with Ibuprofen.  I experienced some light-headedness in the mornings, due to either low blood sugar or low blood pressure, and passed out once.  Luckily I was returning from the bathroom and was being supported by both of my amazing parents, so I was not injured in any way.  Throughout my illness I was hospitalized 3 times, the initial admission lasting 10 days, the other two for only 2-3 days due to consequent symptoms returning.

Here I am on oxygen in the hospital to prevent the shakes preceding the fever spikes.
The splotchy, salmon colored rash consistent with Stills Disease.  It covered my entire body except neck & face.
The rash on my upper leg.  Luckily this rash didn't itch or burn.

Slowly, under the care of some amazing doctors and much trial and error with medications, a treatment plan was found.  Upon my initial discharge I was sent home on a regimen of Prednisone - to which I discovered I have an adverse reaction that included a new type of rash (looked like red goosebumps on my entire body except face & neck) and the most horrible prickly burning itch.  These side effects lasted for 4 weeks before it dawned on me that the Prednisone was the culprit.  My wonderful doctor, believing that the patient best knows their own body,  listened to me and put me on another steroid.  Within a week and a half the new rash & itching was completely gone!

On September 12 I felt I was recovered enough to reopen business and get back to a normal life.  I took my Etsy shop off vacation mode and posted about my triumphant return on Facebook, Twitter, and here on my blog.  As of today I can do all normal activities of daily living, though my leg & arm muscles are a bit weak and I experience fatigue after too much exertion.  I plan on researching Stills Disease support and see if the medical community has any research ongoing.  I'd love to start a foundation for peer support & research funding, in which case I would begin donating a portion of my profits to it.

If you or a loved one have Stills Disease & would just like to share your story, inquire about my trials with medication, receive referral info for my amazing doctors (Delaware County, PA), or just talk to someone who knows what you are going through please feel free to email me or leave your comments below.  You can also visit this wonderful website, Stills R Us, for support & awareness:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Relaunching Akima Botanicals Online!

❤As of 9/12 I will be reopening all my online ventures!!  This includes Etsy, the blog, newsletter, etc. I've been through a rough 3 month battle with illness and I'm so excited to be recovered enough to get back to this business that I love so much! Keep an eye out for specials & coupons in celebration, and be sure to sign up to receive my newsletter: ❤