Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bug Off: a bug free hike!

I got a lot of questions and messages about this bug spray when I posted about it on facebook, so I thought I ought to write it up where people can find it easily. And I'll be using lots of it this summer. Apparently I have a lot of hiking in my future, because Thing 2 is working on his hiking merit badge for scouts. I am not really a hiker. And I hiked 10 miles last weekend. Are you impressed? I am. Even my kid was impressed. 
We hiked on the path at Wicker Park, and made 4+ laps. This is the first of five 10 mile hikes to be topped off with a 20 miler. I am seriously trying to find excuses not to do the 20 mile hike. Suggestions are welcome.

We have had tons of rain here lately and the mosquitoes population here is healthy. Mosquitoes love me. The last time I was outside for five minutes I got bitten twice through my jeans. I feel like bare skin is fair game but you should not get bug bites through clothing. There was no way I was going to spend 4 hours outside hiking without bug spray. Except bug spray is gross. It feels gross. It smells gross. And let's face it, it's poison you spray on your skin. Why does anyone think this is a good idea? Yuck. I made my own. All natural. No poison. Smells good. Feels like nothing. And it worked. No bites!

It's super easy.
I used a repellent blend, lemongrass, peppermint, and arborvitae. The repellent blend was one I used last year, just slightly diluted in coconut oil. This year I've upped my game and made it into a small spray bottle, which I can carry anywhere, easily. And it uses my leftover 15 ml empty bottles.

Since the hike, I've also used the Bug Off! spray when I was in the garden, and while watching our town's Twilight Parade (twilight=prime mosquito time) and two other parades that Thing 2 was marching in with his scout troop. No bites! Thing 2 is off at Scout Camp for the week and he has a bottle, as well as extra oils to refill it when he runs out. 

Thing 2's favorite oils.

If you are interested in knowing more about essential oils, please contact me.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Monday, June 15, 2015

violet extract

So it's catch up time for blogging about last month's projects. My teaching job is done for the summer and Thing 1 is home now, too. (#goodbyefreedom) First up is the violet extract. This is likely the easiest thing you will ever make. 

Aren't they great? I love violets. Which is super lucky because they are all over my yard. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. I wish they smelled good, but they really don't. These are pretty much just for looks.


Yep, that's it. 2 ingredients. Here's what you really need: a strainer, two glass jars, and time. But the time involved is leave it on a shelf and forget about it for 6 weeks or longer, so it's not like it really takes that long in terms of expending time. You are not stirring a pot for 6 weeks.

how to
Find a bottle. I used a mason jar. I did boil this jar and lid first, just to be sure it was sterile. Nothing should grow in the vodka, but I didn't want to chance anything.

Pick violets.Pick more violets. Pick more violets. You will need to fill whatever jar you have chosen. They pack and will wilt so you will need more than you think. If you find a good patch, you can just comb your fingers through the blooms and they will come off in your hand without the stems. Seriously pick more.

Rinse and drain the violets.

Pack them into the sterile jar. Fill the jar with vodka.

Put it out of the way, preferably in a dark cabinet and leave it there for six weeks.Or more.

oh yeah, violets. oops.

I actually started this batch last year. I put it out of the way in the downstairs pantry. And I'd pull out a jar of applesauce before dinner and think Oh! The violets! I should finish that! And you know, then not do anything about it. So leave it for 6 weeks, or a year, or some time in between that you remember it.

Strain the vodka. Toss the blossoms. I used a coffee filter inside the strainer inside the canning funnel. Totally optional, but helpful.

I did sterilize these jars, too.

I used two jars because I was giving away a bottle. I swapped a jar of extract for a bottle of walnut ink. My original jar was a pint jar. In retrospect, this is really way more extract than I needed to make. A half cup jelly jar would have been plenty, probably. Violets don't have a floral-type smell, so this extract doesn't smell flowery. It does smell very green and Spring-y. Use it anywhere you would use another type of extract, in cookies and cakes. I will be trying it in sugar cookies first. I'm looking at altering this recipe from Baking Away. Have you used violet extract before? Do you have a recipe I should try? Let me know!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

things are growing!

It's Spring!

I mean, I know it's been spring for a few weeks, but it actually feels like spring and it's starting to look like spring, too. phew! The grass is greening up, and the trees have buds, some are just starting to have tiny leaves open. The very sad forsythia is blooming. (It's sad because it's planted with some other flowering thing right at the corner of my house. I didn't do that. My gardening skills are few, but I know enough to give room to grow.) Every year I wish I had more of it, but I only love it when it's blooming. I'm fickle like that.

The seeds I started last month have sprouted and with any luck, I will be overrun with tomatoes, cukes, and red peppers later this summer. Also starting in the sunroom: basil, cilantro, oregano, dill, and lettuce. While the veggies will get transplanted next month, the herbs will stay safely in the sunroom away from the bunny. The rhubarb is coming up and so are the strawberries which I had in containers last year. They will need a new home, too.

Daffodils are up (but need to be moved) and so are the chionodoxa.  New irises are transplanted in the front yard. And tiny little violet leaves are coming up through the lawn. This probably horrifies some people, but I love them. And this year there will be violet syrup. I'm hoping this will also mean a summer of violet lemonade and violet cocktails.

Friday, March 27, 2015

giving back

I think it's important to find a way to give back when you can. And I think it's often easier to do than most people imagine. You do not have to write a giant oversized check to a good cause. Sometimes it can be just a donation of your time. Volunteer organizations always need extra hands. Earlier this year I donated a piece of artwork to the Town Theatre project in my town. This is a project near and dear to my heart and I've worked on saving this theatre for the last couple of years. But that's a story for another day. It's the end of March, and we're all thinking Spring is around the corner - despite getting another snowfall this morning.

April is Autism Awareness Month. 

Truly, it is no cause for celebration in my house. Thing 1 is on the severe end of the spectrum. Everyday, every single day, we are very Aware of Autism. April is his birthday month. He will be 15 this year. Where did my tiny little monkey go? 

My sweet little monkey aka Thing 1, age 2

He's a big kid now. A big massive, hulking kid, although still very small for his age. He doesn't know his own strength. He's non-verbal and not quite potty trained. Thing 2 wishes his brother was more fun to play with. Thing 2 often wishes he has his own room on nights when Thing 1 just can't seem to settle down.  Yes, we are all quite Aware of Autism here.

Each year for April, I try to give back. I donate 10% of my sales for the month to the National Autism Association. Locally, the NAA offers grants to families to help offset the never-ending high medical costs associated with caring for someone with autism. The NAA is also behind the Big Red Safety Box, tools for parents and caregivers to minimize wanderings, because kids who wander are often kids who die. Children on the spectrum do not recognize dangers. Thing 1 wandered away from school last December. It's scary. 

This year, I will be donating 10% for autism from all of my sales for the month of April, except for my latest work which will be at the Towle Theater in Hammond. This show was installed today! I will be donating 25% of sales from this show. 

at the Towle Theater

To find out more about my 10% for autism challenge, and where you can see my artwork, click over to my art blog.

To donate directly to NAA, please click here.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

the garden begins

It's a fantastic 43° here today. Of course we're still covered with snow and my sidewalks are all one ginormous puddle, but spring is coming!

So I started the garden.

Well, I started plum tomatoes, red peppers and pickling cukes. And it's actually on time to start them. For once. We can generally start planting outdoors at Mother's Day where I live. I admit: I do not like gardening. Not even a little. But I do like eating. A lot. And what's in the produce department at the supermarket does not compare to garden fresh veggies. And so I want a garden. 

I also want a gardener to do the gardening for me.

Last year, I started everything late and ended up with some sad containers instead of full garden. The year before I didn't manage to get even that far. To say that the garden area is overgrown does not really cover it. Our yard is constantly trying to return to its native prairie state. Mother Nature is tenacious, and, I think, senses our weak will-edness when it comes to lawn maintenance. Our neighbors have the best maintained yard on the block. 

Sometimes I feel bad for them that they have to live across the street from us.

I'm hoping for raised beds this year. I'm convinced it will help with weeds and hopeful that it will deter some of the critters. As I was planting these seeds today, I thought I am going to have raised beds if I have to kill someone to get them. And then I laughed because I'd need to kill at least four people for each bed. 

Remind me of this post when I wonder why no one will come to my house.

Monday, March 2, 2015


I have had some serious doubts about the smartness of this blog in the last month. If I already have difficulty with two posts a week on my art blog, how am I going to keep up with a whole other blog? Did I just add another thing onto my to do list? Yes, yes, I did.

I have still been thinking about the whole gratitude and simplify ideas. And while I do have another post about gratitude, this one is all about simplify. I really want less. Less to do, less to want, less to need. 

I have a small house with too much stuff. Too much I don't want and don't need. And I have come to believe living with less will give me more peace.

The pantry has been cleaned out. (Pantry sounds really fancy. I have a closet in the dining room.) And the hall closet, too. You know what was in the hall closet? A broken vacuum. And some kids shoes that were probably 8 years old. And a winter jacket that was almost as old. A single cafe curtain rod (brand new, with hardware) One toddler winter boot. Four umbrellas. More. Do I need all these things? I can now see the bottom of the closet floor, and I feel relieved. The coat is being washed and will be donated to charity this week, with the shoes, and some other random things I found, that I have no use for, but someone might. The broken vacuum has been tossed.

I aspire to something like this for this closet, because we don't have an entryway/foyer or a mudroom. And the kids' coats/backpacks/shoes are out of control. But for now I've made a good start.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

envisioning gratitude

I've been thinking a lot lately about gratitude and wondering if I'm grateful enough. And I'm just not sure I am grateful and as appreciative as I should be.

I recently made a vision board. I'll be honest, this is really not my thing, but I did it. It's a dream big sort of thing, as if imagining it will make it happen. I put gratitude on my vision board. I also put simplify on my vision board. 

The more I think about these things, I wonder if they are at odds. Can you be grateful for what you have and still want more? That doesn't sound bad but doesn't wanting more make you dissatisfied with what you have? And how do you want more and want less(simplify) at the same time?

Friday, January 23, 2015


I'm going international.

I've joined the Twitter Art Exhibit: Moss. This is the third twitter art exhibit I've participated in, and the fifth exhibit overall. And since Moss is in Norway, I will now be referring to myself as an Internationally Exhibited Artist. I'm getting my business cards updated right now. 

Okay, not really. I could certainly put a sarcasm font to good use. 

One of the things I've enjoyed through the last few exhibits was searching the hashtag #twitterartexhibit on twitter to find new artists to follow. What an amazing group of talent being used for good. The twitter art exhibit is a charity exhibit. All artwork is donated by artists from all across the globe. Sales from this year's show will benefit Home-Start, Moss, a nonprofit organization helping families in need. Artists, there is still time to submit, if you'd like to go international, too. There will be an opening reception March 12th at Moss Library, which, sadly, I will not be able to attend. After the reception, unsold work will be available for purchase online. This space will be updated when artwork is available for purchase online.

If you're interested in seeing more of my artwork, please check out my art blog. My work will only be featured on So Essential sporadically.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The meeting (stress)

I had a really important meeting today. I know really important to me might not be the same as really important to you, but this was very serious and about my kid. Leading up to this meeting, I was feeling very much like I'm going to be kicking ass and taking names and with a not-so-small side of blood-thirst. You don't mess with my kid. I think most parents get that.

But once late morning got here, I started to get nervous about it. We use a lot of essential oils in our house, but I haven't done a whole lot of work on mood management. I got out some oils and my Emotions & Essential Oils book. 

I chose a protective blend on my spine for protection, it includes clove for courage. I inhaled lemon for a clear mind and roman chamomile for a sense of purpose and then rubbed that over the back of my neck. I followed up with my favorite frankincense because it enhances all the other oils and it always makes me feel good. I love that frank. In fact, that's pretty much my mantra. I love that frank. I love that frank...

In the car, on the way to the meeting, my husband asked me how I was doing. He said, 
You seem really mellow.
I'm pretty sure he has never said that to me, in the almost 24 years that we've been together. I don't consider myself high strung, but I do get anxious occasionally, And this was one of those occasions. But I was quite calm! And the meeting went well. And I didn't have to kick anybody's ass. And I didn't have to take names (but, I did take some notes.) 

All in all it was a success.

I devoured the Emotions book when I got it. I read it cover to cover the day it came. I was looking for some help with my older son, (who is 14 and on the severe end of the autism spectrum a.k.a. the kid the meeting was about) I think I need to reread it and think about how I can help myself and my family in other ways.

If you are interested in knowing more about essential oils, please contact me.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


I've been toying around with this idea for a while. Another blog. What am I doing? Well, I'm just going for it. That's what I'm doing. 

Who am I? I'm Dawn. I'm an artist. I'm a mom to two boys. (Three if you count my husband, which I usually sometimes do.) I'm an occasional knitter. I'm a part-time art teacher. I'm a full-time essential oil addict. In my mind, I could be a fantastic home make-over designer/Martha Stewart type. My pinterest boards make me look like I could be that woman. Of course, in my mind, I also could be a super-model, complete with windswept hair. So you might want to take all that with a grain of salt. 

I realized a few years ago (why did it take me so long to learn this?) that I really needed to take care of myself. It's So Essential. I need to do things for me, and not just things for my kids. That saying: If Momma ain't happy, ain't no one happy really does hold some water.

So this is me...

                                                                      ...and that is one of my paintings behind me. 

This blog will be about me taking care of me, and taking care of my family, and trying to be healthy, and you know, trying to be pinterest worthy. Although, pinterest fails will very certainly be included because they are funny! And too often you have to laugh or cry, so you might as well laugh as much as you can.

See my greatest pinterest success here. It's not my project. I haven't attempted it. I thought it was a good idea, so I pinned it. And apparently a whole lot of other people agreed because it has been repinned close to 900 times. SUCCESS! is where you choose to find it.