Monday, April 1, 2013

A Natural Treatment for Poison Ivy

Every year as I start to get excited by the promise of spring I am quickly disheartened because the memory of poison ivy comes back with full force.

I have a reaction to poison ivy that is what most would consider excessive. After coming in contact with the plant and following all the suggestions about hot water and soap to get rid of the oil, I still end up with a rash that progresses where it wants and lasts for over 6 weeks.

As a child, I would be put on steroids to handle the itch, but as an adult I have tried to avoid such drastic measures.

The only thing I have found to work is Jewelweed. Jewelweed grows wild across North America and contains an anti-inflammatory and fungicide that is used in such medications as Preparation-H.

You can break the stem of a Jewelweed pant and get a milky substance. You can spread that substance directly on a poison ivy breakout and it will help to aid in drying out the rash and in turn helps greatly with the itch associated.

If you can not find Jewelweed, Burt's Bee's has a Jewelweed soap that you can find in most health food or natural food stores. It has been one of the only things that has helped my poison ivy breakouts. I have tried oatmeal, topical creams, and any other home remedy you can think of. The Jewelweed works.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Relieving Yourself Of Limitations

I have a close friend of mine that is an artist in every sense of the word. He can visualize a piece of art and take those steps necessary to create an object that satisfies his concept. It is an ability that I have always considered myself lacking.

I was born as a precursor to generation X. I have watched technology be invented and refined that has changed the very nature of our communication with other humans in a way that hadn't been possible in any other part of recorded human history. One cultural shift that occurred during this period, I can see with hindsight, was a major change in the way we raise children.

Children, when this world was foremost agrarian, were raised to accept certain notions, as they are today. One of those ideas was that there are some things each person is going to be good at and some things you aren't. It was a necessary lesson that children who would grow into hard manual labor jobs needed to be taught to survive and be happy with their achievements.

Somewhere during the middle of the 80's that idea started to wane and children were instead taught that they could do anything they put their mind to. The concept of teaching each child that they are special is one I'm sure most would understand and can think of a child or young adult in their life that may have taken this concept to far. I have an interest in what caused this shift but will save that for another essay.

Unfortunately, I believe that shift in teaching coincided with an ability to achieve instant gratification and being mixed with a society wrapped in commercialism it started to develop an entitlement complex in a lot of people.

It is hard for someone of my generation or later to accept the idea that wanted information is further than a 10 second Google search away. Couple that instant gratification with entitlement and you have a dangerous outcome in the minds and actions of uneducated people.

The inevitable outcome of this change in mindset has left us with an interesting dichotomy. While people have more resources and tools at their disposal they are using them less effectively because their is no need for reflection or patience in understanding.

My friend, that I referred to earlier, and I were having a discussion on the best way to create a certain object and the tools and techniques that could be used to do it correctly. I made a statement along the lines of my not possessing an artistic talent.

His response threw me off a little and I have since been able to use it to further my skills in a host of areas. His response was basically that I of course wasn't an artist. I had never created any art. How can you be an artist if you've never spent any time becoming one?

I quickly replied that I had tried drawing and had never turned out anything I was satisfied with. He answered again, how could I expect to if I was looking for success the first time I tried?

Art is education. Art is having the right tools. Art, of course, is also having the ability to conceptualize a process, but ultimately it is just that, a process. A process can be learned. A process can be taught, refined and applied with increasing familiarity. It's called practice.

Maybe you've seen a finished piece of furniture that someone has created and thought, "I could never do that. I'm no carpenter." Of course you aren't. You've never educated yourself or practiced.

Our mental fight is with that of achievement. Sometimes achieving an end result shouldn't be the reason for taking on a project. Sometimes we should start something with the knowledge that we will be unhappy with the finished product accept that premise before we begin.

Do not limit yourself. Do not try to find those things you are good at and rely on your ability to do them. Instead, find what you are not good at. Educate yourself. Fail at achieving a desired result. Practice.

Self reliance by it's very definition is the idea of providing for yourself in a meaningful way. You are special and can do whatever you put your mind to. It's just not going to happen fast. It won't happen at all, however, if you live with a conviction that you don't have the talent.

Relieve yourself of limitations and create something grand. It's going to take a while, and that's ok.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Writing For Writing's Sake

In this world of emails, 140 character definitions and texting, it is hard to remember a time when people looked to writing something meaningful as a hobby.

When is the last time you hand wrote a letter? And you wonder why the postal service is in dire straights.

Writing can be an enjoyable and freeing experience as well as a wonderful tool to organize your thoughts and ideas. I write this blog, for instance, to achieve a number of goals. The first is, I enjoy writing. I also enjoy being read. I get satisfaction out of the idea that I can create a concept in words that has the potential to educate or entertain people around the world.

Writing can be a marvelous tool for the self reliant life. Here are just a few examples of how.


Organize Your Thoughts

Anyone can talk about intangibles, but writing makes you focus on the best way to communicate those ideas. As I write, I will sometimes realise that the point I am trying to make doesn't hold up to scrutiny. I can revisit my writing at anytime and see the progress I've made towards certain goals.

Hold Yourself Accountable

If you've never written anything to be read online, then you may be unaware that anonymous commenters have the wonderful power of pointing out your flawed concepts. If you can't argue it in a written form, then it probably shouldn't be argued.

Educate Others

Just because something is second nature to you doesn't mean that others have ever entertained the thought. Some of the biggest responses we get back on this blog are from articles that we considered too simplistic to post. The spreading of ideas in a format that can be referenced is what makes this form of communication so powerful.

Learn Something

I enjoy getting feedback on our projects as much as I do completing the projects in the first place. People are by and large insightful and helpful. By writing your process or opinions, you can generate interaction with others that goes beyond the scope of emoticons and banter.

Educate Yourself

One of the greatest benefits to writing is research. By trying to make an educated argument, you can inherently push yourself into self education. A good writer is first and foremost a good reader.

Take some time and write something. The simple process of finishing a written thought will lead you places you never knew you were headed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reusable Sandwich Bags

     He is another way to replace some of the plastic consumables we use each day.

     Last week as I was packing lunch for my 3 kids I did a quick count of how many baggies I was using everyday. 1 for the sandwich,  1 for crackers, 1 for carrots, 1 for a sweet treat, 1 for another salty treat for snack time. That's 15 bags a day! I decided to make some reusable sandwich bags and try to at least slow my use of plastics. I would recommend  using organic cotton seeing as fabric is not sold as a food safe product.        

Cut a rectangle pattern out of tissue paper that is 15" by 7".

Pin your pattern to you fabric and cut two pieces the same size.

Pin the two pieces with right sides (the side with the print) together.

Sew along the cut edge. Leaving a three inch hole. A straight stitch is sufficient.

Cut the tips off the corners.

Turn it in on it's self.

Iron Flat.

Fold the bottom up leaving 4 inches on the top.

Then fold the top to the line of the bottom.

Sew down either side as close to the edge as you can.

Cut strings add an decoration you would like a button ribbon ect...

These bags can be thrown in the washing machine and reused for much longer than you would get out of 100 sandwich bags.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Make Your Own Free Range Candles

Easter is just around the corner and spring crafting has begun. Here is a fun idea for some home made candles.

We used a couple different kinds of wax. Gulf Wax, old candles or just cheap candles from your local retailer work just fine.

Melt the wax in a hot water bath.

Pour the wax into the egg shell and place the wick. The wax will shrink as it hardens, so fill the egg and let it sit. When it's hard add more wax.

A very easy and fun craft that you can use or give as a gift. The process is pretty straight forward, but if you have any questions, let us know.

How To Make Candy Acorns

People love cute food. In that meme, here is another easy candy for your next party.


  • Mini Hershey's Kisses
  • Full Size Hershey's Kisses
  • Nutter Butter Bites

Melt some of the mini kisses. Use that chocolate to hold a full size kiss to a Nutter Butter. Use a little more and put a mini kiss on top. Nothing to it.

A Few Tips For Enjoying A Power Outage

Yesterday was what snow days are supposed to be. We woke up early to no power. Growing up in a small town close to Erie, PA a foot of snow is just getting started, to me. I felt like a kid again, except one thing. Instead of waking up to breakfast (usually in bed, my mom spoiled us) and cloths laid out to go sledding, I woke up to two little girls with bright anticipating eyes. They were hungry and ready to go play.

I was prepared. The news stations were on full alert, with a special name for the storm, Saturn (when did they start doing that by the way) and up to the minute play by play of when the first flake will fall. 

There are a few simple tricks I've learned that take little to no preparation as long as you have a way to stay warm. With the power out and the car buried in snow it can leave you with excitement, not fear or nervousness. 


The first thing I do is fill all the bowls I can find with snow. If you put them in your refrigerator it turns your fridge into a ice box and will keep your things cold as long as you have snow to add. That way you don't have to move your stuff outside or worry about the animals getting into it. If you are in a power outage without snow then a bag of ice will last at least 2 to 3 days. You can do the same with your freezer it will do a lot there to keep your frozen things frozen.

You can also melt snow in a large roaster on the wood stove to flush toilets with.

Coffee is not a luxury in our home, it is a necessity. We own a percolator but if you don't you can make coffee with a strainer and coffee filters. Just boil water, place yours strainer on a bowl,  line the strainer with coffee filters, add your grounds and slowly pour the boiling water over the ground coffee.  

If you have a wood stove then wood stove stew is a must. There is something about slow cooking a beef/venison stew over a fire that makes me feel like a frontier woman. 

The recipe is simple 1 & 1/2 lbs of Beef / Venison , 4 large potatoes, 1 large onion, 2 carrots, salt pepper and minced garlic. Add 4 cups of water and let it stew.

After a day filled with sled ridding, cards, coffee and good food. The power came on during a family game of Phase 10. I have to admit I was a little crestfallen. Needless to say I'm looking forward to our next snow day.