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Mar 242010
 

easter-egg-dyeing_242x158 Long before there was Easter, the egg was regarded as a symbol of new life and the advent of spring.  The decoration of eggs became an art form centuries ago and continues today as a delightful craft and enjoyable children’s activity as a precursor to the “hunt” for eggs and candy, enjoyed by children around the world.  Some of the historical techniques for coloring or decorating eggs include:

Etching:  This technique can be traced back to Macedonia and involves first dying the egg, applying a layer of wax in design, then bleaching off the color leaving only the wax-covered areas with color.
Krashanky:  This is one of the traditions coming out of the Ukraine and the word means ‘color’.  Krashanky eggs are dyed a solid, brilliant color, often red to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
Eggs_Pysanky2_248x225 Pysanky:  If you have never seen a Pysanky egg, you are missing a beautiful artistic craft.  I was gifted one at the World’s Fair in 1972 by one of our participants and it graced the windowsill in my kitchen for many years before it eventually cracked and had to be thrown away.  The term Pysanky means to write.  Intricate designs are drawn in wax on the eggs, a process similar to batik.  The eggs are then dyed many colors.  There are many regional designs and color selections around the various regions of the Ukraine.
Egg_Original_Faberge Eggs Gold_207x238 Fabergé:  Undoubtedly the most famous and expensive decorated eggs known are those created by the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé in the 1800’s.  Made of gold, silver and jewels and opening up to reveal tiny figures of people, animals, plants or buildings, a total of 57 eggs were made.  They are now artifacts in museums across the world. The picture at left is the very first one made.  A glimpse into a stunning Fabergé exhibit in 2001 can be viewed here.

Binsegraas:  This Pennsylvania Dutch tradition is not widely practiced today, but involved wrapping the pith of binsegraas (a type of rush) in coils glued to eggs.  Then interesting shapes of calico cloth were pasted on the egg.  The Polish people have a similar tradition, using yarn formed into elaborate coils.

There are other forms of egg decorating that include gluing sequins, beads, flowers and bits of decoration onto blown eggs.  Blown eggs are also used for a cut-out diorama of a little scene viewed through the cut-out section.  In pioneer days, eggs were wrapped in calico or madras cloth, then boiled so the water released the dyes into the shells.  Since most fabric is colorfast, you will rarely see this today.

My favorite activity around the approach of Easter is to gather natural materials and ingredients to make colored Easter eggs with leaf and flower imprints.  This is a favorite tradition started when my girls were little and now carried on with the grandchildren.

Here are materials to gather to make the natural dye, arranged by color they will produce in final dyed egg:
Brown and tan:  Outer layers of onions, black/green tea, coffee, black walnut hulls
Yellow:  Tumeric, cumin, saffron, lemon rinds
Orange:  Paprika, chili powder, carrots
Red:  Fresh cranberries, cherries, raspberries, Spanish onion skins
Purple and blue: Blueberries, boiled red cabbage leaves, beets
Green: Spinach
Grey or slightly lavender:  Hibiscus flowers

Combine the dye source with 1 Tablespoon vinegar and cold water in a saucepan.  There are two different methods.  You can boil the eggs and dyes separately, strain the dye and add hard-boiled eggs in the shell to the hot liquid and let it soak until it reaches the desired hue.  Or, you can wrap uncooked eggs and cook them in the dye as they are being colored.  With the former method, if the eggs need to soak for more than 2 hours to reach the desired deepness of color, you may want to move them to the refrigerator if you will be eating them. Generally, however, natural dyes are going to create more earth-like subdued colors.

Here are the things you want to have on hand:
Botanicals2_298x230 Fresh herb, plant and flower cuttings.  The smaller the better, however, wrapping a large fern that covers an entire egg is a stunning design when finished.  Thinner, flat items are easiest to secure tightly.  Use your imagination. Dandelion flowers will impart a bright yellow splotch in the finished egg, adding a whimsical touch.  Other fresh botanicals will add a bit of their own color, along with imprinted texture and form.  It’s fun to let the process itself randomly influence the outcome.  Children love to do this; it’s biochemistry and art all in one . . . plus you get beautiful eggs to add Eggs_Natural1_238x235jpgto the Easter hunt or to share.
Pantyhose or cheesecloth, cut in squares that can be tied with wire or rubber bands to snugly keep plant material in place.  If re-using nylon squares or cheesecloth, be sure to rinse between eggs.  You’ll want a slotted spoon to turn and remove the eggs while they are in the dye bath, and you’ll want a couple of brown paper bags cut and laid flat to place eggs on to dry.

Here are some tips:  Older eggs work best, buy them at least a week before boiling as newer eggs are hard to peel.  I think white eggs take the natural dyes better, plus you can create additional designs with wax to add bright white to the creation before putting on leaves and flowers. Shine up Eggs_botanical_Easter1_209x253 finished eggs when they are dry with a little olive oil rubbed in.  Eat those eggs!  Don’t waste them – make deviled eggs, egg salad or use in a salad.  Be sure to keep them refrigerated if you will be eating them.  Most of all, have fun, and encourage your children to experiment; you’ll learn new ideas from them.  If you do this project this year, send useaster_eggs_onion_skin_201x208 pictures of your creations attached as a .jpg in an email: samara@wingedseed.com, including your current mailing  address and we’ll send an aromatic surprise back.

Happy Easter and Spring!

 Posted by at 7:02 pm
Mar 042010
 

skin_micro_180 In Leonardo’s time, scientists of his caliber rarely considered the skin to be anything more than a decorative covering, necessitating removal to study the more fascinating parts underneath.  Today, most of us know that our skin is our largest organ and serves as armor to protect all those precious inner parts.  Learn together with skinhelpers.com, on how to maintain your skin properly. To the naked eye, the skin doesn’t appear to be complex or interesting, and before the invention of the microscope in the 17th century we really didn’t understand how it works.

Now, we can see how intricate the skin actually is, along with the vital role it plays.  The epidermis (outer layer of skin) continually produces new cells to renew itself, while shedding outer cells as they die off and shed.  You might not know that much of the dust in a room is actually tiny fragments of human skin.  As much as thirty to forty thousand skin cells fall unseen from your body every minute. continually replaced by vibrant new cells rising to the surface. We might call this renewal system your “skinecosystem”.  Hah. Say that 10 times real fast.

The skin is also the body’s heaviest organ, weighing from 9 to 15 pounds in a healthy adult, usually around one-twelfth of your total body weight.  It’s primary function is to protect all those well-functioning inner parts from damage or harm (click this source for more information).  Looking more closely through our microscope, you will see a subcutaneous fat layer just under the outer skin (dermis) that works like padding in a quilt to keep your body warm and absorb knocks and bumps.  The skin is so tough because skin cells contain the protein keratin, more prevalent in fingernails and toenails and less prevalent in softer skin such as that under arms.  Microscopically, you can also see those dead, flattened cells that interlock and overlap tightly packing together, making skin an excellent germ barrier. Your skin produces natural oils and waxes from the tiny sebaceous glands that keep the skin flexible and supple.  These waxes also contain the body’s own germ-killing chemicals, acting as disinfectants against harmful microscopic organisms.  Another important function of the skin is the production of Vitamin D when exposed to sunshine, a very important nutrient for a healthy immune system. It is also your body’s radiator, producing perspiration over the skin surface when necessary to cool you when your body overheats.  Overall, the skin is a pretty important organ and well worth taking care of, especially if you are planning some serious skincare treatments. Botox injections are very popular nowadays, so it is really important to know what are the ingredients in botox.

Skin Permeability:

The epidermis’ outermost layer is called the stratum corneum, and is important for allergy and sensitivity.  The SC is comprised of a network of cells on the surface that provides immediate protection from the outside world and helps restrict loss of water.  This outermost layer requires lipids (fats) to form a healthy cutaneous barrier.  Combined with the dying cells that compact and form a sort of “cement”, healthy skin does a good job of providing a sturdy barrier.  However, when there is disruption in the number and compactness of the intercellular lipids, the skin barrier can become more permeable. This disruption can explain how some toxins might seep through SC cells, enter the tiny blood vessels in the dermis and subcutaneous fatty tissue and possibly spark an antibody-mediated reaction.  This explains why some people do not suffer with allergic contact dermatitis when exposed to poisonous plants. Their skin barrier is intact and able to effectively protect the body from the toxin.  Atopic dermatitis can also be sparked by numerous allergens, inhaled, ingested and contacted substances.  Some foods (especially eggs) or inhalants (dust mites and cat dander) have been established as being the most common allergens.

Causes of Skin Barrier Damage:

Essential fatty Acid Deficiency:

Usually most Americans have adequate supplies of cholesterol or ceramides for the skin, both from dietary sources and internal metabolism, but they may not get enough polyunsaturated fatty acids (essential fatty acids, EFAs) that are only available through diet. The skin barrier requires an abundance of omega-6 essential fatty acids and daily natural products to protect the skin, we recommend the microdermabrasion kits which contain these ingredients.

There are two primary types of omega-6 EFAs, linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, both of which are only found in foods. Linoleic acid is found in the oils of safflower, sunflower, corn, soy, and sesame. An enzyme is responsible for converting linoleic acid into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that is needed to complete the skin surface lipid structure. GLA is found naturally in evening primrose oil, black currant oil, and borage oil.

Changes in Humidity:

rain_200 Exposure to humidity changes seems to cause an increase turnover rate of skin cells, which exhausts the oils in the skin barrier and exacerbates inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Dehydration:

Many of us know that we need to drink lots of water.  You may not know, however, how important it is for healthy skin. The surface skin is thicker than the interior tissues of the body. Circulation comes to the base of the skin, and the water has to seep upwards through all the strata of the skin to reach the outer layer. The exposed surface of the skin is also constantly losing water due to environmental factors such as sun, wind, and chemicals, to name a few. When the body itself is dehydrated, circulation to the base of the outer skin may be shut down as an emergency measure so that water is not lost through evaporation from the skin’s surface. Chronic dehydration shows in the face with wrinkles, lines and furrows. It’s best to drink filtered water. There are many quality filtration systems on the market. Touch Up Laser is an effective procedure to get rid of many other unwanted  conditions.

Ultraviolet Radiation:

sunshine_220 We know that both types of UV rays, UVA and UVB, can lead to skin cancer and eye problems if left unprotected from the harsh radiation. What most people don’t realize is that UV radiation also increases skin permeability and can be a significant factor in sensitization. Studies have shown that skin lipid synthesis significantly declines 72 hours after UVB exposure but recovered after 96 hours, suggesting that UVB-induced barrier damage may not be permanent.  Wait a minute, you may say, you just told me that the skin needed sunshine to produce vitamin D, important for the immune system.  How many of you have a tendency to overdo when you do get out in the sun?  This is where the most damage occurs.  It is a fact that rates of skin cancer are typically higher in areas of the body that are generally kept covered and only exposed during sun bathing.  Regular, consistent, small amounts of exposure to the sun (without burning) has a protective effect on the skin, increases vitamin D, can improve mood, help with depression and myriad other benefits.  Rule of thumb is that a very fair-skinned person with northern heritage should only get 10-15 minutes of sun exposure over the majority of the body during peak hours.  Someone with darker skin and a heritage that originated closer to the equator should be able to get longer exposure without doing more harm than good.  So, moderate sun exposure can actually help reduce the potential for cancer risk.  It is difficult to get all the necessary vitamin D from dietary sources. So make sure you get moderate sun and avoid over-exposure, especially during peak sunshine hours.

We’ll cover more about  skin and its care in future blogs, as we are going to attend a skin clinic to be able to provide you with more information.

IN THE SAMARA SPA

You’ll find about forty-five natural Samara Botane formulated skincare products, including our Healthy Skin Hydrosol, Facial Massage Oil, several Herbal Steams, unscented and wonderfully scented lotions in single notes and blends, our fabulous Rosewater Crème and Rose Luxurious Lip Balm (made with real rose otto and absolute).  Just click here.  Superior cleansing with our carefully crafted handmade soaps (bars and liquid) can be found here.

 Posted by at 7:45 pm
Mar 032010
 

I’ve blogged before about this great organization, spearheaded by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger and now joined by the dedicated Geraldine Zelinsky.  I’ve known both of these remarkable ladies for over 15 years now.  How time flies when you’re working hard and having fun.

Flag_SBProds_2010_280 For those of you who aren’t familiar with UAE, here is their mission, “The United Aromatherapy Effort, (UAE) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Charitable organization born out of the September 11th tragedy. The mission of UAE is to provide stress relief and aromatherapy to relief workers, and troops during emergency work and afterwards. We collect and disseminate donated aromatherapy products to those affected by disaster or war  in conjunction with chair massage and other natural therapies. Historically we have responded to the World Trade Center Disaster, NY (2001), Florida Hurricanes (2004), the Gulf Coast affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005-6), and in 2007-8 the California wildfires and the Gulf Coast Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Recently in 2009 we shifted our focus to the Military, both abroad and at home and are now supplying 4 Soldiers on the Ground (Afghanistan and Korea) with donated aromatherapy supplies they then disseminate to other soldiers.”

Since the beginning, Samara Botane has been happy to be donating diffusers, essential oils and aromatherapy products to bring stress relief,  help with minor skin problems and aromatic uplifting to those brave persons who serve so valiantly in times of emergency and disaster through this heartfelt organization.  Starting last year, UAE began working with troops in the field in Afghanistan and N. Korea.  A lovely thank you from troops outside Kabul at Camp Phoenix was the flying of the American flag on the base in honor of UAE last December 21. The flag was carefully removed, folded and sent to Sylla along with a letter from Brigadier General, Lawrence E. Dudney, Jr. expressing the gratitude of the troops.  The flag has now been travelling across the country from company to company while we all take pictures of it in our shops and warehouses.  Ultimately, Sylla and Geraldine will make a collage of the photos to send back to Brigadier General Dudney, Jr. to share with the troops. 

Mar_Rob_Flag_2010_325 As we did this, from opening the package with the flag to carefully replacing it securely to ship on to the next UAE company supporter, it has been an emotional time. We feel pride well up in our throats, as well as apprehension for the safety of our troops in our hearts.  We hope that we are doing some small thing for those who do so much, and it’s nice to know their appreciation.  We certainly appreciate them.

Rob and I took these casual pictures on the fly over the weekend, while squeezing a short break from taking inventory working with a temporary professional crew. I wanted to have our great staff in the pictures, but the timing didn’t work out and they weren’t here.  We are in our ‘blending room’ where staff fills thousands of those little bottles of essential oils and I work to formulate new blends for products when I’m not in the office on the computer or planting and tending the gardens.  The sign in the window is from our first store in Seattle, with the original Samara Botane logo and hand wrought copper samaras; a nice reminder, a glimpse of the evolution of our journey every time we look out that particular window.

I know these are tough economic times for many of our clients and customers.  UAE can always use money for postage and shipping, even in small amounts if you can spare it.  I’m sure they would appreciate hearing from you. 

 Posted by at 4:20 pm
Mar 012010
 

I’m tipping my hat to colleagues who joined me in blogging, tweeting, emailing and shouting “Stop” to the potential affects of this bad bill.  The bill failed in Committee today 7 to 4.  Some Colorado legislators reported they had received up to 700 emails regarding the bill.  I listened to streaming radio from the hearing and those on our side were far more aware of the facts than either the representative from Compact for Safe Cosmetics or some of their small business supporters and individuals who testified.  Although learned in his field and knowledgeable regarding environmental toxins and endocrinology, Dr. David Norris, PhD, Deptartment of Physiology, University of Colorado, was not well versed in cosmetics themselves nor skin absorption and allowable dilutions and was a weak proponent of the bill as a result.

I wasn’t able to listen to the hearing today early on, and missed the testimony of many of those on our side.  Many thanks to Cindy Jones, Jerrell and Elissa Klaver, and others for their testimony and taking valuable time away from other important aspects of their lives and businesses. 

Together, we made a difference and this bill was defeated in Committee today.

 Posted by at 7:30 pm