Thursday, April 3, 2014


I started hearing a lot about essential oils a couple months ago. These have been around for ages, but are becoming very popular in the natural circles. I've seen tutorials on YouTube as well as links to blogs on Pinterest. I wanted to talk a little about what I have learned so far, the uses I have found so far, and how to purchase essential oils. 

There are so many different kinds of essential oils, uses, and methods to use them. For a more complete guide I will include a link here that you can explore.

The oils that I use most commonly are lavender, frankincense, tea tree (melaleuca), lemon and sage. Also pictured above are orange, rosemary, wintergreen and peppermint. 

Lavender- If essential oils had a best seller, this would be it. It has so many uses, and its scent is universally known and pleasing to almost everyone. My favorite way to use lavender is to put a few drops on a cotton pad and put it inside of my heating pad. The scent will diffuse as I sleep. Lavender is known to be calming, to ease stress, and can be a healing agent. I wash my bed sheets with lavender and they smell fresh, but not excessively floral. I also dab it on scrapes and scratches that I get from my overstimulated cat. 

Frankincense- This famous ancient oil is my holy grail. Like lavender it has calming and healing properties. It is also useful for spiritual and mental clarity. But I use this as my daily moisturizer. Frankincense is great for your skin. I combine two drops of this with a small amount of coconut oil and use on my face before bed. 
Using a carrier oil with an essential oil is the best way to apply it topically. I love using my regular virgin coconut oil, but you can also use grape seed, olive, argan oil or any pure whole oils. 

Tea Tree or Melaleuca oil is also wonderful for your skin. It is a natural antiseptic. I have already been using this for several months as a toner and spot control. This is my weapon against break outs. As soon as I see my skin flare up, I use this and the oil cleans out that blemish. The safest way to use this, because it is a strong oil, is to put a drop or two on a cotton pad and then saturate with water. I then swipe it over my face. Now that I have built up quite a tolerance for this, I sometimes put a drop on my finger and apply it straight onto the afflicted area. For general use of all oils, it is recommended to dilute them with water or a carrier oil, and to not use directly. 

Lemon- This oil is my weapon against grease and grime. My favorite kitchen scent is lemon. I use a lot of lemon and lime in my cooking, and I will usually save the peels for a couple days to let the scent linger. I use this when washing my dishes. I add a few drops to a water/vinegar solution and use as an all-purpose cleaner. You can even use this is your laundry. Lemon is photosensitive so you can use it to lighten your hair, or even whiten your white laundry. Simply use a few drops of lemon in a cup of water, apply and gradually expose to sunlight. 

Sage- This is one of my favorite scents. It is soothing, cleansing and refreshing. My favorite candle from Yankee is a sage and orange blend. Well, imagine my delight when I find both sage and orange oil and combine them in my candle warmer. Sage has been used as a cleansing scent in Asia for longer than I care to look up. Saging, burning a sage bundle, has even gained some popularity in Western culture. The scent is cleansing, earthy and subtle, and it blends perfectly with a citrus oil like lemon or orange for a little boost.  

There are several companies that sell essential oils. The two most popular that I know of, are DoTerra and Young Living. Both sell single oils as well as blends. However I go to a local natural foods store in my neighborhood where they sell the NOW brand. There is some debate between companies about purity and grading. But so far I haven't found any certified grading system. All three companies I mentioned call their oils "Therapeutic Grade." I've decided to stay out of that debate, and opt to get my oils from a local small business for a reasonable price. 

If you are interested in purchasing oils through DoTerra, my friend Liz just became an independent consultant. Otherwise you can find essential oils online, at a natural food/vitamin stores, and even Whole Foods.  

To learn more about essential oils check out Oils with Miss Jess on YouTube and check out my links on Pinterest

Let me know in the comments below if you use essential oils and what your "Holy Grail" oil is. 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goodbye My Friend: HIMYM

Well, last night was the end of an era as HIMYM puttered to it's final end.

I'm a little disappointed, but not surprised. This season had a hard task of tying up every loose end as well as seamlessly weaving the mother into the foreground. And there were some great moments throughout this season and in last nights episode. But I'd be remiss if I said I was happy about everything. But of course when you have a show like this with such a huge fan base, that's always going to be the case.

I have always shipped Robin and Barney. I thought that they were great together. And yeah, I kinda had the lurking feeling in the pit of my stomach that they weren't really going to last, but still. I believed.

But I guess that brings me to the most important thing, that this show has been the last haven for die hard romantics like me. In an age of hookups, cynicism, where sex and relationships have been debunked and demystified for the whole world, this show had a main character that believed in true love and believed in it's goodness. Let me tell you, that is rare.

I loved HIMYM because of the core friendships. I started watching in college with a group of friends, and it reminded me of those days when someone was always there. Now many of my own friends have gone the way of Ted's. They're married, having kids, moved to different spots around the globe... and I'm here and I still believe in true love.

I suppose everyone can relate in a similar way and that's the charm. We could all inhabit Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin or Barney (hopefully not Barney) and replay the events of our lives through their lens. The most meaningful moments for me came when Ted was the most honest with himself. He believed that she was out there.

I have hit more bumps along the way than I care to count. Not as many as Ted, but still. Sometimes it's easier not to believe that somewhere out this is the perfect person for you. That's a lot to ask. But this show was the thing that gave me that little burst of hope, that maybe just maybe he's out there with his yellow umbrella.

I'm not totally satisfied with the ending, but I'm going to miss the show, the friends, the jokes, and the last port of refuge for die hard romantics.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Letting Go

I have a confession to make. I love Frozen.

I know this must come as a drastic shock to all of you, but it's true.

I've posted a lot of Frozen related articles and pins. Honestly, it makes me happy. It's given me a little piece of joy over this harsh winter. I was surprised as anyone that I liked this movie as much as I did. When I saw the trailer, during a screening of Thor, I was less than impressed. But then I started seeing people post videos of this song called Let It Go. Well.. after that I needed very little persuading.

I even find some comfort in the irony, that in the worst winter I have yet to experience, the number one movie is called 'Frozen'. Unmistakably, I can relate to characters who have to live through an enchanted eternal winter.

But of course there's more to it than that. I miss my family, my sister especially. Besides that, earlier this winter I was reminded of how hard distance can be on relationships. When I was able to visit Houston, Lydia and I went to a late showing of Frozen and sang along to the soundtrack over the entire week. My bond with my sister is so important, so the message of Frozen resonates deeply with me. Frozen's moral message is that true love is more than just romantic, and true love  requires sacrifice and forgiveness. The first place you learn that love is with your family.

Let It Go has become my anthem.
In the worst most relentless winter of my life; come at me bro. The cold never bothered me anyway motherfucker! 
Another guy is too much of a coward to take a chance on relationship with me.
Let it Go!
I'm alone in my life, I'll learn to embrace it. I'll even cherish and enjoy it. Other people have husbands and children. I have nothing to tie me down or to wake me up in the middle of the night (except a cat)
Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free! 
Life wants to throw challenges my way, I'll take them on just like I have before. You'll never see me cry!

Elsa, Frozen, Let it Go, has lent me some kind of strength. Maybe just momentary, maybe just enough to help pick myself up out of that puddle of slushy melted snow and get somewhere warm and dry. Or maybe more, maybe enough live boldly, be proud of where I am and what I have accomplished, and to believe that I am enough. That there's nothing actually wrong with me.

I've been there with Elsa, afraid to be who I really am. Afraid if people really knew me that I wouldn't be loved. And I've been there with Anna, falling for the first guy to pay attention to me. So to come away from that and somehow feel full and satisfied with this moment of my life is important. That's what Frozen means to me.

Well now winter is over, the ice is thawing, and slowly but sure Chicago and the rest of the country is creeping out of hibernation and looking for the first signs of spring. We have a lot to look forward to and a lot to live for. I'm excited to step into spring defrosted and unburdened.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Currently Spring

Current Season: We're still not sure. Technically it's spring, but as we all know Spring in the mid-west is highly subjective. But it's not winter! The worst of it is over, but winter just a lot of its crap behind. Winter is like that ex-boyfriend or old roommate, who you have to keep reminding to come get there stuff out of your place.

Recent Purchases: Essential Oils and a Neti Pot. My Neti Pot purchase has been long overdue. I meant to get one of these YEARS AGO! Well, It finally went down. I went to my local natural foods store and got one. My nose has been extremely dry this winter. Not to go into the gory details, but it hasn't been pretty. Everything feels amazing and clear after I use it. The best time I've found is to use the neti pot right before bed or first thing in the morning. I've also been exploring more with essential oils. I got some rosemary for decongestion, and wintergreen for deep muscle relief. I plan on doing a post just for essential oils very soon.

Current Obsession: FROZEN! If it isn't obvious enough, I really love Frozen. I went to Target before work on Tuesday to pick up my copy.

Biking Adventures: Well, I took Rogue 3 to the bike shop this week for an estimate. Poor thing, she needs some work. After this winter and her recent fall off of a bus, I'm going to have to get the rear wheel replaced, and a few other parts need upgrades as well. In the mean time I've gotten Rogue 2 out, but she's also going to need a tune up at the very least, probably even a new chain. 

What I'm Watching: I've been on a Disney streak. Of course I've watched Frozen about four times this week. I apologize to no one! But I've also watched Tangled and episodes of Once Upon a Time and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. I'm maybe the only holdout that I know of who thinks OUATIW could actually turn out ok. It's been wavering on the chopping block for a while, and it'll be a miracle if this show gets renewed. But I somehow have faith that it might be worth the wait. I think the show is starting to get interesting.
As for it's predecessor Once Upon a Time, I'm thrown for a loop by the whole "Wicked Witch of the West" thing. But I'm willing to roll with it. What I really love about this show is that it reimagines fairy tales. It doesn't just retell them, it recreates them and I really enjoy seeing that creativity come to life.

Current Outfits: My jeans still don't fit. I would be sad about that, but it's still cold and I can't see wearing jeans until the weather milds out more. But I have broken out this little beauty. I've had this cloak for a few years. I found it at a thrift store (of course) and it was something I just had to have. It's been sitting in my closet for the longest time, but I decided to break it out one day when it was in the mid-thirties and I had to walk somewhere. Pieces like this are more popular in Europe (Great Britain and Scandinavia.) It wouldn't be practical for bike riding or longer travels, but it's great for throwing on and going for a walk. And yes, it also reminds me of Frozen.

Current Favorite: I don't think I have ever publicly expressed my love for Flamin Hot Cheetos with Lime. These have been my favorite chips since high school, they are hot and addictive. I will shamelessly eat them until I cry.

Current Spring Cleaning/Home Improvement: I've started the spring cleaning process. Last weekend I went through my closet, did some reorganizing and took stock of what I was wearing and what I had forgotten about. This weekend was all about bedding. The linty, cat hair laden flannel sheets came off, and the comforter, blanket and duvet all got washed. The white cotton sheets went on, along with an extra flannel top sheet. I love white bedding, despite it's tendency to stain and get dingy, it's so easy to color coordinate with. But now my room looks like a fairy came in a sprinkled it with unicorn tears and moonlight.

I'm planning the next phase of my room makeover. I need more storage options for shoes, socks, linens, and extra hair care items. I'm looking into buying a cube shelf with cloth boxes.

Church Updates: I went to a Wednesday night Lenten service this week, and was reminded of why I find Lent so dreary and stoic. It's not that I don't appreciate Lent or don't find beauty or meaning in it, but Lenten services just tend to be long... and painful. This week, after a particularly long day of work and service, I sat there listening to the ending music. I was trying to focus and ask God to reveal himself, focus and center me. Right then, the musician played a note that was so glaringly off pitch I couldn't help but smile. I heard God say, I got you to smile! Yeah, he got me to smile.

Current Adventures in Cat Ownership: Lana caught a mouse today! This morning as I was getting ready for work, I noticed her scurrying around with something in her mouth that looked like a huge cockroach. It was in fact a mouse. I was really pleased with her at first, until she put the mouse down and started playing with it. Eventually it got away and hid under something. I came back from working hopping that I wouldn't have to go on a body hunt, or worse find a dead mouse in my bed. Instead, it was on the floor outside my bedroom. Svetlana the mouser earned herself a can of wet food and some primo cuddle time.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Skin and Beauty Update

I've been doing a couple new things in my skin care routine that I'm very happy with.

Body: I've talked about dry brushing before, but now I've found the magic combination.
Obviously skin is much more prone to dryness in winter. So while I let the shower warm up, I use my dry brush all over my body. Once I'm in the shower I use these exfoliating gloves I got from Walgreens. They are amazing. They build a great lather and I can wash myself in half the time. When using an ordinary loofah you can only use one hand. But having gloves on both hands cuts the time in half. Furthermore I get so much cleaner. I see way more dirt in the drain water after I do the dry brush/glove combo.

Afterwards I moisturize with coconut oil, shea butter or a Body Shop body butter

Face: Being on a my bike means that my face is exposed to a lot of environmental impurities. I try to do a deep clean every couple of days. One of the hot products on the market for skin care right now is the Clarisonic face brush. Now I don't have one of these even though I would love one. The fact is they are on the pricey side, and even the refill brush heads are a little expensive for me. But I have found the next best alternative and that is this natural fiber facial scrub pad that you can find at any drug store. This one is from CVS. It feels weird and uncomfortable at first to scrub your face, but now I have built up a tolerance for it, I can use it very comfortably. To get the best results I take it into the shower and wash my face in warm water,  then with cold. After I get out of the shower I might do a face mask. I sometimes pick up a clay mask from the drug store, other wise I will use greek yogurt and honey.

I've been using tea tree oil for a few months now. It's a great anti-bacterial toner that I can keep right in my medicine cabinet. You can make your own toner very simply with witch hazel, tea tree, lemon juice and a bit of water. You can also simply dilute a drop of tea tree on a water saturated cotton pad. I will also put a drop of tea tree on my face scrubber to keep mold and bacteria at bay as it dries.

After hearing more about Essential Oils, I decided to try a few others. I heard great things about using Frankincense and lavender on your skin. You simply combine a drop or two of frankincense with your moisturizer. At night I like to use either coconut oil or a facial oil like this one from Josie Maran. The combination goes on effortlessly. The best part is that I wake up to skin that looks hydrated and glowy.

Hair: When I got my hair cut last month, I impulsively bought this detangling brush. I've seen this product around and really wanted to try it. I love the color (obviously) and I also love the shape of this brush. It's also easy to travel with and it's is gentle, the only real dislike I have of it is that it does not brush through all of my hair. My hair is on the thick side, so using this brush is a multi-layer job.

Another way I have been using coconut oil is as a hair mask. I will massage the oil into my hair from my ears down. I'll either leave it in for a few hours or overnight and then shampoo it out. When I do this I seldom need to use conditioner.  I've also been adding tea tree oil to my shampoo. Tea tree reduces dandruff and flaking, and gives a nice tingling feeling your scalp
Finally, I've been using a couple items from my Birchbox collection. I mentioned these products in a previous blog, they are the Beauty Protector Hair Oil and Leave in Conditioner. Both leave my hair with a light and fluffy texture, something that I look for with my thick and heavy hair.

Over this past year I've spent a lot of time revising my skin care routine. I've seen major improvements in the tone and texture of my skin. I'm passionate about sharing what I have learned. You can have great skin care without having to purchase somebody else's system. You can create your own system based on your skins needs and replace un-nessescary ingredients with a few simple items.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lana Update

Taxonomic Nomenclature: Felis Catus
Full Name: Lady Svetlana Jackson of Pemberly Place
Goes by: Lana or Princess
Favorite Pastimes include: Rug wresting, paper bag exploration, sitting in open dresser drawers, trying to escape through the front door, sitting on my dirty clothes, napping on a heating pad and following me into the bathroom.
Pet Peeves: Fur brushing, claw clipping, slow dancing, PDA, and general touchy-feelyness
When she is in a good mood she'll let me pick her up and hold her for a minute, I always give her a treat afterward.

Our Morning Routine: Lana typically sleeps at the end of my bed, and she'll wait for me to wake up. Either she'll stand next to my face, or sit on the floor immobilized until I get up. Then she directs me into the bathroom. Then we go to the kitchen to make breakfast, I refill her water bowl, and she'll decided that the best way to help is to lay down in the middle of the kitchen floor with her belly up like a beached whale. After I trip over her a couple times, she decides to move to the foyer to battle her nemesis the front door mat. After a few rounds of rug wrestling she'll lay on the mat in victory over her opponent. By the time I get ready to head out the door for work, she is perched on her carpet tower ruling benevolently over her subjects.

Our Evening Routine: When I get home Lana greets me at the back door. I usually always use the back door and my roomie uses the front. We have to be careful because Lana will try to bolt through the front door onto the landing. She's never successfully made it down the stairs, but she is determined to see what the whole deal is. I then make dinner, Lana will hang out with me. If I have gone shopping she usually likes to explore the bags. Sometimes I bring her home a box from Aldi or Gene's

Lana likes to play early in the morning or in the late evening. She has a basket of toys, but sometimes I'll just wave stuff at her just to be annoying. Lana also like open suitcases, and enjoys it when you thrown in the odd toy. She also enjoys the game, running away from the invisible thing
In years past, I've had the occasional mouse come through my apartment. I'm a bit surprised that I haven't had any this year, considering how bad this winter is. But I'm confident that Lana would be an excellent mouser were she given the opportunity.
The one area where Lana and I disagree, is in the cuddling department. She's not very interested in large amounts of outward affection. But she will sit with me in bed and purr. I sometimes get a little miffed when she decides to nap on the couch instead of with me.

Now that I've had Lana I can't imagine life without her. I have noticed that my anxiousness has dramatically decreased since she came to live with me. Since then people have told me about studies showing that cat owners have lower blood pressure rates. I love being at home more because I feel so  relaxed and at ease.

So here's to my pretty kitty and all her crazy antics. She makes life so much better.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Birchbox Review

My first Birchbox came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I'm so glad I finally bit, and signed up for this subscription. It's a great way to try new products without committing to a full sized bottle. 

My first box contained three assorted teas from Ahmad Tea London, a Juicy Couture La La Malibu sample perfume, a full sized Cynthia Rowley eye liner, a tiny vial of Beauty Protector Protect & Oil, and a travel sized bar of AYRES soap. 
So far I have tried three of the products. I'm not very skilled with eyeliner, so I seldom use it. But I love that this is a full sized product with a long fine tip. That makes it much easier to practice with. The Juicy Couture perfume is a sporty citrusy scent. It's not my every day choice, but perfect for the weekend. I also tried the hair oil last night after my shower. This feels amazing and has a silky silicone texture. It doesn't feel like an oil at all. Nor does it act like one. I usually avoid using oils in my hair after a washing, in the past they have left my hair very stringy. 

I got a nice surprise when I found this at my door step yesterday. I had already stopped by the health food store to purchase a Neti Pot and a couple essential oils. Inside my box  I found a Harvey Prince Cherie Blossom perfume sample, a tin of Tea Forte Tea Mints. Hidden in there somewhere is a COOLA Tinted Matte BB Cream, a travel sized Beauty Protector leave in conditioner, a Gilchrist & Soames Body Lotion, and one Ghirardelli chocolate. 

That chocolate came just at the right moment. I love the Harvey Prince perfume. It smells like deep, dark, sweet cherries, with a little bit of floral and musk. I wore it to work and enjoyed the scent all day long. I put the tea mints in my purse and popped one after my morning coffee. I used the leave in condition with the hair oil last night after my shower. I was pleased to wake up with my hair dry and light as a feather. It did not feel weighed down or heavy at all. 

Birchbox has proved to be a pleasant surprise. I love trying new brands and collecting perfume samples. The subscription is $10 a month and you get so much for that. I know that I spend way more than $10 on any trip to Walgreens, Ulta or Sephora. I'll continue to post what I get each month and review products that I like. 

Have you tried Birchbox? What products have you loved or hated? 

Thanks for Reading,