Monday, December 28, 2009

Scientists Sing

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cowboy Caviar

So, a friend on my Facebook list, Jen Walker Owen, said she had made this recipe and couldn't stop eating it. Well, I was inspired to make it as part of Christmas Eve dinner and, omigod, we couldn't stop eating it! The recipe was submitted by someone called Janae55 on the "SparkRecipes" website. I added cumin because I saw a variation somewhere else and thought it sounded really good. But that's the only change I made.

Cowboy Caviar

2 (15oz) cans black beans, rinsed
1 (17 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large avocado, diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3-4 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

Directions
                      
1.  Combine all ingredients in bowl.
2.  Cover and chill.
3. Garnish with avocado slices or cilantro sprigs.
4. Serve with tortilla chips

Number of Servings: 24

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Story Behind Our Most Popular Pendant (So Far)


Stuck way out in the desert sometimes we used to lack for artistic inspiration. Nothing but Juniper trees, dried out desert grass, and only the occasional tiny cactus or Yucca. I started taking macro photographs (extreme close-ups) of these things. Why not? What else was I going to do? I talk about this in several previous blogs (see below) and came up with some pretty interesting stuff.

But then I started improvising with that: putting the images into Photoshop, tweaking with the color balance, adding filters, transferring that image in Corel Painter to add realistic brush strokes, that kind of thing. I came up with several Yucca "paintings" I liked very much. Really cool abstracts in pretty pastels. Then Paul said "Let me show you how to adjust something or another (I forgot what) on that" and reached over and hit the wrong key on my computer by mistake. The colors inverted and we both went "WOW!" That was our favorite one and now it and close-up details of that design are our most popular designs.

If they are not currently sold out you might be able to find them in our brand new Etsy shop. You can find Macro Grass (see links below) pendants as well.




The Importance of a Change in Perspective
Macro Grass
More Macro Grass
Abstract Yucca

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Spiritual Purpose of Hair

I found this interesting. I stopped doing anything to cover the grey in my hair out in the desert -- gone "native" if you knew what people look like here. But it's disturbing to me to see myself in the mirror. We're so conditioned to fit in, to match the prevailing cultural point of view. Outer oriented instead of inward as the Sikh teacher in this video says so well.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gregory the Black Cat -- Original Art Glass Tile Pendant



Our old housemate Gregory is now immortalized in glass! Pendant sales are going pretty well again in these last online shopping days til Christmas. I just put several more up. You can find them all in our new Etsy shop.


Round Fine Art Glass Tile Pendants








We tried our hand at round pendants this time. I like how these photos by my partner Paul came out especially. You can see the whole collection at our brand new Etsy shop.

New Art Pendants Selling Now!



We have new pendants up in our Etsy shop. And there's still time to get one for Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Make a Fine Art Glass Tile Pendant -- The Hard Way


First, you and your art-making partner must be extreme perfectionists. This makes it really fun. Then you decide that your fine art glass pendants will be really high quality... because you're perfectionists, how else would you want them to be?

So... first off you decide that printing on Ultra Premium Matte Paper is not good enough. Your prints will be on Professional Glossy Photo Paper. Oh yeah. Unfortunately, the supplies recommended for making these Art Glass Tiles do not work well with glossy photo stock. Your glass tiles slide off the page over and over until you ruin several sheets of paper and give up.

The next time you try this process you remember this issue but decide that YOU must be the problem, not the process. You try again, deciding to work REALLY slowly and carefully this time. And you will only take the chance of ruining one. Lo and behold you appear to succeed! Hoorah! You walk away and let that one dry just to make sure it works okay. When you come back you perfectionistically attempt to sand the edges smooth and the back of the paper lifts away from the glass, leaving the image behind. What? You have inadvertently discovered the fine art of making Fine Art Glass transfers... which are kind of cool and may actually have great artistic possibilities because of their transparency... but it won't work with the other supplies you have so this discovery will have to be explored more thoroughly another day.

You go back to using Ultra Premium Matte Paper which really does look good. What were we thinking?

Then you look through the new glass tiles that just arrived and discover that every one has a scratched edge all around the top. The scratches come from the manufacturing process. Other people probably live with this imperfection but this is unacceptable to you. So the two of you go to the hardware store to find the perfect sandpaper to use to sand glass. This decision takes a lot longer than one might think. The decision is made to come back with 600 and 1500 grit paper -- ultra fine and super ultra fine -- and, as it appears at first, absolutely useless for the task at hand. Working really really hard using heavier duty sandpaper, however, ruins a couple of tiles by frosting it so you get frustrated. You've been working really hard not to ruin the nice clear top surface of the glass but in your attempt to polish out the frosting using ultra fine 600 grit paper you get mad, say it's ruined anyway, and go to town on it...which leads you to discover that that's all you had to do in the first place. All the scratches are, in fact, easy to smooth out as long as you stop trying to be so careful and just let yourself go up and over the top of the glass as needed.

Alright! That problem is solved so now we go on to the hardest part of all: how to adhere the photos to the glass without having a lot of bubbles and voids. Now a few bubbles and imperfections are part of the process but you decide you must get it bubble free. You work really hard at this and the harder you try the more bubbles and voids you create. So your boyfriend decides to try his hand at it. You've been trying hard not to make a mess and not to waste supplies. He goops it on, makes a big mess and then-- instead of very carefully and slowly placing the tile on the art-- simply drops the art into place from above. It goes gloop! And almost all the bubbles just magically disappear as the lacquer slops out the sides. He discovers that pressing the glass down too firmly messes this up, better just to lightly press and walk away then burnish it down more thoroughly after the paper has soaked up the medium a bit and the glass has started to stick. There are still tiny bubbles and imperfections but it is way better than the time-consuming slowly done ones you did without a lot of mess.

You vow never to do this messy process again but then your boyfriend asks if you got into trouble for getting dirty as a kid. The answer is yes. He didn't have that problem so placing tiles on the art is now his job. He does it well. You wind up with the project of cleaning up excess mess left on the top of the tiles and on the desk. No problem. An acceptable division of labor has now been achieved.

The next steps are to trim the excess paper from around the tiles so they fit more perfectly. Your boyfriend assumes a scissors would be right for this but, no, you were a graphic designer in the days before Macintosh computers. You "know" that an exacto knife is the way to go and after very slowly and carefully going ahead with this method you only have a few tiles done and your hands are starting to complain. You try the scissors and the job takes half the time. You get tired and get "sloppy" with your cutting and discover that your accuracy actually improves! It's becoming quite clear that perfectionism just gets in the way of achieving great results. You vow to loosen up.

People online then recommend sanding the edges. This is a mistake unless you go fast and just sand a little. The more perfectly you try to do the job the worse the edges start to look so you have to work twice as hard to sand the messed up parts out. You do half the tiles you have anyway before giving up. The unsanded tiles look best of all.

Then you turn the tiles over and lacquer the back. The war on perfectionism continues but you finally get it done and go to bed. Tomorrow the metal bails used to string the tiles onto a chain will be glued on. Your partner has agreed to do this because that can be a messy job, too. But the basic work is now done. When everything is dry the photographer can go to work photographing the pendants so they can be displayed on the internet. He will likely spend too much time Photoshopping them to look just right but that's another story. We won't inflict you with that one.

More pendants are coming. We rejected half the ones we made last time and turned them into refrigerator magnets. We only have four rejects this time around and the process actually went a lot faster! :-) We'll let you know when they're up and ready for sale.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Flower Essences for the Christmas Season — Holly

The Holly addresses the age-old dilemma of how to harness the useful thrust for survival and fighting for justice we depend upon and still have a kind and loving heart. Kindness tends to vanish in the wake of war and yet there are times that try the soul, especially when the limits of tolerance and fair play are breached by others putting their personal single-minded desires ahead of what works best for all concerned.

“I’m taking that for myself. I don’t care what happens to anyone else” is the rallying cry of the sickness that takes hold when Holly is most appropriate. When a person’s dignity has been imposed upon too many times the lust for revenge can overtake the personality. But when hate turns the natural impulse for creative action into violence and rage the Bach Flower repertoire offers a solution: turn to a force larger than yourself and return a feeling of wholeness into the world.

The Holly plant comes into the celebration of Christmas mostly from the pagan European tradition of using a wreath of Holly to crown the nature King who dies with the waning light from Summer Solstice until December. Then, with the culmination of the Winter Solstice (now usurped by the celebration of Christmas), the pattern is reversed. A new king is born. Light comes back into the world at the Savior (Sun/Son King)’s birth and hearts are then filled with gladness, love and celebration.

The Holly is the Crown of Thorns. Its leaves are stiff and come to a series of sharp thorn-like points. The Holly plant is thick with these leaves and is like an impenetrable fortress. It is a fierce survivor and can live even in the harshest conditions. In Druid iconography a glyph of the plant is used to say “I am a battle-waging spear” but in Flower Essence Therapy the battle it is most used to help with is the one that rages within the human heart. Can you develop the inner Divinity to understand the vexations of human existence to the extent that you can remain forgiving under the harshest conditions?

The Holly plant is not just about pain. The thorn-like projections of the leaves are not defense. They also serve to tighten and reshape the growth pattern of the leaves so they twist and refract the light from the sun into the dark almost walled off hedge-like structure of the plant itself. Light from the outside world is thus reflected inward so the plant can thrive even in the darkest recesses of the deepest forest.

The person who needs Holly most is the one who no longer loves themselves. They feel unloved, lost and alone in a world that doesn’t “respect” or “care” for them.They’re angry, envious, jealous, and vengeful and attempt to correct this grief they carry in the most murderous of ways—by attempting to project it out in order to hurt or “correct” others instead. The Bach Flower Remedy Holly is used to heal the heart, to allow it to access the deep peace that comes from feeling safe and loved despite what one faces in the world around. It enables the person to regain compassion for themselves and the desire to give and receive this compassion and grace with others.

Dr. Bach considered Holly to be one of the most important remedies in his collection, universally applicable to a wide variety of situations. Everyone feels unloved from time to time, lost, abandoned, angry and shut off from others. There is also a need to be truthful when it comes to meeting out justice—truthful about the motivations coming from oneself and seeking the truth about what comes from outside. This is not the same as “blind justice”. The truth the Holly plant speaks comes from nurturing the depths of the soul and commanding the justice that comes from compassion. Inner peace, essentially, automatically translates into goodwill. That’s the message of the Holly—peace on earth, goodwill towards men—and that’s the meaning of the season of Christmas as well.

I use Holly in my only Christmas-inspired flower essence aromatherapy formula. It’s called “Peace and Goodwill” and it’s designed to heal the heart so one can feel loving, at peace, and compassionate with oneself and others once again.

I also use it in my "Open-Hearted Loving" formula which I highly recommend for anyone wanting to soothe the grief covered by rage that occurs, say, in a nation divided by politically-fueled ideology, in family relationships and love affairs, in the workplace, or anyplace where love is not what the message has been . . . but needed to be. Heal from that and heal the world. That's what Holly, the spirit of Christmas, is all about.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Flower Essence Aromatherapy Gifts for the Creative Soul


I've been spending some time replenishing my best selling flower essence aromatherapy perfumes and it occurred to me that the ones I did today would be perfect for artists, writers and other people wanting to do more, perhaps make a living, with their creative work.

The first was one that I used to call "Creative Focus". It's called "Focused Attention" now. I made it when I got stuck on a section of a book I was writing and found it hard to concentrate. It's designed to stimulate the senses, focus your attention, synthesize new ideas and put them into action. And, with Cinnamon and Vanilla in it, it smells really good, like a cup of chai. Appropriate for men as well as women, the key ingredients are Rosemary, Cinnamon, Vanilla and Vetiver essential oils and the flower essences Madia, Peppermint, Shasta Daisy and Blackberry.

The next I think any creative person would appreciate is "Manifesting Life Purpose". Another unisex scent, it combines Clary Sage, Jasmine, Bergamot, Vetiver and Neroli for expanded awareness, clarity and upliftment, to stimulate the imagination and vitalize the spirit, for determination to hold to one's ideals, and confidence in taking initiative. I added Wild Oat, Blackberry, Madia, Lady's Slipper and Sunflower flower essences as well. They help one recognize and hold to their life purpose, take the initiative to act on their ideas, have more disciplined focus, and be more confident in expressing their true hearts in order to integrate spiritual purpose with daily work.

The third I'd include in this set is "Doing New Things with Confidence." Rosewood and Lavender help with emotional balance and the flower essences of Corn, Chaste Tree, Larkspur, Red Clover and Zinnia help a person feel more grounded and calm, more at ease when handling changes, enthusiastically prepared to tackle new challenges, and more inclined towards having an attitude of fun and adventure.

That last one is probably more applicable to women than men but if there's a man on your list you're thinking of these for you might want to consider "Abundant Prosperity" as well. That's a citrusy unisex scent that features the essential oils of Lemon and Vetiver and flower essences of Zinnia, California Peony, Iris and Madia. It is designed to help move stuck energy and cultivate feelings of well-being, light-heartedness, creative inspiration, and the courage and disciplined focus to follow one's heart.

Choose any three of these to create your own three-perfume gift set and save some money. Buy all four and save a little more. Buy them now on my website or on Etsy. com.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Flower Essences of the Christmas Season -- Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem brings solace and relief to the person so defeated by the experiences they have been through that they retreat from life, sleep all day or refuse to participate by numbing themselves through drugs, inappropriate occult activities, or other escapist behaviors. The flower is also known as “Sleeping Dick” or “Nap at Noon” which gives great indication of the distress it is best known for curing. It was one of the key remedies in Dr. Edward Bach’s “Rescue Remedy” and is highly recommended for all cases of shock or trauma.

The signature of the plant is significant in Bach’s repertoire. It is the only flower he used with six petals, a structure ancients associated with the six-pointed star or Star of David. This sacred symbol was both an emblem of the Jews but an even older pagan symbol representing the harmonious coming together of heaven and earth. There are two intersecting triangles that make up this star. The point of one triangle points to the heavens, the other points to the earth.

When a person is out of balance in the sense of neither feeling God’s guidance and/or protection (the root cause of the dis-ease we are addressing here) they also tend to lose faith in life itself. The trauma that causes this can be anything from a serious accident, some deep-seated abuse from childhood, or the death of someone they hold most dear. It is symbolically as if the light has gone out their life and the Star of Bethlehem reflects this orientation by only opening on the brightest sunniest of days.

Star of Bethlehem is a plant that is both edible when cooked and a potent homeopathic, used for very serious conditions of the digestive tract, especially for cancer. It has beautiful white flowers that are said to sparkle like stars in the sun, quite attractive and fragrant. And yet it is a very poisonous plant and has been known to harm livestock and young children who find it and eat it raw in the wild. I have found this to be true of several other plants in the flower essence repertoire that are specific for the deepest trauma or hurt. The pattern of dis-ease these plants address are actually poisonous to the human system -- trauma and pain the psyche can’t or won’t digest and let go. That is why these feelings are so toxic. They permeate the person’s being and become the most overriding element in their world view. It’s as if the pain they have experienced is all there is and there is nothing more to look forward to. But that isn’t true. It never is. It’s just that the usual pattern of life has been disrupted and the person has to wake up to try to find what’s useful in life in some other way than what once was the case. When heated through boiling and used in the minute portions used in Flower Essence Therapy the poisonous aspects of the Star of Bethlehem are transformed as well. It then acts like a spiritual vaccine that brings the most potent of healing forces to the fore.

A person with a Christian orientation would say that the star that shown over the manger at Jesus's birth foretold of a similar healing solace for the world at large. The Biblical Star of Bethlehem was given as the name for this flower for good reason. The relief this flower bestows is so powerful it can serve as a person's physical salvation. Edward Bach used it in emergency situations and, as part of his Rescue Remedy formula as a whole, even had documented success in using it to bring a person out of a coma.

I was guided to include it in the first flower essence aromatherapy formula I ever made--Mama Love for Troubled Times.

Flower Essences of the Christmas Season - Pine

I've written extensively about the pine tree in a book called The Solstice Evergreen: The History, Origin and Folklore of the Christmas Tree. The pine tree was of great spiritual significance to pagan societies around the world as a symbol of life and fertility even in the depths of winter. In the harshest of climates, in the darkest time of the year, the pine trees provided shelter while pointing to the heavens, assuring one and all that the life force that permeated the known universe was strong, benevolent and yet highly spiritual in origin. Many other vestiges of paganism disappeared with the advent of the one God religions of Judaism and Christianity but celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice and the evergreen tree persisted and were finally deemed so important that they were deliberately incorporated into the celebration of Christmas.

Why? Perhaps it was because a more loving, supportive and forgiving interpretation of God, as promoted by Jesus, was the perfect antidote needed to the harsh authoritarian view of God promoted by Judaism and the early Church. The pine tree, already seen as a tree of everlasting life, offered solace in the harshest time of year, and the Church intended to establish itself as the source of solace during an unusually harsh time in human development, the Dark and Middle Ages. Forgiveness for one’s sins through Jesus became the central theme of  Christianity, and the pine tree was recast as the wood used for the cross, the "Tree of Life" Jesus died on to save the souls of the truly faithful. There are church paintings that show him crucified in the boughs of an evergreen tree and, as time went on, that deliberate melding of the old religion with the new became an integral part of the celebration of Christmas as we know it today.

Eternal life truly is the phrase most associated with the pine tree. Besides being an evergreen, it is also a long-lived species and it is long-lived in evolutionary terms. The pine tree is a member of the Gymnosperm family that predates all other flowering plants on the planet. This deep connection to a past that persists in the present must be considered as a significant part of the tree’s signature. It is also a tree that is decidedly formidable in appearance. Its lofty appearance, sharp needles and rough bark do not give the impression of a plant that is benevolent and forgiving. Yet it is its ability to stay intact and green and, therefore, provide loving protection and shelter all year, that most people associate with its nature. Eternal life, loving protection and shelter -- in other words, salvation -- is what this tree is all about.

In Flower Essence Therapy homeopathic infusions of flowers are used for emotional healing. The Pine's flowers are red and yellow which might suggest that this essence works with issues of the 1st and 3rd chakras: survival in one’s family unit and self-esteem. It is primarily for people who are wracked with undue guilt, self-blame or extreme perfectionism and self-criticism. “I am bad, bad, bad and I don’t deserve to have a good life” is the message these people are constantly telling themselves. This highly damaged sense of self always stems from early childhood experiences, perhaps a harsh unforgiving family environment, a belief established early on that one was unwanted or a feeling that one’s presence was a burden in some way. A child who was castigated for even tiny infractions is a good example. Such a young one often feels forsaken, cut off from their family’s love and left out in the cold. To protect himself from further abuse the child might learn to forsake himself. The harsh family legacy of excessive discipline is internalized as harsh self-discipline. After all, children who punish themselves appear much less deserving of abuse than one who appears to “need” correction (at least in the eyes of this family dynamic). On the other hand, a child born into poverty or born to a mother whose health suffered while the child was in the womb might grow up believing that their very existence threatened the health of those they loved and depended upon. That child might try to relieve their parents’ burden by being super-good or by apologizing for their behavior even when there was nothing of great significance to apologize for. Pine Flower Essence helps people who are stuck in these patterns to learn self-acceptance and forgiveness. They learn to release the past along with inappropriate guilt and self-blame.

I use Pine in my Peace and Goodwill flower essence aromatherapy spray, a very special formula especially for the Christmas season but appropriate to use any time of year.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Surfing Service Dog

Pink Glove Dance for Breast Cancer Awareness

Support for a Broken Heart, Healing for a Troubled Soul


Do you know someone going through a hard time this holiday season? It's not unusual for there to be a recent death or a serious illness marring the holiday spirit. Perhaps the memory of the death of close loved one lingers on. The season of peace and love and joy and thanksgiving can be particularly brutal on someone going through something like this.

I just made a new batch of my Mama Love for Troubled Times formula and have recently replenished my supplies of Releasing Worry and Fear and Restful Sleep formulas. They're available individually both on Etsy and on my own website. You can also save money by buying them prepackaged as a three-perfume set in a nice see-through top gift box on Etsy or on my own website as well.

Healing Support 3-Perfume Gift Set on Etsy

Find this one and a number of other gift set choices on Etsy by clicking here or by visiting my Mama Love Products site here.

I have a little Renewed Faith and Optimism to offer as well!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Mama Love Is Featured in a Blog


Svet is an Etsy shopkeeper who does tarot readings and makes really cute knitted tarot deck bags. I loved her code of ethics which you can read on her Etsy profile. Paul and I don't do tarot readings but in our work as spiritual counselors similar issues come up. I think a code of ethics like Svet includes is a really important thing. It shows that she takes her work seriously and wants to be in integrity as much as possible.

Svet recently looked me up and asked to do a profile about me and Mama Love on her blog. I thought that was a sweet thing. You can read her interview with me by clicking here. The photo on this blog is of one of her knitted tarot bags. I like the Diamond shaped design on the front. You can find it for sale by clicking here.