March 15 2017

Types of Incense and How to Use Them

Incense sticks

 

Throughout time cultures across the world have been making and burning incense. This can be done in a number of ways using ingredients found in nature such as herbs, fruits, seeds, peels and spices.
Of the five human senses, the sense of smell is often the most strongly associated with memories. Even the smallest hint of a smell can bring back memories of a certain time, place or person. Incense can be used to recall memories and access certain areas of your mind quickly and with great precision. It can be used to adjust the atmosphere of rooms, for example as well as the atmosphere in your mind and spiritual bodies. This makes it a useful tool for meditation you need to create an uplifting calming or even stimulating atmosphere. Scents such as Japanese Cedar,  amber, sandalwood and camphor are highly effective at putting the mind in a calm meditate state which can help aid and deepen your practice. These calming aromas can also be used outside of meditation to help bring peace and harmony to your home and other areas.

 

Sheesham wood incense holder

 

A common use for incense, particularly in past times is creating a sacred space for ritual and ceremonial work. From Buddhist temples in Japan China and Tibet to Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches you will often see incense used as a tool to create a powerful and purified ritual space. Incense is also often used in this way buy followers of pagan religions and paths. The rising smoke is considered a symbol of prayer by many and as an offering rising up to deity. The smoke is also believed to have the ability to remove negative stale and unwanted energies from a space. These energies are collected and carried away as the smoke rises.

 

Incense smoke rising to deity

 

Incense can of course simply be used as a practical and highly varied method of creating fragrance within your home. The huge range of scents available means that there is something to suit every taste,  environment and situation. It can also be used to mask unpleasant odours such as cigarette smoke or caused by pets. Incense is used as part of the spiritual practices of many cultures and can be burnt to inspire creative thought, set a certain mood, aid meditation or simply to create a pleasing fragrance indoors and out. In fact incense can be used safely in almost any environment as long as appropriate holders are used and the safety of the surrounding area and occupants is taken into consideration.

There are two types of incense that are used, known as combustible (sometimes called direct burning) and non-combustible (or indirect burning) incenses. Non combustible varieties include loose incense as well as incense cones and pellets. These can be used without the heat source actually needing to touch the incense itself. The cones, pellets or loose material are placed above a heat source and this heating causes the aromas to be released into the air. One method of achieving this is by using an incense stove or oil burner. The incense should be placed in the top section just as you would essential oils, and a lit tealight candle is placed in the section directly underneath. The candle flame will create a gentle heat without causing any smoke or burning. Care should be taken when using incense in this way as the burner can become very hot. They should always be placed out of the reach of children or animals and on a heat proof surface. Incense burners should also not be placed anywhere where they could be knocked over or forgotten and care should be taken regarding other close by items. Check for any flammable items such as curtains.

 

Burning incense

 

Special charcoal disks can also be used to burn loose incense, cones and pellets.  Unlike the stove or burner, these may burn the incense producing unpleasant smells and smoke. One way to try to avoid htis is to place a layer of sand or salt directly on top of the burning charcoal and then to place the incense on top. To be used, the charcoal disks are lit and placed in a heat proof container until they turn white. The incense of your choice can then placed on top. To be extinguished do charcoal discs can be placed in cold water. The charcoal discs any container used will be incredibly hot so it is important to use caution while handling these.

Combustible incense is the form that more people are familiar with and is found mainly as sticks and cones. This type is lit directly, for example using a lighter or match. The flame is then gently extinguished leaving the end of the incense glowing. As the incense burns down it’s aroma is released and only ash will remain. There is a wide range of holders and burners available for this type of incense. These range from simple wooden trays to intricately carved boxes and statues and are often made from sheesham wood. Incense sticks can be bought in many shops and in a wide range of fragrances. Some examples include fruity scents, nag champa, floral fragrances, frankincense and sage. Varieties can also be bought with themed aromas such as based on star signs on natural environments such as the sea a forest.

 

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March 7 2017

Random Stripes Crochet Blanket Update – Project Finished

Last week I managed to get my random stripes crochet blanket finished and edged. I started this one in January and then at the beginning of February I discovered C2C crochet and really wanted to give it a try. I wanted to get the stripes blanket finished first but in end gave in and made a start on a large C2C blanket. I am using two strands of DK yarn and a 8mm hook again and the finished blanket will be 160 x 230cm. My biggest crochet piece ever! and I am planing on it being a stash busting project. Will update on that as I go.

The random stripes crochet blanket is a gift for a friends baby. The largest stripe is seven rows wide and smallest is one row, with all sizes inbetween. It was made almost entirely from my yarn stash, I saw a dark plum coloured yarn and really liked it so bought two 50g balls. I wish I had bought more now as it looks really nice used – which makes me not want to use the rest as then it will be gone! ha ha, does any one else save their best or favourite yrans (beads, papers, cords, ingredients…) and then never end up actually using them at all? Can’t just be me 😀 Once I was finished I wasn’t too sure I was happy with the blanket and I am dissapointed in how one of the yarns looks. It’s a furry varigated style and I feel like it look out of place. However I feel like the bits that I am not happy with are all things no one else will even notice. It’s an artists curse – always seeing fault in what others see only as perfect.

crochet blanket

Finishing the stripes crochet blanket kinda snuck up on me. I hadn’t looked at the blanket at all for about a week as I had been working on my C2C blanket but when I took it out of my bag I realised it was getting pretty big for a baby blanket. I like to make my baby blankets so they can be folded in use for extra cold days, which also means that they last a few years before being too small. My youngest is nearly 18 months and his crochet blanket still has loads of growing room in it. With so much work and time going into them it is nice that they aren’t get a short term use thing.

I had decided at the start that the blanket would be edged in black for a bold, contrasting effect. It’s not a traditionally coloured baby blanket at all but that completly suits the recipients tastes. The baby is a little girl but I went for a mix of all colours for variety. I added one row of treble crochet stitches in black but felt that it didn’t quite finish off the blanket properly. It was too abrupt. I had a browse on Pinterest for crochet edgings but choose to go with scallops, which gave the look I was after. Each scallop is made up of three treble crochet stitches and seven on the corners.


stripes crochet blanket

Using two strands of yarn to make my stripes crochet blanket has made it quite a chunky blanket with a bit of bouncy stretch. It is the second blanket I have made that way and I really like the squishy, cuddly softness of the style.


scallop crochet edge

Random stripes crochet blanket

 

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February 28 2017

How to Use Common Herbs in Herbal Remedies

Herbs have been long used all over the world to enhance health and illness and disease. In our modern world,  the introduction of conventional medicine has led to less people knowing how to make and safely use herbal remedies.

Sadly lots of misinformation has spread and many people have come to believe that herbal remedies are unsafe or uneffective. In most cases herbal remedies are safe to use the extra care should always be taken with babies and young children, the elderly and pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you are already taking a prescribed medication it’s wise to check with your doctor or another specialist, as although natural herbal remedies can have dangerous implications on some illnesses and also may interact with prescribed medications affecting how they work. It is important to always keep in mind that just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it is automatically safe.

Over on HubPages I have written a selection of articles on herbal remedies and ways in which they can be used. One, How to use Common Herbs to Heal and Promote Well-being and Good Health, lists five common herbs and spices and the benefits to health that they posses.

The hub features simple instructions showing you how to create a tincture and infusion and information on using:

  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum)
  • Caraway (Carum carvi)
  • Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
herbal remedy- lavender
Lavender flowers are well loved by bees and have excellent relaxant properties. Source: tfengreen, [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Five Herbal Teas to Improve Digestion and Ease Digestive Issues is full of information regarding creating herbal teas. The teas can be drunk to help soothe and treat issues such as bloating, gas, indigestion, digestive upset and to help increase the speed and thoroughness of digestion. For example, peppermint has antispasmodic and relaxant properties which make it an excellent aid to digestion and in relieving digestive upsets and disorders.

Instructions are included on how to make the teas as well as how much should be consumed. The herbal teas included in this hub are:

  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
herbal remedies - peppermint
Peppermint is an excellent choice of herb to treat digestive issues.
Source: Mark, [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

 

The information packed hubs can be found on my Hubpages profile here or by following these links:

http://hubpages.com/health/How-to-use-Common-Herbs-to-Heal-and-Promote-Well-being-and-Good-Health

http://hubpages.com/health/Five-Herbal-Teas-to-Improve-Digestion-and-Ease-Digestive-Issues

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February 21 2017

Gluten and Dairy Free Ranch Dip Recipe

I’ve never had ranch dip but often see it mentioned in recipes or as an accompliment for chips or vegetable sticks. For those I would normally make yoghurt and mint dip or some homemade hummus. Yesterday I decided I would have a go and see if I could adapt a recipe and create a dairy and gluten free ranch dip. As always I wanted the recipe be made quite simply and quickly and without the need for too many complicated ingredients. Everything used in the recipe can be bought in most regular supermarkets now.

To make my gluten and dairy free ranch dip I used violife cheese spread, which surprisingly has been in the fridge since Christmas. I kinda overbought on cheese for Christmas (is there such a thing as too much cheese?) Fortunately they have a long date so have lasted okay rather than ending up wasted. My soya milk with the sweetened one from Tesco’s in a blue cartoon. It’s the one my son likes best so it’s what we had in the cupboard. The mayo I used was Mayola brand. I’m not that keen on the taste of that particular one on its own, so i have been trying to use up the bottle I had in other recipes. It was really nice in the big batch of home-made coleslaw i made recently, after I realised I hadn’t had it in ages.

Having never had ranch dip before, I cant be sure that this one tastes authentic. But it is delicious anyway. Perfect with Kettle chips and cucumber sticks 😀

gluten and dairy free ranch dip

 

Homemade Gluten and Dairy Free Ranch Dip Recipe

60ml (1/4 cup) soya milk mixed with 1tsp lemon juice
150g (5.5oz) dairy free cheese spread
40ml (2.5 tbsp) dairy free mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, chopped
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp chopped chives
1tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped dill
1/2tsp paprika
1tsp mustard
Salt and pepper

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until well combined

Alternatively, if you do not have a food proccesor:

1. In a large bowl, mix together the soya milk, cheese spread, paprika, mustard and mayonnaise until completely combined and smooth.
2. Chop the garlic, chives, parsley and dill small and combine with the olive oil. Mix well.
3. Mix together the herby oil and cheese mixture.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

gluten and dairy free ranch dip

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February 13 2017

Random Stripes Crochet Blanket – My Current Work in Progress.

After Christmas I started on a new crochet blanket design. I have had the blanket idea planned out for a while but haven’t had much time to get started on it. A good friend of mine is having a baby in the summer, so that seemed a perfect excuse to grab my yarn and hook and get started.

 

crochet blanket

 

The crochet blanket isn’t a traditional baby blanket in pastel colours but instead features bright and bold colours. I am using (UK) treble crochet and working with two strands of double knit wool. Using an 8mm (size L) hook this combination creates a soft, squishy fabric with a little stretch that I really like. I first tried out this mix when making my rainbow crochet blanket and really liked how it turned out. Seems like my son agrees as he has claimed it as his own! All of the blankets I had made previous had been done using double knit wool and treble crochet but only a 4mm hook (F). That make up a more solid, prehaps even a little stiff blanket. They do soften up with use so its not really a problem.

 

striped crochet blanket

 

The stripes in the blanket are made up of varying number of rows. Sometimes this number has depended on how much of a certain colour yarn I had left, but others I decide as I go along based on how it looks. The largest sections are seven rows. Seven has been my favourite number since I was a child and it adds a little magic to the design. The blanket is 89 stitches wide and so far I have completed 67 rows. The fabrics is now a good size for keeping me warm as I work on. I am planned on continuing until I have 100 rows  and then will add a border and edging to finish it off.

 

crochet blanket

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January 16 2017

Top Stringing Materials for Jewellery Making

Top cords for jewellery making

Jewellery making is a very varied craft that encompasses many styles and techniques. A common feature of creating handmade jewellery is the use of cords, threads and other materials to hold beads, pendants and charms. Cords can also be used to create an entire piece of jewellery. There is a variety of cords that can be used in this way though some are more suited to certain applications than others. For example if you wanted a fine thread for stringing a bracelet of small gemstones then a nylon thread or tigertail would be a good choice. Where as if you wish to create a chunky macrame design, a thicker sturdy waxed cotton or colour rattail is more suitable. Cords maybe hidden away underneath beads and other components or it can be encorporated into the jewellery’s design.

 

In my latest hub I have brought together information on seven threads and cords that can be used in creating handmade jewellery. The article includes information on suggested uses, sizes and important things to consider such as strength and ease of use. Materials featured includes waxed cotton cord, ribbon, rattail and illusion cord. The full HubPages article can be found at Seven Top Stringing Materials for Jewellery Making

 

As well as this latest hub I have many others that are related to jewellery making including Using Semi-Precious Stone in Jewellery Design, Using Colour in Jewellery Design and Important Points to Consider when Designing Jewellery.

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December 15 2016

Jewellery Making Business: Start Your Own! – Introduction Video

My jewellery making course has is now rated five stars on www.ofcourse.co.uk. I designed and created the course with complete novices and those just starting out in mind. The course covers a range of topics including using colour in jewellery making, different types of beads, information on tools and precious and semi-precious gemstones. The final section covers how to start selling jewellery on and offline and some practical and legal matters than need to be considered or followed.

Jewellery making business course that will teach you the key skills for designing fabulous jewellery, and setting up a business to sell jewellery. Do you have a passion for creating jewellery that you want to make into your career? Have you always wanted to know how to design your own jewellery products? This course will teach you the key skills for creating and designing fabulous jewellery, and will then explain what is required to price and sell jewellery online and offline.

Visit the Jewellery Making Business: Start Your Own! course page for full details and to sign up and get started.  Use code; TEACHER_CLAIRE50 at checkout to receive a 50% discount on the course price.

Course Highlights

  • Over 2 hrs of video content to help you create jewellery, with supporting PDF Tutorials for making specific jewellery
  • Learn how to create a profitable jewellery making business
  • Detailed presentations explaining how to utilise beads of all materials
  • Pricing strategies, and legal information concerning the running of a jewellery making business

Enrol to Earn Your Certificate

  • Enrol and become certified in a new skill
  • Share your new skill with employers, friends and colleagues
  • Build a porfolio of course projects
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