• Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil

    Eucalyptus oil is one of my favorite inexpensive products to transform my day.  I use it for a bunch of different things and have listed some ideas below.  Eucalyptus oil is distilled from the leaves and branch tips of the eucalyptus tree from Australia.  It has been highly prized over the centuries for its medicinal and aromatherapeutic properties.  Here are some of my favorite ways to use it.

    This photo belongs to And all that Malarkays from Flickr

    • Every day when I wake up, right after I’ve rinsed my face with water, I like to shake a couple drops of eucalyptus oil on to the end of a cotton swab and inhale the scent.   I exhale everything out and then place it in one nostril and rub it near the rim of my nose as I inhale deeply.  I then exhale sharply and repeat on the other side.  The exhilarating smell wakes me up, allows a brief 10 seconds of meditation and clears my sinuses.  If you’re in to this kind of thing, I also like to say a quick little mantra as I do this.  Some of my favorites are, “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better,” or “Today I am excited about everything.” If you shower in the morning, it’s also nice to place a couple drops in the base of the shower where the water won’t wash it away immediately.  It provides a spa shower sort of feel.
    • Eucalyptus oil is really good for the days that you are experiencing sinus problems or have a head cold.  I use it when I want to steam my face and get my sinuses clear. To do that, I boil a potful of water.  Once it comes to a boil, I remove it from the heat, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, and then put my face over the bowl with a towel around my head to form a tent.  I spend the time inhaling and exhaling deeply.  After this is completed, everything becomes clear and is a good time to blow your nose.  This has the added benefit of being really good for opening up pores and clearing them out so you may want to try putting a face mask on after.  Try a moisturizing mask, especially if your skin is bothering you from excessive blowing of the nose, etc.  Putting eucalyptus oil in a humidifier has a similar effect.  My parents live at high altitude and every time I go to their house, my nasal passages suffer from the lack of moisture.  This is a great way to lubricate and open them and would also work really well if you have a humidifier running for your sick child and want to purify the air.
    • Every morning when I get to work, I add five drops of eucalyptus oil to my aromatherapy diffuser.  The invigorating smell really motivates me for the day and I like having the little bit of extra humidity in that dry office environment and to clear any negative energy.
    • Eucalyptus oil can be very revitalizing after a good hard workout.  I love to bike everywhere and the Houston summer can be brutally hot.  As sort of a shower on the go, I fill a basin of water and add about 5-6 drops of eucalyptus oil.  Then I dip in five small washcloths in the water-oil mixture.  A couple drops of peppermint or citrus oil also work well in this mixture.  Then I gently wring out the cloths and roll them up and place them in plastic bags that I keep in the refrigerator or freezer.  It feels amazing to lay this on your face after a brutal workout.  If I’m going on a long bike ride, I might add some ice cubes at the start and double bag them or put in a container so I can freshen and cool myself after.  It feels really good after hot yoga too.  I’m sure kids would love it after a hot sports practice as well.  Put the eucalyptus oil in with a light hand until you know if your skin will react to it.  Eucalyptus oil can be slightly irritating if it’s too concentrated.  The oil also soothes aching muscles so sometimes it’s nice to put the cloth around the back of your neck if you have sore shoulders and upper back muscles.

    You can find eucalyptus oil very easily at any health food store.  The Aura Cacia brand has worked really well for me.

  • one oar rowing

    one slight boat adrift
    sadness cloak snags bleak salt sting
    drowning in calm sea

    a haiku, ~Emily Ness

  • Les Petites Bonheurs

    Sometimes in life, we spend so much time looking forward to big events, or for things to be a certain way that we forget the little moments in between these achievements and disappointments.  The French have a word for these beautiful moments that doesn’t translate directly in to English.  They call them les petites bonheurs.  It translates to “the little happiness” and basically means that life is full of little pleasures.

    Experiencing les petites bonheurs is when you see beauty in the world for a moment and take that brief slice of perfection and realize life is a collection of these moments rather than the things we obsess about on a daily basis.  It’s about bringing these slivers of contentedness and connectedness and moving them to the foreground instead of letting them exist unnoticed in the background of life. Read more

  • Fountain of Youth

    Micro-fiction by Emily Ness

    He noticed the contrast now more than ever.  Stark wiry gray hairs stood out from the deep auburn ones.  When he first met her, one of his favorite things about the way she looked was the way that dark hair would collect the energy of the sun and send the warmth scintillating back to his face.  She tried to look at him with coyness through that thick veil of hair but he could tell she was unsure of herself and needed him.  He liked that.  It made him feel like a man.

    She had begun to get a few gray hairs around her 33rd birthday to her great surprise.  He teased her, as he was 20 years her senior and recalled those first few appalling moments when you realize that no matter how energetic and young at heart, or how vain you are, the beauty of your youth slips away.  He wanted to tell her it didn’t matter, but it did to him.

    For him, the primary criteria for being a good wife were to be young and pretty.  He married her three days after her 25th birthday.   He wanted someone to keep him youthful he had told his colleagues with a wink.  Now there were more gray hairs on her head relative to the rich auburn ones of the girl.  He realized he didn’t want her anymore. Read more

  • Cold Sesame Noodles Recipe

    This is one of my favorite things to eat when Chief is out of town because it is a super simple meal that requires little effort and little messing of the kitchen.  It’s no fun to make a big mess when cooking for yourself!  This entire meal can be ready in about 15 minutes and tends to be a lot of ingredients I always have stocked.  This is also a really great meal for taking on the go.  It can be prepared ahead of time and packaged up for lunches, picnics, etc.  The approximate amounts of the ingredients are as follows (adjust to your own taste):

    • 1 lb whole wheat linguine.  I love to use Eden brand brown rice udon.  If you are gluten-free, just substitute wheat-free noodles.
    • ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
    • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
    • 1 piece ginger (about 1”), peeled and finely chopped
    • Sesame seed (for garnish)
    • 1 large pickling cucumber, peeled and julienned
    • 2 green onions, finely chopped

    While the noodles are boiling, whisk together the tahini, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lemon juice, sesame oil, and ginger in a large boil.  After the noodles have finished cooking, rinse them thoroughly with cold water, drain, and toss with the tahini mixture.  If you don’t have tahini on hand, peanut butter could work too, especially if you tend to like your dishes sweeter.  After the noodles have been tossed with the mixture, scoop in to a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds, cucumber and green onions.  I say to use a pickling cucumber just because I tend to be able to finish the small one more successfully, especially if it’s a solo week.  Obviously, any of the garnishes could be omitted if you don’t have them on hand.

    One really cool thing that I learned about recently was a way to ensure you have indefinitely growing green onions in your kitchen.  Next time you buy a bunch, reserve some the bulbs (approximately the bottom two inches) after lopping off the green portions.  Put them in a glass of water with their roots covered and the stalks out, and then place in a sunny window. Cut off what you need to use in your cooking and the onions just keep growing!  Change the water every three days or so to ensure freshness.  We had a really good batch going but I don’t have a picture because Chief used them up in a late night cassoulet-making episode.  I guess they served their intended purpose!



  • How Journaling Can Change Your Life

    I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. ~Oscar Wilde

    Journaling has truly changed my life in very positive ways.  I first started journaling as part of the morning pages required for The Artist’s Way self-guided course.  In that book, the author Julia Cameron says that the first thing you should do every single day when you wake up is to write three pages freehand in a journal.  The notion is that it enables you to clear your head and allows ideas to flow more freely throughout the rest of the day.   This was one of the exercises in the book that I found extremely helpful and have hung on to.  It has helped me for some creativity-related things, but mostly just for life.

    When I first started (as with meditation) I had no idea that this was going to open me up to a whole new world.  Journaling has allowed 7 different extremely important things to happen in my life.  Read below about ways it might affect yours:

    1. Enact personal change: If you complain about the same things day after day, it becomes nearly impossible to ignore the words that have been staring back at you.  Maybe you write over and over and over again that you need to stop drinking so much, or you need to get over a relationship, or that you need to do something about your weight.  By writing about it day after day, it enacts us to take charge and do something about it.  As one example, this blog was born in my journal.
    2. Tell your story: Journaling allows you to tell your story in whatever way you paint it.  There are all kinds of things that happen to us in life, either that we allow or that are forced upon us.  Journaling helps us to alter the way we tell that story.  Essentially it allows us to write our own history.  It’s pretty hard to write a story starring yourself as the victim.  Victors generally write history as Chief always says.  So tell your own tale of redemption, growth and efforts from your point of view.
    3. Objectivity: Journaling allows you to maintain some objectivity in your life.  It allows you to relate what is going on in your head to what is going on in your world.  This is an extremely important one for me because I tend to be anxiety-prone.  I live in a world of endless possibilities given both my personality type and my life situation at the moment.  Journaling is a way to disentangle all the random thoughts that are running around in your head and to separate things in to distinct problems, solutions, and relationships.  It’s kind of a way to be your own counselor.
    4. Bitch session:  Most of us have a great friend or family member we can call up and rant and rave to but let’s face it…sometimes those people get tired of hearing us moan and lament about the same things over and over.  Journaling allows us to just release these horrible pent-up thoughts or emotions or woe-is-me feelings.  It enable us to do so without having to dump on someone else, or be judged by anyone, or to have anyone try to solve our problem (instead of just listening).
    5. Ideas and insights: Journaling allows you to capture ideas and insights and plant seeds about what you are aiming for next.  Sometimes I will sit down after a particularly vivid or poignant dream and record as much of it as I can remember.  I find that when I look back later, these dreams were life-changing shifts in my consciousness.  I also write a lot of ideas I have, whether about writing, or business ideas or insights.
    6. Reveal tracks and patterns:  If you are journaling, you might notice that there are different things in your life that trigger other events or outcomes.  When are you happiest?  What causes sadness or strife?  What set you up for success?
    7. Makes peace with the past:  Journaling is a place to deal with the things from the past that were never addressed or maybe you didn’t want to admit to or deal with.  It allows us to find the lessons in what may have been struggles, or to see a situation for what it really brought to our lives .  It enables us to see how something might have changed us and ushered us to growth.

    Here is what I have found works best for starting a habit of journaling: 

    Buy yourself a nice journal.  This is a really fun activity to do at an art or bookstore.  Take yourself on a little date!  I also like to buy nice pens.  These Sakura archival quality ones are my favorite.  They only require a really soft touch and were nice when I was having some wrist problems related to RSI.  One of my favorite journals is this one I found at Barnes and Noble.  I like it because it has a lot of room to write but is soft cover and fairly small, so I can always have it with me.

    Set aside time to write.  I know the popular thing to say is that you don’t have time to do this.  But you can find time.  There are going to be days when you can’t get to it, sure, but after awhile it becomes a craving for catharsis, a bit of “me” time.  I know the morning is a sacred time and I wish I had more time to do it then but the reality is that I don’t.  I think there is something special about late afternoon too.   It has a similar amorphous quality like morning does.   I use my transition from workday in to home life to journal.  Often times at work, I will go sit outside in the very last hour (when I’m mentally exhausted and likely to be staring catatonically at my workstation anyway) and go find a location just outside the building to scribble away and release any stress from the day.

    If you find this part really hard, another suggestion I would make is to trying use 750words.com.  It’s an online private site that allows you to type everything out.  This would actually only take about 10 minutes and surely you spend 10 minutes a day on your computer wasting time already.  Instead of looking at people’s political rants on Facebook, journal a bit and discover something about your own soul.

    Journal about whatever comes to mind.  I usually just take a stream-of-consciousness flow to my journaling.  For one thing, it’s sometimes good to dump out all the stuff that is circling through my consciousness and causing clogged thought pathways where the subconscious might be able to come forward.  Doing it this way also helps me to recognize what thoughts and associations I tend to have over and over.  Sometimes my journaling is incredibly creative and insightful and the makings of a story or poem or post pour forward.  Other times I find myself writing two pages about lining up a catsitter or what I should do about my drycleaning and alterations.  No matter what the thought, it feels good to get it out.  Some people keep gratitude journals, whereas others use journaling prompts.   This page is kind of fun for that.  Do not edit or censor anything.  Sometimes it comes out wrong or unexpected for fruitful reasons.

    Happy journaling, my peaceful warriors! 🙂