Monday, October 31, 2016

Stingy Jack

This is the tale of the first Jack-O-Lantern and the man for whom they were named.

       Many, many years ago, in ancient Ireland there lived a man named Jack.  He was known to be miserably mean and stingy but he was known to love three things: drinking, turnips, and playing tricks on people.  Every night he would make his way to the pub and drink until morning.  During the day, he would take great delight in playing mean tricks on everybody, and I mean everybody.  He played tricks on his neighbors, his family, even his mother.  One night, on his way to the pub, he ran across a twisted body lying on the ground.  As Jack was investigating the body, it moved.  Slowly, the body stood up and revealed itself to be the Devil, come to collect Jack’s soul.  So Jack thought quickly and asked the Devil for one last drink.  The Devil quickly agreed and accompanied Jack to the pub.  After the bartender gave Jack his drink, Jack turned to the Devil and asked him to pay the tab.  The Devil then turned himself into a sixpence.  Jack, however, acted quickly and snatched the sixpence up and put it in his coin purse where he always carried a cross.  While the Devil was in contact with the cross, he could not change his form.  Jack promised to release the Devil from the purse as long as he promised not to claim his prize (Jack’s soul) for 10 years.  The Devil agreed and they parted ways. 
     Jack lived on for the next 10 years.  He was happily stealing turnips, drinking nightly, and playing mean tricks on everyone.  Then the fated day arrived when the Devil was coming to collect his soul.  Remembering the trick that was played on him, the Devil decided to meet Jack out on the road instead of at the pub.  They met under an apple tree and Jack asked for one favor before surrendering his soul, he asked the Devil to fetch him an apple from the top of the tree.  The Devil, thinking that he had nothing to lose, climbed the tree to retrieve the apple.  While he was climbing, Jack carved crosses into the trunk of the tree, effectively trapping the Devil in the branches.  This time, in exchange for his release, the Devil promised not to take Jack’s soul when he finally died. 
     When Jack passed away a few years later, he went to the gates of Heaven.  St. Peter refused him entrance because he had led a wicked life full of drinking and mischief, without even a single thought to charity.  Jack was then sent to the gates of Hell where the Devil kept his promise to not collect his soul.  “But where will I go?” asked Jack.  The Devil pointed to a dark and windy path and said “back to where you came from!”  Jack pleaded with the Devil to not turn him away.  But the Devil wanted nothing to do with him after being tricked twice.  Finally, Jack asked for one last favor, a light by which he could see to make his way home.  The Devil tossed him an ember from the very pits of Hell.  Jack hollowed out his last turnip and placed the ember in it as a lantern to help find his way. 
     From that day forward, Jack has been doomed to wandering the earth.  He will never find his rest and the only thing that he has with which to light his way is a hollowed out turnip that holds a single ember from the fires of Hell.

     *Now many of you may be wondering, why is the Jack-o-lantern in the story a turnip?  This tradition originates from Ireland where, until fairly recently, there were no pumpkins.  When the tradition of carving root vegetables reached America, we found that pumpkins and other gourds were much easier to hollow out and carve.  So that is why we use pumpkins today.
     Thank you so much for allowing me to share with you a creepy story from the history of Halloween.  I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween!*


Jack O’Lanterns and the tale of Stingy Jack from The Pumpkin Nook:
The Legend of Stingy Jack from Penumbra:
Original Irish Jack-o-Lanterns from Irish Central:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Scary-Good Makeup Remover

     With Halloween comes scary costumes and makeup.  With those scary costumes and makeup comes something even more terrifying…makeup removal.  I remember some of my best Halloween costumes.  Many of these included heavy application of makeup for just the perfect result.  I also remember that sometimes I’d be removing the makeup in stages.  The first stage would be just after the night of Halloween goodness, where I would be scrubbing my face before getting in the shower.  Then my usual shower routine including more facial scrubbing.  Then I’d give up and go to bed.  The next morning I’d wake up and spend yet another hour scrubbing my face before heading off to either school or work.  Hours and hours of Halloween makeup removal.  Eeek! 

     Now many of you might have heard of the wonders of Coconut Oil for makeup removal, and once I heard about Coconut Oil I began using it.  Coconut Oil does work amazingly!  However, if your skin is super sensitive, you don’t want to use it on a regular basis.  Over time it can cause some side effects such as breakouts and dryness.  It also leaves your face a little oily after cleaning, which is good if you have dry skin, but if you have normal or oily skin like me, you want to use something that takes care of the makeup without leaving so much oil in its place. 

A Quick Word on Ingredients

Witch Hazel has been used for centuries to fight swelling, sores, and infections on the skin.  It’s one of the best astringents used to help clear up acne, and recent studies have shown it to help protect your skin from cancer!  It helps to heal abrasions on the skin and is second only to isopropyl alcohol in wound cleansing properties.  You can find witch hazel in your local pharmacy, just be sure to get a natural one that does not have alcohol in it.  If you find a witch hazel that has vitamin E or aloe in it, feel free to use that one as both of those additions are great for your skin.

Coconut Oil is not in this recipe, but I wanted to mention how wonderful it can be if your skin is not sensitive to it.  Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and antifungal.  It also has a natural SPF of around 4.  This makes it great to use on a daily basis, especially in sunny places such as Florida.  Coconut oil has many antiaging benefits and does not go rancid.  It really is a great oil and I encourage people to use it, just keep in mind that if you use it too often, your skin may need a bit of a break!

Jojoba Oil is actually not an oil at all.  It’s a wax, which is what makes it stand out when talking about skin care.  It absorbs into your skin and helps to keep the moisture locked in for up to 24 hours, without leaving your skin overtly oily.  It’s also great to protect your skin from annoyances such as razor burn.  It fights fungal and bacterial infections and since it is a wax, it does not go rancid as fast as oils do. 

Avocado Oil (cold pressed is best) is great to get rid of (and prevent) acne, blackheads, and eczema issues on the skin.  This is another natural oil that is readily absorbed by the skin and does not leave it oily.  It’s is believed to penetrate further than most oils, down into the dermis layer of our skin.  This makes it a super amazing oil to help with deep seeded problems.

Vitamin E helps to reduce wrinkles and keep the skin looking healthy and youthful.  It is included in this recipe mainly as a natural preservative, however it has quite a well-earned reputation for being great for the skin.

Calendula is a great herb/flower that has been used for hundreds of years to help with skin issues.  The uses range from first aid issues (cuts, scrapes, bruises, etc) to cosmetic issues (it’s even used to dye hair).  It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, it’s full of antioxidants, brightens the skin, reduces the appearance of scars, and helps promote the regeneration of collagen which helps keep the skin youthful and minimizes wrinkles.  For this recipe, if you want to add calendula, you can either make a strong tea with this herb to use the tea in place of the purified water, or you can make calendula infused avocado oil to use.  For that, just fill a jar with calendula, leaving plenty of room at the top.  Pour avocado oil over the calendula, going about ¼ inch over the herb.  Seal the jar tightly and store it in a dark, cool place.  6 weeks later you have calendula infused avocado oil.

Scary-Good Makeup Remover

4 tablespoons Witch Hazel (without alcohol)
3 tablespoons purified water (optional, strong Calendula tea)
2 tablespoons Jojoba oil
1 tablespoon Avocado oil (optional, Calendula infused avocado oil)
1 Vitamin E capsule

Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar.  For the vitamin E, puncture the capsule and squeeze out the contents.  Shake well before using each time, separation is natural. 

Makeup Removal Pads

Take a pint-sized jar and fill it up with organic cotton pads (about 25).  Pour 1 cup of your makeup remover in (double the above recipe).  Press on the pads to help with even absorption, then close the jar and shake.  In a few moments the cotton pads will soak up all the makeup remover and you’ll have makeup removal pads. 

    This recipe will last for several months, however if you think it is beginning to smell funky, throw it away and make some more!  The witch hazel and vitamin E are both natural preservatives so you shouldn’t have to worry about it for a while.  You can also use this product daily as a cleanser and moisturizer.  I hope you enjoy making your own makeup remover and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Astrid Naturals:
Dr. Axe:
Live Simply:
Organic Facts:
Redefined Mom:
Superfood Profiles:
Sweet Pennies from Heaven:
Whole New Mom:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Scared to Death

    I’m sure you have probably encountered the phrase “scared to death” at some point in your life.  Most people think of it as just that, a common phrase.  But this time of year, when all the ghouls and goblins come out to play, and haunted houses are more popular than theme parks (unless, of course they are IN a theme park), one does seem to wonder if they really can be scared to death. 

     Being scared is a natural response.  When you are scared your adrenal glands pump adrenaline throughout your body, as a result of the fight or flight response.  Usually this hormone does not course through your body in high enough concentrations to be dangerous, but scary stimuli can kick adrenaline production into overdrive.  In normal amounts, adrenaline helps to increase heart rate, increasing blood flow to the muscles, dilating the pupils, and slowing digestion, all of which increases the chances of succeeding in a fight or running away from a rotting zombie.  There is, however, a downside to all of this.  Large amounts of adrenaline can be toxic and damaging to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.  The heart is the only muscle in the body that can cause absolutely sudden death.  When adrenaline floods into your heart and contracts it, if the flow of adrenaline is not decreased, the heart will not be able to relax, causing your heart to fail.     

     If you are prone to heart conditions, you are more likely to be scared to death, but it can happen to anyone.  Fear isn’t the only trigger either, extreme emotions of all kinds can trigger a greater release of adrenaline.  But even in people who are prone to heart conditions, the chances of being scared to death are extremely low.  So feel free to enjoy those haunted houses.  Have fun scaring your friends. 

How Stuff Works:
Live Science:

Scientific American:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pumpkin Sage Bread

     Fall is my absolute favorite season of the year.  The weather is finally beginning to cool off, we’re starting to see a few changes in the colors of the leaves (though here in central Florida, there’s really not many), and it’s almost Halloween.  Life is good.  And then there is the annual pumpkin invasion.  Everything this time of year comes in pumpkin.  Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin stuff, but after a week I’m ready to change things up a bit.  However, I really enjoy making bread, so I figured that I would share with you my favorite savory pumpkin bread recipe.

     Believe it or not, the “pumpkin” flavors that are popular in the fall are mainly just pumpkin pie spice, which is a mixture of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger.  But pumpkin itself is a great powerhouse of healthful benefits.  Not only is it high in fiber which is great for your heart and digestion, but it is also a great source of vitamin A which helps to boost your vision.  Pumpkin is also packed full of antioxidants to help prevent cancer.    

     In this recipe, I also used sage to help move away from the “pumpkin” flavors and bring out more of the actual flavor of the pumpkin.  It is also one of the most commonly used herbs in my home.  Sage (Salvia officinalis) has a long history of use as both a culinary herb and a medicinal.  The ancient Egyptians used sage as a fertility herb, the ancient Greeks used it to clean ulcers and sores, and today it is still used for many of those purposes.  Sage has a reputation for cleansing.  I’ve been in many situations where people used a bunch of sage to “smudge” their home or themselves.  Smudging is a traditional Native American method of purifying the air by burning a bunch of sacred herbs such as sage or cedar.  Sage is also used internally to treat ulcers, sore throats, and coughs, to relieve indigestion, to reduce muscle tension, to strengthen the nervous system, improve memory, and sharpen the senses.  Externally it is used to wash and cleanse wounds.  It was also used as a hair dye to darken the hair.  There are many many more benefits of sage, it is an extremely beneficial herb to use. 

     Pumpkin is a great gourd that isn’t just useful to carve into a jack-o-lantern.  Pumpkin is also great to bake with.  One of my favorite uses for pumpkin is in breads.  I love pumpkin bread.  I also love beer bread.  They’re easy to make and easy to make gluten free.  If you’re not on the gluten free bandwagon (as my friends like to call it), you can easily substitute your favorite all-purpose flour for the gluten free flour in my recipe.  My favorite gluten free flour is by Namaste, but you can use whatever gluten free all-purpose flour you want.  And if you prefer, you can use melted butter instead of coconut oil, or the beer of your choice instead of the apple cider I used here.  Which, by the way, my favorite apple cider to drink and cook with is Angry Orchard, but you can use whatever cider you like.  My general thought on cooking with alcohol is if you don’t like to drink a particular brand, why cook with it?

Pumpkin Sage Bread (A Gluten Free, Vegan Recipe)

3 cups Gluten Free Flour
3 tablespoons Turbinado Sugar
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
2 tablespoons Fresh Sage, roughly chopped (or ½ teaspoon dry)
12 ounces (one bottle) Hard Apple Cider
2/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
3 tablespoons Coconut Oil melted
1 tablespoon Coconut Oil melted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Use ½ a tablespoon of coconut oil to grease a 5X9 loaf pan.  In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and sage.  In another bowl, mix the pumpkin, coconut oil, and apple cider.  Mix the two sets of ingredients together and pour the mixture into the greased loaf pan.  Spread the remaining ½ tablespoon of melted coconut oil on top of the mixture.  Place in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick, once inserted into the middle, comes out clean.

     I hope you all enjoy this recipe.  Just like with all my recipes, feel free to play around and make it your own.  Change up the herbs, use beer instead of cider (there are some really good gluten free beers out on the market right now), try it with honey, or add some cheese.  Experiment and have fun making healthy bread for your friends and family!

Daily Burn:
Herb Wisdom:
Spirituality and Health:

Monday, October 3, 2016

One Herb to Kill Werewolves and Cure Lycanthropy

     As we move into October, we will begin to notice certain things.  A hint of Fall on the breeze (if you’re lucky enough to not be living in Florida anyways), a certain amount of pumpkin in just about everything, and a distinct “chill” in the air that does not come from the dropping temperature.  Halloween is approaching and with it comes the thinning of the veil between our world and the next.  We see a greater abundance of witches and their familiars, of specters, vampires, and the even the ever elusive werewolf.  This is my favorite time of year, and one that I usually relish.  But if you want to be safe from the bite of the werewolf this year, here’s the herb for you.

     Wolfsbane (Aconitum lycoctonum) gets its name from a historical use of the plant.  It was once used to kill wolves by either coating arrows when hunting for wolves or to poison meat left out by farmers who had a wolf problem.  Wolfsbane is toxic to more than just wolves and is often mixed up with Monkshood, which is a very close relative and equally toxic.  In extremely small doses, this plant does have a few medicinal benefits for humans, but it’s most well-known benefit comes from its use in folklore. 

     Wolfsbane is well known to both ward off werewolves, and as an antidote to their bite (providing you take it quickly enough).  However, be careful not to touch it for long periods of time, or to accidentally ingest it (such as touching the plant then sticking your fingers in your mouth) as it is extremely toxic and the toxins can be absorbed via prolonged contact.  If you want to completely avoid the bite of the werewolf, you should also take care to avoid dark woods at night and stay home on full moons.

Academic Rebellion:
A Modern Herbal:
La Persuasion:
Varla Ventura:



Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...