Author Archives: ajjrichmond

Just call me Ms. Apothecary

Hello lovelies!

Yes, it’s been some time but I’m back to chat about my new DIY projects. Exciting, I know. ;)

As you may have guessed, this post is about Apothecary things, specifically salves. My goal is to replace store bought products with homemade, natural alternatives. So far I’ve made two delightful salves:

  • Ginger Mint Salve: Used to warm up cold hands and feet.
  • Rosemary Salve: A calming salve that can be used on dry skin and cracked heels. (Also makes a lovely lip balm.)

Both salves are a beautiful green colour with a strong scent and created using fresh herbs from my garden.

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Today’s challenge was to create a salve for those pesky colds. After all, cold and flu season is just revving up.  I created Angie’s Vapo Rub, a sinus clearing salve that can be rubbed on your neck, chest and back to relive stuffy noses and congested sinuses. (Think Vicks Vapo Rub) My first two salves were olive oil based but today I switched things up and used coconut oil.

Angie’s Vapo Rub

1 cup Coconut oil

1/4 cup Beeswax

1/2 tsp Menthol Crystals (Check with your local pharmacy. I didn’t require a prescription and a little goes a long way. 5 grams should be enough for multiple batches.)

8 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oils (I used Healing Scents)

Note: Depending on how strong of a scent you want, 8 drops may not be enough (or too much). I suggest starting with 5 drops and checking the scent before you proceed in adding more. You don’t want it so strong that it burns your eyes and nose when you inhale. The same applies to the menthol crystals.

 

 

IMG_0003I heated up the coconut oil at a very low heat, stirring constantly to ensure nothing burned. Once the oil was completely liquid, I added the beeswax and menthol crystals. Note: Menthol crystals can be purchased from you local pharmacy.

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Once everything dissolved, I added eucalyptus essential oils then transferred the liquid into clean glass jars to cool. At this point you can cap the jars and leave them to harden.

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The results are quite nice. The salve has a lovely menthol scent that clears the sinuses nicely.

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Make sure you store your salves in a cool, dry spot. Oh, and label those jars! Salves will last anywhere from 6 to 12 months but let’s not trust our memories on when we jarred them, right?

If you have any questions,  don’t hesitate to ask! My next salve will be for achy joints and muscles. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and assume no liability. Please use your own good judgement and act responsibly when handling essential oils and other over the counter medicines. Thanks!

 

 

A New Direction – Taking on More Work

IMG_3476At the end of June I made the (very difficult) decision to look for a part time job. At first it felt like I was giving up on my dreams of self employment; Giving up on my art, writing and coaching. But then I stopped to evaluate what the motivation was behind seeking part time work. What I realized was that I was missing the social aspect of work. I often felt lonely, cooped up in my apartment working. I needed a reason to get out.

But I didn’t want just any job. The last thing I needed/wanted was to fall back into old habits. I decided to look for a job in an area I’m interested in. I found an position at a local bookstore with great people, great atmosphere and great products. It felt like synchronicity.

I’ve been working there for nearly a month now and I’m really enjoying the experience. I still have ample time to work on my own projects, which is the ultimate goal. I’m editing my series with the help of a friend and really feeling like I’m getting somewhere.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this new direction isn’t a mark of giving up on my dreams, it’s finding new ways to support them. Choosing work that makes me happy will always been priority number one. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. But this all feels right, so I’m going with it.

Life is good, if not busy, but I’m okay with that!

 

I Wrote a Novel in June & Met a Legend in July.

junowrimo-book-button-winner-300Yeah I did!

Book three of The Reaper Chronicles series is now complete. I must say, when I first wrote Reaper’s Bride I had no idea it would morph into a series. Book three was particularly emotional for me. Without giving away too much, I had to made some tough decisions about some characters. I think they were the right ones though. 

Now to head back to the editing….

I met a Legend!

On July 1st – Canada Day – I was fortunate enough to meet my favourite author of ALL TIME, Diana Gabaldon. She was giving a talk and signing books at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park Washington (near Seattle). She is quite a comical lady with a fantastic sense of humor (slightly skewed to the dirty side – which I LOVE!) There are very few people that have made a true lasting impression upon me and Diana Gabaldon is one of them. To have spoken with her (ok it was like 10 words max, but still…) is a dream come true for me. I even had my picture taken with her! I can now say that my life is one step closer to being complete. 

Here are a few photos from the event I attended with my lovely friend Megan. The picture of Diana isn’t fantastic but you get the drift. It was about a million degrees in there with around 500 people (or so). We didn’t get out of there till after 10:00pm and I still had to drive 3 hours back to Vancouver that night (I had to work the next morning at 9:30am) but it was worth it. SO worth it!

 

 

 

Guest Post: Emmie Mears & Recharging the Creative Battery

Hello all you lovely readers and writers!

Today I am most happy to introduce you to someone very special, author (and super-duper awesome friend) The Masked Songbird_FC (2)Emmie Mears. Emmie’s on a Blog Tour to celebrate the upcoming release of her novel The Masked Songbird (Pre-order now available!) and I am lucky enough to be a stop. YAY! (Actually we are all lucky because Emmie ROCKS!)

I met Emmie on Twitter back in 2011. Although I don’t quite remember the exact circumstances, I know that it involved a conversation over writing. Since then we’ve chatted about reading, zombies, Supernatural and everything in between. She’s an incredibly talented writer and she’s going to share with us her how she recharges the creative battery. I know you’ll enjoy this post as much as I have!

Recharging the Creative Battery

There’s a wealth of advice out there for writers. Write every day. Write a lot. Read a lot. Write a hundred words a day. Write five hundred words a day. Write what you know. Learn more so you can write about more.

A lot of it is good advice, but I think all of us come up against a time where all the advice out there just doesn’t speak to us. Or we try it and we end up running into a creativity block — or occasionally a real wall if the frustration gets to us enough.

I realized a few years ago that I have an oddly specific writing schedule. I’d go for months without writing fiction. I’d work on my blog or any number of other projects, but I’d have no fiction project burning for my attention. But then one day, my fingers would start to itch. Eight weeks later, I’d have a mewling baby novel completed and ready for revision.

For me, I had to learn that those dormant periods were periods of recharging. I’d read a lot in those times. Sometimes watch a lot of television. I’d hang out with friends and cook new things. I’d work a lot. Sleep a lot. And when the itch began in my fingers, I would expend enormous amounts of energy getting a book done quickly.

I found that I wrote better and more consistently when I wrote quickly. For me, it allowed me to get into a character’s head and stay there. It allowed my voice to remain even from first chapter to last.

Through all of it, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was Doing It Wrong.

I’d think of Stephen King’s perennial advice to read a lot and write a lot. “Stephen King writes EVERY DAY,” I’d tell myself. I’d point at other writers who did the same and think there had to be something wrong with me, even though two years in a row I’d written two entire novels in twelve months.

I had an epiphany last year as I was plowing through the beginning of a new novel and much like its working title, I felt…drained.

We all have a creative battery, energy we can use to make our art. The thing is, not all batteries are the same. Some are like solar powered lights. Put them out in the sun for eight hours or so and they’ll burn all night. It’s a pretty short cycle, and people who have batteries like that are often able to be productive every day in smaller spurts. Some are like lithium batteries, where you charge them in a dedicated space for a while and they provide you with hours of Xbox love until they die. And some are like a car battery. They work for a long time if you have a functioning alternator, but if that alternator goes, you might need to get a new battery.

There are any number of things you can do to recharge. For me it’s often sleep and solitude. As a quintessential introvert, I desperately need alone time in order to focus on being creative. Time with a book, time relaxing in bed — any of that. Maybe for you it’s jumping out of a plane or going for a run. The point is that when our batteries are drained, our creativity suffers.

There’s no one way to be a creative person. George R.R. Martin takes eons to write a book. R.L. Stine used to crank out a book a month. (Granted, Goosebumps are significantly less doorstop-y than GoT.) Some of us plan out what we’re going to do; others let things sprout organically and see where they go.

As much advice exists out there, I like to think of it as an aisle at a grocery store. You’re not going to grab everything on the shelves and put in your basket, because who has that kind of money? And who really needs eighteen varieties of Cup-O-Noodles? You walk down the aisle and see what fits your needs, take what works, leave what doesn’t.

It might take a little trial and error, but you CAN find a way to be both a creative human being and a non-withered husk of a zombie at the same time.

Happy recharging! (Please don’t be a zombie.)

You can preorder THE MASKED SONGBIRD here! Released in a box set, you get four great paranormal and urban fantasy books for less than $4!

Follow Emmie on Twitter @EmmieMears and join her on Facebook!

 

 

emmiemearsEmmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country. Except for an ill-fated space opera she attempted at age nine, most of Emmie’s childhood was spent reading books instead of writing them. Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor. Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two felines who think they’re lions and tigers.

 

 

 

Moving Beyond Canvas

As a life-long learner, it’s my goal to keep my art fresh and exciting by trying new things. So when my artisan friend, Nell asked if I’d ever consider converting my art into a fabric, I was intrigued.

As a textile artist, Nell is tuned into the world of fiber and fabric. She suggested that my mixed media – with all the texture – would make a great fabric print. She directed me to a company called Spoonflower. Spoonflower offers individuals the ability to design, print and sell their own fabric, wallpaper, gift wrap and decals.

I read through the website and figured why not and uploaded an image and ordered proofs. Once I’ve given them the okey dokey I can begin selling. It’s an exciting new venture for me and it’s got the wheels turning in my mind…more on that another time. ;)

Here’s the image that I uploaded. I’ve adjusted the pattern slightly on Spoonflower but the basic design is the same.

mixedmediacollageThe original mixed media collage painting will be on sale in my Etsy shop. Keep a weathered eye out for it. In the meantime why not check out my other mixed media collage art.

xo,

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I’m Teaching Art Classes!

static.squarespace.comThat’s right! I’m teaming up with friend, and fellow artist, Marisa Pahl to offer art classes here in Vancouver. I’ll be teaching Mixed Media Collage and Art Journaling and Marisa will teaching Watercolours.

My classes run every Tuesday for 2 hours from May 27th to June 17th. All supplies are included. For more information and to register, just follow the links below.

Messy & Beautiful: Mixed Media Collage

Art Journaling

To view all the class descriptions visit Laneway Art Collective.

Join us at our Open Studio on May 19th to register in person or have all your questions answered!

what: Meet us in person.. see our beautiful space and watch some creative demonstrations.

where: 216 East 28th Avenue & Main Street in East Vancouver

when: May 19th from 6:30-7:30 pm

Happy Accidents – Allowing Yourself to Mess Up.

I’ve been pushing myself to break free of old habits and try new things with my art. The biggest challenge is accepting the fact that I might make a mistake. I end up staring at that blank canvas, trying to envision exactly what it will look like in hopes of avoiding the inevitable ‘oops’ and ‘uh-ohs’.

Let me tell you folks, no matter how much time to spend planning out something in your mind, it almost never works out the way you expected. And that’s okay because more often than not, it turns out better in completely different ways.

So instead of calling them mistakes (which sounds so negative), let’s call them happy accidents.There, I feel better already.

This week I began working on a large piece I envisioned as a tree. I was already working out of my comfort zone as the canvas measured 16″ x 20″ and normally I don’t go any larger that 10″x10″. 

I sketched the tree in pencil, then filled it in with torn up bits of an old dictionary. Once the tree took shape I combined an assortment of paint to get a perfect aqua/teal blue colour that I wanted and started painting the background. Please forgive my rather crappy Instagram photos.

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photo 3Remember that happy accident bit of was talking about? Well here is comes. When I turned the painting upside down to paint the bottom, I realized that from that angle my tree morphed into a tree monster.

photo 2 All I could think was ‘Okay, now what do I do?‘ Do I keep it as a Tree or do I switch it to the Tree Monster?

For some this decision might be fairly simple. For me, it wasn’t. I struggled. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go with my ‘plan’ or my ‘intuition’. I even went on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for advice. While a received great feedback on how much people liked it, there was no clear winner for my dilemma. Then I remembered something. A promise I had made. I was working outside of my comfort zone to try something new. Monsters are definitely new for me. Trees are not.

I decided to go with the unexpected, but happy accident. I stand by my decision. ;)

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Vipassana Meditation: Days 8 – 11

The Home Stretch

On Day 7 we were told that Days 8 and 9 would be slightly different. Usually during our breaks we were left to our own devices; free to think and feel as we wished. On Days 8 and 9 we were instructed to spend our breaks paying close attention to the sensations of our bodies, as we did during meditation.

Naturally my mind was not pleased. It wanted to daydream during breaks. Create new plot ideas and characters for novels I had yet to write. It wanted to replay TV shows or movies. It wanted to be entertained. It DID NOT want to spend more time noticing and ignoring itches. (My mind was quite snarky by this time.)

I fought long and hard with my brain. Sometimes it won and I’d find myself focused on worlds that don’t exist. Other times I won and my mind yielded to my wishes. Now combine that with the anticipation of seeing my husband and going home to sleep in my comfy bed. They were difficult days but I survived.

Day 10 – Let There be Noise

I woke up on Day 10 with the anticipation of a child waking up to Christmas morning. Today I would be allowed to talk! I could finally discuss my experiences with my friend. I could tell her how my Sankhara always seemed to leave my butt, or when I had caught her eye once I nearly burst out laughing. Or how on the very first day when Goenka started chanting I had this strange urge to either laugh or cry but not really sure which.

I wanted to tell her how much I struggled on the first three days and that sitting beside her at lunch was the only thing that made me feel calm. I wanted to tell her how much I missed Brandon and sleeping in my comfy bed and that one of my roommates talked in her sleep…in Russian.

I had a never-ending list of things I wanted to talk about and yet when it came time to speak after our morning meditation it felt strange to use my voice. In fact my voice literally wasn’t there. It was all croaky like I had been sick but without the pain. I had to work my way back to talking.

There were two types of people on this course: the ones that left the meditation hall still unsure how to use their voice. Still wanting to keep it quiet. These people wanted to seek out the company of perhaps another person or two and have a quiet discussion on how they were feeling. I fell into this group.

The other group left the meditation hall like they had just entered a huge rowdy party. They were hooting and hollering. Jumping around and laughing and letting everyone know that they had no trouble using their voice. These people caused me great anxiety.

It felt strange to hear all the noise. I felt my anxiety rise and my back immediately started to hurt. I was tense and uncomfortable. Those of us that were in the ‘lets-keep-it-quiet’ group fled. We scurried back to our rooms or bolted outside away from the noise. It felt too crowded with everyone talking. All I could think was How did we ever all fit in this place?

Our schedule for the day had changed. Day 10 is transition day and incredibly important day to find your way back to “normal” life. Without the routine I wandered aimlessly around the centre like a lost puppy. I didn’t know what to do. I was so used to spending 11 hours meditating that free time just felt so foreign. Almost kinda wrong.

Speaking of wrong…when we began speaking again I found all those social niceties – saying excuse me, smiling, making eye contact etc – came rushing back. And with that came the burden of other people’s opinions. Let me explain. 

When we weren’t talking I didn’t care what others thought of me. No that’s not the right word. It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s that it never crossed my mind to think about it. I was indifferent to how I appeared on the outside. Obviously others were forming their own opinions of me in silence. I know this because a couple people came up to me to make comments about how I dressed or how I carried myself. But it’s like it never crossed my mind to be self conscious of it. 

Speaking brought that back and I felt overly aware of it. I started wondering what others thought of me. I paid attention to what I looked like. It was a subtle change but I felt it. It’s not like I normally spend my life wondering or worrying about what others think of me. But I realized that at some level we all do that. That’s why we pick out clothes that we think we look nice in. We do our hair. We bathe. We brush our teeth etc. We are wanting to making a good impression. It was just interesting for me how it’s attached to our voice.

Day 11 – Going Home

The course ended first thing in the morning and Brandon was due to pick us up at 9:30 am. I was excited to see him. Okay I was ecstatic to see him. We packed up our gear, helped clean up the centre and waited to leave. My friend and I talked about the experience and how we’d apply it to our daily life. Our teacher recommended that we keep up our practice with two hours of meditation a day. An hour in the morning and another at night. Like most people at the course we talked about how that would play out in the ‘real world’. The value in being away for ten days is that you aren’t distracted by daily life. You’re able to get some serious work done and it’s really amazing.

I thought about what I would say to someone that asked me if I’d sit the course again. During those first few days I would have said no. In fact I probably would have shouted it. By the end my answered had changed from no to yes. Yes, I would sit the ten day course again but no it wouldn’t be any time soon. Would I recommend the course to others? Absolutely! Everyone would benefit from an experience such as this. Everyone would benefit from learning how to be more patient, kinder and forgiving. I wish this teaching was mandatory for everyone. The world would be a much better place to live.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled to keep my practice up. I make excuses just like everyone else. I focus attention in areas that aren’t nearly as beneficial. I’m not perfect. Ten days of meditation doesn’t do that. But I can say that I see life differently. I’m more understanding. I’m catching myself quicker when I fall into old habits. I have a long way to go. Long, long way. But bettering yourself isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and we all need to remember that.

So that’s it folks; my ten days learning and practicing Vipassana. I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts. Thank you to everyone who has been commenting and giving me feedback. I love hearing from you! I wish you all the very best and hope that these post have inspired you in some way.

I’m off to Winnipeg for a visit next week so I’ll be going silent for awhile. When I return I’ll have lots of art news for you including classes and new pieces!

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Vipassana Meditation: Days 4 – 7

Days 4, 5, 6 & 7 – The real work begins.

These four days sort of meld into one for me. They mark the real work of the course. During these days I found hope and became hooked on Vipassana. I can only say that overall I really enjoyed being there. I no longer felt the anxiety and panic of Days 0 to 3. Even the pain had dissipated. That’s not to say I didn’t experience any sort of discomfort or pain – I did – but during these days I was able to move past it. I appreciated every moment.

Up until the fourth day of meditation we had practiced Anapana. Anapana involves keeping your attention on your natural breath as it flows in and out through the nostrils. It’s not about changing the breath to make it deeper or shallower, it’s just observing how it flows and the sensations you feel while it’s occurring. It’s fantastic for calming yourself and your mind.

On the fourth day we began practicing Vipassana; a technique where you move your attention systematically from head to feet (and feet to head) observing all the sensations of your body. But it’s not just about observing; it’s also about being objective. Vipassana is about observing the sensation and not reacting to it. For example, if you were moving your attention down your arm and a spot suddenly became itchy your normal reaction would be to scratch it. Not during Vipassana. Instead you would observe the itchy sensation without reacting. The principle is that everything changes and soon that itch will disappear.

I know you’re probably thinking are you serious? But yes, yes I am. Same goes for pain, you observe it and move on to the next part. Whatever the sensation: hot, cold, itchy, pain, numbness, tingling etc. you just observe without reacting and then move on to the next body part. It takes practice and that’s exactly why we spent nearly 11 hours a day meditating – PRACTICE!

I’m not about to get into all the details of the practice or the theory behind it because, well, that took me 10 days to learn and I have no desire to make this blog post into a book but I will say this:

It’s believed that the source of all our misery in life is two things: craving and aversion. Vipassana teaches not reacting to sensations therefore not giving into these two things. If you are in pain then you are trying to avoid reacting adversely. If you are experiencing a wonderful feeling of vibration (and trust me it happens while you are mediating) then you are trying not to react by craving more of that pleasant feeling. Get it?

Now are you ready for the biggie? I say this with a warning because I KNOW that this statement will cause a wide variety of emotions – including negative – when I say it but please remember that Vipassana was taught by Buddha as a way to reach enlightenment. Still with me? Okay here it is….

All of our misery in life is self generated. It’s no one’s fault that we are unhappy except ours. Why is this? Because although someone might hurt us (therefore making us feel unhappy) it’s how we react to this that causes the actual misery. A person might hurt us once and yet we stew over and over and over again upon it therefore it is US that continues to cause the misery. Same goes for craving. We want something so bad that we end up becoming miserable.

Now I know this is a heavy statement because we all like to blame someone else for our misery. I do it too. We ALL DO IT! But if you think of it in this way then really that’s kind of awesome. If I’m in charge of how I react to a situation then I hold the power. But again it takes a lifetime of practice. Not just a 10 day course – believe me. The key is recognizing this before you react.

Example: You’re driving your car and there’s a ton of traffic. You’re basically at a stand still and your blood pressure is rising. If you are practicing Vipassana that means you are attuned to the sensations of your body. You feel your breath quicken, your heart is beating faster and you’re clenching your fists. You’re beginning to react – to get angry.

This is when you need to remind yourself that everything in life changes. Yes, you might be stuck in traffic now, but soon it will pass. This is when you need to focus on your breathing and the sensations of your body and remember that every time you react negatively you are adding misery into your life. You need to catch it before you react.

Highlights 

During these four days there was two very distinct moments that I remember, both involving intense sensations.

As some of you may know I hurt my back/shoulder back in November. After seeing a chiropractor I learned that one of my ribs was out of place. I’d been seeking treatment for this right up until I left for the course. On the fourth day during our first Vipassana session (two hours long) as I moved through my body I could actually feel my rib out of place. ACTUALLY FEEL IT! As I sat there I was certain that it would quite literally break through the skin on my back and pop out. Like I was sprouting wings – or maybe something much more gruesome. At the end of the session I spoke with my teacher and asked her how was I to deal with something as permanent as an out of place rib. She smiled at me and reminded me that nothing is permanent. She asked if when I move to a different position did the pain go away? I agreed that it did and she smiled again. She instructed that I continue the practice as objectively as I could.

Of course I left the meditation hall a bit skeptical. I had been suffering this pain since November. Granted it was off and on but now it felt like it was going to burst out of my back. Objective? Ha!

This is where I eat crow. I woke up the next day pain free. No rib jetting through my back. Not even a twinge. It was completely gone and stayed gone.

The second moment involves a little thing called Sankhara. Sankhara refers to our reactions. There are three types of Sankhara. The first is like drawing a line in water – it disappears instantly. The second is like drawing a line in sand – it’s there in the morning and gone by the afternoon. The third is like etching a line with chisel and hammer in stone – it takes a really long time for it to wear away. They are also the types of reactions you want to avoid. The ones that are deep and lasting. Practicing Vipassana helps you avoid these deep Sankharas. It also helps you “get rid” of your past ones. Like cleansing yourself from misery. During meditation you may experience gross sensations – the ones that are much harder to remain objective about. These are your past Sankharas leaving your body.

In my case it was burning pain that seemed localized in my …errr… *cough* butt region. Yes, I was quite literally getting rid of all my negative crap from my butt. Go ahead, laugh now. I’ll wait. ;) During one session the pain was so intense that afterwards I felt a bit light-headed. It’s not uncommon for people to experience overwhelming sensations. The staff at the centre are wonderful about making sure you are well looked after. when I spoke with the teacher and the women’s manager, they both insisted I eat a bit more at supper and take more rest. I did and later that evening felt much better. Although it was the only time I really felt such intense sensations, I felt pretty awesome knowing that I had rid my body of some pretty negative stuff. From my butt.

Stay tuned for the final post – Days 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Missed Days 0 – 3? Check it out here.