How to Make Your Own Toner

Toner is one of those things that I kind of hate buying but I can’t live without. It is used between cleansing the skin and putting on a serum and/or moisturizer, and it balances the pH of the skin as well as helps the serum/moisturizer spread evenly so you get the most out of those more expensive products. Since it is the first layer on your skin after washing it, it has the potential to really help your skin be its healthiest and therefore its glow-iest, but it’s a light product so there shouldn’t be too much in it. Leave it to the serums and moisturizers to pack in the heavier oils and such, but that doesn’t mean toner can’t have some amazing ingredients too. Making your own means you can tweak it for your specific skin needs and even add in ingredients that might be missing from your other skin care products. For example, if you know your skin could benefit from more Vitamin C but you happen to love your current serum which is Vitamin A based, you can make sure your toner is strong Vitamin C by using Hibiscus tea, Vitamin C powder, and/or orange peel.

One of the easiest ways to make toner is by using Witch Hazel as the base. In fact, you can just use Witch Hazel for a toner by itself or by adding essential oils to it. Witch Hazel balances skin, soothes irritations, tightens, firms, and refreshes the skin. You can use it to cleanse your skin by pouring some onto a cotton ball and wiping your face clean. To use as a toner, it’s nice to cut it a bit with distilled water, floral water, a hydrosol, or a glycerin extract of an herb such as rose or orange peels as mentioned above. You can also just use floral waters and hydrosols alone as a toner in which case Rose water is a popular choice.

I happen to be out of toner so I am making some with what I have on hand which is: Witch Hazel, distilled water, and essential oils of Carrot Seed and Geranium. Both of those essential oils have a plethora of beneficial properties for the skin from moisture-balancing to wrinkle-fighting, and are good for dry, oily, mature, and/or combination skin. Their wide-ranging benefits for all different kinds of skin types make them similar to Rose essential oil, but a lot less expensive.


Toner Recipe:

1/8 C Witch Hazel

1/8 C Distilled Water (a floral water or hydrosol would work beautifully too)

4 Drops Geranium Essential Oil

3 Drops Carrot Seed Essential Oil

2 oz. glass bottle with a spray top

Be sure to label your product and to shake your toner before each use.


Speaking of different skin types, here’s an infographic from Delicious Living on best natural ingredient for different types of skin. Some of these could be added to a toner, while others work better in a mask, serum, or moisturizer. Borlind_infographic_3

Happy creating and beautifying everyone! You deserve to shine with optimal health.

How to Make an Herbal Oil Part 1

Making an herbal oil using the ‘cold method’ is very similar to making an herbal tincture. For the base oil you can use olive oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil, but olive oil is the one most commonly used. Herbal oils are a great way to get the healing benefits of the herbs onto the skin where they can work on skin issues (Calendula or Rose), and also be absorbed into the body through the skin to work on things like sore muscles (St. John’s Wort). Herbal oils can also be added to baths or made into a healing  balm or butter, and essential oils can be added to herbal oils for added benefits as well.

The skin benefits of roses from their nutritious rose hips to the highly prized essential oil are well known. Making an herbal oil of roses is another way to make use of the healing and beauty-imparting benefits of roses. It is far more economical than the essential oil, and also less potent, but it makes a great base for any perfume blending or body butter creations. Rose oil itself is skin healing and beautifully scented enough to make a lovely gift just as is, even without added essential oils. After the oil has cured and been strained, simply add a few new rose buds or petals back into the strained oil for a luxurious look. How to video below:

How to Make an Herbal Tincture Part 1

Making your own herbal tinctures is one way to really connect to herbs, make exactly what you want, and save money. If you want to make extracts without using alcohol for example, you can use apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerine instead. You can blend several different herbs together in the tincture, or just extract one herb at a time. In the video below I just use St. John’s Wort in alcohol for the demo. For more information about natural anti-depressants and anti-anxiety herbs, check out this previous post on nervines. Be sure to label your jars with as much information as possible and maybe even write in a notebook or on a calendar what you did and when you need to do the next part. There are different schools of thought about how long a tincture needs to cure, but most medicine-makers agree that a moon cycle is an appropriate amount of time, so about 4 weeks. (That is why I have the moon information on my label.) The next step will be straining the herbs out of the liquid into dark glass dropper bottles at which point the tincture will be ready to be used. That will be in part 2, in about in a month from now, so stay tuned, and while you are at it, why not make an herbal oil as well






Cleansing for the New Year

Is anyone else ready to put away the dairy and desserts and cleanse for the New Year? I personally love a good cleanse, though I’m partial to the low-suffering kind. I know people who think it’s not a real cleanse unless you take in nothing but fresh juice and water, but that never made sense to me. Our bodies like balance, and balance by extremes is not really balance at all at the human level. Just look at how bad yo-yo dieting is for people or how hard it is on the body when there are huge weight fluctuations. Gentle detox is a way to cleanse while giving the body support to adjust, instead of shocking the body and then reeling from its effects. Of course, there is a time and place for everything and if you know what you are doing and have the right support, then by all means juice away your days. If you prefer a cleansing reboot that doesn’t leave your blood sugar levels bouncing and your mood-o-meter permanently set to hangry, keep reading for some options.

Adding powdered greens to your daily routine is one way to activate detox mechanisms in your body. While cleansing you should be drinking extra glasses of water anyway, so adding a scoop or packet to one of your glasses or bottles of water is a great way to get extra goodness. It is worth noting that some green mixes, like Paradise Herbs, are formulated for energy~

while others, like the Food Science one below, are formulated more specifically for cleansing. Greens in general, whether in a powder or in a whole fresh or cooked form, are cleansing though so an energy greens mix will still work towards detoxing your system. Both these mixes came in my New Hope Blogger Box and they are tasty as well as healthy blends, but there are of course other reputable greens out there. Just be sure to read ingredients lists thoroughly.

Adding a cup or two of detoxifying herbal tea a day is another easy way to help your body cleanse. There are plenty of blends out there, such as detox teas by Yogi and Traditional Medicinals that are as easy as boiling water. Flora makes a tea concentrate that you just pour a bit out and add hot water to. They promote their cleanse every year on Facebook so you can actually join a group of others using their product to get tips and expand your knowledge a bit into the world of detox. (Plus if you join in you just might get a coupon or more, depending on if you are one of the firsts to sign up.) They do have a dry blend as well.

If you want to do something a little more involved than greens and teas, making up a batch of kitchari is what one of my herbal teachers drilled into us as the most healing, cleansing, tri-doshic thing you could do. Kitchari is a meal from the tradition of Ayurveda that is made up of mung beans and basmati rice (brown or white depending on your preference), spices, and ghee. You can eat it once a day to support a general cleanse, or you can eat kitchari three times a day and nothing else but herbal teas for 6 days straight for a more intense detox. As with all things herbal, kitchari is a traditional dish that you can find a thousand variations for so this recipe can be modified as you like. What follows is how my herbal teacher told us to make it and it has never failed me. It’s a calming meal, easy on the digestive system, and healing.

Kitchari Recipe:

1 C mung beans

1 C brown basmati rice (my herbal teacher actually used white basmati rice, so your choice really)

1 tbsp. ghee (vegans can use coconut oil)

1 tsp. each turmeric, cumin, and coriander

After soaking the mung beans overnight (or at least 6 hours), cook them in 4 C of water until they are thoroughly soft, about half an hour.

Cook rice according to its instructions, depending on white or brown, then mix together with beans.

Warm the ghee in a sauce or sauté pan and add the spices, cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes or so.

Mix the spices and ghee with the rice and beans and you are finished. Eat as often as you like.

I’ve never been big on resolutions, but I do like the spirit of renewal that January sweeps in. A gentle cleanse sets a nice tone for the year~ a reminder to think better, feel better, act better, and be better. Best wishes for health, fulfillment, beauty, and peace to everyone for the New Year.

Herbal Gifts Kids Can Make (Adults too!)

This time of year it can be nice to take a break from the holiday craziness for a couple of hours and be creative, work with nature’s gifts, and maybe even a kid or two, to make something for yourself or others. I remember watching Little House on the Prairie and being shocked at how excited they were for their Christmas gifts which were always something like a penny and a hand-sewn apron for their one and only doll. Those days may be long gone but we can still appreciate the small things, the natural gifts that are crafted by hand that can add a sparkle of ‘special’ to a bath, a meal, or a daily routine. Kids love to be creative and make things, something that seems to happen less and less in school these days, so really if you are crafting with kids you are giving them a gift in the making as well as in the giving. Part of the fun is the labeling and packaging too, so let yourself or your young helper/s let out their inner artist. Including instructions with the gifts is also a good idea just to make sure the receiver remembers how to use the gift days later when all the chaos and hubbub of gift giving is over, plus it’s a sneaky little writing exercise for youngsters too, and can be awfully cute. It’s also a great time to share the value of reusing glass bottles and other containers, as well as why choosing ‘natural’ over ‘artificial’ is important. Some ideas to consider:

For the cook~ Bouquet Garni, Olive Oil and Vinegar infused with herbs (For the bouquet garni you will need cooking twine or muslin bags, parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf or two, plus other herbs if you want.) Use dried herbs only with the oil, but vinegar can take dry or fresh. See video below for more details.

For the homebody~ Room spray / body spray (could even be labeled car spray for the new driver or car aficionado), body oil These links take you to other posts with videos.

For the bath and spa lover~ Bath salts, Herbal bath mixtures, Bath milks,  Salt Scrub, Massage oil (can be made the same as a body oil). See video below for more details.

For the traveler~ Herbal Eye Pillow (this link takes you to Pinterest tutorials), Relaxing essential oil perfume (this link takes you another post with a how-to video).

For the yoga and/or meditation practitioner: Chakra oils (This link takes you to another post with a how-to tutorial.)

For men~ Cologne (video below but using a recipe from Wormwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy), body oil, hair growth blend (Links to other posts with the how-to info.)


Bottle of 2 oz. Castor oil with 5 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil with a dropper (for hair growth)
For the cat fanatic~ Catnip pillow (you can do this for dogs too, just sick some treats in there instead of the catnip.) Link is to Pinterest how-to tutorials.

I really enjoy the labeling process (as you can clearly see by all the options I included) so here are ideas to get you started:

Chalkboard Labels or these

Apothecary Labels

Craft Labels

Japan Style Labels

Natural History Labels

Art Nouveau Labels

European Tiles Labels

In case you can’t reuse the glass bottles and jars that you already have, here are a couple of options:

Clear Vintage Bottles

Green Vintage Bottles

Vintage Apothecary Jars

Craft Jars

Enjoy being creative and fashioning nature’s gifts into self-care treats for yourself or others, and please share with anyone who might be looking for DIY ideas, especially if they have little ones they are crafting with. Kids love creating and especially love working with herbs and essential oils. They just seem to have an instinct for the ancestral authenticity of it. I hope your winter season is full of natural delights and plenty of rest and rejuvenation.

Thanksgiving in Prague

This time of year always gets me thinking about the Thanksgiving I spent in Prague, over 15 years ago. We didn’t celebrate on the day that everyone in the states celebrated, we instead had a dinner party sometime between Canadian and American Thanksgiving because my flat-mate and I were from those two countries. We had another good friend who lived with us up until about that time in November when she changed schools (we were all English teachers) which meant she also had to change flats. She was from South Africa and if I remember correctly, it was her first Thanksgiving dinner.

The evening started out well, besides the fact my Canadian flat-mate’s turkey turned out to actually be a duck. (We couldn’t read that much Czech so it was an easy mistake to make, plus neither of us ate poultry at the time so we didn’t have any clue it didn’t taste like a turkey until our guests started commenting on the delicious duck to which we replied, “It’s turkey” and they all answered, “No, it’s definitely duck.”

After the dinner party which included English teachers from various countries and backgrounds, my South African friend and I headed out to meet a sketchy guy we barely knew at a club across town because we were young and thought it would be a fun, exciting end to the evening. My Canadian friend saw that it was all folly and most likely not going to end well, so she stayed home. She was the youngest of us there, but somehow managed to be the wisest more often than not.

Another teacher who had attended our Thanksgiving celebration decided to go with us which was not exactly good news to us. By that time the South African and I knew each other quite well and had a mutual understanding of people and timing that makes going out to late night clubs across town to meet sketchy strangers a little less of a bad idea. If one of us sensed it was time to turn around, we trusted the other to do it. This other young woman was a wild card in that respect and we both had our reservations about her, but what could we do? She came along.

At the club we ended up splitting up right away. The South African had recently moved into a flat occupied by a British couple who were in the middle of a very long break-up, and they happened to be at the club. They immediately drew her into their issues so she found herself playing peacemaker and go-between, as much as one can anyway with ear-bursting techno music pounding through the dark rooms. The other teacher disappeared in a social frenzy of partying as though she’d just been let out of her strict family home for the first time in her life. I was being dogged by a young American boy who actually was on his own for the first time in his life and seemed to decide I could be something along the lines of a babysitter with benefits. Not surprisingly, the sketchy stranger who told us we ‘had’ to go to that club that night never showed up.

My friend and I found each other and realized we were both having a terrible time so the plan to go home was quickly made with the last reasonable tram putting a tight timer on our ability to find the third one in our group. When we managed to find her and talked her into leaving, she confessed she had lost her keys. It was hard not to panic as we frantically looked everywhere in the dark until someone asked the DJ to make an announcement at which point the music stopped, the lights came on, and the announcement was made that “the Americans” had lost their keys. Other comments were also made which had an unflattering cadence but the Czech words were a mystery to us, but it produced a sea of eye-rolling and grumbles and side-eyed snickers.

I honestly can’t remember if she found her keys or not, but we eventually all left together. It was all very embarrassing and my friend and I were annoyed, which made the flaky social-butterfly annoyed at us in return. We walked as fast as we could to the tram knowing if we didn’t make it we would have to wait an hour in the cold, dark, midnight hour of downtown Prague which was much more than our thin coats were prepared for. Luck finally shined on us and we made it, but because of the tension all around, or maybe because she was embarrassed, the teacher with us refused to get on and instead started walking towards her room along the unlit, desolate streets of the city center. We couldn’t believe it and my friend ran after her to try to talk sense but I saw the stubborn set of her chin and knew there was no reasoning with her. I stayed near the tram with pleading eyes and hand gestures, but ended up just watching it ‘ding-ding’ away and it felt like it took all the warmth in the world with it. Sure enough, the South African came back alone, unsuccessful in her quest to keep us all together, so the two of us sat on separate benches, freezing, silent, worried, and desperately watching for the next tram.

Since it was the day we were celebrating Thanksgiving, I finally broke the silence by suggesting we think of things we were grateful for about living in Prague. The black quiet was even more complete after that because we were both so cold, worried, and miserable that neither of us could think of a single thing. Not one thing. It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had in some ways, and yet despair so easily slipped up on us with some challenges, bad choices, and the cold that neither of us were properly prepared for that entire long, grey winter. (That is another area where the youngest of us came out on top. She was Canadian after all and had the most enviable winter wardrobe and warm accessories.)

Everyone made it home that night, and once I was in my warm bed, I’m pretty sure I was able to feel gratitude. There really was so much to be thankful that year, the friendships, the beauty of the city, the life of young twenty-somethings living abroad with basically no responsibilities. I learned so much that year, and one thing is for sure, if you want to keep your humor about you, dress well for the weather. A warm coat, or the lack of one, can make or break one’s attitude in a big way.

Here’s a recipe for Sopsky Salat (pronounced shopsky) which is found at pretty much every restaurant in the Czech Republic. There are many ways to make it, and I went with what I had on hand instead of trying to make it completely traditional. It’s like a Greek Salad without the olives and it’s one of my favorites. I hope you like it too:

Sopsky Salat


1 pepper (red, green, orange, or yellow)

1 cucumber

2 medium tomatoes

1/2 red onion

Feta cheese (as much as you want but I used about 4.5oz, or half that package shown)

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T olive oil

salt (that is my favorite salt/herb blend ever!) as much as desired

pepper as desired

To make, simply chop and mix. Let the salad set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating for best taste. It actually is much better the second day.


I like to spoon the salad on top of warm (gluten-free) bread and let the feta melt a tad. Delicious.

I hope all your Thanksgivings are full of warmth and gratitude. Na zdravi! (Czech for ‘Cheers!’)



Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos Gluten-Free and Vegan

This is a post from around this time of year three years ago from my first blog. I’m hoping to get all the relevant recipes over here now. We actually are not hosting Thanksgiving this year but I still need to bring a few dishes…tacos instead of turkey? Maybe….

Just when I thought I never wanted another corn tortilla again, I got a craving for a taco with some sort of orange veggie in it. Whenever we go out to dinner we often go to one of two places where I order a butternut squash quesadilla. I love them, but I hate dealing with squash and its hard shell that eats knives for lunch so I have never attempted to make them myself. It got me thinking though that wouldn’t a sweet potato taste just as good in that kind of meal? And if I could eliminate the cheese it’d be even better for our family, so onto the web I went and sure enough there are plenty of recipes for sweet potatoes and black beans together in all sorts of fashions~ tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. I went the taco route and used several different recipes to cobble together what is written below to work with what I had in my refrigerator. My husband and oldest son loved these by the way, as did I, and my youngest who only gathered enough courage to try one black bean and one piece of sweet potato admitted the black bean wasn’t bad. That says more to me than the fact that my husband is generally not a huge sweet potato fan, nor a big black bean fan, and really he prefers flour tortillas and definitely cheese and preferably meat. This recipe outshined all that. It is a keeper. (Unfortunately, the pics I took are not very good. Next time I make this, I’ll take better ones.)

Vegan, Gluten-free Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

1.5 T vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil and olive oil)

1/2 t salt

1 yellow or red onion (I used red b/c that is what I had and the purple hue was so pretty)

1 pepper (I used 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper, but orange or green would work)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium-large sweet potato

1 can black beans (or 1.5 c if using dried beans)

1 t cumin

freshly ground pepper to taste

corn tortillas

guacamole (or avocados)

Preheat oven to 400. Using a large cast iron pan or some other oven-friendly pan* sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic until the onions are translucent in 1 T of vegetable oil. (I used sunflower oil). In a bowl coat the sweet potato which has been skinned and diced into bite size pieces with 1/2 T of oil (I used olive) and 1/2 t of sea salt. Add this into the sauté pan and cook for 1 minute before transferring into the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm up the rinsed and drained beans on medium with 1 t cumin in a small sauce pan. Also warm up some corn tortillas** until they are soft. Take the pan out of the oven and if the sweet potatoes are cooked through add the beans and stir to get everything mixed together. Load the tortillas and top with guacamole or fresh avocados. It’s a symphony of flavors played just right. If it were up to me this is what I’d make for Thanksgiving, along with kale chips and pica de gallo salsa. It’s enough to make a pilgrim say, “Ole!” but alas, we are hosting this year and I’m going to have to stick to the more traditional items I’ve already planned.



* If you don’t have an oven proof pan, use one that you can top with a lid or plate and add 2 T of water to the mixture to steam it for approximately 5-10 min.

** I use Trader Joe’s corn tortillas b/c they are thick and sturdy, plus they are remarkably clean. Their ingredient list is all of: ground white corn masa flour, water, trace of lime. That’s it. Exactly how it should be. And they taste incredibly good, much better than any other corn tortilla on the market.



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