Category Archives: DIY Home

Essential Oils: My Favorites & Why I Like Them

Essential Oils are everywhere. Health food stores, popular culture, big companies… everywhere. Especially on the internet. Over the past few months, I’ve become someone much more in tune with my body and health. You might even go as far as to call me a “whole living” person… or maybe just a Hipster. Either way, I now eat Chia Seeds, practice yoga on a regular basis, drink out of mason jars, meditate and try to do as many things the “natural way” as possible (mainly for my own sanity, but that’s okay too). I’ll be sure to share more about my yoga and health practices soon!

Today, I wanted to share a little about my story and why I like essential oils for my life. If they’re still not your deal, that’s okay, I still like you. But for those of you that, like me a few months ago, were interested but not sure where to start, maybe I can give you some more information to start with. :)

Essential Oils: My Favorites & Why I Like Them

I was first introduced to Essential Oils when I started experiencing really bad migraines five years ago. Doctors, pharmacists (in Spain, where I was when the migraines were really bad) and friends have recommended Lavender and Peppermint EOs to help relax and relieve the tension. I’ve always enjoyed the smell of both of those things, so I picked up some inexpensive oils from NOW Foods on Amazon to see if they would help. (Here’s more info on NOW if you think you might want to start there, too.) Did they absolutely cure everything and all things? No. But did they make me more comfortable in my hours of pain? Absolutely.

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Over time, probably just like you, I’ve been exposed to friends and family getting more into EOs and even selling them. Jennifer McGuire wrote a post that I really connected with, and at that point I was interested but looking for a way to try before I bought into the significantly more expensive world of diffusers, the best oils and choosing a company to buy from. Fast forward to almost a year later, and I got to know a temporary coworker whose mom had been selling oils from Young Living for quite a while, and she had just signed up and got her kit. She was excited and brought everything to work so that I could smell everything, ask questions and look through the literature. She even gave me a sample of Peace & Calming to try out, and I was pretty much sold on giving these guys a try for real.

My favorite recipe in my diffuser for night - Aligning & Lavender (3 drops each with 100 mL water).

My favorite recipe in my diffuser for night – Aligning & Lavender (3 drops each with 100 mL water).

I bought a diffuser for about $30 – this pretty basic one to start out with – and started doing research on different Essential Oil companies. I also started pinning a ton of things onto a new Essential Oil board on Pinterest. It’s good to have ideas for a new thing all in one place like that.

Follow Britta Swiderski’s board Essential Oils on Pinterest.

After several days of research, I decided to start out with Rocky Mountain Oils for my “starter set.” Here are a few blog posts that help me decide on this company. (ONE, TWOTHREE, FOURNote: Rocky Mountain Oils and Native American Nutritionals are owned by the same people, but don’t let that confuse you too much. There is no best company out there, but there probably is one that best fits your wantsHere are the top three reasons I chose this company to start with.

  1. You just order. There’s no pressure to sign up and earn someone else commission, the shipping is very reasonable, and things seem to be in stock pretty consistently. (These are some of the problems I had with the “big guys” in the EO industry.)
  2. The oils are procured from plants grown in their natural homelands and are rigorously tested both on site and at the main location. If you read just a little from the company’s owner on the purity of oils and testing, you too will probably get the sense that this guy really knows what he’s talking about. For any oil, you can easily attain important information like country of origin, official species name and even testing results. I like buying things from people who know what they’re talking about.
  3. Price. OMGosh price. The quality is on par with the best (note: there is no official labeling standard for essential oils – companies can put a lot of things on the label that misrepresent the quality of the oil, so I definitely suggest doing some research of your own!), and the prices are amongst the best. This gave me more room to try several oils and see where that took me versus having to start out with just a few or with very, very tiny bottles.

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Here are the oils I went with for my first order. I looked at the Basic One Kit from RMO as well as kits and lists from other companies. These seem like what I would benefit the most from at the start. This list may look totally different for you, and that’s okay! I knew what I desired: stress relief, anxiety relief, something like Peace & Calming and a good base of the “must-haves” in EOs.

  1. Lavender – I’d already tried this from NOW foods, but I wanted to try this in high quality. It’s probably my favorite of all oils, and that’s for good reason – you can use it for anything.
  2. Peppermint – Same as above, plus this is good for migraines, sore muscles and digestive help. I’m all about that.
  3. Lemon – easily mixes with many other oils for a good combination, and it’s another must-have.
  4. Tea Tree – disinfecting and consistently recommended for skin. I made a rollerball (neat) just to have on hand for acne breakouts, and so far it’s earned its keep.
  5. Aligning – this smells a bit like YL’s Peace & Calming, and therefore I find myself using it often to help fall asleep and to roll on (diluted with FCO) my wrists and enjoy the aroma when I’m feeling anxious.
  6. Flu-Time (in the small 5 ml size) – I wanted to get this just to have on hand, but it came in hand waaayyyy faster than I thought – I got hit with a nasty head cold last week, and this was really good for diffusing at night + putting in a roller ball (diluted with FCO) to roll onto my feet when I needed that extra boost before work or at the end of the day.
  7. Immune Strength – I’ve diffused this as I’ve been feeling better from my cold but not 100%. It’s also a good boost when the allergen count is high. It’s a super comforting smell – nice and cozy.
  8. Trauma-Gone – anything meant to be calming is awesome in my book. This one is good for diffusing during mediation or yoga.

My total for my first order: $132.75, giving me a little bit of money to put towards accessories.

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Something I noticed while doing research is that roller balls are incredibly popular. It’s probably because they’re just about the most convenient thing ever. Want to apply oils to any area specifically? Roller ball. Want to keep the oils nice and cool and apply them that way for extra soothing power? Roller ball. Want to mix two oils together that you use regularly? Roller ball. You get the picture. ;) Here’s what I use for my roller balls:

  • Fractioned Coconut Oil (otherwise known as FCO) – a good carrier oil for diluting oils. Don’t let the idea of diluting oils scare you. You’re just adding more of a base so that the oils can reach more areas more effectively. Here’s a good dilution chart, especially since diluting oils makes your bottle of oil go a lot further!
  • Empty Roller Balls (pack of 24 for just about $11!) – clear glass ones are the cheapest, but it’s important to wrap them in something to block out light (I use washi tape) to maintain the integrity of the EOs. That’s why almost all EOs come in amber or blue glass bottles.
  • Liquid Pearls (Ellen Hutson & Simon Says Stamp) – perfect for labeling the tops indicating the use of the oil.
  • Rubbing Alcohol – you can pick this up at any drug store, and it’s perfect for disinfecting all the parts and pieces before filling them with oil. I simply spray a little bit on all the parts, making sure it covers all areas and let it air dry.

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Here are my current roller balls. A – Acne (Tea Tree, neat), R – Relax (Trauma-Gone, diluted), H – Headache (Lavender and Peppermint, diluted), F – Flu-Time (Flu-Time, diluted) and C – Calm (Aligning, diluted). I love that these can change and grow with me as my needs differ. Plus, washi tape makes everything pretty.

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What I’m doing now: researching (loving this book, The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, for a reference!) and planning for which oils I’d like to try next. I definitely want several more from Rocky Mountain Oils (this chart is especially handy for comparing blends from company to company), but I would love to explore and check out a few other brands as well. I would also love to hear what your personal favorites are in the comments below!

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Now that I’ve been applying and diffusing oils regularly, I have a pretty good idea of where I’d like to go from here. I don’t know if oils are the answer to all of my needs, but I love the idea of being able to cut down on some medications (and some discomfort!) over time with the use of oils. Anything that helps deal with stress and anxiety is awesome in my book. Here’s what I’m planning for next:

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I love sharing things that I like, and I plan on sharing a lot more over the next few weeks. After a pretty bad spell of migraines, I’m happy to say that I’m on the road to recovery (I’m only getting one about every two weeks now!) and ready to get back to work. In fact, I’ve been working diligently on the next release of my beloved planner inserts and hope to have those out by the beginning of August! Stay tuned for updates on that. :)

Love,
Britta

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Filed under DIY Home, Life and Health, Links and Shopping

A Cozy for My Mason Jar

I’m feeling bloggy, crafty and happy. Taking a little break from blogging was refreshing, but now I’m ready to get back down to business. There are so many things that I’ve been doing over the past few months that I want to share! Here’s the first one of them: knitting.

Knit Quart Mason Jar Cozy by Britta Swiderski

First of all, I love the idea of drinking out of mason jars… especially in the summer. They’re glass, they work for cold and warm beverages and they constantly remind me how much water I’ve been drinking throughout the day with their clever-but-not-antagonizing ounce markings. (I see your game, mason jar, trying to keep me all hydrated and stuff.)

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But I wanted to make a cozy for my beloved jar for two main reasons: it’s humid here in the summers in Minnesota, and my glass jar collects condensation like nobody’s business, and I work at a school and got really sick of everyone always asking me what I was drinking (usually flavored water). I also plan to use it more often for iced tea, and, let’s be honest, tea isn’t the prettiest thing to have just sitting out on a table (especially from a kid’s point of view).

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I began the search for a pattern. I came across this one by Briney Deep Designs and liked the concept, but when I followed the gauge and yarn suggestions, and it wasn’t really turning out for me. Then I came across this cozy by Sario Hill that is  crocheted and decided switched up the needle size and yarn to go more for that feel.

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Below is the pattern I came up with if you’re interested! It’s my first go at writing a pattern, so please do share if you follow it and let me know about any alterations you found to your liking.

Requirements:
– about 1/2 skein of Medium Weight yarn (I used Vanna’s Choice Lion Brand in Radiant Lime, Sapphire and Dark Grey Heather)
– US Size 7 circular needles with 32″ cable

Gauge:
19 stitches and 28 rows = 4 inches in stockinette (I’m a tight knitter, so you may have to go down in needle size)

Pattern:
Cast-on 44 stitches. Following the magic loop method, divide stitches evenly over two sides of the loop (22 stitches each size).
Join to work in the round, bring careful not to twist.

Work in [K1, P1] rib for 2 inches.

Work in stockinette (all knit) for 5 inches. (I switched colors after 5 rows – about 3/4″ of stockinette and then again after another 4 inches to complete the cozy with a colorblocked look.)

Decrease for bottom as follows:
Work [K9, K2tog] a total of 4 times. Continue decreasing in this manner until 8 stitches in total remain. (Tip: divide number of stitches on one needle by two, then subtract two to determine how many to knit before K2tog.)

Cut end of yarn and weave through 8 remaining stitches.
Finish piece by weaving in ends.

One very cool aspect of this project was the chance to play with my new knitting needles! If you’ve been following my #MakeIntentionally project on instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been pretty into knitting lately. I decided to take the leap and invest in an awesome set of interchangeable cable needles.

My new knitting needle set! Click the picture to go to the set on Amazon, or, even better, find them at your local knitting store!

Reasons why I chose these needles:

  • They’re a good “in-between” material. Having worked with needles made of bamboo, metal, plastic and one tiny set of Knit Picks laminate wood circulars (I picked the one set of laminate wood needles I have purely because they came in the size I needed and looked pretty – the Caspian colors are so dreammmy!). I knew that, as I tight knitter, bamboo is a little too “grippy” and metal is wayyy to “slippery” for my taste. Also, I end up knitting in a lot of quiet places, so the “click” that metal needles provide is a little too much for me. The laminated wood provides a nice balance of grip, smoothness and a softer sound than metal needles.
  • My cat, Leia, enjoys chewing on the ends of bamboo needles. The bamboo circulars that I used for my Western Hills blanket look like they’ve been through war – they have teeth marks all over them and have been sanded down and oiled at least four times so that the yarn wouldn’t catch on the tips. Bamboo needles would mean capping the tips every time I left them sitting alone, and that’s not practical.
  • I love that this set is color-coded. This mades the OCD size of me very happy. And although I doubt I would be able to tell, people seem to prefer Knitter’s Pride cables over Knit Picks cables.
  • I did the math. I would much rather decide the deluxe set (I bought mine for about $58) wasn’t for me and return it than end up loving the basic set ($25) and going back to buy other needle sizes individually for 8 to 10 dollars each. Plus, I’m always adjusting needle sizes for my tight knitting style – I wanted the luxury of having all the sizes right in front of me!

 Supplies used on this project: Click below to see where you can buy the products used on this project.  I only link to products and shops that I know and love. These links may be affiliate links, which help support my site by earning a small, monetary percentage of your order at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

What’s your favorite thing to use mason jars for? I’m excited to share lots more fun things with you soon!

Love,
Britta

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Cat Tree Wall Ikea Hack – A Tutorial

I love making grand plans for big, fun projects for when my parents come to visit. This is a perfect example of one I planned where almost every single thing went a little differently than planned. Ha! I did get the help from my mom putting this project all together, though – she has the know-how with things like saws and wall anchors to teach me something new every time I would with her. We weren’t using this corner space for anything other than putting backpacks, coats and purses on a pile in the floor, so I decided it was time to make this space useful and give our cat more vertical space to run around.

This project hardly went according to plan, but I still love the results… almost as much as Leia does.

Cat Tree Wall Ikea Hack Tutorial by Britta Swiderski - 10-09-14

Supplies:

  • shelves – used Ekby Östen 31″ length (4 shelves total) but Ekby Tryggve or Ekby Hemnes  have the same dimentions – it depends on your budget and color preferences + what’s available in-store
  • brackets  – Ekby Bjärnum 7.5″ brackets (5 sets) + connecting bracket for double-long shelf
  • wall anchorsTriple Grip 171K ( for holding up to 51 lb)
  • extra screws – for the bottoms of the brackets (four 51 lb anchors for a little shelf might be a little overkill)
  • carpet – we used carpet samples from Home Depot (which are free – I picked up a few every time I was in the area and needed to buy something), but you could use any spare carpet you have from an old project
  • glue for adhering the carpet – Hot Glue or E6000 – I couldn’t find my hot glue gun, so I went with E6000 and some books to hold the squares down. I did go back in with a glue gun to attach any corners or edges that sprang up in the drying process.
  • hefty scissors for cutting carpet – 9.5″ Tim Holtz Scissors were AMAZING for this
  • drill & bits – I have a Ryobi D42K + these drill bits + these screwdriving bits
  • circular saw – my parents swear by Black & Decker for power tools
  • sharpie and pencil for marking shelves and wall
  • T-Square for marking shelves to be cut – this is my all-purpose one
  • Level – we used an iPhone because I can never remember to just buy a real level

Cat Tree Wall Ikea Hack Tutorial by Britta Swiderski - 10-09-14

Five Steps to Cat Paradise:

1. Measure and Mark – measure and mark your shelves to the desired length. Use a sharpie and t-square to draw a line that will act as your guide with the circular saw. Measure and mark the walls where you want the shelves to go – this will help you decide where exactly to attach the shelves and adjust the heigh between shelves to make sure your kitty can jump between them (ours are about 24″ apart vertically and Leia doesn’t have any trouble, but I would recommend 18″ or less of a jump for larger or older cats).

2. Cut Boards to Size – use a circular saw to cut down the shelves to size. Be sure to read the saw’s instructions and safety warnings! You could also use a hand saw, but you’ll get the most precise results with power tools.

3. Attach Brackets – use a pencil to mark the boards where you’ll put the screw to attach the brackets, drill using a 1/8″ drill bit into the wood about 1/4″ deep and then attach the shelves with the provided screws.

4. Affix Carpet – adhere your carpet to the shelves with hot glue or E6000, cutting down the carpet with strong scissors to fit across the back and side edges. Be sure to slip the carpet under the extra space between the shelf and the bracket – this will hide raw edges.

5. Level and Drill – with the aid of a level (ehem… or an iphone) and your handy pencil, mark out where the holes for the brackets need to go. Be sure to use relatively heavy-duty wall anchors on the top of the brackets to give the shelf additional support if you’re drilling into drywall. Drill a hole to the size designated by the anchor (check the package), insert the anchor (use a hammer to help with the last little bit if necessary) and attach the shelf with the matching screw. I went with 50 lb anchors so they would not only support the shelf + my cat and also her jumps up and down. Drill 1/8″ holes and use a screw to secure the bottoms of the brackets.

 The Story

First of all, why a cat tree on the wall? I wanted to build this not only to give Leia a place to play and explore, but also a safe haven away from guests where she feels in charge. She runs away to hide as soon as she hears a person other than me or Jake come to the door. Even close friends that are here about once a week only see flashes of her – it took Leia 6 months of Dan coming over every week to watch TV and Star Wars for her to let him pet her.

After watching many episodes of My Cat from Hell (a.k.a. the cat version of Dog Whisperer), I knew that giving her a place up high where no one is allowed to touch her might really help her shyness around guests and reduce her feelings of anxiety about having other people around. This all came together into this awesome cat tree corner that, in total, cost me about $75 dollars to make a reality.

Here’s where the changes come in. The shelves were originally supposed to be Ekby Tryggve ($3.99 each) in a black-brown color to match the rest of our furniture, but Ikea didn’t have a single one when we went to pick up supplies. The Tryggve actually only comes in natural wood color now, so I bet that had something to do with it. I pulled a last-minute decision to go with the white Ekby Östen shelves ($6.99 each) in the interest of time. The extra $12 and color change was well worth it when we were able to get  the entire project done the next day while my parents were still in town. I was dead-set on the Ekby Bjärnum brackets ($5 per set of two and $5 for connector) because they covered up the ends of the shelf and had a coordinating connector bracket, allowing me to stick with the same shelf for the whole project. I should also note that I went with the 7.5″ deep shelves because Leia is little and so is the area I was working in. If you want to step up to the 11″ deep shelves, that would definitely provide more lounging room for your feline friends.

The second little bobble came from trusting Ikea’s measurements. Thankfully, the shelves didn’t need to be precisely the same length, just well-mounted and pretty close to level. When we measured out to cut the boards in half, we just used the Ikea dimensions and divided them in half… It was a rookie mistake that left us with two shelves of the desired length and two over an inch longer that the first set. Whoops! We just made sure to put both of the “long” shelves on the same side so nothing seemed off.

The third thing were the dang brackets. Since the shelves are thinner than the brackets, this allows for space to cover up the unfinished edges of carpet (awesome!) but makes them really tricky for installation. They hate being straight vertically. We just went with it, and it honestly doesn’t bother me. If you are using these brackets for your project, though, keep that in mind.

When all was said and done, though, the wall turned out amazingly well (if not a completely different color than I pictured it in my plans), and Leia is having a blast up in her new castle. We even moved over our 2 x 4 Expedit to the right side of the closet so she can jump down to the top of it and nap comfortably. I guess now we truly do live in Leia’s Castle.

Cat Tree Wall Ikea Hack by Britta Swiderski

One of Leia’s favorite new hobbies – sitting on the third shelf and leaning past the corner to surprise anyone coming down the hallway. This cat is a special one, for sure. <3

Thanks so much for stopping by today! And if you’re wondering, yes, I am a crazy cat lady and yes, I love it. A huge thanks goes out to my wonderful mom for helping me with this project. It’s a fairly easy but definitely two-person project. And thanks to my dad for sitting on the couch (he was sick the whole weekend – boo) and putting up with me yelling at the Gopher football game on TV.

If you liked this post, you might like my Refinishing 101: Modern Table Makeover that my mom helped me with last year. :) See you again soon with another card video!

Love,
Britta

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