art & organics

Synchronized Singing for Your Heart


 I am a member of a woman’s acapella group (ages 10 to 92) and have made the joyous discovery that singing makes me, well, joyous.  I can have the most stressful, demanding, sad, or non-rewarding day but when I end that day singing with my chorus family, my spirit is lifted. There is a rush in the blending of voices, a power in the reaching of those unreachable notes, and a pride in the achievement of beautiful sound that can only be found in the choral arena.  Our choir director sent out an email with the following information about the healthy heart benefits of synchronous singing.


When people join their voices in song, their hearts come along for the ride, speeding up,

slowing down and (figuratively) swelling in unison while much of the chorale’s muscuar

movement and brain activity synchronizes as well.

Now Swedish researchers are examining whether it might be harnessed for

strengthening working relationships in teams and at schools.

The research, released in the open-access journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, is the

latest to explore the health benefits of making music. It’s already been found that

learning to play a musical instrument can have long-term cognitive benefits and that

listening to music can lower blood pressure, ease pain and provide connections to

happier, healthier times and memories.

That it can synchronize the heartbeats of choral singers very quickly offers a health

benefit that’s harder to characterize. In individuals, the Swedish researchers found,

singing of several different kins imposes a calm breathing pattern, an increases heart

rate variability, the routine changes in heart rate that are considered a measure of “good

autonomic tone.” The long exhalations that singers use to sing long phrases appears to

stimulate the vagus nerve, slowing the heart and achieving the kink of relaxation seen in

practitioners of yoga.

But when a whole group experiences these benefits, the effect may be mulitplicative.

Synchrony, an the rituals that instill it, provides a sense of social belonging, which can

ward off loneliness and the substantial health risks that attend it. And if a greater sense

of cooperation ensues, groups relying on teamwork might work more productively.

from the LA Times

Natural Flea Shampoo for Dogs**

Ingredients:                                            Image                                           

1/4 Cup Dr. Bronner Liquid Baby Soap*

1/4 Cup Vinegar 

 1/2 Cup Warm Water 


Mix all 3 ingredients in an empty squeeze bottle, cover tip with your thumb and shake well.

 Apply from bottom of your dog’s neck to the tip of their tail. Don’t forget chest, legs and in between the paws. -via the web

**Disclaimer: always check with your veterinarian before using any natural remedies on your pets.

*I use NYR Organic Baby Shampoo/Soap. You can order here :

Elementary School Provides Veggies For Community

This is the community garden at the elementary school where I work. Students do all of the planting and tending (with the help of staff and volunteer Master Gardeners) and anyone in the neighborhood is allowed to take home some veggies if they help out in the Summer. Solar panels run the pump system that irrigates the raised beds and scraps from the school cafeteria are used to make compost. The students are taught which kind of scraps cannot be used for the compost and willingly separate when dumping their lunch trays. We also have some fruit trees and grapes that are not shown in the photo.

Why Not Wall Art?

Lavender- Tea Tree Soap

Today I made some soap….

When I was 14, I earned money by milking the neighbor’s goats and part of my payment was gallons of the stuff.  Needless to say, my mom used it in every possible way, including to make soap. I didn’t make my soap-base from scratch today, I cheated and bought a package of organic suspension bricks, which are available at craft stores or even online. Soooo much easier!

Step one in making soap is deciding the needs of you and your family’s skin.  Oftentimes, that means making several different types of soap. Fortunately for me, lavender and tea tree soap seems to cover all the complexions in my household.  It is both soothing and healing.  And smells really, really good.  I grow my own lavender and make my own essential oils.

Step 2 : Making lavender oil.

I clip about four stems of lavender and cut them into pieces- blossoms, stems and all. Next, I add about a cup of olive oil (in a clear glass) and set the covered mixture on the windowsill.  Sunlight and heat are the catalysts for the lavender oils to become suspended in the olive oil. Some sources even recommend setting the glass in boiling water if there is not enough sunlight, but I prefer to just let it sit longer. Use cheesecloth to strain out pieces of the plant.

Step 3: 

Following the directions on the package, I melt the soap suspension in the microwave (or double-boiler on the stove).  I learned to always use a ceramic bowl for microwave melting because apart from the health concerns with microwaving plastic, it is really hard to clean out the soap residue when you are done! Once the soap has melted it is time to move fast. Very important to have your lavender oil, tea tree oil, molds, and a spoon ready to go because the next step is….

Step 4:

to add approximately 20 drops of tea tree oil and 1 cup of lavender oil to the melted  soap suspension. (Being a purist, I do not like to add any coloring, but it is available at craft stores if you don’t believe soap should be white). And stir, stir, stir then pour, pour, pour into soap molds.  Simple, right?

Step 5:

Let set in the molds for about 30 minutes.  Pop out of molds and prepare yourself for great smelling and extremely soft skin. And best of all you know that it doesn’t contain all the additives of store-bought soap.

Happy Veggies on the Ugly Side (of the House)


You know that ugly side of the house?  That side of the house that either hasn’t been landscaped yet or is a failed attempt at landscaping?  Most of the back of my house is like that because my husband built the house several years ago and we have done every single minute detail of the landscaping ourselves.

In our 4 acres of overgrown woods, we have carved out a  lawn area, 80 feet of terraced gardens, decks, walkways, patios, sheds, a large fenced dog yard, and we are working on a chicken coop. Needless to say, the back of our house (which requires an engineered retaining wall) is the final frontier. In the meantime, I persuaded my husband to make some raised garden beds back there and that ugly, “useless” area has proved to be a vegetable haven. Thanks to the most perfect morning sunshine and late afternoon shade.

If I Were Snoopy....

My dog Cowboy

My Garden Fashion Statement

Yes, I am the type of woman who will wear my rubber ” irrigation” boots with shorts. Especially when I am digging out garden beds and disturb an ant’s nest.  Happy Gardening Everyone!

Back Deck Sanctuary

Image     For many years we were the last house at the top of the road in our mountain neighborhood.  About ten years ago our   neighbors built their house up the hill from us, but living on acreage in the woods meant that we couldn’t even see their house.  Then about 2 years ago they decided to install a security gate and video surveillance at the end of their driveway, which unfortunately also happened to be in direct view of our back deck.  We did not want to lose our HPIM0313beautiful view, but we also wanted privacy.  So…we used wood from one of my builder husband’s barn demos and made a partial privacy screen.  Now we can enjoy the nature we love without  being viewed by our neighbors and their guests.  It is  our favorite place to eat breakfast in the warmer months and to gather around the chiminea in the Fall.






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