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Happy Thoughts

So, in the dressing rooms at radiation, ladies leave post it notes with encouraging messages, cards for the next person, little trinkets, just little happy things.

I’m planning to use the three day weekend to make some little lace embroidery hearts or butterflies or bookmarks (haven’t decided which yet) and leave them in the rooms. I want to attach little notes with positive quotes to them. So, if you want to help me out, comment with your favorite positive, encouraging quote, mantra, whatever. ❤

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Last Chemo Day! And More Treatment Details

‘This is a breast cancer and treatment post. If you don’t want to read about medical stuff, check out some of my DIYs and recipes.

I actually started this post about a week and a half ago on my last chemotherapy day. Then, I got tired, then sick a few days later and got to stress over whether I needed to go to the hospital. Luckily, all I needed was rest, antibiotics and my mom for a few days.

Today is my last chemotherapy treatment. I had an MRI done a week ago that shows all the previously affected lymph nodes to look completely normal. As for the three tumors in my breast, all that remains is wispy asymmetry in a benign pattern. “Wispy asymmetry” almost makes it sound pretty. Almost.

I’m still having a double mastectomy in June. The cancer was so diffuse and since I’m young, we’re not taking chances. It’s kind of funny how relative age is. When I was pregnant at thirty five, I was of “advanced maternal age” and it was considered a “geriatric” pregnancy. Get breast cancer at forty one and I’m young again, lol.

The chemo has made it so I won’t lose as many lymph nodes, so that is great news. Fewer lymph nodes removed means less chance of lymphedema.

Pathology from the surgery will determine if radiation is needed and if I will continue on the Herceptin and Perjeta or switch to a different targeted therapy. I’d really like to avoid radiation, if possible. For some reason, I’m more worried about radiation than chemo and surgery.

I am looking forward to having hair again. It will be nice not having to wash my hair while recovering from surgery, and being bald in summer isn’t terrible. I’m over tying scarves or wearing my wig, though, and as it gets hotter, both are uncomfortable. I need some hair to keep my scalp from getting sunburned.

I did make myself a couple of bucket hats that are easy to throw on. They turned out nicely, so I made a couple more to put in my shop. Right now, this is the only print, and I only have two available.

Bucket hat available for sale at SubEarthan Cottage.

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How to Grow Your Own Herbs

With the cost of everything going up, many people are turning to gardening as a way to save money on food. Depending on your location or gardening experience or abilities, a fruit or vegetable garden may seem daunting or just not possible. One way to get started that doesn’t require a huge amount of space is planting an herb garden. Dried herbs from the store are pricey, so growing your own still can help your budget while giving your food loads of fresh flavor.

Starting Your Herb Garden

 

Choosing Your Herbs

First you’ll want to choose the herbs that you’ll plant. You might have a hard time doing this because of the huge scope of herbs available. The most practical way to choose is to do what I did; look at what you have in your kitchen. By planting your own collection of the herbs you already use, you know you’ll get the most use from your garden. Some of the herbs you might start with include rosemary, sage, basil, dill, mint, chives, and parsley.

Don’t feel that you have to only start with these, though. If there’s an herb you’re curious about, give it a try. If plant medicine is something that interests you, research and plant a few basics like lavender, catnip or lemon balm.

Location

When choosing an area to put your herb garden, you should remember that the soil should have extremely good drainage. If the dirt gets watered and stays completely saturated, you have no chance of ever growing a healthy plant.

One way to fix the drainage problem is to dig a foot deep in the soil, and put a layer of crushed rocks down before replacing all the soil. This will allow all that water to escape, thus saving your plants.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Another way is to build a raised bed. This allows you to fill the bed with a suitable soil mix without having to dig down deep into your existing soil. Raised beds can be made from timbers, bricks or any suitable material you have available.

If you are incredibly limited on space or don’t have a yard at all, herbs are perfect for container gardens.

Getting your plants

When you are ready to begin planting herbs, you might be tempted to buy the more expensive plants from the store. However, with herbs it is much easier to grow them from seed than it is with other plants. Therefore you can save a bundle of money by sticking with seed packets. If you’re a little impatient (like me), a selectively chosen plant or two is nice for some greenery to tend while you wait for the seeds to sprout.

I personally haven’t had much luck with starting lavender or rosemary from seed, so I would choose those to get as a small plant. Plants in the mint family and basils do really well from seed, so save your money on those.

Once mints start growing, they can get out of control. The best way to prevent this problem is to plant the more aggressive plants in pots (with holes in the bottom to allow drainage, of course).

Harvesting from Your Herb Garden

When it comes time to harvest the herbs you have labored so hard over, it can be fatal to your plant to take off too much. If your plant isn’t well established, it isn’t healthy to take any leaves at all, even if it looks like it isn’t using them. You should wait until your plant has been well established for at least a few months before taking off any leaves. This wait will definitely be worth it, because by growing unabated your plant will produce healthily for years to come.

It’s a good idea to harvest from the ends of the plants as needed throughout the growing season to keep the shape and encourage new growth. The end of the season is when you’ll want to harvest and dry more of the plant for storage. Do check recommendations for the specific herbs in your garden as not all are the same.

Storing Your Herbs

Once you’ve harvested your delicious home grown herbs, you’ll want to use them year round. The easiest way to store them is drying. If you have a safe place to hang them to air dry that isn’t overly humid, that is the simplest. I also think this way preserves the most color and flavor.

You could also use a food dehydrator on the recommended settings. If not, don’t worry. You can dry them in the oven. This is easily achieved by placing them on a cookie sheet and baking them on the lowest setting, usually around 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 4 hours. After they’re sufficiently dried, store them in an airtight container such as a Ziploc bag or glass jar. I think they look beautiful in glass jars, so save any you get to upcycle as herb storage.

Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

During the first few days of storage, you should regularly check the container and see if any moisture has accumulated. If it has, you must remove all the herbs and re-dry them. If moisture is left from the first drying process, it will encourage mildew.

Herbs are a fun, easy and useful way to get into gardening no matter what your space. I encourage you to give it a try.

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My Breast Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment Plan

The title says it all, so if you want to skip the breast cancer talk and get back to the fun stuff, now’s your chance

On November 1 of last year I had my first ever mammogram at age 41. The next day I found out I needed further testing and two weeks later I had a follow-up ultrasound and biopsy of two of three tumors and one of a few suspicious lymph nodes. From the appearance on the ultrasound, I was told they were about 95% likely to be cancer. On Monday of the following week (aka Thanksgiving week) it was official. 

Type of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is classified both on location and whether it has receptors for estrogen(ER+ or -), progesterone (PR+ or -), and/or HER2 growth hormone (HER2+ or -). If it’s negative for all three hormone receptors, it’s called triple negative breast cancer. I have two types: invasive ductal carcinoma that is ER+ and HER2+ and invasive lobular carcinoma that is ER+ and HER2-. All are PR-. It is also stage 2, and grade 2. Stage describes the extent and is what most people are familiar hearing. Grade is how slow or fast it’s likely to spread. Grade 2 is not as slow as 1 but slower than 3.

Genetic Testing

Because I have a family history of breast cancer, I had genetic testing. I do not have any known genes for breast cancer, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. It did show I have two variants. That just means that those genes are still being looked at for contributing to breast cancer. Most of the time variants get moved to the harmless category, so for now having them makes no impact on treatment or advice for other family members.

Treatment

Because I’m complicated (ha!), it took some time and more test results for my oncologist to determine the best course of treatment. It also uncovered some weird activity in my left femur on a PET scan. Thankfully a bone biopsy came back negative for cancer, although we will still need to keep an eye on it. I also get to say I had someone drill into my bone while I was awake, which my weird self thinks is kind of cool. Not that I want to ever have to do it again, but since it happened I’m embracing the cool but slightly gross factor.

We knew that the best course was chemo followed by surgery, probably radiation and definitely a year of a targeted HER2 therapy called Herceptin. Which type of chemo was the question. Eventually, she decided on six rounds of TCHP for the chemotherapy, which is two chemotherapy drugs, Taxotere and Carboplatin, and two HER2 targeted therapies, the Herceptin I will continue and Perjeta.

Chemo Port

For the chemo and Herceptin infusions, I have a port. That link gives more details on what that is. When I first heard that I would need one I was definitely grossed out by the thought of it, but now that I’ve seen how much easier it makes the infusions, I’m very glad to have it. I just can’t think about it too hard because it still makes me a little squeamish.

How I’m Feeling

I receive chemo once every three weeks. So far I’ve had four rounds, so I’m over halfway done. Yes, I’m bald now, but it is about to be summer in Texas, so the timing isn’t too bad. As far as other symptoms, I mostly feel tired achy, like I have the flu for the first week, more easily tired the second week and almost normal the third week before it starts all over again.

I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised at how much easier it’s been than I was expecting. Part of that is probably the almost half a dozen anti-nausea meds they’ve given me. Between the two or three preemptive meds chemo week and the two as needed at home, my nausea is so well controlled I think I’ve managed to put on a few pounds.

Annoying Side Effects

I do have a few other side effects that are more a nuisance than anything. Heartburn is way worse than usual, and I occasionally get hot flashes. The most annoying thing is chemo mouth. Basically everything tastes weird at best, like I drank nail polish remover at worst. It does make it a little hard to drink water or find things to eat when it’s bad and so far I haven’t found one thing that consistently helps. It also seems like the things that taste the best then are some of the least healthy. Like Sonic Cheddar Peppers, for example. Probably explains the few extra pounds, tbh. I also can’t stomach coffee for about a week and a half after a treatment. I should probably cut it out the whole time, but no. Just no. (Currently sipping my second cup.)

I have another round coming up next week, my last one the first week of May and then surgery the second week of June. I’ll share more on the other parts of my treatment as they happen.

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How to Create a Self-Care Sunday

Self-care has transformed a lot over the last few years. It began as a way to encourage people to do more for themselves, which is amazing. But somewhere along the way, it became something people felt like they were forced to do.

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed with this idea of the perfect self-care routine, it’s time to take a step back. Instead of focusing on having to fit it into your daily life, why not just start one day a week?

Why do Self-Care on Sunday?

Sunday is actually the perfect day to dedicate to yourself, since it is often already a day of rest for many people. You are winding down after a fun weekend, and likely getting ready for a new week to begin. For me, Saturdays are usually the day that I take care of leftover chores from the week and grocery shopping, so Sunday is freed from those tasks as well. Take advantage of the downtime by adding some self-care activities to your routine.

1. Setting Up Your Weekly Self-Care Routine

First thing’s first – figure out what your routine is going to be before Sunday. Taking a few minutes to plan ahead of time makes it more likely to happen! Don’t forget that self-care doesn’t have to be done alone, so if you have a busy house on Sundays, you can still do this!

What you want to do is focus on your self-care on Sundays, whether that means an hour during the day, or changing the entire routine for the day.

Think of Sundays like a reset day. When you not only get your planning done for the week, but you give yourself some time to relax and unwind, reset your body and your mind for another busy week.

How is it Different from Daily Self-Care?

To put it simply, it’s not. You still want to choose activities that help you to relax, are good for your body and mind, and overall wellness. But you might have a little more free time on Sundays, so you won’t feel as pressured to fit it all in before or after work, or during your bedtime routine.

Sundays opens new possibilities for self-care, whether you do it alone or with family.

Think About Your Current Sunday Routine

In order to turn Sunday into your weekly self-care day, you need to consider what you tend to do on Sundays. This self-reflection helps you determine if these are things that can only be done on Sundays or can be moved to another day to give you more time for yourself.

Make a list of things you do every Sunday first. Then look at your list, and cross off anything that isn’t necessary or might no longer be serving you. With what is left, determine if any of those activities can be moved to Saturday.

For example, if you do a lot of cleaning and chores on Sundays, could they be moved to other days during the week, freeing up a bit more self-care time for you?

2. Ideas for Sunday Self-Care Activities

The good news is that self-care on Sunday is pretty much the same as what you would do any other day of the week. It is more about dedicating a day to yourself each week, especially if you don’t have much time during the week to really focus on you.

Here are some activities that can be great to do on Sundays:


Let yourself sleep in – If you don’t get to sleep in during the rest of the week, at the very least give yourself this time on Sundays! Your body (and mind) needs the rest.

Go to brunch with friends – Self-care can also mean doing something you enjoy with other people. Grab a group of friends on Sunday to go to brunch.

Head to a park or the beach with your kids – You can also enjoy more time with your kids without cell phones and TV. Go outside to enjoy the fresh air and exercise. Ride bicycles around your neighborhood, have a beach day, or do a picnic at the park.

Have an hour of pampering – You might not be able to dedicate the entire day just to self-care, but at least fit in some pampering time. Spending quiet time soaking in the bath or giving yourself a facial are a couple ideas.

Catch up on your reading or creative projects – This is the perfect time to pick activities you enjoy, but rarely have time for. Maybe there is a book you have been wanting to finish or a creative project you would love to do.

Image by Free Photos from Pixabay

Get ready for the week – Self-care can also mean just giving yourself time to really reset and prepare for the week ahead.

3. Self-Care for Introverts and Extroverts

Something to keep in mind is that what you consider self-care might change depending on if you are more of an introverted or extroverted person.

Self-Care for Introverts

If you are an introvert, you probably find that you are the most relaxed when you are alone. This doesn’t mean you want to be or should be alone all the time, but that you often need a little bit of time to yourself each day to recharge and gain your composure.

Have Quiet Solitude on Sunday – Self-care for an introvert can be as simple as just making sure you have some alone, quiet time on Sundays. You need this time to yourself to regroup and relax. It can be hard when you go all day around other people and never give yourself this time.

Find Nature-Inspired Activities – If you’re an introvert that enjoys time outdoors, try to find some solo outdoor activities to encourage you to spend more time outside. Hiking, gardening, visiting a quiet park or creating a niche in your own yard to sit and read or meditate are all peaceful ways to get outside.

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Embrace Your Creative Side – An amazing way to practice self-care as an introvert is to do something creative. Learn how to sew, crochet, write a poem or short story, color in an adult coloring book, or start painting.


Self-Care for Extroverts

Extroverts are more social creatures, getting their energy from being around other people. If you consider yourself an extrovert, you probably enjoy time with others more than time alone. But what does that mean for your self-care routine? Here are some tips for practicing self-care when you are an extrovert.

Enjoy Social Time with Friends – What might be a little more up your alley is scheduling in time with friends. What better way to practice self-care than spend time with those you love the most?

Volunteer Your Time – Looking for something more meaningful and fulfilling? You might like to volunteer somewhere as your self-care. Look into local community centers or animal shelters that are open on Sunday and see if they need any help.

Join a Local Club – Another social activity that helps with your self-care is joining a local club, like a book club. Not only will you be encouraged to read more, but you can get together once a week with your book club to chat and talk about the book.

4. Tips for Your Sunday Self-Care Routine

Here are a few more tips for making sure you have a good Sunday self-care routine, and really understand what self-care means and how to avoid the common mistakes.

It Encompasses Emotional, Mental, and Physical Health

Self-care does not fulfill just one need in your life. Different activities provoke different benefits in your life, including helping with your emotional, mental, and physical health.

What works best for you is going to be something that helps you feel relaxed, de-stressed, improves your mood, and is something you absolutely love to do.


Your Self-Care Needs Can Change Regularly

Just because you have committed to writing in your journal and meditating every morning for an hour as your self-care routine, doesn’t mean you have to do this forever. Sometimes, what you choose as your self-care activity changes, or you need to adjust based on your schedule.

Revisit what you are doing for self-care often. As your life and the seasons change, so will your self-care and what is going to benefit you the most.

A Common Mistake is Forcing Your Self-Care

This can’t be said enough – your self-care routine should not make you more stressed! This is a sign that you are forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do and that is doing nothing for you.

It might be because your friend is participating in this form of self-care, or you read that it is a good idea. But remember everyone is different and everyone is going to benefit from different things.

Likewise, everyone’s schedule is different, and Sunday might not be the day that works best for you. Figure out what works with your schedule and apply these tips to your best day for self-care.

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Heating a Rice Pack Without a Microwave

Hot rice packs are wonderful tools for easing muscle aches, cramps, and just comforting to use in cold weather. I prefer using a rice pack to an electric heating pad because you’re not tied to an electrical outlet.

A few years ago, though, I got rid of our microwave. I have some concerns about whether they are healthy, and we rarely used it anyway. Even if the potential health risks are exaggerated or non-existent, I don’t like having things that don’t get used taking up space. At the time, it was summer in Texas, I didn’t really miss my rice packs. Now that it’s cold, I wanted to find a way to heat them without caving and getting another microwave.

Please be cautious. I’ve seen some things that say anything other than a microwave is a fire-risk, so if you try to heat a rice pack in an oven, please never leave it unattended and use extreme caution. All appliances are different, so what works with mine may not work with yours.

Basic oven method

When researching, I found many people say to use an oven set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes. They also said to put the rice pack on a metal tray or roasting pan, and to have a pan or oven-safe dish of water alongside it to keep it from getting too dry.

My method

I was a little concerned that I may forget about it, and my oven doesn’t have a window so keeping an eye on it would be difficult. I do have a counter-top convection oven, so  that is what use. Because the door is glass, I can see in and keep an eye on things. It also has a timer that turns the unit off once time is up, so even if I get distracted I don’t have to worry about it over-heating. 

I always place the rice pack on a tray and put a dish of water in with it as others have suggested. Any rice packs I heat in the oven are made with 100% cotton fabric and thread. Synthetics melt easier and burn faster, whereas cotton can withstand a pretty high heat and burns slower, so cotton seems like a safer choice. 

I started with 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. It worked, but I needed it hotter. I upped it to 300-325 degrees for 15-20 minutes. At that temperature, sometimes I have to let it cool for a minute or wrap it in a towel, but it works better for me than the lower temperature. I tend to push the limit with heat, though, so 200 degrees for thirty minutes is probably plenty for most.

Probably safer method

One other method I’ve seen is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, TURN IT OFF, and place the rice pack (on a tray with heatproof dish of water next to it) in the preheated oven. I haven’t tried this yet, but having the oven hot but turned off seems like it would minimize any risk of the rice pack overheating and burning. If I didn’t have the convection oven, I would probably use this method. 

The standard microwave method

Using a microwave is still the recommended method. To heat rice packs in the microwave, warm it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until you reach the desired temperature. Some people recommend placing a cup of water in the microwave as well.

Basic safety

Whether you use a microwave or an oven, be mindful that they can vary in power. ALWAYS test the temperature of the rice pack before using and never leave the microwave or oven unattended while heating. You should never use heat packs on individuals who are unable to let you know if it feels too warm on their skin.

Lavender rice packs at SubEarthan Cottage

SubEarthan Cottage now offers large 100% cotton flannel rice packs. These are filled with a blend of rice and lavender buds for a pleasant hint of lavender. I sewed channels in the flannel to help keep the rice evenly distributed. They can be heated as described above, or kept in the freezer to use cold. Find all of my rice packs here.

 

Lavender rice packs at SubEarthan Cottage.

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Easy DIY Talc-Free Body Powder

DIY Body Powder SubEarthan Cottage

With all the concerns in the news surrounding talcum powders again, many people are looking for a talc-free alternative to their favorite body powder. While you can purchase talc-free powder, making it yourself is simple, allows you to customize it, and is super inexpensive. Better yet, you probably already have everything you need.

Body Powder Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of Cornstarch

1/4 cup of Baking Soda

10-ish Drops of essential oil (optional)

Make it:

Combine the cornstarch and baking soda in a bowl or jar. Give it a stir or shake to mix. If you’re using an essential oil, add it now, then stir or shake some more to distribute.

Use it:

I keep mine in a jar and use a fluffy makeup brush to dust it where I need it. It works great as an all-over dusting powder, deodorant and shoe deodorizer. You can also dust a little in your hair in place of dry shampoo. For that, I like to put it in my hair at night and then brush it out in the morning.

Customize it:

The basic recipe is 3 parts cornstarch to 1 part baking soda, so you can use that 3:1 ratio to make as much or as little as you need. 

Add more or less essential oil based on your preference. You can also use your favorite perfume to make a coordinating dusting powder.

If you find this formula too drying, reduce the amount of baking soda, or omit it all together.

Not a fan of cornstarch? Try using arrowroot. I personally haven’t tried it, so if you do, let me know how it works.

For babies, I recommend just plain cornstarch as baking soda might be too harsh. If you want to scent it, add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil. Essential oils aren’t generally recommended for babies under six months, so take that into consideration. 

If you like using this as a dry shampoo and have dark hair, you can add a little bit of cocoa powder to the mix to make it less noticeable if you don’t get it brushed out completely.

Re-purpose a shaker jar, such as a spice or Parmesan cheese jar, rather than using a brush or puff to dispense.



Find more of my tutorials here: Tutorials.