Health and Healing Blog
Sheila Konn's picture

DIY Fresh Watermelon and Mint Body Scrub

If you’re like me, there’s nothing better than cold fresh watermelon on a hot summer day. This summer has been especially great for delicious tasting watermelon so I’ve purchased one virtually every week and used as much watermelon as I can. Below you’ll find my quick and easy DIY watermelon and mint body scrub. Body scrubs are a great idea all year round but we often think about them more when wearing a little less clothing in the summer time.

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Tracy Sutphen's picture

Natural Bug Spray

Ouch! Yep, it’s that time of the year again--bug season. Whether it’s trying to avoid getting bit by those nasty little buggars, or attempting to keep your garden healthy and disease free, the challenge isn’t an easy one. Many traditional over the counter bug repellents have harsh chemical compositions.  However, there are several natural essential oil and other plant remedies that can be used to create your own safe, natural repellents at home. In order to ensure safe usage, it is important to look up the specific properties of each essential oil before use. Pregnant or nursing women, or those with chronic medical conditions, should consult a health care provider before experimenting with any essential oil.

Here is a list of some common essential oils are known to combat biting insects such at mosquitos, fleas and ticks:  cinnamon, lemon eucalyptus or traditioanl eucalyptus oil, citronella oil, castor oil, orange oil, and rose germanium oil, just to name a few. These oils can be used individually or combined together in various ways to make topical sprays or balms/oils, used in a vaporizer, Other options would be to use an aromatherapys mister, or add a few drops to a cotton ball and keep with you or a dew drops to sleeping bag, just be cautious that some oils may stain when directly applied to clothing, and should not be applied directly to skin without a carrier oil. Carrier oils include but are not limited to olive oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, witch hazel, high grain wood alcohol, or aloe vera gel (2).  The following are three recipe examples that can be used to make our own essential oil insect repellents.

Essential Oil Big Spray:

  • 2 oz. Witch Hazel
  • 2 oz. Aloe Vera Gel
  • 20-40 drops of essential oil(s) - start with less and gradually add more if desired
    • Combine witch hazel and aloe vera gel
    • Add mix to 4 oz. spray bottle
    • Add 20-40 drops of essential oil per 4 oz. bottle
    • Use:  apply to the skin, avoid the eyes
    • Store in a dark bottle, away from heat and sunlight             (4)

Bug Off Skin Oil:

  • 2 TSP carrier oil
  • 5 drops Cedarwood essential oil
  • 4 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops Geranium essential oil
  • 1 drop Citronella essential oil     
    • Use:  apply to the skin, avoid the eyes
    • Store in a dark bottle, away from heat and sunlight             (1)


Essential Oil Insect Repellent Beeswax Candle Recipe:

  • Beeswax (one brick)
  • 2 TSP carrier oil
  • Candle wick
  • 7- 10 drops (total alone or combined) essential oil (see list above)
    • Place the wick in your desired mould. Over low heat, melt your beeswax in a double boiler. Add your desired essential oil(s). Pour beeswax mixture into mold with wick, making sure the wick stays centered when pouring. Let stand until wax is firm.                     (3)








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Iva Provias's picture

Open Your Throat Chakra with a Silly Instrument

This blog is about the ukulele.

 To start, I believe in the power of making music. To be a maker of music connects you to a primary aspect of being human -- our inner storyteller, listener, artist and healer. When the throat chakra is a clear channel we are equally capable of expressing and receiving. We tell our truth and we hear the truths of others. In feng shui, sound is a powerful tool to disperse stagnant energy. We can use music to improve focus or change direction. My favorite, favorite part about music is the visceral connection between people playing music together. How amazing it is to be in sync and creating something together!

 I never caught on to the long-game of learning music. After failed attempts at learning the saxophone, keyboard and guitar in my youth I learned that if I want to play music I have to change my goals (which, if I'm not careful, defaults to "BE AWESOME AT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME." Highly unrealistic, I don't recommend it as an approach to every challenge). If I don't have the resolve to practice daily, I will settle for entertaining myself and friends as simply as possible.

 The ukulele.

 It's tiny, it's cheap, it's not difficult to manipulate, there is a wealth of how-to on the internet, and it makes the most joyful noise.


For less than $80, you can purchase a ukulele (in any color that makes your heart happy), a tuner and a bag to keep it in. Sometimes a capo can be useful. I like the size of of my tenor ukulele for my adult hands, but I own and enjoy a soprano uke, too. They use the same tuning so you don't have to learn different chord patterns. Don’t worry about spending a lot of money on your first ukulele. If it really drives you crazy by how out-of-tune or buzzy it is, give it to a kid you know. They will know exactly what to do with it.

 [I’d like to make an aside here. When buying a ukulele or any instrument, please support your local music shop. I know the internet is big and cheap and easy but supporting local businesses is important. If they don't have what you are looking for, ask if they can make a special order.]

 If you’ve never played a stringed instrument before, start with a video called Uke Minutes 100 - How to Play the Ukulele in 5 Min by Ukulele Underground. Boom! You’re 90% of the way to being a ukulele genius. I promise. Once you get the general gist of strumming and playing chords, head straight to a chord chart and a song that you want to play.

 I find the chord sheets for songs I know on or Sometimes you have to dig around to find a version that’s been chorded correctly or sometimes the songs are just too complicated to play. No big deal. I print these out and put them in a three-ring binder songbook. No internet connection required, no screens required (which is part of the relief you get from doing a hobby) and so friends can look over my shoulder and play along. I printed out a chord chart and put it in the cover of the binder for quick reference.

 I am not able to tell you how often to practice. Sometimes I play daily, sometimes I play once a quarter. Like I said before, I am not using the ukulele to impress myself or anyone. It is a noisome thing that helps me express and transform the state of my heart.

 You don't need anything more than you already are. You don't need to be a better singer or better at rhythm, or more confident. I allow you to play alone in your bedroom if that's all you can muster. Someday allow yourself to play for a friend, maybe someone who can sing along. Perfection is not the goal. Feeling the breath passing through your throat and heart center, opening up your courageous, loving and truthful self, is the magic of being an amatuer ukulelist.

 Bring it with you. Even if you are shy, bring your uke to a party/campfire/beach vacation/errand run. Magical things can happen when you bring a ukulele. I’ve produced a uke at parties and suddenly, other ukuleles come out of the woodwork, along with guitars, bongos, jaw harps, recorders, accordions, concertinas, melodicas, cardboard boxes, umbrellas and ceiling fans. Your friends are hiding their musical talent from you.

 Easy crowd pleasers include “Hey Ya,” by Outkast, “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey, “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Good Riddance,” by Greenday, “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash… But don’t let me influence you. Find your own voice.

For inspiration, I recommend Amanda Palmer’s Ukulele Anthem. It is not appropriate for sensitive listeners but I get choked up every time I listen to it.

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Carrie McCann's picture

Get Outdoors!

A recent class I took was talking about the yin and the yang and finding balance within all areas of your life.  This really got me thinking to what helps me feel more balanced.  One of those things is getting outside and connecting with nature.  There have been lots of studies about the effects of being in nature on people.  They have found that people are healthier, less stressed, more creative, and even more compassionate when they have a connection to nature.  I have definitely found this to be true for myself.

Now that the weather is getting warm I am really looking forward to spending more time outside.  However, as much as I enjoy it, I also don’t feel like doing the same things all of the time.  Going to the park is nice, but it’s also good to mix it up.  If you’re like me and like some variation, here are some ideas to keep things interesting while keeping you connected. 

1)     Star gazing.  An oldie but a goodie.  And you don’t even need a telescope for it!

2)     Bird watching. There are lots of clubs and resources around town to get you started.

3)     Volunteer. Try a community clean up, volunteering for a race, or seeing what you can do at your local community garden. 

4)     Walk a labyrinth.  There are a few outdoor ones in different parts of the city.  Find one close to you or try them all.

5)     Get active.  Pittsburgh has so many ways to be active outdoors during the summer months.  Rent a bicycle or a kayakGo on a hike.  Go rock climbing.  Do yoga outside.  Walk the river path.  Join a boot camp. Go to a community pool.  So many possibilities!

6)     Start a garden of your own.  If you have a yard, that’s wonderful!  You’ll have lots of space to plant.  No yard?  No problem.  Try potting plants.  Bonus: plant fruits and vegetables for fresh food all summer long.

7)     Have a photo shoot.  Find a spot you think is beautiful and start snapping.  For an added bonus bring your friends or family long and get some pictures with them in it, too!

8)     Be entertained.  Go to an outdoor festival, see a movie, or hear some music in the park.

9)     Catch the sunrise or the sunset.  Get up early to see the sunrise or take a minute in the evening to stop and enjoy the sunset.

10)   Go to the farmers market.  Not only will this get you outside, but you can pick up fresh local food at affordable rates.


Have kids (or friends that act like kids)?  Here are a couple additional ideas:

1)     Make a map.  Explore your yard or a park and create a map of what is there.

2)     Create a scavenger hunt.  You could use your new map as a guide or try to find different things in nature.

3)     Design nature art. Paint rocks, create a flower scrapbook, or make clay nature stamps. 

4)     Run through a sprinkler.  Though I recommend this for more than just kids.

5)     Play angry birds.  With water balloons!


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Carrie McCann's picture

Mental Health Month

Did you know that, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime?  This means that virtually everyone in America has a friend or family member impacted by mental illness.  The goal of Mental Health Month is to help educate the public, combat the stigma that is often associated with mental illness, and find new ways to support ourselves and the ones we love.  

Because anxiety is something that is so common in our society, Pittsburgh Center for Complementary Health and Healing created a short meditation that you can do when you wake up in the morning, before bed, or anytime you are feeling tension.  



For more meditations, check out our YouTube channel here.

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