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How to white wash your wood floors using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
When my husband and I first moved into our home October 2011, we were left with a lot of unfinished flooring. The flooring was crappy pine wood with very light coloring and no finish or sealant. I could have had a nice bonfire and roasted marshmallows with that flooring, but it got minimal points in the beauty department. I had two clear choices: tear it up, seal it, or paint it. I always choose the cost effective version of things and painting is as cost effective as it gets. Also, I thought chalk painted floors were going to look really artsy and beautiful. Turns out, I was right

How to whitewash your "unsealed" wood flooring using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

1.) Evaluate your floors. Only attempt this if you have unfinished flooring. Any glossy or sealed flooring should not be used with this technique. If you have crappy pine floors, then by all means go right ahead and whitewash your floors with Annie Sloan chalk paint.

2.) Make sure your floors are clean and dry.

3.) Lightly sand floors to improve paint adhesion. Clean and dry floors prior to chalk paint application.

2.) Open your chalk paint can and thin to preferred transparency. It should be pretty watery.

3.) Take your clean cloth, dip, and then wring out the excess paint. Do everything as evenly as possible.

4.) Rub the wood going towards the grain. You are essentially rubbing the paint into the wood. I would refrain from using an applicator for this portion.

5.) Let dry overnight and repeat with additional coats if necessary.

6.) Lastly, Use a clear varnish to seal in your work. Two to three coats will be necessary. Be sure to lightly sand with fine sandpaper and then use a damp rag to pick up dust in between the coats of varnish. I would use a long handled synthetic applicator(it looks like a mop) to apply the varnish.

Learn from my mistake: Annie Sloan's website told me it might be easier to use a mop to apply the wash. Initially, I did and my wood floors were very streaky and uneven with this method. Getting down on the floor with the chalk paint soaked into your clean rag ensures even results. I guess I can see why grandma still gets on her hands and knees to clean her floors. Not resistance to change, but just getting the job done right!
DIY Sea Salt Spray for Beachy Waves
Make a splash! Get sexy beach hair even when you are not at the beach with this simple DIY Sea Salt recipe. Eco-friendly, quick, cost-effective, and easy too! Honestly, I am a lavender girl so I have to include all natural lavender essential oils and I cannot forget Organic argan oil by john masters organics, which is a must-have product for Summer 2015. Grab a small 4 to 8 oz. empty, clean, and preferably glass spritz bottle and follow these three simple steps.

  • Uno.) Use room temperature distilled water and fill the bottle halfway.
  • Dos.) A few drops of argan oil(coconut or olive oil would be a good substitute), 1/2 tbsp of sea salt, 1/2 of a lemon's juice, and a few drops of lavender essential oil into the bottle. If you have fresh ingredients feel free to take fresh lavender buds and peppermint leaves and muddle them together with a mortar and pestle. Be sure to remove most of the big pieces before including them in your spray bottle.
  • Tres.) Fill the bottle to the top with your distilled. Replace the cap and agitate before every use. Do not refrigerate. Discard or renew after a month.
DIY Sea Salt Spray for Beachy Waves
The argan oil will give your locks necessary moisture during these hot and humid summer days. The lemon juice will help to gradually lighten your hair while playing in the sun. The lavender essential oils will keep you feeling relaxed and will also assist in keeping the summer bugs at bay. Finally, the sea salt works to create those textured beauteous waves. I also found some sweet sea salt spray printable tags too! This is a great gift for the girlfriends this summer or perhaps for your "beach babe" bridesmaids.

Catch a wave and embrace your Summer wanderlust. See you next time!

The Best "Bug Off" Spray #DIY
Rosemary, lavender, peppermint, & coconut "Bug Off" Spray!  Sounds like tropical decadence to me, but the bugs abhor all of these previously listed ingredients. Especially peppermint. Peppermint is the most amazing and invasive plant ever. You can cut it and put it in a vase and it will keep on growing! It has been keeping the ants and bugs away in our home since early Spring.

Coconut oil is another truly amazing ingredient. It is known for its moisturizing and antibacterial qualities. I am using it as my carrier oil for my essential oils. Note: you need a carrier oil. You could use jojoba oil, Organic olive oil, or almond oil as a substitute. The coconut oil will solidify at cooler temperatures. That is why I added a pinch of salt and citric acid. I will not be refrigerating this lovely concoction and I wanted to ensure a stable shelf life for the entirety of Summer.

Things you will need:
  • 8 oz. Spray Bottle(clean & chemical-free. I bought mine at our local health food store)
  • Distilled, bottled water, or lavender/aloe witch hazel.
  • 1 tsp citric acid(optional)
  • Pinch of sea salt(optional)
  • 1 oz. coconut oil(catnip oil is a great alternative).
  • Rosemary essential oil 5 drops(cedarwood, tea tree, citronella, and lemongrass essential oils are great alternatives).
  • Peppermint essential oil 5 drops
  • Lavender essential oil 10 drops
The Best "Bug Off" Spray #DIY
Important tip: Shake your bottle prior to every use. The oils and essential oils need to be distributed evenly with agitation to get the full "bug off" benefits. Feel free to use this "Bug Off" concoction as a light moisturizer and boo-boo spray for the kids, but do note that the salt will sting a minor abrasion. I do love a multipurpose product! You are saving so much money by making this yourself. Most of these ingredients you probably already have at home in your cabinet, so really it is just about finding the time to whip it up.

Have a restful and relaxing Memorial Day weekend everyone! Please take the time to reflect on those men, women, and families that have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. You are never forgotten....always in our hearts.
Kəvən Craft Rituals: Natural Skincare Giveaway
Kəvən Craft Rituals is a rising Brooklyn, NY based natural skincare company! Eco skincare enthusiasts be are about to fall in love. Erika Fortner, the owner of Kəvən Craft Rituals, has been making herbal creations ever since she was a young tot and I believe all her practice has paid off in great dividends. Kəvən Craft Rituals sent me a mini(0.65 oz.) Crescent oil bar to review. Now, I am normally skeptical of coconut oil based lotion bars, but this one rocks! The highest praise(as always) is, "I would definitely buy this again!"

What do I love about the Crescent oil bar? It has a light woodsy, earthy, floral scent with a touch of spice. All made with an essential oil fragrance oils here. Also, the texture is incredible. It is NOT easy to melt, which means it lasts a lot longer. And, it is not greasy. Not even during the application process. They also use essential oil combinations that are soothing to the body, mind, and soul. The Crescent oil bar also has essential oils that work to keep the dastardly bugs away, which is a huge plus during this time of the year!

Kəvən Craft Rituals: Natural Skincare Giveaway
Kəvən Craft Rituals oil bars would be great for anyone in a "hands on" profession. We are talking nurses, firefighters, moms, gardeners, construction workers, etc... My hands not only feel moisturized, but protected from the harsh elements that be during the Summer. Legs, feet, even a few dabs to dry patches on my face. I also used the Crescent oil bar for shaving. This oil bar is versatile and perfect for your Summer travels. As always, keep out of hot cars and direct sunlight, but I anticipate that it will travel well!

What other natural skincare wonders does Kəvən Craft Rituals have? Okay, my eager beavers they have many other natural apothecary goodies too! Their libation perfume oils with Organic jojoba oil and their "energy cleansing" match sticks sound crazy-good, but you will have to try them yourself as I have not had the pleasure....yet. Who is ready for a metaphysical Kəvən Craft Rituals giveaway experience? One US winner will receive a mini(0.65 oz) Crescent oil bar.
john masters organics is gaining momentum "full steam ahead" in the Organic skincare and haircare industry. In fact, I was at my local Ulta location here in Ashburn, VA and they were practically cleaned out! The American public is craving all-natural products that are nasty-free. Let me start by saying, that john masters organics does not have much in the way of competition here in the US. Check the label my friends. If it says paraben-free, but still contains "fragrance" then it is not a truly natural product. john masters products are all-natural, Organic, and "Eco-friendly". He takes great care in the selection of his ingredients and adheres to a strict guideline, which can be found on his website in the "Philosophy" section.

john masters organics leave-in conditioner treatment called "Shine On" is my Summer 2015 must-have pick! Your Summer hair needs this product! After washing your hair, simply comb the gel consistency product through your wet locks. It contains Organic and all-natural ingredients that soothe, hydrate, and give volume to your sun drenched hair! Organic sea kelp, aloe vera, chamomile extract, calendula extract, and carrot root oil are just some of the amazing ingredients you will find inside Shine On. My thick hair tends to feel heavy and weighed down, but not since using Shine On! In fact, I am so impressed with this product that I am going to host a spontaneous giveaway for one of my amazing readers. I will be responsible for shipping this product. Be sure to enter the giveaway below before you leave!

Best argan oil ever!!!! I mean EVA! I thought all argan oils were created equal until I used this product. Boy, was I ever wrong. john masters organics bottles 100% USDA certified argan oil. I use it over my entire body. My face has never been more calm or clear from break outs since using john masters organics argan oil. My face stays moisturized all day and night. Amazing stuff, so don't be scared by the price tag. Stay tuned for an additional john masters organics post this week detailing a copycat sea salt hair spray DIY recipe! See you later my Eco alligators.

A lovely reader named Linda contacted me asking for photos of the finished Annie Sloan White Washed floors. Since this is something I have been meaning to do for far too long I am glad she gave me the gentle nudge I needed:) My husband and I say to each other daily what a blessing it is that I took the daring jump and white washed our floors. The photo above is the finished white washed floors after a year with heavy traffic from my two toddlers, my husband, and a big German Shepherd!

Far left you see the finished white washed floors, the middle portion has the old white but is unsealed, and the far right is what it looked like before the white wash{pretty gruesome}. See my Annie Sloan White Washed Floors post HERE for the step by step How-To.

*Crucial TIP: Before any application your floor must-be as clean and as dry as possible. A clean surface is a happy-painted surface. 
Motherhood: The Honest Truth.
Motherhood for me has been nothing short of a "jumping out of an airplane with no parachute" experience. First of all, I did not know if I ever wanted to be a mother. I did not know if I was capable of being a good mother. I grew up in a household that was tumultuous, but still loving. Perhaps, that love was the key to my eventual success and survival. However negative the environment I grew up in, it still managed to be loving in a weird and twisted sort of way.

Starting out as a first time mum back in 2009, I had terrible anxieties about the mother I would become. My own mother was very "hands-off". I found out about my period when it started(that was fairly horrifying) and I did not discover "make-up" until late into my high school years, because my own mother rarely used it. However, on the flip side my mother was always strong, loving, and kind. I recall her making the most fantastical and extraordinary cakes for my siblings and I. My favorite cake was the one that looked exactly like a carousel complete with little horse figurines.

My anxieties grew, however, the closer it came to my first son's birth in September 2009. I knew he would be outside of my womb and thrust into a cold world(probably literally). This is the toughest thing about being a parent. You cannot and should not protect your children from every terrible thing that comes their way. Oh, but I so wanted too. I relish that first year(with both of my boys) when I could hold them to my bosom and keep them protected while rocking them in my arms. Those days are so over!

My first years as a mother were particularly hard. I could feel the rage of my father and the distance of my mother. It took a lot of hard work from myself and incredible loving support from my husband to work through anger issues that were still lingering towards my mother. To be successful, I knew this anger I felt had to be dealt with in a constructive and permanent way. I have felt that the reason I am at peace with my father is because I had a direct and confrontational conversation with him many years ago. My mother I perceive as fragile. I still(even today) want to protect her. After all her struggles and successes even, it would be selfish of me to disrupt that progress. I have little by little chosen to silently forgive her.

Some women feel like motherhood comes naturally and they are naturally good at it. That is certainly not me. I work hard at it and try very hard. The Gods that be know that I am a good fit to be mothering little boys. They will be gentle and forgiving of me(I hope). I feel so lucky and blessed to be a mother. It is the single most challenging experience of my life, but one that I would not trade for anything in the world. Even when the little rascals are scattering my floor with cheerios(see the YouTube video below). Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers of the world!

Blogger Island: Networking 101 using social media.
What is a blogger island? Blogger island is a term for those bloggers and small business owners that create and share only their content. It puts you adrift. You are on an island....alone. You can only grow as big as your island. Your growth and your following will eventually come to a staggering halt. Once that happens you will become frustrated with your social media growth and customer-based interaction. You are now stuck on your island with no water or food. Social media death will quickly ensue. This does not have to happen to you! So, let's talk about what YOU can do to avoid the grim outlook of "blogger island" and along with it your social media demise.

1.) Find your people. Not just any people will do. "Like-minded people"(and yes small businesses that means competitors). Search for communities on Facebook and use #hashtags to search for "your people" on Instagram and Twitter. Heather, I do not need to network online. I go to tons of local networking events! That is great, but you are losing money and precious time. You can network faster and more efficiently online. It takes two hours to work a room of 20 people in person and that's if you are speedy! You can connect with at least 100 relevant people in that amount of time online and perhaps book a few face to face meet ups with the people you really want to connect with. You have the upper hand with online networking and more importantly you are not at the mercy of "the room".

2.) Network online. Instagram is the best social media site for online networking. It is a very personal, yet relaxed environment. Feel free to ask for contact e-mails in the comment sections of photos, but everyone should already have their contact e-mail in their profile. Even if you do not use Instagram daily, you can still search #hashtags to find relevant folks. If you are a business you can find customers, bloggers, accountants, lawyers, and stores to place your products. It is much more efficient than searching the Google machine. Instagram is your directory for connections. If you are a blogger you can find like-minded bloggers and tons of sponsors. Do not wait for them to find you...YOU can go find them! *If you are a VA, DC, or MD blogger please come join the Virginia Bloggers Club FB community. Likewise, if you are a VA, DC, or MD small business owner please join the Virginia Business Club FB community.

3.) Network offline. Yes, networking offline is still important. Nothing beats a face to face interaction and handshake, but choose wisely. Make sure the event is worth your time and effort. Is the event close, who will be there, will the event potentially translate into revenue? These are just a few basic questions you should ask yourself before committing to an in-person event.

4.) Play nicely in the sandbox. Share on social media for yourself, but be sure to also share for others. No one wants to visit a social media site and see a "blogger island". Meaning...a page full of nothingness. A page of just "your stuff" typically means no interaction and no shares. It is a barren wasteland. It is the opposite of social is social media suicide! Are you starting to get it? Start sharing for others and other people may start sharing for you!

5.) Communicate. Say hello, comment, like, friend, re-tweet, pin, etc... Let people know you are alive. That is the best way to ensure you are never on a blogger island. Is it work? Absolutely, but it is the only way to stay relevant in today's social media world.

6.) Use hashtags. Relevant hashtags allow the right people to find you. Use them. This could be the most important part of social media networking. I feel another post coming on.

7.) Make friends and unite. Bigger numbers means bigger visibility. 2 bloggers is better than 1. 20 is even better and so on. Get together with like-minded peeps for promotional campaigns and events. Lift each other up. It is not a competition. Create a buzz and awareness for all. Remember bloggers and small business owners you are a unique entity. Everyone should have something unique to offer that the competition does not. If you don't, you will surely be out of business soon.

8.) Go to an online party. Once you find your friends via Facebook groups then you will be in the loop. You will be able to find local, in person events as well as online! Yep, online social media parties happen and they are a great way to connect with other bloggers. Keep your eyes open for Twitter Parties(for example) that are relevant to you. Join in and do not be a fly on the wall. This is not high school people. There are already people that do not like is a way of life. Oh well...

9.) Be positive. Corny, I know, but this is a truth. Positive begets positive. The reverse is also just as true.

10.) Be good. Use your powers for good. Be good to everyone online and off. Good karma is headed your way!

Got questions? I would be delighted to answer them! Please leave any questions or comments below.

"Com-peating" with charcoal a.k.a. Pogue takes over the Stache's blog for a day. Hello and welcome to one of the few times I'll ever find a true foothold with which to corrupt Heather into anything of interest to both of us. These little nuggets happen so infrequently, so I have to snatch at them when and where I can, hence my agreeing to guest-blog today.  I never thought it would happen, but I'm going to give it a whirl, and with that being said, I want to talk to you about peat (I promise I'll do my best to make this as informative and fun as possible, but this post started out really boring in the first draft...I guess it can only go up from here).

Many people have probably heard of peat moss (mostly gardeners, I'm sure), but I find fewer people have heard of peat that you burn in place of charcoal.  It's something I've only seen available on Amazon and the like here in the US, but I was first introduced to peat as a fuel source while visiting Ireland as a child and young adult. In fact, many of my memories of those trips are triggered by the smell of peat, lending weight to the sense-memory theory. Unsure what peat is? OK, here's what you need to know: 

·         It grows in a bog.
·         It's made up of dead plants.
·         The wetland environment is kept in balance because peat releases as much carbon as it soaks up.
·         It's harvested by cutting and left to dry via all the water draining out thanks to our friend, gravity.
·         It looks like dirt, hence the nickname "turf".

Though using trees for fuel is the age-old method, peat came into use in Europe long before coal. It burns longer and slower, and until World War II, was considered the primary fuel for heating and cooking in many less industrialized areas of Europe. In America, peat was used as a fuel source as early as the 1700s.  In fact, we have several areas of peat-lands in the United States. Canada has an even larger land area where peat forms, yet we don't use them. Why? Admittedly, I'm no scientist. In fact, speaking science at me is one of the fastest ways to get me to stare at you blankly (the absolute fastest way is math, any kind of math). The research on peat sustainability is long and confusing, and a lot of it contradicts other research. To keep my head from exploding, I picked out a few things that I actually understood.

The basic reason we don't use peat for fuel here in the US is because back in the 1970s, there was a study on the primary fuel sources (wood, coal, peat, petroleum-based) which found that peat just couldn't "com-peat" (I know, horrible pun. I really couldn't help myself. I should be ashamed...except I'm not). With a carbon emission lower than charcoal, and an equally long burn time, I can't understand why it was decided that peat wasn't worth it (at the time coal and oil were much cheaper, and perhaps cost less in labor to acquire).  What's more? It's 100% organic.  It has to be. This is not just because it's plant-based, but because treating the peat-lands with any chemicals would destroy the acidic environment in which peat is formed.  There's literally no choice but to not chemically treat the land.

An arguable drawback to using peat is the fact that it grows at a rate of 1 millimeter a year.  Yes, you read that right.  Now stop for a second, because I want you to consider the bigger picture: that's 1mm over the entire bog.  Bogs aren't small.  In Ireland alone, the Bog of Allen spans 370 square miles, and that's not Ireland's only bog... just the biggest one.  Believe me, Ireland is famous for its bogs.  There's no shortage on the bog front, so 1mm a year isn't quite that small.  Peat is such a staple in Ireland that Bord na Móna, a semi-state company established in 1946, is in charge of overseeing all mechanized peat harvesting, as well as regulation. The whole of a single bog isn't harvested at once, so much of the land is given a rest.

In fact, the biggest threat to peat-lands has been draining for industrialization and Urban Sprawl, as opposed to harvesting and conservation.  Most peat-lands in mainland Europe have disappeared because of this, whereas peat-lands in Ireland and the United Kingdom remain due to concerted efforts to maintain the balance and allow the peat to reform. Though it grows slowly, no mountains are leveled for it (coal); no forests are destroyed (how many trees are processed into a stack of firewood?  How fast do they grow back?); There's no drilling anywhere to get it (or worrying about oil spills and cleanups). Peat, though slow-growing, can be used sparingly as it heats thoroughly for such a long period.

But what can you use it for?  How about a fire pit? Heather's two sense: "We used Siobhan's Irish Firewood and we love it!" It heats well, and during the cooler evenings of the spring and summer, the smoke will help keep the bugs away (a happy byproduct we've discovered). Though it burns slowly, it burns hot, meaning you'll never be at a loss for heat. OK, so maybe there are some people who are all about cuddling around the fire... hush.  Just sit a little further back, OK?  No need for a hissy over it. Just enjoy. Maybe someone brought along some marshmallows and you could try roasting them.  I bet that would be an interesting taste *Note to self: Force Heather to attempt s'mores...puppy dog eyes and "You love me, Heather" should do just nicely.
And of course, there's always that age-old thing we humans love to do with our food... Grill. You know how some people love the smell of a charcoal grill going?  I don't like the smell, personally, but I've heard such people exist, and must assume at least someone in the world would enjoy the odor.  I much prefer the rich, earthy perfume of burning peat bricks.  You might, without realizing it, have had a taste of this aroma, if you've ever enjoyed Scotch whiskey. Peat fires are used to dry the malted barley, imbuing said barley with a certain "peatiness" (that's a technical term accepted by all Scotch connoisseurs, and I refuse to accept any arguments. The word was used on Wikipedia, darn it!  I looked long and hard so I could have a name for it!).  

Grilling with it will likewise infuse the food of choice with the peat scent and an earthy flavor, which I found divine when Heather, my husband, and I grilled steaks and hotdogs over a peat fire a couple weeks ago.  Mind you, I'm actually not much for grilled steaks, I'd rather bake them since I have less chance of getting all that charred gunk on them.  There was very little char, however, and the peat lends a richness to the food that couldn't be overlooked, and we were all pleasantly surprised with how well everything turned out. (As an aside, Heather's husband told us grilling wouldn't be possible because he didn't think the peat would get hot enough.  Not only did we prove him wrong, we over-cooked the steaks...ha!)

Basically, there's a lot to do with peat. Peat moss (milled peat) is used in gardening (don't ask me what for. I don't have a clue, I don't garden) and dried peat can be used as a fuel source that some could argue is more renewable than, say, coal or oil.  Maybe you'll enjoy the smell and the flavors it lends to food; or maybe it gives you a more old-world feel and pleasant memories(like myself); maybe you'll use it so you don't have to deal with the horrible smell of citronella. It really doesn't matter.

Here's the really boring part, only squashed and made less boring by merit of this is what I've actually understood of conflicting, argumentative, sometimes confusing research (let's all give me credit for attempting to read scientific studies, OK?  Can we all agree Heather can at least give me a cookie for trying?): peat's carbon emissions are less than charcoal, which has the highest; you don't get more organic than peat because no chemicals are used ever; the mass of ecosystems destroyed for production is much less than the larger ecosystems destroyed in deforestation, due to clear-cutting and lack of conservation; and damage to the environment is lessened (no drilling or spilling, no mining; plant matter found in peat has already decayed).  It's a tough call, and I know there's more science to it than I'm qualified to discuss, but that's what it's come down to for me.

I probably should've stuck to "this is why you should be using peat" instead of trying to give you the Eco-science, but this is Heather's blog and that means I kind of have to go with her blog theme (at least if I want this posted). Can you believe this is sort of my introduction to the blogging world?  This is nepotism at its finest, people. She thinks I'm funny and I have good taste in hummus, so I'm allowed to do this (I'll do this post in a more Irish-centric way on my own blog, once it's up and'll like me better there.  I'm way more endearingly crazy and less "I'm trying to sound intelligent and science-y". Also, I don't have to research big words I don't understand. I like me better on my blog, too. *This is Heather's two sense. Pogue: First, that makes sense, because it is my blog. To my readers: Please pretend that Pogue is reading this entire post in a heavy Irish accent....hysterical. Note to self: She will most certainly flip me off later.

Wow! That was actually supposed to be "Thanks, Heather, for letting me guest-blog for you, and I somehow turned that into an apology for not being nearly as crazy as I usually come off as... She's going to edit most of this, I hope you all understand this was probably way crazier when I sent it to her.  I'll let your imaginations roll with that one...oh, and buy peat. Save the trees and mountains.
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