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DIY Bug Spray with Research-backed Tick Ingredients

DIY Bug Spray with Research-backed Tick Ingredients

We wouldn’t be surprised if we saw another round or two of snow up here on our mountain, but I’m already gathering supplies for my summer to-make list. I have my water-resistant sunblock recipe ready to go (glad you asked…yes I’ll share the recipe soon!), my favorite SPF lip balm melt and mix is ready to roll, and I made it a point to update my DIY bug spray to include ingredients that ticks absolutely hate.

Prevalence of tick-borne illness including Lyme is increasing with no sign of slowing down. If you’re interested, you can compare maps from 2001 to 2015 (maps here) – it’s a little alarming when you’re smack in the middle of a blue zone.

A few years ago, my then four-year-old son came down with a high fever and extreme fatigue in the middle of summer. He rarely caught colds, and after a day or so we noticed a peculiar red circle rash pattern forming all over his body. We took him to the doctor, who thought the notion of Lyme was ridiculous and he begrudgingly ordered the tests I requested. Results came in confirming Lyme, and fortunately we caught it early enough to clear it completely with antibiotics.

We’re among the lucky ones. Not everyone gets the rash or fever – a large portion of infected individuals show no symptoms at all. That means if they didn’t notice a poppyseed-sized nymph embedded on their scalp, they will not realize they’ve been infected until it is too late to clear the infection.

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Lesson learned – we need better prevention. Since the tick bite, we started our unofficial protocol when we come in from hiking trails and wooded parks.

  • keep a comb in the car and do thorough tick checks on the kids, ourselves, and each other after spending time in wooded or brushy areas
  • thoroughly check any gear we took along
  • look for ticks on clothing
  • keep the dog’s hair short in the summer so we can check her for hitchhikers

Where’s the bug spray in our prevention list? Well, I refused to use bug spray on any of us because of the main active ingredient, DEET. It has been somewhat publicized that there can be adverse effects in children, but I’m also finding information about its effects on adults that I’d rather not deal with. Manic psychosis? Seizures that power through anti-convulsants? Cardiovascular effects? Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and skip it, thanks.

Once I started exploring plant properties, I learned that there are essential oils out there that bugs simply do not like. For a while there, my DIY bug spray was made of half witch hazel and half water mixed with citronella essential oil to keep the mosquitoes away. We smelled like tiki torches but hey, no bites!

Now, I’m finding that ticks have very specific distastes. In addition to repellant promise, I’ve found that some essential oils such as tea tree, geranium and eucalyptus can even be lethal to ticks (tea tree study, geranium and eucalyptus study).

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Armed with new information and a small arsenal of essential oils, I decided to reformulate my basic citronella DIY bug spray with targeted ingredients. The lineup…

Lemon eucalyptus
Studies such as this one have shown it has strong tick repellant properties, comparable to DEET.

Lavender & Geranium
The same study showed weaker but still somewhat repellant properties of lavender and geranium. I opted to include them because it makes the formula smell so much better (bye bye, eau de tiki torch) and both offer a little extra protection.

Tea tree
Tea tree essential oil has been shown to actually kill ticks

Because I still don’t like mosquitoes

Don’t you love scrolling and scrolling through a never-ending soliloquy when all you want is the recipe already? Here you go.

DIY Bug Spray Recipe

1/4c water
1/4c witch hazel
10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil     Get it here*
5 drops geranium essential oil     Get it here*
5 drops lavender essential oil     Get it here*
10 drops citronella essential oil     Get it here*
10 drops tea tree essential oil     Get it here*

Combine all ingredients in a dark glass spray bottle*. That’s it! Since the essential oils tend to float on top, give it a good shake every time you apply.

While I wish I could claim this spray will make us all invincible against ticks, lions, light sabers, et cetera, I cannot. We still go through our tick check, after hanging out in areas with trees and brush.

Ready to play outside?

Save Your Ham Bone! Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Minestra Recipe – Gluten Free

Save Your Ham Bone! Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Minestra Recipe – Gluten Free

I’m the weirdo who brings a container to Christmas dinner to scavenge the ham bone. I used to get the side-eye, but now the ones who know me will pack it away for me before cleaning the roasting pan.

Why do I get all excited about the part of holiday dinners that goes into the trash?

One word: Minestra. Synonymous with legit comfort food.

Traditional minestra is a zuppa, which doesn’t exactly mean soup, like certain Americanized “Italian” food chains would like you to believe. It loosely translates as “dippable,” meaning you eat it with your utensil in one hand and bread in the other to mop up all the goodness. Growing up, we used to call eggs over easy with toast “inzuppe e mange” (zoop eh mahnj) which means “dip and eat.”

Old world minestra is more of a saucy stew of greens, beans and bits of ham, but I’m ruining it adapting it as a soup because I like it that way, and I like to stock my freezer with these types of things. Cut back on the liquid if you’re a purist.

Let’s make some.

Slow Cooker Ham Bone Minestra

bone of a ham shoulder roast, with some meat still on
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 c cannelini beans, soaked
1c pinto beans, soaked
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
water to cover
4 giant handfuls greens (kale or escarole), chopped
grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano

Fun additions

sliced fennel
small pasta, like ditalini or campanelle (If you find either of these shapes gluten free, let me know!)
fresh parsley
pinch of nutmeg

Set aside the grated cheese and greens. Combine all other ingredients into a slow cooker, ham bone first. Cook on high until it begins to bubble, then switch to low for 5-6 hours until what’s left of the ham is falling off of the bone.

Remove the ham bone onto a plate.

Remove and shred the meat, and return the meat to the pot. Add the greens. Once the greens are soft but still green, it’s ready! Serve with plenty of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Regginao and your favorite Italian bread or cornbread.

Freeze the rest and pull them out when you’re having a bad day.


Fear’s Place

Fear’s Place

This week, we did something that scared the daylights out of me.

I was thumbing through my favorite blogs on the way to Hoss’s wrestling tournament today, and I landed on a short and insightful piece on how physical and mental discomfort helps us grow. Since I was a nervous wreck about his first throwdown in a full-contact aggressive sport, it fit the day.

Wrestling was not at all my idea. In fact, we put him in not one, but two situations where we were sure he would get knocked around a little, then hate it. But it backfired, and here we are. It’s the first of my kids’ activities that I didn’t choose for them.

Could this be one of those times that marks the transition to big kid?

After a few weeks of him not hating practice, it came time to test his skills in a real match with kids he didn’t know. He paced the house all morning. I paced the house too, in different rooms, so he wouldn’t pick up on my nerves. We left, we arrived, and waited.

Me shredding a napkin, a full two hours before anything started. Mister noticed I was doing this without realizing it and thought it was funny so he took a pic.

When his number came up, he took the mat. I was sure he would freeze, or get a facefull of rubber, or come off bleeding. Instead, he pinned his opponent in 35 seconds. After that, my nervous energy changed to eager excitement, and of course Hoss was pumped.

His second match, he went hard but lost, during which his shoulder took a twist that didn’t jive with my understanding of human shoulder anatomy. He was fine, but the straining, the look of pain and panic on his face…moms don’t like that.

Back to shredding napkins for me, uncertainty for him.

He won his third, and based on a points and brackets system that I don’t yet understand, that landed him second place in his weight class, and a new love for a sport.

He was happy when he won, driven to give it a little more when he lost. He was thriving in an arena I hadn’t chosen for him.

There was some legit fear, literal discomfort, and a whole lot of growing happening in that gym that day.

On the other side of fear, Hoss found a challenge, a killer workout, a new sport to get excited about, effort rewarded, and a little more of his likes and himself revealed.

On the other side of fear, mom found a the sweet side of loosening the grip, of letting the kids grow up and start learning to fly.


Building a Wardrobe Phase 1 – Mega Purging and Needs

Building a Wardrobe Phase 1 – Mega Purging and Needs

My wardrobe hasn’t been intentional since…high school, possibly?

For the last few years (I refuse to count), the uniform has been jeans, a hoodie or half-zip, and shoes I don’t need any hands to put on.

I’ll go back as far as I can remember. Picture a grad student in a sweatshirt by day, barista in black by night. Then, my wardrobe turned professional for a minute and a half before it shifted to maternity business casual. Onto postpartum in-between business casual, then stay-at-home mom in yoga pants. Two more cycles of maternity and post-partum in-between, and here we are.

I describe the current state as not pregnant, not in-between, likely true-to-size, and not a walking milk-barf, drool and grape jelly canvas. And at this stage, somehow nothing works. Time to start building a wardrobe, a real one.


But first, a mega-purge

Oh, the stains. The wrong sizes, a few leftover maternity pieces, dresses I’d never wear, and plenty of professional clothing for a job I don’t have. Sound familiar, ladies? Because I know I’m not the only one.

Yes, I did the KonMari thing once. But I wasn’t being honest about what my life looks like when I decided to keep so much.

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In other words, it was time to clear out and get some clothes. After pitching the obvious – everything that was either ruined, ill-fitting or irrelevant – my closet was pretty bare. I’m not exaggerating. It was a symptom of years of just not paying attention to that sort of thing.

Onto the needs assessment

Okay, here is where I decide which pieces I need.

Pieces. That’s funny. I’m building an entire wardrobe, minus a few camisoles for layering. You have no idea – it was so, so bad.

Historically, this would be the part where we go to Target and get one t-shirt in every color and call it done.

Not this time. I’m frustrated with things that wear out, and it’s time I look a little more together when Mister and I bump into one of his colleagues or clients. I wanted some nicer things that would last.

To Pinterest I went, looking for a capsule wardrobe how-to or just a list of things I should have in my closet. Finding minimalist wardrobe lists discouraged me – these would be more clothes than I’d ever owned and way more than I felt I needed. But, they were good places to start building a wardrobe. I used what I found as a basis and created this checklist to pare things down to the bare necessities.

Next, time to shop!

This is the part where we get excited, right? We’re female, so we should get all giddy about skipping through the malls, all care-free?


Nope. I don’t like it.

I don’t expect I’ll ever get excited about clothing, but for now, we’re getting somewhere. Purging was huge, and it’ll force me to go get some things and choose them intentionally.

Next time we talk wardrobe here at Intentionalish, I’ll tell you how I survived the shopping part of building a wardrobe and (gasp!) enjoyed the process.

Have you been rocking the late-for-finals look since 2005, too?

Good, because you can do this with me.

Your steps this week:

  • Throw out the obvious. Stains, holes, funky colors, clothes that no longer fit your situation, clothes that you don’t feel great in. Pitch ’em. You can even thank them if you’re tossing KonMari style.
  • Take an inventory. Find yourself a list of what you need, and check off what you already have. It’ll give your shopping some direction, especially if you’re out of your element like I am. I created a checklist you can use as-is or adapt for your own needs.

Getting dressed should be effortless, error-free and always result in a got-it-together-ish presentation. You with me?


How to Journal When Blank Space Is So Scary

How to Journal When Blank Space Is So Scary

All the cool kids are doing it. Michael Hyatt journals as part of his morning ritual. Seth Godin built his platform with often short, sometimes longer, always profound thoughts posted every day. Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin straight up tells us to keep a journal. I see over and over this unstructured writing time as the common thread between the big names in everything. If journaling is something all of these highly effective people do, isn’t it time I learned how to journal?

Sure, I’ve written online for a long time, namely as a brain exercise – it helps me notice things I’d otherwise pass by. But journaling is different – it’s not for public consumption. I’m talking about writing for nobody, writing for me. I could write about anything and nothing – no purpose, no goal, no judgment. No spell check! Though I wouldn’t dare err.


I’ve tried journaling experiments before. Blank page, I write a few paragraphs about how my day went. Day 1, then day 2, then day 3…by day 4 I usually decide my life isn’t interesting enough to write about and I quit.

You, too?

I liked Gretchen Rubin’s idea of a one-sentence journal, but I wanted a little more of a nudge than that. I was looking for direction – any direction. I could easily find a list of prompts, but we all know what happens if we make this too complicated.


So, I came up with a few things that I want to think about every day. Yeah, I’m adding a little structure to something that is supposed to be free, at least in the beginning. But if it gets me going, then direction works here. The writing can still go anywhere.

I even gave it a name! Enter [sound the royalty trumpets]…

Webenolo Journaling

I had to come up with a dumb nonsense name so I’m not flipping back to reference my four prompts every day. Remember, complicated, quitting, throwing the paper all around? Don’t want that.

So the made up word – it’s a mnemonic device that helps me remember what to write. It might look something like this…

Something that went well

We can call this the gratitude element, or noting the wins of the day. Go ahead, write out more than one.

My sweet girl was so brave during her ear piercing! She had a small panic moment as I was filling out the papers, but once she saw the sparkly blue flower studs she decided she was going for it. She was brave and she’s spreading her wings a little, but still wants mom for comfort. Can she stay this age forever?

Something that could be made better

Here, we decide that we want to improve something.

Went to bed after midnight. For what? It was SO not worth it. Did we really need to learn that fish have swim bladders to control their buoyancy? Your need for factoids is not filling your brain, it’s frying it, Court. GO TO BED. On time, please and thank you.

While we’re at it, let’s note second area to improve…stop disparaging yourself using the second person in your journal. That’s not what it’s for.

Something I noticed

This is the part where we stop and bounce something around that we might have otherwise passed by without internalizing at all.

I noticed that I notice so much more when I free-write even a few little meaningless bullets. It’s important to me to notice things. Now I’m noticing what helps me notice things. I’m glad I learned how to journal in a way that’s accessible to me.

Something I’m loving

Now, we bring it all home with something that just plain makes us happy.

I’m loving our “first snow of the season” traditions that have developed. We hold the door open and laugh at Bella dog as she goes outside and acts like she’s never seen snow even though she’s been through 11 winters. She leaps around like a little puppy, bulldozing a path with her nose and doing rolls in the fluff. We always have chili and cornbread on first snow day, and we wish each other a “bon iver” (bohn ee-VAIR, “good winter”) because that’s what they did in an episode of Northern Exposure and we liked it. How do people live in a place that doesn’t get snow?

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Of course you’re intimidated by a blank page expecting paragraphs of prose. Those things have teeth. But a few scribbles – we can all do that. Go buy a simple, pretty notebook (I use a sunshiny yellow Moleskine) and try it for a few days. After a while, you can write in the “no” section what you noticed it’s done to your brain.

The possibilities!


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