Why is one of the main ingredients in my toothpaste also one of the three things that were so precious in ancient times that they were gifted by the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus at his birth?

Myrrh … even the word sounds soothing. Kind of like purr(h) …

Myrrh is the aromatic resin of several small, thorny trees in the genus Commiphora. And soothing it is. It was once used as a treatment for toothaches, and now appears in toothpaste for its anti-microbial, anti-viral, astringent, and antiseptic qualities.


Photo by Alsterdrache via Wikimedia Commons

But why a precious gift? Even though myrrh was mentioned in the Old Testament as a rare perfume with intoxicating qualities, its role as one of the three gifts isn’t as clear as that of gold, a precious metal and valuable commodity, and frankincense, another resin that was often burned as an offering in worship. Myrrh was also a component of holy incense and was used as a anointing oil, and all three of the gifts were standard offerings to honor a king or deity in the ancient world.

But frankincense and myrrh’s powerful herbal healing properties could also have had a role in their choice as precious gifts. Frankincense and myrrh both have proven antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties, and were once considered remedies for everything from toothaches to chronic coughs to indigestion to hemorrhoids to leprosy. Myrrh was commonly carried into the battlefield to treat wounds by the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, mentioned myrrh more frequently than any other plant substance in his writings.

Today, both frankincense and myrrh are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and aromatherapy. Myrrh is used as a natural remedy for treating a variety of ailments, including skin conditions, congestion, asthma, indigestion, ulcers, and joint pain. It’s also known to protect against liver damage and has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and to lower cholesterol. Many natural toothpastes contain myrrh to soothe irritated gums, mouth, and throat; to fight plaque; and to promote healing.

Purr(h). Continue reading

What’s Rosie thinking?

Put on your comedic thinking cap.

This’ll be fun.

I ran across a fabulous photo called “Rosie with a lollipop and polka-dot bandana.”

Needless to say, if you’ve already peeked, the portrait begs for a caption,

and you’re just the jester for the job.

So, give it a whirl—what IS Rosie thinking?

Photo by MollyPop via Wikimedia Commons

Include your caption in the comments, below.

I can’t wait to read the silly things that feisty little farmgirl might be sayin’ … Continue reading

Selfies from the 1950s

One of the many benefits of living near two state universities is the steady flow of art and culture they bring to the geographical area I call home. Recently, I had the pleasure of a free afternoon in which I found myself wandering among a poignant collection of work by street photographer Vivian Maier that was on display at the Washington State University Museum of Art. I was really struck by the candid nature of her photos, and when I returned home, I did a little more research on this fascinating woman.

Man with mirror

Man with mirror via

I love the thought of Vivian Maier wandering in 1950s New York City, camera in hand, capturing ordinary life for five solid decades. And I am truly fascinated by the number of “selfies” she took, celebrating her unique character at a time in our history when that type of behavior was often considered “unladylike.” She certainly couldn’t hold her Rolleiflex camera out at arm’s length like we do today, so she had to capture her reflection, which in turn, often captured unintentional snippets of life in the background.

self portrait via

I found some of my favorites from the gallery at It’s worth some time to browse her story and portfolios and get to know her a little better. Continue reading

let’s celebrate!

Yep, today’s m’birthday. The big 62. Big deal. Not. At this point, all my birthdays seems the same. I’m permanently stuck in time. I could be 50 for all I know. Or 68.

Here on the farm, we get to double-celebrate, because it’s my magazine designer, Carol’s, birthday too. We were born just three years apart on the very same day, and over the years, we’ve seen plenty of parallels in our personalities. Maybe there’s something to that astrology thing, after all.

I’m simply celebrating the day by taking the girls who work here (and Winnie, our Farmgirl Sister of the Year, who’s here for our Farmgirl Jubilee celebration) out to lunch, then spending quiet time with my family in the evening, but I thought it would be fun to find out how people have celebrated their birthdays over the ages and around the world.

Did you know …

• In ancient times, only kings had birthday celebrations.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee via Wikimedia Commons

• When you turn the age of your day of birth (if you’re born on the 6th, it would be when you turn 6), that’s called your Golden Birthday, Lucky Birthday, Grand Birthday, or Star Birthday.

• If you’re Chinese and you’re born on the same day as me, you’re a year older than me! The Chinese count your first year, which we don’t in the Western world. A newborn baby’s age is 1; at the end of their first year (12 months old), they’re 2. Glad I’m not Chinese today … just sayin’.

• The tradition of having a party on your birthday started because of a superstition that evil spirits were especially attracted to a person on their birthday, so the person’s family and friends would gather to protect the person with good wishes, festivity, and presents.


Photo, Sharon Pruitt via Wikimedia Commons

• If you’re Vietnamese, you’ll celebrate your birthday with every other person in Vietnam on Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day,” in January or February.

• If you’re Hungarian, instead of getting birthday spankings, you get your earlobes pulled! The “puller” then wishes you well with the saying, “God bless you; live so long so your ears reach your ankles.”


Photo, C. Flynn via Wikimedia Commons

• Koreans celebrate a person’s 60th birthday with a special celebration called hwangap. They believe that 60 is an auspicious year, the year when the Korean zodiac has completed its 60-year cycle. In ancient times, it was also uncommon for a person to live to the ripe old age of 60, so double reason for a celebration! Hwangap is now celebrated on a person’s 70th birthday.

• And the largest birthday celebration in the U.S.? No, not Mariah Carey, who’s known for her over-the-top love of holidays. It’s not even for a living person, and it’s not even held in the town of their birth. It’s for good, old George Washington, in Laredo, Texas, and the celebration started nearly 100 years after his death. The month-long celebration is now held every year in February and attracts over 400,000 celebrants to balls, festivals, parades, concerts, fireworks, and more.


Photo, Shin-改 T via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not in Texas or Hungary, and I hope to celebrate my hwangap a few years down the road. Continue reading

What personality type are you?

Here’s a fun little personality test you can take online. Understanding your basic nature can “help you learn how to use your strengths, increase your self-confidence, improve your relationships, and discover your ideal career and personal development paths.” has developed a test using both Jungian theories and modern developments to help you do just that.

Jan Braet von Überfeld. Portrait of a young woman with Bible, 1866 via Wikimedia Commons

The survey is based on five personality aspects that, when combined, define the personality type: mind (how we interact with other people), energy (how we see the world and process information), nature (how we make decisions and cope with emotions), tactics (our approach to work, planning and decision-making), and identity (how confident we are in our abilities and decisions). Within those aspects, you rate on a percentage scale how strong your preferences are between the two opposites of the aspects:

mind: extraverted (that’s how the test creators spell extroverted) or introverted
energy: intuitive or observant
nature: thinking or feeling
tactics: judging or prospecting
identity: assertive or turbulent

At the end, you’ll find that you fall within one of the four major personality types: analysts, diplomats, sentinels, and explorers; and based on your ratings, you’ll find variations within those types (for example, within diplomats, there are advocates, mediators, protagonists, and campaigners).

After taking the free, 10-minute test and finding your results, you might be so intrigued that you’ll want a custom “premium profile,” 100 pages long, costing about $33.

Put your thinking cap on, your feet up, and delve into the depths of your psyche for some lighthearted, thought-provoking prospecting. Continue reading


In our 21st century world, plastic is everywhere, especially plastic bottles with the widely-known abbreviation of PET. PET refers to polyethylene terephthalate, a substance found in nearly 80% of the bottles on Earth. Polyethylene terephthalate is derived from oil and does not degrade in nature, and PET bottles are quickly becoming the mascot for the pollution that’s clogging the world’s landscapes and oceans. Since PET won’t decompose, the bottles have to be collected and recycled.

This overabundance of plastic bottles has turned out to be a goldmine for Czech artist Veronika Richterová. She uses PET bottles to create whimsical sculptures, which she has dubbed PET-ART. She’s been at it since 2004, when she learned that heated plastic became very malleable and could be easily molded and sculpted.





In addition to creating phenomenal works of beauty, Veronika and her partner, Michal Cihlář, systematically gathered information about PET bottles and published it in an article on her website called “A Tribute to PET Bottles.” They’ve also built a collection of more than 3,000 PET bottles from 76 countries. The duo photographs “popular” PET-ART by “anonymous creative individuals” who use old PET bottles in ingenious ways and then use the photos to inspire viewers to reconsider the waste they put into the environment and find creative, new uses for their discarded items. Her online gallery is also full of hundreds of her fantastic plastic creations. Continue reading

What’s your “emotional intelligence”?

Look closely.

Photo by Fanny Schertzer via Wikimedia Commons

What do you suppose this dairy darling is thinking? Perhaps more to the point, how is she feeling?

Your guess is as good as mine, but I will tell you that I just scored pretty high on a quiz to determine emotional intelligence. Not that I’m bragging.


Play along …

According to The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, “Facial expressions are a universal language of emotion, instantly conveying happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and much more. Reading these expressions is essential to compassion and empathy.”

So, they came up with a quickie quiz to measure emotional intelligence.

Are you yawning … or laughing?

Photo by why 137 via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway …

Visit the quiz site and try to identify the emotion conveyed in each photo (there are 20). “Each answer will pinpoint the exact muscles involved in that emotion and explain the subtle differences between expressions,” explain the authors. “Some emotions appear more than once.”

This guy isn’t in any of the photos, but he looks pretty happy to me! What do you think?

Photo by Sam via Wikimedia Commons

  Continue reading

red eye

While red eyes are desirable in some cases …

say, in the world of the red-eyed tree frog,


tree frog by LiquidGhoul edited by Muhammad via Wikimedia Commons

they’re not very desirable in humans.

We’ve all seen those photos that make sweet little Sammy look like the spawn of the devil.


Most cameras now have built-in features to avoid the dreaded “red eye effect.” And if you do end up with red-eyed monsters when you’re snapping pics of your sweet darlings, you can always use a photo-editing program to fix it after the fact.

But you might be intrigued to find out, like I did, why that particular eerie effect happens in the first place …

When you take a photo of a person who’s looking directly at the camera, the flash reflects off the person’s retina, located at the back of the eye. Because the retina has many blood vessels, the camera picks up the red color.

Who knew?

But what about those scary animal eyes you see at night or even sometimes in a photo taken in the middle of the day? Sweet little pup all of a sudden turns into the Hound of the Baskervilles …

photo by Jazzjohnn via Wikimedia Commons

No, he’s not possessed … you’ve just picked up something called “eyeshine.” Many animals (especially those with good night vision) have a layer of tissue in their eyes called tapetum lucidum. It also reflects light back through the retina, which appears to make the animals’ eyes glow. Cats and dogs with blue eyes can reflect both eyeshine and red-eye.


photo by Una Smith via Wikimedia Commons

Thank goodness for Photoshop. Continue reading

Yoga for Kids

Jodi the Yogi aims to set children on the path of a positive and healthy lifestyle through yoga. Her programs and videos, made for children 2-6, engage kids through song, dance, and movement with the help of her “bestie,” Downward the Dog. With original songs and age-appropriate interpretations of yoga sequences and postures, Jodi’s videos engages tiny tots while targeting gross motor skills and promoting social/emotional learning using humor, playfulness, and a sense of wonder.



Jodi and Downward the Dog are based in New York City, where they visit schools, teach classes, and even book parties and events, but you can get your little ones interested by watching her 8-minute video below. Then stay tuned for more videos on her website.

  Continue reading

International Moment of Laughter Day

April 14 is International Moment of Laughter Day. The holiday was created by “humorologist” Izzy Gesell to encourage people to laugh. Izzy, a professional speaker, trainer, author, and “humor consultant,” suggests celebrating by:

  • calling a friend to share a funny story
  • thinking up your own way to get someone else to laugh with you
  • or just laughing for no apparent reason at all

Fragment of Juan Muñoz’ series of sculptures, “Thirteen Laughing at Each Other” (2001), Jardim da Cordoaria, Porto, Portugal via Wikimedia Commons


We’ve all heard the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine.” According to, “a guide for improving your mental and emotional health,”

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Lachender_Bauernbursche, 1839 via Wikimedia Commons.

“I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off,” says Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, psychologist and laugh therapist, according to “They might be healthier too.”

Humor consultant??? Laugh therapist??? Don’t those both sound like delightful jobs?! LOL!

However you celebrate International Moment of Laughter Day, have a good laugh … your body, mind, and spirit will all thank you. Continue reading