Essential Oils

March is my least favorite month and each year I have to be intentional about how I'm going to get through the end of the winter.

I get very antsy this time of year. Cabin fever I guess.

I definitely experience a transformation through the winter season. In January, right after the energy and resource expenditure of the holidays, all I want to do is retreat, rest and hibernate. I want to hunker down. So I make every effort to honor that desire.

But as the days slowly lengthen and winter's magic wanes (early winter is magical but the magic doesn't last forever) I am itching for a change.

By March I want to start making plans for the summer and I want to go places, right now. This seasonal shift in me has helped fuel our moves over the last few years. It wasn't the reason for our moves, they were necessary for other reasons - short-term rentals, hiking the AT, housing availability etc. But this natural change in "energy" helped us pull it off, for at least four of our last five moves (one move was in autumn).

This year no moving. Hallelujah!! So I can instead plan summer camping, backpacking/hiking, and roadtrip adventures. I am so relieved I want to start planning those again. After our hike I thought I lost my travel and adventure desires all together. All I wanted to do was to nest and make home. Thank goodness that was just part of my post-trail experience and recovery.

I'm ready to go places again, both in terms of the March "itch" and in the bigger picture of my life in which I am both a homebody and an adventurer.

That's the big story, the more immediate story is that back in January, anticipating my need in March to go somewhere I made a plan with my mom to meet up in March, roughly halfway between Nova Scotia and Montreal.

This weekend was that meet-up. We called it a retreat. We did this once before, six years ago when I still lived in Maine. We met in New Brunswick that time.

For this retreat my mom made a big effort in driving all the way to Riviere-du-Loup and I arrived by bus from Montreal. There are not a lot great places to meet, in March, in central New Brunswick, which is truly the halfway point between us. My mom graciously agreed to "go the distance" to meet me in Riviere-du-Loup, which offers more culture and outdoors opportunities than small-town New Brunswick.

I had such a wonderful time with my mom. We connect on many levels, and share multiple interests. And we respect and love the differences in each other. I feel safe with my mom, at ease.

Sometimes I get so caught up in our current friendship that I forget my whole history and being is dependent on her. There is no part of my life she does not know, she has not been witness to.

She knows me in one of the most intimate ways possible, more intimately than I can ever know her. My mom had a life before me, a childhood I wasn't a part of and an early adult life that I was largely oblivious to. As a child I didn't think of my mom as a person to know, she was just "my mom". It wasn't until my adulthood that I appreciated my mom as a person unique from me.

My mom does not offer unsolicited advice and she does not smother. She has always given me plenty of space to become independent, to be my own person, the daughter of Derryl and Karen Toews.

From the time I was little my mom has been the parent that I got along with most easily. It is my Dad, who shares many of my personality traits and ways of looking at the world, with whom the sparks flew in my teenaged years.

Now there are no sparks, except those that ignite the love in my heart for these two people in the world who know me so well and have loved me unconditionally all my life.

Most of the time my mom and I are together we are with other family - husbands/fathers, kids/grandkids. Our attentions are divided, conversations shortened by things we must do. But this weekend was one long, uninterrupted, conversation and connect time.

It was winter in Riviere-du-Loup but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm to get outdoors and walk, something we both love to do. We even dress the same for the outdoors. That's years of Damien's influence, helping equip our family and my parents to be comfortably active outdoors year round.

We drank red wine at the end of the day and ate our meals out. Nothing as tasty as my mom's cooking, but I sure enjoyed the break from the kitchen.

We talked a lot but we enjoyed companionable silences and personal time. I napped and did Zentangle. We read.

My mom loved on me with an AromaTouch Technique experience.

We talked about our passions and our dreams for the future. Of course I talked about my kids. My mom is the one person in my life, other than Damien, that does not tire to hear the stories and struggles of Celine, Laurent and Brienne, my life's pride and joy (and the cause sometimes of heartache and concern).

My joy is her joy and my pain is her pain. And as a grown adult, the empathy goes both ways. She is no longer just "my mom", the way she was when I was a kid, she's my friend.

We filled our adult relationship mother-daughter well, and agreed we should make this an annual activity.

Driving back to Montreal on the bus, watching the snow disappear as we travelled south, it feels like spring is just around the corner. I'm happy to leave the snow in Riviere-du-Loup.

March has turned. We reached the equinox, and winter is truly waning. The magic of spring will start soon, and summer, a season for traveling and adventures, will follow shortly.

Last month I made our summer soap. We christened it Summer Shoo-Fly as its essential oils were chosen for their insect repellent properties. It is done curing now and is ready for the summer showering, camp use, gifts and trades.

Then last weekend, in between freezing pounds and pounds of berries I whipped up more summer skin care products: lip balm, body lotion, and deodorant.

My mom was running low on lotion (I'm her dealer - tee, hee) and we were running low on lip balm (getting down to the crystallized honey that seems to settle in the bottom) and I was plumb out of deodorant - a situation that needed to be remedied for summer.  

Homemade Deodorant Recipe

As I've mentioned before my first batch of homemade deodorant was based on Angry Chicken's recipe. This time around I made a few more modifications, enough to call it my own and share it here.


  • 3 tbsp cocoa butter with jojoba oil
  • 3 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp vitamin E
  • 5 drops each of clove, rosemary, tea tree and eucalyptus - these were the oils I had on hand that I thought would smell nice together. Use whatever you like.
  • 5 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract, natural preservative (optional)


  1. In a sterilized pan melt all the ingredients, except essential oils and GSE, together over low heat on stove.
  2. Remove from heat, add drops of essential oils and GSE, if using. Stir well with whisk.
  3. Pour into sterilized glass jar.

My last batch lasted months and never went bad or rancid in the bathroom cupboard. This week with such high heat the oils have melted a bit and the deodorant was quite runny so I took a tablespoon out and mixed it with some baking soda to firm it up. This worked well and I've been using this firmer mix in this high heat and humidity.

To apply simply rub some between your fingers and massage onto your skin.

Toothpaste Update:

While we're discussing natural skin and body care I wanted to mention that our family has decided on a toothpaste alternative. I have been looking for a toothpaste replacement. Something with truly natural ingredients that I could make myself, that would clean our teeth, freshen our breath and that we'd all like. Well we mostly scored with Uncle Harrys.

  • Natural ingredients - check, I even e-mailed to ask specifically what the plant essences were
  • Make myself - well maybe, I know what all the ingredients are but for now we're purchasing it
  • Cleans our teeth - check, definitely
  • Freshens our breath - check, definitely
  • Family friendly - mostly check, Brienne doesn't like how strong it is

Another huge feature of using this toothpaste is that it is great for backpacking and simplifies our packing and personal care products.

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After writing that I was almost out of toothpaste and was going to have to start making my own very soon I found just one more tube of Tom's in the cupboard.

Then my parents visited last week and stole it when they left. Actually they didn't steal it, they mistook it for their own and went home with one extra. No matter, I was happy to give them a tube of their favorite paste.

That was just the push I needed to start concocting my own. And I don't use the word concocting lightly.

Based on everything you've all shared with me and my own research I'm mixing essential oils, coconut oil, baking soda, green mash and vodka. Coming up with... you don't want to know.

It's a process and when I stumble upon a recipe that works for us I'll share it with you. But right now I'm using my family as toothpaste guinea pigs. And what a wonderful family they are to put up with me. Even though Celine said earlier this week between top and bottom brushing, "Tis my fate to live with a mother who makes herbal toothpaste."

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