Out of My Depth

I have been crocheting for 54 years. I have made countless lace doilies and tablecloths and yet when I was commissioned to make the Dream Weaver afghan by Helen Shrimpton I was overwhelmed. I had never tried 3D crochet before.

Ordering the yarn was no problem. It is one of my absolute favourite things to do. My client was very easy to work with and very clear about what she wanted. She also values the work and doesn’t mind paying for handmade items.


This was probably one of the best patterns I could have chosen to learn new skills. The pattern was clear and easy to follow. I discovered that when I was confused I needed to just do one stitch at a time and I would get there.

How Long Did It take

Amazingly, this blanket only took me about a month to complete. It is one of my favourite items that I have ever made. I was proud to get outside my comfort zone. It was this blanket that led to me designing my own patterns. I have not done anything this elaborate yet, but give me time.


Amazing Herbal Wound Healers

I recently went to the ER at the local hospital due to a cooking accident.  They were unable to stitch my finger and instead used super glue.  It actually made sense, but it got me thinking about herbal wound healers.   Here are 2 of my favourites.


Gardeners tend to just rip this plant out thinking it’s a weed.  It is invasive, but it is also an amazing wound healer.

Comfrey used to be used for coughs and chest problems.  This is now illegal in Canada.  Most comfrey you will find to purchase will have a not for internal use label on it.

Externally Comfrey is amazing.  It is also known as knit bone.  If you have a broken bone an application or 2 of comfrey daily can help it mend in far less time than without it.

Comfrey is also an excellent wound healer.  There is major controversy on using comfrey on broken skin.  Comfrey has pyrolizidine alkaloids which can damage your liver.  This is why it is no longer available internally.  One of my favourite sources talks about using comfrey for cuts but also cautions not to use it on broken skin.

On the other hand a double blind study on children reported on PubMed states “the results justify application of the Symphytum herb extract cream in children with blunt traumata with or without skin abrasions.”

I used it on my finger and will continue to use it when I need it.  I agree that you need to use it cautiously.  First of all you need to make sure the wound is very clean.  Secondly I would recommend using a natural comfrey product from a reputable source.  

The reason I don’t worry too much about using comfrey is that I only ever use it once or twice a day for approximately 2 days.  By that time the wound is generally healed enough to stop applying an external treatment.

Coconut Oil

This is a great wound healer for those wishing to avoid the controversy around comfrey.

Coconut oil is antiseptic, anti-bacterial and antibiotic.  I use it instead of polysporin.  Studies have shown that it is extremely effective against a number of bacteria that can cause wound infection.

In addition to wound healing, coconut oil will diminish scarring and remove age spots and toe fungus.

One study on pubmed supports an anecdote I read in a book by Bruce Fife C.N.,N.D. called The Coconut Oil Miracle.  Coconut Oil speeds up wound healing.

There are so many studies being done on this amazing substance that it would be impossible to list them all here.  If you would like more information on coconut oil you can check out my blog here.   






Beans Are Better Than You Think

Beans are nutritional powerhouses packed with protein, fibre, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and are low in fat.

Health Benefits

Saponins and phytosterols in beans can reduce cholesterol, prevent cancer, assist weight loss and manage diabetes.

There are a vast number of different types of beans. 

Cannellini beans are one of my favourite.  They are sometimes referred to as white kidney beans.  They are buttery and add such a wonderful flavour to dishes like my Tuscan Bean Soup.

They are also an amazing source of soluble fibre.  Recent studies are showing the benefits of high fibre and beans in particular for controlling blood sugar.  Beans have a positive effect on the important HbA1c levels.

In addition to their low glycemic index rating, cannellini beans also assist in taking off weight around the middle.

Black Bean Digestion Assistance

Recent research has shown that black beans provide special support for digestive tract health, and particularly our colon. By delivering a greater amount of indigestible fraction or IF to the colon, black beans are able to help support this lower part of our digestive tract. Lowered colon cancer risk that is associated with black bean intake in some research studies may be related to the outstanding IF content of this legume.

Blood Sugar

According to Cardio Smart a recent study advises that adding legumes to the diet can help control blood sugar and reduce cardiovascular risk.

All beans are excellent for maintaining good health including cardiovascular, blood sugar, cancer and even mood swings.

The trick to dried beans is to soak them over night and cook them for a much longer time than you would cook a canned bean.  For less gas make sure you rinse the beans several times before cooking them.

Refried Beans

You may be asking why I would include refried beans in a blog on healthy beans.  As it turns out these beans are good for you.  

They have all the fibre of boiled pinto beans.  This means they are heart healthy, digestion friendly and can help control blood sugar.

The onion and garlic in these beans are extremely heart healthy.  The non-healthy ingredient is bacon fat or lard.

For really healthy refried beans try changing the fat to olive oil.  You may notice a slight difference in flavour but in the end it will be worth it.  If you could still have a food you love simply by changing the fat it was cooked in would you not be willing to give it a try?

High fibre foods are good for you.  Beans have a much greater effect on your health than some whole grains.  They are versatile and delicious.  

Now For the Fun Stuff

Healthy Tuscan Bean Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 leek sliced thin

2 carrots diced

2 ribs celery diced 

2-4 cloves garlic minced

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans

2 Bay leaves

1/4 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups kale or chard chopped finely ribs removed. (optional)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Parmesan cheese for serving

In a dutch oven saute the leek in the olive oil until wilted.  Add carrot, garlic and celery and cook until softened but not brown.  Add the herbs (feel free to adjust the amount to your own taste) and the broth.  Add the beans and simmer about 15 minutes.  Add the kale and cook until kale is soft.

Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.


If you love baked beans you will be happy to know that you can make them any time you want them. You can use canned pinto or white beans or soak dried beans overnight and rinse before boiling them.

If you use canned beans DO NOT DRAIN them. Open the can and dump everything into a small saucepan.

If you are making beans from the dried ones boil them until the liquid becomes thick and the beans are tender.

Add 1/4 cup of your favourite Barbecue sauce and stir well. Heat through and serve. If you like saucier beans feel free to add a bit more bbq sauce.

Although this recipe works great with whatever bbq sauce you want, my personal favourite is Guy Fieri’s sugar free bbq sauce. One note here is that these beans taste even better after sitting for a day in the fridge.




Ginger for Inflammation

Ginger is tasty in cookies and other recipes, it is an excellent herb for digestion and can quell nausea and vomitting.   It has been used for a number of health benefits over the centuries.  Today I want to focus on the use of ginger for reducing inflammation.

How Does it Work?

According to PubMed ginger “shares pharmacological properties with Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs” (NSAIDS).  Ginger inhibits prostaglandins that promote inflammation.  Ginger also suppresses pro-inflammatory compounds.  Reducing inflammation reduces pain. 

Arthritis and Ginger

Gingers anti-inflammatory benefits include Rheumatoid Arthritis.  In a study in 2012 it was found that ginger supplements worked as well as steroids for reducing inflammation in synovial cells.  Arthritis today even suggests ginger capsules as a treatment for inflammation.

Studies have proven that ginger has been effective in treating inflammation in both Rheumatoid and Osteo Arthritis.


Inflammation is the bodies way of trying to heal itself.  It is a valuable part of our immunity in its acute phase.  However, chronic inflammation is what causes many diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s disease, TB and cardiovascular disease.


In addition to reducing the pain of inflamed joints, ginger can reduce other pain.  According to the Mercola site, studies are showing that ginger can “reduce the severity of migraine headaches as well as the migraine medication Sumatriptan”.

Ginger is beneficial in treating muscle pain from exercise.  It has been shown to work just as well as Ibuprofen, aspirin and other over the counter painkillers.  The reason for this is the anti-inflammatory effect of ginger.


One of the side effects on WebMD is that ginger may lower your blood sugar.  Although this sounds more like a benefit than anything else, it is important to consult with your doctor when trying an herbal supplement while on pharmaceuticals.  

Another serious caution for the use of ginger is that it interacts with blood thinners by making them more effective.  This can mean that your blood pressure can drop too low.  Please work with your doctor to determine whether ginger can be an effective herb for you.

All in all ginger is anti-inflammatory, kills pain and reduces nausea and cramps.  It tastes good too!





Brain Fire or How to Beat Brain Fog

A friend of mine asked me to make something to help her get some sharp focus and get rid of brain fog. 

I am a research herbalist. I don’t actually make medicines except for myself. I also believe that food as medicine is the first line of defense. Here are 5 herbs that can help relieve brain fog.


Because, well, its chocolate.  Most people love chocolate and have no problem eating it. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about your milk chocolate candy bar. Adding dairy and other chemicals to chocolate is not good for you in any way.

Dark Chocolate and Cacao

The darker the chocolate the closer it is to the natural bean. The best option is to eat cacao beans or cacao nibs (the inside of the bean that has the shell removed).

Cacao has some amazing health benefits. It is Magnesium rich and helps create DHA and protects your brain from neurological disorders. Cacao’s high antioxidant level helps protect the brain from aging.

Cacao helps your body release endorphins for a ZING of energy. Why wouldn’t you love chocolate?

Coconut Oil and Milk

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People tend to think of coconut oil as fattening. Nothing could be further from the truth. Coconut oil actually helps you release stored fat. Read more in Bruce Fife’s book Eat Fat Look Thin available here

Coconut oil feeds your brain. Age causes your brain to become glucose resistant. Coconut oil actually fits the glucose receptor sites on your brain cells and feeds them keeping them healthy and viable.

Research into coconut oil for the prevention of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia is currently under way.


Ginseng has been used for centuries as a stimulant herb. It has been used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, to improve the immune system function and to increase cognitive function. As an adaptogenic herb, ginseng is excellent for stress relief and adrenal fatigue.

 Adaptogenic herbs are herbs which help support your body’s ability to cope with various forms of physical and/or emotional stress.

Gotu Kola

This is not an herb I have used before. It’s included in many products to enhance cognitive function and for a good reason.

According to herbwisdom.com Gotu Kola helps maintain the central nervous system. It energizes mental powers, aids memory and supports the adrenals. All of these actions help your brain perform better and without the brain fog.

Gingko Biloba

Most people have heard of Gingko’s ability to help improve memory. It can help with damage caused by atherosclerosis (cholesterol) as well as chemicals. Gingko is able to do this because it’s a vasodilator which will increase blood flow to the brain and other organs.

There are supplements available on the market for most herbs. For healing foods just make sure you get extra virgin coconut oil. For chocolate you can eat chocolate bars with 70% cacao or more. Even better add the nibs or beans to your cooking. If you like the sweetness of chocolate you can try Fruity Cacao available from Sunfoods.

If you are on medication of any kind please consult your doctor prior to taking any herbal medicines.


Raspberry Leaf is Not What You Think

Raspberry Leaf

If you thought that raspberry bush taking over your yard was nothing more than an annoyance, think again.  Provided you haven’t sprayed it with chemicals the leaves on the bush are good for you.

Women’s Issues

Raspberry leaf has been known throughout the centuries as an agent to prevent excess bleeding.  It has been used to relieve excess menstrual bleeding and to prevent excessive bleeding after birth.

It tones the uterus and has some reputation for easing and speeding up birth although not a lot of studies have been done on this action.

There are a number of sites on the internet arguing for and against drinking Raspberry Leaf tea during pregnancy.  Some say it is fine to drink it during the entire pregnancy some say only near the end.  I count myself as among the latter.  Calming morning sickness by eating ginger snaps just seems like a more delicious option.

My training taught me that the last 6 weeks of pregnancy this tea is safe.  My experience with pregnant women that drank raspberry leaf during the final 6 weeks is that although their labour didn’t actually seem to be shortened; none had excessive bleeding.

Blood Glucose

Recently there have been changes in the classification used to diagnose Type II Diabetes.  This means that many more people will be classified as Type II.  According to a study in Europe Pub Med Central, lifestyle changes can make a difference for people with elevated fasting and post-load plasma glucose concentrations.  This is excellent news because it gives the individual a chance to be proactive in their own health.

One of the things that Raspberry Leaf tea can do is assist in the regulation of blood glucose levels.  By this I do not mean that it is a substitute for insulin but simply that it can assist in lowering blood glucose.  There are numerous warnings about the dangers of raspberry leaf tea for those with diabetes.  The caution, Raspberry Leaf Tea may seriously reduce blood sugar levels.  I love it when the medical community cautions back up traditional herbal wisdom!

What Else Can Raspberry Leaves Do?

Raspberry Leaf tea has beneficial actions in diarrhea, stomach cramps, menstrual cramps, removing excess hormones, fluid retention.

Just For Fun

Raspberry leaf tea is a tasty alternative to black tea.  It is particularly nice when iced.  You can use raspberry leaf tea bags or you can simply cut some of the green leaves (the younger the leaf the better the tea) and steep them in boiling water.  Add a touch of lemon and you are done.  Raspberry leaf also mixes well with lavender and lemon balm.  For those of you that prefer a sweeter tea simply add a little honey. 

So overall Raspberry Leaf tea is good for everyone, there are no side effects or contraindications.   My warning would be to wait till the final 6 weeks of your pregnancy to start drinking this tea and if you are currently being treated for diabetes, please consult your physician if you want to add this tea to your health regimen.

NOTE: This blog is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner and is not to be interpreted as medical advice


There are a number of herbs that have excellent sedative effects.

Valerian, Skullcap, Hops, Lavender are all great sedative herbs.


Yes these are the same hops used in making Beer!  Through the ages hops have been used to induce relaxation, improve sleep, calm anxiety and even treat some cancers.  The chemicals contained in the leaves of the hops are what gives them their sedative effect.

Hop pillows have been popular throughout the centuries as an easy way to deal with insomnia.  Simply fill a small cloth bag with hops, close it securely and place it in your pillow case with your pillow.  This can be effective but some people dislike the smell of hops and if you have any allergies I would recommend other ways to use hops.

Hops can be brewed as tea.  Simply crush the hops.  Use one teaspoonful in a cup of water and let steep for 10 minutes.  While this is beneficial I recommend either adding honey or combining the hops with another herb to improve the flavour.  Hops extract is sold in most herbal pharmacies.

There are few noted side effects for Hops and it is considered safe in normal doses.  However, given it’s sedative nature I would not recommend driving or any dangerous activity until you discover how you react to hops.


Valerian is a superb sedative herb.  It smells however, like an old sock.  The odour of valerian is unmistakable although some animals love it!

Valerian is effective in sleep disorders where there is anxiety and difficulty falling asleep.  It has been useful when people want to stop taking Sleeping Pills.  I would recommend that if you are going to use it to wean yourself from sleeping pills, that you consult your Dr, a qualified Naturopath or Clinical Herbalist.  The best way to take Valerian is through supplement or extract.

Valerian is thought to be safe for most people although it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast feeding.  Some people find they have a mild hangover from taking Valerian and it can even cause insomnia and restlessness in some people.  As with all herbs you need to discover how it affects you.

Valerian interacts with drugs that change in the liver, anaesthesia (discontinue use at least 2 weeks prior to surgery) and alcohol.  It is not recommended to drive or operate machinery when taking valerian.


Skullcap is an excellent sedative herb.  It is used as a natural tranquilizer, to ease anxiety and to induce sleep.  It is also useful for muscle spasms and twitching.  Skullcap is one of the herbs that you need to know the latin name for in order to make sure you are getting the right thing.  Look for Scuttelaria lateriflora.

There isn’t a lot of cautions or interaction information about Skullcap.  I will however share the fact that when I have taken skullcap in even small amounts in the past it has caused a severe headache and therefore I personally do not recommend it, however it has helped people over the centuries.  I strongly recommend that if you are going to use skullcap that you do so with the advice of a qualified Dr, Naturopath or Clinical Herbalist.


Judging by the number of hummingbirds and bumble bees around my lavender plants, there is something very positive about it.  Lavender is the quick and easy go to herb for relaxation.  The scent of lavender alone can be relaxing and combined with rose petals is a great way to stay calm during a working day.

Lavender can be used as an essential oil as long as it is diluted with a carrier oil, the flowers can be used in a calming potpouri, it can be used in sleep pillows in the same way as hops, it can be used in sachets to promote relaxation and keep moths away.  My favourite use for lavender is in a tea.  Make sure you get food grade lavender.  You can simply steep a teaspoon of lavender flowers in a cup of water or you can mix the lavender with other herbs.  For a relaxing and refreshing tea hot or cold combine lemon balm and lavender in equal parts. Steep 1 teaspoon in a cup of water for 5 minutes covered.  It also makes an amazing iced tea.  Combine lemon balm and lavender in equal parts.  Steep enough for a full pot of tea (4-5 tablespoons) let cool and pour into a pitcher.  Enjoy over ice.  A great way to carry your relaxing tea is in a water bottle.  You can happily sip away all day.

The only cautions for lavender seem to be that it may have an interaction with anaesthesia and if you apply it directly to skin it can cause burning.  It is also not recommended for pre-pubescent boys because of it’s estrogenic effects.


  Passionflower is useful for anxiety, insomnia and digestive disorders. It can also help with narcotic drug withdrawal (if used with the advice of a Dr, Naturopath or Clinical Herbalist.)

Passionflower does have some side effects such as dizziness, lack of coordination altered consciousness and inflamed blood vessels.  It is not recommended for pregnant or breast feeding women.  It also interacts with anaesthesia so should be discontinued at least two weeks prior to surgery.

Sorry about the length of this post folks but there is a lot of information to cover!  


Mullein For Cough and Tuberculosis

Mullein is not a commonly known herb.  Many people have never heard of it.  That is unless they have been around me during cold season.  It is my go to herb of choice for coughs.  I have recommended it for too many people to count.  The reason I recommend it?  It works, it’s that simple.

Mullein is excellent for the treatment of

  • Tuberculosis
  • Skin infections
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Ear Ache
  • Leprosy

Mullein is antimicrobial, anti-fungal and analgesic.  This means it kills bacteria and fungus while relieving pain.


One of the most promising uses for mullein in modern medicine is for the treatment of TB.  Many antibiotics are useless against this deadly disease.  Mullein has been used throughout the centuries as a specific for the treatment of TB.  


Studies are now showing that the herbalists have been correct all along.  Mullein is useful in fighting Mycobacteria which is common in TB and other human and animal diseases.

As recently as 2010 TB was killing approximately 5000 people per day.  The World Health Organization declared an emergency and an increased search for remedies to fight this disease was begun.

Due to the fact that TB can be resistant to antibiotics other avenues needed to be explored.

Researchers began looking back through history and quickly discovered that mullein has been used in many countries for the treatment of TB.


The largest amount of historical information on Mullein comes from Irish history.  It has grown in that country for centuries in wastelands such as quarries roadsides and ditches.  

Mullein has many nicknames, some of which are:

  • Our Lady’s Flannel
  • Velvet Plant
  • Bullock’s Lungwort
  • Feltwort

For a comprehensive list go to A Modern Herbal at botanical.com

Throughout history mullein has been used by Irish herbalists to treat TB, tumours and inflammation of the throat.  It has even been used as a food preservative due to its antibacterial properties.

To my Irish friends that have farms, you may want to grow some of this “weed” rather than fight against it.

Personal Experience

I have discovered through research and use that mullein works.  Quickly and effectively, it takes care of that annoying cough that just never seems to go away no matter how many antibiotics the doctor prescribes.  

I generally recommend making a tea from 1 tsp of peppermint leaves and 1 tsp mullein.  Have 3 or 4 cups of this daily and the cough will clear up nicely.

I had a case where nothing worked.  The person was a friend and I recommended she visit the herbal pharmacy that 2 of my instructors own and have them make a tincture of peppermint mullein.  I don’t prescribe usually but in this case she had been coughing for months.  The numerous antibiotics she had taken hadn’t helped at all.  She tried the tincture and it worked.  Within a week or so her cough was gone.

The one recommendation I make when using mullein is that you drink a lot of warm liquids, preferably warm water, in between cups of mullein tea.  The reason for this is that mullein will assist in absorbing the pathogens so that they may be excreted through the organs.  In order to speed up the results and make it easier on the organs to process, drinking a lot of liquids helps.

There are no known interactions or side effects for mullein but as with most herbs I would advise against using mullein when pregnant until more research has been done.

For an interesting study on mullein go to NCBI (National Institute of Health) and check out “What’s in a Name?”


Herbs For Immune System Support

When I first decided to set up Comfort By Joy I pictured it as a site dedicated to knitting and crochet. Before long I realized that the Herbalist/Hypnotherapist/Healer in me still has information to share.

Why This Topic

The immune system is a hot topic these days with the COVID-19 crisis. Finding herbs and vitamins to support it is not easy since hoarding of essentials has begun.

I wondered if people might like to know if there are other ways to support their immune system. Originally published on Suite101 this may be helpful.



Echinacea has been used for years as a preventative for colds. Echinacea is antimicrobial, antiseptic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory.

Echinacea does not directly affect viruses but has an antiviral effect by stimulating the immune system.  Strengthening the immune system increases the body’s powers of resistance. 

Clinical studies have confirmed Echinacea’s results in general infectious conditions, colds, influenza and upper respiratory infection. 

In addition, studies have shown Echinacea to have results as an anti-inflammatory agent.  It is useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.  It is currently being studied for its anti-cancer properties.

At one time Echinacea was used as a drug but with the development of newer drugs it fell out of use in mainstream medical treatment but has continued in use by herbalists.

Echinacea is known to interact with



Garlic for Immune System Support

Garlic is nature’s cure-all.  Garlic is useful for a large number of conditions. It is antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiseptic, bacteriostatic, anti-viral, anti-carcinogen.

Garlic is a preventative agent against the viruses that cause infection. It is also beneficial during colds and flu as well as bronchitis.  It loosens phlegm allowing the body to get rid of it.  It is beneficial for catarrhal discharge from the eyes and nose as well.

Sadly, for garlic to be effective it must be eaten raw. Alternatively there are naturopathic garlic capsules that are flash frozen. Breaking the cell wall in garlic cloves releases allicin where the healing compounds lay.

Garlic oil is extremely useful in ear aches.  One or two drops in the ear will assist in clearing up the infection, however, if there is no improvement in 24 hours a doctor should be consulted.

Garlic is a cholesterol remover and blood thinner and should not be consumed in large quantities by anyone taking blood thinners or cholesterol medication.

Garlic has interactions with some pharmaceuticals and is not recommended when taking Warfarin or Ticlopidine.


Calendula Marigold Flower Immune System Booster

Not only is calendula beautiful as a flower it is also an important immune system booster.  Calendula Officinalis or Pot Marigold is important as an immune stimulant. It is also Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-histamine.

Calendula is an effective agent in fevers and flu.  It acts as an immune stimulant increasing the body’s ability to resist infection.  It is an effective tea to be taken once or twice a day during the height of cold and flu outbreaks. 

Calendula is also effective as a tea taken during a fever to induce sweating.

Calendula has no drug interactions.

Supporting your immune system is important at this time. With access to many vitamins you can always try some interesting herbs.


Craft Fair Anxieties

Dish Cloths

Hello again! I am terribly sorry that I have been away from this for such a long time. Sometimes Life just happens. Actually sometimes Craft Fairs happen!

Getting prepared for the Christmas Market when there are only 3 official members of your craft group can be frustrating. When you are the group leader your “do we have enough” anxiety kicks in.

Table Runner

What is this?

My craft group is part of a church. There are 3 official members and one that pretty much comes once in a while. To me it is most important for the members to be creative in their own ways so we don’t have an official “to make” list. We do however, make sure we have some of the standbys that sell well.

We also have a number of talented people at the church that come in with last minute contributions of really nice stuff. The frustrating thing about this is that there is limited space. Although we have the most space at our market, I still have to make sure that we have room to display everything. Last minute additions are very hard to plan for.

Setting up for the Spring Tea Market

What to Make

Deciding what to make for the market very much depends on your customers. Our customers love greeting cards, fun earrings and dish cloths. They do not want much of the traditional “church bazaar” stuff. Sometimes it is just a matter of trial and error.

If you decide to enter into a craft market/fair, I would recommend doing some research on how to sell at craft markets. Sometimes sticking to a single item can be very successful.

Right now it is Christmas so all the stress of the Christmas Market is over and the Spring Tea hasn’t started.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Crafty New Year