Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lavender Wand How To

Lavender wands are pretty way to preserve your lavender flowers. They make thoughtful little gifts and it is a most pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon! This is an easy project that is fun to do with children.
Start with an odd number of stems of lavender. I usually use 11 or 13 to make a nice full wand. Pick the lavender on a dry day when the buds are nice and fat but haven't begun to open yet. The only other material is a piece of ribbon about 30 inches long.
Begin by bunching the lavender together so that the base of each flower head is more or less even with the others. Tie the end of your ribbon at the bottom of the bunch and knot.
Hold the lavender upside down and gently bend the stems over the ribbon to cover the lavender flowers.
Weave the ribbon through the stems by going over and under alternating stems. Adjust the stems as you go to create full coverage of the flower heads. Pull the ribbon firmly but gently as you work your way down the stems.
Continue to weave the ribbon, alternating stems as you go, until you reach the bottom of the flower heads. Keep each row of ribbon close to the previous one.

Finish your wand with a pretty bow and hang upside down to dry for a week or so. Check your wand every couple of days to see if the ribbon needs to be tightened. Do this by untying the bow and gently pulling the ribbon tighter working from top to bottom. When your wand is completely dry, you can decorate it with tiny dried flowers or a bit of lace or ribbon if desired.
Share your creations with friends and family or any faeries that happen to live in your garden!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mullein-Verbascum Thapus

Mullein, verbascum thapus, is a stately bienniel with wooly, greyish green leaves and pretty yellow flowers that appear in the second year. I love the texture of the leaves and and enjoy its presence in my flower borders! It offers a nice contrast to the more refined flowers and the bees just love it too. It grows wild throughout most of North America and Europe. Ulysses took mullein with him on his famous voyage to protect him from Circe who changed his crew into pigs. In India it has been used as protection from evil spirits.
Mullein also has some more everyday uses for those not plagued by enchantresses and evil spirits! Historically mullein has been used to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis. In herbal classification, it is considered an expectorant and demulcent. Topically it has been used to treat burns and skin irritations. The active constituents are mucilage, which soothes mucus membranes, saponins, which act as an expectorant and tannins.
Mullein is virtually side effect free and considered generally safe to use. There have been rare reports of skin irritation in sensitive individuals. Mullein seeds are toxic and should NEVER be used. All other parts, with the exception of the flower, are mildly toxic and should be used with caution under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.
To make a tea, pour one cup of water over 1-2 teaspoons of the dried flowers and steep 10-15 minutes. Drink 3-4 times a day.
Collect the flowers as they first open and dry gently without artificial heat to preserve for future use. The healing power is connected to the yellow coloring, so store in an airtight container out of the light.
For more info on healing herbs pick up a copy of The Natural Pharmacy edited by Skye Liniger. It is a comprehensive resource that includes herbs, homeopathy and supplements. It includes dosage recommendations, side effects and interactions with other herbs as well as pharmaceuticals.

Information offered on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and none of the statements has been evaluated by the FDA.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Old- Fashioned Rose Potpourri

The roses seem especially abundant this year- the perfect time to make a big batch of old-fashioned rose potpourri! Feel free to alter the quantities of botanicals to match what you have on hand and to make the recipe your own. Potpourri recipes are really just a guideline, a scent suggestion, a starting point for your own creativity! If you start with good quality botanicals and oils you can't make a mistake.

6 cups of dried rose petals
2 cups of lavender buds
2 cups of rose geranium leaves
2 cups of lemon verbena
1 cup of rosemary
1/4 cup of frankincense tears
1/4 cup of whole cloves
2 cups of oakmoss
1/2 teaspoon each of rose, bergamot, sandalwood, rose geranium and lavender oils
1/4 teaspoon each of musk, patchouli and vanilla oils

Combine all of the dry ingredients except the oakmoss in a large bowl and mix gently. Put your flower and herb mix into a one gallon jar with a tight fitting lid. Top with the oakmoss- don't mix it in yet. Sprinkle the oils evenly over the surface of the oakmoss and cover with the lid. Let it sit for 2-3 days to let the oakmoss absorb all the oils. Dump the whole thing back into a large bowl and gently mix with your hands. Put your potpourri back in the jar and cover. Age your potpourri at least 4 weeks, more if you can. The longer you age potpourri the longer the scent lasts.
Adjust the scent as needed any time during the aging process by adding scent to a bit of oakmoss before adding to your potpourri. You can enjoy the scent in a pretty bowl or basket or make sachets to tuck into drawers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Power of Your Thoughts

"When you correct your mind, everything else falls into place."
Mao Tsu

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Make Beads With Fragrant Rose Petals

Seeing as the roses are so prolific this year, I thought I would share the directions for making beads out of the petals! Years ago, rosaries were made out of these fragrant little nuggets and necklaces of rose beads were often given to brides to wear on their wedding day. Legend has it that the fragrance will last a hundred years! I'm not sure how accurate that is, but I know the first beads I made over 10 years ago still smell wonderful!
Start by collecting a grocery bag full of fragrant rose petals. Rugosas are perfect for this project, but any fragrant rose will do. Petals that have fallen to the ground are fine also. Just make sure they are clean and dry. Mid morning is a good time to gather.
Next, grind the petals until fine using a food proc
essor that you never want to use for anything else. (Your processor is going to get stained black) Place your petals in a cast iron pan and cover with a lid. Each day for the next 14 days, regrind the petals in the food processor. They are going to turn a lovely deep black color. They are ready to roll when the rose paste is the consistancy of Play Doh.
Roll small bits of the paste into balls about twice the size you want your beads to be. (They will shrink during drying) Stick a good sized straight pin through the center to form the hole for stringing and poke into a piece of cardboard or florists foam and let dry for a week or so until nice and hard.
Finally, string your beads on their own or combine them with other beads like I did in the final photo. As you wear them they will aquire
a subtle sheen and grow more beautiful with time and use!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Think Beauty

"All we are is the result of our thoughts."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oregano Carpet Deodorizer

Marjoram and oregano are in the same family of labiatae. The name of oregano comes from the Greek oros ganos , joy of the mountain as its sweet, spicy scent covers the hillsides there in the summer. Legend has that sweet marjoram was created by the goddess Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness.
In the Middle Ages it was a popular herb for nosegays and sweetbags and its leaves were rubbed on furniture and floors as a fragrant polish. While I haven't tried that, I have used the dried leaves in a carpet herb mixture to deodorize my rugs in a modern version of strewing herbs.

In a blender, grind 1/4 cup dried oregano or marjoram with 1/4 cup of rosemary and 1/4 cup of lavender until very fine. Add 2 teaspoons of ground cloves and 16 ounces of baking soda. Mix well and let set in a container with a tight fitting lid for 3-4 days to let the scents combine. To use, put some of your fragrant blend into a container with a shaker top (a used parmesan cheese jar works great). Sprinkle lightly on carpet and let set for an hour or so then vacuum. If you ha
ve very light or precious carpeting, test in a small inconspicuous are first.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thai Style Swiss Chard and Strawberry Shortcake

Saturday's market featured an ever increasing variety of colorful vegetables. The rainbow Swiss chard at Lucky Dog Farm's (luckydogorganic.com) stall was especially pretty. I asked Kalan for a suggestion on how to cook it as I had never eaten Swiss chard before.

Thai Style Swiss Chard
  • 1 pound of Swiss chard, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1/2 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • red pepper flakes to taste
Gently simmer the coconut milk and spices for 5 minutes to distribute the flavors throughout. Add the chard and toss to coat with the coconut milk. Toss and simmer until crisp tender. I served it with a stir fry chicken in peanut sauce over rice noodles.

We topped our meal off with a delicious shortcake made with fresh strawberries from Hellers Farm and scones by Perry of The Taste of Britain.
I added a shot of orange liquor to the berries for added depth of flavor. (They are equally good with amaretto.) Let the berries set overnight if you can so they make a lot of juice to soak into the tender scones. Yummy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Sunday Drive in the Country

The part of New York I live in is so beautiful! Yesterday my husband and I took a scenic tour of the Catskill Mountains on his Spyder. Here is some of what we saw.

Falls outside of Ashland

On the road to the top of the mountain

The top of the worldToday I'm going to make a Thai style recipe using swiss chard that I got from Kalan of Lucky Dog Farm.I'll share the recipe with you tomorrow.
In the meantime, see the beauty where you live!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rosewater Toner Recipe

The rosa rugosa in my garden are in their full glory now! The vibrant deep pink petals are covering the bushes with all their beauty and rich fragrance. The bees are quite happy to nestle themselves deep within the petals to gather all the golden pollen for their honey and are jealous of my desire to get close to take a deef sniff. (Luckily, there is plenty of plantain growing near by!)
While roses are beautiful to look at and smell, they are also very useful. You can use the scented petals in salads, jams, vinegars and syrups. The fruit of the plant, the rose hips, are rich in vitamin C and make an excellent tea.
Powdered rose petals can be used in facials, bath salts and scrubs, body powders and soap. Rosewater's soothing properties make the follow
ing toner a good choice for dry or sensitive skin.

Rosewater Toner
Simply blend 3/4 cup of rosewater with 6 drops of glycerin and 2/3 cup of witch hazel in a bottle. Shake well before using.

Food grade rosewater also makes a soothing mouth rinse when you have canker sores or as a gentle, natural alternative to commercial mouthwashes which tend to be harsh.
Later this week, I'll share one of my favorite rose potpourri recipes.
Have a peace filled Sunday!

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Never underestimate your power to change yourself. Never overestimate your power to change others."
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bee Sting Remedies

My all time favorite bee sting remedy may be on your spice rack right now. It is Adolph's Meat Tenderizer! It a natural concoction that contains papain which comes from papayas. Simply sprinkle a little pile into the palm of your hand and add a couple of drops of water to form a thick paste. Gently rub onto the bee sting leaving a nice coating on your skin. Leave on until it dries. The papain, which is what tenderizes your steak, also breaks down the protein in bee venom! I keep a bottle on right in the first aide kit.

My second favorite remedy is plantain. It is a readily available weed that can be found growing in most lawns, on the side of the road and even in the cracks of side walks. Pick several of the leaves and chew them for a couple of minutes until they are nice and wet and warm. Apply the macerated leaves to the bee sting and leave be for a while. It will keep the sting from getting red and itchy and I have no idea why this one works, I just know from experience that I have found it to be quite effective. The last time I used it was when my husband and I were out in the boonies on his motorcycle when he got stung in the neck. We were miles from any help and the sting was getting red and puffy. I chewed some plantain that was growing next to the road and put it on his neck. The swelling and redness disappeared!

I want to finish this post by emphasizing if you are allergic to bee stings, carry an epi-pen and seek medical attention right away if you are stung! If you start to have any of the symptoms of an allergic reaction (swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, hives, difficulty breathing) seek medical attention right away!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pak Choi Bok Choi Stir Fry

I chose two veggies I wasn't familiar with at the market last Saturday- pak choi and bok choi. Laura from The Farm (http://thefarmandbandb.com/) was quite helpful when I asked "What do I do with it?" when I purchased the pak choi from her. She suggested a simple stir fry with a little garlic and olive oil.
Now I was feeling very adventurous when I saw Crissie at Gaia's Breath Farm (http//www.gaiasbreathfarm.com)had bok choi for sale and picked up a bunch to combine with the pak choi to make a delicious Chinese cabbage stir fry.
This is a qick, easy and nutritious side dish. I served it with some basmati rice and grilled chicken breasts that I had marinated in teriaki sauce mixed with Chinese five spice powder.

Bok Choi Pak Choi Stir Fry
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons of oil (canola, olive or sesame)
  • 6 cups of mixed Chinese cabbage coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion or scallions
Heat the oil in a wok or large fry pan. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and stir fry 2-3 minutes and then add the ginger and cook an additional minute or so until fragrant.
Add the pak choi and bok choi and continue to stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until crisp tender.
If you don't have fresh ginger you can substitute dried or leave it out altogether.

Tomorow I'll share my favorite bee sting remedies.
Have a peace filled day!