I participated in a blog challenge discussing divine missions and where I am on my path. Please join in the discussion because I’d love to hear about your divine mission: https://botanicalalchemyandapothecary.com/mission-challenge
Here are a couple of easy ideas for giving your mom (or partner) a special homemade gift she will actually use.
My friend showed me how making wool dryer balls to replace fabric softener is not only environmentally friendly, but budget friendly too!
Looking for some new ideas for DIY gifts this year? Find some inspiration here including bath and spa products, gifts for cooks, and luxurious personal care touches, all natural and herbal, of course!
Today….there is not enough chocolate.
The sun still rose, but it shone on a country that has disappointed me to the core.
I am not a political person, and I don’t care to write a political blog, but I am a person with a big heart for humans, animals, and the earth, and that heart is very, very broken today.
Tonight, I’m breaking out the boxed mac n cheese. The deluxe version.
I actually add more (jovial) noodles to Annie’s boxes b/c the cheese is more than enough for the eager mouths here. I’m roasting broccoli and serving smoked salmon too, just because comfort doesn’t have to mean lack of healthy options. We can have balance. We can have balance. And wine of course.
And dessert all around, because I swear, just like in Harry Potter books, chocolate really does make one feel better.
This weekend I was kind of half-listening to NPR while I was prepping gluten-free bread for the week when what someone said about soil caught my attention. He brought up the fact that our ancestors actually ate a lot more soil than we do now, and that soil was also far more loaded with healthy microbes than it is now. That makes complete sense when you think about how much more people used to grow their own food (and therefore ate it right out of the ground) and how much healthier that dirt used to be before commercial fertilizers and pesticides became commonplace, and before the earth was as polluted as it is now. Our grandparents and our great-greats must have thought of dirt quite differently too, seeing it as a fundamental part of the food chain instead of something to be scrubbed off and sanitized away. I looked for the interview I heard this weekend so I could listen to it with my full attention, but unfortunately could not find it, though I did find this article on The Splendid Table about the importance of good soil and getting our bodies in it and it in our bodies. Of course, that is assuming the soil is healthy soil, not soil that has been polluted with “junk food” fertilizers as a Delicious Living article put it.
To keep soil healthy for future use and to make the plants grown in it healthier and therefore those that eat those plants healthier, it’s important to use natural fertilizers that actually build up the soil and plants instead of conventional fertilizers that provide quick fixes. The slow food movement would certainly concur with that. Let’s build up the soil, the plants, and our bodies as nutritionally as possible with the understanding that it all starts with the dirt.
This morning I was reminded of how herbs as essential oils are just part of my family’s everyday life, making it better, healthier, sweeter smelling, and even a little sillier. Before getting out of bed, I heard my oldest son sniffle a couple of times. The boys went skiing yesterday so I wasn’t overly concerned, but I did put some Thieves oil into my little diffuser instead of my usual morning wake-me-up blend. Thieves oil has a great story to it, though whether it is more history or mythology is anyone’s guess. I like to think the story had to start somewhere, so why not in an actual event? The story has several variations, but basically they all say something along the lines of this: During the Middle Ages there were four thieves in France who used to rob the graves (or the houses) of those who had died of the Plague and managed to not get ill themselves. When they were eventually caught, they were given a lighter punishment in return for telling how they did it. The four thieves admitted they used herbs (most likely soaked in vinegar at that time) to keep themselves from getting the disease. They knew how to do this because among them were perfumers and spice traders who at the time understood the anti-biotic and anti-viral properties of their goods. Their blend has passed down to us through all these centuries, though the actual recipes vary depending on who’s making it. Usually the blends include: clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon and rosemary, and then different makers add in their own special favorites. You can find it as Thieves Oil, Four Thieves Oil, Bandits Oil, and I’m sure other names as well.
The boys and I use it almost everyday. I have added Thieves Oil to almond oil (10 drops per ounce of base oil) and put it in a glass roller bottle so we can easily apply it. I like to rub my whole neck with it but the boys are pickier. Since it was at first difficult to convince them to start rubbing themselves with this perfume-like substance I resorted to telling them they had my permission to write swear words on themselves with this oil. They found that to be hilarious and even now, after months of this, my youngest still takes the oil from me with mischievous glee and waits for me to pull a face of shock and horror as he writes something spectacularly naughty on his arm. Whatever works.
You can make your own as there are plenty of recipes online, or just buy it already blended at any Whole Foods or herbal shop. I’m using Uncle Harry’s Four Bandits Anti-germ blend right now and realized after I bought it that the company is based right here in Redmond, WA, where I live! Now that’s pretty cool.
Every single day I use herbs in a multitude of ways and they are not necessarily ‘curing’ anything (although they might be!) nor are they making me super-human. What they do is enhance daily life in meaningful, beautiful ways and I’m on a mission to get others to think about herbs as enhancing their lives, instead of thinking of them in a pharmaceutical way. If people can change the way they think of herbs, they are far more likely to start using them and enjoying their benefits, which is great in itself but also it is beneficial because herbs work best as promoters of long-term balance, so not only would one get the most out of one’s herbal usage, one would also be able to retain balance and avoid imbalances (dis-ease). In other words, more herbs means less drugs, less sicknesses, less doctor visits. Now I’m all for modern medicine~ absolutely would not turn back time to any romantic bygone era because I wouldn’t want to lose access to our modern medical wonders. I am most definitely not talking about replacing modern medicine with herbs~ if you have a medical issue, go to the doctor. Herbs can do so much more though, and if you start incorporating them in your life, it’s my firm belief you’ll have less medical issues for which you need to go to the doctor. And even though modern medicine may be full of wonders, the truth is not many people enjoy the time spent in doctors’ offices, hospitals, or going through the newest medical techniques~ miraculous or not. This attitude reminds me of the slow food movement so I like to think of it as slow health. Herbs alone won’t make a person healthy, but thinking long-term about health is a great way to start thinking about your personal tendencies and imbalances and how to counteract those things long-term. Many things might help: exercise, yoga, dietary changes, brain games, homeopathy, social changes, journaling, essential oils…the list can go on and on because we are all such different individuals. At a time of year when so many of us are reviewing our daily lives and resolving to do better, be better, I hope in the rush towards better-ness we can all pause and instead of just downloading a new app on our smart phones to track diets, or upping goals on fitbits, we can all think of slowing down this rush which is itself out of balance. Perhaps the best part of adding herbs into daily life is the connection with nature that moment provides.
If you own one essential oil, it’s most likely lavender. Add a drop to your pillow tonight, or several drops to your bath and enjoy herbalism that way. In other words, you don’t have to drink an herbal tea or take a tincture in order to benefit from herbs, there is a world of beauty in essential oils that can be tapped through so many ways. Not that there is anything wrong with herbal infusions or tinctures, but if you are new to the world of herbs, I recommend starting with something fully pleasurable and beautiful and hopefully it will whet your appetite to investigate more in the herbal world. Health regimes do not need to be unpleasant~ enjoy creating your optimal health. It’s a beautiful thing.
I had to wait to write this post because November is my least favorite month of the year, and Thanksgiving has never been one of my favorite holidays either. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating gratitude. Gratitude, if done right, can enhance one’s life in an instant, and nothing has longer lasting results than a true change in perspective, which gratitude truly does, in the deepest way possible. I try to practice sincere thanks-giving everyday~ it’s the holiday meal that bothers me. And the pressure to cook, and to cook certain things, and the whole push/pull that is happening now with Christmas and when shopping should start and it all leaves me stressed. (Why do people get so rankled over that? Because it is something that they can adopt a sense of superiority about? ) Personally, I never go out on black Friday, nor that whole weekend because I loathe crowds and would rather pay more for my gifts than sit in traffic, but the whole discussion around it just seems laced with venom and I don’t understand why everything has to be so heated. We have real issues to deal with, (climate change, poverty, extreme ideology), so let’s not get bogged down in complaining about what others do with their Black Fridays and what time is acceptable to do it. If people really want to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving, perhaps righteous indignation should be put aside for the day.
Anyway, that was an unplanned vent, I guess I needed to get that off my chest. The real reason I don’t care much for Thanksgiving is that I don’t like any of the traditional food served on the holiday so the big event is just awkward for me and always has been. Now with three out of four of us being gluten-free, it causes even more awkwardness and even more cooking. I was at a gluten-free bakery a couple of days before Thanksgiving and this poor woman in front of me had just been diagnosed as gluten and dairy intolerant, and so was her daughter. She said that when she told her family they said something along the lines of, “No problem. Just bring whatever you want to substitute your foods.” And her response was, “But that’d mean the entire meal! I think I’ll stay home and cook hamburgers instead.” I totally felt for her. I cook a few things that kind of go with the meal though aren’t traditional, and either buy the rest or others do that cooking. My husband apparently makes a fine bird, but I wouldn’t know. All I know is it takes forever for that turkey to cook. Here’s a bird I am thankful for:
Someone stuck this ceramic owl in the most unlikely place at Grass Lawn Park and it has stayed there for about a month now. Either people don’t notice it or no one wants to move the little cutie. I love this special owl and look for it every time I’m in that area of the park, which is even more often now that I have a dog than when my kids were younger. And for the record, I’m very grateful for that park too, and for the fact no one has taken the owl for their own.
Another park I’m deeply thankful for is Marymoor park. They have an off-leash area which my crazy dog thinks is the best place on earth. It is indeed pretty fabulous~ the beauty of the changing landscape has stopped me in my tracks at least once a week since we started going there. Not bad for a dog park.
This frosty weather did not last long but it got my boys talking nonstop about winter, snow, and skiing. We are back to the rainy 40s and 50s that are the norm for here, but the frost and ice we had in November were beautiful, if fleeting.
I feel so blessed to have these outside spaces that feel like a nature sanctuary in the suburbs. These spaces are so important and I am so grateful to have such beautiful ones. My hope for everyone this holiday season is more nature, less plastic, more fresh air, less artificiality, more stillness, less madness. Happy Holiday season to all.
This has been the hottest, driest summer I have ever seen in western Washington. We are in a drought, another first for as long as I’ve lived here, and the ‘evergreen state’ is starting to look like its cousin to the south, much further south, like southern California without the sandy beaches. In a region where A/C is not the norm it has made for a very difficult season to get excited about making dinner as that is when it is generally hottest and the sun streams into our large front windows from about 2-7:00 in the evenings just in case we forgot that it was shining, yet again, in the city known for cloud-cover and rain. It is truly strange to see so much straw-colored grass where there has always been green. It’s playing tricks on my eyes and I have to remind myself that this is indeed, the greater Seattle area. This displaced feeling comes over me most often when at the off-leash area of Marymoor park and I find myself pulling out my phone camera to document the change in climate because, Toto, we’re right where we’ve always been, it’s the earth that is changing. This chamomile is thriving though:
There were actually clouds this day, but not many people. The boys thought the park looked ‘desolate’.
One word~ dry.
I’m curious if this trend will continue, and if so what it means for our parks and botanical gardens. Apparently the big botanical gardens are already contending with global climate change and having to rethink their gardens. I’m not surprised.