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April 2010

Perfume Illuminated: Earth


" You ask me where to begin

Am I so lost in my sin

You ask me where did I fall

I'll say I can't tell you when

But if my spirit is lost

How will I find what is near

Don't question I'm not alone

Somehow I'll find my way home

My sun shall rise in the east

So shall my heart be at peace

And if you're asking me when

I'll say it starts at the end

You know your will to be free

Is matched with love secretly

And talk will alter your prayer

Somehow you'll find you are there

Your friend is close by your side

And speaks in far ancient tongue

A season's wish will come true

All seasons begin with you

One world we all come from

One world we melt into one

Just hold my hand and we're there

Somehow we're going somewhere

Somehow we're going somewhere

You ask me where to begin

Am I so lost in my sin

You ask me where did I fall

I'll say I can't tell you when

But if my spirit is strong

I know it can't be long

No questions I'm not alone

Somehow I'll find my way home

Somehow I'll find my way home

Somehow I'll find my way home

Somehow I'll find my way home"

Jon Anderson


                                                    Flavor: Earth

I spend my days doing quite a lot of volunteer work for many different organizations, but without a doubt one of my favorite  jobs  is  being a docent  for  the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.   Our Botanical Gardens are award winning and lovely, with an incredible rose garden, a healing garden for seniors and one of the most gorgeous herb gardens that I’ve ever seen.  I must confess that I love them all and never tire of wandering among them, but it is the Hershey Children’s Garden that I love the best.  In the garden there is a huge fountain that is actually a sundial and on very hot days the children splash and play among the jets like billy goats while their mothers relax on benches in the shade, easily able to keep their eyes on the happy kids .  


In this garden there are patches of fresh herbs and a playhouse with a sod roof. There’s a very happy berry patch surrounded by espaliered fruit trees and a vegetable garden and a pond with a little dock and lots of carp splashing around.  A wonderfully huge tree house above it is filled with books and you can curl up safely in the branches eat your lunch and dream the afternoon away.  I love to lie face down on the little dock with the children , tease the fish and afterwards play hide and seek among the stately wizard pines whose boughs drape towards the ground like Merlin’s robes!


The Hershey Children’s Garden is designed to be a teaching garden of the highest caliber and it is here that our children learn all about their food and where it really comes from. It’s magical to watch as these kids, some who have never seen a garden let alone an apple tree, pick the sweet ripe berries and taste them for the first time.  They pull radishes, lettuces and crunch the fresh carrots that still have the earth clinging to their roots.  They taste the wild ramps that grow on the back hill in the spring and are amazed by their sweet oniony taste . 


One of the pathways through the garden leads to my favorite place of all, which is the compost pile.  Ours consists of three bins that demonstrate easily how the compost is made from beginning to end and I adore the look of amazement on their faces when we come to the third bin and   they realize that this is a simple demonstration of how dirt is made.  In this garden our children can play in the dirt to their hearts content and leave with a rich new understanding of their place in the world. As playful as it is, this garden is truly the most important of all the beautiful places found in our Botanical Gardens. It is situated on a piece of land the size of a city lot and enough food is grown here to easily sustain a family of 8.  It is a shining example of what could be done to build sustainability from the ground up instead of reliance on foods that are brought to us packaged and completely unknown.

Through the mechanics of  food science we can grow our vegetables hydroponically, but there is no substitute for the taste of a vegetable or piece of fruit that has been freshly harvested from richly nutrient filled soil.  The wines that we drink, the vegetables that we eat and even our meats are all fed by the minerals and vitamins that come straight from our earth. I love it when I drink a glass of Bordeaux and can literally taste the soil that the grapes were grown in.  I adore the taste of a potato minutes from the earth, brushed , unwashed and baked slowly in the coals of a campfire. Dressed with just a bit of butter and  truffled salt there is no sweeter , earthier taste to be found anywhere.  


 Today in honor of the robust and wanton sweetness of  Gaia, I’d like to offer you my  recipe for  leek and potato soup.  It’s different than most because the vegetables are roasted allowing them to be caramelized and sweet.

You will need:

 10 cloves of garlic

About 20 Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes diced/ use your judgment and add more if they are smaller

2 tablespoons of raisins

2 large leeks , sand removed and sliced into rings, greens included

1 bunch of fresh ramps, lightly brushed , not washed

1 tablespoon of truffle oil

1 cup of chopped fresh herbs, sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme

2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup of hard cider  

2 pints of half and half

Salt and pepper to taste

Rogue River Creamery Smoky Blue Cheese to garnish

Chopped fresh chives

Take the  garlic, potatoes and leeks and lay them on a baking sheet, salt and pepper them and add some chopped fresh rosemary if you like. Drizzle with olive oil and roast  until tender but be careful not to overcook.

In a soup pot bring the stock to a simmer and add the raisins, herbs , hard cider and truffle oil. Simmer gently for about 10  minutes and add the roasted vegetables. Cook for at least another 15 minutes and then add the half and half to taste. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it’s  a consistency that you like. Add more liquid if necessary. Heat through and pour into a soup bowl or tureen, garnishing with the crumbled  blue cheese and fresh chives.

This soup is wonderful served with a hearty whole grain bread with fresh butter and a simple glass of wine. Thats all you'll ever need.  Well, almost all you'll ever need... 

 Heres a bit of Jon Anderson to keep you warm on this beautiful spring eve.....

Now, why don't you fly over to Roxana Villa's beautiful Illuminated Journal. I can't wait to read what she has to say about the fragrance of earth!

All pictures are the property of Beth Schreibman Gehring

Perfume Illuminated: Dandelion

                                                   Dandelion: Flavor

I  have always felt such an affinity for Dandelions. Where many see lowly weeds, I see necklaces  and fresh salad greens! When I was a child playing in my dads gardens, one of the happiest signs of spring were when those bright golden  , pollen laden blooms would appear all over our yard as if by magic! I couldn’t wait to get outside and play with them! That lovely golden pollen always tickled my nose and made me sneeze, but I loved it anyhow!

“Who put them there?”  was  always my question , because I knew that my father hadn’t planted them and he was always trying to get rid of them.  I loved them…so much abundance and so much joy to be found in those smiling yellow faces.  I could never understand why he’d get so upset at my favorite pastime, which was to blow the seeds everywhere that I could, flower after flower.  My friends and I made long necklaces and head dresses and pretended that we were fairy queens!   I cried every time he mowed them   down. This ritual went on for years until my dad discovered Chem lawn  who came  to spray  everything and completely ruin my fun. It took me years but I finally convinced him to go au natural in the gardens again and the dandelions returned with a vengeance as if to say….” Ha…you thought we were gone but we’ve been here for the whole time just waiting!”.  I was beside myself with joy the first time that I saw them reappear.  Dandelions have an absolutely unabashed generosity about them ! Pick only one and the next day three will magically appear it its place. I still don’t know how they do that and that’s why I absolutely love them!

Dandelion or  as the French call it Dent de Lion or  pissenlit (the English call it Piss in Bed!) is one powerhouse of a springtime tonic. I love to use the leaves in salad, their bitterness is delightful on the tongue when countered by a salty dressing of olive oil, onion, egg and a bit of crispy bacon. Dandelions have a marvelous diuretic quality. I use them (either the leaves or the tincture all of the time when I’m retaining too much water weight during specific times of the month and when eaten as part of a springtime liver flush they are unsurpassed for their cleansing and laxative qualities. I’ve even used a homemade tincture of fresh Dandelion root during a time when my breasts were very sore and cystic.

It was several months later that I realized what a  spectacular woman’s ally this special plant truly is.  After only a few months of taking the tincture everyday, my breasts became very smooth  and the skin supple.  Tincture of  fresh Dandelion root or the leaves eaten regularly are really good for removing inner blockages of many kinds.  Dandelion leaves eaten regularly as part of a springtime salad are marvelous for the digestion and when I still lived on my farm I used to make a simple wine  of infused Dandelion leaves and flowers. Dandelion wine is a delicious and very pretty aperitif. Making it is simple. Just take a bottle of really good organic Riesling or viognier.  Open it and decant it into a large glass jar filled with freshly washed Dandelion leaves and flowers. Add a bit of raw honey, shake well and let the whole thing infuse for about a week.  Strain and decant wine back into the bottle which you’ve saved and chill it for another day or two. Serve this lovely springtime digestif in lovely little wine glasses before dinner with wheat crackers and a crock of  fromage blanc to which you’ve added a bit of lemon rind and just a touch of honey and salt. This spring as the lively yellow flowers begin to grace your lawns remember that Dandelions could be your new best friend! They are an acquired taste to be sure, but once you make their acquaintance you’ll never want to be without them!

Now drift through the sky on a cottony tipped seed over to Roxana Villas Illuminated Journal and see what she has to share about Dandelion: The Fragrance!

Picture courtesy of :http://www.english-country-garden.com

Perfume Illuminated: Marzipan


               Marzipan: The Flavor                               

My mother absolutely adored Marzipan. There is a special family recipe for it and every year my mother would wait anxiously at Christmas time for a special box to arrive from her cousin Pat, the official guardian of the family recipe. Aunt Pat ‘s Marzipan was beautiful and she must have slaved over it for hours, tinting each batch which the colors that  she needed and hand shaping  each piece into a lovely little pea pod , complete with curling tendrils or a potato, lovingly hand tinted  with a brush dipped into food coloring and then dusted with a bit of cinnamon to look as if it had just been pulled from the earth.

My Aunt Pats Marzipan was delicious as well as beautiful, filled with ground almonds  and sugar then flavored with just a touch of rosewater and natural almond flavoring. Because it was so fresh the smell was incredible and I would put my nose in the box to take a deep delicious breath. Every year I’d watch my mother guard the precious little package, eating one at a time, savoring the delightful flavor and the love that had gone into creating each piece. If I was lucky, she’d let me have one, but never the Strawberry because that was her favorite. Dipped in crystal sugar for a sparkling dewy effect it was indeed the most beautiful piece in the box so I never begrudged her that pleasure!


 Marzipan recipes first began to appear on the huge groaning boards and feast tables during the Middle Ages. Fanciful Marzipan creations were truly the first “Illusion foods”, in other the paste was shaped to create beautiful replicas of traditional feast foods, causing much delight when the guests would sample one of the unusual sweetmeats . Marzipan was also used extensively in the 16th and 17th century to make incredibly fanciful and artistic sugar centerpieces that were found on the banquet tables of noblemen all over Europe  and even in this country,  Marzipan delicacies could be found wrapped in gold leaf  and served at  George Washington’s table. Many Medieval and early American cookbooks still have recipes for Marzipan and it’s fun to make it yourself, but truthfully you can save yourself the trouble and buy it premade and ready to use at any good gourmet food sto

 Marzipan can be rolled thin into a sheet of frosting to cover a cake or it can be dipped in chocolate, my own personal favorite way of eating it!  There are may wonderful recipes for marzipan to be found online for both cooked and uncooked variations, but I suggest the cooked, because it is generally smoother and much  easier to work with. Go to this link  http://candy.about.com/od/nougatmarzipancandy/r/Basicmarzipan.htm for a good basic recipe, but be sure to add a bit of rosewater and almond extract  to the mixture to give it a very special flavor.  It takes a while to get used to tinting and shaping the marzipan  so be very patient and definitely expect to mess up the first batch or two that you make.  I promise that you’ll get the hang of it though and once you do , you’ll have an easy and delicious Christmas gift that you can make in a relatively short amount of time.  One of the easiest things to do with fresh marzipan is to take a hazelnut and form a healthy bit of the candy around it, shaping it into a ball.  Chill the bonbons in the refrigerator and then melt and temper some dark chocolate and dip each piece of marzipan in it. I love to have bowls of crushed pistachios   or decorative sugar crystals ready to sprinkle onto the candies for an even fancier effect.  You can even get gold leaf powder to dust the chocolates with , a beautifully elegant effect. Several of these “truffles” interspersed with some pretty cookies and the fancy marzipan fruits and vegetables will be an amazing presentation for any occas

The last party that we ever gave for my mother before her death was a magnificent 85th birthday tea that we held at the Cleveland Ritz Carlton for her and about 50 of her friends.  My sister and planned the menu with all of her favorites, little cucumber sandwiches, egg salad and roast beef, smoked salmon with capers and plenty of scones and sweets.  We had a huge birthday cake that was covered in orchids and of course many pots of fancy tea including the special jasmine which was always her favori

When I called my Aunt Pat and my cousin Susan in Chicago to see if they could join us for the day, I was very saddened to discover that my Aunt wouldn’t be able to travel.  My cousin asked if there was anything that our mother would like and thinking about it for a split second I asked them for enough marzipan to pass out as favor for everyone who was joining us.  My cousin Susan ,  an extraordinary cook in her own right said that she would be delighted  to have that be her contribution and about 2  days before the party the box arrived at my front door.  I had gotten clear rectangular candy boxes from Sur La table and enough licorice Scottie Dogs  (my mother’s other favorite candy!) to fill them and plenty of polka dotted ribbon! When I opened the box I gasped. Inside was one lovely gold box marked “For Barbara”, that was filled with beautifully made vegetables and fruits just as she had always loved.   I was shocked to see several other boxes that were filled with enough marzipan strawberries for everyone to have at least three.  I had so much fun making up those little boxes and tying them with the ribbons and even more fun when I saw the delighted expression that crossed my mothers face as she saw that all of her friends were to finally to get some of those treasured strawbe
rries. It was a wonderful day, made even more special with the addition of such a delicious and fragrant treat. I've always wanted a fragrance that was reminiscent of my favorite marzipan candies and Roxana Villa's beautiful "Smell Me" perfume instantly reminded me of that special day with my mother. It smells absolutely wonderful just like my Aunt's special rosewater and almond marzipan and my mothers favorite teas. 

When you're done here, hop over to her Illuminated Journal  and read her thoughts on Marzipan: The Fragrance! 

                             Now sit back and enjoy the Retta show!



  Marzipan Picture  courtesy of http://www.sugar

 Grand Feast courtesy of http://www.pbm.com/