It’s that time of year! The merriment of the holiday season is over and winter has begun in earnest. As a way of winding down from all of the highs and lows of the season, so many of us seem to get sick on the 2nd of January! I’ve said for years that I truly believe that sometimes, catching a bug is our bodies way of trying to get us to relax for a bit! Periods of hibernation, or seasonal contemplation as I’ve taken to calling them are a must for keeping our bodies resilient in this world with all of its external interruptions and stressors.
Over the years I’ve learned to use my trusted herbal allies for building up my immunity when I feel as if I could be perilously close to getting sick and when the flu or a cold actually hits me, I use many different herbs to help minimize my symptoms and overall discomfort.
My mother taught me many years ago that the single most important thing that you can do when you are ill or trying to stave off an illness, is to pamper yourself completely. She would always bring our breakfast on a bed tray, served on a pretty cup, bowl and plate and always with a bud vase with flowers. I got strep throat frequently as a child so breakfast was usually something soft, like a bowl of her wonderful chicken, rice and mushroom soup with thyme, cream and an egg beaten into it. She also used to make me an old-fashioned milk pudding that she called Junket which I loved, that she flavored with sherry, cinnamon and nutmeg. It always helped.
I still have a bed tray for myself and one in my Airbnb. I have many guests who come to stay that are recovering from surgery or other illnesses. They have told me that being able to just relax and have their meals in bed without concern really helps to support their healing process. If you can’t find a bed tray, you can use an old carving board or tray and it will work just as well!
The other thing my mother was absolutely insistent about was that if I was sick, it was especially the time for just a bit of lip gloss, some facial moisturizer, a touch of perfume and particularly lovely pajamas. She’d brush my hair out until it was shiny, touch up my lips and face (a big help because then your skin will resist chapping!) and put just a drop or two of one of her lovely perfumes on my wrists and neck. She’d take me into the library, seat me right by the window and wrap me up in a blanket with a hot cup of lavender, sage and lemon balm tea and hand me a book. When I looked in the mirror I hardly ever looked as bad as I was feeling and you know what? I always started to feel better. Simply taking the time for a bit of self-care is absolutely a necessity for supporting the healing process.
Although my mother used her lovely Shalimar bath oil for our convalescence, over the years I’ve learned to take my baths with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil mixed with 3 drops each of essential oils of lavender (relaxing), rose oil (anti-inflammatory) and sweet birch (to promote sweating). This really seems to always help with congestion, aches and fevers. Please remember to never use essential oils in your baths without a carrier oil. Even in the smallest dosages, essential oils are strong and they need the emollient qualities of an oil like almond or olive to serve as a soothing delivery system on your skin.
I’m truly hoping that we won’t ever need to use these recipes to protect ourselves from anything as serious as the bubonic plague and I hope that none of you catch any of these awful bugs that are going around this winter. However, if you do, please remember to care for yourself and treat yourself to some soothing herbal self-care and pampering. I promise that you’ll feel better and if you can sooth yourself into feeling just little bit better, it always seems like the body will reach deep into its healing reservoirs and do the rest of the work for you.
Somewhere as I’m typing, I hear my mother’s sweet laughter and the smell of her oniony, velvety chicken soup is suddenly wafting through my senses. It’s amazing how potent the memory is. She would be pleased to know that I still own a bed tray and that I always use her lovely sick bed dishes with the raised purple violets.
Yes mama…you always did know best.
What a wonderful evening we had last night! Just as Jim and I were about go out to Whole Foods to enjoy Foodie Friday ( our absolute favorite 8.00 date night ~ 5 wines and five foods!!) my darling neighbor Michelle leaned over the row of blackberries and said" do you and Jim have any plans tonight?"" Let me convince you to come over for dinner!" Then she began to regale me with descriptions of sliced fresh peaches, grass fed filet, fresh sweet corn and the piece de resistance.. A fresh leek and gruyere tart!
So began a delightfully spontaneous evening spent with dear friends and their adorable children, a couple of bottles of perfect wine and that utterly unforgettable tart!
It has only 5 ingredients; gruyere cheese, butter, cream , leeks and a crust.
Just take a store bought pie crust and mold it into a fluted tart pan. Set aside.
Then sauté 3 chopped leeks in 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1 cup of cream and simmer for a minute and then stir in 1 and 1/4 cups of shredded gruyere cheese. Pour the leek mixture into the tart shell and bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Allow to sit for ten minutes, cut into wedges and serve!
You owe it to yourself to make this at least once! A simple side salad and a luscious glass of wine is all that's needed to turn this into a perfect meal!
Tinctures ,Tonics and Teas : The Roses in my garden are blooming ~ It must be time for Tea and Thalassotherapy!
“To get the best results you must talk to your vegetables."
My gardens are telling me that once again it's time for tea! My roses are so pretty this year and are producing abundant armfuls of blossoms for flavored sugars, syrups, bath oils and teas! In the fall there will be buckets of rose hips filled with vitamin C to add to my winter tea blends to help ward off a bitter chill! My favorite thing to do is to dry the petals and use them to make a pot of rose petal tea with a touch of cinnamon, anise hyssop leaves, sage and flavored with vanilla and honey...so wonderfully relaxing and so pretty too!
For edible use please make sure to only use roses that have not been touched by pesticide or herbicide. If you have roses that you want to use for tea you can dry them easily by laying them in a pan out in the bright sunshine. Store them when dry in a mason jar or a plastic freezer bag.
There are so many ways to use them . Why don't you try stirring them into a jar of apple jelly then close the lid and let the petals infuse the jelly with their lovely fragrance. Spread this on a piece of hot toast with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a knob of fresh butter whenever you're wanting to entice your sweetie back into bed...roses aren't known as the flower of lovers for no good reason! You could also throw three handfuls of the petals and a cup of muddled raspberries into a decanted bottle of Rose' and add about a cup of honey. Store it in the refrigerator for a fortnight and strain it into a pretty bottle. Chill and serve to someone that you love!
To make a really fragrant rose petal tisane throw a handful of the dried leaves and buds, a handful of anise hyssop leaves, a teaspoon of culinary lavender and a stick of cinnamon into a warmed teapot and cover with hot water and let steep for 5 minutes. Flavor with raw honey and vanilla. For extra richness add a teaspoon of almond oil and a teaspoon of cream. This is not only dessert in a cup, but it is a wonderfully restorative tea to drink whenever you're feeling just a bit stressed or under the weather. Roses are calming to both the skin as well as the senses so besides drinking this lovely tea you could also add several sheets of dried seaweed into the pot , let it steep, strain, then pour several cups of this delightful brew into your bathwater and settle in for a long soak. Middle Eastern cultures have long extolled the virtues of a rosewater, milk and honey bath ( Think Cleopatra!) so you can't go wrong! You will emerge from the tub relaxed, fragrant and with the silkiest skin that you could ever imagine! Enjoy!
Finally! I don't know about you but I'm just so grateful to see the sun again! Everywhere I look there are the signs.. Buds poking out on the trees, birds busy building their nests and flowers are popping up everywhere . Here are a few that I saw on my walk last night!
Don't forget that Spring is a great time for a cleanse. It doesn't have to be anything too harsh, just a lightening up of sorts ... A movement towards lighter, fresher foods. Wild greens like ramps, dandelions, violet leaves,chickweed, purslane and nettles are everywhere and they'll make a wonderfully cooling and tonic salad that you can dress simply with a bit of goat cheese, a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt ,olive oil and lemon. If you want to go for something a little more potent why don't you try juicing these same greens. Add some parsley, some swiss chard or spinach and for a touch of sweetness an apple or two. This is a cooling and refreshing juice that you can start the morning with that will rev up your system and get it feeling fun and frolicsome for the warm days ahead.
I love to add a tablespoon of pure French green clay to my juice in the morning to really draw the impurites from my system. This ancient secret, that of using edible clays as internal drawing salves is my "go to" remedy to suggest when one of my clients is suffering from from chronic constipation or indigestion. It also helps to cleanse the skin, because beautiful skin does start from within. I've suggested this to many a client who was suffering from chronic acne , eczema and rosacea. The first time that I tried it, I broke out with acne but within a week it subsided and I noticed healing beginning to happen all over my skin. Of course if you try this yourself and notice a new rash or any burning, itching or anything that would seem like an allergic reaction you should discontinue using it immediately.
Green teas, iced and sparkling with additions of fresh citrus fruits, berries, cucumber slices and herbs like basil, sage and mint are a wonderful aid for cleansing a system that's just a bit sluggish from the denser foods of winter. Adding a touch of raw honey during the cooling process will give you just enough sweetness and a lovely constant energy. You can use maple syrup too, a flavor which is absolutely delicious blended into tea and is very healthy on it's own , providing huge quantities of polyphenols to calm inflammation and lots of antixidents to boost the immune system!
Spring is a very good time if you are so inclined to begin a plant based diet. I personally adhere fairly strictly to a diet of fruits, grains and greens and I eat seafood, raw milk cheese and some eggs as much of it from organic traceable sources as possible. I can't stress enough the difference this makes to my moods, my body and my worldview. I can't stress enough just how important it is to really understand where your food is coming from. Corporations like Monsanto and Dow Chemical are doing their very best to keep our food supplies hostage by buying up plant patents and continuing to contaminate our foods, fields and waterways with Round-up and other dangerous herbicides. Factory farmed meat, chicken and fish are full of antibiotics and growth hormones, to say nothing of the absolute cruelty with which they are treated. If you are going to eat flesh foods, please make sure that they come from fully traceable sources. Truthfully? Our planet is depending upon it.
Eating clean will help you feel lighter and feel better....I promise! Could one conversation change your life? Drop me a line at email@example.com and lets find out!
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Over the years I’ve enjoyed many a beautifully decorated home, but wondered to myself where the heart and soul of the owner was truly residing. When it comes to home-style I am firmly convinced that the best home design, the one that really works for YOU will come from your own inspirations. That’s why I always recommend to my clients that they do a bit of internal interior prep work themselves and then bring in a designer who can bring their visions to life! A little time spent discovering how you truly want your home to look and feel will guarantee that the results are a home that you and everyone who comes into it will really love. This is all about learning to speak the language of your style.
It is easy and fun to do just that and my favorite way is by creating handmade vision boards or because I do love the latest technologies , a vision board on a Pinterest account. For those of you not familiar with PInterest.com, it is an online scrapbooking application that’s fun and easy to use. On Pinterest you can create pages of photographs that you love, that will reflect different styles and interests and it’s a very easy way to create rooms that you love without any financial commitment at all!
Traditionally a vision board is crafted from a piece of poster board that you paste images and words that you’ve torn out from various magazines, newspapers and books. It’s a fun way to learn about what you really desire in a home environment and it’s easy and fun project to do. You could also get a large leather bound sketchbook and keep an evolving vision journal for your home.
This is really an effective tool to use anytime you are beginning a renovation or decorating project. We all want our homes to reflect who we are and who we are becoming because that’s when we truly feel comfortable in them. I’ve done this exercise often with people who are redecorating or building important rooms in their homes like kitchens and bedrooms. It’s amazing what happens when they allow themselves to dream outside of the box for a bit. Suddenly a ultra-modern kitchen turns into a beautiful chateau with a trompe l’oeil wall and a bedroom that was originally lacy and traditional becomes a 50’s style movie star set!
The idea behind creating a vision board of any sort is that when you begin to surround yourself with images of who you want to become, what you want to have, where you want to live, or travel to, your inner life begins to change and the world can expand to manifest your desires. I feel that there’s no better place to do this than in your home , in the rooms where you live, work and love everyday.
I’ve been doing this for years and often my vision boards have brought me clear access to the thingsthat I have outgrown and the new ways that I have wanted to live. Our current home looks very different than our previous home which was a reflection of the things that I had and that I thought that I should use, but not necessarily that I loved nor wanted. Creating a vision for our new home allowed us to know that what we really wanted to create was a home that felt like our beloved Southern California, with diffused light and bright color everywhere with some very traditional accents instead of the Colonial style of home that we had before. Looking at the blueprint we created allowed us to give away a lot of items and recycle some that we hadn’t looked at in awhile because we realized that we’d grown into another style. I know that it’s because I created a visual reference of exactly what we wanted that our friends often remark that that they are so comfortable in our space because it feels just like us. We walk into it even on the toughest days and it always welcomes us home.
No matter what type of vision board you’re creating be sure to take a moment to relax and focus on your desired outcome for your home. You may be very surprised by what you see. Just take a moment to breathe and be inspired by with whatever appears next.
Put on music that you love. It could be Sinatra or Stravinsky, anything that helps you get clearand creative. Next go through magazines (or if it’s Pinterest that you’re using through websites!) and cut or tear words that you love and images that speak to the kind of spaces that you want to create in your home. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about having too many! Be sure to have a photo of yourself and your family because you’ll want to put it somewhere on your board for inspiration! Lay your favorite images out onto a piece of poster board in whatever way that you want. Begin to glue everything that you’ve chosen onto the board and add paint, ink or marker wherever and however you’d like. There is no right or wrong approach to this exercise, only the approach that makes you happy. Use your intuition as a guide and you’ll begin to see patterns and styles that you’ll love that may really surprise you and I promise that if you do this exercise, that you'll end up with rooms that you'll really love. Just trust yourself and have fun!
This was originally written for and printed in Currents!
Gorgeous example of Vision Boarding Photo courtesy of SBryant