Friday, July 28, 2017

Bee Balm Tea - DIY Growing, Harvesting & Drying

Bee Balm Echinacea Flowers

I bought a small Bee Balm plant at Gardens of Babylon last spring and planted it near the corner of the garden. I dreamed of going out my back door and picking blooms for tea and I'd have a great view of the butterflies. It was a little 4-inch pot and it was so small I almost put it in a planter. It did get bigger but I didn't pick the blossoms the first year. My grand idea of making my own herbal teas drowned in a sea of a stressful job in a surface of the sun summer. 

This spring the little Bee Balm came back and brought all its friends. 

Bee Balm Garden

It quickly grew to over 5ft tall and started cuddling up to the echinacea, kale, and squash. I thinned it out and planted it in 3 other places in my yard. It loves the sun! Once established it didn't even need to be watered. The consistent blooming brought in more butterflies and bees than my garden had seen the previous years. Franklin got a lot of rain in June. I used twine and a couple of tomato stakes to encircle the lower half and keep the blooms off the ground.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Bee Balm Flower
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail 
Hummingbird Moth
Hummingbird Moth (they are the cutest!!)

Pipevine Swallowtail
Pipevine Swallowtail

The entire Bee balm plant is edible. I used the blossoms and the leaves for tea. It's great as a calming before bed tea as it's been known to help with insomnia. As part of the mint family, it is also great for digestion. 

Drying Flowers for Herbal Tea
Bouquets drying in the windowsill. 

Fresh Bee Balm, dried bouquet, and when the dried blooms and leaves are removed. 

DIY Bee Balm Tea Steps

Dried Bee Balm for tea

Each small bouquet fills a Mason jar with tea.  I leave it whole and loose but you could also crunch it up and enclose in reusable tea bags. You can make your own from organic cotton muslin, I found a cute DIY post from Little House Living here or buy some on Etsy from Bear Earth Herbals here . 

When I make a large batch of tea I use the French Press. I throw in about an inch high of herbs and pour in my whistling tea pot water, let set to desired strongness, then press. In two 32 oz glass jars I put one tablespoon of maple syrup. I pour in the French press tea in equal parts to the two jars, swish around mixing the syrup then add fresh filtered water (I drink reverse osmosis) until the jars are full. 
Then refrigerate for great iced tea in the summer. 
Bee Balm Herbal Tea

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everyone Has Their Own El Guapo

Facing your El Guapo

My personality type, an INFJ, is often called a walking contradiction. 
As much as I hate being pigeonholed, there is truth in this statement. 
I swim in the depths of the creative and adhere to the logical. I want it now and I’ll wait til later. I want your skin attached to mine and I want to be left alone. I search endlessly for my soul mate and fall in love with men that are emotionally unavailable. My music is alphabetized; my closet arranged by color and season, my movies by category and sub-category…i.e.-Sci-fi- Space, Sci-Fi-Time Travel, Zombie, Superheros-DC, Superhero-Marvel etc.

Then I have the pile.

The pile consists of everything in my house I gathered together that no longer brings me joy. A weekend of thinning out the clutter, spurred on by The Minimalists documentary. I piled it up in the middle of my kitchen so I’d have to dispose of it quickly. Now 7 months later, I sweep around the pile, I dust the pile, I’ve told all my friends about the pile and I randomly give it the bird when I walk around it in the morning.
I could put these items in my trunk and take them to the local thrift store. But that wasn't the original plan for these items. I'd already donated most of it; this small man made mountain was actually the reduced version of the pile. These were the items I thought I could perhaps sell and make a little money on since my income is currently derived from freelance. 

Items like various coffee makers in their original boxes. 

I keep original boxes because when I move, it will make them easier to pack.
I’ve been living in the same house for 8 years.

I talk about tackling my pile every weekend. And every weekend I do something else, like pull weeds in the garden or lay on my couch and solve climate change.

To quote Steve Martin's character in The Three Amigos, “All of us have an El Guapo to face”.

Mine happens to be a pile of things that no longer bring me joy but continue to torment when I stump my toe on them in the dark on my way to the bathroom.

While talking about my El Guapo recently with a neighbor, she revealed to me her much larger and overwhelming El Guapo. Her El Guapo had reduced my El Guapo significantly to non-El Guapo status.  It wasn’t even Jefe at that point. 

I started going through my pile, taking pictures of anything I still thought was valuable to make my small eBay fortune and donated the rest. It only took me a few hours and it's no longer in the middle of my kitchen. Why did I let that self-inflicted Everest plague me for 7 months?!

The unknown can paralyze you. Fear of failure keeps you from making decisions. But once you take that first step, everything becomes easier than you thought it would be. Nothing will ever be perfect. Fear breeds in the over thinking, not in the actual doing. Whether you succeed or it backfires, nothing is as awful as being tormented by what if’s in your head.

Where you are right now probably feels like it will last forever. It's helpful for me to think back to where I was 6 months ago, 1 year ago, 5 years ago to realize how much things change. And even so, I may still be tapping my foot and wallowing in the misery. But it will pass. You are transitioning into something else as we speak. Let hope fill your heart to combat the anxiety in your head. 

  I love my imagination and I hate my imagination. It brings me through the tough times and creates the tough times. Maybe balancing my contradictions is my real El Guapo.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tomorrow is bullshit

Harlinsdale Farm Sunset
Franklin, TN

 I lost two family members in the past 2 weeks. Two people, I saw only last month who live 700 miles away. I held their hands. I told them I loved them. I had a strong desire not to wait. I could have put it off, waited for better finances, or maybe the next holiday.  All the excuses were valid.  
But tomorrow is bullshit.

The thunder started before the sun went down. Distant thunder with the sun still setting. We needed the rain. My garden needed the rain. I can water the garden with the hose to keep it alive but the rain is what it thrives in. The rain is what gives it life to bare fruit.  I walked out to the field in the darkness. I listened to the thunder, watched the lightning strike over and over again and I waited for the rain.

I heard it before I felt it on my skin. It rustled through the trees announcing its arrival. When it came down on my head it was cold at first, like jumping into a river. I stood there with my arms outstretched and let it soak me through.

I want to thrive like the garden and bare fruit. I want to be drenched by the sky. Let the lightning wake me up and the thunder shake me. My heart is broken and I want to scream.

Today is all that matters. Someday is bullshit, tomorrow is bullshit, your perfect timing is bullshit.  What are you saving for later, for someday? If you love someone, tell them now. Say what you need to say this very minute. Live in the raw, imperfect you. Stand in the rain and let it soak you through.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sun + Honey DIY Highlights

DIY natural highlights

The sun is out and providing me with free highlights! Nature has everything I need to be blonder. Hair will naturally lighten with regular sun exposure no matter what color you start with. My hair when not exposed to the sun is a medium blonde with a little strawberry courtesy of my late Scottish red headed grandfather. When summer arrives it reverts to the color of my youth. To speed up the process I have concocted this recipe.  First I spritz my head with rose water.
Recipe to make your own rose water here: Rose Water DIY

Mix together in glass bowl:
One heaping tablespoon of honey
One teaspoon of cinnamon
One teaspoon of nutmeg
Mix together and let set for 10-20 minutes

Then add one or more of the following:

If your hair is dry or damaged
Add aloe juice until the mixture is a thick liquid
Add Rose water until the mixture is a thick liquid

If your hair is normal to oily
Add lemon juice until the mixture is a thick liquid

Lemon speeds up the lightening but it can also be drying. I would use it sparingly and not every time.

Honey is natural peroxide.  You could also lightly spritz your hair with hydrogen peroxide BUT since that is stronger you could end up with orange, yellow or white hair. 

With a paintbrush or your hand, coat your hair with the mixture. I put it on my whole head, and do the ends last with not as much of the mixture.  I then go outside and work in the yard…pull weeds, mow the yard, harvest the garden etc. When I’ve been outside for at least a couple of hours, I come back inside and wash out the mixture. It’s important to use hot water at first to get all the honey out. Massage your head to take advantage of the cinnamon/nutmeg, which will exfoliate as well as offer anti-bacterial properties.  Added bonus, goodbye dandruff.

Spitz rose water after you lightly towel dry and done!
Rose Water, which is packed with antioxidants, naturally balances your PH making it great for the scalp. It also makes your hair soft and smells fantastic. 

Here are two photos that were taken in my yard about 10 days apart without filters. There were about 3 applications between the two photos.

before and after natural DIY highlights

I don’t use shampoo or conditioner anymore and my hair has never been healthier. I tried all the various no-poo options. I used watered down coconut milk for a year or two but now I don’t use anything. I rinse my hair in the shower to get off the outside environment. It is important to wash off the day so to speak. Since I spend a lot of time in an urban city, you wouldn’t believe what just walking down the street leaves on your skin and hair. If I wipe the side of my face with an oil soaked cotton ball after walking around downtown, its dark gray!  EWWWW! 

Everyone’s hair is different. If you aren’t a risk taker with your hair, try a few small strands first before adding to large sections. I’ve been doing this for years on my hair and haven’t noticed any issues or drawbacks. Many people have asked me if the bees chase me when I’m outside and try to land in my hair… umm no. But I’m in the garden every day and I’d like to think they all know me by now. =)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Smell Like A Rose - DIY Rose Water

DIY Rose Water Spray

I've never been a fan of the artificial fragrance.  I've gotten so sensitive to it I have to hold my nose when I walk past the perfume section or the laundry detergent isle. It makes my eyes water and tickles my nose. I love real smells like baking muffins, stir frying veggies and I love love love the smell of roses and peonies. Real flowers, not a smell concocted in a lab.

Portland Rose Garden Lifestyle

The first time I bought rose water spray years ago at a health food store, I was immediately hooked. I would bathe in it if I had a bathtub. Then I discovered you could buy drinkable rose water at the international market for a fraction of the price. This budget friendly alternative rocked my world.
Now I know how easy it is to make it and its free!!

Orange Antique Rose

Rose water isn't just a fragrance to transport you to a summer garden scene in a Jane Austin movie. It's been used as a beauty concoction for thousands of years. It makes your hair soft and conditioned. It maintains the PH of your skin, strengthens the cells and aids in healing scars.

I use this spray every day and it's so easy to make yourself.

1) Pick a few roses from your garden
2) tear off the petals
3) boil them in 1 3/4 cups of filtered water until petals lose all color
4) take off heat and let cool
5) strain
6) pour in spray bottle

Orange Antique Rose Close up

Start with fragrant roses that have not been sprayed with pesticides. Remember you are putting this on your skin! I use my heirloom orange climber roses because they smell divine.  For this recipe, I picked 3 blooms.

Pull the petals off and put them in a pot of 1 3/4 cups of water. Use distilled or reverse osmosis water. You want the petals to just be covered with water. Put it on med/high heat and let it come to a gentle boil. You don't want to boil the water out! Let it simmer until the color has drained from the petals. When the color is gone, remove from heat. Let cool, strain and then pour into your spray bottle.

Making Rose Water

If your roses are white, just watch the petals until they start to look a little translucent.

TIP: I pour the contents into a French Press. I own two french presses, one for coffee and one for everything else. It's great for loose leaf tea too!
A French Press is perfect for straining rose petals because it also has a little spout to pour into your spray bottle or container.

Easy DIY Rose Water

You can refrigerate to make it last longer. I go through mine pretty quickly since I use it every day. I leave it out on the counter in the bathroom and I've never had an issue with it going bad.

DIY Rose Water

I have a few little blue glass spray bottles I bought at Whole Foods for a couple of dollars. I also have a previous store bought rose water tall dbottle with a little spout that I just refill.

I spray it on my hair and body after a shower.  I keep one mini spray bottle in my purse. I use it to calm my skin when I'm stressed or the summer heat has gotten to me. It's a nice mid day pick me up and great to spray on the skin before a night out. ...or to balance your skin after a night out. =)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Off We Go Through the PNW - Road trip Day 13 & 14

Mill City Bridge

Road Trip Day 13 & 14
Mill City - Sisters, Oregon
Miles Driven 4132

We packed up the car to leave our perfect little hideaway on the mountain. One last brunch in Portland and we choose The Jam on Hawthorne Cafe & Arthouse which was fantastic. I think we had the nicest waiter in all of Portland. Shout out to John! Our next destination would be Mill City Oregon, a very small town outside of Salem, blink and you'll miss it. 

Dahlias Garden Oregon
Dahlias Dahlais Dahlias! near Canby Oregon
The drive from Portland to Mill City along route 99E to 214 was serene. It was foggy and misty as we passed the flower farms and Christmas tree farms.

Christmas Tree Farm Oregon

Silverton Oregon, Historic Wolf Building
Silverton Oregon,  Historic Wolf Building 1891
My sister and I's best childhood friend Hannah moved to Mill City Oregon when we were very young. We'd been pen pals for years after, chronicling our dramatic teenage years in ink. We'd visited her once when my family was driving up through California on a "where should we live next?" adventure....20 years ago. I'd been looking forward to this reunion since I left Tennessee. 

Our Easter Dresses always had lace, bows and puffed sleeves. Anne of Green Gables style. 
Hannah had just run for a city council seat and she was awaiting the results when we arrived.  The last time I spoke to her we were writing letters while she was in South Africa and London. She'd since moved back to the small town of Mill City where her parents still reside. 

Independent women all facing new adventures. 

North Santiam Railroad Bridge
 North Santiam Railroad bridge

The infamous Railroad bridge in Mill city. Built in 1888 and moved by railroad to Mill City in 1919. The last remaining Phoenix Column bridge in Oregon and there is a Save the Bridge campaign going on.  Save Our Bridge GoFundMe I think it's a permanent campaign.

Hannah's mother took care of us as children when my parents were at work. She was kind and soft spoken and she used to drive us around in her yellow VW bug and we'd get "courtesy drinks" from Taco Mayo. When we arrived at her house and I saw her, I gave her a hug and started to cry.  She made us hot tea and set cookies out on the table. "So what have you girls been up to?"

We stayed the night with Hannah and in the morning over coffee we caught up on the last 20 years...or at least the cliff notes. 

Back on the road, our next stop would be Sisters, Oregon. 
Driving along the Santiam river, and we could see Mt. Jefferson in the distance. 
Oregon Roadtrip Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Jefferson in the distance.
Somewhere between Gates and Sisters Oregon along the Santiam river, we found an ancient tree graveyard or perhaps an alien planet. I may have slammed on the brakes when I saw this landscape.  I could have photographed it all day long. 

Oregon Roadtrip

Tree stump Oregon

Black and white tree stumps

Setting up the timer..HA!

Mt. Jefferson Oregon
Mt. Jefferson, second highest mountain in Oregon.

Did I stop in Sisters primarily for the coffee shop? Yes...but it was on the way and I had a long drive ahead of me. They also had gluten free lemon poppy seed cake. 
I think I scarfed it before we could get a photo. 

Sisters Coffee, Sisters Oregon

The Three Sisters Oregon
The Three Sisters, the city's namesake mountains.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rainbow Pizza - GF & Dairy Free

GF Beet Pizza Vegetarian
GF Beet Pizza

The gluten free, dairy free pizza has been an ever-evolving taste experiment.  It started with frozen pizza that I added toppings too. But I'm going to drop a little truth bomb here...I'm not a fan of vegan cheese. It seems utterly pointless to create an alternative that is just okay and has very little nutritional value. I mean if I'm pretending this is cheese, I will also have to pretend I'm enjoying it.

Organic Gardening Franklin TN
What I picked in my garden. 

I'm also not crazy about tomato sauce. As a child, I used to remove the toppings, scrape off the sauce then add the toppings back on. When I was older and found options like pesto or olive oil and garlic, it was definitely a turning point in my life.

I'm harvesting a lot of veggies in my garden right now. The rainbow of colors is highly beneficial to the body.
RED, PURPLE & BLUE: antioxidant anthocyanin, heart health, anti-aging
YELLOW & ORANGE: Vitamin A & C, detoxifier, beta carotene, helps the immune system, promotes healthy skin
GREEN: Iron, Lutein, folate, build healthy cells, promotes healthy liver

organic vegetable garden harvesting
My veggie harvest!

In my quest for better, I moved on to gluten free crusts which were hit or miss. Unfortunately, the crusts tend to cost almost as much as a pizza. Just when I was about to experiment with making my own...Trader Joes started carrying a 2/pack of buckwheat crusts for $3.79. They are definitely gluten free but I can't say with certainty they are vegan as they do contain xanthan gum. Some xanthan gum is vegan and some is not, it all depends on the manufacturing process. If you have food allergies, be aware of the xanthan gum.

A thin crust that tastes great and even occasionally gets little air pockets of crusty yumminess. They are a little delicate between the thawed stage and the placing in the oven stage. As long as you keep it flat, you are golden. Little tip...I dress my pizza on a cutting board then delicately slide it from the cutting board to the oven rack. I remove the pizza the same way. Alternately, if you own a pizza stone, you can skip the transfer altogether.

The instructions on the crust call for a light brushing of olive oil. The first time I made it, I was out of olive oil. I choose to use an artichoke antipasto (from Trader Joes) that had olive oil in it. It was one of those OMG, this could change my life happy accidents. I would compare it to the story of the person making raisin cookies, ran out of raisins and so they chopped up a bar of chocolate instead.

okra prep
Chopping okra with my Japanese blade.  

Spread the pesto to your heart' desire. I like a restraints sometimes make me thin it out so I can make one jar stretch to 3 pizzas instead of two. It's $2.39 a jar. I priced making my own from scratch and couldn't get the cost that low unless I grew my own artichokes. =)

Trader Joes Artichoke antipasto pizza recipe
Artichoke Antipasto & Sliced Fresh Garlic

Next, add thinly sliced garlic cloves. Push them into the sauce. I like a lot of garlic.

Now we add the colorful fresh veggie layers. These have been dependent on what I'm harvesting in the garden. I will be posting various concoctions of flavor combinations.

eating beet stems and greens
Beet Greens & Stems

I have two kinds of okra right now. I check the plants every day. I normally have a few average size ones and one giant 8-12 inch one that I wonder how I possibly missed the day before.  
Lately, since I have beets in season I've been tearing up beet greens. I use the leaf and the stems. The leaf is similar to spinach in taste and consistency and the stems are similar to celery. Plus the red veins are gorgeous and add a vitamin powerhouse of vitamin K, A and C. 

GF Vegan Pizza Recipe
Add caption

Next Add the kale...I usually tear up a couple kinds of Kale. Russian or Red is my favorite.  
Push the greens into the sauce.
Pour a little olive oil on the greens so they stay soft, otherwise, they will burn and come out crispy.

Next, add:
sliced zucchini or yellow squash or both
sliced beets

Gluten Free Vegan Beet Pizza Recipe Vegetarian
Ready for the Oven!

A little more olive oil and you are ready for the oven. I put mine right on the rack.
8-14 minutes on 400 degrees.

Gluten free Vegan Beet Pizza recipe

I watch it and pull it out when the crust has started to harden but it's not overall browning. A little edge browning is what you want. I pick up the edge to check. I would experiment with what consistency you like better. If it cooks too long when you try it cut it, it breaks apart. It still tastes good but I like mine a little softer and not like a thick cracker.
Between 8-14 minutes is the average cook time.


Ingredients and a sampling of their health benefits:

Buckwheat Crust   (Buckwheat: ancient grain, protein, antioxidants, 12 amino acids, fiber)
Artichoke Antipasto  (Artichoke-highest antioxidant of all vegetables, dietary fiber, Vitamin C)
Red Okra                (Vitamin A, folate)
Okra                        (Vitamin A, folate, calcium, fiber, facilitates the propagation of probiotics)
Russian Kale           (anti-inflammatory, Omega-3 fatty acid, more calcium than milk)
Beet Greens            (Vitamin K, A & C, calcium, folate, antioxidants)
Beet Stems              (amino acids, antioxidants, fiber)
Yellow Crock Neck Squash  (carotenoids, beta carotene)
Detroit Dark Beets (blood purifier, energy boosting, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxifier)
Golden Beets           (vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium)
Virgin Olive Oil      (anti-inflammatory, vitamin E, phytonutrients)
Sea Salt & Pepper  (S-82 essential trace nutrients, P-antibacterial, manganese, improves digestion,