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Throughout my years of herbal obsession and experimentation, I've gone through probably hundreds of herbal body care items, both store bought and formulated in my kitchen. When I'm looking at ingredients for already made products, my philosophy is the fewer ingredients the better (and I preferably like to recognize every single ingredient listed on the label). As an herbalist, I'm always trying to make my own stuff too - from cuticle salves to infused nourishing oils and hair elixirs. Experimenting is so fun, and using single herbs one at a time can really help to fine tune each recipe and get exactly what you want - whether for facial scrubs or simple salves or toners. My beauty cupboard is a mish-mash of old bottles with homemade formulas and a fair amount of bath products from Mountain Rose Herbs - one of my all time favorite makers of natural herbal beauty products. I keep a few staples with me all year long, and in the summer time my beauty routine shifts to the bare minimum with some seasonal specific herbal go-to's for my skin. 

As a very fair skinned person, summer skin health is super important to me, and I'm always hyper aware that this time of year I need to nourish my skin a little more due to constant sun exposure. It's rare that I ever wear anything on my skin except for sunscreen in the summer (which over time is extremely drying on my skin), so re-hydrating and nourishing my skin with simple, nourishing herbal based oils and soaks work beautifully. I have a simple daily routine that I begin during summer months and keep this routine through early Fall. I find this collection of herbal products to be ideal for semi-sensitive, sun parched skin on the dryer side as these formulas and products are cooling, moistening and very hydrating. 

First thing in the morning, and then throughout the day on extra hot, humid days, I use the White Rose Hydrosol spritz on my face that I keep refrigerated. This hydrosol is simply made from the petals of Rosa alba through a water steam distillation and has a subtle and floral rosy scent that's hydrating and cooling to parched skin. It feels especially good after I take Gromit for along walk and the southern humidity makes my skin feel like it's just crawling with sweat. This white rose hydrosol gives my face a fresh and clean feeling without actually washing my face, and it's incredibly invigorating as a little facial pick-me-up midday. Also - instant aromatherapy with these sweet and subtle rosy tones. 

Second, after I use the hydrosol in the morning I apply a small amount of Rosehip Seed Oil to my whole face for extra moisture that soaks right into my skin without leaving any oily residue. My skin (generally dry and only mildly sensitive) LOVES oils and responds really well to the nourishing and light quality of rosehip seed oil instead of creams or lotions. Rosehip seed oil is rich in fatty acids - especially Linoleic acid and Linolenic acids making it extremely tonically hydrating yet also light on the skin - perfect for the summer months when lighter skin products are my preference. 

In the evenings about three times per week, I take a long soak in an Epsom Salt bath along with about 1/2 cup of Relaxing Bath Herbs to nourish my muscles, soothe my skin, and calm my whole body from either a full day of appointments or a couple of hours of rock climbing (which, admittedly, I've gotten super into since January). Having climbed about 5 days per week a couple hours at a time for nearly 6 months straight now, my muscles have gone through a lot of changes and, unfortunately, I suffer from pretty extreme leg and foot cramps. Using these Epsom salts consistently has made a huge difference in how frequently these debilitating cramps show up (which, if you've ever had whole leg or foot cramps you know how hellishly painful they are. I feel like they're going to end me). In a full warm bath, I add about 1/4 cup Epsom salts with a cloth bag of relaxing bath herbs, containing hops, rose petals, chamomile, lavender, comfrey, and passionflower. The salts absorb transdermally into my muscles for tonic support, while this aromatic herbal soak blend relaxes my mind and soothes my skin (and it smells like a field of flowery dream heaven). 

Using the cloth bag for the herbal soak is optional...sometimes I just like soaking in a flower bath because it's beautiful and magical and, why not? This is also a beautiful formula to have as a facial water wash for your face in the morning. Just fill a large bowl with slightly warm water, add about 2 tbsp of relaxing bath herbs, let "steep" for about 5 minutes and then wash your face gently with the water in the morning or at bedtime.

Finally, for the days when I have sunscreen on my face, am out in the sun and sweating in the summer humidity, I use a homemade DIY facial scrub. I often use zinc oxide based sunscreens so they stay on top of my skin all day (not the best feeling, but super effective), and this facial scrub just makes my face feel extra cleansed and soothed after being out in the sun all day. I use a simple combo of moistening milky oat tops, aromatic lavender flowers, nourishing neem powder and exfoliating Dead Sea salt. This makes a decadent base formula (almost powder like) that you can then add any additional scents or oils to as you like. The lavender in this formula already gives it a sweet and fragrant smell, but other herbs such as eucalyptus or chamomile work well too for both soothing inflamed skin and also aromatic qualities. 

This recipe makes approximately 10 uses when using about 1 teaspoon at a time. You can use either a high speed blender or a spice grinder for these herbs and make sure whatever grinder your use is well washed with no other scents or the facial scrub will carry those scents too!

DIY Herbal Facial Scrub

2 heaping tablespoons milky oat tops
2 tablespoons lavender flowers
2 teaspoons Dead Sea salt
1/2 teaspoon neem powder

In a high speed blender or spice grinder (I use a vitamix), add the oat tops and lavender flowers. Blitz on high speed for about 8-10 seconds. The herbs should be about 80% powdered but slightly coarse. Pour out into a small bowl and add the salt and neem powder. Mix well with a spoon and store in a small glass jar. 

To use: In the palm of your hands, add a scant 1 teaspoon of the facial scrub with a small drizzle of water until it's a slightly thick and almost muddy texture. Rub together with both hands and apply gently to your face, avoiding the eye area, in circular motions. Rinse with warm water and damp dry. Finish with a misting of the White Rose Hydrsol for an extra clean and hydrating finish. 


 
This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It is my goal to use and recommend only the highest quality herbal products from companies that I wholly trust and fully support. Industry standards including sustainable harvesting, quality control, organic / fair trade standards and responsible sourcing are all things I care deeply about when working with herbs and herbal companies. I have been using Mountain Rose Herbal products for almost a decade, and have always been so impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship. You can sign up for their newsletter here to receive extra tips, tricks and monthly product specials! Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Summer is a magical time for herbal foraging. I spend most all of my summers in the mountains of Appalachia in Virginia where folk medicine is literally bursting through the fields and forests. This is a time when I love to take friends and colleagues out to the mountains and teach herbal wildcrafting and plant ID (which you can read more about here!). It's an intimate practice in learning more about your surroundings and the plants that have helped sustain us in home and health for generations. It's a time to practice gratitude for our herbal companions and get to know knew botanical friends. And, it's my favorite time to take friends on an overnight trip for a full moon summer lunar infusion and to sink into some plant spirit medicine. 

This time last year, my cousin Alexis and my friend Hillary and I harvested yarrow and red clover and mullein and honeysuckle and horsetail and nettle from the prairie in Lexington, VA and made a full moon offering tea. We left it to infuse in the river under the moonlight and pretended that little fairies bathed in the infusion overnight, mixing the herbs with their wings and little swimming feets. In the morning, we collected the shimmering golden tea, strained it and sipped it by the river, imbibing the moonlight infused prairie medicine. Admittedly, it was deeply soul rejuvenating and felt like it truly connected us to the land and the healing power of old medicines. It's a practice I'm doing every year, because we all need more magic in our lives. And it's so incredibly fun to take friends into the forest and pick flowers (and wineberries) and make tea. It's the best way to spend a summer day. 


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Thursday, May 31, 2018

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no natural baker. I can follow a recipe like a pro, and have some (often fluke) skill at making on-the-fly recipe adjustments. And yeah, stuff usually turns out acceptably good and frankly, I’m not a stickler for visual perfection which I know totally doesn’t serve me in the foodie blog world. BUT! That’s no reason not to just have total happiness and overconfidence when sharing a recipe that I actually do love, and is perfect for a spring / early summer excuse to eat some veggies with some sugar and fresh flowers. Thus, my ultra moist sweet and savory spring carrot cake. 


A favorite spring recipe of mine has always been spiced carrot cake. May is my birthday month, and almost every year carrot cake is my cake of choice…often using a different variation of a recipe every year. This year, I was experimenting with a more savory and less sweet version of a carrot cake and then making the icing a bit sweeter. Thus, if I’m in the mood for a less sweet cake I can just eat a little less icing, and if I want a little more sweet I’ll eat allllll the icing with every piece. I’ve made this cake in the past with several different variations - new flours and different spices and various forms of natural sugars. Each time the cake turned out a bit on the dry side (which, I don’t always mind because - ice cream fixes that) but this time I used a bit more oil and oat flour which adds a nice moisture to the end product. The spices, however, can make or break a good carrot cake. 

With this version of my spiced carrot cake, the cinnamon is just absolutely amazing. If you haven’t had Mountain Rose Herbs sweet cinnamon powder yet - it’s some of the best cinnamon powders you’ll ever have! It’s so rich and complex and subtly sweet…I’ve been putting this in everything from cakes to oatmeals to smoothies and even my morning yogurt. I also used a bit of allspice and nutmeg to flesh out the classic flavors of a spiced carrot cake, and added a bit of vanilla bean powder for a more savory and robust flavor. As for the oils, this is pretty forgiving. I prefer to use sunflower seed oil but you can use vegetable oil or safflower or even olive oil if you want a really savory cake (but the flavor will be more altered using olive oil). You can use more or less oil (but 1/4 cup either way) for a more moist or dryer cake. This cake turned out quite moist, so I would err on the side of less if you prefer a dryer more flaky cake. 




Sweet & Savory Spring Carrot Cake

For the Cake:
1 cup oat flour
1.5 spelt flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp sweet cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
1/2 tsp allspice powder
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1 pound of carrots

For the Frosting:
12 oz cream cheese
5 tbsp butter
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Shred the carrots in a food processor or grater - you should have approximately 3 cups. Combine all of the dry ingredients (flours, spices, baking soda and baking powder) in a large bowl. Add the carrots to the dry ingredients and mix well until the carrots are well coated. In the same food processor, mix the eggs and sugars together until well blended. While still blending, add in the oil and mix well, about 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture into the dry ingredient bowl and blend all together well until a batter forms. Taking 2 round pie pans, place parchment paper (rounded cut outs) at the bottom of the the pans and grease the edges. Pour the batter into the 2 pie pans equally and let sit a few minutes to settle. Bake for about 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from heat and let cool completely in the pan (if you try to remove too early the cake may fall to pieces). Once completely cooled, ice away. 

For the icing, in a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter until thoroughly combine (you'll need to scrape down the edges several times). Add in the powdered sugars in 1/4 cups at a time until completely mixed, tasting as you go to get to the your desired sweetness. Once all combined, ice each layer of the cake to your desired thickness and decorate with whatever's blooming outside! 

 

This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It is my goal to use and recommend only the highest quality herbal products from companies that I wholly trust and fully support. Industry standards including sustainable harvesting, quality control, organic / fair trade standards and responsible sourcing are all things I care deeply about when working with herbs and herbal companies. I have been using Mountain Rose Herbal products for almost a decade, and have always been so impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship. You can sign up for their newsletter here to receive extra tips, tricks and monthly product specials! Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible.

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If you haven't been privy to the pollinator discussion within the past few years, consider getting the the know. This is a topic that's near and dear to my heart and has been for about ten years now. Our partnership with pollinators is a true symbiotic relationship, meaning we need them and they need us, and right now we humans are really dropping the ball in taking care of our much needed local and global aerial companions (and their habitats). Pollinator species are responsible for spreading botanical genetic material for helping plants reproduce which, long term, sustains our entire ecosystem and allows our sprawling population to feed ourselves. Over 75% of the flowering plants on earth need help with cross pollination (including over 1200 crops), and our aerial pollinators serve this vital (and often nearly invisible) task. Critters like bees and bats and butterflies and beetles and hummingbirds visit flowers during the growing season, and carry bits of pollen from flower to flower, allowing these botanical species to reproduce and flourish. These flowering plants not only feed us, they also feed the pollinator animals and are essential for our mutual survival. If these plants don't reproduce each year - they don't come back, and eventually neither will we. It's estimated that one out of every three bites of food that we eat is due to a pollinator species making that possible. 

Think about that. And realize how we can easily take that for granted when we hardly ever see that happening in front of our eyes. 

That's why we plant a pollinator garden every single year in our city garden. We want to serve the species, and we want to always be reminded of how important this process is by contributing what we can, and witnessing the process every day. 

Our next door neighbor has a twenty year old established bee colony living in the walls of her house, and she doesn't seem to mind, which is awesome. As soon as we began planning our garden five years ago, we made it a priority to plant as many native plant pollinator species as we could to keep these bees happy and provide them a diverse amount of pollen and nectar. We choose native plants for the obvious reason that they attract native (ie - local to our region) pollinator species. 

We choose plants that flower at different times throughout the season, so there's never a lack of flowers to visit. Salvia and echinacea and Joe pye weed and nasturtiums and milkweed and butterfly bushes are just a few of the pollinator plants we tend to each year here in Richmond, VA.

We also make a conscious effort to plant our pollinator plants in giant masses, or clumps, with lots of different flowering colors as this better helps to attract all different types of pollinators (like bees and bats and beetles and butterflies and hummingbirds etc.) rather than just putting one single plant here and there. Masses of flowers not only look gorgeous....but soon you'll start to hear them humming once they're all in bloom!

How - To Plant Your Own Pollinator Garden

Figure out the native plant species in your area, and try to plant 5-10 different species that flower throughout the growing season. You can keep it as neat and tidy, or as wild and weedy as you like - but always keep it as colorful as possible! 

Learn what native pollinator species are in your area and what their favorite plants are! If you can, consider setting up a small apiary or contacting a local beekeeper to learn more about how you can support your local colonies. 

Set up a bat house

Don't use chemical pesticides in your yard - ever - if you can avoid it. Chemical pesticide use is one of the leading suspected causes of colony collapse disorders.

Create a small, sunny (ideally fairly open) space for your pollinator garden. Aerate your soil and throw some compost down. Sow your seeds and make sure to check when to plant each species for optimal growth. 

Keep a place for water outside (either in a bird bath or another small space) for the pollinators to drink. 

Additional Resources:

Pollinator Partnership

Plant For Pollinators - what you should plant for your zone (US & Canada)

Gardening for Pollinators from the US Forest Service

Learning more about Colony Collapse Disorder from the EPA

How to create a nesting site for pollinators to enhance their native habitats

Do you have a pollinator garden in your own space? I'd love to see it! Share your garden on instagram with the hashtag #myotherhouseisgreenhouse and let us know what's going on in your garden space!

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

My entire back yard is exploding right now. Flowers galore are popping up, the dogwood tree outside my bedroom window is blooming, and the neighboring bee colony is humming away non-stop, making frequent quick visits to each and every flower making an appearance in early spring. With a warm breeze blowing through (finally!) open windows and the sun shining all morning, it's the perfect kind of day when I like to spring clean and take care of those tedious tasks that I let pile up in the dormancy of winter. Admittedly our house is prone to developing piles here and there. Mail. Seed catalogues and seed packets. Notebooks half filled with notes. Piles of unused coupons. Tumbleweeds of hidden dog hair (real life). Receipts...things just end up everywhere. If I were more in tune with the Konmari method, I would be putting every single thing in it's place the moment it gets into my hands...but alas, that's just not how my life shows up on the regular. Things accumulate. Stuff needs to be cleaned and organized. The whole house needs to be smudged, basically. And when I have a full beautiful day to get almost everything orderly and in place, the first thing that I do is blend up a daily tea that I keep warm or room temperature and sip all. day. long. I call this my Tasking Tea Formula. It keeps me focused and grounded and able to stick to the tasks at hand. Distractions are popping up all the time. But, this tea formula is my ally for getting this day done in one fell swoop. 

Today, especially, I wanted to spend some time bringing some of the cut flowers from the yard to enliven our wintry dormant space. We have lilacs blooming, tulips and dandelions everywhere, the dogwood tree just bloomed and our little magnolia is trying so so hard out there (after battling an unexpected frost). Taking time to cut and arrange flowers for the house is my favorite spring task. I love it so much, and it totally transforms our space. 

Today, I'm tasking with a simple and delicious aromatic combination of Milky Oat Tops, Spearmint, Lemon Balm & Holy Basil (Rama). I gravitate towards milky oats (Avena sativa) constantly for it's nourishing and sweet quality. You can use either the spikelets (shown here) or the oat straw in this formula. The spikelets are the flowering body in the process of growing the mature seed, and before they get to the mature seed they go through a "milky stage" often in the spring that houses quite a hefty dose of nutrients. Often I grind up my milky oats in a vitamix just before using them. Milky oats has a tonic, nourishing effect on the body and is ideal for when I have kind of nervous exhaustion pattern (winter!) and need some deep building nourishment. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is my lifesaver for keeping me mentally alert and on track and also uplifts my mood. It's such a happy herb, aromatic and calming yet focusing for my mind. Holy Basil  (Ocimum tenuiflorum), oh, how I love you, is my ultimate hug in a cup. For when I'm feeling spiritually murky or emotionally despondent. For when I'm shaking off the winter cobwebs. Rama has a bit of a cooler and more mellow flavor which tastes particularly delicious at room temperature for spring time tea. Finally, spearmint (Mentha spicata) always adds a touch of cooling aromatic and minty flavor to any tea. Since I like to make this tea formula relatively room temperature and sip all day, the addition of spearmint helps to keep the tea balanced and flavorful all day long. 

For my tasking tea formula. I take a large quart size jar, add my dried herbs, cover half way with room temperature filtered water and then fill the rest of the way with hot water to give it a moderate infusion. I let it steep at least 10 minutes before I strain out enough for my first cup, and then I just let the herbs sit in there infusing longer, straining out just one cup at a time throughout the day. The longer it steeps, the stronger the flavor so feel free to strain all of the herbs out at once if you'd prefer. I just always err on the side of stronger infusions, personally. 

Spring Tasking Tea

1 quart glass jar
2 tbsp holy basil
2 tbsp milky oats
2 tbsp lemon balm
1 tbsp spearmint
Serves 2

Add the herbs to the jar and fill halfway with room temperature filtered water. Fill the rest of the jar with hot water and let steep together for 10 minutes. Strain out one cup at a time as you go through the day checking off each task. 

 

This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It is my goal to use and recommend only the highest quality herbal products from companies that I wholly trust and fully support. Industry standards including sustainable harvesting, quality control, organic / fair trade standards and responsible sourcing are all things I care deeply about when working with herbs and herbal companies. I have been using Mountain Rose Herbal products for almost a decade, and have always been so impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship. You can sign up for their newsletter here to receive extra tips, tricks and monthly product specials! Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Beginning in January, I've been mindful about creating spaces and extra time in my life dedicated to tech free space. I've been creating magic work nooks all over the place these days. It became pretty apparent last year that an inordinate amount of my time and energy was spent kind of sucked into cyber space for either work or fun or pleasure or default or habit, and I think it's reasonable to say that so many of us are in this addiction today and we're really not loving it. It's hard to step away. So much of life is online now. So much of our livelihoods, our community, our resources reside on this plane, and it's really, really not a healthy place to hang out in as often as most of us do. 

Let me just go ahead and recognize that I'm writing a blog post about this, assuming you're all reading on your wi-fi connected computers with your eyeballs still on your phones today. This little space is where I'm still putting in intentional time, and I'm not giving up all tech time - just the majority of it. And I'm being extra judicious about where and when I'm online these days. And I invite you to do the same. 

I've found it to be a personal creative and joyful project to tuck little tech free spaces away in my routine, in my home, in my office, and in the places I'm visiting. It's incredibly simple once I make sure I dedicate time to do it. I make a space - big or small- where there's no tech allowed. No phones, No computers, No iPads or google homes or basically any electronics of any kind. If I'm able, I'll shut off the wi-fi in the whole house for a while. I'll fill a space with objects that make me joyful, like my favorite books, cozy beeswax pillar candles, a delicate and delicious herbal tea blend like Fairytale Tea (which is honestly one of my all time favorite tea blends) and I make the space smell grounding, earthy and vibrant using a room spray. Usually my go-to is the Gaia Spice aroma spray from Mountain Rose Herbs, or I'll smudge the space a bit with some white sage to renew the energy. These are all sensory and tactile things that my body responds to really well. When I'm around tech all day - most of my body feels numb. When I surround myself with visceral and sensory objects, those parts of my being like my eyes and brain and skin and heart feel more energized. And it makes these magic work nooks SO appealing to return to over and over and over again. 

And yes! You too can do this in even the most cluttered and uninviting of spaces! If you're feeling a little overwhelmed and addicted to being connected (but really pretty much disconnected, right?) to the cyber world, start simple and small. Pick a space - either your desk or your bed or your car or your kitchen or dining room. For a few minutes or hours or even days (yes!), fill this space with tangible objects that bring you joy and comfort. I would recommend things that you can touch and smell and even taste to make the experience even more sensory. Really melt into those things. Enjoy a long story from an actual book and brew a cup of tea to sip on for hours. Bust out those crafts and work with your hands for a while. Create art. Practice your instruments. Spend one-on-one time with your partner. Play with your pets. Get out of the mindless default of screen distraction and really soak in those sensory feels. It doesnt take much - but it does take dedicated time

Personally, I think herbs make these magic work nooks totally dreamy (obviously), and I take every opportunity to stock my apothecary and cupboards and office space with herbal goodies. Teas, aroma room sprays, aromatherapy, naturally scented candles and fresh herbs and flowers fill up the senses like none other. Sometimes they're literally just outside your door - so bring those in! If you're needing some inspiration, visit Mountain Rose Herbs and stock up on a few ethically sourced magic nook talismans. (Also - FYI - I love giving these sorts of things as gifts to friends that I know need some deep self care time.) Keep it simple, and creativity will come naturally. I'd love to hear what you're creating and the little objects that help you set your space! How are you creating your magic tech free nooks this year? And what may be standing in your way? I know, starting to step away from tech is HARD. It's weirdly hard. Even 5 minutes of intentional time away starts to shift the brain space. And if you need a super simple place to start - just park yourself under a tree for a while and soak in some grounding energy. 

This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It is my goal to use and recommend only the highest quality herbal products from companies that I wholly trust and fully support. Industry standards including sustainable harvesting, quality control, organic / fair trade standards and responsible sourcing are all things I care deeply about when working with herbs and herbal companies. I have been using Mountain Rose Herbal products for almost a decade, and have always been so impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship. You can sign up for their newsletter here to receive extra tips, tricks and monthly product specials! Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible.

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HELLO, I'M LINDSAY.
Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.

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