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This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs

Being a fair skinned redhead, I've been chronically susceptible to skin damage and sun burns my entire life. When I was a kid, I was the poor impressionable youngster covered head to toe in baggy peace frog t-shirts, huge hats and solid white sunscreen coated legs tagging awkwardly along behind my beautifully tall, blonde & tanned older sister at the beach. I feel like I get a sun burn just walking out to get my mail everyday. Forever the outdoor, tree-hugging nature devotee, I've worked in public gardens, organic summer camp veggie gardens, community herb gardens and spend most of my free time in the summer hiking and camping....so avoiding the sun is something I choose not to do. I do take plenty of precautions though, especially as I've gotten older and my skin has become more sensitive to the long term effects of sun exposure (hello, permanent shoulder freckles). I use high quality non-toxic sunscreens every single day, I cover up with SPF clothes when I'm outdoors for several hours at a time, and I use topical (usually herbal) sprays immediately after I've gotten too much sun. I've been making a soothing after sun skin spray with aloe, lavender and calendula for a couple of years now and it works like a charm to prevent sunburns from getting too bad, and expedites the healing process if I was careless enough to lose track of time under the sun. 

Aloe + Lavender + Calendula = skin soothing magical combo

These three herbal ingredients are some of the absolute best for skin repair and cellular skin health preventatively and acutely and they're always in my herbal arsenal. Aloe has been a topical skin remedy for me for as long as I can remember, and I've kept an aloe plant with me every year since my first college dorm room (his name is Spindle, and I'll feature him in my next blog post because he's just that awesome). The inside of aloe vera leaves are filled with a thick, latex-like gel substance that's produced by the inner parenchymal cells in the center of the leaf. When this gel is diluted, it's referred to as Aloe Vera Gel or sometimes Aloe Juice. Aloe is largely comprised of water, along with polysaccharides and glycoproteins  - both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. The gel also contains lignin, sterols, Vitamin A & E and even B-12 AND salicylic acid - a pain relieving compound also found in white willow. With it's wide array of soothing components, it's no surprise aloe has been used for wound healing for generations with tremendous success. For skin specifically, aloe gel supports the repair of epidermal skin cells and is a lifesaver for sun burnt skin! 

Lavender flowers contain between 1%-3% essential oils, and the compounds differ slightly between species. When used topically, lavender has a mild pain relieving (analgesic) effect and is also anti-inflammatory while being energetically cooling to help combat heat related issues (like sunburns!). I prefer using Lavender angustifolia essential oil in my skin spray for all of these herbal actions PLUS it smells incredibly good! 

Finally, calendula flowers make up the rest of this skin soothing trio. Calendula carries anti-inflammatory power while also contributing to wound healing and skin repair after damage (thought to be be due to the intense metabolism of glycoproteins during tissue regeneration). Calendula flowers have traditionally been used for topical healing and soothing burns, and from my personal experience it's remarkable at helping soothe sunburns and over-heated skin. You can also use calendula flowers in my Calendula Infused Apricot Oil recipe and accompanying Classic Calendula Salve recipe. 

Side note - I use this exact same skin spray on insect bites to help with the inflammation and redness, itchiness and pain and yep - works well on those too. 

I use all three of these herbs in my skin soothing spray and keep a bottle in the refrigerator almost all summer long (because keeping it cold feels SO good on sun kissed skin). This simple recipe is incredibly easy to make and, best of all, it's affordable and effective. I use a ton of this stuff and drench my skin with this spray generously - even when I'm not sun burnt - just to cool and soothe my skin when I'm overheated in the southern summer heat. A spritz on the face is pure heaven on those 90+ degree days. 

Added bonus - Mountain Rose Herbs has their Summer Sale happening now, August 14 - Friday August 27th with 20% some of their herbal goodies including their aloe gel and lavender essential oil

Soothing After Sun Skin Spray

2oz Aloe vera gel

 1/2 cup calendula flowers

 1 cup filtered water

 Lavender essential oil
Makes 4 ounces

Bring 1 cup filtered water to a boil and pour over 1/2 cup calendula flowers to make a strong infusion. Let steep for 15 minutes, then strain. In a 4 ounce glass bottle, fill halfway (2 ounces) with aloe vera gel and fill another 2 ounces with the strong calendula infusion. Top with 10 drops lavender essential oil. Seal with a spritzer top and shake well. Keep refrigerated and use generously and frequently on sun kissed skin. 

 

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 harvestingquality controlorganic / 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. Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible. 

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”  -- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs

Early summer mornings, before 7am, when the sunlight is filtering through the trees and the river is calm and quiet, and the birds echo through the still mountain hollers....this is my favorite time of day. Waking up with gratitude of feeling safe, well nourished and eager to greet another day is a true blessing, and I acknowledge this before even getting out of bed. My pup cuddles in bed with me, gently licking my face and nudging her cold little nose into my arm,  half saying "Let's just do this all morning..." and half saying "Outside! Breakfast!", until finally we decide to lazily begin our predictable morning routine together, slow and steady with mutual eagerness. 

With still heavy eyes fuzzy with the remains of pixelated dreams, I shuffle over to my tea nook and reach lovingly for my Dawn Chorus Tea, always ever present in my tea pot on most mornings. I sift a bit out into my favorite morning tea pot, pull out my favorite whimsical mug, and as the water heats to a boil, Gromit plays outside, chasing the hungry birds and creeping stealthily in and out of the vegetable garden...hoping not to get caught (again) this time. I open up all of the windows, letting the cool summer morning air permeate through the house and light a bit of rosewood incense, fans on full blast to break the stagnant humidity that built up over night. 

The kettle boils and piping hot water goes slowly into the tea pot, filled with organic nettle leaf, green rooibos, and rose petals. The familiar smell is intoxicating...nurturing Nostalgic. The Dawn Chorus Tea blend from Mountain Rose Herbs has been a morning companion of mine for years, and the aroma alone reminds me of mornings past...in so many different "homes" with so many different people. My devotion and love of nettle runs deep (and it's in many, many of my monthly steeps) and the nutrient profile of the stinging nettle herb hits all the right spots in my body. Rich in iron and calcium (both of which my body needs constantly) and vitamins A and C, nettle is my favorite morning herb to fill my body with nutrients and quench a thirst from a night of vivid dreaming. Green rooibos is deliciously uplifting for morning time and doesn't carry the typical sweetness of most rooibos varieties (it's also unfermented, giving it a unique taste that I love) and packs in trace minerals and anti-oxidants. It's naturally un-caffeineted, so I never mind drinking cup after cup after cup...which I often find myself doing on extra slow mornings. And finally the hint of organic rose petals - the sweetness and gentle affection we all need first thing in the morning. Anything rose to me is just straight up feminine self care indulgence that, when sipped in a morning tea, comforts and relaxes me no matter how chaotic the world outside my windows may be. This trio together is my morning imbibed. Sheer herbal tea love. 

My evening adventures are receding quickly with every moment I'm awake, and tracking down my dream journal under piles of yesterdays accumulated books promptly cranks my brain into working mode. Dream journaling is something I've done since I was nine years old, and always something I try to do within 15 minutes of waking up. It's a practice that I make special time for, even if it's just bullet points to help remind me of the details that are often like fading cobwebs as the day day goes on. With tea close by, I remember vivid dreamscapes filled with familiar characters and places that I've been acquainted with for decades. My dream life is precious time, and a whole extra part of my real life that I would otherwise have no memory of years later. On slow mornings, I can document the night's travels in detail and reflect on what they may...or may not represent...and honestly I have no idea most of the time, but it's still part of my story nonetheless. 

With tea precariously in hand and my favorite pen and journal, the river is where my thoughts can really escape and flow onto a page that no one will ever read. Morning river time, even if only for a few minutes, can put a whole day into perspective. No screens. No calendar. No phone. No way to be bothered. Just quiet alone time with thoughts of gratitude and love that I send out to the world that needs it desperately. This morning time reminds me that I am still very small, and just a tiny part of a grander landscape, no more important than the hawk after her morning breakfast or the snake warming on a nearby rock. Although it is never far from my mind that I have daily responsibilities, people to care for, a business to run, people to help and a team that I need and want to contribute to, sometimes I do succumb to a tremendous sense of of overwhelm...like I"ll never be good enough for a task or I didn't do a good enough job on a project, or I could have created a better health plan for someone...here is where my mind shuts off and those thoughts are left up on the hill within the confines of my closed laptop - at least, for the time being. Tea still needs to be finished before those thoughts swarm around me for the day, and Dawn Chorus tea helps to create my daily shield, and a much appreciated softening buffer to not be so hard on myself. Because how can I stay wound up so tight when I have to take deep breaths to sip and swallow such nourishing tea? That's just counterproductive. 

Even when we feel alone, by choice or by default, moments of stillness and setting a ritual of gratitude for the morning with an herbal ally tea can make us feel connected in deeper ways than we can ever know. My morning tea ritual has evolved through many incarnations over the years and still fluctuates from time to time. Morning tea allows us time - dedicated and essential time - to not just go flailing into a busy day with our compass spinning in circles. Morning tea ritual is our opportunity to set our true North and remember it with every conscious sip. I'd love to hear some of your favorite morning practices - What are your grounding morning rituals or favorite morning teas? 

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. Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible. 

Sources: 

1. Comparison of Nutritional Properties of Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chard is my favorite green leafy veggie, and in our summer garden we devote an entire raised bed to this nutritious botanical rainbow. In past years, we've tried growing collards and kale and spinach (all of which we love), but faced an unrelenting constant battle with the white flies that always seemed to overtake every last green leafy patch and we finally just gave up and said, "No. More." But....Rainbow Chard always did remarkably well with practically no effort whatsoever, hence it not only became one of our favorite things to grow, but our favorite summer garden item to eat all the time. We add chard to absolutely everything in the summer time, from morning omelets and lunchtime salads to simple dinner additions (sautéed with lots of garlic and onions) and within the past two years, we've been making large batches of this Rainbow Chard Spanakopita when we have an abundance of chard in mid summer. One batch of this lasts us for almost a week, and it never gets old. 

I know that health fads come and go, and every year there's always a new "super veggie" that levitates onto the natural health pedestal as being so much better than all the others and, "What are you waiting for?? Add this to ALL your smoothies!" headlines blanket social media. That's fine...I see it. I read about it. But my love and devotion of chard will never waver. I wade through my summer chard patch and whisper..."It's been you all along. You'll always be my veggie ally...don't let those headlines get you down"... Chard doesn't need fleeting headlines. It knows it's the best and doesn't need the constant praise to prove it. 

I developed a fondness for rainbow chard (and Swiss chard) in college. It was always cheaper than any of the other greens so that's what found it's way into my kitchen most of the time. I cooked with it constantly and I love the way it tastes. Slightly earthy with a subtle sweetness and a bit of a bitter undertone. Fast forward to graduate school and I'm still eating the heck out of this while learning that, nutritionally, chard really is the unsung and often overlooked nutrient dense green that nobody's eating. It's full of magnesium, potassium, calcium,  iron, zinc, fiber and phytonutrients, along with vitamin C and A and lots of vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for calcium absorption (something I really need), and I'm often always looking for extra sources of vitamin K in my diet to support bone health. The colorful stems (white, yellow and red) all contain nutrients as well, most notably carotenoids which are fantastic for eye health, and when I cook this up I'm always using the stems in every recipe too. 









Rainbow Chard Spanakopita is easy and forgiving. It takes the outline of a traditional spinach based Spanakopita but incorporates chard in place of the spinach. You can use either Filo or puff pastry, and traditionally a Spanakopita recipe calls for lots of butter (which is fine to use in this recipe as well - still works), however I prefer ghee so that's what I often use. Good quality cheese can make all the difference for a good batch too, so if you've got a good source for high quality feta - definitely opt for that. 

Rainbow Chard Spanakopita

3 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 pounds fresh Chard + stems, coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
3 eggs
2 cups high quality sheep feta, cubed
1tsp sea salt
ghee for brushing
Frozen Filo, thawed and slightly chilled
Serves 8

In a very large skillet or deep pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes until onions just start to turn translucent. Add in the chard, one handful at a time and cook down slightly before adding in another handful. With each addition, fold over the leaves to mix with the garlic and onions. Continue adding in all of the chard until wilted and well mixed with the garlic and onions. Remove from heat and transfer to a colander. Press out as much moisture as possible with a large spoon. Let cool completely or leave overnight in the refrigerator. 

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9x13in dish. Once the mixture has completely cooled, mix in the eggs, dill, feta and salt until well combined. Melt the ghee slightly. Roll out the filo dough. Add 1 sheet to the bottom of the baking dish and brush lightly with ghee. Add another sheet and brush again with ghee. Repeat the process about 6 times. Add the chard mixture and distribute evenly. Continue adding the filo sheets, brushing lightly with ghee until you have about 9-10 sheets on the top. Brush the top layer with ghee. Place in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top layer of filo browns slightly. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve warm. Keeps well refrigerated for up to 1 week. 

Optional: top with sprigs of dill and basil to serve. 

 

Photos by Renee Byrd

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If you keep a summer garden, then you no doubt notice that everything often comes in at once. We plant our tomato and basil together as "companion plants" in the garden and they seem to enhance the growth of one another. Plus - we use them together in so many recipes! When our tomato plants start producing those beautiful red tomatoes, it feels so time sensitive to use them up quickly before the squirrels get to them, and once picked they have a relatively short shelf life. Thus, making garden fresh pasta sauce is a go-to activity on summer weekends to use up a ton of tomatoes at once in a recipe that freezes well and is also great for a crowd. Get the recipe for my fresh tomato basil pasta sauce on the Suite One Studio Blog...

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Is there anything more refreshing than early morning CCF tea sipping in oversized linen shirts with the first glimpse of warm sun rays on your face? July brings mornings when I love waking up before 6am to soak in these precious hours. We open up all the windows wide and start the fans blowing to cut the humidity that built up over night and absorb the early morning bird chirps that flood the neighborhood. During this month too...the oppressive southern humidity starts to settle in, the heat melts onto my skin and the garden is heavy with fresh, heavy, nutrient abundant veggies. Everything just feels thick and laden right now, and anything to take the edge off is most welcome. This time of year, my appetite really shifts into a scant reflection of what is once was six months ago, and I find myself craving more raw fresh fruits and veggies (which is not really great for my vata digestive tract on the regular...) and over the years I've found that the perfect solution to this predictable seasonal shift in digestion is incorporating CCF tea into my daily rotation. 

CCF Tea (Cumin, Coriander, Fennel), is a traditional Ayurvedic tea to support digestion and works as a tonic herbal support for any type of digestive seasonal shift. I find that when my diet shifts towards more raw foods (which are generally harder for the body to digest), my vata constitution has a harder time processing these foods. The combination of cumin, coriander and fennel naturally helps to ignite agni (digestive fire) to break down foods more efficiently and has the added benefit of enhancing absorption of nutrients as well. Coriander has the subtle ability to expel heat, cooling over heated (or excess) areas of the body. Cumin is a more warming and stimulating spice that aids in the absorption of nutrients and promotes detoxification, while fennel is a cooling, gentle carminative in the gut, helping to soothe and calm the lower digestive tract.  This seedy combination of herbs is relatively energetically neutral (not too cool, not too warm) and is truly ideal for almost all Ayurvedic constitutions to consume during any season. During the summer months, I often make a fresh batch in the morning and let it cool for about an hour before I pack it up in a mason jar and take it along with me for the day. 

This month, I've also been craving more minerals (and I've been so thirsty!!), so I've added in a bit of nettles to my CCF tea batch to quench my mineral lusting thirst and it works like a charm. Nettle is jam packed with nutrients and minerals including magnesium, potassium and tannins along with high amounts of zinc, calcium and chromium. It's a beautiful anti-inflammatory as well and I clearly love this herb like no other because it's been added to so many other monthly steeps I've made this year. 

When I prepare my CCF tea, I almost always use equal parts of all herbs, and I also keep a steady supply of Banyan Botanicals CCF Tea on hand as well. Nettle I'm harvesting locally if it's in season, and otherwise I keep lots on hand from  Mountain Rose Herbs who harvest their nettle domestically in the US. 

CCF Tea + Nettle

1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp Coriander Seeds
1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
1/2 tsp dried Nettle leaf
Serves 1

Mix all ingredients together and add to a tea steeper or to the bottom of a glass container. Cover with 2 cups hot water and let steep 12 minutes. Strain and sip before or after meals to promote healthy digestion, or strain and let cool to pack away with you for the day. 

 

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Developing and tending to our little urban garden has been kind of our homeowner obsession since the day we moved into our 1929 brick four square almost exactly four years ago. We've made barely any structural or major updates to the interior of our house (although we continue to dream of a kitchen big enough that we can both actually cook in it at the same time...), but our backyard garden has been in constant shapeshifting mode since day one. We made space for a large organic garden and two large raised beds immediately after moving in, and this year is the first year we really went all in and landscaped/hardscaped the the bejesus out of it. Greg and I both have undergraduate degrees in landscape design and horticulture (respectively), so we totally know what to do and how to do it...we just had to make a plan that reflected what we both wanted, while allowing each of us some creative flexibility in terms of our tastes. He likes the symmetrical, straight line well tended shade garden. I like the wild and weedy english country garden vibe. 

C'est la vie.  

Above all, we like working together and making new things, especially in the garden. We love gardening. We love eating lots of veggies. We like sharing lots of veggies. We like having a big crazy garden that we can escape to at the end of the day - it's our garden therapy. Gromit also likes chasing rabbits, trying to catch the neighboring honey bees (unsuccessfully) and jamming her face in the open morning squash blossoms. Even in a city, we make time and space for creating a living habitat that nourishes us (and our fur creatures) - body and soul. 

Rainbow chard, grown from seed (our favorite green!!). We purchased almost all of our seeds this year from High Mowing Organic Seeds

Newly planed red cedar raised beds that Greg salvaged from a job and planed in the backyard. They're absolutely beautiful, and red cedar lasts forever. This cozy bed houses our climbing cucumber plants, some squashes & zucchini's. 

     

Let's just give compost a minute to shine while we're here. Our garden would be nothing without good compost, and we devote an unapologetically large amount of time to making sure we've got good stuff going in all the time. We compost almost everything after meals and meal prep (except meats) and even bring home extra compost from the juice bar at Ellwood Thompsons. We dumpster dived a large barrel a year ago, cleaned it out, painted it black and turned it into a rotating composter that just eats compost. It's SO HAPPY. We add to it daily and give it a good spin. Egg shells, greens, fruits, leftovers in the fridge, flowers that are past their prime....we compost almost everything. This years compost will be going in the garden for next year, and so on and so on. I'm a firm believer that how we tend our garden soil is reflective in how we tend to our gut microbiome (and you can read my previous post about that here). 

We tried our hand at laying stone for a walkway from the shade garden into the veggie garden and it turned out pretty freakin' awesome. (Props goes to Greg for most of that task.) We surrounded it with yellow creeping jenny and... purple succulently plants that we can't for the life of us remember their name ...

First rhubarb harvest - pickled and saved for this delicious post!

Spaghetti Squash...April to June

     

Dill & Snap Peas!

Yellow Squash and Rainbow Chard in Late May

     

Beets for days....Beet greens are one of our favorites too! Sautéed up in lots of garlic, olive oil, and extra fresh dill. 

Cucumber hide and seek :)

#myotherhouseisagreenhouse Look at those tomatoes! ALSO - you can't see it but Greg installed an underground irrigation system (!!). There are 5 zones, covering the entire large tomato/beet/blueberry/basil bed (below) and the 2 raised beds for the chard, squashes, cucumbers, zucchini's, and green onions. He was on a roll, and installed an irrigation system for all the potted plants we have on the front porch too (that man literally can't sit still). This may sound like an extravagance (and...it kinda is), but in our case it's a total necessity. We're in Richmond, VA. The mosquitoes have been SO BAD the last 2 years we basically had to abandon our garden mid season because we couldn't stay outside long enough to water it. Never again. 

Gromit has a new food obsession: snap peas. A+ for dog treats. 

Along this side of the garden (deemed "Lindsay's side") will eventually grow up to be the wildflower and herb garden. We have a neighboring bee colony so I wanted to plant loads of pollinator plants to keep the bees extra happy. I packed it with yarrow, sunflowers, echinacea, Russian sage, joe pye weed, bee balm, ornamental sage, Black Eyed Susan's, St. Johns Wort, a new little fig tree and our rhubarb patch. 

And it begins....

Happy Summer Solstice, ya'll. I'll be continually adding organic gardening posts throughout year - if you have questions or things you'd like to learn more about, leave them below and I'll be sure to touch on them in future posts!

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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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