Admittedly, figs are perhaps in my top three favorite fruits of all time. Here in Virginia, August brings a wave of fresh figs, and the fig trees are heavily laden with these juicy and sweet ripe fruits. My family's home in Virginia Beach has about a dozen huge fig trees, and if we're visiting at just the right time, we can snag some baskets and climb up into the shady limbs, dropping one after another into the baskets while snacking on just as many in the process. The harvesting time kind of sneaks up on day they're still a little green and the very next morning the squirrels have literally taken a single bite out of every slightly ripened fig on the tree. We keep a whether eye out, and pick at just the right moment - usually multiple times a week and even sometimes twice a day. As I mentioned in my previous posts, everything feels like it ripens at once in the summer months, so we often have a LOT of these little fruits on hand...not that we're complaining. Figs are absolute heaven on a hot summer day! And - nothing seems to pair more beautifully on a summer table than beautiful, ripe purple figs with Lindsay Emery's signature pink porcelain bowls and dessert plates! 

Get the recipe for my Fig & Ricotta Flatbread with fresh garden herbs on the Suite One Studio Blog --> 

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I've kept my hair long for about 18 years now, with the occasional drastic chop and donation. When I was 12 years old, the movie Practical Magic came out and since the moment I first saw it, Nicole Kidman gave me forever hair goals (and I still to this day am desperate to get her epic layered haircut, but alas, have never found someone who can do it just right). Other than the subtle witchy vibe, keeping my hair long gave me a sense of individuality, of femininity...of inner elfishness like I just stepped out of Lothlorien treehouse heaven. It's my bit of consistent style and whimsey in a totally fleeting fashion-fad absorbed world. My hair grows like a weed, and the upkeep can sometimes feel tedious. A long time ago I committed to only using minimal, botanical based products and the least amount of effort and styling tools possible. Eventually I learned that the less I do to my hair, the better it feels and healthier it stays. Botanical infused hair oils (and good nutrition - more on that here!) are my not so secret allies for maintaining long, strong locks. 

I started using botanical infused hair oils years ago and it was hard to find ones that didn't have sketchy ingredients in them. My long time go-to was Banyan Botanicals Hair Oil and over the past three or four years I've been making and using my own hair oil at least twice a week as I've been growing my hair longer and longer. I also use a lot of hair keeping it inexpensive to make was important. Herbal goodness doesn't just stop with the internal application of teas and tinctures. Herbal and botanical body care items are absolute magic for harnessing the power of herbs topically. This botanical infused hair oil is what I would consider 1/2 of what contributes to long, strong locks. The other half is good nutrition, and I'll cover that in another post. And, obviously, there's the genetic factor (thanks, mom and dad). I slather my hair and massage my scalp with this oil twice a week, sleep with it in overnight, then wash my hair in the morning (and I only wash my hair about twice a week). I let my hair air dry as much as possible and rarely ever use any product in it after I wash it. Humidity, however, is a gross and unrelenting hair adversary. In the summer, I'll give my hair a spritz of sea salt spray or use my aloe sun soothing spray on the ends...but that's about it. Humidity generally always wins. 

Herbs and Hair Health: My go-to herbal allies for hair are Nettle (shocker), rosemary, aloe and coconut + jojoba oil. 

Nettle (Utica dioica) is so nutrient dense, being extremely high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc - dietarily making it one of the most mineral dense plant foods we can consume. Nettle also has a rich content of two fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A and carotenoids (the pre-cursor to vitamin A), and vitamin K. B vitamins are also tucked away in those nutrient dense stinging leaves too. These are all vitamins and minerals we need in the right proportions in our diet to maintain overall health as well (and I'll dive into that later on). When I utilize herbs for hair health, like nettle, I'm using these vitamins and minerals on my scalp and also on the strands to help repair damage, split ends, and soothe the texture of the strands. Nettle supports both the hair follicles and hair strands. Rosemary I use specifically for the circulatory and oxygenation of hair follicles on the scalp - hence the good scalp massage part of the hair oil ritual. 

Aloe I include for it's soothing and repairing quality on hair strands. Have you ever used aloe topically on your skin? Works just as good in your hair too! Aloe is also super nutrient dense with some of the same nutrients that nettle carries and then some. Rich in Vitamins A, C, B12, niacin and folic acid, the inner gel also packs in calcium, magnesium zinc and iron. The fresh gel is so soothing and moistening for dry scalps, infusing the skin with nutrients and is cooling and soothing for itchy or flaky skin and just coats the hair strands in glycoproteins and nutrients. I absolutely love aloe for almost every single body care need, and I keep an aloe plant in my home constantly. 

Finally - the carrier oils. Coconut and Jojoba are my go-to's for hair health. I tend to have dry skin and dry hair, and personally coconut oil is my ideal oil to use topically due to it's high vitamin E content. The medium chain fatty acid content of coconut oil is what makes it so soothing for topical skin and hair health and it seems maintain that moisture for a long time - it's not something you have to continually re-apply and re-apply. Jojoba is an oil I repeatedly use to help balance oil production via the hair follicles. It's also moisture rich but lighter than coconut oil, not clogging pores or follicles and helps to maintain a perfect oil balance on my scalp. There are ton of other beneficial oils you can use on your scalp and in hair oils - these are just my preferred favorites. They're also excellent herbal extractors. Once I chop and fill my jars with the herbal inputs, I completely cover everything with a mix of these two oils and set it in the hot summer sun...

Solar infusions are my preferred way to let herbs infuse in oil, especially during the summer. Herbal oil infusions are SO luxurious and nourishing to use topically (like this calendula infused apricot kernel oil - a longtime favorite of mine!) when given enough time and moderate heat, most herbs extract beautifully in a carrier oil and have a relatively long shelf life. Once I prep my oil, I set it out in the garden for about two weeks and let the summer suns heat permeate through this formula, in a sense also infusing it with the essence of high summer. 

This is my base formula, always consistent and always effective. I sometime like to add various essential oils depending on what I'm feeling in the moment. Options include more rosemary, lavender, cedar, patchouli or, you know, whatever your favorites are. As always, play with it and make it yours. Try using different base oils if these don't quite work for you. Sesame oil, olive oil and argan oils are also excellent to use too. 

Botanical Infused Hair Oil

1 cup dried nettle leaves, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves, finally chopped
2 cups coconut oil
2 cups jojoba oil
1/4 cup aloe gel
essential oils

Chop herbs as fine as possible and add to a large mason jar, Cover completely with the coconut oil and jojoba oil, adding more oil if needed to entirely cover the herbs once it's settled. Scrape the inside of a large aloe leaf to remove all of the gel, between 1/4 - 1/2 cup. You may also use purchased aloe gel, but make sure there are very few added ingredients and no alcohol. Cover with a tight fitted lid and give it a good shake. Let sit in the summer sun for about 3-4 days, shaking daily. After it's solar infused, strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth and squeeze out all of the liquid. Adjust the essential oils to your smell preference after it is infused. Store in a glass jar and use weekly. Massage a generous amount into your scalp for about 2-3 minutes, and coat hair strands completely with the oil from root to tips. Comb through and put your hair in a braid. Sleep overnight with the oil in your hair and then wash as normal in the morning. 

Read more: Nutrition & Herbs for Long Strong Locks / DIY Herbal Hair Serum for Silky Soft Hair

Photography by Renee Byrd

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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 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 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 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 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. 


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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Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.


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