Fabulous Chai recipes you can make yourself

February 16, 2010

Chai Tea Spices

Chai Tea Spices (courtesy of Herb Companion)

I love chai tea, as many of you already know. I am also a bit partial to Herb Companion, a fun herby magazine that is always a welcome arrival in my post box. It’s trustworthy in terms of information and sources, and I’m honored to be an occasional guest blogger, something I wish I had time to do more often! In any case, I’m often tempted to share bits and pieces from Herb Companion with you, and their January edition was no edition. In these cold winter months, there is nothing more pleasurable than lovely Chai Tea blends. Check out Herb Companion’s recipes for various chai blends below, including one that uses Holy Basil, my personal herb choice for 2010. There may be some surprises in the recipes below, depending on the regional variations of Chai. Kashmiri chai, for instance, includes blanched almonds and saffron, something you certainly won’t get at Starbucks. Traditional Chai Teas almost always involve simmering the tea & spices in both water and milk, producing a nourishing wintertime beverage that is as warming to the soul as it is to the tummy.

My Chai (Yogi) Tea

My Chai (Yogi) Tea

RECIPES:

Black Chai Tea

Green Chai Tea

Tulsi (Holy Basil) Chai Tea


Herbal Remedies Tip #6 – Herbal Mouthwash for Healthy Gums

November 17, 2009

Blue bottles for storing mouthwash I’m kind of on a roll here with natural mouth care, so why stop now? Personally, I prefer not to use alcohol-based mouth washes that permeate the market and either make my own, or use ‘more natural’ mouthwashes such as those made by Tom’s of Maine. Happily however, recipes abound for making your own mouthwashes. You can use witch hazel in mouth wash blends too, but try to obtain the natural witch hazel distillate rather than commercial witch hazel made with ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

In the recipe below, peppermint and anise seed freshen breath.  Myrrh tincture/extract helps strengthen the gums, and is also antiseptic and also mildly preservative.  The tincture/extract may be made with grain alcohol (but a very small amount in the recipe) or vinegar.

 

Recipe #1:

1 cup boiling water
2 tsp dried peppermint
1 tsp anise seed
1/2 tsp myrrh tincture

Pour the boiling water over the peppermint and anise seed. Cover and steep until cool. Strain and add the myrrh. Store the mouthwash in a bottle and shake before using. This will keep for a week or so if stored in the refrigerator.

 

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

Recipe #2:

  This recipe avoids even an alcohol extract in favor of sage-infused vinegar. To infuse, simply fill a small jar with sage, fill with warmed apple cider vinegar, and allow to steep for 2-6 weeks. Alternatively, you could heat-infuse the herb in a non-metal (non-reactive pot) and allow to infuse (so that vapors are coming off of the vinegar), covered, for 30 min-1 hour.  Again, try to btain the natural witch hazel distillate rather than commercial witch hazel made with ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

1 cup witch hazel distillate
1/2 tsp sage-infused vinegar
1 tsp peppermint
1 tsp spearmint

Recipe #3:

1 cup water
1 tsp vegetable glycerin
1 tsp aloe vera juice (ingestible!)
6 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix the ingredients together and store in a covered container, using within a few days. Peppermint essential oil helps fight odor-causing bacteria, and aloe soothes gums

REF: Laurel Vukovic


Winter Spirit…The Gift Guide

November 13, 2009
GrassHopper from Grazim's Shop on etsy

"Grasshopper" by Grazim

 

The autumn already seems to be ebbing away, though there are still a few wee tomatoes on my urban-dwelling vines. Still, many of autumn’s bright and colored leaves have fallen. Though I don’t usually create a treasury of beloved handcrafteds for this most herby of blogs, I was perusing through etsy favorites and felt inspired to share these lovelies with my dear readers. You may not want to spend that much on a chandelier, but you must admit….it is amazing! And if that is out of your price range, you might invest in a wee felted grasshopper, such as this one created by Grazim, and etsy shop located somewhere in Europe, and also the home of the sweetest felted slippers you’ve ever seen. 

Peaceful afternoon dress by SarahSeven on etsy

"Peaceful Afternoon" by SarahSeven

 

The Peaceful Afternoon dress, and other poetic creations, can be found in sarahseven‘s etsy shop. One must pay for luminous handmade creations, but would we artisans have it any other way? 

"Safe Keeping" by The Haunted Hollow Tree on etsy

"Safe Keeping" by The Haunted Hollow Tree

 

There are many beguiling images by The Haunted Hollow Tree etsy endeavor, but this one demands a frame and prized wall space at my humble abode. 

"mutant bunny" mask by Alma Pottery

"Mutant Bunny" by Alma Pottery

 

Alma Pottery claims to have art + attitude in the shop’s clever creations. I think this absolutely bizarre-fairytale-meets-the-surreal Mutant Bunny mask certainly fulfills the claim. I love it! 

"Cherry Root Chandelier" by Fiko Arts

"Cherry Root Chandelier" by Fiko Arts

 

Well, this is that (albeit *slightly pricy*) chandelier by Fiko Art I was talking about. I wish I lived in a house that could handle it! Maybe a converted one-room schoolhouse? Well, you’d need some lofty ceilings for this magical centerpiece. Take note of the absolutely amazing details, including the carving. This is an absolute work of art, and probably museum quality as well. 

Raven Terrarium by Doodlebirdie on etsy

"Raven Terrarium" by Doodlebirdie

 

I find terrariums absolutely enchanting, I have to say. I recently made a few without reading any directions as to the actual process (duh) and needless to say they didn’t work out that well. The keys are 1) not letting the moss touch the glass (fog), and 2) using charcoal to absorb moisture and also making sure there is some rocks at the bottom for a bit better ‘drainage’. Next time I’ll get it right! But in the meantime, check out Doodle Birdie for some lovely creations. 

Branch necklace by After Winter on etsy

"Branch" by After Winter

 

Ok, so let me send a subtle message into the ether. *I want this necklace for Christmas* Too bad my husband doesn’t read my blog! Alas. But still, this has been a favorite since it first appeared on the scene, at least a year ago. After Winter’s proprietress makes these absolutely amazing molded pieces using nature + pure sterling silver to create the most gorgeous pieces of adornment. These are heirlooms. 

"Tire Swings" baby booties by Wooly Baby on etsy

"Tire Swings" by Wooly Baby

 

I absolutely adore the vintage look to these handmade wool baby boots, complete with leather sole for those new walkers. I mean, I either have to buy these for some random baby I come across, or I need to have a new baby so I can shod its feet in these grey woolies. Either way – these booties must be worn by a baby that I know. Thank you Wooly Baby. Thank you for subtley pressuring me to have another baby so I can pay another $12,000 a year in child care costs. 

"Tree Sisters" by Sarah Ogren on etsy

"Tree Sisters" by Sarah Ogren

 

Is this a save the best for last moment? I’m not sure, but I can say, from one Sarah to another, Sarah Ogren is one of my absolute favorite etsy sellers. I do often wear a necklace creation, not unlike this amazing image, but I adore all of her animal headed Victorian creations equally, and someday soon, I want one for my walls (or at least my three year old daughter’s bedroom, where it would be most precious). Hint, Hint. 

You know, most etsy officianados like the lovely Scoutie Girl blog (thank you, Tara Gentile) create things called ‘Gift Guides’. Even etsy has its own Gift Guides to help overwhelmed and confused shoppers. I create Give-me-this Guides, apparently. I’m laughing out loud here because I’m not serious (but kinda am). I will say this. Nobody needs to buy me the Chandelier or the $500 frock, but…my three year old, Maeve, could try her hand at making a terrarium perhaps? Daddy? What’dya say?


Want to know more about Natural Insect Repellents?

July 9, 2009

eucalyptus_citriodoraHappily, there are lots of natural repellents in the form of essential, or volitile, oils derived from many aromatic botanicals. Essential oils are used in very small amounts when mixed with neutral carrier oils such as sweet almond or grapeseed oils. Other repellent oils, such as Neem and Karanja, are cold pressed oils that can be used directly as insecticides and/or repellents when mixed in a formula, such as a lotion or salve.

Essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, eucalyptus globulus, lemongrass, lavender, pennyroyal (do NOT use if pregnant), citronella, mints, thyme, sage, and rosemary are all useful repellents, and these can be used in dried herb sachets tied to ankles and wrists (perhaps spiked with a few essential oils).  My prefernce, however, is to use the pure and very potent essential oils (try just a few drops at a time) in water-based spray solutions, oils, and/or balms. Such preparations utilizing repellent essential oils need to be re-applied more frequently than chemical deterants (such as Deet), but I would much rather surround myself with a cloud of essential oil-scented solution every hour or two than apply a chemical that poses health risks, especially when it comes to children. (It’s pretty incredible to me, actually, that something with potentially harmful neurological effects would appear in bug sprays made specifically for children!) For infants, try to stick to a solution with extra gentle essential oils such as lavender, perhaps with a tiny bit of spearmint or rosemary.

Try the recipe below for your own insect repellent oil spray. This will last for a long time, as water based formulas are always more susceptible to problems than oils. Vitamin E and Rosemary Oil extract are anti-oxidants that help protect the oil against rancidity.

porta_bidet_250DIY (oil based) Insect Repellent Spray
1. measure 30 drops of any of the above e.o.s
2. add to 2 oz. carrier oil, such as olive, grapeseed, or sweet almond
3. add a few drops Rosemary Oil Extract or vit E (optional)
4. Store in 2 oz. spritzer bottle

Neem (Azadirachta indica) is an Ayurvedic herb well known for its insecticidal effects, mostly by targeting the reproductive system of pesky wee critters. Unlike the volitile essential oils used in the herbs above, neem oil is a coldpressed oil derived from the pressed kernals of the neem fruit. Snowdrift farm features insecticidal recipes for a salve, lotion, and massage oil using Neem & Karanja oils for treating mange and mites in pets.

There’s a fascinating folk remedy called “vinegar of the four thieves” that I’ve recently come across. It is tied to a story about perfumers during the Black Plague who utilzed the antiseptic properties of several herbs to create a protective infused vinegar. Using wormwood, lavender, rosemary, mint, and sage, one can create an infusion that can then be sprayed on cutting boards, diaper pails, or anywhere else that some anti-septic, and insect repellent action is necessary. It can also be applied to clothing and exposed skin, it is supposed to be effective against chiggers, ticks, and fleas.

DIY Infused Vinegar:
1. Measure 1 oz of dried herbs, including lavender, wormwood (or rue), sage, rosemary, and mint
2. Put herbs in a mason jar and cover with cider vinegar
3. Steep 1-6 weeks in a cool, dark place
4. Strain into a spritzer bottle and use liberally wherever an anti-septic or insect repellent is needed.
(This will keep indefinately, as vinegar is a natural preservative)

Herbs of wormwood and garlic also have insecticidal properties, and these herbs can be used even as protection for house or garden plants. The spray below is easy to make and the materials are cheap, though I’ve never tried it. You can try subsituting beeswax for the paraffin and see how that works (and let me know how it goes!).

DIY Houseplant insecticide using Garlic:
1. chop 90g raw garlic
2. soak in 2 Tbsp paraffin oil for 24 hrs
3. slowly add 600ml water with 7g soap dissolved in it.
4. Stir well and strain through cheesecloth or muslin.
5. Store it in a glass container (do not use a metal).

Have some home remedies or recipes? Let me know about them so I can share them with my readers!

bug_bite_soother_250FYI: My own Lilith’s Apothecary “Shoo Bug!” Insect Repellent and cooling peppermint Bug Bite Soother can be found in my etsy shop!


Living a more ‘green’ existance? My top five favorite strategies

May 28, 2009
Globigerina_wondercabinet_PhillyTeam
Wonder Cabinet’s Globigerina

Wonder Cabinet

It seems that living a ‘greener’ life can actually be a very subjective process, as individuals make specific choices for lifestyle habits, eco-passions, or environmental issues that he or she considers most pressing. I realize that my choices are just as biased to my own subjective views and particular soapboxes, or so-called ‘green’ priorities.

1. Support local.
There are myriad benefits to supporting local movements and businesses. For one, you are investing in your own local economy, which adds to revitalization of the area in which you live, builds community, and provides numerous long-term perks. Second, you are decreasing the use of energy to transport items long distances. Third, you are making choices to support items p1oduced by individuals who earn a living wage for what they do. And fourth, you are considering your choices more carefully, whether that be a hand screen-printed organic cotton t-shirt, or local produce. I am lucky to have Greensgrow Farms  right here in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, and Greensgrow is a stellar example of an amazing local endeavor gone right.  The farm was actually built on a superfund site, using hydroponic agriculture and raised beds, and it is thriving as it directly supports, and is supported by, its local community, with a spring nursery, a CSA program, a regular farm stand full of all kinds of local produce, mik, dairy, eggs, meats, and hand-crafted goodies like arugula pesto and the most amazing smokey eggplant dip imagineable.

2. Cloth Diapering.
I know that there have been studies ‘demonstrating’ that the use of energy and water to wash cloth diapers negates its environmental benefit. But I’m sorry. There are plenty of studies that show that water use is wholly dependent on where you live (and I live in the most flood-prone state in the union) and in my opinion, untreated human waste, wrapped in plastic, sitting in a landfill for the next thousand years (trash in landfills don’t really decompose very quickly, to say the least) is simply not the same as using a bit more water and energy. It’s not equal! Check out an earlier post about greener breastfeeding support.

3.  Kitchen Gardens
I live in the middle of a working class, urban neighborhood in Philadelphia, I have a fantastic organic farm minutes away from me (right in the middle of the city), as described above, but I have no community garden in site. Community gardens are a fantastic investment of time and energy, and if I didn’t have so much on my plate, I might try to mobilize the formation of on. However, despite my absence of actual ‘land’ (we have what they call a “pavement” around here), I manage to grow quite a bit through the use of pots, trellises, and window boxes. Nearly everything in my garden is either a food or an herb, so that I can maximize the space rather than growing annuals that might not help feed the family. I just wish I could do more! Though I am an herbalist, that doesn’t mean I’m a gardener, and I am definitely learning more with every growing season, especially with a handy subscription to Organic Gardening. Someday I’ll have a ‘real’ plant-things-in-the-ground garden.

4. Keep your own Chickens
I had to put this in here because I think this is a brilliant move; many individuals are engaging in raising their own chickens, which is awesome! Fresh, organic eggs in your own yard; lovely fat chickens when needed; and certainly, a smaller population of pests such as ticks, a favored snacks of our poultry friends.  This is a fantasy for me at the moment, but again, someday when I have my own yard, perhaps!

Mushrooms_Pigeonsintheattic

Pigeons in the Attic's Toppled Mushrooms

 Pigeons in the Attic

5.  Composting, urban or rural
There is just no excuse for not composting this day and age, no matter where you live. I am a hypocrite here, because I have really wanted to figure out a good system for urban composting that is going to work for me and my family with extremely limited space. However, I have heard that many Montrealers have this down, and I have no doubt that there are resources out there for figuring out a good system. There is simply no excuse for throwing away kitchen scraps, tea and coffee waste, and especially herbal matter when one could be turning it all into garden GOLD!

Extra!  Recycle, upcycle, downcycle, whatever
I love the many artisans out there who upcycle sweaters, vintage clothing, leather, plastic–you name it–in order to create incredibly useful, beautiful hand-crafted pieces. I’ve purchased leg warmers upcycled from cashmere sleeves, notebook cases from recycled herringbone fabric, and other items with this focus on re-purposing goods that would otherwise go to waste, languish in thrift stores, or end up in the trash. I was walking outside one night and it happened to be ‘trash night’, when I happened across a pile of so-called trash left out for the trucks. Full art boxes filled with sponge stamps, paints, brushes, markers, and other crafty items intended for children! I was shocked that anyone would throw this out rather than even trying to take it to the thrift store, but Americans are notoriously wasteful. We would do better to learn from our European cousins or even our Canadian sisters and brothers to the North: even the plastic wrapper from a tea bag can be recycled. Do it! (and pay no mind to this hilarious blog post that pokes a little fun at those who prefer to recycle.) Just as an FYI: there’s a new on-line venue, Cosa Verde, that tries to bring together many of these artisans with ‘green’ practices.

Girls can tell moleskin

Girlscantell crafted moleskin

So tell me, what are your favored strategies for Greener Living? Comment below so that I and my readers can benefit from all that creativity and originality out there!

A Crowd Ready to Rally: Crafters in Lean Economic Times

May 20, 2009

There’s no question that the impact of the ecomomy has affected all of us, not least crafters who depend on a loyal customer base, local craft events, and on-line venues such as Etsy and Artfire to sell our products. After hearing about a local Doylestown bath & body business closing its doors, I wanted to explore the impact the economy is having on businesses like my own.  I wanted to share with my readers, especially all of you working on a business that is based on your own handmade items, my recent blog post with just that subject.

Please do check out my latest blog post for Tara Gentile at the amazing blog, Handmade in PA. Tara works night and day to bring the stories, products, and promotion of Pennsylvania crafters to the fore. She’s been such an awesome support and I’ve been having great fun writing for her blog.

puddleLimited Edition Art Print – Puddle Jumper by Robert David Bretz (Girard, PA)


Featured Seller for April – All Natural Baby & New Mama Care – Baby O’Really

April 20, 2009
When I became pregnant with my wee Maeve (now 2 1/2 yrs old), I was excited to research the natural, organic products available to support as sustainable and ‘green’ a pregancy, labor, and delivery as possible. The herbal support and natural baby care products were already at my fingertips, but baby slings, nursing pads, non-disposable baby wipes, and other cloth products were still yet to be discovered.

Baby O’Really contacted me a while ago about providing her with samples of my Mama’s Milk lactation tea and then later for samples of my lavender-scented Tender Baby Bum Balm to include with her orders of sweet felt baby hair clips and cloth nursing pads, available in a wide array of wonderful patterns.  I immediately wanted to trade for one of her hairclips, which are incredibly well made and just equsitely precious. I also thought it was absolutely wonderful that she would include samples from a variety of sellers with all of her sales. There is nothing more delightful than getting a free sample or two with a new order, and trial sizes often lead to full sizes when someone is given the opportunity to fall in love with a handmade product.
As an example of green living and sustainable products for pregnancy, baby, and postpartum/breastfeeding support, I am delighted to feature Baby O’Really for the month of April.  Baby O’Really’s proprietress, Amber, is a wealth of helpful information and green advice, and even writes about the downsides of using bamboo cloth in her Etsy shop profile. She’s full of innovation and has a great sense of style and craft, more of which you can discover at her blog.  Amber lives with her husband, 4 year old son, and 2 year old daughter in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon, and they are happily awaiting the birth of another daughter in August. Here’s the story of Baby O’Really, as told in Amber’s own words:
“I started making cloth nursing pads in March of 2007, my daughter was a few months old. I remember staring at the box of disposable pads, really not wanting to have to use another one ever again! The shifting in the bra, sticky plastic…. and all the waste! I had probably gone through 4 or 5 massive boxes already and my baby was only 3 months old. It isn’t much fun having to buy things you hate to use. I decided to try my hand at making my own, out of fabric I had at the house and I was so very glad I did! It was so soothing to use cloth instead of the scratchy paper and plastic pads. Even the little things can make a huge difference.

I had also found Etsy in March of 2007 quite by accident, while looking for a wool felt supplier. I began selling my little felt hairclips there and had success. I was hooked! After realizing what a demand there was for natural, reusable, products I listed my first set of nursing pads. I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy nursing pads with cute fabric print… plain white seemed to be the normal thing. But I liked them and they were easy to find in the wash! So I went with it. And I sold the first set the same day I listed them. And then another 20 sets in those last few days of June! I am so happy to be providing moms with something pretty and comfortable. Like I said, it’s the little things that make a difference. AFter almost 2 years, and over 1400 sets later, I can officially state that nursing pads are a major part of my life. My children refer to them as “mommy’s circles”, and my husband very patiently tolerates my sewing messes, and thinks the whole idea is pretty amusing. Felt hairclips will always have a soft spot in my heart, and I add them to my shop from time to time, but nursing pads have become my business! My only regret is not discovering the wonderful world of cloth pads while nursing my firstborn!”

Thank you, Amber! I am happy to have a source for those well-loved cloth nursing pads, the likes of which I, too, was happy to use while breastfeeding. No more yucky disposables necessary now that we’ve found the gem that is Baby O’Really!
If there are other eco-conscious sellers of babywear, baby support gear, such as slings, or pregnancy & postpartum products you’d like to share with me and your fellow readers, please do comment below!

Featured Seller – Motley Mutton

March 12, 2009

il_430xn_51570827 This is a blog about the world of herbs, botanical medicine, natural skin care, and related ingredients, is it not? Well, it’s also about green living. What does that mean, though? When I think about “green living” i am usually thinking about it from the urban standpoint of making eco-friendly choices, recycling, upcylcing, choosing sustainable practices, but just wait until you read about the etsy artisan below and the truly Green (note, capital G) life that she lives. Not only is she giving back to the earth and providing for her community by having a market garden and participating in community 4H via her children, but she is giving back to humanity by caring for so many children and by fostering new little lives at her wonderful homestead in West Virginia.

I was immediately drawn to the amazing felt craft of etsy artisan Nancy Bevins, proprietor of Motley Mutton fom the first moment I saw one of her creations. In fact, I sometimes go to her shop just for a bit of respite when I want to see some exquisitely crafted little felty animals, swinging on swings. How does she do it? I wondered. They are so skillfully created. I love to create and learn how to do new things, but sometimes I feel that it’s nice to just see what people can do with a material that is still a total mystery to me.

il_155x125_47203414 Nancy Bevins lives on a farm in West Virginia. She moved from California and with her family and built a house on an old abandoned farm. With four grown children, four more adopted from foster care and two additioanl foster children, needless to say, things have to be pretty busy in the Bevins household!  The family homeschools, raises sheep, chickens, and has large garden which enables them to sell at the local farmer’s market. The whole family pitches in and shares in the profits.

In respect to her craft, Nancy tells me, “After first moving here, we tried raising a few different animals, but then my children began raising sheep for 4H. We began using the wool for various things, but then discovered felting. Our wool isn’t the greatest, not the best for spinning, not really soft and silky, so this has been a good fit for our farm. It definately helps pay the bills, and justifies having so many “pets” around the place!

“I began selling on Ebay, but then discovered Etsy and started a regular shop there. I still sell on Ebay once in a while, and once a month I offer larger pieces at the PFATT Marketplace (Pfattmarketplace.com). I’m not crazy about custom pieces because I have so many ideas for things I’d like to make, and every time I accept custom orders I have to neglect my Etsy shop. There’s just never enough time for everything!”

il_430xn_52781977 You really ought to check out Motley Mutton …be inspired!


DIY Movement

February 5, 2009

For those of us getting nervous is this economic downturn, there’s more of a push than ever to engage in DIY projects..and DIY education! The blogosphere is a place that is offering more and more of this information and advice. Even trade professionals like electricians are offering DIY technical help via phone or web for those who would rather not expend the money to hire someone to come in their house. Do-it-Yourself!

As part of my G R E E N L I V I N G category, I’m going to start offering more DIY recipes and advice for natural body care, using materials that are often readily available, in order to cut down on some of our most costly products: bath, beauty, and personal items.

I’ll also link you to others who are offereing DIY instructions for making personal care or baby products that will save you loads of money and be better for the Earth in the long run!


Cloud Mist collaboration ~ artist Jan Blencowe

January 16, 2009

I often struggle a bit with a new tea label ~ be that tea a black, red, green, or herbal blend (and yes, I know, i know, technically herbal teas are not tea at all, but rather ‘infusions’). My new Cloud Mist (yun wu) green tea blend features jasmine blossoms and dried lotus petals and is quite a beautiful tea blend, meditative, and lightly floral.

In poking about the net, I found artist Jan Blencowe, and her lovely painting Cloud Mist (www.jenblencowe.com). I wrote her to ask her about using her painting on my label if I provided her website and name. She was more than willing, and dreamt up an idea to collaborate with a local tea shop in her area: Tea Savy, and perhaps have an art showing with her paintings and my teas! It’s such a great idea, I do hope it happens. Thanks Jan!


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