Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Guest Blogging for Mother Earth Living!

Getting the Bird Ready for the Oven!
I always enjoy the smells of food cooking around the holidays, especially our Thanksgiving turkey.  I went to college near a Nabisco plant and you can imagine my aromatherapy sensors went into high gear when smelling those chocolate cookies with the creamy centers baking.  It was heaven!

My guest blog posts this month for Mother Earth Living give you some ideas to relieve the stress of your holidays with some easy aromatherapy crafts.  The post is called Aromatherapy Crafts for the Holidays, Part 1 and gives you recipes for both a bath bag and a simmering spice potpourri recipe.  Hope you enjoy those ideas.  Also, it gives you links for my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving from earlier posts.  They posted Part 2 tonight as well.  It is called Aromatherapy Crafts for the Holidays, Part 2 which will give you the potpourri recipe that was pictured in an earlier post.  I think it will relieve your stress during the holiday season which seems to be here quicker than ever.  Probably because I'm getting older!   What I should have added to the instructions for the potpourri is this.  You should put it in a glass jar or container and put in the essential oil and fixative and let it cure for about six weeks.  Once you like the fragrance, you could then portion it out to give as gifts or just keep it in the containers and open them to have them fragrance the air as necessary. 

Very cold here.  Dodged the old snow bullet once again.  I know other parts of the country are getting the brunt of this storm.  The Herbal Husband and I hope you have a safe and grateful Thanksgiving!  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Thanksgiving Blooming Cactus!
Just wanted to let you know that since our weather has changed outside in the garden, I'll be coming inside and working in my workspace.  Also I plan to finish some of the trips that I have interrupted because the garden comes first on this blog.  The Herbal Husband arrived back from Peru just in time for the snow!  A day later and he might have had to extend his vacation in Florida.

The blooms on the Christmas cactus have arrived early so it must be Thanksgiving!  The Herbal Husband and I wish you a very safe (It's going to be messy in some parts of the country including here.) and peaceful Thanksgiving day with friends and family.  The Herbal Husband and I met on Thanksgiving 30 years ago and I'm glad we did.  So I think I'll take a bit of time off and will show you what I'm working on next week. 

I shared a couple of Thanksgiving recipes I posted for Mother Earth Living last Thanksgiving for Cream of Carrot and Lovage Soup and Feta-Sage Cornbread with my Facebook friends earlier today.  So if you click on the link above, you will find them as well.  Both very easy to do and delicious.  All of these links are in my upcoming post for Mother Earth Living.  In case the post isn't up until after Thanksgiving,  I'll give you a link for a leftover recipe using turkey for turkey tetrazzini.  And last but not least, here is my mother's cranberry orange relish recipe with rosemary.  I gave it the herbal twist.  I'll put up a link for my latest post when it is posted on Mother Earth Living's blog site.   So I will talk to you next week, until then Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Potpourri (Literally) of Herbal Smells!

The Brown Fig is Still Producing Even in the Garage!

Mixed Up Some Potpourri for My MEL Aromatherapy Post!
The Potpourri Will Be Placed into These Jars and Then the Fixative Will be Added!

Getting Some Lemon Verbena Vanilla Sugar Ready for Gift Giving!

You've got to get my attention these days!  I have forgotten to post!  Sorry about that, but I have been making a mess in my workspace and  it has been fun!  We have a small cottage type house and I have to do my herbal projects everywhere.  Now that The Herbal Husband is coming home,  Monday to be exact,  I was hoping to get a few more herbal items done before chaos ensues.

I had a brown fig with my breakfast fruit this morning.  I have had three since The Herbal Husband has been gone.  Pretty good if I do say so myself.  I mixed up the potpourri yesterday and it may be a couple of weeks until my post is up on the MEL website.  I had to split my post into two parts (I got carried away!) and then the potpourri recipe is in the second part.  So you will just have to wait!  I  dug out some of the lemon verbena vanilla sugar into these cute glass jars.  I think that a couple of you may win some in my upcoming giveaway.  It is that time of year!

So hopefully you are having a great day.  We are warm, rainy and gray here in the 'Burgh!  It's going to be freezing over the weekend.  Talk to you later.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Making Elderberry Syrup!

The Rosemary House Had The Ingredients Ready to Make Elderberry Syrup
Here It is Simmering on the Stove!
Used a Jelly Bag to Strain Out the Berries
Fit Back Into the Original Bottle with Some to Spare!
Don't Forget to Label and Date What You Made!
Well, because The Herbal Husband isn't around at the moment, I got to play in my herbal workspace in the basement yesterday.  It's a perennial mess, but it's fun to play anyway.  Last year about this time, Bonnie, my herbal companion and I went down east to visit the Longwood Gardens at Christmas display and have tea with our good friend, Nancy Reppert at Sweet Remembrances Tearoom.  We also made a stop because it's next door to my other favorite sister, Susanna Reppert Brill's business, The Rosemary House.  Well, Susanna had a jump on the 2013 Herb of the Year, Elderberry.  She had made up a DIY Elderberry Syrup bottle.  I just got mine made, Susanna.   It was so easy and fun to do and now I'll be prepared for any cold or flu symptoms that may appear.

So with Susanna's kind permission, here is her recipe for:

DIY Elderberry Syrup

4 oz. dried elder berry or 1 cup fresh berries
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1/2 t ginger
2 cups water
1 cup local honey

Add ingredients and the honey to the water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Reduce water by one half.  Strain through cheesecloth and press berries to get juice out.  Stores 2-3 months or longer in the fridge.

She writes on the back of the recipe that elderberries have been a folk remedy for a variety of ailments for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.  Elderberries among other great properties have vitamins A and B and a large amount of vitamin C.  Her last sentence says it all, "All flu viruses have trouble with elderberry's blockades.

So if you don't have your own elderberries, their current blog post about elderberry syrup says they have DIY bottles available.   It was very easy to do and you know if I can do, you can do it too.  Be prepared, herbally speaking.

Well, we've got the gray skies back in the 'Burgh and it is cold!  You know the damp and cold kind of day.  Went out to feed the birds and had to go back inside to get my jacket.  Heard the crow cawing.  Didn't see him.  Hopefully by the time The Herbal Husband gets back next week, they will be around.  Crows are such comedians!  I hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Romance of Rosemary!

The Herb Society's (UK) The Romance of Rosemary by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor
Before I forget completely, here is the fourth in a quartet of booklets by The Herb Society (UK) The Romance of Rosemary compiled by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor.  The preface is by Caroline Conran who writes that garlic and rosemary are a great combination because garlic tempers the strong flavor of rosemary.  If I hadn't been making rosemary garlic jelly for several years, and enjoyed the combination, I wouldn't have believed it.  If a room smelled musty, a few branches burned in the fireplace will give the room a sweet fragrance.

It is native to southern Europe, Asia Minor (or Turkey) and along the Mediterranean coasts.  It grows best by the sea and will grow inland and is found in regions of the Sahara.  It has been cultivated in the UK for over 600 years and probably introduced to England by the Romans.

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub with needle shaped leaves.  It has lovely blue, pink or white flowers depending on the variety grown.  The flowers are very attractive to the bees in the herb garden.  Rosemary has a very strong taste and odor of camphor or pine.  Best in very well drained soil and sheltered from the winter winds in England.  Here in the mid-Atlantic region, rosemarys must go indoors to survive, but even then it can be tricky to get them through the winter.  A dry or too wet rosemary is a dead one.

There are three methods of propagation, seed (I wouldn't waste time with this method because it is slow.), cuttings and layering.  "Taking cutting 2 to 4 inches long or cuttings from the half-ripened wood with a "heel" is the quickest form of increase."  Layering is the most fool-proof form.  If you have an older bush with long branches, you can take a branch, scrape a wound on the branch and pin it to the ground and cover the pin with soil and water and wait until it forms roots.  It doesn't say how long this takes in the booklet.  I would say it would be take at least six to eight weeks.  Once rooting has taken place, you can severe the baby rosemary from its mom.

As I noted previously, you must bring in your rosemary if you live in the north and place it on a south, west or east facing window.  If you only have north, you will have to give it an artificial light source as well.  You want it to have great air circulation and if you have forced air heat, you will need to place a bowl of water near by to produce humidity.  I have always found that my rosemarys in containers do bloom easier than ones in the garden.  I think being pot bound or under a bit of stress gives the plant encouragement to bloom.  It is also a very good candidate for bonsai.

Harvest your rosemary when it is in bud or before and not when it is in flower.  It is very easily dried and keeps a very green color even after drying.

The Greeks thought it strengthened the brain and memory.  The Romans used it in their bath houses and as a strewing herb.  One of the many Christian legends is that when Mary was resting during her escape to Egypt, she placed her cloak over a rosemary bush and turned the white flowers to the blue of her cloak.  Rosemary is part of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale in which is was used in a failed attempt to awaken her.  In the language of flowers and herbs, rosemary is for remembrance.

Rosemary was found in herbals as early as the year 1000 and was listed as a remedy for toothache.  Gertrude Jekyll wrote about it that she planted it all over her garden to enjoy the incense of the rosemary everywhere she was.

Rosemary was described in the 15th century as a customary condiment for salted meats.  In 1981 (when this booklet was written) was a "high favorite" in current English cooking.  Rosemary in herbes de Provence were used to flavor olives.  Dipping a branch of rosemary in oil and sweeping it over fish being grilled on the grill was another use.  One good thing about rosemary is that it holds its flavor whether used fresh or dried.  It also says in this booklet that it should never be used uncooked.  The reasoning given is the spikiness of the needle like leaves may get caught in the throat.  It talks about putting them in a bag or having some way to take them out of the dish you are making.  If you chop them up finely or grind them into a powder, you will not have a problem.

As Thanksgiving is near, the one recipe that was in this booklet was for Turkey Souffle.  I think I will give that a go after the Thanksgiving holiday next week and will share it with you if it is a success.

The other use for rosemary is in cosmetics.  In colonial America, it was thought that a rosemary rinse preserved the color in brown and black hair, but also the curl!  Rosemary oil is still used today for both skin and hair products.  There is a recipe for rosemary water which then is used to make an astringent lotion, cold cream and hair tonic. 

So you see rosemary is a very traditional and necessary part of an herb garden and I hope that I have encouraged you to explore more about rosemary and its uses.  Thanks to The Herb Society (UK) for these informative booklets on chives, parsley, mint and rosemary.   Since it is such a rainy and warm day outside and I may not get enough time tomorrow to post this, here it is a bit early.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Still Harvesting!

I Think This is Ready to be Picked!
Isn't It the Cutest?
Gosh, I'm gushing like a parent!  Well, this pepper wasn't going to get bigger and I got worried that it's going to rot, so I picked it.  I'll work it into a recipe somehow or try to keep it in a Chinese food container until The Herbal Husband comes home! 

The weather has improved greatly here.  Going to lunch with another friend today.  Still have leaves to rake and I'll spend the day doing that tomorrow.  Was looking in the back garden and that has stayed relatively good.  Really have gotten into my stride here.  The birds are happy and so are the plants.  All is good.  Hope you are having a great day.  Have a great weekend.  Talk to you next time.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Afternoon Tea at the Frick Cafe!

I had Earl Grey and Bonnie had the Frick Special Blend
The Afternoon Tea Tray
The Desserts
The Scones with English Cream and Jam
The Sandwiches
Well, it can't be all work and no play!  This afternoon my herbal companion, Bonnie and I had afternoon tea at the Frick Cafe.  We have been wanting to do this for several years.  The Herbal Husband took me to tea here a couple of years ago for my birthday and it was delicious then and now.

The desserts were fruit and chocolate dipping sauce, almond biscotti, lemon madelines, coconut cookies and a chocolate cookie for Bonnie.  The scones were cranberry lemon and vanilla and the sandwiches were egg salad, crab salad, chicken salad and beet salad.  Everything was delicious.  The only thing that I would have liked would have been a bit more interesting bread choices for the sandwiches.  The fillings were very good.  I had never had a beet salad on bread and it was different.  I think that is what I love about afternoon tea when chefs think outside the traditional tea tray.

So if you are looking for an afternoon tea spot in the Pittsburgh area, think about the Frick Cafe.  They are open from 11 AM to 5 PM Tuesday through Sunday.  They are closed Mondays.  It was a beautiful sunny day here, but still a bit brisk.  Hopefully, we are going to warm up for a bit over the weekend.  Hope you had a great day.  Talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bye to the Pineapple Sage!

In the bright light of day, the pineapple sage said its goodbyes!  It just couldn't withstand another night below freezing.  We did get a touch more snow but not enough to protect it!  As I said it's OK.  The garden has to come to an end at some point for me.  Now I just have to keep raking the zillions of leaves from my neighbor's tree!  The tree keeps growing and producing leaves and it's huge already!  Yikes!  I will be busy for a while.  We are going above freezing for the next several days and above 60 degrees over the weekend! Hope you had a great day.  Talk to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Just Crazy Wonderful, Herbally Speaking!

The Pineapple Sage Was Laying on the Bench Encased in Snow!
Look At It Now!
It's Still Blooming!
Well, you know I am sometimes too lazy for my own good, but hey in this case, it worked!  I always need a break from the garden.  So I said last night, I'm not going to worry about the pineapple sages.  I have two boxes of jelly.  I'm good.  Here is a link for a marathon of jelly recipes including the pineapple sage jelly.  The pineapple sages defied everything although the one by St. Fiacre is not doing as well as the one by the patio which is still blooming!  It's just crazy wonderful, herbally speaking!  Well, after an exhausting morning getting plants watered and not having an accident (between you and me) and getting outside to check on the plants and getting snow off, I'm just going to relax and get a few things done on the computer.

I'm going to try and post something on the weekdays while The Herbal Husband is gone.  It will just give us a bit of a diary of what happened while he is in Peru.  I was very excited this morning to have a red bellied woodpecker stop by for the peanut frenzy!  His or her call is like a dog barking.  Fun!  We had 2.4 inches officially at the airport.  A record for November 12th!  Stop with those kinds of records, pleeese!  There is a beautiful blue sky, but about 15 degrees colder than yesterday.  Hope you are having a great day!  Talk to you tomorrow!

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Monday Morning Herbal Confessions!

The Lavender Was Drooping.  So I Watered It Too Much!
My Favorite Was Drooping This Morning and It Is Back to Normal!
OK, I just have to laugh about this.  My blogging buddy, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh who writes Backyard Patch Herbal Blog was complementing me on how good the herbs in containers looked in my living room.  Marcy, it is all The Herbal Husband's care that gets them to look this way!  Honestly!  I feel like an herbal fraud talking about them when I usually don't take care of them on a daily basis.  I troubleshoot problems and sometimes too late to fix them.

I think I have said this before, The Herbal Husband and I have two distinct watering styles.  So only one of us can take care of the plants indoors or outdoors.  One thing I have learned in the last several days since he left, you have to look at each plant every day because their needs are different!  After Marcy made her comment to me over the weekend, I went into the living room and noticed that the lavender was drooping.  No problem!  I'll just get the watering can and water it.  Stuck my finger in first and it was dry.  Watered just a bit or so I thought.  Put the watering can back in the kitchen and came back to check and I had a pool of water on the carpeting around the pot!  YIKES!  Got that mess cleaned up and now have my emergency paper towels ready!  These plants are all used to get a little drink every other day or so!  The Herbal Husband tends to overwater and I tend to underwater.

My favorite was drooping this morning and I gave it a drink!  Didn't flood things this time.  The water was all absorbed by the plant.  This lemon verbena is holding all of its leaves and I think I may just give it an herbal cut to reduce its stress.

So I thank you for your herbal praise, but really The Herbal Husband deserves the credit.  I'm just hoping my herbal caregiving will keep things alive while he is gone!  Hope you are having a great day.  Thoughts and prayers are with the people of The Philippines.  Honor to all of our Veterans!  Talk to you later.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Indoor Winter Landscape!

Some Plants Were Moved Up to the Living Room, Mints, Lavender, Green Pepper Basil, Hot Pepper!
Two Prostrate Rosemarys!
My Lemon Window, Lemon Crispum SG, Lemon Meringue SG and Lemon Verbena!
Sorry for the lateness of this post!  The Herbal Husband is on his way to Peru and I have been trying to get on a schedule with all of the things he does for me.  He really loves his birds and so I had to learn how to feed them.  Can't whistle like he does, but he would be pleased to know that the blue jay with the damaged wing came for his peanuts and the cardinals were there at dusk getting their safflower.

We also had to move plants around before he left.  We did donate large tropical plants to the National Aviary and it's a darn good thing we did.  I don't know where all of the plants would have gone if we hadn't! My living room not only has a drafting table in it, but now my herb plants!  We took an old shower curtain and put it on my wooden bench and place the mints on it.  The rest of the herbs have been in the windowsills because they are south and west facing.  Good for herbs in the winter months.  That lemon verbena is looking very good!  The last piece of advice from The Herbal Husband was not to overwater!  That's a laugh, because he usually overwaters and I underwater!  So hopefully, I'll get it correct!  I only have 17 days to get it wrong!  And they are talking snow by midweek!  Yikes!

I'm going to be out raking leaves tomorrow and maybe Sunday get the lemon verbena jelly done.  Then more leaf raking on Monday before the snow comes!  Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I'll talk to you next week!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Not Been Getting Much Done, Herbally Speaking!

My copy of the latest Susan Branch book, A Fine Romance arrived last week and do you think I can get much done besides reading it?  No, not much.  I have lemon verbena jelly waiting to be made, scented geraniums to cut and dry.  You get the idea.  I haven't finished the book yet, but every time I have an extra second, I pick it up and read a bit more.  Sharon Lovejoy, you are very correct that it is right down my pathway!  Gosh from the end flaps in the beginning, she hooks you into a joyful tale of falling in love (years ago) and getting to explore England with the love of her life for two months last year in a 25th anniversary celebration!  Fabulous!  This will be a forever book for me.  One that I will pickup and reread and find something new each time.  I don't think you will be sorry if you want to learn about England or love England as much as The Herbal Husband and I do.

It is giving The Herbal Husband and I thoughts of what to do for our 30th a few years away!  Our 26th is tomorrow.  We are going to our favorite restaurant, Verona Village Inn tonight.  Getting The Herbal Husband ready for his trip to Peru.  Learning how to feed the birds and water the plants!  We have two different styles so I always have to refresh my memory!  One of the last warm days and we are working to tie up our arborvitaes for the winter.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later.