Friday, September 30, 2005

Bayberries, Baltimore, and beads... and bacon

We headed out on a road trip this morning.  Bead show in Baltimore.  I was just along for the ride.  Inner Harbor in Baltimore is a great place to spend a day.  Not that we did that, mind you, but it is a cool place.  Anyhow, we stopped by my super top secret bayberry patch before leaving town.  My sister needed to drop off a soap order there, so we got in touch with the groundskeeper/security who allowed us to harvest over a quart of the little lovelies.  This is a picture of one of the branches AFTER we were tired of picking them.  It is still laden with berries. My friend there (at the super secret site) told me that they'd cut the bushes way back just a few weeks ago.  Just imagine all the berries that went into the chipper!  Sob.
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Then we got on the road.  We didn't get too far before we started to see signs for a Cracker Barrel.  Not long ago we had the opportunity to sample the bacon there, and now we have a new tradition.  We start to drool whenever we see a sign.  That put us back another hour or so.  The 70 or so minute trip to Baltimore was now more like 3 hours.  We would have liked to park off of Rt. 83 and take the light rail into Inner Harbor, but the light rail is being repaired.  Instead, we drove all the way in and found a parking lot that charged a mere $18 for a couple of hours.  The light rail would have cost about $5 for both of us.  Grrrrrrr.  As we got into town we started seeing giant decorated fiberglas crabs.  You may remember that there were the giant mastodons done the same way when we were in Ft. Wayne.  I love this trend!  Maryanne is standing behind one of my favorites - Black, White, and Red All Over.  The body of the crab is covered with those flat glass globs. 
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The one below was just gorgeous.  Shards of sea glass covered the entire thing.  Didn't catch the name of it though.  There were a lot of really cool crabs, but we walked for hours during the bead show and didn't have the strength to take more pictures.  One of my favorites was painted like a blues singer holding a giant harmonica in his claws.
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The bead show was interesting.  They aren't really my thing, but I love looking at the strands of pretty, shiny stuff - lol.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Afternoon Tea Recipes

From the July/August 2005 issue of The Essential Herbal

We received an excerpt from the cookbook:
'Afternoon Tea Recipes from Deer Haven Manor'.
Ruth Ann Swanger
Lavender Rose Tea GardenPurveyors of Fine Teas and Accoutrements

Herbed Cheese Bread

8 ounces self-rising flour
1 teaspoon dry English mustard powder
2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs - or more to taste(chives, thyme, basil, sage, parsley)
4 ounces aged Cheddar cheese, grated
1 ounce butter
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.Grease and flour a loaf pan or pans.Combine all ingredients in the order listed, varying the herbs as desired.Turn dough into the prepared pan.Bake 40 to 50 minutes until the bread is golden brown.Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.Remove the bread from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Herbed Cheese Tartlets

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ice water
1/2 cup butter, chilled
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt

3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Sift flour and salt togetherCut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.Add egg yolk, lemon juice, and water, mixing until just blended.Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly.Wrap dough in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.Grease and flour a tartlet pan.Roll the pastry on a floured surface.Cut with round cookie cutters in a size to fit your tartlet pans.Line each tartlet cup with a circle of dough.Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon of cheese.
Whisk together the egg, milk, salt, and pepper.Combine the herbs and sprinkle over each tartlet.Bake 35 to 40 minutes until pastry is golden and filling is set.Serve warm.

Herbed Cherry Pecan Spread

1 cup dried sour cherries
1 cup water
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Simmer the cherries in the water until the liquid is reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Cool.Combine all ingredients.Refrigerate until serving time.

Herbed Pecans

6 tablespoons olive oil
5 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.Combine olive, seasonings, and nuts, tossing to mix and coat the nuts.Arrange in a single layer in a jelly roll pan.Bake 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.These are great with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

gearing up for the next wave

It's gotten a little crazy around these parts.
The deadline for the color cover pages came and went and we managed to get it into the printer's yesterday. The black and white pages don't need to be in until the first of October, so we've moved on to other things while we wait for that. There are several projects in the works.... I'm not sure how I ever managed to fit a full-time job into this mix!
First there is the series of classes with Sarah on Wednesday nights. Last week the Folk Remedies class was lots of fun, and tomorrow is the soap class. We have a salve class followed by an incense class coming up too.
But that's just the very beginning. The real "meat" is all the other stuff. My sister and I have too many ideas for our own good. We haven't properly indoctrinated our children, so the elves we desperately need have not materialized. We've decided to put in a shop at Frog Hollow Christmas Tree farm for the busy season, there's a shop in a nearby town that we've taken space in (and need to fill), a show or two coming up... oh, and Maryanne's wholesale soap business, which has been relentless lately. And the magazine. And we're kicking around a website idea... There's probably more, but that's all I can stand to think about right now.
Articles have been rolling in for the holiday issue of the magazine, and I'm looking forward to putting it all together next week. This one is usually the most fun do because we get such interesting ideas to spruce up the hearth. Great recipes, traditions, and crafts always seem to find their way in to this issue.... well... all of them, actually :-).
This is an exciting time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Jerusalem Artichoke.. oh, and Whipped Soap

First I'll tell you about today's adventure in soaping.  In order to keep spirits up, we've been playing with some new techniques.  We have no time now, but so what?  Anyhow, we've been reading about whipped soaps, and thought it might be fun.  The fats used for soaping are beaten while they are still solid, and cool lye water is added while it is being mixed.  It starts to peak like egg whites, and then one can add color and fragrance.  We had a pastry bag, and were ready to have fun.  It was our first time, and it wasn't quite what we had in mind.  The blobs that we made came out a flesh tone color.  The shape is somewhat breast-like.  We sprinkled the tops with gold mica.  Oops.  Guess what that looks like...... So now we have a whole bunch of X-rated soaps.  They float, though :-).

On the way home, I passed a gorgeous stand of Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus).  Actually, I'm seeing them everywhere, but these were growing on the other side of a small bridge and easily photographed.  They are about 10 feet tall.  Jerusalem artichoke get their name from the corruption of the French "girosol", meaning sunflower.  The tubers of the plant are a good substitute for potatoes as they contain no starch.  They contain inulin, which may make them valuable to the diabetic diet.
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The tubers can be used in almost any way one might use potatoes, and are available from late September until the ground freezes.  They can sometimes be found in markets, and can be found similar in size to medium potatoes.  Keep an eye out for the big happy plants.  They are blooming now.

Friday, September 16, 2005

same walk, different day

There were a couple more things I snapped while out the other day. Below is the seedhead from the Jack in the Pulpit plants that we saw in the early spring. The seedhead is fairly large, possibly the size of a small lime. Note the leaves on the foreground are violet leaves (to give you some idea of the size). The dark twigs falling away on either side are the stems of the jack in the pulpit leaves.
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When my sister and her husband bought the property years ago, the previous owner told them that he'd planted some ginseng but didn't remember where he'd planted it. The next autumn, the woods were alive with these vibrant red balls and for a moment there.... but no. Looking it up in field guides we were disappointed to find that they were jack.

Another plant that grows prolifically along the so-called path is the Spicebush. Lindera benzoin of the Laurel family. From the Peterson Field Guide: Uses... American Indians used berry tea for coughs, cramps, delayed menses, croup, measels, bark tea for sweating, "blood purifier," colds, rheumatism, anemia. Settlers used berries as an Allspice substitute.
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Medicinally, the berries were used as a carminative for flatulence and colic. The oil from the fruits was applied to bruises and muscles or joints (for chronic rheumatism). Twig tea was popular for colds, fever, worms, gas, and colic. The bark tea was once used to expel worms, for typhoid fevers, and as a diaphoretic for other forms of fevers.

Next week Sarah Campbell and I are giving a class on Folk Remedies. We got together yesterday to plan and decide which plants to discuss. We settled on about 15 - which isn't as easy as it sounds. There are so many plants within 50 feet of almost any doorway that can be used in folk remedies. Never even thought of the spicebush, for example.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

the end of summer approaches

As the sun started to set last night we went for a little stroll to see if it was possible to get through the brush. The main purpose was to see how the bayberry bushes had fared during this bone-dry summer. I found them. Mere dry twigs, they were. The wild ginger and trillium seemed to make it through, but the bushes look like they gave up a while ago.

The entrance to the woods is guarded by this little gazebo, which sits in front of a pond. It looks so pretty engulfed in trumpet vine and sedum. In the summer it is sometimes a-swarm with hummingbirds, and I've sat in the distance with binoculars watching them buzz around drinking nectar. The frogs around the pond were slow and groggy in the cool of the late summer night and we saw dozens of them lazing around the edge of the water.
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It surprised me how much the "jungle" had died back, but the lack of rain was clearly apparent. A small stream runs through the woods, and it was very low. Mosquitos were pretty healthy, so we didn't go too far. I took another picture of the jewelweed in bloom because it was easy to get close to this patch. You can see the touch-me-not pods hanging from the stems along with the blossoms. The woods were full with these orange gems.

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When it was time to leave, we walked out to the shop to turn off the lights and lock up. The shop garden is full of calendula, and all sorts of butterfly drawing flowers like fennel, cleome, bee balm, and sages. It was dark outside, but in the glow of the porch light, this moth was drinking from a bunch of cleome flowers. It is large, about the size of a hummingbird. After allowing several flash shots to be taken, it apparently wanted to get closer to the source of that light and buzzed my head several times.
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With summer failing, its time to start gathering hemlock cones, milkweed pods, and all the seedpods that will become Autumn craft projects. I hope the rose hips make it to frost before withering.

Friday, September 09, 2005

stress relief, hurricane relief

This is a tough time in the U.S. There is an overall feeling of stress, too much news, survivor guilt, and the feeling of needing to do something - yet being overwhelmed by the mountain of need. There are many good herbs that can help us cope with this feeling. One of the first things to try might be relaxing herb tea blends. There are many pre-mixed available in herb shops, grocery stores and even pharmacies. Look for ingredients like chamomile, valerian, passion flower, skullcap, lemon balm, and oat seeds. Stress can also be addressed with herbs like Siberian Ginseng, St. John's Wort, Ashwagandha, and Astragalus. Because stress is so hard on the immune system, be sure to get plenty of rest and consider some Echinacea or Astragalus to stay on top of the stress. A couple tea blends sent for the Blending Herbal Teas book from Gail Faith Edwards of Blessed Maine Herbs

Balance and Well Being Herb Tea - Super nourishing, vitality building. Offers an abundance of calcuim and magnesium, B complex, vitamins E and K, and folic acid. Hormonal balancing, bone building, nerve strengthening, libido enhancing, fertility promoting, and.... great taste. Blend equal parts red clover blossoms, red raspberry leaves, flowering tops of oatstraw and peppermint.

Comfort and Joy Herb Tea - Mystical, magical, highly nourishing, calming, nerve soothing, uplifting to the spirit, hormonal balancing, anti-viral, and immune enhancing. An entirely delightful and delicious brew! Mix equal parts of oatstraw flowering tops and lemon balm leaves. Toss in some St. John's wort flowering tops and sprinkle with rose petals.

I wrote last week that we were ordering Mardi Gras beads for a fund raising idea. They arrived a full week ahead of schedule, and they are really cool. Great colors, and I think they'll fly! In fact my friend Sarah Campbell of Herbs from the Labyrinth has offered to set them up for sale at a festival she is participating in over the weekend. Molly is struggling to get the okay from school officials, since the service clubs at her high school are doing their own thing. Either way, we will get these sold, and if necessary, order more (hope so!!!).
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Just wanted to show you how gorgeous they are. The strands are longer than I expected too - which is a good thing :-). I'm not sure if I mentioned it or not, but the money will be going to the Mennonite Disaster Services in nearby Akron, PA. We chose them because they use 100% of the money for the victims, and they stay after others leave, helping the victims rebuild their lives. They jumped into service before the levees even broke.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

life goes on.... sort of

After many days of watching the news reports of the Gulf Coast, my sweetie and I got away for a couple days at the beach.  We only watched a little bit of the news.  On the second day the hotel where we stayed had a water main break, and there was no potable water for the remainder of our stay.  Fortunately we were leaving early the next morning.  We were on the 26th floor, and you can see the ocean behind me.  I grabbed a couple bottles of water from the ocean to make some soap with.  There was no seaweed, so although that was part of the plan to gather too, I didn't get any of that, but I think we'll be soaping the sea water later today.
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Arriving home, I was gripped with the flu-like illness that seems to be everywhere.  I've spoken with people in places like NY, VA, and IN who have had the same thing.  Its pretty yucky.

The other thing that's happened over the last day or so is that my friend Sarah in Baton Rouge has agreed to accept and distribute soaps and personal items directly into the hands that need them.  There have been several people on the Essential Herbal yahoo list who have requested her address to send their contributions.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Sad Week - Hurricane Love Beads

This past week has left me speechless as I watch in horror the unfolding disaster in the Gulf states. Its hard to imagine that it continues to worsen as the week goes on.
We have a plan here at our house to raise funds to send (we're choosing Mennonite Disaster Services, as they use 100% of the donations for the victims). We thought that Mardi Gras beads would be an appropriate thing to sell. So we went to Oriental Trading Company on-line and ordered a couple gross of them. Molly will take oodles of them to school, and sell them for a dollar per strand, and I'll wear them wherever I go, selling them off my neck.
Hurricane love beads.
Molly and a friend raised money for victims of 9-11 with a lemonade stand. It was so good for her to feel like she could help, and she wanted to do something now. We thought that Mardi Gras beads would be appropriate.
If this is an idea that you'd like to try, feel free to use it.