Thursday, February 28, 2008

Work vs. Play

I can't believe it's been 10 days since I've blogged! Me! The pushy broad who shoves and nudges to get my friends active on their blogs, has stumbled.
The past couple of weeks have been a blur. We finished (and by "we", I mean a whole crew of workmen, installation people, and my siblings) the downstairs quarters for my brother and got him 95% moved. There's still a pick-up truck load at his old place, but there's no rush for that. Curtains are on the windows, cable is working, waterbed filled and warmed, and the refrigerator got here this morning.
Somewhere in there, my computer started failing to recognize the card reader that handles photos. It's still messed up, so unless I plop a random shot here for no apparent reason, there will be no pictures in this post.
Oh! How about a sunflower? We could all use a shot of summer.
Wonder of wonders, I was able to move The Essential Herbal site and cart with no visible hair loss from my scalp. In between these things and watching over my brother, we've also started some serious work on the next book, scheduled several speaking engagements, handled soap and magazine orders, and squeezed in a radio talk show. So it's been a little wild. No downtime in the near future either, with the next deadline 2 weeks away.
My sister and I were chatting the other day (while unpacking boxes, of course) about running home businesses or any small business, putting our thoughts together for a future speech. The appearance is that there is all the time in the world to putter around and get things done. I know that people think that those working from home put in an hour or two a day and spend the rest of their time eating bon-bons while wearing fluffy slippers. Perhaps that is true of some, but it couldn't be further from the truth here.
The interesting thing is that the workday begins the moment we get up, and sometimes doesn't end until the head hits the pillow. Now it IS true that we are both doing what we love, sometimes while still in our jammies, and that makes a huge difference. It is sometimes difficult to find the line between work and play because much of what we do for a living we would also be doing for fun if we held "regular" jobs.
When I stopped working outside and decided it was time to work fulltime on the magazine, the idea was that I could spend much more time on marketing. It has become a joke around here lately, as my brother fails to see that any time spent on the computer can be considered work. He keeps telling my sister that I don't get things done because I'm "playing on the computer".
So I've been thinking a lot lately about where the line is between work and play ... if there needs to be a line ... and if maybe the lack of said line is what we are all striving for. In a few short weeks, I'll be tumbling down the hill, into the woods to look for the plants sprouting under the leaves left from Autumn. No matter what I did for a living, I'd be doing that. There would still be afternoons spent writing articles, we'd still love making soap (and a zillion other things), and we'd still be letting hobbies sweep us into the realm of small business. It's just what we do. We're hard-wired for it.
I remember the motto, I think from the Armed Forces, "It's the hardest work you'll ever love." For most of my friends who are running their own businesses, that seems to be true. So are we working? Or are we playing? Guess we'll just keep doing it - whatever it is.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Essential Herbal - March/April 2008

We've got another great issue into the mail. The March/April 2008 issue of The Essential Herbal is winging its way to subscribers and shops. For this issue, we focused on how well our gardens can help to sustain us and our families. We talked about different ideas for reusing and recycling, how to get more out of the growing experience, and lots of little things that can make a big difference - both in quality of life and in saving money!
We have some really wonderful articles and recipes. Cheese, soap, foods, dyeing, staying healthy in winter... it's right here. We also have an fascinating interview with John Gallagher from
The table of contents:
*“Back to the Land” Word Find Puzzle
*Field Notes, Tina Sams
*Herbal Cheesemaking, Betsy May
*Soup’s On, Susan Evans
*Tina Interviews John Gallagher of
*Suburban Herbie, Completely Free Outdoor Fun for Kids, Geri Burgert
*Herbs for Winter Health, Cindy Jones
*Never Enough Thyme, Quit Buggin’ Me! Susanna Reppert
*Silk & Onion Skins, Maggie Howe
*Down on the Farm, Back to the Root of it All, Michele Brown and Pat Stewart
*List Article – Conservation at Home and in the Garden
*Southridge Treasures, Growing a Salad Garden, Mary Ellen Wilcox
*The Soap Pot, Calendula Soaps, Alicia Grosso
*Herbalism at the Core of our Soul, Kristena Roder
*Making Potpourri, Patricia Myers
*Noni Juice (Morinda Citrifolia), Bruno Lopes
*From Deep Within the Core, The Lift of Lemon, Laura Daniel
*Louisiana Lagniappe, Rose Petal Pound Cake, Sarah Liberta

If you aren't a subscriber, get on over to the website and put in your order so you don't miss out on any more issues of this incredible magazine!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lime Shortbread Cookies

Last week, a "patrol" of us - Sarah, Kara, Maryanne, Roe, and I - went to visit the Int'l Gift Show in NYC. It was great fun, and we saw lots of wonderful new products and got some great ideas. We even ordered some things for our various businesses (which would be the point...).
In one section, they were selling an array of gourmet foods. Aisles and aisles of booths, with samples set forth to tempt us into purchasing. Since we don't do anything with gourmet foods, we breezed through pretty quickly. A couple of the trays did catch our eyes though, and one in particular - Key Lime Shortbread cookies - was worth a nibble to me. They were delicious!
When I got home, I decided to try them for myself. Using google, I found this recipe. There are many choices for recipes, but this one seems to be the one they are all based upon.

It isn't exactly the same as what I tried in the city. Those were small nuggets, tossed in confectioner's sugar. These are small disks, glazed with a zippy blast of lime. Still wonderful, though.
I changed the recipe slightly. Instead of key limes, I used regular limes. I also added about 3 drops of lime essential oil to the batter, after reading a review elsewhere that said the lime flavor wasn't very strong.
For the glaze, I doubled the amount of lime juice.
They are darling little cookies that pack a lot of flavor. I sent a batch off in the mail to my embattled tax guy in the frozen north, and saved a couple dozen for the hungry horde here at the house.
One more tip - ever since I first used parchment for baking cookies, I wouldn't go without again. These cookies in particular need parchment. They are so light that you don't want to risk breaking them with a spatula, and with the parchment they slide right off.
I'm thinking that they would be great with just a couple of teaspoons of minced, fresh spearmint mixed into the batter. Maybe we'll try that in the summer.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roses ... The Queen of Flowers

With Valentine's Day coming up, the subject of roses is on our minds. This article was originally printed in the Mar/Apr '03 issue of The Essential Herbal magazine.....

Maggie Savory-Posselius
Sappho, the Greek poet, designated the rose (Rosa spp.) as the “Queen of Flowers” for its glorious gold stamens surrounded by delicate petals. For centuries, roses have been associated with love. Romans designated the rose as the symbol for Venus, the Love Goddess. Cupid gave Harpocrates, the God of Silence, a rose so that his mother’s loves might be kept secrets. Romans also used roses, woven in garland crowns, to be worn by brides and grooms. Even today, it is still believed by many that a rose picked on Midsummer’s Night Eve and placed between a woman’s breasts, while she sleeps will bring images of her true love in her dreams.
The first garden roses (referred to as Heirloom Roses) chronicled were the Gallicas, Rosa x alba, the damask rose, the musk rose, and R. centifolia (the cabbage rose). These roses were found in the gardens of monasteries, at the base of the Tower of London, and in most formal gardens of monarchs. For today’s gardener and herbalist, heirloom roses hold distinction among other ornamentals and herbs.
Whether the R. rubiginosa, the sweet briar rose, often found welcoming visitors into a garden where it graces arbors or fences at the garden’s entrance, or the Damask Rose, used as the focal point or defining the garden with its eight foot canes, roses will add beauty and fragrance to your garden.
Heirloom roses are relatively easy to grow. Unlike their modern counterparts, heirlooms are not susceptible to common rose diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew. Heirlooms bloom once a season, but the season can extend up to two months. And unlike many modern cultivars, heirloom roses have retained the true scent of roses, an aromatic blend of “classic rose”, nasturtium, violet, apple, lemon, clove, and tea. With little care, heirloom roses will flourish in a sunny garden. A slightly acidic, well-drained and fertile soil will allow your roses to give you years of enjoyment.
Medicinally, rose petals and flowers are used as a tea for sore throats and are ingredients in many cold syrups. Roses have antidepressant, antiseptic, antiviral, and antispasmodic qualities. Rose hips are rich in Vitamin C and are valuable as a “booster” during cold and flu season. Vitamin C is highest in concentration in fresh rose hips and decreases as the hips are dried. Perhaps harvesting fresh rose hips and immediately freezing them or making a tincture will help to preserve the Vitamin C level.
Roses and rose hips can be used as an infusion, tincture, syrup, gargle, and mouthwash. As an application for skin care, roses have been respected for their aromatic qualities. Lotions and creams made with roses are an effective application for aging, dry, or inflamed skin. Combined with Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), a lotion made with rose water will help relieve vaginal itching.
Rose essential oil (Rosa damascene) has been used as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. A few drops added to bath water can help ease depression due to grief and for treatment of insomnia. Pure rose essential oil can be costly, as it takes 60,000 petals to make one ounce of essential oil, but it is worth the expense.
Rose Hip Seed oil (Rosa mosqueta) promotes tissue regeneration and is an excellent oil for reducing wrinkles and scarring. It has proven to be an effective treatment for UV damaged skin and for skin injured during radiation treatment. Rose Hip Seed oil contains high levels of linolenic acid and beta carotene, both of which are soothing and restorative.
Whether in your garden, in your medicine cabinet, or your lotions and potions, roses can bring beauty to your life. By scent, visual appearance, or taste, roses have been proven through time to be indispensable in our lives.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Why so quiet, you ask?

It seems a little quiet around here, doesn't it? Could that be for lack of activity? Are we hibernating? Nah, nothing like that...

On Monday several of us gathered at the Int'l Gift Show in NYC. Sarah and Kara from Herbs of the Labyrinth and Radiance rode up with us on the train, and we met Rosanne from Sun Rose Aromatics there. It was lots of fun to see all the new lines being rolled out, and the Extracts show was running at the same time. We spent our time in Extracts and Hand Made. It was a wonderful change of pace! Got to see new packaging, new colors, and new products. We came away with a ton of ideas!

The Mar/Apr issue arrived and is being prepped for mailing. Another issue with 4 extra pages. Now I *know* that the title Editor should mean that I could get this thing down to the promised 32 pages each issue, and we even considered dividing the one featured article over two issues, but it just pains me to take any of the good stuff out. Besides, there's lots of advertising to make up for and we had the highest subscription and renewal rate ever (by a good bit!) between issues. Maybe we should all get a little reward for that.

Also, we're working on a new book. One of two in a series, to be exact. It is taking a lot of time, but it is going to be so worth it! The idea has been stewing for a while, and I thought it would be good - until getting started. Now I'm so excited about it I could bust! Still, we're keeping it under our hat just a little longer.

Additionally, we're getting close to the completion date on the renovation on the house, and that means getting things tied up at my brother's old house, cleaning, packing... you all know the drill. Not fun, but everything seems to be on a timetable.

By the way, while the southern part of the country was struggling with horrendous storms, we had some peculiar weather of our own.

During the afternoon, a rare February thunderstorm rolled in. Sitting in the living room, I watched the storm roll and over the house. Out the front windows, a huge double rainbow appeared, and I was able to see both the beginning and the end. The second bow isn't visible in this shot.

Later that night a severe storm appeared out of nowhere. I caught the thunderhead as it approached. 10 minutes later it was daylight again.