Friday, November 27, 2015

Mors Please! My Cranberry Mors Experiment

By Molly Sams

On the commune yesterday we were able to come together for an absolutely wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving. There was stuffing, mashed potatoes, and of course (for the vegetarians) some of the best stuffed shells this world has ever seen. My mother and my aunt are the ones who have been creating the dishes for the feast since the dawn of my time (and well before that). They have always crafted delicious and simple recipes that are just perfect for our family.

This year I decided to try a new addition to the feast by bringing an all-natural nonalcoholic drink I found in Wild Drinks by Emily Han. While reading through the book I fell in love with one recipe in particular. Cranberry Mors is a bright red import from Russia, tart and refreshing hot or cold. Easy to make and incredibly tasty.

First you have to clean the cranberries and boil them until they crack, then mash them, and finally add honey and lemon to the mix. Wait until room temperature, strain, and chill. It only took me about a half hour to make two batches and I even added a little ginger to it for some extra zing.

Now I was aware that it would not be wildly popular before presenting it. My family is mostly a water and coffee drinking family and my cousin was sufficiently unimpressed when I said it did not contain booze. But some of us drank it and enjoyed it, and I was happy I got to bring something different to the table. I am not as experienced or as knowledgeable as my mother and aunt in the kitchen but I am lucky enough to have a supportive family that will always encourage me to try new and wild. Just one more thing to be thankful for.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han: A Review

Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han: A Review
 by Molly Sams

As I’ve been studying herbalism it’s been surprising to see men and woman my age falling in love with things like kombucha and kefir. While these are things that still make my spine shudder a little – still not having gotten over my pre-school fears from watching my mother and aunt brewing them - I’m glad to see recipes for shrubs, switchels, and oxymels have made a delicious comeback.

But these drinks are not just something you pay almost $10 for at a fancy gardening expo or vegan café, Han has made recipes for these tasty concoctions that are simple and easily customizable for anyone with possible diet restrictions.

Many of you have made plenty of fortified wines and tasty vinegars, and I’m sure others could use some introduction courses. Han explains what each drink is and a bit of history on it before elaborating on different tastes and recipes. She also explains the importance of cleanliness when making your drinks.

One example was kefir. I had no idea that when you are making multiple batches they must be several feet away from each other or even in different rooms so they do not cross contaminate. Depending on the recipe you may also want to avoid using glass containers. For sodas they may burst under pressure from all the bubbles, plastic is often best to avoid any messes or glass shards in your kitchen.
I was happy to learn from Han’s example and not from mopping my kitchen three times.

Switchels, Shrubs, Squashes, and More!
Han has both classic recipes and modern ones she has created on her own. A few of them are old favorites while others I cannot wait to try this holiday season.

Cranberry Mors looks like a perfect nonalcoholic drink for Thanksgiving this year. Mors, as Han says, was first published in a Russian Homemaking book. To make cranberry Mors you mix cranberry with water, mash, and then add lemon juice and honey. Chilled or hot with mulling spices can be a perfect beverage.

Han also has the perfect recipe for when you’re not feeling too hot. A fire cider Hot Toddy is perfect to add some heat to your toddy when you have a cold or flu. By combining hot water, liquor, fire cider and honey together you can have a comforting beverage that can warm you up and tuck you into bed so you wake up feeling refreshed and nourished.

Ginger Bug Soda Starter
Mixing fresh ginger, sugar and water you can make the perfect carbonation for homemade tasty sodas by mixing these ingredients in a plastic pint glass covered with a cloth and secured with a rubber band.

These descriptions are not exact recipes for the beverages discussed. To get more precise recipes you can buy the book from her website.

While there are plenty of wonderful ideas for beverages on the Internet (Heavens, just look at our Pinterest) this book gives you plenty of valuable tidbits of advice that cannot be found on any board, pin, or link. The love and experience Han put into Wild Drinks and Cocktails gives her reader’s the confidence and know-how to create truly unique recipes and duplicate classics to find ways to make them perfect for their friends and family. So go forth and mix!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fire Cider T-shirts with a Surprise

They'll be done soon.
It took longer than we'd hoped, but it will be worth it.  Carey Jung's gorgeous artwork ready to wear!
All Fire Cider shirts that have been or will be ordered before they arrive at our door will be shipped out with a gift in exchange for your patience.
It will be something like a bar of soap or a notepad.  Maybe some incense.
AND 10% of the purchase price goes to so there's another little gift from your purchase.  Order HERE
They'll make great gifts too.
While you're there, you might want to check out some of the other great things we have available, like...
Our logo t-shirts...


Gorgeous glass balls...

and all kinds of our books, soaps, teas, incense, bath and body, and remedies. 
Visit our website for a little stroll through our shop and get some of your shopping done ahead of the rush.  Orders over $100 ship free, too!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Aromatherapy Pendants

I've been wanting to make these so that I could add photos to this post, but that's not going to happen right now.
If you have a craft store nearby, it is possible to get air-drying clay that comes in either terra cotta or white.  The clay is great for aromatherapy jewelry because it will absorb drops of the oil and last for a good long time.
This leaf is rougher than you'd want for a pendant, but will give you an idea of what we're talking about:

You could make any kind of beads or pendants, depending on what you'd like to make.  You can find really interesting molds with the clays at the craft store, or in the candy making section.

 Another cool way to use this clay is in a potpourri blend.  We always collect seashells, beach glass, and pebbles whenever we visit the beach.  It is beautiful, but there is nothing porous to hold and fix a scent.  For something like this, I'd choose the white clay and either use small clam shells as molds, or make small plaques that would allow me to carve words into them, like "beach", "breathe", "wish", or any words that might be meaningful to you or a recipient of this type of gift.

I found some pendants we made several years ago using this clay...

Here are some examples.

I also have been playing around with this paper based clay, but am not finding it to be as workable for this application -

Thursday, November 12, 2015

T-shirts, blood clots, and scans - Oh My!!!

Well this has been a week.  At least that's what they tell me.  Once again, I get to be a warning for others.  This seems to be the true reason for my existence.
First let me tell you about the t-shirts. 

Order HERE

I put these on sale about a week ago.  10% of the sale price ($21) goes to On Monday morning, the local t-shirt printer CHANGED THEIR MIND and said that the employee who quoted and accepted the job didn't know enough about it.  I don't even know enough swear words to say how I feel about that.  They did give me another possible source, and I was able to swiftly rescue the project although their required minimum is much higher.  Get your shirt today!

So let's talk a little about blood clots and the lungs.
I feel very lucky to be sitting here writing.
A little over a week ago, I got up from writing, and felt a very sharp pain at the top of my thigh.  So sharp in fact, that I considered the possibility of a broken hip and needed to use a cane for a couple days.  *Naturally* I decided to wait a few days to see if it would resolve before calling a doctor.  Because I'm an idiot.  It did not occur to me that it was my femoral artery until much later.

It did resolve.  About that time, I became short of breath.  At the time, I made no connection between the two things.  Over the next few days, that intensified until Saturday I found myself in the middle of the grocery store wondering if I'd make it to the car (or to the end of the aisle).

At home, I looked up walking pneumonia (seated in my usual cross-legged position in front of the computer), but there was no fever.  Other than the inability to catch my breath after any exertion at all, I felt fine.  I made a super concentrated lung syrup, and took it often.  Nada.  Sunday we had a 2 year old over for the day, and I promised my family that I would call the doctor in the morning.  Cooking dinner meant many, many breaks of sitting to catch my breath.
I really figured that my life-long battle with tobacco had caught up with me.  I have quit many times, and fallen off the wagon just as many times.  It can be a very difficult thing.  I no longer smoke, but there were a lot of years...  In a lot of ways, the dread of what would be found kept me from making an appointment earlier.

The doctor got me right in on Monday, and so began the blood-letting and scanning and testing.  They eventually sent me home with an inhaler, but a few hours later called to let me know that the blood test results showed a high likelihood of a blood clot in the lung, and a CAT scan was scheduled for a few hours later.  From that moment on, life was no longer in my control for a few days.

I will spare you all the details, but there were clots in both lungs.  What stands out for me is 3 days on a clear liquid diet (that nobody could really give a reason for), an alarm on the bed, so they knew if I got up, and learning that it is possible to fall asleep during an MRI (I am very claustrophobic) with enough sedation.  Chicken broth for breakfast.  Seriously.  And lunch.  And dinner.  Blood tests every few hours to get the blood thinner just right.  It could have been a horrible experience, but A) everyone was kind and gentle and B) I was alive. 
This could just as easily have resulted in sudden death or a stroke.

Can you see how many different ways I was an idiot?  How many times I decided to "wait and see" instead of seeing a doctor (or calling an ambulance!!!)

Now here's my point in writing this...
We are ALL spending a lot of time on the computer these days.  We forget to take breaks.  One of the doctors told me that stretching the calves with "toes toward the nose" - sort of the opposite of pointing the toes - releases a natural blood thinner, and doing that simple exercise 100 times a day is all the typical person would need.

If you have a sharp, debilitating pain, see a doctor.
If you suddenly find yourself short of breath, see a doctor.
To my herbie friends... you can't fix everything with herbs.

I'm going to be fine.  If one person reads this, retains it, and makes that call, it will have been well worth the time spent writing it.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Herbal Sachets

Herbal Sachets
by Molly Sams
(Inspired by Tina Sams's Lavender Cat in By The Hearth p. 121)

Step One: Find some funky fabric and make a bag.
You can make other shapes like a heart, star, or kitty depending on what you or the recipient would like. I picked a basic bag pattern because I'm not the most talented seamstress.

Step Two: Pick the herbs for the sachet.
I picked chamomile, pink rose petals, and a bit of lavender. I've found in terms of lavender a little goes a long way.  These three herbs smell nice together.  In a drawer or closet, it will keep clothing smelling fresh, with the added benefit from the lavender being a great moth repellent.  Kept by the bedside, it would be relaxing.

Step Three: Put the herbs in the bag.  A canning funnel can be very helpful.

Step Four: Fold the ends in to the top of the bag and sew it shut.
Be sure to give the herbs some space in the bag to move and breath. This will help it stay fragrant longer.

Step Five: Make it pretty!

Optional: Add a few drops of an essential oil to enhance the scent.
Many other fragrant herbs can be used, depending on purpose.  

To make these as tree ornaments or gift tie-ons, use a fine organza fabric so that the herbs are visible, and sew a ribbon loop into one of the seams so that you have a hanger.  Pre-made organza bags with draw-sting tops are available from many outlets, too.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Cleaning with Rosemary (House)

Cleaning with Rosemary (House)
Molly Sams

As you all know I have been interning at The Rosemary House for quite some time. There are many a perk to working with Susanna every Wednesday. One of my favorites is being able to help her review classes before she actually gives the class. Last week the class was all natural cleaning products. While I knew a few things, Susanna (as usual) showed me there was so much more to the subject than orange oil and a prayer.

My personal favorite was the soft scrub she created. As someone who has lived in many a college dorm room and a cookie factory in Brooklyn (that’s not an exaggeration), you have no clue how thrilled I was to find out a soft scrub existed that didn’t reek of chemicals and burn my hands. By mixing hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and castile soap I was able to make my shower sparkle, my toilet bowl shine, my kitchen sink look new, and even give my refrigerator a facelift. This stuff was nothing short of amazing and I’ll be sure to always have some in my home from now on.

Susanna’s favorite was another concoction I would have never guessed would work as well as it did. Mixing distilled water, white vinegar, castile soap, and a bit of essential oil,  Susanna was able to make a wonderful all purpose cleaner that made my bathroom and kitchen floor shine.

There were plenty of tidbits throughout the class that I was happy to learn. Hydrogen peroxide is apparently a Godsend that can clean the grout in your kitchen and bathroom floors, and can even clean your reusable grocery bags from smelly odors or gunk left from fruits and veggies. By using a spray bottle you can spritz the inside of the grocery bag, which will eliminate the odor and you can wipe away the mess after the hydrogen peroxide has had a few minutes to do its work.

Working with my mother, aunt, and at The Rosemary House reminds me there is always something new to learn about herbalism and living naturally. I’m shocked by the fact that if you look, there are ways to be more natural in every facet of your life if they are not already there. So do yourself a favor and take a class, try a new recipe, or just drink a different tea. Learning more about herbs even in small ways can expand your knowledge of plants and life in general. If you’re as lucky as me it can also make your house smell great, too!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Creativity, Fear, and Making Mistakes

For the last week or so, there has been an underlying theme that seems to be popping up in the books I'm reading, the things I'm seeing on TV, and even casual conversations.  It's always interesting to take note when things come up again and again.  This theme is about what risk is involved in creativity, and how important it is to make mistakes along the way.

It can be scary to let your creativity out to share it with the world.  A "conversation" I reluctantly engaged in on the magazine's Facebook page this morning is a perfect illustration...
I shared something and included an opinion.
Out of nowhere, someone I wouldn't know from Adam pops up and starts making bizarre accusations and statements.  Eventually, she just had to be kicked to the curb, because it was of no value to anyone.
Of course that was chump change compared to the terror of releasing a new book, or a new issue of the magazine.  Still, I suppose there's some kind of lesson in there.  Somewhere.  I've been trying for years to understand the motivation behind that kind of thing.
Now I've been around for a loooong time.  If you remember the early days of internet with flame wars and shocking personal attacks, you know we all got our skin thickened if we wanted to play with the big kids.
But here's the thing.  I have made mistakes.  In the past (and surely in the future) it happens, and on those occasions I'm not afraid to take my licks.  It makes no sense to expend energy defending an invalid point or incorrect information.  Everybody makes mistakes.
What I've been getting from the theme of late, is that in order to grow, create, or stretch to that next great thing, we all have to take risks.  For some of us, it might be a public post, while for others it is putting out our artwork, our writing, our inventions... our ideas.  It's the only way.  You have to take that risk, and trust that it will work OR that the mistake won't kill you.
Now I wish that weren't the case.  I wish there weren't always people lurking around just waiting for someone to give them an opportunity to attack, but it seems to be some kind of aberration of human nature.
But don't let them get you. 
Know that there will be mistakes.  There must be mistakes.  Nothing can be learned without a few wrong turns along the way.
Understand that you will be afraid.  Let the fear guide, but not control.  Everyone is afraid.  It isn't easier for other people, they just do it anyway.
Another aspect (that doesn't really fit in here, but I think it's got some heft) is that often the more limited we are, the better our creativity is.  I'm rolling that thought around.  Thinking about the piece of art on my wall made from a scraped 55 gal oil drum lid, or hobo art, prison art, and things where people who had nothing created wonderful work.
Let your creative self out to play.  There isn't an artist, writer, actor, or inventor who hasn't been critiqued.  Perhaps the internet has made it harder for creatives, because now you have two choices - share your work and be a sitting duck, or never let your light shine.
In this ever-changing world, it's more important than ever to go ahead and shine.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Review: Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding

Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding by Demetria Clark
A Review by Molly Sams

Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding is a wonderful addition to your baby book collection.  Demetria Clark is a midwife as well as an aromatherapist and works with mothers to create safe and useful aromatherapy options and herbal remedies.

What I truly enjoyed about this book is that Clark is incredibly knowledgeable and still understands the importance of basics. She walks you through why aromatherapy and herbalism can be advantageous and then helps you create your own remedies. This way you create blends, teas, and crafts that are safe and beneficial.

Clark also explains basics of aromatherapy before delving into recipes or blends in the book. While to some this may seem like a review, for new mothers learning about aromatherapy for the first time this is vital. She explains why some essential oils can be harmful and how. Though some seemed clear to me others were surprising. I appreciated that she explained differences in notes, diffusers, and even created lists for safe and unsafe herbs depending on how far along you were in pregnancy or post partum. Clark also discusses why ingesting essential oils and applying them undiluted or “neat” can be harmful for you and your child.

While the book focuses on aromatherapy it emphasizes the importance of basic herbalism as well. Clark gives several (delicious) recipes for soups, teas, and other remedies that may help you unwind after a stressful day or prepare for labor. She also gives recipes for important postpartum remedies such as poultices and sitz baths. Clark strives to find gentle herbs that will help prepare the body for birth and postpartum.

While I have never been pregnant I feel as though I have a better idea of how I could work through a future pregnancy and help other loved ones who become pregnant as well after reading this book. I also have a newfound interest in essential oils. I suggest anyone who wants to learn about herbal remedies for pregnancy and use of essential oils, this is a wonderful introduction for doing so.

Suggested reading: