Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I think I made baked oatmeal

by Molly Sams

So lately my mom has been making these amazing muffins that are chock full of oatmeal, fruit, and plenty of healthy yummy goodness to start your day. I love having one of these when I stop by the hill (as well as the rest of her food) and I decided to try to make them myself.

So the first thing I realized was that I lacked a muffin tin. I thought, "well I could go out to the grocery store, spend money, and come home only to still need to bake or I could improvise!" So I did. I got my purple pyrex casserole dish out, plenty covered it in butter and got to mixing the ingredients.

My new A Team

First I mixed the dry stuff:

3 c oatmeal
1 c brown sugar, packed
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 T ground cinnamon
1/4 c dried cherries
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/2 c dried blueberries

Then the not-so-dry:

2 eggs
1/2 c olive oil
1 banana
1 1/2 c milk
2 T vanilla extract

Slimy yet satisfying.

After that I poured the soupy mix into the casserole dish. Preheated the oven to 350 Fahrenheit and let it bake for about 45 minutes (give or take time to sample.)

(Insert angel choir singing in the background here)

And holy shizsnacks, gang! I love it! I stress you properly mix the wet stuff separately and be sure to mash the banana to a pulp but seriously - it was so moist and delicious I had to try a bite right away. It was best mixed with a splash of milk and I cannot wait to try it with coffee on the side tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mini-magazines - Still have some to share...

We only have one more issue before we'll start working on the third 5 year compilation (!!!), and you know what that means?  That means we'll need space for about 100 cases of books, and we need to clear these mini magazines out in the next few months.

Did you know that we send out these 16 pg miniature magazines FREE to herb and garden gatherings, conferences, shops, and businesses willing to share them? It's true! You can even staple your business card, or affix a label with your info to it and make it a little gift. Just send us the quantity you need, when you need it, and your mailing address, and we'll get them on the way.  Due to shipping costs, this is offered in the U.S. only.

They are popular, and well-received.  Lots of good information.

Recipes, ideas, and how-tos, using medicinal, gardening, culinary, and crafting herbs, just like the full-sized magazine that we put out every 2 months. 
Just drop us a line at


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The *real* reason RadioShack closed...

Before I begin, there were quirks about my mom that, while they drove me to distraction while she was alive, now make me smile and shake my head.  They are pure Mom.  We've tried for decades to figure out why, to no avail.  During all those episodes of "Get Smart" where we gathered around and laughed at the goofy gadgets, there was no way of knowing how enamored she was.
When Mom died, RadioShack wasn't far behind her.

Mom LOVED gadgets.  When Ma Bell no longer held the monopoly of telephones, and suddenly the market was flooded with all sorts of phones for the first time ever, Mom wanted them.  All of them.  For a while there, we were a little worried about her.  We were just about grown at that point, and after decades of poverty, she was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Apparently, a variety of telephones were a requirement for getting to that light.
Next on her quest were tiny televisions.  I kind of forget what the new technology was that introduced this aberration, but she adored them, and probably purchased 6 or 7 of them.  Each one a tiny bit closer to her dream.
 I'm the opposite.  The fewer gadgets, the better.  I see them as just another thing that can break or go wrong.  But let me share some of the gifts that Mom gave me over the years.  I was cleaning out a set of drawers last weekend.  None of these are less than 15 years old.

 This one is actually in use and not from the drawer.  This phone with the giant numbers (not to mention the emergency buttons!) hangs in the kitchen.  That way, anyone who visits and enters through that door knows right away that I am clearly older than I look!  It allows me to maintain my skill at untangling the curly cord.  Most of the people listed on the headset are dead, and if they are alive they have long ago gone with cell phones.  We don't mess with relics around here.  On the other hand, when the power goes out, this phone always works.  It is not dependent on electricity in any way.  Made by RadioShack.

 When Molly was little, Mom worried all the time about her being scooped up and stolen.  She found the perfect solution with these personal radios!  As you can see, they were never removed from the packaging.  I wasn't sure that a 4 year old would be responsible with such a tool, and gave serious consideration to my own panic should she leave it under the trees beside the creek and go visit her friend Jill next door - with me screaming like a mad woman, "Molly!  Where are you?  Over!!!"  We decided instead to go with the family yell that had and has worked for over 50 years.  WOOoooOOOOooooOOOOoooo!  Works every time.

 When we had our shop(s) I was going in a lot of different directions.  Mother to a pre-schooler, co-owning shops, TONS of public speaking, weekly classes, and a part-time job made it hard for me to keep things straight and sometimes I'd have great ideas that I couldn't remember longer than 15 minutes.  Mom got me this microcassette recorder so that it would be easier to stay on track.  Problem is, you have to remember to have it with you and USE it.  However, I do have a recording of a 3 year old Molly laughing her head off.  That's all, but it's worth a fortune.

This last one is the most amazing of all.  It's a vacuum cleaner!  I put the pen in the picture for scale.  I was shocked to find that it still runs.  Heaven only knows how old that battery is, and it started right up.  Unfortunately, although you can kind of feel air movement that might technically be referred to as suction, there is nothing that is lightweight enough for this thing to actually pick up.  Still, it's an amazing (if useless) object.

Now upstairs, there is a walk in closet that needs my attention.  Molly and I jokingly call this house the "Repository of Dead Relatives."  When Mom originally moved here, she brought along some of her own mother's belongings, since she had recently died. Then Mom's things were here.  Later, my brother lived here with me while terminally ill, so his belongings were here too.  Molly and I have chewed through many, many of the things that were everywhere, but there is still more to do.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll share the "best of" from the walk in closet.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sept/Oct '16 issue - The Essential Herbal

If you've been hanging around with us for a while, you know that the new issues always go up on the 15th.  This year, we've had a few go up early as we run out of the previous issue.  We have about 3 of the Jul/Aug issue, and we need to keep a few here - so we're moving on to the next one!  We're pretty happy about that, because running out of an issue is GREAT!  If you're just finding out about us, come on over to and subscribe.  But you know... don't wait TOO long.

I expect the same thing to happen with the issue that's just mailed out on the 10th.  It's a beaut, and you are going to love it.  First, the cover is simply amazing.  Carey just continues to provide us with beautiful art, and these colors are like jewels.  The twinkling eyes ...

Then there is the content.  Just a whole lot of beautiful stuff.  A perfect blend of medicinal, culinary, and crafting, there is (as always) something for everyone.

Field Notes from the Editor
Life on the Hill
Elderberry, Dr. JoAnn Quattrone
How many ways can you love elderberries?
Seeds & Stars - A Healing Path, Susan Hess
The seasons and rhythms of herbs are part of us.
Pumpkin Spice Soap, Janet Gutierrez
Make this luscious fall soap!
How About Hops? Rebekah Bailey
You aren’t going to believe what she’s been doing with hops.
Make Ahead Holiday Libations, Rita Richardson
Mmmm… 5 deliciously different recipes to get started on right now.
Vive la Stinking Rose, Marci Tsohonis
How to select varieties, grow, harvest, and store garlic with a bonus recipe.
Redeeming Ragweed, Kristine Brown
Can ragweed find redemption? Is it looking? The answer lies within these pages.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Jackie Johnson
Foods can help or hurt. Learn how to eat for less inflammation.  Some inspiring recipes included.
Fall Memories of Country Pickles, Debra Sturdevant
Mom’s Icicle Pickles
Horsetail: Plants as Old as Time, Molly Sams
Why have we used this plant for so long, in so many ways?

Distilling Herbs, Tina Sams
Ever wonder how essential oils are made?
“Strange” Soups, Maryanne Schwartz
A couple delicious, warming soups to welcome the cold weather.
Compost Tea, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Nourish those plants with a drink.
Bay Leaf Wreath, Susanna Reppert-Brill
A fun project for holiday home decor.

Need to subscribe or renew? 

Friday, August 05, 2016

Fall '16 Classes at TEH Listed!

 We've gotten the class list pulled together and put up on the website for this coming fall.  There are a lot of different types of classes, but they all promise to be fun and full of information.
Each class will be held on a Saturday afternoon from 1 - 3 in the classroom around back at The Essential Herbal.
Pre-registration through the website is required.  If we don't have enough participation for a class on the Thursday prior to the class, we will cancel it.  Charges are not processed until the day of the class.

Enough of the business details!  Check out this list.  Between Maryanne, Molly and me, we've got a lot to share with you and it promises to be interesting and lively.  Come join us, and if you know someone who might also enjoy the classes - please share this post with them.

You can sign up here:
Healing Vinegars - Aug 20, 2016
In this class, we'll make both Fire Cider and 4 Thieves Vinegar, and talk about the ingredients and why they do what they do! Attendees will take 4 ounces of each along home with them, and the recipes and know-how to make a lot more for the winter.
Price:       $25.00

Make Incense - Aug 27, 2016
Learn to make loose incense blends to burn on charcoal blocks, as well as incense cones, using resins, fragrant wood, and herbs. We haven't taught this one in a long time - so this will be fun. Attendees should bring along a shallow box (like a shoebox) to transport the cones they'll be making back home. Recipes and instructions to take home too.
Price:       $25.00

Preserving Herbs - Sept 3, 2016
There are many different ways to keep herbs in good condition and we'll talk about a lot of them in this class. Dried blends, frozen in oil, steeped in alcohol or vinegar - there are a LOT of ways! How long do they last? How can their actions be preserved to last longer? What plants don't dry well? We'll answer your questions. Hand-outs.
Price:       $20.00

Herbs for Stress - Sept 10, 2016
Learning to help our bodies handle stress positively is one of the best things we can do to remain happy and healthy. There are many herbs (and foods) that can make this easier and in many cases they can be a simple addition to meals or teas. We'll talk about them! Recipes and samples go home with attendees. If anyone wants a passionflower vine, you can dig one at this time.
Price:    $25.00

Herbs for Winter Health - Sept 17, 2016
We'll talk about 10 or 12 herbs that will help keep your household healthier over the winter. Additionally we'll demonstrate and taste/sample many different ways to add them to your foods and drinks to incorporate them seamlessly. Handouts, recipes, and samples go home with attendees.
Price:       $25.00

Balms and Salves - Sept 24, 2016
Wouldn't you love to be able to make your own salves from the plants in your garden? Lipbalm for the long winter ahead? We'll show you all the ropes and teach you ways to fearlessly journey into the world of making these fabulous skin soothing medicines. Samples and recipes go home with attendees.
Price:       $25.00

Herbal Scrubs for Smooth Winter Skin - Oct 8, 2016
Learn how to make high-end spa worthy scrubs for yourself and for gifts. We'll make several different styles so that you can see the difference and take home samples to try. Lots of recipes.
Price:       $20.00

Blending Herbal Teas - Oct 15, 2016
Both Tina and Molly took to blending teas like ducks to water. Once you start putting plant materials together, it just becomes more and more fun. Learn which plants add sweetness, tartness, and depth. Then we'll talk about blending for specific purposes - like immunity, stuffiness, allergies, or better rest. Everyone will make a tea blend of their own. Handouts and sample.
Price:       $25.00

Syrups, Drops, and Elixirs - Oct 29, 2016
Now is the time to prepare for the upcoming winter, although all of these things are useful year-round. We'll make elderberry syrup, cough drops, and an elixir to keep happy and healthy in the winter. Attendees will take along all recipes (as well as additional hand-outs) and samples of everything we make.
Price:       $30.00

Distillation - Nov 5, 2016
Have you ever wondered exactly how essential oils are made? We'll step outside and harvest Concolor fir, load up the still, and distill it. While that is happening, we'll discuss the safe and responsible use of essential oils, and a little standard information. We'll talk about the uses and benefits of hydrosols. Hand-outs will include "recipes" for aromatherapy blends, and each attendee will take along some of the hydrosol we distill that day, bringing the holiday scent indoors.
Price:       $20.00

Herbal Gifts for the Holidays - Nov 12, 2016
We'll work on a lot of different items - sachets, potpourris, and tub teas for starters - and you'll take away the know-how to make all kinds of hostess gifts, small keepsakes, and thoughtful, useful delights (as well as a bit of what we make). Great hand-out with recipes, instructions, and even more ideas.
Price:       $25.00

I hope we get to see you!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

August '16 Specials

Every year, we feel like we are sprinting through our days, just trying to cover the basics and get everything done.  August hits and we get the Sept/Oct issue (you're going to LOVE it!) off to the printer, and ... suddenly there's a soft hush.  We have a little time to catch our breath.

We try to come up with some kind of special every year.  This is what we're offering until the end of August.

All of the downloadables at 40% off!
That's a great deal, and is some darn good reading until the next issue comes out.
For the books:
For the back issues:

Enter the words dog days in the promo code upon check out and be sure to use a good email address so that you'll get the download codes.  Thanks!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Dried St John's Wort

Ever since the mid-90's when 60 Minutes did their report on St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), the way we use it has been scrutinized.  At the time it was easily available dried in teas and capsules.  There were also tinctures, but at least where we are, tinctures were not well known, understood, or used.   At the time, all the talk was about standardized capsules, and hypericin was the single component that was sought after.
Beautifully dried St John's wort.  It started blooming when we didn't have time to do anything other than gather it.  Now we have time to work with the fresh flowers, but we got to wondering about how it would work in different mediums - like oil and alcohol.
  Most of what we'd learned before (and after) that point was that plants are more than the sum of their parts.  The best way I've ever heard it explained comes from Daniel Gagnon of Herbs, Etc., who during a talk at a conference explained that - paraphrasing here - we should view plants as a symphony, and that all of the instruments play an important part to create the full sound.  We have barely scratched the surface in learning the components contained in plants and how they work together to buffer side effects or increase actions, for instance.
Somewhere along the line, dried SJW has become viewed as inferior to the point of almost useless by some herbalists.  I thought I'd do a little experiment.

We filled baby food jars loosely with dried botanicals.  It is mostly flowers and buds.
 We tend to view the sticky red resinous dye that the fresh plant leaves on our fingers as a sign of activity.  Here's what happens with dried SJW in alcohol and olive oil.

One jar was then filled with 150 proof vodka and the other filled with olive oil.
 I did not check with water as a menstruum, but may do that and add a picture tomorrow.

At the end of the day, this is how they looked.  3 days later, the alcohol jar looks like beet juice (not shown).
The second day I set the jar containing oil out in the sun.  It is very hot here.  90's, and the deck has no shade.  This is how the oil looks three days later.  I will continue to leave it outside to see if time makes a difference, but I don't expect it to.  NOTE:  A month later, it was deep red!
As with all things, a lot depends on the conditions.  For many, many years dried SJW has been used.  This shows me that the hypericin flavinoid that *I think* is represented by the red dye is not as oil soluble when the plant is dried.  It is soluble in alcohol, though.  It has been used in teas for years, so I will assume that there must have been some activity happening in order for people to continue using it for all these years.
This isn't scientific.  It was just a fun experiment that Molly and I did to see what would happen, and now we're sharing it with you.
Additionally, the dried SJW we used was only a few weeks old.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Molly's Latest Obsessions

So like everyone else I get a little “stuck” on certain herbs and certain herbal products from time to time. I wanted to share a few of my current favorites with you because, well, it’s fun and I’m hoping you all can help me find new favorites, too!

Ginger Tea

I swear this stuff has saved me from the brink of death about a million times. When I was younger I absolutely hated ginger tea. No matter how nauseous, feverish, or just plain sick I was I would always shy away when Mom begged me to drink a cup. I wasn’t a fan of the intensity and I was even less of a fan of the taste. It isn’t that I hate ginger, I just hate it when it is nothing but ginger. Then I began mixing it with hibiscus flowers and fruit and I was in love. Now I drink it over my period to stay hydrated and any time I’m feeling not quite right. I always have little packets with me but I really love to make it with just the root and some hibiscus flowers or lime slices for taste. I find that’s the perfect combo of zip and sweet. It tastes great hot or iced!

Homemade Febreeze

In college Frebreeze is a dorm-dweller’s best friend. I remember walking through the halls and literally being able to tell the difference in scents. In many college dorms you’re not allowed to have open flames or incense. So Febreeze was the best way to escape from the toxic fumes of the down the hall or your roommate’s socks. Luckily I had my aunt and Mom’s room spritz so I was able to keep the odors at bay without all the chemicals. Now that I live on my own I also get to experiment with scents. I began using lemon and lavender essential oil in a spritz and I think it may be my favorite yet. It is fresh, crisp, and I don’t end up depleting my aunt’s spritzes stock completely!

Lemon and Lavender Spritz

¼ C vodka
½ C distilled water
5-10 drops lemon essential oil
5-10 drops lavender essential oil

Orange Peel Vinegar

So I think I’ve talked about this stuff before in an earlier blog post. It is a really simple all-purpose cleaner and I absolutely love it. Lately I have actually been spraying it in my hair in the shower. And it is hands down the best conditioner I’ve ever had. It leaves my hair feeling clean and tangle free without weighing it down or filling it with all sorts of heaven-knows-what. I even get to use bar soap without my hair getting gunked up! I’ve also use it to clean the shower while I shower so it’s really a win-win all around.

Orange Peel Vinegar

1 part orange peel
3 parts white distilled vinegar

This stuff is crazy. I use it now once every two weeks on my face to exfoliate and moisturize. I think my Mom’s genius comes from her spontaneity. I remember coming into work one morning and Mom was already busy making some sort of something in the kitchen. It was bright purple, smelled amazing, and looked delicious. While I don’t suggest eating it our sugar scrub is wonderful on the face and I use it before we go to the beach on my bikini lines. It helps keep everything soft, smooth, and happy.

So there you have it. What are your current favorites? I could use some new obsessions!