Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Meditation of Sorts

Clover & Blossoms
Clover and Blossoms
Yesterday on my morning walk with Butters the air was infused with the heady scent of clover blossoms. Clover always causes me to linger, but this morning even more and the  scent had me plucking blossoms and inhaling deeply.

I reflected on clover and my love for it and on a past weekend that I spent planting and mulching at my sister in laws house.  The day was not hurried, I was not hurried, there was no agenda and I often found myself stooped over searching in the clover as we talked and worked. Of course there were bees to be seen, a tiny frog discovered in the mulch, and all the signs around us that spring was reveling in her own beauty. I found myself thinking of other such times as well, at my parents and along walks with Butters and with Alan where clover had figured prominently in the memory of the time.

The clover causes a shift in my mindset.  For me searching in the clover is the pause of gratitude and the delight to be found when we look to explore and revel in the magic the universe so readily offers. It a purposeful pause, a choice to slow down and to notice the details, a meditation of sorts in its own way. Whether or not I ever actually find four leaf clovers does not matter, I am always left with a sense of peace and contentment.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cardamom & Pistachio Cookie Recipe

Cardamom & Pistachio Cookies
Cardamom & Pistachio Cookies
I fell in love with cardamom about two years ago as a delicious addition to homemade almond milk and that love (or slight obsession) has grown to include it in chia pudding, smoothies, the occasional sprinkle in my morning cup of coffee and now baking.  It was one of those situations where cardamom kept appearing in my life, first in an article I stumbled upon that said cardamom was actually easy to grow at home, then as an addition to homemade almond milk, and finally it appeared in beautiful green pods piled on top of each other in a large glass jar sitting on a top shelf in a local herb shop.  When I saw that glass jar it jolted my memory and I was hooked from that first deep inhalation of the strange but heady scent.

The cookie recipe was not my creation, but one that I sought out when I recently needed to make cookies for an upcoming Herb Guild Farmers Market sale I was asked to contribute to. I wanted something a little different and thought of making cookies with lemon balm but somehow I found myself searching for cardamom cookies and found these Cardamom & Pistachio Cookies.  Now I really want to try making Cardamom Chocolate Chip cookies as I think the cardamom would make a nice compliment to the chocolate, but that will be for another week.  These cookies reminded me of short bread, were simple to make and delicious!

My pistachios were roasted and salted so I cut the recommended amount of salt in half and I thought the cookies were just fine.  I refrigerated the dough roll over night and the first few cuts results in a crumbled cookie.  After allowing the dough to set for about 10 minutes on the counter the knife slid through clean and the dough still held its shape.  If you don't think your cookies are getting brown enough, just check the bottoms.  The dough is already a bit golden with the combination of the pistachios and butter so it is hard to tell how brown they are without checking the bottoms.  

What are your favorite herbs and spices?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Around Here

Around Here

This little flower/weed reminds me of an elaborate fountain.
Butters and I just returned from a long slow walk around a few city blocks where
She sniffed and scratched at the earth while I admired the over sized clover and abundance of dandelions.
The patio door and windows are open and in the distance 
The sky is still blue with gigantic clouds of white framed in a warm tawny back glow from the sun.
My hip and leg are still aching but my heart feels full and happy because
I left work on time (Which feels early to me) and the evening feels stolen and special.
The house is quiet and empty as Alan is working late but in that anticipatory way that is a good empty.
On the horizon there are visions of
Painting colorful circles longways against a canvas,
Ideas to make lotion bars, and
A plot forming to spread flower and vegetable seed all over a semi vacant lot that we frequent.

I hope your spring evening feels just as special.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Fever

plants, trees, flowers
UNCC Botanical Gardens & Greenhouses
These pictures were taken a few weeks ago on an outing to the botanical gardens and greenhouses of one of the local universities.  The sites, smell and weather were amazing that day and made me long for my own land to dig in again.  Even without my very own land there is much to be thankful for and in awe of as the city comes alive this spring.  

Here flowering buds are bursting on the red bud, cherry and flowering pear trees and shoots of green are breaking through the dark earth and on many of the limbs of bushes and trees.  The clover has returned in full force causing me to pause in search of a lucky clover when I am out and about or on a walk with Miss Butters.  It is amazing to just watch the world around me change day by day.  

This year is moving quickly and I can hardly believe it was 4 months ago when I last posted, and what a ominous post that was since I have spent much of the time since then healing.  Ocular migraines occurred around the first polar vortex and kept me in their grips for 11 straight days.  I finally went to the doctor and thankfully after multiple trips to the eye doctor, medical doctor and several blood tests and an MRI later found out that there was nothing wrong.  The only thing I can determine is that maybe these were caused by the barometric changes in the atmosphere.  In the wake of of all of this was worry, frustration and severe eye and body fatigue.  

Just as I thought things were back on track an unexplained pain in my left hip has occurred that is just as mysterious.  I am on week 5 now of this issue and no amount of stretching, icing, hot baths, turmeric tea, or ibuprofen has provided sustained relief.  Last weekend I sobbed and could only see loss and fear. Loss in the knowledge that I was not going to be able to run my upcoming half marathon I had been training for (my first 13.1 trail run) and fear that I may never be able to run again or go on the many hikes that Alan and I have talked of for this spring and summer.  This weekend I see more possibility and despite the pain feel stronger and am trying to see this as an opportunity to concentrate more on art and writing while I heal. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year & a Recipe

Homemade Elderberry Syrup
It is the first day of 2014 and I feel hopeful anticipation for the year ahead. I don't know why but I like the clear line of a new year and a fresh start. Each day we have this opportunity, the chance to begin again, to breathe in the possibility, to bear witness to life unfolding around us and the life unfolding within us but on New Years day it feels even more significant to me.

Today I began my day at my work table in our shared office/guest bedroom with a cup of coffee and my journal.  I wrote about purpose, what I think mine is and how to live it in this coming year.  Part of that purpose is healing, myself and others, and part of that purpose is sharing.  The sharing part is often hard for me as I second guess myself and concern myself that others will say "on what authority is she saying this". The truth is most of what I share is universal knowledge though, shared as seen through my own experience. In alignment with my desire to live my purpose, and to heal and to share, today I am sharing a recipe for Elderberry Syrup.

I learned about Elderberries last year when I attended one of several local herb classes.  The owner of the farm and teacher of the class mentioned making homemade elderberry syrup for the cold and flu season. The elderberry comes from a small tree/bush and is well known in the herbal community for its ability to boost the immune system preventing and shortening the length of the flue and colds. They are a rich source of bioflavonoids and antioxidants as well as the nutrients potassium, beta carotene, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C.  

It is so funny how once you hear about something of interest, all of a sudden you see and hear about it all around you. I soon found dried elderberries in my favorite local health/grocery store when looking in their bulk section and even purchased a syrup from this store as well when I was sick and looking for homeopathic solutions.

As Alan has been fighting a cold for 2+ weeks and I felt the symptoms beginning myself,  I decided to try making the syrup myself using a recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs. I cut the recipe in half as I purchased the elderberries locally and the store I shop at was running low. After seeing a display of organic elderberry syrup for $21, buying the small amount of dried berries and cutting the recipe in half was a no-brainer.  I was low on honey and bought a huge jar for $16 but the organic dried elderberries, cloves, and cinnamon sticks were less than $2.00 total. Even if you don't already have honey on hand this is still a very economical recipe as it produces a lot of syrup (3.5 cups).  Some people really love the flavor of the syrup and add it to everything from pancakes to oatmeal but I find it a bit medicinal and am still getting used to it. I think next time I may omit the cloves.  Although the cloves and cinnamon may be used as a natural preservative so I need to do a bit more research first.

Ginger, Raw Honey, Elderberries, Cinnamon, and Cloves

Here is the recipe as found on Mountain Rose Herbs site.  As I mentioned, I cut the recipe in half and it still produced approximately 1.5 cups of syrup.

Please note that elderberry is not safe for pregnant or nursing women, that you should do your own research before taking any types of herbs to ensure that they do not interact with any conditions you have or medications you may take and that honey is not appropriate for children under the age of 2 years old.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

- 1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried organic Elderberries (harvest blue or black, avoid poisonous reds)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup raw local honey
- 1 organic Cinnamon stick, 3 organic Cloves, and organic Ginger (optional)
Place berries, water, and spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Smash the berries to release remaining juice and strain the mixture. (discard cooked berries/cloves/ginger/cinnamon) Allow liquid to cool and stir in honey. Will last for 2-3 months stored in the fridge.

Hope you have a Happy and Healthy 2014!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Swarm of Dragonflies

On Thanksgiving day Alan and I spent time simply relaxing.  There was a leisurely breakfast, a walk on the beach, and a little floating in the water while exploring the reef area with snorkel, mask and fin.  Aside from that we lounged in the dappled sunlight under palm trees with each others company, a book (for me) the sound of the ocean and the presence of many curious bobbing dragonflies.  I say bobbing because they appeared to bob in the air rather than dart or zoom.  I was mesmerized by their beauty and the sheer number of them.  There were hundreds if not thousands of dragonflies!  I have never seen anything like this before and had to research this phenomenon. Come to find out this is one of those ephemeral events that few are lucky to experience in their lifetime and I was also able to submit my data for collection as part of The Dragonfly Swarm Project.  
This is a small video I made while watching them by the pool late in the afternoon.  There were swarms all over the beach as well.  One of the waitresses came by after watching me take pictures and the video and let me know the Spanish word for dragonfly is libĂ©lula (LEE-BEH-LOO-LA).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Souvenirs from Playa Del Carmen

My favorite souvenirs when I travel?  Rocks, shells, sea glass, found objects, photographs, local currency...

We simply had a wonderful vacation in Mexico.  Days filled with snorkeling, diving, happy silence, laughter, cappuccino, warm humid days filled with cool breezes, skies filled with dragonflies (yes everywhere-video to come), relaxation mixed with adventure, wonderful food (beans, rice, chicken, guacamole-a few of my favorites), and reconnecting to each other and our natural rhythms.