Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tis The Season Tisane

A tisane is an infusion of herbs that is brewed for medicinal effect. The following hot herbal tea is the perfect elixir to drink as a remedy during Winter's cold and flu season. If you are not partial to mint, try making it with lemon balm instead. Use mint if you are seeking to soothe stomach discomfort due to rotovirus or holiday fare over-indulgence.

Ingredients : 4 cups water
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 ounces fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon lemon zest strips
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup honey
1 handful of fresh mint or lemon balm

While bringing the water to a boil, peel & chop ginger root.
Add to the boiling water along with the cinnamon stick,lemon
zest and juice. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
Add honey,stir & continue simmering for 20 more minutes. Pour
over fresh mint, strain and serve or cool and refrigerate.
Yields about one quart : brew to relieve colds and flu symptoms.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ireland's Charming Halloween Bread

As Halloween is associated with fortune telling and divination, Barmbrack is traditionally made at this time of year, for it has various charms literally baked into the dough.  Each one’s significance is as follows: a ring ~ to foretell marriage, a silver coin ~ to herald wealth, a pea or thimble ~ indicates spinsterhood, a small piece of cloth ~ portends poverty, a button ~ means bachelorhood, and a piece of matchstick foreshadows an abusive spouse. “Barm” is from the olde English word “beorma”, meaning yeasty fermented liquor.  Brack comes from an Irish word meaning “speckled”, which this bread is with dried fruit. 

1 lb flour
6 oz sugar
1 lb mixed dried fruit
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp ground allspice
Pot of hot black tea

Wrap each charm carefully in parchment paper.
The trick to making a Barm Brack is the soaking of fruit overnight in the
tea. While this makes the dried fruit softer and more appealing in general,
one must be careful when mixing the dough not to over-knead or the
rehydrated fruit will break too much. Add the sugar and egg to the fruit mix the next day. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients. Mix gently. Stir in the wrapped charms and try to distribute them evenly. Use a round
baking pan at 350°F for about 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

The Breac (bread) can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an air-tight
container. It is traditional that only he/she who has baked it should
cut and serve the slices on October 31st! It is also good toasted and served with hot cider or tea.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin Fudge

                    Enjoy making and eating this seasonal fudge recipe, as it's the perfect confection to serve at
                Halloween parties or to give as gifts for a homemade treat to those who like pumpkin sweets!

                 Ingredients : 3 cups organic sugar
                                    12 tablespoons butter
                                    1 five ounce can evaporated milk
                                    1/2 cup pumpkin puree
                                    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                                    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
                                    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
                                    1 + 1/2 cups butterscotch chips
                                    7 ounces marshmallow Fluff
                                    1 cup walnuts (toasted & chopped)

                  Method :  Combine the first six ingredients in a heavy saucepan.Bring to a boil,while stirring constantly.Lower heat and cook to the soft-ball stage reading on a candy thermometer (234*F).Remove pan from stove and stir in the butterscotch chips ; then add the Fluff & nuts.Mix thoroughly and spread evenly into a buttered 13"x9" and cut into squares : keep wrapped and refrigerated til serving or gifting.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Candy Corn Confection

Candy corn was invented in the US in the 1880s and at that time was made by hand.
This recipe for the enjoyable Halloween confection is similar to the traditional one.
Using simple ingredients, this sweet treat can be made in one’s own kitchen:

Ingredients:   1 cup granulated sugar
                      2/3 cup corn syrup
                      1/3 cup butter
                      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                      2 + ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
                      1/3 cup powdered milk                     
                       ¼ teaspoon salt
                       Red & yellow food coloring

 Method: In a large saucepan combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Bring to a boil over high heat while stirring constantly, then reduce heat to medium and continue boiling for 5 minutes while stirring occasionally. Remove mixture from heat and add vanilla extract.

Combine the icing sugar, powdered milk, and salt in a separate bowl and add to the mixture in the saucepan, mixing thoroughly. Allow the dough mixture to sit until it's cool enough to handle.

Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and place each part in a small mixing bowl. Add orange food coloring to one part (a combination of yellow and red) and yellow food coloring to another part, leaving the remaining part uncolored or white.

Knead the dough in each bowl until smooth and stiff enough to hold its shape, and the colors are even. Wearing plastic gloves can help prevent your hands from being stained by the food coloring.

Still using your hands, roll each part into a long, thin rope, making each rope of equal length. You may need to use a long countertop or tabletop covered with a strip of waxed paper for this. You'll also need to be careful when rolling as the ropes can easily break if you form them too thin.

When you're done, lay the three ropes of dough along side each other with the orange dough in the middle and carefully press them together to make a long, narrow rectangle. A gentle, light rolling with a rolling pin along the length of the rectangle helps to press the rope edges together, but be careful not to flatten the dough so the rectangle stays as narrow as possible, plus you'll also want the kernels plump looking and not flat.

Finally, cut the dough into triangles or "kernels" using a sharp knife and gently shape the kernels with your fingers, if needed. Allow the kernels to sit for a while and become firm.

You'll end up with over a pound of homemade candy corn, some with yellow tips and some with the traditional white tips. There's no getting around it, kneading the dough and forming the ropes is time-consuming, hard work, but the results are worth it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Witchy Coffee

          This is the quintessential libation to enjoy during the Autumn months, or any other time that one is inclined to partake of an unusually flavoured and soul-warming cup of coffee. This beverage is made with an Italian herbal liqueur called "Strega" ("witch") that is made in the Benevento region and contains seventy herbal ingredients. Some of theses are saffron, mint, cinnamon, iris, juniper, and fennel. The traditional liqueur is redolent of minty, conifer notes and pairs well with dark roast coffee.

           To make one generous serving, you will need : 3 tablespoons of Strega liqueur, nine ounces (a little over one cup) of freshly brewed, dark roast coffee, 6 tablespoons fresh cream, and one teaspoon of dark brown sugar. Combine liqueur & coffee in a heavy-bottom saucepan ; stir in sugar, while warming over low heat. When the sugar is completely dissolved, pour the mixture into a large ceramic mug, stir in the cream, and sip slowly to savour the complex flavours. For a more artful presentation, pour the warm pan mixture into a glass goblet with a spoon set over it's top to separate the cream. Garnish the floating layer with a dusting of ground cinnamon, if desired before enjoying. Here's to the Season of the Witch!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celtic Lughnasa Loaf

The combination of oats and both whole-wheat & white flours make a delicious bread trio with which to celebrate the first grain harvest festival. Enjoy one, freeze one, and give one away!

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
2 tablespoons salt
½ cup butter
2 + ½ cups milk
2 packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water

In a large bowl, mix flours and oats.
Combine sugar, salt, butter and milk in a saucepan and heat until the butter melts; cool to lukewarm.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
Add milk mixture and yeast to the flours and mix well. Don't worry if the liquid does not absorb all the flour mixture.
Turn the dough out on board and knead excess flour mixture into the moist mixture. Knead 10 to 15 minutes, then put the dough in a greased bowl and turn to grease top.
Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place free from drafts 2 hours, or until doubled.
Punch dough down and divide into 3 portions. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Shape in loaves and put in 3 greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans.
Cover and let rise in warm place for 1-1/2 hours, or until doubled.
Bake in a preheated, 400*F oven for about 35 minutes.
Remove from pans and cool on rack. Brush bread with melted butter and sprinkle toasted oats over the tops of the loaves before slicing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wishing Globes

The childhood enchantment of beholding a swirling snow globe lends itself

           to another dimension when crafted with correspondences and intention.

           First consider your objective and visualize the contents of a wishing globe.

           Craft and thrift stores sell figurines or you can prowl flea markets & yard sales.

           Glass jars can also be economically obtained from all four of these sources,

           or better yet, recycle and sterilize jam and other types of condiment jars.

           After you have chosen a ceramic or plastic central figure, select a glitter.

           It comes in many forms and colours; from seasonal themes to rainbow hues.

           Keep the purpose of your wishing globe in mind when deciding which to use.

           Other supplies you will need:
                                                             clear-drying epoxy
                                                             distilled water

            First, glue the figure onto the center of the up-turned glass jar’s lid.

            Allow it to completely dry and then fill the jar to the top with distilled water.

            Add a pinch of the glitter medium along with one half teaspoon of glycerin.

            Close the jar’s lid tightly and invert to an up-right position.

            Concentrate the intention of your wish on the figure inside the glass jar.

            Visualize the swirling positive energy working to manifest your wish there-in.

            Repeat the last two steps as a daily affirmation until you achieve your goal.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Zucchini~Walnut Bread

The heart of Summer is upon us and the garden is brimming delights.

The tomato plants are laden with green orbs, eggplants are forming,

lettuces are bolting, the pumpkin hill is sprawling with leafy vines, and

the zucchini bed is thriving in the heat. The following is a moist tea bread

that I look forward to baking every year :

  • three brown eggs
  • 1 + ¼ cups pure vegetable oil
  • 1 + ½ cups organic sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups zucchini, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, minced
  • 2 cups King Arthur, all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vietnamese ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted & ground

Preheat oven to 350*F and lightly butter a 9 x 5 x 3” aluminum loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, sugar, and extract with an electric mixer.
Fold in the zucchini and zest. Mix the remaining dry ingredients in another bowl.
Stir into the wet ingredient bowl, til just combined. Fold in the walnuts. Pour into pan. Bake for one hour and ten minutes: loaf is done when top springs back to the touch.
Cool completely before removing from pan. For best flavour, serve the following day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Outdoor Sundries


Clean patio furniture with this fragrant spray mixture :

one teaspoon borax

two tablespoons white vinegar

two cups hot water

1/4 teaspoon essential oil of lavender

five drops of tea tree oil

Add all ingredients to a clean spray bottle and swirl til dissolved.

Apply to chairs,umbrellas,etc.,then scrub & wipe with a damp cloth.

Decorate your yard with seashell ashtray/incense burners :

sifted beach or play sand

baking soda

favourite essential oil blend

large shells,such as clam or abalone

In a large bowl,combine equal parts of sand & soda; then add

several drops of the oil and mix.Spoon into shells and place outside.

Add aromatic herbs,such as dried lemongrass,lavender,or rosemary

to outdoor fires,as it helps banish insects.You can also blend this effective
incense to use on the porch :

2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers

2 tablespoons ground lemongrass

1 tablespoon frankincense resin

1 tablespoon amber resin

1 tablespoon dried catnip

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container.To use : place one

charcoal tablet into a fire-proof vessel,light it,then sprinkle a

generous pinch of the incense mixture over the burning tablet.

Monday, June 20, 2011

~ Summer Breeze Bars ~

This is my version of an old fashioned, lemon bar recipe with an herbal twist in the
    tart filling and a touch of spice to the shortbread crust.Refreshing as a Summer breeze,when served
    cold with a glass of sun-kissed, iced tea!

            Herb~Scented Sugar : Crush a handful of fresh lemon balm or lemon-scented rose geranium
    leaves and stir into 3 cups of granulated sugar.Store in an air-tight container for a week or so,sift the
    leaves from the mixture and use in the following recipe.Any left-over can be used to sweeten tea.

           ~ Summer Breeze Bars ~

              Filling ingredients :   
                                                5 large eggs,gently whisked
                                                6 tablespoons all purpose flour
                                                2 cups herb-scented,organic sugar
                                                3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
                                                1 teaspoon minced lemon zest

              Shortbread Crust ingredients :
                                                              3/4 cup butter,at room temperature
                                                              1 + 1/2 cups all purpose flour
                                                              1/3 cup organic sugar
                                                              1 teaspoon ground cardamom
               To prepare & bake :
                                                  While preheating oven at 350*F, mix together the four crust
               ingredients.Press firmly and evenly into a 9 x 13" non-stick pan.Brown lightly for about
               20 minutes,then set aside.
                                                   In a large bowl,mix together filling flour and herb-scented
                sugar.Gently add the whisked eggs to the bowl,stir in the lemon juice & zest to
               combine and pour over the pre-baked crust.Return pan to oven for 20 more minutes til
               firm.Cool and store in refrigerator before serving.Cut into squares and dust with powdered
              sugar,if desired.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Solstice Oil Recipe

            Those who practice wort cunning know that the celebration of Midsummer is associated with growth, sunshine, and the magickal efficacy of herbs & plants. The sunny yellow flowers of Saint John's wort are a traditional  association with this potent time of year, and lend their mid-June blooms to this healing oil infusion used for treating Summer skin conditions (burns,insect bites,bruises,and inflammations) :

                                  Gather fresh St.John's wort blossoms early on a dry & sunny morn. Fill a clean
glass jar with them and then fill it to the rim with organic oil : cold-pressed olive oil, sunflower, sweet almond, jojoba,or coconut are all good choices. Cover the flowers entirely to prohibit mold growth which will spoil the preparation. Push them down to release any air bubbles from the jar. Cap the jar tightly and sit on a sunny porch or window sill for one to two weeks ; swirling occasionally. Upon the oil's attainment of a deep red coloration, strain through cheesecloth, and into another sterilized,dry jar. Store the bottled midsummer sunshine in a dark & cool place.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Receipt To See the Fey

          As Midsummer's Eve approaches, the ability to glimpse the Faeries is heightened. The following "receipt" is dated 1600 :

                                          To enable one to see Faeries :
                                         A pint of sallet oyle and put it into a vial glasse; and first wash it with rose water and marygolde water; the flowers to be gathered towards the east. Wash it til the oyle becomes white, then put into the glasse, and then put thereto the budds of hollyhocke, the flowers of marygolde, the flowers or tops of wild thyme, the budds of young hazle, and the thyme must be gathered neare the side of a hill where the faeries used to be; and take the grasse of a faery throne; then all these put into the oyle in the glasse and settle it to dissolve three dayes in the sunne and then keep it for thy use. (mischievous giggle*)

                                         * To make the oil to see the Faeries, you have to know where the faeries are.

Cup o' Sunshine Tea

Make this festive tea to quench thirst and gladden the heart. This blend is especially efficacious if made when the herbs are at the peak of their essential oil content. Use fresh-from-the-garden herbs,if possible : if not, buy organic ones at the Farmers' Market or local natural food store. It's perfect to serve in a punchbowl,into which you can float an iced ring that is graced with the leaves of the same herbs that are used in the brew :

                                                 ~ Cup o' Sunshine Tea ~

                                                    three parts lemon balm leaves
                                                    one part borage, flowers & leaves
                                                    one part chamomile leaves
                                                    one part lemon verbena leaves
                                                    one part St.John's wort leaves

                        Combine all herbs and put into a clean glass vessel. Pour boiling water over the mixture (about one cup herbal blend to one pint water ratio ; use more herbs to strengthen flavour,if desired).
Cover & steep for at least half an hour. Strain and sweeten with honey or agave syrup to taste, then pour over cups with ice & lemon wedges. Sip,savour, & smile!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Faith,Trust, & Pixie Dust

  Being the mother of three lends itself to many introspections. In regard to religion, I have chosen not to lead my children through an obstacle course of blind convention. I am proud to have raised a trio of individuals : ages 20, 15, and almost 13. In my opinion, faith is an exquisitely personal facet of a human being. It should bloom from within the psyche, and be nurtured by one's life experiences. I have planted seeds of faith for my children by raising them with a broad-minded perception of the world's religions. An analysis of all finds a common thread of "golden rule" (remember being taught about that as a child?) that runs throughout its' many
forms : the essence of which is to treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. Does that theme not herald the most important aspect of parenting; which in my esteem is fostering kindness,respect,and tolerance for all living things within the mindset of the next generation? Our society does not practice what it preaches and I believe that children learn best by example.

   The incorporation of ancestral roots greatly influences a child's perspective of faith. Those who are fortunate to be raised with elder family members can be taught to appreciate their beliefs and contributions. Those who do not have any living relatives can be guided on a journey of the past to
open the doors of distant credence. Religions are integrated by all cultural aspects : enrich a child's world by sharing ethnic folklore and traditions. Explore together the links of food and seasonal observances within your faith and make relevant these associations by preparing a holiday meal in a family-friendly kitchen environment. Open their eyes to the mysteries of life : explain all the possibilities and not just the dogmatic ones. Show them that quiet contemplation and/or prayer will augment patience,insight,and acceptance of life's difficult circumstances. Teach them to believe in themselves, as well as a higher power.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Trio of Rose Recipes

Plucked my first rose of the season,earlier today and so am prompted to post these :

~Rose Sugar~ This scented sugar adds flowery flavour to seasonal berries and herbal iced teas.It can also be used on facial skin when mixed into a soap or cleanser.
  Combine 1/2 cup of fragrant rose petals and one cup of organic sugar.Store in an air-tight container,without opening,for three weeks.Sift the sugar and keep in a dry container.

~Rose Water~ This flavourful fluid can be used in cakes,drinks,skin-toners,and baths.Gather 3-4 cups fresh rose petals and pack them into a glass container.Cover with 1 cup spring water and steep for at least 48 hours time.Strain and store in the fridge in a sterilized glass bottle.

~Rose Oil~ Capture the essence of your garden by making this oil to add to soaps,lotions,and for aromatheraputic use.As with all these recipes,be sure to use only unsprayed roses,as pesticides can linger with-in the flowers.Pour one cup of sunflower or unscented vegetable oil into a clean glass container.Tightly pack layers of 3-4 cups of rose petals,cover tightly,and let be for 48 hours.Strain the oil from the petals,then pack another several cups fresh rose petals into the same oil for the same two days' time.Repeat this method until the oil has been sufficiently imbued with rose scent.Do a final strain of petals and store in a dark, airtight bottle.

Monday, May 9, 2011


If you appreciate Lunar light as much as I do, then you will find these tips of interest & worth committing to memory :

                                   The New Moon always rises at Sunrise.

                                    And the First Quarter at Noon.

                                    The Full Moon always rises at Sunset.

                                     And the Last Quarter at Midnight.

   Moonrise occurs about fifty minutes later each day. The New Moon is invisible because its illuminated side faces away from the Earth, which occurs when the Moon lines up between Earth & the Sun. One or two days after the date of the New Moon, you can see a thin crescent setting just after Sunset in the Western sky as the Lunar cycle continues.

Friday, April 29, 2011

About Face

   Come May Day morning, I can be found collecting the dew from the plants of the garden and applying it to my face,in the hope of acquiring the year-long, magickal glamoury that is known to be imparted with the observance of this annual ritual. I am fortunate to have pretty good skin. It is very fair and thin; so light in fact, that as an infant, my Mother claimed she could see the beating heart through my chest! Phlebotomists (blood specimen takers) love me,as my veins are readily accessible for their sanguine collections. As a young woman, I faithfully wore Chanel's "Porcelain" foundation year round,as it complimented my delicate facial skin tone.Upon reaching middle age,I consulted a dermatologist and allowed him to laser the broken capillaries that the ravages of time had incurred on my visage. He also gave me the pronouncement of roscacea( a sensitive skin condition with a redness response trigger to a type of antimicrobial protein called "cathelicidin").

    Aside from only using products that are organically plant-based and not tested on animals, the toner called "Queen of Hungary's Water" is never something that I want to be without in my skincare routine. Variations of it's legendary gypsy formula can be obtained (I like Thayer's Rosewater/Aloe formula for myself,and my teens swear by their astringent Lemon variety) or can be made when fresh herbs are in season.

  • 6 Parts Lemon Balm
  • 4 Parts Chamomile
  • 1 Part Rosemary
  • 3 Parts Calendula
  • 4 Parts Roses
  • 1 Part Lemon Zest
  • 1 Part Sage
  • 3 Parts Comfrey
  • Vinegar to cover ( organic apple cider or wine vinegar)
  • Rosewater and/or Witch Hazel extract
To Make:
(1) Place all the herbs in a wide mouth jar and cover with vinegar. Be sure there is about one to two inches of vinegar above the herb mixture. Cover tightly and let sit in a warm spot for two to three weeks.
(2) Strain. Set the liquid aside.
(3) To each cup of herbal vinegar add 1/2 cup rosewater and/or witch hazel.
(4) A drop or two of essential oil such as lavender or rose can be added.
(5) Bottle in sterilized glass of a dark color,if possible. This product does not need to be refrigerated and will keep indefinitely ; but you can keep it in a refrigerated spray bottle to have a refreshing, warm-weather skin spritzer.

 This versatile herb-infused liquid can also be used as a hair rinse,after-shave, or foot-soak(add a few drops of tea tree oil to the mixture for this purpose). Use additional rosewater, if a more perfumed scent is desired. Other facial blessings are the applications rose otto oil for softening time lines & soothing inflammation, calendula flower tea for its skin-healing properties, and the use of facial steams to deep-clean the complexion,as clean skin retains more moisture.



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eostre's Egg Salad Recipe

What to make with those left-over,hard-boiled eggs? How about this colourful salad that showcases seasonal flowers,herbs,& greens in the bargain? Delicious when eaten with pumpernickel bread or plattered and sprinkled with calendula petals & green onions.

         ~Ingredients~ : 13 hard-boiled eggs,3/4 cup olive oil-based mayonaise,2 teaspoons yellow mustard,2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish,1 rib celery(leaves included,minced),2 tablespoons chive snippets,2 tablespoons tarragon leaves(chopped),1 teaspoon smoked paprika,1 teaspoon sea salt,& 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper.Set aside a generous handful of freshly chopped calendula(pot marigold)petals.

           ~Preparation~ :  Dice eggs and put into a mixing bowl : add mayo,mustard,relish,celery,herbs,& seasonings. Mix thoroughly and then, stir in calendula flowers.Refrigerate for an hour or so before serving atop a bed of mixed greens(such as watercress,arugula,Boston lettuce,etc.).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bathing Beauty

Washing your body with commercial products can remove the protective oils from your skin. Vegetable based soap, with emollient ingredients like glycerine,shea,or cocoa butter, is the purest choice for cleansing. Organic essential oils can be added to bath water but skin type should be considered before choosing the fragrance :

        ~ Normal ~ jasmine, neroli, patchouli, & ylang ylang

        ~ Sensitive ~ German chamomile, lavender, or geranium
        ~ Oily ~ Lemon, orange, cypress, & bergamot

        ~ Dry ~ clary sage, German chamomile, myrrh, or lavender

After bathing, apply a small amount of natural oil to nourish and protect skin. Almond, jojoba, and cocoa butter are suitable for all skin types. Young skin is partial to coconut,apricot kernel, and olive oils, while mature complexions will benefit from argan, avocado, and evening primrose oils.
Use products that are free from synthetic additives that can be toxic. Some ingredients to avoid are parabens, sulfates, silicones, color, and parfum.                 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Green Spring Cleaning

Simple cleaning alternatives are  healthier and more economical  to store-bought products. Modern cleaning chemicals can trigger headaches,allergies,and asthma and pose dangers to pets and children. A few old fashioned methods will benefit your being and dwelling considerably :

Choose natural cleaning agents :

Borax ~ removes mold & mildew,is a disinfectant,and softens water ; use with soap flakes to whiten clothes but remember to wear rubber gloves when applying.

Baking Soda ~ works as an abrasive & disinfectant to gently remove dirt and grease ; pour the contents of the old refigerator boxes down drains to freshen them and add it to other cleaners (like laundry detergents) for water softening and effective cleaning & rinsing.

Vinegar ~ disinfects,inhibits mold, and cuts through grease ; apply white vinegar to windows with old newspaper and wipe away grime with a clean shine,removes coffee & tea stains,and freshens air.

Soap ~ use biodegradable,real soap made from vegetable oils (like castille soap) and customize it with the addition of fresh herbs and/or essential oils : both add disinfecting and aromatic properties.

Fresh Floor Cleaner ~ Mix the following trio into a bucket of water : one quarter cup of environmentally-friendly liquid soap,1 cup organic vinegar ~or~ 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice,and one cup of strongly brewed herbal tea.

Vinegar Of The Four Thieves* ~ Take a generous handful each of fresh lavender,rosemary,sage,wormwood,rue,& mint : place in a large earthenware crock.Pour four quarts of organic vinegar over the herbs,cover,and steep in the sun for two weeks.Strain through cheesecloth,and pour into sterilized glass bottles : add a clove of garlic to each one.After the contents settle and clear,pour off sediment.Use as a general cleaner to freshen rooms;sprinkle about in damp weather.

 * note: this legendary plague recipe has many variations and for best efficacy should be made with Midsummer herbs (so that they are at their highest potentency).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Buzz About Argan Oil

Had my hair done yesterday and my veteran stylist of many moons asked me if I would like my freshly shorn & colored locks to be given a finishing spray of "Moroccan oil"? "Argan oil, I prompted? She drew a blank at the word "argan", so I asked to read the product's label which I knew would say argan on it and it did. "It's the hot thing in hair care!" she parried. "What's it derived from?" I asked (ie animal,plant,or other). None of the beauticians in the salon were certain but the manager thought it was made from a plant. She advocated their line of Moroccan oil products to me. So, I let Angela spray me with it and it imparted a nice shine and pleasing scent.

 Argan oil has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, strengthen elasticity, protect against stretch marks, and improve skin’s overall health and vitality. Traditionally, the women of Morocco have utilized argan oil as the foundation of their beauty regimen, applying it to their skin, hair and nails. It is derived from the pressed nuts of the Argania Spinosa tree that is indigenous to Morocco.The oil is rich in naturally occurring antioxidants, essential fatty acids, carotenoids, ferulic acid, sterols, polyphenols, and contains remarkably high levels of vitamin E. Argan Oil contains Squalene, a unique and rare component which is suggested to protect against skin cancer. Argan oil is traditionally used for skin, hair and nail care, cooking, massage, the prevention of stretch marks, and the natural healing of dermatological disorders. It is referred to as "food for the skin."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Frosted Violet Jam

Sweet Spring violets can be made into a lovely, purple jam. Gather one packed cup of these pretty flowers and put them into a blender or food processor with three quarters of a cup of Spring water and the juice of one lemon. Blend to a coarse paste and add two and one half cups of organic sugar and whir til dissolved. Heat three quarters of one cup of Spring water in a heavy saucepan. Stir in one package of powdered pectin (Pomona's Universal Pectin works well) and bring to a rolling boil for one minute. Add this mixture to the blender or processor and combine for a minute or so. Pour the fragrant jam into small, sterilized jars and seal. Store in the freezer. This pleasing jam is delicious on Country white toast, scones, and between layers of cake (Victoria Sponge is a good choice).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tea Leaf Eggs

Make a baker's dozen of these spice~marbled eggs to serve as deliciously different bruncheon fare :

                         Ingredients :   13 organic eggs
                                               one quarter cup loose black tea leaves
                                               3 tablespoons soy sauce
                                               1 teaspoon sea salt
                                               3 teaspoons Chinese five~spice powder

                          To Brew :  Cover eggs with water in a cooking pot, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for five minutes. Remove the eggs to a collander and bathe with cold water. Set eggs on a paper towel and gently tap each one with the back of a metal spoon to visibly crack the shell all over. Put the eggs back into the cooking pot and cover with fresh water ; add the tea leaves,soy sauce,sea salt, and spice powder. Bring to another boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover pot, and gently brew for thirty minutes : carefully stirring the eggs occasionally. Remove from heat and cool eggs in the infusion for one hour. Peel to eat at room temperature or store refrigerated for two days time. Serve on a nest of cellophane noodles or steamed edamame.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Meanderings

Today's brisk air is brimming with Full Moon energy : looking foward to tapping into it upon moonrise.
Meyer lemons are now in the markets here, along with bundles of watercress,asparagus, and rhubarb. Their beautiful yellow zest & citrus inside yields an intense lemon flavour. The juice was the perfect accent to a lunchtime "naanwich" of Tandoori-spiced chicken. Discovered a new garden center to prowl in the hope of finding out-of-the-ordinary herbs & seeds. Planning to add mugwort,motherwort,and pennyroyal to the garden this year. The tiger lillies and chives have broken ground, while the yarrow,Lady's mantle,lamb's ears,and catnip are all sporting new leaves. Pruned the briar rose and raspberry canes in the afternoon sun of St.Patrick's day : the lavender bed is next(soon, but not today). 
Spied a "kitchen" tarot deck at the bookstore earlier today and another deck with an "enchanted faery pendulum". Both were imaginative though a bit too whimsical for serious divination. "So much to do,so little time" to usher in the Vernal Equinox. May Lady Day bring  the solace of Spring to those who seek Her renewal and light.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

For Those Who Wander

If you are lost without the benefit of a GPS or compass, you can use these three ways to determine which direction you are facing :

          1.)  The Watch (daytime) : this method only works when using a traditional watch with hands.Take your watch off and point the hour hand at the sun.Halfway between the end of the hour hand and the twelve o'clock is due South : hence, at 8:00 am, the halfway point is 10:00 am; while at 4:00pm, the halfway point is 2:00pm. If it's a cloudy day and you can not see the sun,  hold a pen,pencil,or small straight stick,upright on the watch dial.Unless it is very overcast, a faint shadow will be cast, so you can work out where the sun is in the sky.

           2.) The Stars (nighttime) : find the brightest star in the sky ~ one that you can easily see.Using a stick, look along its length at the star, as if you are looking down the sight of a gun, and make sure you keep as steady as you are able.Wait a minute or so for the star to move.

                  * If the star has moved left, you are looking North.
                  * If the star has moved right, you are looking South.
                  * If the star has moved up, you are looking East
                  * If the star has moved down, you are looking West.
             3.) The Stick & Shadow Method : (this takes time and only works on sunny days) : push a straight stick into the ground.Mark the end of the shadow it casts, using a small stone or rock, or by scratching a mark in the ground.Keep repeating this every hour or so ~ the place where the shadow is shortest (that is, is closest to the base of the stick) points to the North.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Irish Brown Bread

This recipe yields one large,craggy loaf that is the perfect accompaniment to a bubbling cauldron of potato~leek soup.

Ingredients ~

4 cups (13 1/2 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
2 to 3 tablespoons organic sugar
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (@ room temperature)
2 tablespoons melted butter (1 ounce)

 Method ~
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk and the oil or butter. Stir together until blended—some lumps will remain. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead about 10 times, or until it all holds together. Form it into a large ball and place it on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut a deep cross in the top: according to Irish lore,this releases the faeries from the dough! Bake the bread in a preheated 400°F oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until it tests done (a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring Prelude

March blew into the Northeast yesterday with a chill wind and fluffy clouds of blustery countenance. The last day of February was sunny and still. Swept the porch of Winter debris, scattered the salt hay bale around the yard, and hung out a wind chime. The Sylphs of Springtime are indeed ushering in the winds of change. All around there are harbingers of the season-to-come : budding quince and forsythias, cooing mourning doves, and lengthening daylight hours. Green chickweed is already creeping into the garden beds : time to tidy them of their Autumn leavings on the next warm day.This seasonal transition conjures cravings for greens and Hot Cross buns. The front door's now adorned with glittering trefoils in a wreath,St.Brigid's cross,and shamrock gel clings on the window trio. Saint Pat's is just around the corner. The Long Island celebration is far from veneration for Catholicism and is a parade & party event to show Irish pride. Time for a visit to the local Celtic shop to buy Cadbury chocolates and potato crisps to give the kids a taste of Ireland to mark the occasion. It's important to acknowledge their paternal heritage, despite the holiday's association with the church's attempt to drive the pagans (symbolized by snakes) out of The Emerald Isle. Hopefully, there will soon be a working oven in the kitchen from which to produce Soda breads and a brisket (corned beef). Be on the lookout for Mad March Hares : hares acting oddly might be shape-shifters or "were-hares." These dangerous creatures can only be dispatched by a silver bullet, or a bullet dipped in rue or rowan tea! LOL Actually, it was the hare's Sprintime courtship displays that gave rise to this curious lore. Unlike rabbits, hares don't dig burrows. Instead, when they are alarmed or need to rest, they crouch down flat in little hollows in the ground known as "forms". The hare's apparent ability to vanish out of sight made people believe that the animal had magickal powers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ode To An Oven

I have spent the past week without the use of my wall unit oven and I lament its' functionality. Coincidentally, the festival of Fornax, the Roman goddess of the hearth and baking, occurs before the day of my birth in February. When my oven failed to turn on, I rang up the customer service number for the Total Protect Home Service Plan. It encompasses the repairs of all appliances in my home, for a deductible fee per claim, as well as an annual membership that was offered through the mortgage company. They contract out a service company to assess and repair the non-functional appliance with the condition that if it can not be fixed,then Total Protect will replace it for a comparable value. The "if- it-sounds-too-good-to-be-true-it is" mindset applies here.

 A "service technician" from Sears arrives at my home and determines that the oven's ignitor needs to be replaced. He performs the task and leaves the premises. Upon turning the oven on, I perceive the smell of propane gas in the air. My household utilizes propane to heat hot water and to power the kitchen's stove-top and oven. The natural state of propane gas is odorless, so essence of skunk (I kid you not)  is added to enable the olfactory detection of this highly combustible utility. I place a call to the propane company and their service man deems the situation dire, so he shuts off the valve and "red tags" the oven. He advises that the potentially explosive situation is a violation of federal law and that the oven must be repaired (again) and then re-inspected by him before it can be used again.

  I call the Total Protect company to make them aware of the situation and their response is to send another Sears "service technician" (from a Sears affiliate company, upon my request that the incompetant one not return to my domecile). He arrives and can not service the oven because he can not locate a model number on it. I place a call to the retailer from whom the oven was bought five years ago, in the hope that they still have the purchase order information. They do, and I then call the model number in to the department that handles the claim. I also call Sears to file a complaint about the initial repair attempt that resulted in a potential disaster. Yesterday, Sears again sends repairman #2 to my home and he consequently informs me that it is "against company policy" for him to work on an appliance without "both" the model and serial number : the latter is not discernable at this point in time. So, I phone Total Protect to express my ire and am told by a "senior manager" at the "customer care center" that another appliance repair company will be dispatched to repair the oven : at no additional deductible fee (such a huge concession ; peppered with apology).

   In today's post, a statement for the "red tag-installed service" to the oven from the propane company arrives : it's a bill for $133.32. The man shut off a valve and hung a safety tag on the oven door to elicit a fee that resulted from the damage that was done by Sears repairman # 1. I place another call to Total Protect to ask for fair and equitable compensation of said encumberance. Their position is that Sears is licensed and insured to contend with this damage claim and I am then connected to a third party administrator for Sears. Their rep queries me with the particulars and then tells me that I will be subsequently contacted by an "examiner" for this claim ; in 24 to 48 hours' time. Meanwhile, I await the arrival of repairman # 3, upon the morrow in the hope that "three" will be the "charm" for repairation of my Magic Chef oven!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Black Magick Brownies

 Don't be put off by the title, as this recipe can,of course, be made without the inclusion of a bewitching intention...or not.  Actually, the dark, magickal ingredient is the black coffee addition to the batter. Either way , who ever eats of these brownies will be enamoured of their creator. I have baked many batches of this quintessential, chocolate confection and so shall you, if you endeavour to try it!  Prepare a pan a day ahead of time to deepen the flavour, and use a heart-shaped cutter* to make a decadent, Valentine's Day delight!

                                Ingredients :
  •   one scant cup of King Arthur all-purpose flour 
  •   one quarter teaspoon baking soda
  •   one quarter teaspoon salt
  •   two thirds of one cup of organic cane sugar
  •   six tablespoons of butter
  •   two large eggs
  •   one twelve ounce package of Nestle, semi-sweet chocolate chips
  •   three tablespoons of cooled, black coffee
  •   one teaspoon pure vanilla extract
                                 Preparation :
  1. Preheat oven to 325*F : all ovens are calibrated differently,so adjust accordingly.           
  2. Butter a nine inch square baking pan** : set aside.
  3.             In a mixing bowl, stir together the first three dry ingredients.
  4.             In another larger bowl, add the vanilla extract to the chocolate chips.
  5.             Put butter,sugar, & coffee into a heavy-bottomed pan ; stir together til it begins to boil.
  6.             Blend the hot mixture with the chocolate chips and stir to combine well.
  7.             Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
  8.              Stir in the flour mixture.
  9.              Spread batter into buttered baking pan.
  10.              Bake for about 30 minutes ; til just set.
  11.             Cool and cut into squares or shapes.
                      Notes :  * Dip the cookie cutters into cocoa powder before cutting out shapes,for ease of removal.
                                   ** Shiny, aluminum pans bake the most evenly : dark-coated or glass ones will over-bake this recipe. Use American-made, high-quality pans like Nordic Ware for the best results.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's In Your Cupboard?

    Strengthen your mind's eye with the following exercise:

    Choose a cupboard,cabinet,or closet in your domecile : preferably one that you have not opened recently. Sit comfortably and quietly still. Picture the items that are inside and list them on a piece of paper. Recall them with as much detail as you are able. Upon completion, open the chamber to review what is actually there-in. How accurate was your visualization?

     Earlier today, I chose the double kitchen cabinet above my stove to assess. I remembered a stainless steel grater, a perculator, two Brown Betty teapots (one large,one smaller), two tea cozies (one Spode,one printed), a bundt cake pan, a steam iron, fireplace matches, a box of cookie cutters, heart ornaments, and an array of candles (votives & pillars). I had missed the mini kettle, ceramic creamer, stained glass ornament, incense cones, tiny terracotta pot, Brigid's cross, and two jar candles.

      This simple recollection technique can be used to sharpen your insight for detail and to improve your memory.