You know the saying “Pay attention to what you pay attention to”? I’ve been taking those eight simple words more and more to heart over the past few years. To attempt, with concerted attention and focus, to note precisely what it is I become the most engaged by, the most tuned in to, the most aware of. In that deliberation, I pretty much keep coming back to the same thing-herbs.
Whether growing them, foraging for them, reading about them, harvesting them, chopping them up, boiling them, sugaring them, stirring them, or otherwise interacting with them, herbs, both culinary and medicinal, give me profound and abiding joy. Just ask Glenn. When we’re working on recipe development, I’ll frequently say, “Well, it’s good, but what it really needs is an herb or spice.” We could be talking about steak and I’ll say that. Or an apple. The point being, herbs make everything better, in my world.
From bath salts to cordials, cough syrup to spice rubs, working with herbs and learning about the myriad benefits they offer excites me-truly, deeply, excites me-in a way few other things do. Which is why I’m so very excited to share with you the forthcoming Online Herbal Medicine Making Class being offered at Chestnut School of Herbs.
Juliet Blankespoor, founder of this sublime herbal studies school nestled here in the mountains of western North Carolina, knows that of which she speaks. She’s studied herbal medicine for over 25 years, and has a strong international reputation as a wise teacher and healer. She’s also uncommonly kind, and gracious, and generous. Add to that the fact that she’s silly and goofy, and you have a winning combination. If you’re a wealth of info but you’re unapproachable, what good does it do your students? Not the case with Juliet, or with Asia Suler, a former student of Juliet’s who collaborated with her on the course.
I’ve had the pleasure of studying under both women, and, without a smidgeon of hyperbole, I solemnly swear that they are, for me, the perfect teachers and healers, owing to the traits and qualities outlined above. Together, they have created an Online Herbal Medicine Making Course that will give you the know-how and confidence to create an abundant apothecary. Their hands-on instructional videos and photographic tutorials are chock-full of their personal experience and insider tips, along with a hearty dose of silliness. To get a glimpse of these lovelies in action, click here.
In their own words:
Are you herb-curious? Do you feel like you know a little about herbs and making medicine, but are ready to dive deeper? Or perhaps the herb world is unchartered territory you’ve wanted to explore for far too long? Or maybe you’re herb-passionate? Do you have a long-standing love affair with herbs, but are looking to rekindle that old flame? Your friends at the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine will help you bring herbal medicine into your daily life on a fun and practical level.
They spent a year formulating the ultimate educational brew: 46 ways to fall in love with herbs and 49 ways to put the spring back in your step! With over 95 herbal recipes, the course is brimming with herbal inspiration. Imagine a medicine chest stocked with homemade herbal remedies, an apothecary lined with handcrafted tinctures, salves and tea blends. Picture a pantry brimming with botanical vinegars, oils and honeys. Sumptuous sauces, butters and salts, infused with the flavor and medicine of fresh herbs. All made with your own hands!
Here’s a small sample of what you’ll learn in the course:
• Herbal Honeys & Syrups
• Infused Oils and Salves
• Infusions and Decoctions
• Infused Medicinal Vinegars
• Medicinal Mushroom Concoctions
• Herbal Bone Broth
• Herbal Cocktails
• Herbal Meads
• Body Butters
• Herbal Salts
• Salt Scrubs
…and much, much more!
I’ve partnered up with Juliet as an affiliate. What that means is that, while I don’t receive any profit for simply promoting the course, if you, dear small measure readers, sign up for it on account of my profuse praise, I’ll earn a commission. I like relationships like that, reciprocal ones, where all parties involved are nurtured and nourished equally well.
So, is this the year you stoke the fire of herbal passion you’ve been letting simply smolder? I, for one, am ready to continue my green education. It fills my metaphorical well like no other. If you’re ready to learn more, too, click here. If you sign up in the next week, between now and January 20th, you’ll also receive a discount off the total cost of the course. What a way to start the new year, right?!
May the (Green) Force be with you.
***GREAT NEWS! From January 29-February 12, 2016, all small measure readers who sign up for either the Herbal Immersion Program or Medicine Making Course will receive 10% off the total cost of enrollment. Simply enter the code “smallmeasure” at check out!
When I met and married my husband, I had the immense fortune of marrying not just my perfect person, the other half of my heart, but also of marrying into his family. Glenn’s two sisters, their families, and his parents are a wonderful addition to my life.
Early Sunday morning, Huxley and I dropped Glenn off at the airport in Asheville. He flew to Sarasota, Florida, where his parents live, after several late night calls let us know that his father’s health had declined, necessitating hospitalization. He’s there now, and will be returning home tomorrow afternoon.
Glenn made this healing roots mandala image this morning, and shared it on his Instagram feed. He captioned the image “Drawing on my roots…My father is in the ICU, and I hope for people to share this healing mandala, or sit with it for a little while and direct their attention on healing themselves, family, friends, or the natural environment that gives us life.”
My father and mother-in-law are exceptionally generous people. They tirelessly offer up their time, energy, and resources day after day. I’m joining Glenn in sending thoughts of healing to his father, to him, to myself, to my grandmother (who has been in the hospital herself since Friday with pneumonia), to my Uncle Pete (who just discovered kidney cancer), and to the greater environment we all collectively share. Peace, love, and healthful thoughts to you and yours, from me and mine.
I have always been a reader. Long, long, LONG before I was a writer, I was a voracious reader of books. Though that waned a bit in my early mothering years (still reading, one could argue, only reading books about parenting, and nursing, and baby board books), it’s been back in full force for a good year now. Aside from my monthly book club (“The Feel Good Book Club”-was there ever a greater name for a literary organization?!), I’m an avid fan of periodicals, a reader of non-fiction (my bedside table is laden with titles ranging from Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic,” to Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly,” to Janine Benyus’s “Biomimcry” to many, many more), and a devourer of pretty much anything with words on it.
As an avid reader, and now a regular writer, I feel I have a fuller, more rounded appreciation for books than ever. From spark of initial idea on down the line to printing, I’ve become acquainted first hand with the nuts and bolts of the world of book publishing. It’s no small feat to produce a book, not for the author, nor for the editor, nor for the art/publicity/sales/printing departments. It truly takes a team.
Which is why when Sasquatch Books approached me recently about receiving copies of some of their new titles, they found a profoundly ready and willing participant. Sasquatch, based in Seattle, WA, consistently produces titles that are engaging, informative, mindful, clever, and beautiful. The perfect combo of desired traits in my book-loving checklist. The stack shown on top are the titles they sent, and it’s my pleasure to introduce them to you today:
Social Animals: A Berkley Bestiary , by Ryan and Lucy Berkley.
Written and illustrated by a husband and wife team, this book is a whimsical, visual delight. Born out of prints created by Ryan and sold on Etsy, the book brings Lucy onboard to pen descriptions for a collective of well-dressed animals. Divided into chapters entitled “Social Butterflies,” Worker Bees,” Odd Ducks,” Top Dogs,” Black Sheep,” and “Lone Wolf,” the Berkley’s characters are as gregariously outfitted as they are eccentrically described. Take, if you will, the “The Quirky Quail”: As a champion of California bird causes, this quail travels the Golden State hosting luncheons and community fundraisers. When he wants to accentuate a point, he quickly bobs his head and his well-coiffed plume provides a visual exclamation point. Marketing analysis shows that the more bounce in the plume, the more donors open their wallets. Record donations poured in after an unprecedented fifty-seven bobs in a two-minute rally speech. See what I mean?
The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration, by Moorea Seal.
As a regular writer of lists (who doesn’t love a good list?!), this book speaks to my soul. These are the lists that I nearly never write, but feel deeply satisfied when I do. While writing lists on things to do for book projects, things to do around the house, things to do in advance of a gathering, etc. is great for keeping life organized and sane, it doesn’t fill the proverbial “well” like the lists in Moorea Seal’s book do. Divided by the four seasons, The 52 Lists Project is a journal for chronicling what inspires you. With prompts like “List The Words That Warm Your Spirit” (Fall), “List The Soundtrack Of Your Life Right Now” (Winter), “List The People You Most Want To Be Like” (Spring), and “List The Ways You Get Energized” (Summer), the book offers a list for each week of the calendar year. It’s also peppered throughout with lovely illustrations by Julia Manchik and photos by Julia and Yuriy Manchik. As the promotional literature for the book reads (and with which I fully agree): “With perfectly timed listing prompts that meet you where you are throughout the seasons, this journal will empower you to celebrate, enjoy, and take ownership of your own life, making each week of the year more thoughtful and vibrant.” Preach!!!!
The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician, by Matthew Porter.
When the title for “Magician of the Year” is at stake, all kinds of monkey business ensues. Oscar the magician and Milton the Magnificent are monkeys on a mission. Filled with vibrant, watercolor-like illustrations, this adorable book gained the mama and Huxley stamp of approval!
Theo Chocolate: Recipes & Sweet Secrets, by Debra Music and Joe Whinney.
My youngest sister is named Theo, so I’ve been a fan of Theo Chocolate (and gifting it to her!) ever since first hearing about the Seattle-based chocolatier. Co-founders Debra Music and Joe Whinney formed the company in 2004, motivated by a desire to show the full spectrum of what is meant by organic, fair-trade chocolate. From the farmers, to the manufacturers, to the consumers, Theo Chocolate is all about crafting an ethical, conscientious, sustainable culture around chocolate. In their book, they relay their origin story, discuss the process of making bean-to-bar chocolate, share wisdom on chocolate fundamentals, and then offer a bevy of recipes for whatever tickles your chocolate fancy. From chocolate to breakfast, to chocolate for dinner, with drinks, sweets, and savory offerings attended to as well, this book speaks to the chocolate enthusiast in everyone.
The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping, by Erica Strauss.
I don’t know Erica Strauss personally. Before receiving a copy of this book, I had, truth be told, never even heard of her. But, oh, this book, I swear. The Hands-On Home was truly written just for me. Presenting a fresh take on modern homemaking (I love that phrase, by the way-“homemaking”), Erica’s book pretty much encapsulates all of my loves in one robust 400-page tome. Divided by the seasons, with further sub-divisions of “Cooking”, “Preserving,” “Home Care,” and “Personal Care” within each season, The Hands-On Home is full of approachable, non-toxic, natural, affordable ways to care for all realms involved in caring for a home and its inhabitants. There are year round go-to’s, as well, from homemade mayonnaise and chicken broth in “Cooking”, to yogurt and red wine vinegar in “Preserving,” and from all-purpose cleaner and scrubbing powder in “Home Care,” to tooth powder and creamy bar deodorant in “Personal Care.” Her tone is affable and conversational, and goofy at times (which this goof herself truly appreciates), the photographs by Charity Burggraaf are beautiful, and the photo and book styling are on point and timeless, all at once. Like I said, this book is a keeper.
B Is For Bear: A Natural Alphabet, by Hannah Viano.
I do very much appreciate the patience and talent of papercut artists. All of that deliberate, detailed attention, rendering elegant, beautiful images reminds me to pace myself a bit more, to move a bit slower, to breathe a bit deeper. B Is For Bear covers the alphabet, via flora, fauna, the elements, and geology. From “Aa is for Acorn,” to Ww is for Wave,” with ‘Ee is for Egret” and “Yy is for Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker” along the way, Hannah’s book sprinkles each letter with educational tidbits beside striking images (“Ff is for Fawn- Fawn is the name given to young deer, spotted here in her father’s shadow”). When she visited us back in April, Tara gifted Huxley with a copy of Hannah’s first book, “S Is For Salmon.” While that book had a Pacific Northwest focus on its content, her new book addresses creatures spread far and wide. A perfect book for any household with young readers, or anyone that loves beautiful, artful books.
Bigfoot Does Not Like Birthday Parties, by Eric Ode & Jaime Temairik.
In the town of Mossy Pockets, birthdays are a big deal. When the time comes for celebrating its resident blue-furred Bigfoot, the preparations are precise, the guests many. But the guest of honor can’t be found. Why? Because he doesn’t like birthday parties, that’s why. What a conundrum. Will he get to enjoy his special day or grump and pout about it, until the sun has set? An internal rhyme structure gives the book a wonderful rhythm, set at a pace that Huxley loved when I read it aloud. Silly, with bright, bold illustrations that appeal to children and adults alike, this book is one to treasure.
Thank you, Sasquatch Books, not just for gifting me with these wonderful books, but for putting them out into the world in the first place. Perfect for gifting, to others or to oneself, do consider adding these titles to your lives, readers. I promise you’re in for a treat!
About two months ago, we took Huxley to see the film Inside Out. It tells the story of 11 year-old Riley and the emotional roller coaster she experiences after her family relocates from the midwest to San Francisco. Her emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust attempt to navigate her new experiences and keep things copacetic and tip-top from Headquarters, a quaint euphemism for her brain. It’s a pretty genius depiction, in my estimation, of a rather abstract concept. Every day, experience orbs are racked up in Riley’s memory, color-coordinated to their respective emotions. Ideally, the orbs are primarily those of joyful experiences.
All of which has what exactly to do with jars of jam and pickles and peaches and cherries and such, you might be wondering. Racking up experience orbs of joy, that’s what! When I’m canning, I’m happy. Like, really, really happy. I get in a groove, I feel the flow, I completely focus on the task at hand. And for a person that’s typically juggling many things (too many things!) at once, finding a groove/flow/focus trifecta is supremely satisfying. I’m quite certain that loads of joy memories are taking root when I’m canning.
That’s a good thing, considering the wealth of glorious fruits I was generously given this summer. As part of their Canbassador initiative, the Washington State Fruit Commission and Sweet Preservation sent me shipments of their lovely stone fruits, as they’ve done over the past 5 summers. I am so, so very appreciative of this bounty. First, in June, came the cherries, nearly 20 pounds of them. Huxley and I sat out on the patio in our skivvies and de-stemmed and pitted them (for every cherry stem he removed, he ate one, making him look not unlike a zombie, a very, very cute zombie, by the time the job was done). They were rendered into cherry pickles, black pepper maraschino cherries, cherry moonshine (!!!), cherry compote, and cherry butter, as well as a sweet cherry pie. Next, in July, came the peaches. Those were transformed into spiced pickled peaches, peach lavender butter, and Marisa‘s Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam.
If you’ve never canned before, I invite you to go for it. It’s really quite easy, and, at least in my case, a bliss-inducing experience. I put up loads of other things this summer, with many more jars to go before I put the canning pot fully away for the season. If you’re looking for tips, instruction, tutorials, recipes, or just inspiration, do check out Sweet Preservation. The website is full of helpful information for the canning novice and seasoned jar bather alike. Massive thanks, WA State Fruit Commission, for another very, very appreciated shipment of your glorious stone fruits!
Happy Friday, friends. So far today in our kitchen, we’ve made some sorghum bourbon butter pecan ice cream. For dinner, catfish and hushpuppies are in the works, likely alongside fried green tomatoes. This very second, a blueberry icebox pie is being assembled, while a strawberry crumble pie will be baked first thing tomorrow morning (both recipes from “A Year of Pies“). The ice cream and fried deliciousness is all part of recipe development and testing for my new southern pantry book while the pies will be my and Glenn’s entries at our friend Barbara Swell’s Retro Pie Contest tomorrow afternoon. I do so very much love a baking/stirring/measuring/whipping/tasting/chopping day in the kitchen!
Just a small round-up this week, of this and that’s that caught my attention:
*Butter and salt-coated radishes. So fresh. So clean. So simple. So good.
*So honored to have been included in the Garden.Kitchen.Table summit. Do yourself a favor and check it out! And if you’ve ever wondered what I look like when I’m talking to a computer screen (as dorky as you’ve likely imagined!), you can view my interview here.
*Looking forward to hosting Chris Bennett here for a few nights next week. He’s the author of Southeast Foraging, and will be giving a free lecture on foraging information from his book this coming Tuesday night at Villagers.
Alright, all that food mentioned above won’t cook itself. Back to work for me! Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*For this week’s “What I’m Digging” round-up, I’m sharing images of our home and property. These were taken last year, right around this time, by the wonderful Tim Robison. Tim wrote me yesterday, saying he had a bunch of images from a shoot we did together that I could have. Everything still looks almost completely the same, so I thought it would be fun to share those images here with you. Thanks, Tim!