Archives for posts with tag: lavender

egg cartons take a pause before hitting the recycling bin, to nurture my little green pals


I am a proud mama… not only to a cat, but to a vast number of tiny, green lives. This year I started my garden indoors. I was waiting to find out which plot I was allocated in the Community Garden, so I couldn’t plant outside.

baby oregano... awwwww!

I took a couple of egg cartons, a small bag of dirt, and a selection of organic seeds to start lavender, coriander, oregano, basil, tomatoes, arugula, parsley, and peppers. I will plant my carrots directly in the earth, as they require more root room!

widdle baybee tomatoes, hea-wooooah!

My plants are keening towards the sun… but I think the when they’re outdoors they’ll manage to straighten up. I am really looking forward to growing, tending, caring for, and harvesting these little guys. I’ll be careful to collect seeds, too!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal
This is a photo taken by me on Noida Flower sh...

calendula blossoms

I just watched The Story of Cosmetics (2010).  It reminded me of why I went down this road called herbalism.  I kept seeing myself and others buying into the hype on labels, and this hype had little or nothing to do with the contents. For example, we all know a successful company based on oatmeal (Avena sativa).  People buy into these products.  And it is really maddening if you read the ingredients on these products, you will see that they have little to do with oatmeal.

Herbalism is my attempt to keep it real, to see things for what they are, and to try using authentic, original ingredients.

It is kind of outrageous to see myself buying into the marketing hype of cosmetics, when in practice I would never do the same thing, for example, in cooking.  It is generally not my practice to make a meal that is ‘organic’, ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’, and then use ingredients that are none of those things!  It is most certainly not my practice to try to convince others that this sort of a meal is ‘organic food’ when I know it is not.  Actually, the sense of taste and smell are finely tuned instruments for detecting all sorts of things.  Though chemists can trick taste-buds and nasal passages, I doubt I could get away with it.  Moreover, that is simply not the point of feeding people.  If it’s a meal, the goal is to nourish.  The same sort of understanding could be applied to cosmetics. We should nourish our outsides – our skin! – with the same care as we do our insides!

So, I try to use the raw ingredients. I try to ensure that they are harvested and stored in a way that keeps them fresh and beneficial.  This is important for me because a therapy can fail if the ingredients are not the best.  If I am purchasing ingredients, then I try to buy the best on the market, within my budget, from likeminded folks who understand their ingredients.  I personally look for partners who are concerned for the earth and it’s inhabitants.   I can’t say that this is the easiest way, and I can’t say I do this perfectly; but I can say that there are moments of clarity and there are solutions. This comes down to using herbs with knowledge and imagination.

Today I would like to focus on tub tea.  Herbalists have been recommending tub tea for a long time.  Using a bath is a great way to nourish your largest organ, the skin.  And your skin is a great vehicle for getting good plant constituents (or toxic chemicals, if you wish) into the body.

Honestly, as I write this, I have to laugh.  It has been difficult to convince people to make a tea and then bathe in raw botanical ingredients.  I have suggested oatmeal for itchy, dry skin conditions; a couple times, I have received a hugely glazed over look from someone.   It is the messiness of raw ingredients. It is the lack of hype found in the typical bulk ingredients. And, perhaps, it is the imagination we can enjoy in using them.

Well, as I was shopping a few months ago, I found a new product: tub tea.  These are big tea bags filled with botanical ingredients used in a bath.  Now that we have a great name for it, I have a couple ideas for ingredients that you might want to try for making a DIY tub tea.

Let’s start with an oatmeal and blossoms blend.

Oatmeal (Avena sativa) – will help to calm itchy skin due to dryness.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra) – cooling anti-inflammatory.  Excellent for weeping eczema and infant eczema.

Chamomile flowers (Matricaria recutita) nervine, anti-inflammatory, excellent for irritable states of being and irritated skin.  *Be aware that some people are allergic to chamomile.

Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis) vulnerary, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.  Excellent for inflammatory skin conditions, cuts and bruises, burns, insect bites, and athlete’s foot.

Rose (Rosa spp.) – cooling astringent.  Famous for imparting beauty.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) nervine, smells wonderful.  Helpful for burns and insect bites.

And what about the bag?  What can you use for a tea bag?  The idea that makes up for a lack of glamour by being the most convenient is the long lone tube sock.  Nylons can be used in a similar manner.  Just add the herbs and tie at the end.  Another terribly basic idea is the tea towel carefully tied into a knot.  Or for those with a sewing machine can make a muslin bag with a draw-string.  All of these “bags” can be washed and reused with new tea.  I also have some fancy tea bags that are sealed with heat from an iron.  These heat-sealed tea bags could be composted along with the herbs.

To Make  A Tub Tea

Put a few handfuls of blossoms and one handful of oatmeal into a “bag”.   Place this bag in a pot or a 4 cup measuring cup.  Pour boiling water over the bag and make sure that the boiling water is getting through the fabric and to the herbs.  Allow this to infuse while you prepare the bath.  Add the tub tea and the bag to the bath.  Now it is the simple matter of soaking it in.  Enjoy!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

some of the herbs that were used

The first Herbal Creativity Spa Weekend workshop was held this last weekend. It was a thoroughly delicious, educational, creative and fun experience.

in the midst of making Herbal Truffles

Participants learned to make succulent herbal truffles, beautiful felted soaps, and pretty Boudoir Boxes.

fancy felted soaps, made by participants

They enjoyed some herbal teas, made a bath tea, and tasted a Healthy Hot Chocolate.

making some Boudoir Boxes from scratch

They made (and some dared to sample…) a true Love Potion.

pouring something good...

A relaxing, yet invigorating, time was had by all!

finishing touches, choices being made... a Boudoir Box

Stay tuned for the next Herbal Creativity workshop, which will be announced in March…

les pieces des resistances... herbal-infused truffles

“Ooof! There is no time left, yet I still need a meaningful gift!”

No problem.  All you need is a couple jars, 2 or 3 commonly found ingredients and 5 minutes.

Ready, set, go!

Caffeinated Sugar Scrub

Caffeine is a very popular ingredient in cosmetics at the moment. Amongst it’s many attributes, it is said to increase circulation and thereby decrease the occurrence of cellulite.   Sugar is a popular exfoliant.  Oil helps to nourish the skin.  Put the three together, add some scented ingredients, if you wish, and you have a great scrub for arms and legs.

Ingredients:  1/4 cup fresh fair-trade organic coffee grounds, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup oil (sunflower, grapeseed and olive oil are a few ideas)  And what can be used to compliment this rather robust scrub?  I think 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp dried ginger goes well with the coffee and sugar.

Salt, Bay Leaf and Pink Pepper

All you need is rock sea salt, bay leaf and pink peppercorns. This can be used to season vegetables and meats such as fish and chicken.

Lavender Bath Salts

Ingredients: equal parts epsom salts and baking soda, *organic lavender essential oil.

Use 20 – 30 drops of organic lavender essential oil per cup of the epsom salts and baking soda mix.  Typically people recommend adding a 1/2 cup to the bath.

* Yes, organic lavender oil.  Lavender essential oils are some of the most adulterated essential oils on the market.  You want great quality, especially if you expect a therapeutic effect.

vanilla and spices to be covered with sugar

Vanilla and Spice Sugar

Ingredients: vanilla bean, sugar, optional spice including cinnamon stick and cardamom pods

For those who put sugar in their coffee, a special gift could be a little jar of sugar with a whole vanilla bean in it.  You could also add a cinnamon stick, some cardamom pods or whatever spice you wish.  This vanilla and spice sugar can be used for coffee, tea and even in baking.  Be sure to let the recipient of this gift know that they can refill the jar with sugar many times and the vanilla will continue to imbue the sugar with a vanilla essence.

You are not going to believe this… Compost!

Last week I received an exciting gift from my friends, Julie and Mer.  It was a box of vermicompost.  My friends compost fruit and vegetable scraps by feeding these scraps to a worm farm in their basement.  Julie and Mer found that they were rich in compost this year, so they packaged it up and gave it away.  Don’t worry, they did not send over the whole worm farm, just the compost.  I love this gift because I have a couple houseplants and it feels good to feed these little plants some “local” homegrown vermicompost from friends.

Happy Holidays from Tammy Schmidt in Montreal.

winter balm

I just made this!  It is a gift for some friends and myself. This winter balm is great for hands and feet, elbows and knees; it is good for anything that needs a little more care and attention in the winter.

How might you make this lovely winter balm?

Using a kitchen scale, measure the following ORGANIC ingredients in a clean saucepan:

15 g beeswax

30 g shea butter

30 g sweet almond oil

30 g calendula infused sunflower oil

30 g rosehip oil

Using a low heat, heat the oils and wax until these are homogenous, that is, all mixed together as one oil.

Then take the saucepan off the heat and add:

15 drops lavender oil

10 drops rose oil

5 drops vanilla absolute

Pour into clean glass containers.

Where can you pick up these ingredients?   Try a well-stocked health food store such as the one that just opened up on Notre Dame called Marché Bleuet.

I picked up the containers at Les Conserves du Fermier .

Labels… it’s a work in progress!

Perhaps you do not have a scale?  Remember that one tablespoon is about 15 g.  It does not have to be exactly as the above recipe to be amazing.  Great ingredients make it great.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

by Natasha Henderson, Montreal

In This World solo exhibition in BC a few years back

As some of you may know, I am a painter. I paint in oils, which are a lush and rich material. Pigment is suspended in oil, it slowly dries, it holds its body and texture and translucency… it is like painting with light. Who wouldn’t want to paint with light? It sounds like magic, like miracles. Like painting with rainbows. You layer this suspended pigment over other layers of suspended pigment, time passes, it dries so slowly… slowly. Because of the intensely slow drying time of oils, many artists add in products and other things that are not oil to make the oil dry a bit faster. Up until very recently, and then starting again yesterday, I used Alkyd Medium. There are a few options out there for that stuff, and I use the Gamblin one. With this “goo”, a layer of paint will be pretty much dry within a day. This is important for an artist who is always inspired to paint, and who sells her paintings to make a large chunk of her living. We’re talking practicalities, here. (Don’t even get me started on the feeling I get when I think about the painters who have come before me, the links to a shared history and a huge family of painters. Maybe some other time I will wax historical and poetic about that.)

I take issue, though, with needing to buy “product” in order to paint. I am even leaning away from the idea of using store-bought pigments. With my friend, Tammy the Herbalist, I have been discussing natural dyes and pigments. I like the idea of gathering plants and natural substances and using them to make my own paints.

Bucka! Bucka!

I recently saw (and was very moved by) the Otto Dix show at the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal. Otto Dix would use mixed media in his paintings, and lots of egg tempera. I want to paint with egg tempera! It is an age-old method of applying pigments to canvas. Why not? I would start with buying free-range eggs for the paint, and, hoping that the bylaw to allow chickens on the Island of Montreal will pass, one day might raise my own hens for egg-eating and paint-making!

Cluck 'N' Lurt, my cartoon chickens (Lurt is the round one)

I had chickens when I was a kid, an illegal arrangement in a small town. My Dad always wanted a farm, and this was as close as he could get. My neighbours enjoyed very cheap, excellent eggs for many years, ’til a newbie blew the whistle. Anyhow, I am interested in using a mixture of eggs, oils, and natural pigments that I would mix in glass jars all by myself. No more need to buy things in throw-away tubes, no more throw-away glass with resin hardened to the inside of it.

I had my first urge to go Herbal in my painting a couple of years back. While perusing all the little bottles of “stuff” that one could add to their paints at a major art-supply store, I saw a bottle of “Oil of Spike Lavender”. In with the toxic paint mediums was one of my all-time favorite scents/tastes/herbs. Lavender… oooh! So I bought it, thinking that it would add a lovely working-smell to my paints. It does, it did. However, I finally did read the small print (come to think of it, it’s all small print on this little tiny bottle) and what? What? It contains a petroleum product, and they actually say to not breathe the fumes. I will use Oil of Lavender in my works, in the future… just it will be a more pure extract!

Lavender... can't you just smell this???

A part of my rationale for change is based on health, outside of environmental concerns. I know I’d need to be careful about loose pigments, and I would buy a respirator. If I succumbed to buying loose pigment from the loose-pigment place, Kama, then I would most certainly do this. I would stop using cadmium and cobalt, no question about THAT one.

What changes will happen within my work? Only time will tell. Time will always be an internal and eternal aspect of painting, and especially of oil painting. Like many changes, this should be pretty exciting and a challenge.

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