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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

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…during our Herbal Creativity Spa Weekend: Valentine workshop! While making a felted soap…

just before making a felted soap...

Truffles with nuts and chocolate dusting in de...

truffle magic!

The pinnacle of the dark, dreary days of winter is a purgatory that rests between Christmastime and Spring… February. Installed into February is a day that is supposed to be a celebration of “Love”. Many lament the commercialisation of Valentine‘s Day, and resent the high expectations and sadness that come with so many of our holidays.

Traditional Valentine’s expectations dictate that one should enjoy chocolates, give expensive gifts, and be in love. Well, let’s take some of the good from those traditions and embrace them! Even if you are single, you deserve some chocolate. Actually, you deserve more chocolate. Feeling a bit bloated after a winter’s eating? This is an opportunity to sharpen your skills in making HEALTHY treats. Herbal-infused organic chocolate truffles, anyone? Or perhaps a cup of Healthy Hot Chocolate? True love. Love is in a good cup of tea, a soothing bath that invigorates the spirit, or a beautiful hand-made gift box to hold treasures.

The brains behind the Fleurbain concept, Tammy Schmidt, Clinical Herbal Therapist and Natasha Henderson, visual artist and arts instructor, are offering an Herbal Creativity Spa Weekend workshop in February. There is an option to take one or both days during the Herbal Creativity Spa Weekend, on Friday the 11th from 7 to 10pm and Saturday the 12th from 1 to 4pm.

Friday night, we will enjoy a relaxing glass of wine (or herbal tea) with some dessert treats and fine cheese. Participants will learn how to make an herbal Love Potion. The Love Potion is a special euphoric herb that is distilled in a vodka base. Everyone will get to take home a sample of this to try themselves! Tub Teas are all the rage, and for good reason. What could be better than infusing your entire body in an organic, herbal bath that is designed to soothe the body, mind, and spirit? Participants will learn some of the properties of the herbs used in this special Valentine’s Tea Bath, and take home a sample. Finally, we will make a Boudoir Gift Box, a gift box made from scratch that will be decorated with fine fabrics, papers, lace, and beads. It will be suitable as a gift box for chocolates, jewellery, fine treasures… and can be re-used to hold your favourite special things.

Saturday afternoon starts off with a healthy, delicious beginning. Participants will learn how to make Healthy Hot Chocolate (yes, this version is truly healthy), and enjoy a cup. While sipping our treat, we will make organic chocolate truffles, which will be flavoured with high quality, organic herbs for unique flavours. These are perfect to tuck into the Boudoir Boxes made the previous evening. Then we will think about the physical and mental well-being that a good bath brings, and make a felted soap loofah for our next bath. These soaps combine sheep’s wool with a high-quality Ginseng or Evening Primrose soap to be an exfoliating and moisturising addition to your bath. Finally, we will create a batch of Love Tea to take home and enjoy.

All courses use the finest quality, pure and organic ingredients. Take one afternoon or evening for $75, or treat yourself (or a friend!) to both sessions for $135. Location of workshops will be in a Montreal artist’s studio, converted to a Valentine’s Factory for our workshops. Please email fleurbain(at)gmail.com for information and registration.

Felted soaps make really cool presents, and are conversation-pieces.

Felted soap is a lovely and unique gift that just takes a bit of patience, but anyone can do it! You need some wool roving, a soap of any type, a bit of bubble wrap (or a bamboo mat, or a texured waterproof surface), a towel, an old pair of nylons, and then some hot water (even boiling!)

A soap, some roving... a bit of bubble-wrap, a towel.

For the roving, you can ask at your local wool-shop if they have roving, otherwise you might like to order some online.

Wrap the bar of soap in wool layers, placing the wool at right angles. It is good to wrap the soap fairly snugly. If it is too loose, it could cause weird bumps, but on the end it would still be ok. Work a few layers, until you cannot see the soap anymore. Keep in mind that the wool will shrink and shift somewhat as you do this, so what you lay out on the soap will probably not be exactly what you will end up with! The factor of surprise in this is actually part of the fun.

Beginning to wrap the soap in wool roving...

Place the felt-covered soap inside a pocket made from nylon pantyhose. I bought my first pair of nylons in possibly decades in order to make felted soaps. From those nylons I cut a few lengths and tied off the ends to make several pockets, so then I could teach soap-felting workshops. Don’t worry too much if the wool shifts a little while you put it in the pocket; it is possible to adjust the wool when you remove it from the pocket later on.

Pour hot water over the pocket. Rub the soapy mass inside the pocket for about eight to ten minutes. Roll it in a towel to remove some of the lather and excess moisture.

Wool-covered soap in the pocket!

Remove the soap/felt from the nylon pocket, then rub the felted soap on bubble-wrap until the felt is truly felted down and matted against the soap. During this process, you might need to rub a little more water on the soap, or roll it again in the towel if it’s a bit too lathery. Do this until you see that the wool is all stuck together, a few minutes. Try making a few of these felted soaps, and you’ll get the hang of it!

The felt will shrink as you use the soap over time, until there is no soap left and you have a cute little ball of wool that you could cut to turn into a little pouch, or a cat-toy… or even Christmas decorations.

In the process of felting the soap!

I have a business selling felted soaps (amongst other things) and my clients have told me that they love the gentle exfoliation of the wool, how fine and frothy the soap lather is, and that the soap lasts much longer than if it wasn’t wearing such a nicely felted wool sweater! Enjoy!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Did you know that you could actually clean most anything using insanely common items such as baking soda, soap and vinegar? Way back in the day, yes, all the way back in 2005, I went to a “make your own cleaning products” workshop at La Co-op La Maison Verte .  At this very workshop my hunch was confirmed; it is possible to make cleaning products with simple and cheap ingredients.  For many of my clients, it is important to avoid using harsh chemical cleaners in their homes.  You too might enjoy seeing how easy it is to make your own green products.

Bottle of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap

Image via Wikipedia

Scrub Paste.  (It’s excellent!) In a tight fitting jar, mix together in the following order:

1 2/3 cups baking soda, 1/2 cup liquid soap (dish-soap, Dr. Bronner’s, etc.), 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree essential oil.

(If there is a little residue from the baking soda, just spray with a wee bit of vinegar and wipe)

Uses: any greasy, grimy job, like tubs, sinks, garbage cans, counter tops, super dirty floors, toilet bowls, it works!

All-Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner

In a 16 oz. spray bottle:

Put 3 tablespoons liquid soap or 1 tablespoon of liquid hand-dishwashing detergent and 30 drops tea tree essential oil in bottle and fill with purified water.

Uses:  Kitchen and bathroom floors, toys, doorknobs, phones, toilet seat and rim, garbage cans, dirty windows, baseboards, floors, walls

Chrome/Glass Cleaner

Fill any spray bottle with club soda.

Other uses for club soda: clean plants, stains like wine, juice, tomato sauce.

Scented Baking Soda

In a glass sugar container with a perforated top, fill with:

Baking Soda and your favorite essential oil

Uses: any stainless steel surface, like the kitchen sink, removes odours (carpet, cat box, garbage can), scuff marks and smudges

Scented Vinegar

In any size spray bottle, fill with:

Cats help with so many things in this life, just not the cleaning!

White distilled vinegar and your favorite essential oil.

Uses: to prevent soap build-up in the bathroom spray shower a couple times a week, removes baking soda residue, removes odours, any stainless steel surface, also can be used as a fabric softener.

Oven Cleaner

Spray water on bottom of the oven, sprinkle 1/4 cup salt mixed with 3/4 cup baking soda, spray again with water and let sit overnight.  Next day scrape with a putty knife/steel wool/ pumice stone.  Rinse with scented vinegar.  Prevention: Use oven liners which are pure aluminum, so you can recycle them when you are done.

Cutting Board Cleaner

Spray cutting board with water, then work salt or the cut side of half a lemon into the surface.  Let sit, then rinse with water and dry.

Lemon

Image via Wikipedia

Furniture Polish – love it! In a 16 oz. spray bottle:

2 teaspoons olive oil, 20 drops pure lemon essential oil, 1/4 cup white vinegar and fill with purified water. Shake well before using.

The vinegar and lemon oil dissolves dirt and smudges, while the olive oil shines and protects the wood.

Uses: wooden surfaces such as cabinets, picture frames, wood paneling, varnished wood floors, dusting furniture and dust mopping floors.

A few additional tips:

1) Replenish these products on a regular basis.  If the oil goes off in the bottle, throw the old stuff out and make new stuff.

2) If you are concerned about using petroleum based products, remember, if the soap is made from synthetic ingredients it is likely a petroleum based soap.  There are many good brands out there that use vegetable oils so be sure to read labels!  Castille soap is an amazing option.

3) Also, most distilled vinegars are made from petroleum.  Heinz is a grain-based vinegar, so look for that.  Do not use any vinegar on any stone or marble.

4) If you do not like the scent of tee tree essential oil, try pure lavender essential oil or pure lemon essential oil.  These oils are also disinfecting oils.

Happy Cleaning!

Many of these recipes are found in “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan

This info was compiled by Tammy Schmidt, Montreal.

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