Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fun Outdoor Dates For Couples

Do you and your spouse or significant other spend time outdoors together?  Perhaps you run together or hike on the weekends.  Maybe you fish or swim in the nearest lake, play tennis or garden together.  If you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors I found a great article you'll want to read!  This article gives some great ideas for outdoor dates for couples who want to enjoy nature and each other at the same time.  I'm sure you'll want to try some of the fun, romantic suggestions to liven up your love life.  I hope you'll enjoy the article...

Feeling outdoorsy?  When the weather is nice—or even when its not, there are so many great things to do outside!  Outdoor dates can be a ton of fun, and there are so many options.  We have a constantly growing list of the most exciting things to do outside on a date.

  • Make kites—go to a local park to fly them.
  • Go for a bike ride in your neighborhood—maybe find a tandem bicycle to borrow or rent.
  • Go look for luck by hunting for some four-leaf clovers.
  • Go to the park and feed the birds
  • Play “Tackle Football” - ON YOUR KNEES
  • Go to random spots in your hometown and take pictures
  • Find inner tubes and float down a nearby river

For more great ideas and for the rest of this fun, idea-filled article go here:

After reading this article, will you be planning an outdoor date with your true love or new romantic interest?  My husband and I love to camp in our backyard a couple of times each summer, a romantic way to spend a summer night.  We set up the tent, bbq and roast weenies and marshmallows over our fire pit, make s'mores and read a couple of short scary stories as the sun goes down.  It's fun, romantic and gives you the feeling of camping without ever leaving your own driveway.

What fun outdoor dates do you spend with your loved one?  I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions!  Talk to me!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Do You Or Your Children Really Need Those Drugs?

Are you or your children taking drugs for mental illness or ADHD?  I found a great article at Natural News that talks about the epidemic of so-called mental illness and the "need" for millions to be on psychotropic medications.

A child recevies her daily ADHD meds
but does she really need them?

 If you or a loved one is taking these drugs you may want to read through this article.  It may be that those drugs are doing more harm than good!  Please read on...
(NaturalNews) Is America truly stricken with widespread mental illness? Do tens of millions need mind-altering drugs? A recent flurry of media articles lead readers to a realization that Big Pharma and the "mental health" industry have deceived Americans on a grand scale.
People are taking more drugs than ever
before but we aren't getting any better!
The "New York Review of Books" two-part article by Dr. Marcia Angell, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School and former Editor in Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, summarizes it extremely well. She analyzes three books by authors Irving Kirsch, Robert Whitaker, and Daniel Carlat. Each deconstructs the apparent mental illness epidemic and theory that mental disorders stem from brain chemical imbalances which can be corrected by drugs.

Dr. Angell's review has sparked a host of other journalists to applaud her and fuel the fire. An article in Forbes even concludes, "psychopharma is looking like an idea whose time has passed."

As an overview:

Ten percent of Americans over age six take antidepressants. Antipsychotic drugs, once reserved for schizophrenics, have become the top-selling class of drugs in the US, with over $14 billion in sales in 2009. ADHD, bipolar and autism diagnoses have exploded in the past two decades with at least 5 million US kids now on psychiatric drugs. Ten percent of boys take drugs for ADHD. Half a million kids take antipsychotics, including preschoolers.
Now that you've read the article, what do you think about so many of our nation's children being on these psychoactive drugs?  I have a grandaugther who has been "diagnosed" with ADHD but thankfully our daughter does not want to medicate her and has chosen alternative methods to deal with the "ADHD".  My personal opinion is that my grandaughter is simply spoiled and a bit hyper, but I could be wrong.  I'm just grateful she is not taking psych meds!  I firmly believe that the ADHD drugs do more harm than good in the long run.

Do you have kids with ADHD or other diagnosis that they are being medicated for?  I would love to hear from you and how you feel these medications are helping (or harming) your child!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mammograms...Are They Really Necessary?

Do you ever worry about Breast Cancer?  Perhaps you have a history of Breast Cancer in your family.  If so, you are probably getting your yearly mammograms if you are over the age of 40.  In recent years there has been some controversy over whether or not mammograms are effective in detecting cancer and some even believe mammograms are harmful, exposing the breasts to radiation that could cause cancer.  I found an article at Natural News that discusses recent research findings that claim computer - aided detection mammograms are a waste of time.  I think all women over the age of 30 (let's face it...younger women are getting breast cancer these days) should read this article.  Enjoy...
(NaturalNews) Computer-aided detection (CAD) technology, which analyzes mammography images and marks suspicious areas for radiologists to review, has been widely hyped and pushed on women as a way to insure invasive breast cancer is spotted on mammograms. And it has grown into a huge industry, adding millions of dollars to the cost of healthcare.

The problem is, CAD simply doesn't work -- at all. That's right. Despite the fact CAD is now applied to the large majority of screening mammograms in the U.S. with annual direct Medicare costs exceeding $30 million (according to a 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology), new research by University of California at Davis (UC Davis) scientists shows the expensive technology is ineffective in finding breast tumors.

But it does something extremely well. It causes enormous stress by greatly increasing a woman's risk of being called back for more costly testing following a CAD analyzed mammogram.

The new research, just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, used data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium to analyze 1.6 million mammograms. Entitled "Effectiveness of Computer-Aided Detection in Community Mammography Practice," the study specifically looked at screening mammograms performed on more than 680,000 women at 90 mammography facilities in seven U.S. states, between the years of 1998 and 2006.

The results are being hailed as the most definitive findings to date on whether the super popular mammography tool is effective in locating cancer in the breast. The findings? CAD is a waste of time and money.

The false-positive rate increased from 8.1 percent before CAD to 8.6 percent after CAD was installed at the medical centers in the study. What's more, the detection rate of breast cancer and the stage and size of breast cancer tumors were similar regardless of whether or not CAD was used.

"In real-world practice, CAD increases the chances of being unnecessarily called back for further testing because of false-positive results without clear benefits to women," Joshua Fenton, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Family and Community Medicine, said in a statement to the media. "Breast cancers were detected at a similar stage and size regardless of whether or not radiologists used CAD."

This isn't the first time the CAD technology has been questioned by researchers. The current study follows a previous study of the computer aided mammography tool that was published by Dr. Fenton in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007.

That examination of mammography screening results in 43 facilities, including seven that used CAD, found that CAD was actually linked to reduced accuracy of mammogram screenings and produced no difference in the detection rate of invasive breast cancer.

"In the current study, we evaluated newer technology in a larger sample and
over a longer time period," Fenton noted in a statement to the press. "We also looked for the first time at cancer stage and cancer size, which are critical for understanding how CAD may affect long-term breast cancer outcomes, such as mortality."

CAD software was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration back in 1998, but its use only skyrocketed after Medicare began covering it in 2001. According to 2009 Medicare data, using CAD adds another $12 to the costs of having a mammogram (about $81 for film mammography and $130 for digital mammography), representing a 9 percent to 15 percent additional cost for CAD use.

For more information:

Learn more:
Now that you'v read this article how do you feel about CAD mammography?  I chose a couple of years ago to forego yearly mammograms, simply because so much research has proven that if a woman gets a yearly mammogram starting at the age of 40, by the time she is in her 60's and 70's she is likely to develop breast cancer due to all the radiation exposure.  There is an alternative for women who don't want to expose their breasts to harmful radiation and it is called Breast Thermography.
I learned about Thermography a few years ago and find, (personally) the technology to be much more sensible for detecting breast cancer.  Please read about Thermography here:
I worked in a clinic and for a provider that did breast thermography and I was very impressed, to say the least, with the technology.  I believe in thermography versus mammography and have decided to have no more mammograms unless a breast thermography indicates the need for one.  Now that you've learned about breast thermography will you proceed with the conventional method of radiation exposure with mammography or will you look into breast thermography as an alternative?
I would love to hear your thoughts about this controversial subject!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grilled Herbed Corn On The Cob

This evening has topped off a lovely day in the Pacific Northwest...we finally got some summer weather and decided to make the most of it and barbequed ribs.  Gunnar requested my grilled herbed corn on the cob and I thought it would be nice to share the simple recipe with you.  Grilled herbed corn on the cob is easy, tastes great and cooks very quickly.  I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Grilled Herbed Corn On The Cob
What you will need:
Desired number of ears of corn, unwrapped, clean and patted dry
Several sprigs of fresh herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Savory and Basil  (be creative!)
Butter or PAM cooking spray
Squares of foil big enough to wrap ears of corn

To clean the fresh herbs, shake them lightly and rinse them gently.  Place on a paper plate or towel and lay a paper towel over them to dry them a bit.

Rosemary and Thyme go
well with corn on the cob!
Pressing excess moisture from
the herbs

Lightly butter or spray your foil squares with Pam.  Lightly salt and pepper if desired.  Place the ear of corn in the center of the foil and lay the herbs beside and top of the corn, as shown below.

Ready to wrap the corn
Just roll it up and its ready for
the grill

Once your corn is on the grill you will want to turn it about every 5 minutes until it is done, in about 20 minutes.

Gunnar turns the corn to ensure
even cooking

When the corn comes off the grill it will look like this, slightly charred on the outside but perfect inside!

Now all you have to do is carefully unwrap the corn from the foil (remember, it will be hot!) and enjoy!

Cooked to perfection and
ready to eat!

Have fun experimenting with different herb and flavor combinations.  Another fun way to flavor the corn is to spread
herbed butter on the foil before you wrap the corn.  Check out my Let's Eat! column for a great recipe for herbed butter!
Enjoy your grilled corn and all the other wonderful produce that nature is kind enough to provide this time of year!
How do you grill your corn on the cob?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Here we are enjoying our bbq'd ribs and corn on the cob!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Got Milk?

 Before you reach for that next glass of milk, perhaps you will want to check out this article I found at Natural News.  Recent research has shown that there are dozens of chemicals in your milk that could be toxic or harmful to you.  This article also reveals why milk is not an optimal source of calcium, the main reason many people are consuming milk.  I hope you will enjoy the article...

(Natural News) When you wake up and go to the kitchen to pour yourself a cold glass of milk, it seems you are filling your body with calcium, vitamins, and an abundance of goodness. That seemingly white beverage may look innocent, but the hidden ingredients packed into the liquid that is a popular staple in the American diet are anything but.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists have found through analysis that one single glass of milk can contain a delightful (or not) medley of up to 20 different kinds of painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones ( These medicinal residues, found in samples of cow, goat, and human breast milk, are from a variety of chemicals used to treat animal and human illness.   For the rest of the article go here:

This research revealed that cow, goat, and human breast milk tested for traces of numerous anti-inflammatory drugs such as niflumic acid, mefenamic acid, flunixin, ibuprofen, diclofenac and ketoprofen -- all of which are commonly used painkillers for animals and humans.
Learn more:

This article came to you from

Now that you've read about the hidden dangers lurking in your milk, will you continue to drink it, will you switch to organic milk or will you stop consuming milk products altogether?  I would love to hear your comments, so please let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How To Make Herbal Infusions And Decoctions

Have you ever wanted to try collecting herbs from your garden and brew up a nice cup or pot of tea with them, but felt intimidated and unsure how to go about it?  If so, read on!  Today I want to share with you how to create your own herbal teas and will explain the difference between infusions and decoctions.  Enjoying tea from the plants you have grown is one of the many rewards that will come from your herb garden.
Garden with Veggies
and Herbs

Potted Herbs
Herbal Infusion
It's so easy to go out to the garden and pluck a few leaves and flowers and turn them into a relaxing, refreshing, uplifting and tasty cup of tea, also known as an infusion.  The difference between herbal infusions and decoctions is not only the type of herbal material used but also the cooking method.

For an infusion you will gather enough leaves and other herbal material, such as stems, flowers and buds.  After cleaning your herbs you will crush or bruise them to release the volatile oils, and you will simply pour boiling water over the herbs to steep, or infuse.  For a medicinal infusion it is best to allow the herbs to infuse or "steep" for at least 30 to 60 minutes, but when you are just looking for a tasty beverage you can let it infuse for 15 to 30 minutes.  Herbal infusions usually taste great both warm and iced.

Lemon Balm
When you make an infusion you use the leaves and flowers, the aerial parts of the herb or plant that are light.  You do not simmer the herbs but merely allow them to infuse in hot water.  A decoction is an herbal "tea" that is made with the roots, stems and barks; in other words, the parts of the herb that are tough, woody and heavy.  A decoction is made by  putting the herbal material in a pot of water and bringing it to a boil.  Once a good boil is established you lower the heat, allowing the herbs to simmer for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the herbs used and how strong you want the decoction to be. Decoctions are generally very strong and usually need to be sweetened with honey or stevia.

Some of my favorite herbal infusions are Catnip, Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Basil, Sage, Lavender and Red Clover.  I often pick herbs from this garden for tasty and medicinal beverages.  Below is Sage in flower with Basil growing beside it.  Rosemary looms in the background.  Peppermint lines the back garden wall but doesn't show in this picture.  It is fun to mix them up for different tastes and medicinal effects.

A bee in the Sage
California Poppy

Many people aren't aware that our culinary herbs are also medicinal.  Sage infusion makes a great tea for sore throat, laryngitis and is an effective throat gargle for performers or someone giving a speech.  Basil is a delightful tasting tea that fights headache as well as high blood pressure and combines very well with sweeter herbs such as Lemon Balm and Catnip.  California Poppy is a mild sedative that is safe for children and goes well with Catnip, Lemon Balm and Lavender.  Rosemary and Lavender infused together make a great headache relieving tea and when you need a burst of energy infuse some Peppermint for 60 minutes for a great tasting kick that will refresh and energize you.

Great herbs for decoctions are Dandelion root and Wild Cherry Bark.  Your barks and roots need to be decocted to get the full medicinal dose from the tough herbal material.  A decoction of Dandelion root will help to lower blood pressure, purify the blood and liver and is a great diuretic that will not leech Potassium from your system as pharmaceutical diuretics do.  This is because Dandelion contains large amounts of Potassium.  Wild Cherry Bark is a well known cough remedy and combines well with Licorice and Echinacea roots for a cold fighting decoction that tastes delicious.

Now that you know the difference between herbal infusions and decoctions and how to make each, which infusion or decoction will you try first?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Natural Way To Beat Bugs

In the middle of summer you are likely enjoying warm weather, picnics, swimming, camping trips and outdoor get-togethers, all the things that make summer so special.  But there is one thing that can get in the way of your summer enjoyment...insects!  
Spider bearing eggs
 Whether it's mosquitos at the lake picnic or ants invading your home, problems with insects can be very frustrating! They get in your garden and eat up your leaves, infest your happy little plants and make them sick and frail; they get into your home and onto your pets and can make you crazy, yet you don't want to fill your garden or your home with toxic chemicals and forget about even trying those kind of products for your suffering pets!  Happily, there is a insect control!  You can rid yourself of the pests without causing damage to your garden or your home and without any threats to your family's health and well-being.

I have gathered some easy-to-make home remedies for some of your insect problems.  I found these remedies in the book "The Pleasure Of Herbs" which was written byPhyllis Shaudys and was published in 1986.  This book is full of herbal projects, some of which I have tried (with success) and many I have not.  I am happy to bring to you some of the solutions we have had luck with in our own garden and home.  I hope you will find them as helpful as we do!

1.  Chive Spray (especially good for Roses) - Take a large amount of Chives, Onion or Garlic Chives will both work, and whirl them in your blender or Vita-Mix with water just covering the plants, Let it sit overnight and strain through a cheesecloth the following day.  After straining the material add 3 x as much water as you blend again.  Pour the resulting liquid in a spray bottle and spray your plants and flowers 3 or 4 x in one day and then again on a day following rain.  Store the excess spray in the refrigerator.  This works very well on my miniature Roses.

 2.  White Fly and Mealy Bug Spray - This one is fun to make with very strange ingredients!  First bring one quart of water to a boil and then add 4 cigarettes (minus the filter paper), 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 tbsp. ammonia and 2 tbsp. of Ivory soap flakes.  Steep for 3 days and then strain.  Spray on garden and house plants, culinary and all herbs.  Be sure to wait one day after spraying to harvest and eat or use your garden veggies or herbs, making sure to rinse well in water before using or consuming.  I have used this with 100% success on my houseplants.  I used to struggle with White Fly until I found this recipe;  I haven't seen one in my home in years.

3.  Grasshopper and Garden Bug Repellant - This is an easy remedy to make if you are growing Tomatoes or have access to Tomato Leaves, perhaps from a friend or neighbor's garden.  Simply boil the leaves in a big pot for about 10 minutes, strain the liquid through a

Caterpillar, a garden pest and problem!

cheesecloth and spray on your culinary herbs and garden plants. This spray will save your Dill Basil, Sage and Thyme from Caterpillars
Grasshoppers...a garden's enemy!

 and Grasshoppers who love and devour these plants given the opportunity.  They are a dreadful pests and should be dealt with right away!

4.  Spray for Mold, Mildew and Fungi Disease - A spray made from the tea of Onions, Garlic and Chamomile

Onions and Garlic, great for us but
bad for Mildew and Fungus!
Chamomile, a calming herb that will
also fight your Mold and Fungus!

can help to eradicate an acute fungal disease as well as prevent fungi in healthy plants.  To make the spray you must first gather and dry the root of Chamomile and the Onions and Garlic.  When dry, make a strong decoction by bringing the ingredients to a boil and then allowing them to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Strain and add to a gallon of water.  Shake well and add 1 tbsp. of liquid soap or a mild detergent and stir gently.  You should use this immediately as it does not store well.

5.  A simple Ant deterrent - Rub oil of Spearmint around sink pipes and other ant entrances.  They hate the smell and will avoid going near it.  The best part about this remedy is that to us, Spearmint oil smells great and freshens any room in your house!

So now we've taken care of your garden but what about your poor pets?  They suffer from insects as much as we do but they are at our mercy for relief.  Won't you help them?

Here are some helpful ways to rid your pets of fleas, ticks and other household insects.  The first rule of thumb is to bathe your dog every week or two with an herbal bath rinse which can be made by simmering 2 cups of fresh Peppermint or Pennyroyal in a quart of boiling water for about 30 minutes.  Double the recipe for a large dog, such as the one pictured above.  Add the infusion to bathwater and rinse the dog well being careful not to get into the dog's face, nose and eyes.

1.  Rosemary Flea Rinse and Spray - Steep 1 tsp. of Rosemary for each cup of boiling water.  Cool and use as an after-bath rinse and as a spray in between bathings.  Allow pet to dry naturallly and use for several days for severe problems.

2.  Tick Removal - Moisten a cotton pad with oil of Eucalyptus, Pennyroyal or Peppermint and rub on the ticks.  This will stun them,
making removal much easier, which will be less stressful for both you and your pet.

3.  Natural Pet Flea Collar - Blend together dried Pennyroyal leaves, Orris Root and oil of Pennyroyal.  Wrap in fabric and secure with velcro or some other stretchable material such as elastic.  A cord soaked in Pennyroyal every 2 weeks and wrapped inside the fabric is even more effective.  This pet collar is very effective and will not introduce poisons into your pet's system as normal flea collars do.  However, Pennyroyal oil is toxic if ingested and must not be consumed internally.  Ingestion of Pennyroyal oil has been known to kill animals and adults.  Please be careful when using!

Note:  None of the above remedies will rid your home of a flea infestation.  Use these remedies BEFORE you get fleas or AFTER you've gotten rid of them to help keep your pet flea-free naturally.

Okay, we've got the pets covered.  Now we'll discuss how to rid your home and car of insects too!

1.  Easy Bug Repellent Lotion - Whenever you will be oustide in the garden or at a BBQ you will probably want to deter pests without using harsh chemicals and poisons.  The answer is easy...make your own insect repellent lotion that absorbs quickly into the skin and smells a lot better than OFF!  Start with an Almond Oil or Rubbing Alchohol base and add essential oils of Citronella, Pennyroyal, Peppermint and Eucalyptus.  Rub into your skin, avoiding the eyes, for hours of insect relief.  And, you'll smell pretty!

2.  Carpet Freshener that repels fleas - Blend thoroughly 1/2 cup each of Baking Soda and Cornstarch, adding 15-30 drops of a favorite essential oil, such as Lavender, Peppermint, Pine, Roses, and allow to dry.  Place in an empty powder container or make one by poking holes in the lid of an empty tupperware container.  Sprinkle the powder on your rugs and carpets and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes, then vacuum. To repel fleas, add oils of Rosemary, Citronella and Pennyroyal to the mixture.  This keeps your car insect free and smelling great too...just sprinkle on the carpets and upholstery of your vehicle for a sweet-smelling bug-free ride!

3.  Easiest Fly Repellent in the World - Simply hang Basil plants in bunches around doorways and in the kitchen to keep flys at bay.  They, like many insects, really hate the smell of Basil.  So grow lots of it and put it to use besides just in your spaghetti sauce!

Now you've got an arsenal of natural pest deterrents.  I hope you'll use them instead of toxic chemicals and that you'll share these ideas with your friends and neighbors!  What natural insect and garden remedies have you tried that work well?  Please share your tips with us!  Leave a comment or email me at and I will post them for you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fun Herbal Projects

I found some fun and unusual uses for herbs and just had to share them with you!  These are fun projects for adults and children alike and make useful and thoughtful gifts. 

1.     Rosemary Needle Sharpener:  Pack a small muslin bag tightly with dried Rosemary.  This will hold your sewing needles, sharpen them and prevent rust all at the same time.  A great gift for the seamstress in your life!

2.     Sniffy Bags:  Pack a small muslin or nylon bag with aromatic herbs such as Lavender, Lemon Balm, Peppermint or whatever herbs you enjoy.  Not only will they ease a headache and anxiety when you inhale from the bag, these little bags make great gifts, sachets and car fresheners.  I personally love using Lavender and I never leave home without one!  If you can sew it's especially fun to sew small beads on the bottom of your bag, which makes a great presentation when given as a gift.

3.     Scented Drawer Liners:  Using wallpaper samples or a leftover roll of wallpaper, lay face down on a long table and sprinkle dried herbs across the paper.  Then soak several (6 or 7) cotton balls in your favorite essential oil and place them on the paper as well.  Roll up the wallpaper tightly and place in a plastic bag for about 2 weeks, then remove from bag and discard the herbs and cottonballs.  Cut your now scented wallpaper to fit your drawers and voila!  You have scented liners for your drawers that will smell great for a long time!

These are nice but you can make your own for
pennies and the liners will last longer!

4.     Fireplace Herbs:  When you harvest your aromatic herbs, save the stems and let them dry.  When you have enough to bundle wrap a cotton string around to tie them together and place in your fireplace when you want a fire that will send fragrance all throughout your home.
Those are just a few projects that are fun and useful and will help you get to know your herbs better.  Perhaps you will find other creative ways to use herbs around your home.  I would love to hear what fun uses you have found for herbs in your life and home!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kelly's Carrot-Ginger Soup

I thought today I would share my recipe for Carrot-Ginger soup with you.  I created this soup a couple of years ago when I was fighting a cold and wanted some comfort food that would also provide medicinal benefit.  The result is this hearty soup with great flavor and cold-fighting power!  Enjoy...

This recipe comes to you from the kitchen of Kelly and Gunnar and we hope you like it as much as we do!  To get the very best medicine from this soup I recommend using organic ingredients. 

2 lbs fresh carrots, washed and sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
6 whole cloves
1 large onion, diced
4 cups of water or vegetable/chicken stock
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (bottled is ok if that's all you've got!)
6-10 thin slices of fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (if using fresh thyme, double the amount)
ground black pepper to tast1/4 - 1/2 cup whipping cream (OPTIONIAL)

Heat oil in heavy pot over medium heat.  Add carrots, onion, ginger, garlic and cloves and saute all until onion is translucent.  Add 3 1/2 cups of broth.  Cover and simmer until carrots are very soft, about 30 minutes.  Remove cloves from broth and discard.  Puree soup in blender.  Return soup to same pot and mix in lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and thin to your desired consistency wit the remaining broth.  If desired, whisk cream in medium bowl until just slightly thickened, about 10 seconds, then drizzle over soup while serving.  I personally don't use the cream and garnish the soup with more fresh chopped raw garlic and ginger.

Not only is this soup waistline friendly, it is incredibly good for you!  When you feel a cold or fever coming on, make this soup and triple the ginger in the recipe.  It will be especially helpful if you add 1 - 2 cloves of raw minced garlic to the bowl just before you reat.  Eat this soup often when you are ill.  I like to make a big batch and keep it in the freezer so that when I need it I can just heat and eat.  It is great for when you don't feel well enough to cook and it tastes great!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Welcome To My Garden!

Nothing brings me back into focus when I'm feeling chaotic and scattered more than spending time in the garden.  Being with the plants, pulling the weeds, harvesting nature's bounty while the bees and insects fly and scramble all makes me take a deep breath and really feel nature at work all around me.  I grow many herbs, big surprise, and we also grow vegetables, pumpkins, strawberries and flowers, albeit they are mostly medicinal but make the garden more beautiful with their vibrant colors and plant energies.  I believe some flowers are healing just in their beauty alone.

Columbine peeking through my prized, medicinally valuable Stinging Nettles

Why don't you brew up a cup of refreshing peppermint tea and take a stroll with me through our garden.  Gardening was mostly a new experience for me when my husband and I bought our home in 2004.  I had never done much gardening, except for container gardening on apartment balconies, in the past and in the spring of 2005 decided to dig up some grass and plant a small 3x5 herb patch.  I planted Basil, Sage and Pleurisy Root to begin with and that was the beginning of my incredible herbal journey!  Soon I had extended the garden space and was now also growing Rosemary, Peppermint, Onion Chives and Yarrow.  Some St. John's Wort volunteered and looms cheerily over the other plants in the summer.  I make a nice oil from the St. John's Wort flowers that is a nice all purpose healer when crushed and placed in a healing oil for a week or two, but I have to confess to you that I mostly like to watch the bright yellow flowers turn the oil bright red over a week's time.  As you can guess, St. John's Wort is used for dying and produces vibrant red shades.

Rosemary stands tall and is surrounded by
Basil, Sage and Peppermint

St. John's Wort and Yarrow
growing happily together

I grow these herbs for both cooking and medicinal purposes.  Rosemary is a great reliever of headaches and Sage is wonderful for sore throats and laryngitis.  Basil is a mild antiviral that is also good at lowering blood pressure.  Peppermint is great for many things, including headache, gas, stomach pain and nausea, fatigue...did you know that a strong Peppermint tea, infused for about an hour (the longer you let it steep the stronger the medicine) will give you as much energy as a strong cup of coffee?  It's true!  You get a good "kick" of energy but it won't give you the jitters or withdrawl headaches and will even freshen your breath.  I grow Pleurisy Root in this garden as well but it is not in bloom in these pictures.  Here is a pic that I took a couple of summers ago with a bee that posed for me, turning to look at me when I said "smile!"

Bee on Pleurisy Root
I grow Pleurisy Root for my own bronchial and respiratory issues and it works quite well but I enjoy the beauty of the bright orange flowers almost as much as the relief I get from drinking a decoction of the root when I have breathing problems.

This next garden went in my second year of herb gardening and though you can't see them now, soon it will be ablaze with striking yellow and orange Calendula blooms, the main ingredient in my Gone With The Wound Cream, the healing cream I make and the product I have formulated that I am most proud of!   For now there are Strawberries, Yarrow and St. John's Wort growing here.

Currently my miniature Rose blooms rule the soon -to- be Calendula garden.  I grow the mini Rosebushes simply because we have had no luck with the full sized plants and I find that the mini Roses are great for my purposes.   I use the petals in rich facial creams and drink the tea for an uplifting and refreshing treat.  Rose petals make wonderful potpourri as well.  The mini rosebush has to enjoy it's brief time as the garden centerpiece for soon it will be surrounded by Calendula.  People often ask me how I maintain all of these herb gardens and are surprised when I tell them that herbs require very little care and often grow best in harsh conditions.  As long as I keep the weeds at bay, all my herbs grow robust and healthy.  Most herbs do not require much watering and they do not like fertilized soil.  I usually just add organic compost to the soil once a year and my herbs are vibrant, healthy and full of good natural medicine!

Beautiful and healing Calendula
In the picture above is a small patch of Calendula that has volunteered outside of the Calendula garden.  The petals of this plant are useful in cooking, adding a very light flavor comparable to Saffron, and the flowers and leaves are excellent for wound healing when made into a salve or cream.   
The herb garden pictured above is the 3rd garden I put in and grows Horehound, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Thyme, Valerian and Onion Chives. Horehound is grown for the excellent cough remedy it provides.  Lemon Balm is grown mainly as a mild anxiety reliever but also for cooking and making popsicles!  Thyme is grown for cooking purposes as well as medicinal, being known to help cough, spasms and laryngitis.  Thyme is also useful for sluggish appetites and stomach complaints.  I grow Valerian for the powerful sedative and sleep remedy that are found in the root of this plant.  Onion chives are used for cooking and I also make a lovely and tangy chive vinegar that is bright pink and a delicious salad dressing or marinade for chicken and fish.  Rosemary is a strong and woodsy tasting herb used in cooking but it's also a great tea for headaches and externally it's a marvelous hair rinse that darkens the hair and keeps dandruff under control if used regularly.

Along the east side of our property we grow Lemon Balm, Valerian, Self-Heal and Stinging Nettles. I use the Self-Heal in my Gone With The Wound cream and the Stinging Nettles provide relief for allergies, asthma and are quite delicious when cooked!  I also occasionally flail my hands with the leaves for the relief it provides to my aching, arthritic joints.  Most people find the sting of Nettles to be painful but I am so used to the discomfort that I usually harvest the leaves without gloves.  Not too long ago we had high-speed internet installed and the cable man had to access the wall through the Stinging Nettle plants...I felt so bad for him when he showed me his painful welts and immediately applied my healing wound cream to his sores.  He was amazed at the quick relief of pain and how fast the welts and redness disappeared!

A neglected and unweeded herb bed...
I like to let this one just go wild!

Stinging Nettles, good for so many things!

In my 4th year of herb gardening I put in this small bed of herbs and planted Lavender, Spanish Lavender, Sweet Marjoram, Sage, Lemon Balm, Marshmallow and Artichoke.  This pic was taken shortly after the garden was planted.  It is now more mature and full of plants, bees and butterflies!  I grow Marshmallow for it's powerful helps to relieve swollen mucous membranes and is great for sore throats, laryngitis, coughs and more.  You can even make old-fashioned marshmallow treats by candying the roots.  I myself have not tried it but would love to hear from someone who has!

This is the same garden now, thriving and in need of a major harvesting of Sweet Marjoram that seems to have every intention of taking over!  I have learned over the years that many of the culinary herbs are best grown in containers.  Many of them are part of the Mint family and spread by underground runners, making them choke out other plants if not regularly cut back.  The Lemon Balm is ready to harvest but I let the Sage bloom this season...I love leaving it for the bees! 

We have a small hillside garden on a steep slant of ground that grows beautiful pumpkins, potatoes and strawberries.  This year, for fun, I planted bird house gourds and hope they will make a nice home for some feathery friends next spring.

Potato Plants

The strawberries are ripe and being harvested
daily now.  I love to eat them by the

Here are more pics of herbs I grow...

Wood Betony, an effective reliever of
mild pain and also good
for headaches
Mint, grown in
a container to
keep it under
California Poppy, a mild sedative
that is safe for children
Lovely and oh-so-useful
Lemon Balm

Spanish Lavender

We grow veggies in containers and line them up like soldiers, as you can see in the pictures below.  We grow Lettuce, Walla Walla Sweet Onions, Scallions, Green Beans, Tomatoes (cherry and regular), Carrots, Leeks and more herbs such as Dill, Catnip and Basil.

Having a large yard and several herb gardens can be a lot of work but we find it rewarding, fun and educational.  We learn something new each year, through good old fashioned trial and error, and we are able to cut our produce budget significantly through the summer.  It's a win-win all around!
Gunnar waters an ever evolving
herb garden
This dead Curry plant is
outta here!
Hard at work eradicating the weeds
that are not helpful or edible
Weeding and getting
ready to plant this
season's Calendula

Of course I can't forget to wrap up our garden tour without introducing you to our tree sentinals that proudly watch over our small 1/4 plot of land.
A face in the tree
And, amidst all of this, our dog Fraulein loves to romp and play chasing balls and critters and thinks she owns the yard.

I hope you've enjoyed our garden stroll as much as I have. Thanks for joining me!   I hope I've inspired you to plant a few herbs, and if you already have a garden I would love to hear what you grow and see your pictures!  You can send them to me at and I'll be sure to post them for you so you can showcase your garden to the world!

If you are interested in using herbs but don't have room for an herb garden you can purchase high quality organic herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs.  When I buy herbs I only buy from this award-winning company because they are simply the finest herbs I have found and I can't grow every herb I use, so having a resource like Mountain Rose Herbs is a godsend for this backyard herbalist.   To purchase herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs simply click on one of the banners on the HOME page.