Handmade Herbal Soap Bars

The herb garden is still flourishing, and I’ve been using and saving as much as I can. Today I’m making a bunch of herbal soaps.  They’re great to have around for guests, and perfect for little homemade gifts. I just use a basic soap base and add essential oils, herbs, and moisturizers. Each recipe makes 1 bar.

Thymely Rose

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 10 drops Rose Essential Oil
  • Dried Thyme and Dried Rose Petals

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in thyme and rose petals as desired, and let cool completely.

Citrus Spice

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 10 drops Tangerine Essential Oil
  • Fresh Rosemary & Cloves

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in rosemary and cloves as desired, and let cool completely.

Lavender Oats

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • Dried Lavender and Oats

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in lavender and oats as desired, and let cool completely.

Mintea Tree

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Fresh Mint Leaves

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in mint leaves as desired, and let cool completely.

Lemon Verbena

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 10 drops Lemon Essential Oil
  • Fresh Lemon Verbena

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in lemon verbena as desired, and let cool completely.

Harvest

I was awakened by the golden glow from the Harvest Moon early this morning, sleepily gazing at the ghostly orange orb shedding its soft light on our blossoming garden. Along with celebrating the harvest moon, harvest has been our top priority so far this month, picking and eating fresh garden produce daily by the basket full. It’s so rewarding and humbling simultaneously, living off of the land, giving constant attention to our thriving plants, doting on those who prefer rainy days, exclaiming over a newly red tomato or a perfectly ripe zucchini. The nights into morning are beginning to cool off, and we will continue to harvest as much as we possibly can until the first frost kisses our garden. We pick more than we can eat, but what we don’t eat ourselves or give away, well, we have big plans…

Pickling and Canning

You can get one of my favorite pickle recipes here. I’ve been pickling our cucumbers, banana peppers, and green beans nonstop lately. I toss in garlic, peppers, and spices depending on the taste I’m going for with each batch.

I started using my new canner, a gift from my mom, on our plethora of produce from the garden. I’m still experimenting with it to perfect the technique. By the end of the season, we should be stocked up on homemade canned goods. If you decide you want to try canning, ALWAYS follow directions exactly according to the specific canner and recipes you’re using. Botulism is no joke.

Tomatoes

Fresh salsa with tomatoes, onions, and peppers from the garden? Hell yes. Here’s the recipe:

  • 4 Large Tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Diced Poblano Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Diced Banana Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Diced Jalepeno Pepper
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1/4 cup White Vinegar

Core and dice tomatoes. Add tomatoes to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Add peppers, garlic, salt, lime juice, and vinegar. Bring back to boil and boil gently for 10 additional minutes. Serve chilled.

Drying

With cooler nights and mornings here in the Springs, I’ve been clipping my herbs and hanging them upside down to dry. We’ve also been drying out a lot of the peppers from the garden. 

As for Everything Else…

We plan to produce flour from the red corn once it’s ready, and the quinoa and root veggies will be harvested in the fall. Plus, the pumpkins are starting to ripen just in time for the autumn equinox. The squash is picked and eaten daily, and everything else will be pickled, canned, or dried for use throughout the year. 

How have you celebrated the Harvest Moon?

On Being Present

My mind has a habit of drifting, wandering, and I find myself carried away. Either into a warm, nostalgic memory, or some vision of the idealized distant future. I love teaching and practicing mindfulness with my clients, but I have to ask myself, how often am I utilizing this technique for my own self-care? During a short visit to the Carolinas this past week, I had an insightful conversation with my grandmother. She asked me a simple question: “are you satisfied with your life?”. A question that I’ve been hesitant to ask myself lately. Living so far away from my birthplace, I was infatuated with this brief homecoming, basking in past memories, taking in the golden, feathery sunsets and lush greenery, gazing up at the massive old trees, comparing it all to the scenery of my new home. As if I were trying to decide which landscape I prefer, which one feels more authentic, which one reflects where I need to “end up”, or “settle down”. Which is why this question seemed so daunting. Am I satisfied? Expending energy hazy with nostalgia or hyper-focused on future plans, will I ever be? Life never turns out quite the way we plan or imagine (although sometimes, it’s even better), and obsessing over that can be self-destructive. In my graduate program, we often discussed a phenomenon called Destination Addiction. It’s the unattainable idea that whenever a certain goal is reached, happiness will automatically follow. We also discussed the theory that we remember events in a better light than when we actually experienced the event. These cognitions are what can keep us disillusioned and distant from the present moment, from current, ongoing happiness. Practicing mindfulness (being present and nonjudgmental in the moment), appreciating the little things that make us feel at home, and focusing on the amazing aspects of everyday life, these are a few basic essentials for self-care and feeling satisfied. Sunsets are beautiful anywhere, but we have to be present in order to appreciate them.

How do you stay present?

Rosemary Peach Jam

Rosemary. Such an amazing smell, and the heat-loving plant does so well in the summer, but the aroma usually takes my mind to colder seasons. Not anymore. I found a way to combine this savory herb with summer’s yummiest gift, peaches. I started making and canning jams last year, and they are always a favorite among my family and friends. Here is a recipe for rosemary peach jam, the best of both worlds:

  • 2 cups Peaches, Diced
  • 2 cups Stevia or Other Dry Sweetener
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
  • Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Combine the peaches and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add a splash of the champagne while stirring frequently (I also add a little pectin if it’s not quite the consistency I want). Remove from heat when jam sets (scoop some up with a spoon and allow to cool slightly to test), carefully remove rosemary sprigs (optional) and pour into mason jars when almost cool.

Any healthy baked good recipes out there that you would serve with this jam?

Basil Pesto

Earlier this summer, my basil plants were looking super sad. I even thought they were done for good at one point. I tried altering my watering schedule, but to no avail. Then, one day, out of the blue, they were huge! I still have no idea what changed, but they are thriving now, and every time I clip them they basically grow back overnight. So what do I make with my new abundance of basil? Pesto, (what else?) and lots of it. This week I made my favorite pizza dough recipe, smothered it in this pesto, and added some fresh mozzarella and banana peppers from the garden. It’s so satisfying to create and cook with produce you’ve grown and nurtured yourself, and this pesto recipe is one of my favorites. Get it below:

  • 2 cups Fresh Basil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/3 cup Pine Nuts
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese (or vegan alternative)
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and that’s it! Pesto. 

Part three, coming up!

In Bloom

The sun wakes me up a couple of hours later than it used to. I’m still astonished every morning to open my eyes and see Pike’s Peak looking down on me from outside the bedroom window. Everything is new.

Newness can feel daunting. It presents challenges, demands acclimation, and evokes uncertainty. It also offers fresh perspective, expanding knowledge, and beautiful, towering surprises. I turn a corner to find mountains before me. Looking up has never been more enthralling, or more often. Although, even in the grasp of change and newness, we still have our rituals, our traditions. Something to help us feel that we are staying the course, still on track. Clouds followed as our dog, Molly, led me through pathways and trails unfamiliar to us. Red rocks, waterfalls, flowers, and even more clouds surrounded as we breathed in our new atmosphere.

I crave exploration. I yearn for adventure. I needed this for my own self-care. Of course I have so many people who are close to my heart, yet now so far in distance. My love for them does not falter based on the location of my freshest footprints. I want to see more. I want to learn. I was drawn to this transition. Maybe it was to show those who are feeling stagnant how realistic such a seemingly drastic change can be. Maybe it’s okay to follow your heart, even if you’re not sure where it’s leading you.

Grow. Blossom. Bloom.

    

Salt Glow

I was inspired by my week in the Caribbean sun last month to make a few new batches of body scrubs. After soaking up the rays and now adjusting to the Colorado climate, these salt scrubs are once again to my rescue.

Here are the recipes:

Coconut Lime Pink Salt Scrub

  • 1 cup Himalayan Pink Salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 10 drops lime essential oil

Mix ingredients until well combined and use as an exfoliant in the bath or shower.

Lemon Ginger Salt Scrub

  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops ginger root essential oil

Mix ingredients until well combined and use as an exfoliant in the bath or shower.

Express Yourself

Expressive arts can be an amazing method of self-care. What it is? It’s basically creating art, in any form of your choosing, to express feelings, promote mindfulness, and encourage personal growth. There are lots of resources available for expressive arts, as well as practitioners who facilitate Expressive Arts Therapy. I learned about expressive arts during a retreat, and it was such a powerful, meditative experience. Ever since, I have utilized expressive painting, music, writing, movement, and dance in my own self-care practices. There is something so freeing about creating art in a nonjudgmental way, to focus on the process of creating rather than on the finished product. Whenever I am feeling stuck, I combine expressive painting with music and rhythm. The process is simple.

First, try to clear your head using mindfulness/ meditation and breathing techniques: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, hold for four counts, and repeat. This always helps to silence my busy mind. Once you’re in a calming place, you can then paint, color, or draw to the rhythm of your breath, to the melody of music (if you have some playing in the background), or simply let the paintbrush guide you. So grab your favorite medium, or even combine them, and express yourself!

What other forms of expressive arts are you curious about? Comment below!

Contrast

Waking up to a blanket of snow feels like a dream when you live in Asheville. We usually only get a handful of snow days every year, and last week, we woke up to one of those days. Within the same week, we were greeted by 70 degree weather. Mother natures offers lots of contrast, as does day to day life. Major changes can happen overnight, and we can either try to resist such contrast, or we can embrace it. The idea of contrast and change has been coming up a lot in recent meetings with my colleagues and supervisors. One of my fellow counselors always tells me: “roll with resistance”. When unexpected changes come up, roll with it rather than push against it. The capability to roll with resistance can depend greatly on our ability to give up perceived control over our environment. In many cases, the only true control we have is over our own reactions and responses, which can be used to create flexibility and balance when we are faced with difficult or unusual situations. Additionally, my supervisor recently advised me to let go of my expectations of certain situations, and challenged me to find ways to change my perspective and create my own ‘silver linings’, which is something I have been working on. Even when we are faced with darkness, we can bring our own light into it.
Truthfully, I was hoping that the snow would last longer. I definitely appeased my inner child: sledding, playing, and just taking in the scenery. When my toes were nearly frozen, I warmed up inside with hot tea and spent some time wrapping crystals. I was enjoying the quiet, vast energy of such a short-lived wonderland, only to see it melted away so quickly. It was then that I reminded myself of my ability to take control over my own reaction to the contrasting weather patterns. Rather than ruminate over the loss of the beautiful snow, I took advantage of the unexpected warm weather. I visited some of the same areas that were covered in snow just days before to capture the contrast (pictures below). In the end, I know that I feel happiest when I am living in the moment; when I let go of my expectations and constant planning, and embrace the contrast that life, and nature, offer to me.

& what a difference a day makes…

Yuletide

The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day and longest night of the year. The ground begins to freeze, the earth below protecting the seeds and roots as they sleep until the spring. Snow falls, ice crystals form, and all is quiet, calm, and contemplative. Today, December 21st, marks the 2016 solstice. Winter has begun, and it is beautiful. Many cultures and religions acknowledge the winter solstice and celebrate the changing of the seasons. As the idea of winter can be disheartening for so many people who are in need of warmth, safety, and love in the cold weather, some of these celebrations might include lights, candles, warm spices, or evergreen plants that symbolize life, hope, and comfort throughout the winter months.

This year, I want to welcome the winter solstice and create small comforts for myself and my loved ones. Although I am looking forward to celebrating the solstice, I remind myself that the holidays can be lonely and difficult for many people, and even small gestures of warmth and love can go a long way as the winter and holiday season approaches. As the pine trees, twinkling lights, and hot cocoa surround us this season, we are reminded of comfort, warmth, and of hope to last us through the colder months. This year, I want to offer comforting gifts, and reminders of such hope to myself and to those around me as we celebrate the changing of the seasons. A local metaphysical shop, Raven and Crone (located in Asheville, NC) makes wonderful essential oil, incense, and other products meant for Solstice and Yule celebrations. I am always greeted by the friendly, magical energy of this shop as well as the resident black cat purring on the counter.

In preparation for the Winter Solstice, I am using a few treasures from Asheville Raven and Crone, including their Yule Oil, Yule Incense, and Wassail Mulling Spices. I added the Yule Oil to a comforting homemade sugar body scrub that I am making for my friends and family, which is perfect for dry, wintery skin. I also concocted a hot mulled Wassail cider for my partner and I to enjoy as we welcome the Solstice, surrounded by aromas of pine, cinnamon, and clove in our cozy little home.

I hope that comfort and love will surround you this winter.