Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Calendula, naturally.

 Calendula officinalis, pot marigold, has a long history of healing uses.

The beautiful gentle blossoms are my go-to for children and adults.

Some of the conditions calendula soothes:

  •      eczema
  •      poor-healing scabs
  •      pain and swelling
  •      chapped lips
  •      diaper rash
  •      dry skin
  •      hemorrhoids
  •      burns and sunburns
  •      dermatitis

When I think issues of the skin, I usually reach for calendula.  When I think issues of the skin with children, she's my number one go-to.

Calendula-infused oil

I keep a bottle of calendula-infused oil on hand.

Fill a clean, dry jar 1/2 full with dried calendula blossoms.  Add oil of choice; sweet almond, coconut, olive or vegetable.  As your preparation is intended for sensitive skin and to assist healing, choose a quality oil, without chemicals.

Pour your oil over top and stir to release any trapped air bubbles.  Continue to fill with oil to the top of the jar and cap tightly to store for 3-4 weeks, turning and entertaining your oil regularly, infusing the oil not only with the blossoms but also with love as you chant, sing, hum or bless your herbal friend.

If I am making an oil specifically for someone I enjoy infusing the oil with blessings for that particular person.

 You can also infuse your oil quicker with a hot water bath, placing the jar of oil into a pan of hot water and macerating the buds with a wooden or plastic utensil or stone pestle.  If using a hot water bath, I recommend a wider mouth container than a jar.  I like using a large glass measuring cup as it allows me to macerate the buds while heating as well as makes for easy pouring afterwards.

Do not heat the oil over direct heat or too high of heat.  A double boiler set up also works well.

Once the oil changes to a nice golden yellow, strain the plant material through a cheesecloth or other tightly woven cloth or sieve.  Pour into clean jars and allow to cool completely before capping.  A paper towel placed loosely over the jars keep any airborne guests from landing in your infusion.  I occasionally keep the strained blossoms and toss them in my bath for a floral soak.

Use your oil directly on the skin to soothe any of the above conditions or add to a nice warm bath and soak, careful not to slip.  For kids with problem skin, a soak in the oil is both soothing and hydrating.

Calendula-infused balm

Now that you have your beautiful herbal oil, melt beeswax in a double boiler and add your infused oil to make a balm.  About 1/4 oz of beeswax to 4 oz of oil.  If you made a hot bath infusion, make your balms right away as your oil is warm and blends nicely with the beeswax.  

A few drops of vitamin E to your oil or balm assists with preservation of your herbal creation.  Storage in a cool, dry place is advised.  

Depending on your carrier oil and storage method, expect your blend to be good for about 9-12 months.  Mine never lasts that long as I always find a variety of uses to consume my supply.

A versatile balm, use on chapped lips, diaper rash, eczema or dry skin.

enJOY this beautiful, gentle, sunny blossom that simply makes me happy every time I work with her.

atONE Holistic Living

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The clutter in my home is like the clutter in my head.

On the way out the door to school this morning, my son tripped over a large garbage bag, falling at the back door.  The garbage bag, half full of items for donation, has floated around the back entry for a few weeks.  I feel like no matter how many bags, boxes, truck-loads of donations we make, there's still clutter.  Where does it all come from?  It's like a never-ending stream of junk.  

I am grateful for the abundance, fortunate that my family doesn't want for anything.  Except I want for something; order in my home, free from clutter!  On house-cleaning day, everything gets put away and the house looks and feels clean, with room to breathe, move and easily find what I need.  I feel relaxed, calm and more productive in a clean house.  In between cleaning days, the clutter slowly creeps back in.

Sometimes I practice ignoring it, letting go, letting flow (insert sing-song voice).  It's all good, I tell myself, no big deal.  It's just my perception, I say, change it.  That works for awhile, until a challenging day comes along and suddenly the clutter has me outraged, agitating my pitta mind.  Toys on the floor, donation bags at the back door, books on the island, crafts on the kitchen table, all trigger frustration.

The simplest and most reasonable way to address the clutter is to deal with it daily, before it creeps through the entire house, piling up in the corners.  This thought appeals to me less than ignoring it.  This avenue requires discipline, a daily practice of housework, which holds little appeal and I can think of twenty other things I prefer to do, like more yoga, writing, reflecting in a cup of tea, editing my blog, musing about life...

As I address the clutter in my head, the constant stream of thoughts and mind chatter, with a disciplined, daily meditation or yoga practice, the clutter in my home, my life, must also be addressed; daily.  My bohemian self may balk at the chores but that same self is happy to chant mantras daily at the moon, so I believe she'll survive.

"Joyful exertion." the Dalai Lama talks about.  That everything becomes easier through preparation and improvement.  So, I treat my day as a mom, wife, home-maker, writer, business owner and being much as I did my workouts when I trained.  I organize my calendar and set up my routines, allowing, of course, for the all-important cheat day where I break all the rules for one day, allow the rebel full reign, jumping back on the wagon the next.  Most importantly, I commit to joyful exertion.

A retreat is rejuvenating, a day off is delightful, a workshop is wonderful but if there is no daily practice to support the work, just like after the cleaning day, clutter slowly creeps back in.  On a good day, it won't matter, failing to bother me, but on a challenging day, the clutter morphs into a monster.

The writing already done, meditation complete, breakfast and school drop off accomplished, I turn up the music, attack the laundry with vigor and the toys with tenacity.  The bag at the back door donated, clutter disappears from both my mind and my home. Who knew folding towels could be so restorative?
Time for tea.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

GF, DF and DLicious chocolate chunk, pecan cookies.

2 1/4 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2-1tsp salt (I use sea salt)
1 cup vegan margarine or shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar (I use a natural whole cane sugar)
1 generous tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 pckg dairy-free chocolate chunks/chips (I use Enjoy Life)
1/2 to 1 cup of chopped pecans, walnuts or both

Frontier makes an alcohol-free extract, or if you're feeling crafty, scrape out some of the caviar from a vanilla bean pod and add it to the mix or infuse it in the margarine or sugar the night before... haven't tried it so let me know if anyone does.  Seems sound :o)

If you are concerned about your cookies holding together, you can add 1/8-1/4 tsp xanthan gum.  I don't in this recipe.  Allow them to cool sufficiently before removing them from the tray and they will hold together well.

Beat the eggs, sugars, vanilla and margarine until creamy and thick.
Blend the dry ingredients together and add them to the creamed mixture.
Stir in chopped nuts and chocolate chips.

Spoon onto a natural parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 until just starting to brown.  Allow them to cool sufficiently before removing from the sheet.  You can slip the sheet off the pan and lay down a new one to get the next batch cooking right away or wait until they've cooled before relocating to a plate.

Of course, a few warm, gooey, melted chocolatey cookies will find their way into your mouth and those of your kids, that includes the husband.  Expect them to be slightly crumbly when warm and just scoop them quickly into your hand and onto your taste buds.

If dairy isn't your issue, feel free to substitute with butter.  And incorporate any type of chocolate chips or chopped up favourite bar of chocolate.

If gluten doesn't trouble you, replace the gf flour with your flour of choice.  Experiment.  Coconut flour is divine in baking.  Add some to your regular flour for a better nutritional and taste profile.

As with all my gf recipes, when I find one that works, I use it as a base for many others.
Try raisins, cinnamon, ginger and cloves instead of chocolate chips for a nice spice cookie.
Or grate lemon peel or orange and add cranberries for a lovely accompaniment to afternoon tea with the girls.

I don't sweat baking.  A. because I am fortunate enough to come from a long line of women who made incredible meals and delicious desserts from scratch.  And B. If things don't turn out perfectly, I'll eat 'em anyway so... win-win!

Have fun.  Infuse your food with love and inspire your kids with creativity in the kitchen.

Happy baking!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The best you can do

  My 8 year old son dragged his feet getting ready for school yesterday morning, he said he didn't want to go.  I asked why and he revealed he was nervous about the school performance, where his class would sing the song they practiced all week, the song he has shared with me over many lunches, in the car and before bed.  The song he has obviously put a lot of work into learning.  I said to him, in Seussian-style rhyme, as we headed out the door,

"You can only do the best you can do.  That's all you need ever expect of you."

I never felt comfortable publishing daily musings, as I often return to read them later, only to no longer agree with what I wrote.  That's the nature of life sometimes.  Like snakes, we shed our skin, reinventing ourselves, renewing ourselves and growing.  Changing our ideas, challenging our thoughts, behaviour and outlook as circumstances change in our lives, as our perceptions change, and often, simply, as the weather changes.

I began writing An Accidental Awakening over three years ago, as I participated in a group of self-explorers, journeying through one year on a raft of yoga and inquiry.  I knew then it would be a book, one I'd finish and publish someday.  I returned to it over and over, attempting to finish it, and some days that included the idea of burning it.  Each time I read what I'd written, I cringed.  The events of the year were compelling and remarkable, my thoughts and feelings documented at the time, however, seemed so far removed from the me editing the writing.  As I'd grown, evolved, transformed, reading old story became more and more difficult.  

Each day I return to the writing, thanks to award winning writing coach Lisa Tener, advice from the inspiring and prolific Jean Houston, and disciplined practices learned during my year of discovery, to move closer to completion of the book.  I reserve judgement on my previous self and infuse the best of what I know, what I learned then and continue to learn now, to breathe life into the writing.

"You did then what you knew how to do... and when you knew better, you did better." ~ Maya Angelou

You do the best you can.  Telling or revisiting old story to understand your motivation behind what you did, the lessons you learned, or sometimes to have a good laugh or cry at your own life, doesn't suck you back into that life.  Quite the contrary, it honours and releases those stories and helps us to understand that we are ever-evolving beings.

It's all life; the good, the bad and the ugly.  You never know how what you do or think may help someone, or how revisiting it later helps you develop compassion for yourself, detachment from your story, understanding you are not your beliefs, thoughts and behaviour, and allows you to appreciate just how much you have evolved.

So, tell your story, share your art, reveal your passions, without thought to whether they'll be in fashion a year from now.  You may later decide to keep them and continue to wear them, or you may clean them out of your closet, replacing them with new.

Just don't layer them under your outer wear, or eventually all those layers will suffocate you.  Display them proudly and give yourself freedom to breathe.

Share your life willingly, creatively, abundantly, joyfully, honestly and whole-heartedly.  After all, it's the best you can do with what you know right now.

Stephanie Hrehirchuk
atONE Holistic Living

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chai Spice Balm

One of my favourite balms for fall.

Individually infuse organic cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove and madagascar vanilla beans in sweet almond oil or carrier oil of choice, blend together and add beeswax.

A warming lip balm, hydrating  hand and cuticle balm or exotic, spicy natural perfume.

Spices can easily be infused together to simplify the process.

Separate infusions allow you to make further creations like cinnamon oil and cocoa butter for a Valentine's foot rub.

Or use the clove oil for a sore muscle and joint rub.

Infused in food grade organic carrier oils such as olive or sesame, clove oil can be used as a mouthwash or to soothe toothaches.

Cardamom provides an aromatic base for natural perfume.  Add a small amount of essential oils of sandalwood and bergamot for a warm citrus blend or try neroli or rosewood.

Blend cardamom with the vanilla infusion for a simple, exotic scent.

A hint of lavender essential oil added to the vanilla infusion creates the epitome of calm and relaxation.  A delicious massage blend for men and women.  Vanilla beans infuse easily, imparting a full scent with a few beans.  Follow the steps for vanilla infused oil and balm.  The balm recipe works for the chai spice blend as well.  Many spices require more active methods of infusion than herbs.  Heat baths or grinding of the spices assist with a deep, rich scent.

In India, the origin of chai, unique family recipes are handed down through generations.  Explore your spice rack for your signature chai blend.

Warm your skin, senses and soul this autumn with chai spice.

Stephanie Hrehirchuk
atONE Holistic Living