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5/24/2013

The Flower Recipe BookFrom alliums to zinnias, The Flower Recipe Book (Artisan Books, 2013) by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo acts as a floral encyclopedia, with complete intros to 50 blooms—from the correct pronunciation of flower names to the spectrum of colors they come in, to what’s in season, when, and details specific to each varietal. The Flower Recipe Book provides information on how to arrange flowers with arrangements that run the gamut of styles and techniques, from elegant and structured to wild and lovely, for occasions big and small. Check out the following excerpt for instructions on how to arrange a hydrangea bouquet.

Hydrangea Bouquet

DIY hydrangea bouquet 

FLOWERS

• 1 stem of hydrangea
• 5 branches of blackberries
• 9 wired and skewered succulents*
• 8 stems of flowering oregano

MATERIALS

• 3-foot length of 1-inch ribbon

* How to skewer succulents: Wooden cooking skewers can be used to give heavy-headed succulents longer stems. The simplest method is to cut a succulent from its roots, leaving as long a stem nub as possible, and push a skewer into the bottom of the succulent through the nub, taking care not to push it all the way through the top. To create a more durable “stem,” push floral wire halfway through the stem, just below where the leaves start. Wrap the ends of the wire around the stem and down the length of the skewer. Wrap with floral tape to finish.

1. Hold the stem of hydrangea at the base just below the leaves.

2. Add the branches of blackberry to the grouping in hand, feeding them through the florets of the hydrangea so that the berries sit just above the bottom.

3. Feed the succulents into hydrangea so that the bottoms of the succulents are resting on the florets, clustering them more densely on the left side.

4. Add one stem of flowering oregano to the back left so that it arcs to the left and slightly above the other elements. Scatter the remaining stems of oregano throughout. Then tape the base of the bouquet under the leaves of the hydrangea with floral tape. Finish by trimming the stems and wrapping and tying the ribbon around the base to cover the floral tape.

Excerpted from The Flower Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Paige Green.



5/21/2013

The Flower Recipe BookFrom alliums to zinnias, The Flower Recipe Book (Artisan Books, 2013) by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo acts as a floral encyclopedia, with complete intros to 50 blooms—from the correct pronunciation of flower names to the spectrum of colors they come in, to what’s in season, when, and details specific to each varietal. The Flower Recipe Book provides information on how to arrange flowers with arrangements that run the gamut of styles and techniques, from elegant and structured to wild and lovely, for occasions big and small. Check out the following excerpt for instructions on how to arrange zinnias.

Zinnia Bouquet

hanging zinnia bouquet

FLOWERS

• 20 zinnias
• 4 stems of amaranthus
• 2 stems of lupine
• 4 stems of veronica

VESSEL

• Hanging basket

1. Using a hanging basket provides the opportunity to bring an arrangement into an area that may not be suited for a traditional tabletop piece.

2. Trim all the zinnias and fill the basket so that the lower leaves rest at the rim.

3. Trim and add the amaranthus to the front and left side of the basket, allowing the blooms to hang over the rim.

4. Trim and add the stems of lupine to the back right side of the basket so that the spires sit several inches above the zinnias. Finish by trimming the stems of veronica to a similar height and adding two stems to the center and two stems to the back left side.

Excerpted from The Flower Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Paige Green.



4/25/2013

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and it’s time to start brainstorming some unique handmade Mother's Day gifts. This holiday offers a wonderful opportunity to celebrate people who share motherly love with us. Whether she’s a friend, aunt, grandma, sister, or the woman who gave you life, these recipes will surely express your loving gratitude. What better way to celebrate “Mom” than with the gift of pure relaxation? These calming gifts will leave her feeling nourished, grounded, peaceful, and ready for the daily challenges and triumphs of motherhood.

Handmade Mothers Day Gifts 

Mom’s Relaxing Room Mist

This easy to make aromatherapeutic blend of pure essential oils will refresh any space with calming fragrance. Spray liberally in the air, on mattresses, pillows or on bed linens before retiring for the night. The gentle perfume will help inspire relaxation and peaceful sleep after a busy day being mom.

• 1 (16-ounce) spray bottle
• 3 ounces unflavored vodka
• 4 drops each of organic lavender, orange and sandalwood essential oil
• 12 ounces organic lavender or rose hydrosol

1. Pour all ingredients into a 16-ounce spray bottle.

2. Shake well to distribute the oils.

3. To use, spray as needed.

Bliss Tea 

Mom’s Bliss Tea Recipe

This tea is perfect for frazzled nerves or any mom in need of a mood boost. The skullcap and oat tops are classic nervine tonics that help support the nervous system during times of stress. Raspberry leaf is considered an important tonic herb for women’s health that is rich in nutrients like iron, manganese and niacin. The tasty addition of roses, vanilla and cinnamon offer floral spiciness and inspire feelings of well-being. This tea can be sipped daily to maximize the pleasant effects.

• 2 parts organic skullcap leaf
• 2 parts organic oat tops
• 1 part organic raspberry leaf
• 1 part organic rose buds
• 1/2 part organic chopped vanilla beans
• 1/4 part organic cinnamon chips

1. Mix all ingredients together until the herbs are evenly distributed and place in a lidded glass container.

2. Store in a cabinet away from heat, moisture and light.

3. To make a cup of Mom’s Bliss Tea, pour 1 cup of just boiling water over 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture. Allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes, strain and enjoy.

Mom’s “Me Time” Bath Salts

Who wouldn’t love to finish the day with a warm herbal bath? This luxury is the only opportunity most moms have for alone time. Even if she soaks for just a few minutes, these bath salts will leave her feeling relaxed and rejuvenated—both body and spirit.

• 1 cup salt (Epsom, sea salt, Dead Sea salt, or a mixture)
• 1/4 cup baking soda
• 10 drops organic lavender essential oil
• 5 drops organic geranium essential oil
• 5 drops organic sweet orange essential oil
• 1/2 cup organic calendula, rose or lavender flowers

1. Mix salt and baking soda together in a large bowl. Add essential oils and flowers, then blend well.

2. Package in a lidded jar along with a cotton muslin bag.

3. To use, simply add 1/4 cup to a 1/2 cup bath salts to the muslin bag, drape over the faucet, and allow hot water to run through the bag as the tub fills. Toss the bag in the tub once filled with water and soak your stress away.

Bon Bons Recipe 

Mom’s Adapto-Bon Bons Recipe

This recipe is based on Rosemary Gladstar’s famous Magic Zoom Balls and has been modified to offer adaptogenic magic, rather than zooooom magic. Although, these surely provide a burst of energy, too, the eleuthero, ashwaganda and rhodiola will help improve mom’s ability to cope with stressful situations by reducing stress-related anxiety and fatigue caused by overwork. She can enjoy one or two of these delicious bon bons a day between meals.

• 3 cups organic tahini (drain excess oil from the top)
• 1 cup organic cashew or almond butter
• 2 cups local honey, to taste
• 2 ounce organic rose powder
• 2 ounce organic eleuthero powder
• 1 ounce organic ashwaganda powder
• 1 ounce organic rhodiola powder
• 1 tablespoon organic cardamom powder
• 1/2 ounce organic cinnamon powder
• 1 ounce bee pollen
• 1 package organic carob or bitter chocolate chips
• 8 ounces unsweetened organic shredded coconut flakes, toasted
• 1 cup finely chopped organic almonds
• Unsweetened organic cocoa powder
• 2 pounds organic bittersweet dipping chocolate

1. Mix tahini, nut butter and honey until smooth. Combine the herbal powders and bee pollen, and add to nut butter mix.

2. Add chips, toasted coconut and almonds to the mixture and mix well using your hands.

3. Mix in enough cocoa powder to bring the dough to the desired thickness.

4. Roll the dough into small balls about a tablespoon in size. If you want to coat the balls with chocolate, chill them in the refrigerator for easier dipping. You can also spread the mixture onto a baking sheet—allow mixture to cool and cut into squares.

5. Melt the dipping chocolate gently in a double boiler. Drop the balls one at a time into the melted chocolate, remove, and place on waxed paper to cool.

6. Store the bon bons in baking tins in a cool place. They will last for weeks if properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nerve Tonic Tincture
Photos by Erin McIntosh

Mom’s Last Nerve Tonic Tincture

This nervine tonic tincture formula will help Mom keep her cool during stressful situations. Oat tops in this recipe provide mild nourishment to strengthen the nerves. Both oats and skullcap—which tends to have a more immediate, yet gentle calming effect—are indicated for nervousness, exhaustion, some types of headaches and restless sleep. Skullcap is also antispasmodic and helps relax tense muscles. Holy basil is an important adaptogenic herb in India that allows the mind to adapt and react to incoming stress with calm, perhaps thanks to its antioxidant content including flavonoids, phenolics and carotenoids.

• 1/2 organic milky oat tops tincture
• 1/4 organic skullcap tincture
• 1/4 organic holy basil tincture

1. You can make your own individual herb tinctures and mix them according to the ratio above, or blend our premade tinctures in a glass dropper bottle.

2. To use, take 3 droppers up to three times a day to help prepare your nervous system for unexpected stressors as you balance family, friends, work, love, hobbies, finances, and more each day.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Erin McIntoshErin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and a graduate of the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. She spends her days photographing flowers, creating herbal treats and wildcrafting medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.



3/18/2013

These potentially toxic chemicals can be found in many household cleaners. For a safer way to clean your home, check out the post Spring Cleaning with Eco-Friendly Cleaners.

chemical cleaners
Photo By Les Cunliffe/Fotolia

Chlorine Bleach

Usually found in scouring powder and dishwashing detergent. Contains:

Chlorine: Fumes can cause stomach disorders and irritation to eyes and respiratory tract; may cause reddening of the skin

Ammonia

Usually found in window/glass and all-purpose cleaners. Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation

Drain Cleaners

Contains:

Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness
Sulfuric acid: can cause severe skin burns and blindness

Floor Cleaners

Contains:

Pine oil: irritates eyes and mucous membranes
Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
Naphthas: can cause drowsiness, headache, coma and cardiac arrest if inhaled; can irritate eyes, throat and skin

Furniture Cleaner

Contains:

Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
Oil of cedar: central nervous system depressant; may cause miscarriages

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Contains:

Sodium bisulfate: forms sulfuric acid, can burn skin
Oxalic acid: damages kidney and liver; irritates eyes and respiratory tract; corrodes mouth and stomach
5-dimethyldantoin: forms hypochlorite in water, which can corrode skin and mucous membranes
Hydrochloric acid: fumes are caustic; can burn skin
Phenol: can depress central nervous system and adversely affect circulatory system; corrosive to skin

Disinfectants

Contains:

Ammonia: Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation
Cresol: damages tissue, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and spleen
Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness.
Phenol: can depress central nervous system and adversely affect circulatory system; corrosive to skin
Pine oil: irritates eyes and mucous membranes

Carpet Cleaner

Contains:

Perchloroethylene: fumes are carcinogenic; can cause dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, loss of appetite and disorientation
Naphthalene: damages liver; prolonged vapor exposure can lead to cataract formation

Air Fresheners

Contains:

Formaldehyde: a suspected carcinogen; can irritate eyes, throat, skin and lungs
Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
P-dichlorobenzene: irritates skin, eyes and throat, can cause liver damage in animal studies
Aerosol propellants: either associated with brain damage or highly flammable

All Purpose Cleaners

Contains:

Ammonia: Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation
Ethylene glycol monobutyl acetate: can poison animals and cause damage to internal organs through skin absorption; inhalation can cause dizziness
Sodium hyperchlorite: corrosive to skin and mucous membranes; fumes irritating

Oven Cleaners

Contains:

Sodium hydroxide: burns skin and eyes
Potassium hydroxide: burns skin and eyes
Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness

Laundry Detergents

Contains:

Enzymes: can cause asthma and dermatitis from large amounts of exposure.

Sources: The EPA; dishwasherdetergentphosphate.com


Lorraine HalstedLorraine Halsted is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys writing about environmental issues and natural living. She is an herb grower and a member of the Shenandoah Herbal Society.  



3/14/2013

While we endure the last of the cold, blustery weather, it’s easy to forget that spring is less than a month away. Once the days get warmer, many homeowners will be glad to finally get a jumpstart on those household projects that have been haunting them all winter long. And for many, spring cleaning will be at the top of their list: decluttering the garage and attic, reorganizing cabinets and drawers, eliminating the grime and dust that have been collecting in the far nooks and crannies of the home all winter long.

natural cleaning supplies
Photo By Povy Kendal Atchison

Regardless of the tasks involved, a thorough spring cleaning usually means using a variety of household cleaners, many of which contain a host of harmful chemicals that can waft their way through the home, creating an unhealthy living environment.

Health problems linked to exposure to ammonia, chloride, petroleum and other chemicals found in typical household cleaners range from minor skin burns and irritations to damage of the kidneys, liver, circulatory system and respiratory tract, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If you are planning to take on the arduous task of spring cleaning in the weeks to come and are concerned about the safety of the cleaners in your closet, now may be the ideal time to consider swapping them out for some eco-friendly alternatives. Thanks to growing public interest in green living, eco-friendly cleaning products are more available in stores than ever before. And they are fairly easy to make at home, according to Janeen Solberg—a champion of recycling in Boonesboro, Maryland, and founder of the Boonsboro Greenfest—who has been making her own cleaners for more then 10 years.

She typically incorporates varying amounts of vinegar and baking soda into her recipes and adds other organic ingredients, such as washing soda and borax, both  powdery substances that are used as “laundry boosters” and  can be found in the most big-box stores. (For a list of Solberg's favorite cleaners, see 6 Homemade Cleaning Recipes.)

Janeen says that even a basic vinegar-and-water solution, which has been used in households for generations, is an extremely effective all-purpose cleaner.

“It has an uncanny ability to kill bacteria, mold and mildew, and disinfect just about anything,” she says.

To give it a little extra cleaning power, Janeen adds some plant-based liquid soap and a few drops of essential oil, such as lavender and rosemary, to create a more pleasant scent. On occasion, she will also use organic store-bought cleaners, such as those made by Seventh Generation.

“I do buy some green cleaners when I am pinched for time,” Janeen says.  

And while eco-friendly cleaners usually cost more than the popular commercial brands, she says it’s worth the money for her to buy one that is safe to use in the home.

In addition to using eco-friendly cleaners, you can take other steps to help create a safer living and breathing environment for your family as you embark on spring cleaning for the household.

To start, do a thorough job eliminating dust, which contains a variety of allergy-causing agents, such as pollen and animal dander, as well as lead particles from old, flaking paint, according to the EPA. Remember to check for dust in areas commonly overlooked, such as ceiling fans, light fixtures, cabinet tops and the trim above doors and windows. Baseboards, air vents, oven drawers and areas around TVs and computers are other forgotten places prone to dust build-up.

Shoes, which are often contaminated with traces of pesticides, lead from gasoline and certain types of paint, can also track soil into the home. So it may be a good idea for family members and guests to leave them at the door once they cross the threshold.

Other ways of approaching spring cleaning with a “greener” attitude include donating unwanted clothes and household items to local charities instead of kicking them to the curb where they’ll be destined for the landfill.     

Also make sure you pass along “green” values to your kids, so they will do their part to help you keep your home safe, as well as clean, year-round.


Lorraine HalstedLorraine Halsted is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys writing about environmental issues and natural living. She is an herb grower and a member of the Shenandoah Herbal Society.



3/14/2013

Janeen Solberg  developed these homemade cleaner recipes more than 10 years ago and still uses them today.

natural cleaning ingredients
Photo By Franny-Anne/Fotolia

Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

1 part baking soda
1 part borax

Laundry Detergent Recipe

1 part baking soda
1 part washing soda
1 cup of borax for an extra boost

All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe

3 cups water
1 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon plant-based liquid soap
A few drops of lavender or rosemary oil for scent

Window Cleaner Recipe

2 parts water
1 part vinegar

Toilet Cleaner Recipe

Sprinkle baking soda in toilet. Add 1 cup of vinegar. Let stand for a few minutes. Scrub and flush. Use all-purpose cleaner to clean the exterior of the toilet.

Floor Cleaner Recipe

(hardwood, vinyl and tile—no wax floors)

Add 1 cup of white vinegar to a mop bucket of warm water. 

For ready-made all natural cleaners, Solberg recommends Seventh Generation and Dr. Bronner’s magic soaps. For more on using natural cleaners, check out the original post, Spring Cleaning with Eco-Friendly Cleaners.



12/5/2012

Decorating your home with natural materials brings elements of Mother Nature indoors and lends an earthy, contemporary tone to a room. There is a wide range of natural flooring materials available, but when choosing products for use in a natural home it’s important to remember that natural doesn’t always mean sustainable. Learning more about each natural product you’re considering will help you make wise decisions about the effect your home has on the earth.

Not all natural materials are good choices for floors because some weather better than others. Look for materials that are both durable and long-lasting. Flooring in high-traffic areas should be hard and resistant to long-term wear. Floors in kitchens and bathrooms, where moisture is an issue, should be non-porous and have acid-resistant sealers applied to help prevent stains.

While some types of natural flooring tend to be harder on the earth than others, each individual product is harvested and manufactured differently. A closer look each product’s origins reveals that some manufacturers take extra steps to create a more earth-friendly material, whether it’s by using less-invasive harvesting processes or renewable energy during fabrication.

With our remodeling projects in San Jose, we’re seeing an increase in homeowners interested in both traditional natural flooring materials, such as natural stone and hardwood, and trendy, sustainable flooring materials like cork and bamboo. As you’ll see, each one has its pros and cons as a flooring option, including its benefits and drawbacks for the planet.

hardwood floors in kitchen 

Hardwood floors. While wood flooring can make a room look very earthy and natural, it’s not always the most environmentally-friendly option. Wood has remained popular as a flooring material for centuries because it’s long-lasting and adaptable to a wide range of spaces and interior styles. Wood is arguably a renewable resource, but it takes decades, and sometimes centuries, to replenish itself.

Earth-conscious homeowners who want the look of wood floors in their homes can seek out wood planks that were locally harvested and manufactured or sustainably harvested from managed forests. Reclaimed wood is gaining great popularity, and locally reclaimed wood may be available in your area. While not a true hardwood, pine is one of the most plentiful types of reclaimed wood because it was traditionally low-cost and commonly used in old barns and industrial buildings around the country.

hardwood floors in kitchen 

Bamboo. Although usually categorized as a wood when it comes to flooring surfaces, bamboo is really just a fibrous plant. Its ability to rapidly replenish itself makes it very popular as a renewable building material, but bamboo also carries some hidden environmental costs. Bamboo floor planks must be manufactured, a process that uses water and energy. Bamboo also requires a lot of water to grow. While its production in the United States is on the rise, bamboo flooring and other home products are mostly manufactured overseas, bearing the added environmental cost of transportation.

Yet bamboo flooring is still a more sustainable choice than most other options. And well-made bamboo planks are just as hard, durable, and long-lasting as oak, making them an excellent alternative to hardwood floors at a comparable price. Beware of inexpensive bamboo flooring, as the cheaper products tend to be softer, easily damaged, and a poor choice for floors.

Cork. Cork has been used in commercial interior design for more than a century but has been on the upswing in homes over the last decade because of its reputation as an earth-friendly product. Cork floors are a good choice for the eco-centric homeowner, as cork is a rapidly renewing resource that’s harvested under strict regulations. Cork comes from the bark of cork trees and can be harvested every few years without hurting the rest of the tree as it continues to grow for centuries.

A majority of the world’s cork is grown and manufactured in Southern Europe and Northern Africa, with Portugal producing more than 50 percent of all cork—so most cork products come with the negative effect of overseas transportation on the environment. Cork is unique from other flooring products as it’s soft underfoot but still fairly durable, naturally stain- and dirt-resistant, and low-maintenance.

natural stone floors in bathroom 

Natural stone. Natural stone is one of the oldest flooring materials around and its beauty is unmatched, but it is not considered a renewable resource. It also has a reputation for being high-maintenance, easily damaged, and one of the more expensive flooring choices. Engineered stone is increasing in popularity as it looks more and more like real stone but remains highly durable and low-maintenance. While the manufacturing process requires extra energy, it also uses up waste scraps from natural stone tile and slab production.

If you’re one of many homeowners who want to integrate the look of natural stone into an environmentally-friendly home, consider using reclaimed tiles so your home doesn’t add demand to the industry. You can also choose a product from a quarry and/or manufacturer that reduces its carbon footprint by using renewable energy sources for harvesting and production.

Porcelain and ceramic tiles. Porcelain and ceramics aren’t considered natural products because they require manufacturing, but they’re engineered from natural clay and silt, making them a good choice for a home that wants to integrate earth-based products. Clay and silt are somewhat renewable resources, but the harvesting process can be invasive and the manufacturing process uses energy. As with natural stone products, eco-conscious homeowners can choose certain producers over others or seek out reclaimed materials.

Recent innovations in porcelain and ceramic tile production have given them increased durability, making them great a product for floors. Limitless format and color options make porcelain and ceramic tiles perfect for unique, custom designs, while their no-maintenance qualities make them an excellent alternative for homeowners worried about the upkeep of natural stone.


Jim Kabel is the owner and general manager of Case Design/Remodeling in San Jose, a full-service home repair and remodeling contractor dedicated to earth-friendly design.





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