Tuesday, February 24, 2015

6 Tasty Brews for Wintry Weather

It is COLD outside!  Icicles hang from the eaves, the dog demands to nap indoors, the daffodils are covered in an icy coat, and I do my best to stay indoors where it is warm.  The only creatures that don't seem to mind the cold are the birds.  They flit from feeder to ground to tree branch without seeming to notice the frozen world around them.  I watch them from the window with a steaming cup of tea.

There are lots of great warming herbs and tea blends for winter weather.  Below are 6 of my favorites in no particular order:

1.  Lemon/Ginger/Honey- slice fresh lemons and ginger into a cup, add a teaspoon of honey, fill cup with boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes.  Great for when you sense a cold coming on, or just feel a bit icky.

2.  Cardamom Tea- My friends from Sri Lanka taught me this one.  Simply add a cardamom pod or a bit of cardamom powder to your cup when brewing black tea.  Sri Lankans almost always serve tea with milk and sugar, though I use soy milk and honey in mine.  Slightly spicy and delicious.

3.  Peppermint tea- simple as placing a spoonful of dried peppermint in your infuser.  I add honey to mine.  I also like a mix of peppermint and spearmint.

4.  Chai- recipes abound, but I love the Yogi Chai Black tea bags .

5.  Peace Tea- A Mountain Rose Herbs blend that I enjoy greatly, especially when we are all cooped up indoors together and peace is in short supply.  Soothes my frazzled mama nerves!

6.  Lemon Verbena- Summer in a teacup!  If you've read my blog for any length of time you know I love anything lemon.   Lemon Verbena is the best of the best of lemony herbs.  If you don't have a plant overwintering on the windowsill (which I highly recommend); then purchase dried lemon verbena from Mountain Rose Herbs.  Delicious on its own or blended with other lemony herbs.  My year round go to tea for when I need a boost. 


What is your favorite winter tea?

Blessings,

Catherine Ann

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wishing on a Winter's Day



It's windy and wild outside today, and I am indoors wishing spring would come quickly.
Dandelion and chickweed are appearing in the yard, dill is growing with abandon, a fruit tree down the road is blossoming pink, and I saw the first daffodil blooming in the church garden yesterday; signs of spring abound.  Yet, I know winter is not quite finished with us here.  Cold weather is forecast for the weekend, and the last frost date won't arrive until the end of March, but one can wish for the all too brief warm days of spring when herbs and flowers and the spring vegetable garden are all vying for time and attention.

I think it is time for me to pull out the seed boxes and start a few pots of savory, chives, and nasturtiums on the windowsill.  Late winter is always a tough season here.  We have warm days and then a freeze, then a string of warm days followed by another cold snap.  I get weary of dragging pots in and out the back door, and start dreaming of a greenhouse to overwinter the citrus, bay, geraniums, and other tender herbs in.

Starting a few seeds is a nice diversion, as is sorting through the seed boxes and making a wish list of new things to try this year.  I am planning to grow savory for the first time.  I purchased seed for both summer and winter savory, after learning savory is the 2015 Herb of the Year. I will also be drawing out a new garden design as we are moving the garden from the front yard to the back and building raised beds.  I'm also thinking about an herb spiral or some sort of permaculture garden for herbs, maybe a keyhole garden. 

How are your herb gardens designed?  Do you have a formal herb garden, informal cottage garden, container garden, raised beds, or a mixture of some type? 
What projects or other things are you doing while you are waiting for spring?
What new to you herb are you going to grow this year?
What are you wishing for these days?

Blessings,

Catherine


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Simmering in the Still Room

a reminder of warmer days 

Oh my, it is cold outside!  Anytime it gets below 20 degrees in my part of the world it is frigid!
As of yet, no ice or sleet, no snow, just cold, bitter wind.  And truly, if we must endure this cold, some snow would at least be a diversion.  I'm planning one last trip to the store before the real cold and rain arrive, and then I'll be settling in for a few days.  I've forewarned the family- get what you need today, because the rest of the weekend we'll be HOME.  My only planned outing is on Sunday for church, and that only requires a quick dash across the lawn!

During my self-prescribed hibernation I plan to keep a pot of warming winter soup or stew simmering on the stove. A flavorful vegetarian bean and barley chili is ready for reheating today at lunch, and I have lentil curry, potato and kale soup, and my daughter's favorite Veggie Cheese soup all in mind for the weekend.  I probably won't make them all, but those are definite possibilities for the menu.  If you need inspiration for the soup pot, Gooseberry Patch has a great link up going now- What's Simmering on Your Stove.

And with soup, we want bread (though I am trying to reduce my consumption of gluten).  Muffins are quick and easy and can be flavored in countless ways- sweet or savory depending on what you are serving them with; and herbs liven up a plain muffin making it something deliciously different.  With the chili mentioned above I would serve a cornbread muffin with cheese and green chilies (or jalapenos for the heat lovers).  Potato  and kale soup is also nice paired with a cornbread muffin or a garlic cheese muffin, and the Veggie Cheese soup is delicious with either of these or my favorite, a wheat  flour muffin dressed up with dill, parsley, and chives. Curry wants naan, which I just may learn to make this weekend.


 And of course there will be endless cups of warm things to drink.  My new favorite herb tea is Tulsi (Holy Basil), though I will surely brew pots of warming chai, spicy hot chocolate made with soy milk, and an evening blend of chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm.

Ok, that's it for me today.  Your turn.
What are you cooking or brewing these days?
What are your favorite cold weather recipes?

Warm Winter Wishes,

Catherine

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Planning a New Year in the Still Room


On this cold, wintry, last day of 2014, I am ready to sit by the fire with a steaming mug of Tulsi tea and dream up some plans for 2015.  

2014 has been an off year for both the garden and the Still Room.  Other more urgent matters pulled me away from home and my much loved herbs far too often.  Not so next year.  One of my goals for 2015 is to focus on the things I love and feel called to do in this life, and herbs play a huge part in who I am and what I do.  So I will be intentional about scheduling time for gardening and creating in the Still Room when I chart my course for this next year.  

The vegetable and herb garden has been allowed to return to its former weedy lawn state.  But there are plans in the making for new raised beds and a greenhouse come spring! 
The herbs growing in beds along the back of the house are flourishing, both the rosemary and mugwort seem to be trying to take over their world, so we shall see what happens with those.  

I have seeds for the 2015 Herb of the Year (more about that soon!) and will be experimenting with growing this herb for the first time.  I also have a giveaway related to the Herb of the Year in the works for January, so stay tuned for that. 

What herbal projects are you planning or dreaming about for 2015?

More soon on my Still Room plans and projects  for 2015.  

Until then, I pray you have a Happy Herbal New Year!

Blessings,

Catherine 

  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Blessings

We're baking Christmas cookies and filling bags with sweet treats for friends and loved ones today.





I pray your Christmas is filled with Hope, Peace, Love, & Joy.



Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Christmas Blessings,

Catherine

Monday, December 22, 2014

Simple Gifts from the Still Room


Photobucket

Dream pillows are simple gifts I make for Christmas gifting.  I use Dream Herbs  Pillow Mix from Mountain Rose Herbs but you could easily mix up your own blend using your favorite relaxing herbs such as lavender, rose petals, hops, chamomile, mugwort, and a few drops of rose or lavender essential oil.
I tuck the dream herbs mix into drawstring muslin bags or sew up simple pillow shapes that can be slipped into a pillowcase.     
Add a tag wishing your loved one Sweet Dreams and you have a simple gift that will be a sweet reminder of you each time they put their head on the pillow.

Herb infused oils also make excellent gifts.  Sweet Almond or Olive oil infused with calendula, lavender, or other herbs of your choice can be placed in decorative bottles and given as body/massage oils.   A few drops of a coordinating essential oil will give you a sweet smelling perfume oil to share.

Bath salts can be as simple to mix up as adding essential oils to sea salt, though you can get creative and mix in other ingredients like epsom salts, baking soda, even a small amount of liquid soap to make foaming bath salts.  Peppermint oil makes a nice Christmas scent, or how about frankincense and myrrh, or my personal favorite lavender and rose geranium?   Put the salts in a pretty container, label, and add a pretty shell or vintage spoon to scoop out the salts and you have a great gift for someone special. 

These 3 simple herbal gifts can be customized with different herbs and essential oils to please most anyone on your gift-giving list. 

And don't forget herb plants or seeds for the herb lover on your list.  These are almost always at the top of my own wish list!


What is your favorite simple herbal gift to give or receive?

Wishing you a peaceful holiday season,

Catherine Ann

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Crafting in the Still Room
















*A repost from Christmas past, but timely and still true of what's going on around here!  
I do miss the still room in the photo above.  I now live in a different home, with a different place to store my herbs, but even without the pretty still room, herbs are always a big part of holidays and every day in my home.  
Happy Herbal Holidays and a Very Merry Christmas to you!
Love,
Catherine 


I love Christmas!
It is my favorite time of the year.
I love the decorating, the baking,
choosing gifts from the World Vision Catalog

And I enjoy creating homey, simple herbal gifts for those I love.
Gifts such as-
Herb Infused Honey
Bath Salts
Herb Infused Oils
Simmering Scents
and this
Vanilla Sugar Scrub

1 cup vanilla sugar made with white or brown sugar (see directions below)
1/2 cup sweet almond oil (or whatever oil you like)
a few drops of vanilla essential oil (optional)

Mix together and use as a body scrub to exfoliate and make your skin soft, smooth, and sweet smelling.

Vanilla Sugar
 Take a whole vanilla bean and place it in quart jar and then fill the jar with sugar. (I prefer organic cane sugar, but use whatever you have on hand.)
Let the sugar and vanilla bean sit for a few days and soon you will have a delicious vanilla sugar to put in your cup of tea, your favorite cake or cookies, or a deliciously scented sugar scrub.

I'll share more gifts from the Still Room in the coming days.

What gifts are you making this Christmas?
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Simmering in the Still Room

 As I slice lemons for Honey Lemons, stir cranberry sauce, and make preparations for Thanksgiving dinner, I'm adding bits and pieces to a small simmering pot on the stovetop- ends of lemons, the cinnamon stick I fished out of the finished cranberry sauce, a few star anise, a pinch of whole cloves, a bit of rosemary left from the turkey brine ...  smells lovely here today.

 The last of the lemon harvest


Lemon slices in honey, delicious and healing


 fragrant bits and pieces simmering on the stovetop

What's simmering in your world today?

How do you use up leftover bits and pieces in the still room?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Blessings,

Catherine

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Honey Lemon Slices

It is citrus season.
My Meyer lemon tree produced a whopping 5 lemons this year.  Sad, but better than last year's 2. Container citrus culture is not producing the harvest I'd hoped for.
Nevertheless, we have a good assortment of organic citrus at the local stores these days, and lemons, oranges, and grapefruit are piled high in the fruit bowl ready for a quick snack or adding to tea or a recipe.

Honey and lemon is a tried and true remedy that most everyone is familiar with.
A cup of hot tea laden with honey and lemon juice is a quick fix for a scratchy throat.

Today I visited a friend and she showed me her latest 'recipe'- Lemon Slices in Honey.
Simply thinly sliced lemons suspended in a jar of honey.  She had this in the refrigerator to infuse.

This sounds like a great way to preserve my lemon harvest, and will be handy for when Lemon & Honey tea is ordered.

Have you ever preserved lemon slices in honey?  
How else do you use lemon in your household?

Herbal Blessings,

Catherine

Friday, November 7, 2014

Still Room Recipes Herbal Jams and Jellies

Blackberry Jam

Holiday gift giving season will soon be here.  Gifts from the still room are in the planning.  Most years I stick to bath and body themed gifts- sugar scrubs, bath salts, tub tea.  But this year I am going to add herbal jams and jellies to the list. 

One of my favorite herb books, The Pleasure of Herbs by Phyllis Shaudys, devotes 5 pages in the October chapter to herb jellies.  With herb and juice combinations such as the following suggestions, I've got lots of options to try:

  • Mint/apple juice
  • Thyme/purple grape juice
  • Rose Geranium/apple juice
  • Orange Mint/apple juice
  • Lemon Balm/red grape juice
  • Lemon Thyme/white grape juice
In the spirit of Christmas, I think my first batch will be Cranberry, Orange, Ginger.  I'll let you know how this turns out.

It seems jam and jelly is a popular item this season, after I added jams and jellies to this year's gift list, and planned  this post, I got an email from  Mountain Rose Herbs and what does it contain?  Making Herbal Jam & Jelly!  I love the synchronicity! 

So who else is making herbal jams and jellies this season?  
I'd love it if you'd share a recipe with us.


Herbal Blessings,

Catherine

Friday, October 17, 2014

October Rose

Few things are as lovely in my mind as October roses.  This beauty is blooming in the church courtyard garden.  Tiny, pink, Fairy roses are in bloom in my backyard as well as the Nearly Wild rose which blooms off and on all year round.

While I enjoy roses any time of the year, there is something special about them this season.  Perhaps it is the contrast of blooming roses and falling leaves.  One in bloom, one in decline.

I collect rose petals to dry and snip roses for floating in a teacup or tucking in a vase, savoring the scent and beauty of autumn roses.

Soon I'll be stirring up bath salts and tub tea for Christmas gifts ... some rose scented of course!

Do you have October roses in your part of the world?
How do you use roses in your home- for decorating, bath and beauty potions, in cookery?

Happy Weekend my friends!
Blessings,
Catherine Ann

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October in the Herb Garden


'Tis the season for planting herbs in my part of the world.
I've sown seeds for parsley, dill, cilantro, borage, St. John's wort, poppy, and other cool weather lovers over the past few weeks.  I see tiny, ferny dill seedlings, a borage or two, and wait expectantly for the slower germinators to sprout.

I've transplanted echinacea, Russian sage, hyssop, lavender, and mint; and potted up scented geraniums, patchouli and others that will spend the winter indoors.

Next comes planting garlic and my favorite flowers- violas and dianthus.

I do love fall gardening!

What is happening in your herb garden this season?
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