All the Beautiful Collections

What do you collect?

I am not a great lover of tchotchkes because I am not a great lover of dusting.   I do not need fifty seven plastic Santa Clauses no matter now much I love him.  In Country Living magazine they have a section that showcases this gal who collects so many things.  So many useless things.  But if they bring her joy or remind her of a time long gone or of her mother, who am I say they are useless?

When we lost our rented farm and became homeless (not completely homeless thanks to the goodness of friends allowing us to stay in guest rooms with our nine cats until we could get on our feet which took six months), I lost so many collections.  Antiques, dishes, silverware, New Mexican Santos, books….everything.  For the first few years we just gathered what we needed.  Why collect when it could be gone in a moment?  Why waste energy and money on material items?  Simplicity!  Freedom!

When we were first married we both had a few Coca Cola items.  I had purchased my first one from an antique store down on south Broadway when I was twelve years old using my babysitting money.  Together we had the beginnings of a regular collection and friends bought us pieces and we bought pieces and it was a full blown collection before I tired of it and sold it all at a garage sale.

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Back at the farm, while we were reeling from loss and devastation from losing everything, my daughter, Shyanne, was calmly moving some special things to her apartment.  She had saved the Christmas ornaments we had collected over many travels and years.  And she saved the wedding dishes.  She gave some to me when we moved into an apartment.  They are beautiful English Castle.  She has the rest.  I want her to have the whole collection.

Times change and our tastes change and different things become practical and memory filled.  I do love useful things.  Of course, over two of said items is probably just collecting.

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I love aprons.  They are so sensible.  I wear them most everywhere.  A pocket for my keys.  They keep dish water from splashing on my clothes.  They keep my clothes clean in case Doug wants to whisk me off to dinner.  They have a delicate feminine flounce to them that takes me back to a bygone era and makes me feel pretty.

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I love book bags.  I have never found a purse I like.  I love to throw my wallet, some tissues, my daytimer, a pen, a writing book, a great reading book or magazine, and my water bottle into a unique bag.  Each bag showcases a side of me.  A bear having tea.  Lots of cats and books.  A typewriter.

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Plants.  I collect plants, I admit it!  I am truly out of windows now though.

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Books.  I can be frugal as can be.  Envelope system, check.  Budget, check.  Book store, we didn’t need that much grocery money anyway!  Even if I don’t care for the book, I keep it.  I adore books.  I want them to be available for others to read.  I love bookshelves of creativity and knowledge at my fingertips.  (I also love libraries and read a fair amount of their books too, but I also love taking my time, and a fresh new cover pleases me so.)  We didn’t move our books when we moved to the country.  We had such a huge collection of books while homeschooling but didn’t have the strength or time to move them all.  I wish I had.  I wish I had those books.  The ones I had to give away when we left our farm….an autographed copy of Jane Goodall’s book…..so many books….are gone.  I am clinging to these books I have now.

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I know, I know, they are just material items.  I know that, you know that, but material items bring some joy to our life.  They remind us of things that made us who we are.  They inspire us to move towards the person we want to be.  I had just mentioned to someone that I wanted to find Fiesta dishes.  My love of the southwest is not a secret and my home doesn’t hide that fact.  Oh Fiesta dishes would make me ever so happy having my coffee in the morning.  A student and friend of mine, out of the blue, offered me nine sets for a crazy low price.  They were her mother’s.  Her mother passed away.  Can’t take it with you.  I hope she loved them while she was here.  I know I will love them.  They inspire me and brighten my morning.

What do you collect?

 

 

Decorating With Notes of Spring

The air has a slightly different feel to it.  A different scent.  The cold is still there.  I bundle up as I go out to do chores.  But there is a tinge of something else upon the morning breath.  Life.  Spring.  By all indications, it is still the dead of winter, but I sense it.  I sense the pulse of the earth strengthening and the awakening of the plant world beneath it all.  Spring is coming.

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Pick up miniature roses from the grocery store.  Water once a week.  They will live until you can transplant them outdoors.  I had miniature roses grow three feet high in the garden before!

My home is still in the dead of winter.  Warm blankets caress chairs and the furnace is on.  The sun shines like a spotlight through the closed windows, still low in the sky.  My spirit falls more easily into stress and I long to be in the garden.  To be outside with a book without wind chill.  What to do?  The only thing I can do is to introduce notes of spring into the house.

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Plants always infuse spring and life into a place.  These are the babies from my very large aloe.  Last week I transplanted them into a new pot.  Its wide berth lets them spill out and catch the sun, giving a warm desert feel to this corner.  The cheap pots at Walmart are usually my go-to.  I love their cheery celadon, rouge, and artist blue colors, but sometimes it is nice to get a special pot that reminds you of something you love.  In this case, the land of the southwest where my heart and inspiration dance.

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It still gets dark out early so candles are still throughout the house.  These Catholic prayer candles sans saints are perfect and long lasting.  I used an old Coca-Cola crate to hold them.

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Found bird nests and unique pieces of wood and stone are set carefully around the house to bring nature in.

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My Farmhouse sign (bought at Cracker Barrel of all places!) doesn’t have a place on the wall right now because I have all my own bright paintings up but it seems cheery on the floor against the wall amongst the geraniums and other plants.

I seem to collect things with bicycles on them.  Bicycles with baskets.  I love the idea of them.  I love the freedom of them.  The perk of being in the city.  The promise of warm breezes and exercise and French bread in the basket picked up from the bakery or fresh flowers.  I have coffee cups with bicycles with baskets that say things like “Do More of What Makes You Happy.”  My daughter, Shyanne, gave me a small bicycle statue.  So Doug gave me a bike for my birthday last year.  With a basket.  I only rode it a few times before the tires were inundated with goat heads.  But a kind friend came over three different times to fix my tires, fill them with fix a flat, put on my basket and other accouterments (a bell included!) and I am ready to take off on the first nice day without Nordic winds.  The bike had a place on the porch but I brought it in.  It adds notes of spring and whimsy to my living room.

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Lastly, I picked up a snazzy pair of bright galoshes.  Oh, spring, I hope to see you soon!

 

The Living Room Garden

The creamy white that I painted the walls last month created a palette where all of my beautiful colors and plants and things could show even brighter.  Scattered across the wooden floor are dark pink geranium petals, as if we just had a wedding.  They are intoxicatingly romantic.

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“You have enough plants,” my husband commented.  I stood shocked, jaw agape.  It was like when he said I had enough cats.  Ridiculous.

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The three foot high geraniums are blooming in large tufts of fragrant flowers.  These flowers remind me of Great Grandma’s house but I bet they will go on to remind my granddaughters of me.  They are glorious in their vibrant colors and help me get through to spring.

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My aloe is three feet tall as well.  Gifts from students and clients and friends reach as healthily and high as they can capturing a dance upon the wood floor in the light of the large picture window.  Poinsettia, jasmine, violet, mass cane, ginger, ivy, bamboo…they all please me so.

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Okay, so they take up a bit of room.  Doug has stopped joking about us needing a greenhouse for all of my plants.  They make me happy.  Happy wife+happy life, right?  The greenery and the flowers are my gardening fix.

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Here are some tips for to keep your plants alive:

Water only once a week.  Aloes and succulents, every other week, unless they seem terribly dry.  Water until the water just comes out the bottom.  Use plates under the plants, not enclosed pots or you will find yourself with root rot.

When transplanting, place a handful of wine corks (that’s why I drink wine, people) in the bottom for drainage.  Use organic potting soil.

Discard dead leaves.

Make sure they get a few hours of sun a day in the house.

In the summer, they like to go on a west facing porch.

Speak to your plants, sing to them, love them.

Give them a drink of coffee once in awhile.  They love it.

Living Space Makeover- Part 2 (after photos!)

When we moved into this house two years ago (my goodness, time flies!), the walls were a dingy, rental white with chipped grey trim.  I have never been a fan of white.  I rarely utilize white.  I adore color!

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I have kept a notebook of magazine clippings of loved décor for the past fifteen years or so.  As I flipped through the worn pages I discovered something; every single room had white/cream walls.  All of them.

“I’m surprised you are painting the walls white,” Shyanne responded on text after I sent her the first wall completed.

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I am still working on organizing this corner, but it will be a sweet little space for writing and dreaming.  I moved the desk so that I could put up a folding table to hold more plants under the window.

As soon as we moved in two years ago, I painted the walls warm yellow with a library brown trim and they were lovely.  This house is nearly one hundred years old, adobe, build in a proper style where the windows and eves are set just right so that in the summer the sun is above the house and in the winter, the sun floods through the windows.  I can touch the ceilings.  This house wasn’t built by tall people, y’all.  The result is that it feels almost cave-like sometimes and remarkably cozy.  With all my bright colors and plants though, it felt cluttered.

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Before

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So, what the heck, right?  I went and chose a crisp with a touch of cream, white paint and set to work New Year’s Eve.  It is amazing how dirty walls get over the years and the white paint was like a cleansing.  All of the colors of my southwestern things just pop against the new gallery walls and the space feels bright and wintery.  Cool and enlivening.  New and fresh.

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Finances and a very large puppy mean that we aren’t getting new furniture very soon but these pieces, dingy and a bit torn as they may be, become transformed with a few bright blankets.

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“What do I want to devote space to?”  A very good question for the new year.  For me, it is my work.  With all my beautiful items at the ready, I don’t have to be digging through closets and bags to find what I need for ceremony!

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Next to it I placed a table with my curiosities.  My bird nests and feathers.

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Before (found my husband!)
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After

With the house nice and bright and filled with southwestern color and all my bright paintings displayed, I feel light and calm, happy and inspired.  So white was the right color for me all along!

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With a bit of paint, some blankets to use as throws, and a rearrangement of furniture, you can have a whole new living space designed for what you want to make space for.

 

Happy New Year everyone!

 

Living Space Makeover in Poem- Part 1

Oh my, there’s clutter and  everything galore

There are Christmas boxes all over the floor

I have books aplenty and furniture too

I love all my beautiful things, this is true

Vibrant plants fill the places fighting for sun

An inspiration ignited has begun

Trying to find my husband in all this stuff

But getting started here can be kind of tough

So out with the old, the new year rings tonight

And I want my house to be a pretty sight

So we’ll start with a paint can of creamy white

And begin to fill this living space with light

As the promise of bright tomorrow dawns clear

I’ll tone down the clutter, put things away I hold dear, decorate, because that’s what I do

And start the year 2019 anew.

Check back January 2nd for the “After” pictures and post!  Happy New Year!

5 Reasons to Adopt a Plant Based Diet

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1- There is not a disease out there that can not be benefited, if not reversed entirely, by adopting a plant based diet.  Plants are medicine.  They contain every healing property needed to heal from cancer, diabetes, bone loss, dementia, heart problems, or colds.  That is what they were made for!  So in my work as a Clinical Herbalist when people are asking which medicine herbs to take, I always mention that they need to incorporate more plants into their diets too.  Kale and Broccoli can reverse bone loss.  Tomatoes and garlic heal the heart and wine relaxes the blood vessels.  Walnuts heal the brain and fresh greens remove built up mucous that inhibits memory.  There are thousands of food combinations and every single nutrient one needs is located in fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and vegetables.

The more meat or processed foods one puts on their plate, the less room there is for the plants.  By adopting a plant based diet one gets all of the nutrients, none of the disease.

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2- Saves Money and Time!  We actually cut our grocery bill in half by eating a plant based diet.  In half!  This week I shopped at King Soopers and bought a week’s worth of groceries-all organic- for a hundred bucks.  (Kuddos to King Soopers for hearing the need and desires for more organic!)  Instead of an hour in the kitchen, I spend thirty minutes preparing a meal.

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3- More Eco-friendly– We are all a little freaked out by our own lusts for oil and gas and the impacts we as a cumulative society are making on this beautiful planet of ours that sustains us and nurtures us.  We purchase more fuel efficient cars and try to remember to turn the lights off but the one huge impact that one person could make is to adopt a plant based diet.  After all this time after the reports came out many years ago, our mainstream meat production is still the number one cause of greenhouse gases and pollution, the loss of species and rainforests, and the reason that so many pollutants get into our water ways.

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4- Animals and Karma– Let’s face it, when it comes to creating suffering, none of us really want to make an animal suffer.  (There really is no difference between a horse, cat, cow, dog, pig…) Yet we tell ourselves that it’s the circle of life, the cavemen did it, or it’s healthier, and we continue to eat ten times more meat than our ancestors ever did, create so much suffering by being a consumer, and then wonder why our bodies begin to rebel and fall apart.

My brother-in-law lives and teaches in Thailand and I asked him when he was here visiting, “What is it like there?  What wild animals do you have there?”

He replied, “There are no wild animals.  The people ate them all a long time ago.”

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5- It’s Fun!– I think I heard some of y’all choke out there. It is fun!  I love cooking and creating and it is fun to cook through a new cookbook.  It is fun to see what flavor combinations can be had.  We cook together and as we chop and laugh and sauté and pour a drink, we talk about our day, alter seasonings, and eat really, really healthy food.

We were vegetarian/vegan for a long time.  When we stopped we both started seeing just what eating meat does.  Gout, weight gain, back problems, hormone disruptions, circulatory issues….It is nice feeding my husband foods that will nurture and heal him, give him energy and well being.  It is nice feeding myself those foods as well.  I know I am doing my part to help the animal kingdom whom I adore, and am lowering my footprint on this little homestead.  I am saving money and making amazing, delicious foods.  There are so many beautiful books out there.  My new favorite is “The Homemade Vegan Pantry” by the magnificent Miyoko Schinner.  We have been cooking our way through it this week.  I highly recommend it.  I don’t want processed food in my plant based journey, so this helps me in seconds whip up delicious substitutes.

After years of experimenting here is my favorite plant based milk recipe:

Cashew Milk– Place 1 cup of cashews with 4 cups of filtered water in blender and blend until completely smooth and frothy.  No need to strain!  It should be completely blended and smooth enough to go through the cappuccino machine or into your cereal.

It’s a bright new year, here’s to your health and your karma!

Redecorating for the Season (easy tricks for a beautiful home)

20171027_071224In the winter I was experimenting with how to set up our new house.  An art and writing area, a music and reading area, and a sitting area took up separate sections of the old living room.  Then my classes started and I needed to be able to seat ten people comfortably and have a bigger conversation area.  The living room was rearranged again.  Now I am looking at having my family over for Thanksgiving dinner and entertaining for the holidays.  I will need a place for the Christmas tree (I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween…) and I wanted the seating area to surround the wood stove for cozy nights with a delicious book and a cup of hot chocolate.  Add to that I wanted to display my medicines for when customers come by, and have a place for all of my plants so I tapped into my inner Martha Stewart and spent the day redecorating!

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Faux fur rugs and gold toned throw pillows cozy up the velvet futon which reclines to become a double bed for guests.
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On the other side of the wood stove the love seat sits. A colorful sofa cover and earth toned throw pillows set a comfy space to play the guitar or have a drink. Guess what is behind the cow painting? The television! Wish I would have thought of it years ago. I am always trying to hide that thing!
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I knew our life transitioned into a new stage when I agreed to buy matching recliners. To me, recliners are the ugliest things ever and I swore I’d never have them in the house. (They are awfully comfortable though…)
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There wasn’t room for the coffee table in front of the recliners so I made it into a stand for my farmer’s market kit of medicines. Games, movies, and music are stored on the bottom shelf of the coffee table.
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Books are always at the ready and Maryjane’s books are easy to reach for when she comes to visit. A set of old doors creates drama, and my lovely grandfather clock adds charm. My collection of Native art and my feathers adorn the shelves.
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The table is closer to the front door than the kitchen now but I have more space to expand the table here. I can roll the giant aloe plant to the corner and add another table in here to accommodate more guests.
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My desk is an old sewing machine table and it can be rolled into the bedroom when it’s time to add a Christmas tree after Thanksgiving.

I didn’t spend a penny on this redecorating day and it only took a few hours.  The house feels cozy and the pumpkins and colors add an autumnal spirit.  Twinkly lights are always in order for a charming home.  Wishing you a beautiful season filled with warmth and family and home.

 

 

Autumn Houseplants

 

20170920_143750The night air dipped and rose the past few weeks and autumn is certainly in the air.  The houseplants have all been lazily sunbathing all summer (with me) on the front porch.  They love the fresh flow of water from the hose each day and the sun shining on them.  I snap off any leggy parts and remove dead leaves.  Any bugs and diseases that jumped on from being cooped up last winter are gone.  Yet, the thermometer lowers steadily in the night.  At 50 degrees I start covering the plants with a large sheet before I go to bed.  The days are still gloriously warm and they just need a little extra cover under the stars.

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But when that fateful forecast shows 45 degrees at night, everyone has to come inside. Party over.  By the end of summer a lot of the plants have grown.  Trim them into proper shapes and transplant them into bigger pots.  I put a little soil on the bottom, place the whole plant and dirt in the new pot, then top with fresh potting soil.  Water thoroughly and let sit in the sun a bit longer.  There should be holes in the bottom of your pots.  Soggy feet are the death of many a houseplant.  They should be able to drain completely.

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Meanwhile, inside prepare a spot with a nice west, south, or east view-preferably south- and place drip trays or old plates where you want your plants.  Carefully bring in each beautiful specimen.

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The plants will go from daily to every other day waterings to once a week now.  Water until it leaks into tray.

I don’t have typical houseplants, myself.  I have two poinsettias, two Ephedra plants, two jasmine plants, a bamboo, an orchid, a few little succulents, a unique aloe, a behemoth aloe, a coffee plant, and four large geraniums.  The ginormous plants have followed me from place to place for years and some are new.  Last year I overwintered a tomato plant someone gave me in the south window.  It grew a little and when I put it out into the soil this last spring it sprung to life in heaves of mass foliage and huge ripe tomatoes.

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You can have anything as a houseplant.  They just need light, the right amount of water, they enjoy a cup of room temperature coffee per month (no kidding), and talking to them doesn’t hurt either.

(The plants are getting to know the kitten…not thrilled I’m afraid!)

 

How to Make this Season’s Strongest Antibiotic

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I often tell my students that the most frustrating, the most difficult part of being an herbalist is not being asked for help.  I see on Facebook cousins who are always sick, cousins going in for surgery, people in pain, friends under some constant barrage of bacterial infection.  With bottles of incredibly effective medicines at the ready, I wait.  And wait.  People just don’t know how amazing real plant medicine made by real herbalists can be.  I may not be able to help everyone but I can teach you how to help yourself.  What if I told you that this winter you would be blissfully cold and flu free?  Bacterial infections cannot stand up against this antibiotic either so it is a really great medicine to keep in your cupboard!

There are lots of places you can purchase the herbs.  I highly recommend that you plant what you can.  We would be wise to be more sustainable as herbalists.  Until then you can purchase dried, ready to go herbs from reputable companies such as Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, Penn Herb Company, Frontier Herbs and many others online.

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In a canning jar combine 3 Tablespoons of Oregon Grape Root, 2 Tablespoons of Echinacea, 1 clove of garlic (just one, trust me), 2 Tablespoons of Mint, 1 Tablespoon of Juniper Berries, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of turmeric.  Everything but the garlic is dried in this recipe.  Fill 3/4 full with vodka.  Add a few dried apples or plums for flavor and more cold fighting antioxidants then fill rest of jar with honey.  Place in sunny spot for a month.  Shake the jar when you notice it.  Do not strain.

Take 1 teaspoon if you feel like you are getting sick.  Take 1-2 teaspoons 4x a day for a full blown infection or illness.  Halve the dosage for children.  Omit the juniper berries if you are in the early part of your pregnancy. This concoction’s shelf life is forever.

Now that we know we won’t be wasting any time getting sick this season, we can start planning things we want to do, like weaving and cheese making and candle making, and soap making, and…

(If you don’t make your own you can always order some of our incredibly effective White Wolf Medicine Antibiotic at http://whitewolfherbs.com.  Thanks for supporting your working herbalists!)

 

Gardening the Driveway

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I can see from the Google map of the house five years ago that people were parking their cars in this part of the yard.  There is a concern that oil and other chemicals have gotten into the soil.  Antifreeze lettuce doesn’t sound like a good deal.  The house has been empty for six months and I do not know how long it has been since folks parked in the garden, but…  I am looking at hugelkultur gardens, raised beds, and purifying plants.  We’ll want sustainable, inexpensive, and easy ideas and come up with a garden plan.  Tune in each day this week!  It might be a little early, but spring planting is right around the corner!