Category Archives: Organics

Knock Knock – Who’s There? Squash. Squash Who? Zucchini!

So, you planted a few zucchini and yellow summer squash in the hopes of some yummy fresh veggies on the table. If you are in New England, like northern New England, they have just now started to fruit. Thanks to the fabulous weather this summer they are going to fruit, and fruit, and fruit. Bumper crop coming in and OMG, you can’t give it away. Because everyone else has the same bounty. And it is sooooo good.summersquash

However, the ways to use that bounty are so varied, that If I see one more recipe for the “best” zucchini bread ever I may implode. Zucchini Bread is good, but did you ever think of maybe translating that recipe into, say something a kid might like? I am giving a shout out here to my friend Tracey who started The Blue Egg Baking Company in Newburyport, MA,  unfortunately now in hiatus.

She took zucchini and carrots and yellow squash to new levels. Her philosophy: Baking mixes that make kids (& moms) smile. Whole grain, high fiber, outrageously delicious. Want more? Add fresh veggies…no one will know! Tracey shredded vegetableswas such an innovator with products like Outrageous Chocolate Brownie, Gluten-Free Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Chocolate Cake, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Chocolate Spice Cake and Gluten-Free Chocolate Spice Cake.  Just add shredded or grated veggies and voila – amazing and super moist and nutritious.

I was inspired by Tracey’s mission and started trying some different combos in sweet treats and came up with my husband’s favorite  – Red Beet Brownies. Holy Moly! Shredded red beet in a simple dark chocolate brownie recipe is divine. And incredible, …oops got off track. Beets won’t be ready till September. But anyway, try adding shredded veggies to your regular baked goods recipes, it’s a wonderful boost.

Creole-Pasta-PrimaveraMy favorite way to use zucchini and yellow squash is in a simple Primavera. As our tomatoes are also ripening and young onions are up it is the perfect summer meal with pasta or rice or just spread on a grilled flatbread or crostini. Cook it up fresh for tonight’s supper or if you feel adventurous put it up for a mid winter treat! So easy, even if you have never canned veggies before.

Recipe:  1 small onion diced. 3 cloves garlic, minced. Saute in 1 tsp. basil infused olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup chopped or sliced zucchini, 1 cup chopped or sliced yellow squash, 1 cup chopped fresh tomato. Saute until wilted. Add 2 leaves of fresh basil, a bit of fresh oregano and a knob of butter(like a golf ball). Simmer 30 minutes or less if you like your veg crisper. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta Primavera – it’s whats for dinner at my house tonite!

The Balancing Act of Work vs. Play

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber’s book The Art of Time details how people today get more done, but with less satisfaction. He and others note how we confuse quantity of things done with quality of experience enjoyed.  He writes, “We now tend to simply do nothing thoroughly, we just try to do more of it.

In my career as a Scenic Designer and Painter in the theatre for 25 years, I worked hard and I played hard, but it there was no real balance. It was one or the other and in binge doses at that. I loved every minute of it, but that kind of living takes its toll. Upon retiring I was ready to practice the art of relaxation and enjoy more satisfying “play” time. However, after years of fast-forward days, weeks and months that always seemed to be speeding out of control, I found I had forgotten how to unwind at a normal pace.

Heart and Head for Music

Eventually, we arrive at the point where we lose the ability to concentrate, and as a result, unable to enjoy slower personal moments. Many experts believe that until we become more aware of the pace at which we live, we will never be able to slow down and control our natural rhythms.

Before I decided to resume working, I first had to ask myself some questions, as I did not want the new work to consume me in the way my first career did. I needed to be sure I could run down the path following my heart without compromising the work  values in my head, so I did a work/play assessment with the following questions:

  • How did I differentiate work from play?
  • What constitutes play in my life?
  • Does my current breakdown of work and play support a happy, healthy, and balanced life?
  • Would I benefit from more play and less work?

I was determined to combine the things I desired in my leisure time into the work I would be doing. Gardening and growing food, creating with my own hands and traveling to find new experiences, people and traditions are all woven into my work as a Maker of artisan bath and body products. I believe I have achieved a fairly balanced life today. I have managed to channel play into my work and work into my play, and that is a huge difference in what my day can be. A good part of my balance is that I love my job. I would hope so, as I shaped it.

monarch-butterflyThe way we use our time is most often an expression of our innermost values. Once we determine how not to abuse our work/play time, we can then use our “free time” more purposely and in a much more fulfilling way. We can improve the quality of our free moments by choosing to spend them in ways that more closely align with our passions and true nature.

If you find your joy, health, or relationships compromised, it might be time to explore your work to play ratio too, and to inject more play into your life.

Mother Nature’s Medicine Chest – Lavender

The surging popularity of essential oils and aromatherapy may seem like a New Age trend, but they’ve actually been around for centuries. They are natural remedies with incredible power and there are many essential oil resources online giving worrisome blanket advice about their use. Because of the strength of essential oils, you should always be cautious of over-using them.

In most cases, essential oils should not be used undiluted on the skin. Due to the small molecular size of essential oils, they can penetrate the skin easily and enter the bloodstream. As a general rule, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil like jojoba  or grapeseed, 3-5 drops of essential oils per teaspoon of carrier oil. Undiluted use can cause irritation or an allergic reaction in some people, and can cause a permanent sensitivity to certain oils after using it on broken skin. Some, like lavender, rose and chamomile are typically considered safe for undiluted skin use.

This isn’t to say essential oils should not be used, but they should be used carefully, with proper education and in safe amounts. Let’s take a look at ever-popular Lavender in this blog.

 LAVENDER OILLavenderEssentialOil

Imagine a flower being able to calm your nerves, help reduce inflammation and swelling, promote faster healing for minor burns, decrease muscle pain, alleviate insomnia, and work as a natural bug repellant? That purple colored flower named lavender, which is derived from the Latin word lavera meaning “to wash”, is one of the most versatile essential oils the plant kingdom has to offer.

 Types of Lavender:
Lavandula angustifolia is the most common type of lavender and is referred to as true lavender. Any true lavender will have the botanical name of “lavandula” as the prefix. (There are up to 39 different species, including lavandula officinalis and lavandula vera, yet they will all be simply lavender). The reason the “true” lavandula angustifolia genus is so popular is due to the low rate of camphor, less than one percent, it retains after distillation. This lends the essential oil a strong floral aroma, but it also makes it quite effective in aromatherapy usage, especially in accelerating the healing of minor burns. Lavandin, (also known as Dutch lavender), yields a similar essential oil, but with higher levels of terpenes including camphor, which add a sharper overtone to the fragrance. Camphor is a chemical constituent that you don’t want near a burn, and other versions of lavender,  which can contain up to 8% camphor—are not effective for soothing delicate skin tissue.

 My Favorite Uses for Lavender:
Bath soak ~ All you need is approximately 10 drops in your bathtub of warm to hot water and you should find yourself relaxing.
Diffuser ~ Add a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser. Lavender will fill the room with its soothing floral aroma and relaxation should follow.
Sachet ~ Add dried lavender buds to a small muslin bag and store in your drawers/cupboards, and especially where linen is stored. This method also works well as a natural bug repellent if you hang a scented lavender sachet in your closet(s) on a hanger.

General: As with all essential oils, never use them undiluted, in eyes or mucus membranes. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children. If applying an essential oil to your skin always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier.

An Affair to Remember – with Grapefruit?

I have been in love with all things grapefruit since my childhood, so we are talking some 58 years plus here. Grapefruit in the morning for breakfast was my absolute favorite. Keep your Cocoa Puffs, Rice Krispies and Cap’n Crunch, your bacon and sausages and waffles and pancakes and give me the naked grapefruit sliced in half or cut into sections. It was, and still is, the best way to start my day. Oh, and back then, a bit of sugar sprinkled on top was magical. Today, I like it “au naturale”. GrapefruitBreakfast

Fresh or canned fruit was pretty much it when wanting the tangy twist of citrus on your taste buds, except for Fresca, Squirt and 50/50 sodas. Today you can find grapefruit in beer, vodka, sparkling water, wine coolers, lotions, body washes, facial care and bath salts. People are even grilling grapefruits! Why has it become so popular you ask?  Well, I think it’s because the scent and properties of grapefruit have multiple benefits. It brings out the inner child and calms frustration and is a wonderful essential oil to use in body and hair care products. Grapefruits support clear, healthy skin can help to lower our risk for many diseases and conditions and may even help with weight loss as part of an overall healthy and varied diet.

Research suggests that inhaling grapefruit oil or using it for aromatherapy within your home can help turn on relaxation responses within the brain and even lower your blood pressure naturally. Inhaling grapefruit vapors can quickly and directly transmit messages to your brain region involved in controlling emotional responses. On this I wholeheartedly agree!

Because cravings — especially for sugar, salt, fats and carbs — are closely related to stressful feelings, grapefruit can help minimize emotional eating. But according to study findings, the smell of grapefruit oil has even more powerful effects when it comes to fat-burning responses within the brain. Researchers from the Nagata University School of Medicine in Japan found that grapefruit has a refreshing and exciting effect when inhaled, which suggests an activation of sympathetic nerve activity that helps control body weight. And who doesn’t LOVE that aspect of Grapefruit.

Thanks to this Love Affair I have – I use Grapefruit EOGrapefruitEssential Oil in a lot of the products I make for my company. The essential oil derived from grapefruit is an incredible addition to many applications. My favorites are in shampoos, body washes, deodorants and hydrating body sprays. I personally choose to use these products year-round because the scent and benefits are so uplifting. My customers seem to think so too, I am constantly making new batches of those products bi-weekly!

If you are interested in making some of your own homemade products using Grapefruit Essential Oil please refer to these guidelines.  Grapefruit oil is very concentrated and should be diluted before use. Carrier oils like almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, and olive oil are effective choices. While grapefruit oil has a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status, it should not be taken internally without the advice or supervision of an experienced practitioner or health professional. The citrus oil may also cause allergic reaction when applied topically. To be sure, have a skin patch test before use – apply a drop to a small area and observe if a reaction appears.

Some of my favorite uses for Grapefruit Essential Oil:
Diffuser ~ Add a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser when inhaled, grapefruit oil can help curb hangovers, headaches, mental fatigue, and depression.
Bath soak – .All you need is approximately 10 drops in your bathtub of warm to hot water and you should find some relief for muscle and joint pain, menstrual cramps, and headaches.
Air freshener and deodorizer – Its fragrance is similar to citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. It can eliminate unpleasant odors in kitchens and bathrooms.

Massage – Use a 5% dilution in carrier oil for massage to relieve menstrual cramps. This can also work in relieving headache, muscle pain, and arthritis.

Try some grapefruits – in whatever form you choose – you will feel the joy!

For The Love Of Roses

Roses play a prominent role in our lives. We marvel at their intoxicating fragrance; we enjoy the beauty of our favorites; and we give them to our loved ones to celebrate special occasions. The scent of rose always takes me back to my Grandmother’s garden in southwestern Pennsylvania in the 60’s. I have always strived to recreate that memory in my own garden, unfortunately not so successfully as she, but close.

PinkRoses

Our love affair with roses — for beauty and for health purposes — has a long history. For centuries the rose has been highly valued by many cultures not only for its beauty and perfume but also for its profound healing properties on both a physical and psychological level. Rosewater and rose oil were used in the traditional medicines of China, India, Assyria, Egypt, Greece and Rome, to cure a wide range of medical conditions. It is suspected that the rose was probably the very first flower from which essential oil was distilled; possibly in the 10th Century Persia. Today, most of the rose oils are still produced in that region of the world. A very large quantity of rose petals is needed to produce a very small quantity of oil. Thus, it is very costly. Thankfully only a small amount of rose oil is needed in therapeutic preparations. It is not used in its concentrated state, but rather in a carrier oil such as sweet almond, jojoba, argon and grapeseed.

 

The use of the rose has a long tradition in folk remedies, most commonly in the area of skincare. It is suitable for all skin types, but it is especially valuable for dry, sensitive or aging skins. Rose water has made its way into cosmetics and medicine for many centuries. Today, beauty experts still consider rose water a wonderfully gentle, natural ingredient with fabulous skin-enhancing benefits. Additionally, and perhaps most obviously, rose water has a pleasant aroma. This lovely perfume and its healing, rejuvenating effects make rose water a potentially valuable addition to your skin care regimen — whether used on its own or in toners, creams and lotions.

Rose essential oil is thought to be beneficial for helping treat broken capillaries just below the skin surface and in minimizing scars as it is believed to stimulate the circulation and promote the growth of new cells. It is used to help dry skin, eczema and considered safe to use on sensitive skin. It is also thought to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. In addition to preparations containing Rose Essential Oil, the use of Rosewater is another way to provide skincare. It is a tonic and antiseptic and is very soothing to irritated skin.

The rose also offers a soothing property to the nerves and emotional /psychological state of mind. It lifts the spirits, can alleviate depression and help people cope with difficult life situations involving emotions such as loss, grief or fear. This cephalic effect can be achieved either from a bath to which drops of rose oil have been added, from a vaporizer or aromatherapy diffuser fed with rosewater, or from simply wearing a rose oil perfume. In addition, a tea made with rose petals often soothes a mild sore throat. Rose hips (the flowers which have swollen to seed) are an excellent source of vitamins A, B3, C, D and E. Taken in the form of tea they are good for infections, particularly bladder infections. It is an especially good source of vitamin C. You can find Rose Hip Tea at The Local Grocer in North Conway, or you can brew it fresh from your garden. Roughly chop up entire rose hips and cover with distilled water and boil for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth and add a bit of local honey if desired.

 

The essence of rose need not only be used to treat ailments. Whether inhaled and enjoyed from a freshly cut bouquet of sumptuous blooms or splashed on as rosewater after a shower or bath, it is simply a pleasure to be enjoyed by all!

 

RoseLine Skincare at Fields of Ambrosia

The precious rose oil is present in all of our products, and it is this that is responsible for their extraordinary powers of healing and rejuvenation. Whether moisturizing, curing skin disorders, reducing wrinkles, disinfecting, reducing swelling, or curing with aromatherapy, there is a lot more to the rose than just a beautiful flower.

 

Botanical Skincare Alternatives

My grandmother always taught me, if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. It’s good advice and we all know it is wise to heed the advice of our elders. However, not all skin care practices of yesteryear were good for our skin. If you are not familiar with some of the strange and dangerous cosmetic habits of our earliest ancestors, here are a few frightening examples: arsenic was a common ingredient in face powders, copper or lead was used to color the eyes, and face masks used by the Greeks to ‘improve’ skin condition  were lead-based.

There has been a big push for natural health, natural cosmetics and education about ingredients like the 2 P’s, parabens and phthalates. But how can you really know how safe so-called natural products really are?  As you may have heard from many in the natural beauty community, our skin is one big sponge and everything we spray, apply, bath or shower with makes its way into our system.

Botanicals
Botanicals

So, what’s a person to do? You can gather up all the beauty, bath and body products you currently use and run the ingredients through a database set up by the Environmental Working Group called the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. It will tell you the safety level of each ingredient on a scale of 1-10. Anything above a 5 is circumspect.

Or you can switch to skin-care products with plant-based ingredients that do more than just smell nice or look pretty. Herbs and botanicals have been used for thousands of years for their medicinal and dermatological properties, and they’re only getting more popular. These products are usually high in antioxidants, since plants are constantly exposed to sunlight and must build up defenses against the harmful ultraviolet rays that come with it. In addition, many are also anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. To reap some of the best-known benefits of herbs and botanicals, look for the following ingredients the next time you’re shopping for skin care.

Lavender
Lavender

LAVENDER: This sweet little flower is known for its relaxing scent — but when used in topical products like a face cleanser, it can also act as a soothing antiseptic.  It may help reduce inflammation, and is a good ingredient to look for if you have sensitive or irritated skin; it may also be helpful in treating burns or psoriasis.  If you can’t find lavender in a wash, you can also add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a spray bottle of distilled water and spritz your face with the solution after washing. A few drops in the bath are also a wonderful treat for your skin and your mind.

CALENDULA: Products containing petals of the calendula, or pot marigold, flower can help hydrate dry skin and clear up acne. The plant is also traditionally known for its wound-healing properties, as well, as it increases blood flow to the area where it’s applied; this makes it a good choice for treating burns, bruises and cuts. In a study done on breast cancer patients, calendula was even shown to help reduce inflammation and prevent dermatitis, a common side effect of radiation therapy.

WITCH HAZEL: This liquid is distilled from the bark or leaves of the witch hazel shrub. It acts as an astringent, cleansing the skin and removing excess oil, leaving it tight and firm. Because witch hazel contains anti-inflammatory chemicals called tannins, it can also be used to provide relief to burns, bug bites or other mild skin irritation. A witch hazel based toner, used after facial cleansing will give you a cool, refreshing tingle.

HELICHRYSUM: This flower essential oil ranks as one of the most ancient and valuable healing substances along with Rose and Frankincense.  It is beneficial for it’s anti-inflammatory and cell-regenerating properties and is a wonderful ingredient for treating symptoms of rosacea. Added to a witch hazel toner, it can reduce redness within minutes of application. Added to an oil free base such as aloe vera gel, it can curb the redness and irritations associated with facial inflammation.

Botanical Skincare at Fields of Ambrosia

Fields of Ambrosia was developed in 2001 in response to a search for cleansing, nourishing and therapeutic skin and body care products – beneficial to the body and earth friendly. In researching natural soap making and aromatherapy, I recognized that many of the ingredients for creating these items could be found in the gardens, orchards and fields around my home at Intervale Farm. Combining the life force energy of healing plants, which is absorbed by your skin to generate healthy new cells, with the aromas and healing powers of pure essential oils, gives each creation a signature fragrance which can help to enhance health and psychological well-being. The “aroma” of aromatherapy is not as important as how it makes you feel..

Natural Botanicals are found in all of our products, whether moisturizing, reducing wrinkles, disinfecting, reducing swelling, or curing with aromatherapy, there is a lot more to the herb garden than just beautiful flowers.