Category Archives: Outdoors

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!