About living and creating in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lovely Egrets

A treat from a photographer friend! Some beautiful Egrets - a magnificent species! Thank you Paula Kaye, photographer extraordinaire!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Favorite Lotion Recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs

photo credit Mountain Rose Herbs Blog
This is by far my favorite lotion recipe yet. It's called Silky for a reason! This lotion is so soft and luxurious - and smells heavenly (if you like the smell of roses). I can't say enough about the wonderful texture! When I read the recipe I was delighted to discover I had all the ingredients on hand, having purchased the Aphrodite Oil earlier this fall as a special treat for myself. The only ingredient I was missing was the Peru Balsam essential oil so I substituted Lavender as the article suggests. I made a half batch since I was running low on jars, but am ready to make this again. It's yummy! Click here or on post title for the recipe. As always, ingredients may be purchased by visiting Mountain Rose Herbs.

I mentioned I had all ingredients on hand, but I rarely follow a recipe as written. Instead of Grape Seed Oil, I used my own infused Calendula Oil (see earlier post). For more information on Carrier and Essential oils - see Know Your Ingredients on the upper right sidebar. I've compiled a handy resource that lists commonly used ingredients, their properties for skin care and such, as well as what they blend well with. As always, your comments are welcome!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Making Rose Water

About mid July, I looked out the kitchen window at the abundance of wild roses in my yard and started thinking about the rose water I use in my lotion recipes. I began collecting petals every day until I had enough to try the steam distilling method. This is about a week's worth of petals - they stay fresh in the fridge. Here's what you do (the post title links to a great YouTube video too):

Start with a large pot and put a heavy bowl upside down in the middle - it has to be heavy or it'll float. I'm using the mortar from my grandfather's mortar & pestle. Start filling petals around the upside down bowl to about the top of it - way more than in this photo. Then add distilled water - no measuring here, just so the petals are floating but don't go above the top of the upside down bowl.
Next, put a small bowl on top of the upside down bowl like this. The distilled rose water will be collected in this bowl.
Put the top on - inverted. Bring the water in the pot to a boil and add ice to the inverted top. The steam from the boiling water rises, condenses when it hits the ice cold top and drips into the bowl - voila rose water!
It's hard to see in this picture, but the petals are very pale from being boiled and there's a splash of rose water in the bowl. With as many petals as I had, I made three batches.

Here's the end result - steam distilled rose water to use in culinary and skin care recipes.
Another way to do it, although it's not steam distilled so not as potent, is to boil the petals, strain them and use the water for facial toners, etc. Here's a YouTube video showing this method and my strained water left over from steam distilling. If I add some vegetable glycerin and aloe to this in small batches it will make a lovely face toner. Looks like I'll have enough to last a lifetime! 

Oh yeah, the house smells great too!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spring 2014 in Marquette

It was a long, cold winter this year.  I don't remember ice on the lake in June since 1997, and then it was just a little.  I didn't take this photograph, but it's taken at the end of my street, and yes, it was taken May 31st! Walked along the waters edge at Wetmore Landing today and after a while my feet got acclimated and didn't hurt anymore.
It's a wonderful time of year here as things just start to burst into life again. My bleeding heart flowers popped overnight, lilacs will be opening in a few days and we had a thunderstorm today, just after planting some of the vegetable garden.  It was so hot yesterday that we had to stop planting and rest in the shade (I'm not complaining though).
Looking forward to fresh food from the garden this summer and filling the pantry with green & wax beans, carrots, tomatoes & beets.  Will post pictures as soon as the seeds come up!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ice Candles - A Very Cold Weather Project

It's been a cold winter!  But here's a cool project that can only be done when it's really frigid out.  Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water (or balloons) and set outside to freeze.  When the outer inch or so is solid, drill a hole in the top and drain the water from center.  Now put a candle inside and enjoy!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Making Calendula Oil from the Garden!

Earlier this year I learned about Calendula, an amazing flower that can be infused in an oil and used in lotions, salves, etc.  A few friends of mine have pretty bad eczema and they say that Calendula oil has been the only treatment that's worked!  (For more on the healing properties of Calendula, click on the post title to visit a Mountain Rose Herb Blog post). This spring I found some plants at the local co-op and put them in my flower bed - wow, what a prolific flower!  Every day, around noon, I pick 3 or 4 flowers and add them to my drying rack.
I keep them in my basement where there's a dehumidifier running all summer. I've been drying for several weeks and finally have enough to start an infusion. Here's the dried flowers ready to add oil. 
Several recipes call for EVOO but I chose sunflower oil that I buy in bulk at the co-op. 
Now it's just a matter of 4-6 weeks in a sunny window, then I'll strain the flowers out and use the oil for my lotions. It's been a great DIY summer, made steam distilled rose water too, but that will be another post...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

To Infuse or to Strain?

I have to admit I'm a bit fascinated by the British. If you watch Downton Abbey, you get what I mean. For me, it started as a kid when our TV broke and my parents decided not to get it fixed. We would all sit in the living room and read. My dad had a healthy collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and I spent many an afternoon immersed in the goings on in the English countryside with Holmes & Watson. Baker St. was a familiar escape.
So last night we were flipping channels and came across a recent Sherlock Holmes movie that was just beginning. The scene was a waiter at a fancy restaurant pouring tea using one of the gadgets shown above sitting on top of the cup. My husband asked if this might be a better way to serve tea - keeping the tea leaves loose in the pot, and straining when serving. Turns out, it is!

Most people use infusers, like these. 
They're used by filling the mesh with loose tea and immersing it in the teapot or cup while brewing. The leaves don't have much room to expand with this method.

Whereas, with a strainer,
the leaves are loose in the pot, giving them plenty of room to float about and expand. The leaves are strained during serving, and indeed this is the traditional British way! Guess I'll be buying a strainer to experience tea properly!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Store in Town!

Local artists, farmers and musicians unite at Rare Earth Goods in Ishpeming!  A unique artists co-op, the store carries a variety of jewelry, hand knit wear, homemade soaps, organic foods and produce.  Owner Pam has created a warm, welcome space and invites musicians for open mike every Tuesday 6-9 pm.  She even provides snacks, last night I heard she made an awesome chili!  Stop in and explore this treasure at 200 E. Division St. in downtown Ishpeming.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sleep Pillows

Back when I posted about my lavender harvest I mentioned making sleep pillows. Finally put a few together tonight using a blend of chamomile, lemon balm, rose petals, lavender flowers, hops and passionflower. I added a few drops of organic lavender essential oil and filled the pillow loosely. They're about 5"x 6" and one's already tucked in my pillow case. It's an experiment! Combined with my nighttime tea, I'm sure I'm in for a dreamy night!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Homemade Herbal Remedies

What a fun adventure this is becoming! As it turns out, I'm really glad that Mountain Rose Herbs was sold out of the tea I wanted to order, which meant I just had to buy all the ingredients and play with some blends on my own. They arrived in heavy zip lock bags, certainly not nice enough to have on display, so I used my
inventory of canning jars. Luckily, the labels on the bags came off easily and I was able to transfer them to the jars. They make a nice addition to my kitchen!
I've been wanting to create some spreadsheets of ingredients where I can easily look up the properties of say, all carrier oils, in one place without having to read about each one separately. I thought I could do one for essential oils too, and start with the oils I have. With this in mind, and my new found interest in other homemade remedies, I figured it would be time to start another Blog devoted just to that. So here it is, Homemade Herbal Remedies, and my first spreadsheet of ingredients is posted there. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Nighttime Tea

So I made my first herbal tea blend the other night, a variation of Mountain Rose Herb's Fidnemed tea mentioned earlier. Upon placing my order for the tea, I sadly learned that it was out of stock, so I decided to make my own! I purchased all the ingredients in bulk, except skullcap (also out of stock) and replaced it with chamomile. The beauty of blending your own is how easy it is to adjust. The first blend had a pretty strong valerian odor (which isn't pleasant), so I added a bit more hibiscus and lemon balm to even it out. The brew was a beautiful shade of red and didn't taste too bad either. Had a cuppa and went to bed to test it out. I have to say that it was a great night of sound sleep and woke feeling quite refreshed. Yay! Successful blend on first try. While I can't give exact amounts, only because I don't measure, here are the ingredients I used:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Family Knitting Projects

This is my very adorable, almost 3 year old great niece (daughter of my niece, Lisa).  Most of my family lives in California and the last time I saw Natalie she was only one. I get frequent pictures, but it's not the same... I know for sure that she's all about pink and purple so I put this together in size 3T. The buttons have a bit of color sparkles that really sets it off. Super soft and warm because SoCal has been pretty cold in the mornings.
And here's sweet Gavin, born in November. I haven't met him yet, :( maybe this summer. Lisa chose a Nautical theme for his nursery (after my dad who loved sailing). A sailboat blanket is under way, but in the meantime I found this great teddy bear pattern. It was so much fun to make! Teddy's scarf is the same yarn as Gavin's Come Sail Away blanket (about half completed).
And here's the teddy for my other great-nephew Grant. His nursery theme is camouflage greens and browns, so his scarf is customized to match.

Details about the patterns and yarns can be found in my Ravelry projects.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Passionflower - the Wonder Herb!

Do you have trouble sleeping, or know anyone who does?  Unfortunately, chances are pretty good that you know a family member, co-worker or friend that struggles through the night. While looking for a safe, herbal sleep aid, I came across the properties of Passionflower and wanted to share this info. First of all, it's safe! None of those side effects that get listed on the TV ads of other sleep enhancing medications. For my friends that insist on scientific proof, there's been several clinical trials on passionflower and the results are available on the NIH (National Institutes of Health) website. In fact, the only side effect listed is that it can cause sleepiness and drowsiness! Not bad if that's the effect you're going for.
In my earlier post I mentioned a tea I purchased that has passionflower as one of the ingredients. Well I took it a step further and just ordered all the herbs needed to make the tea myself. That will be another post, but for now, heeeere's Passionflower!
  • Calming and sleeping aid
  • Relieves muscle tension
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Calms anxiety
Passionflower is available at Mountain Rose Herbs in powder, bulk herb, seed and extract forms.
A few words of caution are warranted: Pregnant women should avoid passionflower (it's a sedative), and it may aggravate conditions caused by overactive testosterone.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Switching over to Tea! - a quest for tasty morning caffeine

We've been enjoying teas lately, usually in the afternoon or evening.  We have a small stainless steel thermos that we fill up with herbal tea and take on hikes and my husband takes it to work. Several years ago, I was introduced to Earl Grey (the British way) by a co-worker from England and it's become my favorite go to beverage for a mid-afternoon pick me up. So now we're interested in changing up our morning ritual. We're hard core coffee drinkers - buy whole beans and grind every morning, then use a cloth Melitta filter the old fashioned way. I have my preferences when it comes to coffee and buy from a local, small batch roaster, Dead River Coffee.  I've been a loyal customer since they opened, but now I'm ready for a change.
For tea, we've always made just a cup or two at a time as I don't have a proper teapot - until now that is! I'm so excited - I just ordered one from my favorite tea purveyor, Mountain Rose Herbs. I really don't know the difference between Oolong, Darjeeling or English Breakfast, so I ordered some of each!  Had to try a few more herbal recipes too and chose a Chai and a night time, sleep enhancing tea called Fidnemed Nighttime Tea. Fidnemed is an old Irish term meaning a sacred and quiet forest grove.  The tea contains organic Lemon Balm, organic Hibiscus flowers, organic Skullcap, organic Passionflower, organic Hops flowers, organic Valerian root and organic Lavender flowers.  I'll report back on my favorites in a few weeks!  Happy sipping!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sewing Zipper Pouches

Sewing is not my forte! I've always preferred hand stitching to the sewing machine and have a tendency to be intimidated by the process. I find it difficult to understand sewing patterns, being unfamiliar with the lingo and tools. I have been able to make curtains though, simple rectangles are ok, and I love batik fabrics. In previous posts I've mentioned that I don't use a purse, but I do carry one of these. I bought it on Etsy last summer to carry my checkbook and cell phone.  In fact, I asked the store owner to make me a smaller matching one for my license and cards. When it arrived, I started thinking about using up my scrap fabric and went online to Sew True and bought zippers to match my favorite fabric pieces.
So I pulled out the sewing machine and found the manual (I always need to re-learn how to thread it and wind a bobbin)! I found a few tutorials and my first attempt was a failure (sort of like my pancakes). My husband suggested that I find more tutorials (or take sewing lessons) and I found this one to be the best - See Kate Sew. The instructions are clear and include a step that the first tutorial didn't - top stitching. It adds a professional look (not so much on mine), and makes it so the inner lining doesn't get caught in the zipper. I was so excited at how these turned out that I headed back to Ben Franklin for little ribbon for zipper pulls, more zippers and even bought a few fat quarters! Thank you Kate for getting me excited to sew!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Allrecipes.com honor!

Cook of the Week

Favorites for this Michigan cook include "cooking with friends (putting together whatever we have on hand). Being creative!"
Imagine my surprise when I went to my favorite go-to website for recipes and saw myself as Cook of the Week!  I submitted my first recipe there just about a month ago and they nicely revised it with chef-type wording to make the instructions sound better.  I was so excited that I forgot to look at chili recipes - my reason for going there in the first place.
I did make an excellent chili last night using ideas from allrecipes.com.  This has me inspired to keep cooking and submitting my dishes to this great site. Thank you allrecipes!

Friday, November 23, 2012

November carrots

Yesterday was the warmest Thanksgiving day I remember and probably a record here.  I'm sure it was over 60 degrees and on our way home from dinner with family we saw kids wearing t-shirts and shorts! Then, at 1 a.m., the wind started howling and we woke to a full-on blizzard. Knowing a storm was on its way, my husband pulled up the carrots yesterday. This represents about 1/3 and they're blanched and ready to vacuum seal for the freezer.  Very tender and sweet, even the large ones.  It will be a great winter with green beans, carrots, pesto and dried tomatoes in the freezer!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

First recipe on allrecipes.com - Cabbage Apple Soup

I put this together and it turned out so well that I posted it on allrecipes! I've been trying to come up with a tasty version of sweet and sour cabbage/apple soup for years now and finally had success! In order to re-create it, I had to write down what I did, which was kind of challenging since I don't measure.  So a side-note, the amounts and yield are estimates - I'm sure it will turn out just fine... Kind of exciting to put it out there on allrecipes and see if others save it and review it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

First Time Canning!

I've been wanting a canner of my own and finally went to Target and found this one on sale.  It has a funnel, jar holder and all sorts of peripheral gadgets that I'm not sure what to do with.  I've done some canning before, but nothing that required a hot water bath process.  Last year I put up 13 quarts of tomatoes and there's still 2 in the pantry.  This year I'm trying salsa - I try to put up things that we normally buy at the grocery store - the whole idea is to save some money with the garden.  Since we can go through 2 jars of salsa a week, this will definitely help the grocery bill.  The recipe, Rockin' Salsa from Allrecipes.com, looked to have great ingredients that can easily be changed up to taste.  The canning instructions were detailed enough that I felt confident to try it as my first hot water bath adventure.  It was a fun experience (my hubby helped), and now we have 7 jars of salsa in the cupboard!  The recipe makes 8 pints but we had to keep one out to try and it's gone!  Very tasty - will definitely be making more as I have 12 tomato plants heavy with green fruit.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homemade Bug Spray

The U.P. is famous for it's bugs - mainly mosquitoes, but they really haven't been too bad this year.  On our camping trip we were bothered by flies, thankfully not the biting kind - just the pesky ones that hover around.  I bought a few more oils and concocted my own version of a bug spray that's pretty effective - even on flies. It has a pleasant odor (my friends tell me it smells great), can be used generously and best of all - contains no toxic ingredients!  One word of caution though - it's always a good idea to disclose your ingredients if you're giving it away.  A friend just mentioned an allergy to cedars and decided not to try it due to the Cedarwood essential oil.  My version starts with distilled water and oil of Citronella, Eucalyptus, Cedarwood, Rosemary, Lemongrass and Lavender.
I've been adding to my essential oil collection over the past year or so since I started making my own face and body lotions.  I just purchased Clary Sage - it has sedative and euphoric properties that will be a good addition to the sleep pillows I plan to make.
For complete information including properties and benefits of essential oils, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.  In addition to their organic essential oils, they offer a beautiful assortment of bulk teas, spices, and other herbal products.  Their website is a wealth of information and my favorite place to while away an evening.

Montreal River Falls

Here's a place we've sailed past many times, in fact we ran aground once in our Cal 40 trying to get a closer look!
It was a beautiful hike and we had a swim on the way  back.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Keweenaw Back Roads

We sold our boat this spring so opted for a car-camping vacation this year. We decided to check out some of the places we've only seen by water along the Keweenaw coast. Here's the Keweenaw, it's the very tip of the U.P. - see the arrow pointing at the top of the page? (click on the map for a bigger view) It's about a 6 hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge so not a lot of people venture there.  We used this awesome map to navigate the back roads - actually not roads at all but ATV/ORV trails.
Our first adventure was to High Rock Bay
We traveled a pretty rough road out of Copper Harbor and learned a few days later that there was a much better road we could have taken.  It was well worth the bumps and we spent two wonderful nights here.  Weather was great and water was warm. This view looks East, to the point, from where we set up our camp.  You can see the Manitou Island Lighthouse - it's the white spec in the distance.
White pines and the evening sky
Setting up our camp
The road ends at the end of the Earth - did I mention we were the only ones there?
The Keweenaw is known for its Thimbleberries and there were plenty!
We had a visitor the first morning...Once he knew we were on to him he moved pretty fast.  By the time I got my phone/camera he was heading back for cover.
We could have stayed at High Rock but really wanted to explore and get to Keystone Bay, a place we've sailed by a few times and wanted to see by land.  We had a great map and had some directions from a guy we met along the way.  He said something like, "you might be able to get through..."  The circle on the far right is High Rock Bay.  The circle with arrow southwest of High Rock is Keystone Bay.  On this link, you can move the satellite picture around and see the lay of the land between High Rock and Keystone.
Once we started down the road to Keystone, we both wondered whether we should keep going.  Already committed, we put it in 4WD low gear and hoped for the best.  On our way out we timed it - .1 mile in 12 minutes, that's a mile in 2 hours!  But it was so worth it!
Keystone Bay looking East
Looking West
We weren't alone, there was one other truck when we got there.  Here's the view from our camp.
Evening skies - yes, we did have a thunderstorm!
The heaven's opened up
We had a snug situation through the thunderstorm and not one bug thanks to the foresight and engineering skills of my wonderful husband!
Next, to the Montreal River Falls...