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Creating or Finding a Peaceful Space

Sugar and PIth, image of a garden gate covvered in blooming pink jasmine

I’ve been setting up a peaceful space in my side garden to write in. I have my old mesh metal table and chairs there, just got a sunbrella so I can be out there when it’s bright, and I’ve planted up one bed and started the arduous task of weeding the space which is – ALL WEEDS. Having a place to write that’s all mine and in the garden has turned out to be exactly what I needed. A place for calm reflection, for writing fiction, journals, and to write more posts for this website. Writing in my garden means I’m also getting up to weed for little breaks. It means I’m already out there so I check on my plants and do a little spur of the moment pruning.

Writing and gardening are two of my best self care activities so my general perspective has been improving. I’ve also been on a news fast which helps a great deal because the world is on fire with no sign of abatement.

It’s not always possible to create a space like this, as I’m lucky enough to be able to do. Some of you might live in an apartment, for example. If it’s large enough you can create a little corner of tranquility for yourself. But even if your space is extremely limited, you can find spaces that make you feel peaceful and that improve your mood and/or perspective. Once upon a time I lived in a studio apartment with a roommate in San Francisco, then I lived in another studio apartment with a different roommate. There was no where to hide. No where to retreat to for peace and quiet. So I found a number of locations near my apartment that I loved to sit quietly in by myself (and a thousand strangers) to recharge and breathe more deeply, or sometimes calm down from a rage.

My favorite peaceful place was to sit in the pews of Grace Cathedral. I’m not religious. I don’t actually like religion. But one thing I LOVE are cathedrals and old religious art and music. I love the hush of cathedrals and the sky-high cielings. I love the stained glass and the marble floors. I love the alcoves and candles and the residue of thousands of people’s most intimate prayers and hopes stuck to the walls. I would sit there for an hour just breathing and letting go and being alone and it was incredibly peaceful.

I also used to spend a lot of time sitting in the little park across the street from Grace Cathedral that my friend Carrie and I dubbed “Heaven”. Old Chinese people met there to practice Tai Chi and I loved to watch them. Is there anything so beautiful as watching a bunch of old people moving as gracefully as herons through quiet marshes? Mom’s with babies in strollers and rowdy children would stop there on walks and hang out. Ruffians and homeless people hung out there too. Some people ate their bagged lunches there on breaks from work. I loved watching all the people come and go.

But my favorite hideaway spot of all was a little park off of Grant Street in China Town with a big metal statue in it. No one I knew would ever bump into me there. Hardly any tourists ever stopped there either. It was a favorite spot of mine to write in my notebooks, steam with anger (and then relax as the environment drained it all away), and plot my dreams. I also worked on different styles of alphabets that eventually morphed into my real handwriting that I still use today.

If you don’t already have somewhere to go to feel peaceful in, start looking for one.

If you already have one, I entreat you not to forget to spend time in it as often as possible.




Finding My Way Back

Sugar and Pith, graphic image of an eye being flushed by water

I feel like I’ve been running an emotional marathon for the last few months. My city caught on fire, my mom has been staying between the hospital and skilled nursing facility for three months, and my mental health (already at a low ebb) has deteriorated. I have an appointment with a new psychiatrist this week to get some extra support, a change of meds, and some therapy. I’m scared for that meeting but also looking forward to getting some help sorting myself out.

One of the things that has contributed to my mental health decline is losing touch with all but the most basic self care. I shower less often than I used to, I’m in an awful sleep cycle, I don’t keep up with chores, and I eat out a lot or when I’m home I just eat lots of cheese sandwiches because they’re fast to make. I want out of this whole cycle I’m in and it feels like it takes a herculean effort to make even the smallest changes in my current unhealthy routine.,

However, I’m motivated. Over Christmas I got a lot of orders for Sugar & Pith products. A huge volume of orders compared to what I’m used to making and processing and though it was hard to shift gears to get into the bustle of production – IT FELT AMAZING AND ENERGIZING. If I got that much business every month I’d be propelled by the forward motion of work. I was fortunate to have been included on the Simply Recipes gift list. Now my business is super slow again and to rev it up I need to get myself in better emotional shape.

Self care routines are vital to people with mental or emotional issues. A good self care routine can keep you going during the tough cycles and to some extent keep emotional cycles from becoming desperate. For some people a good self care routine kept up meticulously is all they need to maintain good mental and emotional help, for others (like me) it’s never going to be enough on its own to keep me in a healthy place. But it’s still an incredibly important support to other therapies and meds that keep me steady.

One of the things that I’ve let completely drop from my routine over the last few months (nay! the last year!) is spending time in my garden. The importance of spending time in my garden can’t be understated. It quiets my mind almost as well as alcohol does but burns calories rather than piles them on. It grounds me, delights me, and soothes me. Lately I’ve made the effort to do little tiny things in the garden just to get myself out there. Even a few minutes can refresh  me.

One of the best memories of my entire life, and a formative one, was the time my family went on vacation without me. I was 14 years old. My parents gave me money to buy myself groceries and it was my job to make sure the garden was watered every day. It was summer and I hate summer heat so I got up early every day before the heat and I ate yogurt with granola in it and some fruit, drank some tea, and then headed out to the garden to water. After watering I would take one of my mother’s harvest baskets and go pick beans, squash, and tomatoes, probably some raspberries too. It was the best part of every day. I had our beautiful turn of the (last) century house all to myself. After spending time in the garden I would escape the encroaching heat by coming inside to make paper dolls and watch soap operas. Later in the afternoon I would go downtown to meet with friends and get ice cream. We were writing a novel together that summer.

This morning I got up before 9 am (a feat for me these days), made coffee, took a shower, and got dressed. I’m creating a writing space in my garden to get myself out INTO the garden more often and to write more often as well. So I brought my mug of coffee and my laptop out to my new bare garden spot and as I’ve been writing this post I’ve stopped to pull up weeds a few times. I’ve been listening to the mourning doves cooing (a favorite sound of mine) and watching some tiny birds playing in the tattered hedge between ours and the neighbor’s driveway. This is how I want to start every day. It was so hard to drag myself out here but I’m glad I did.

Skin care and body care are important aspects of self care, but we all need activities and routines that strengthen our emotional and mental health too. What activities make you feel really good, peaceful, supported, and/or healthier? Are you able to keep up with it? Have you let those activities lapse? Obviously I would never judge anyone for letting their self care routines slide – but I hope that if you’ve let something go by the wayside that you really love or need in your life because you’re overwhelmed or tired (or both) that you try to figure out how to get back into doing it. And never be afraid to seek extra support and help to get you there!


Three Luxurious Bath Oils to Make Yourself

Sugar and Pith, make your own luxurious bath oils, three decorative bottles of bath oils with wax sealed corks and pretty tags
Bath oils are a great way to boost low winter spirits and add extra moisturizer to your skin during the cold wet months of winter. They’re easy to make yourself and are wonderful luxurious gifts to give to others. I’m presenting three different blends for you to try. All of them use jojoba as the base oil because it’s an oil that works well with most skin types. Jojoba is a great moisturizer and absorbs well. You need to use a base oil with most essential oils but what percentage of base oils to essential oils to use depends on how you’re using the blend.

Rose, Sandalwood, and Jojoba Bath Oil

This blend is the most luxurious of all three because the rose absolute and sandalwood are precious oils that are very costly. It’s a heavenly sensual blend and one of my favorites.

30 ml jojoba oil
7 ml rose absolute|
7 ml sandalwood

In a tiny measuring cup or shot glass with milliliter measurements printed on the side.  Mix the oils together and stir them well. Let them sit for a while and then stir again. If you’re using a Boston round to keep your blends in you can mix the oils by shaking the bottle vigorously several times. But if you’re going to put them in the small decorative bottles shown above you won’t be able to shake the oils well once you’ve filled them.

Pour the oils into your chosen bottle. This batch of oil is good for 2 baths.

Jasmine and Jojoba Bath Oil

This bath oil blend is wonderfully floral and warm. The tropical scent will warm you up and make your forget rain and snow for a little while.

40 ml jojoba oil
5 ml jasmine absolute

In a tiny measuring cup or shot glass with milliliter measurements printed on the side.  Mix the oils together and stir them well. Let them sit for a while and then stir again. If you’re using a Boston round to keep your blends in you can mix the oils by shaking the bottle vigorously several times. But if you’re going to put them in the small decorative bottles shown above you won’t be able to shake the oils well once you’ve filled them.

Pour the oils into your chosen bottle. This batch of oil is good for 2 baths.

Vetiver, Bergamot, and Jojoba Bath Oil

This blend is perfect for people who don’t like floral scents. Vetiver is a woodsy, smoky, sexy, earthy scent. Adding bergamot to vetiver brightens and vitalizes it. Bergamot is great for lifting and brightening your mood.

40 ml jojoba oil
5 ml vetiver
5 ml bergamot

In a tiny measuring cup or shot glass with milliliter measurements printed on the side.  Mix the oils together and stir them well. Let them sit for a while and then stir again. If you’re using a Boston round to keep your blends in you can mix the oils by shaking the bottle vigorously several times. But if you’re going to put them in the small decorative bottles shown above you won’t be able to shake the oils well once you’ve filled them.

Pour the oils into your chosen bottle. This batch of oil is good for 2 baths.

Package Your Bath Oils Beautifully

There are so many ways you can package your bath oils to present as gifts. I encourage you to let your imagination guide you. But if you like how I’ve packaged mine, feel free to do the same. Here are the supplies you will need (click on bold items for links):

Small decorative bottles

Bottle Sealing Wax

Decorative paper (I found William Morris prints online and printed them onto card stock)

Glass (or other) glitter

Thread (if you don’t have any already, you can get some at any craft store)

Fill your bottles with the oils. Note that the bottles I used are all between 1.25 oz and 1.5 oz so you may have a little extra of some of these oil blends.

Cut your decorative paper (preferably a card stock weight, but use what you have!) into 1.25″ squares. You can also just wing it. Put a thin line of glue around the edges of each square and sprinkle glitter on. Let it dry. Then write what blend you’ve used on the back.

Punch a small hole in the top corner of your label. Cut a little over double the length you want your label to hang. Lordy, I don’t know how to describe how I knotted my thread – hopefully the above picture can guide you.

Fill a small jam jar a quarter of the way up with your wax sealing pellets. Set it in a small sauce pot of simmering water until the wax melts fully. Keep an eye on it, you may need to add more water before the wax is fully melted.

Put the tops of your thread into the opening of the bottles and push the cork in as tight as you can without making it flush with the opening. Holding the label to the side of the jar, dip the cork and the lip of the bottle in the wax a couple of times. This will prevent the cork from popping out and spilling the oil before it’s ready to be used.


Calendula Cooling Eye Mask Review

Sugar and Pith, cross hatching a piece of aloe vera leaf

I’m squeezing this post in a little bit late but I didn’t want you to miss a fun little recipe my sister and I tried out for an eye mask from the book Natural Beauty by Susan Curtis, Fran Johnson, and Pat Thomas. This book is one of my favorite reference books for natural beauty information and recipes. My sister and I decided to try their recipe for their cooling eye mask that uses the calendula tincture I just made. This eye mask recipe is supposed to cool, tone, and smooth puffy lines around your eyes.


2 tsp witch hazel

1 tsp aloe vera juice

1 tsp glycerin

1 tsp calendula tincture

First of all, we didn’t use store bought aloe juice because we have several large aloe plants in the garden. Milking an aloe leaf for its juice is surprisingly challenging! We split the leaf in half and scored the flesh and then squeezed the viscous juice which, being viscous, hung from the leaf in a slimy glop that refused to actually fall into the teacup. We resorted to scraping the juice off with the measuring spoon which proved equally difficult. There are worse things for your hands to be completely covered with than fresh aloe leaf juice. I don’t regret it.

Suagar and Pith, measuring out calendula tincture into tea cup

Next we poured the rest of the ingredients in the tea cup and gave it a really good stir. This eye mask is that easy to put together. Once it seemed about as mixed as it would ever get, we applied the mask generously to the area under our eyes (being careful not to get it IN our eyes) and to our brow bones.

The instructions say to let it sit for five minutes. Being very thorough people, my sister and I waited for ten and just to make the experience extra zen, we practiced breathing slowly and deeply. It was a lovely warm late morning so we did all of this on my front porch looking out at the garden.

Sugar and Pith, antique tea cup and silver spoon filled with eye mask ingredients

Then we removed gently, as instructed, with a cotton pad.

Was it cooling? Kind of. Was it toning? Maybe. Did it smooth puffy lines? Not even a tiny bit. I’ll tell you what it DID do, though. For the rest of the day the skin under my eyes felt really soft and hydrated. As a middle aged person with “mature” skin that’s a plus in my book. I really didn’t experience the astringent qualities of the mask that do the toning and it’s my suspicion that that’s because of the glycerine. If I do this eye mask again I’ll leave out the glycerin. Aloe, witch hazel, and calendula tincture without glycerin would feel more cooling and toning. However, if you want to try this and the skin under your eyes is especially sensitive, you may want to leave it in. That’s your call.

What was really nice about making this recipe is that my sister and I sat down together and took care of our faces while hanging out. I firmly believe that half of the benefit of doing spa treatments is that you stop rushing around, you stop fretting, and you feel more peaceful. This is an incredibly important act of self care, the little things we do every day that feed our body in some way while slowing us down and helping us be mindful.

Go ahead and give this cooling eye mask a try and see what you think.

Calendula Tincture: How to Make Your Own


Sugar and Pith, picture from top looking into jar of unfiltered calendula tincture

Calendula tincture isn’t called for all that often in herbal medicine but there are a few good uses to which you can put it. You can add it to mouthwash recipes as calendula is good for reducing gum inflammation, healing mouth ulcers, and inhibiting bacterial growth. You can use it in topical skin applications where you want a more concentrated amount of its medicinal properties. And you can also take it internally to sooth stomach aches.

How to Make a Calendula Tincture:

Fill a pint jar about half full of dried calendula and then cover it with 100 proof alcohol.

It’s important that you use 100 proof because the solvent range for extracting the medicinal constituents from calendula flowers is between 50-80%. If you can’t get your hands on 100 proof, see if you can find a source for grain aclohcol (between 150-153 proof).

Label your jar with the date you started the batch and put it somewhere where you won’t forget about it.

Shake it vigorously every day for two to four weeks.

Shaking it every day is important because it helps break down the cell walls of the plant material.

Sugar and Pith, jar pouring calendula infused alcohol through a filter into a jar

Next, get a fresh clean jar fitted either with a strainer or (as I’ve done here) with a wide mouthed funnel fitted with an unbleached coffee filter and pour the liquid through it. Alternatively, you can use cheese cloth or muslin. Shake the plant material into the filter or cheese cloth and squeeze as much of the liquid out of it as you can.

Sugar and Pith, pouring calendula tincture through funnel into an amber round bottle

Decant your tincture into a dark bottle and label it. Store in a cool dark cupboard to maintain the best quality.

Sugar and Pith, dropper full of calendula tincture poised above shot glass

Your tincture is ready to be used in whatever recipe you like! Calendula is a safe herb to use but I recommend that if you decide to take it internally you do so with the dosage advice of an herbalist or naturopathic doctor.

The next Herb of the Month post will feature an experiment with a recipe for an eye mask that uses this calendula tincture. So be sure to check back in soon!

Calendula Tea With Cleavers and Mint

Sugar and Pith, two vintage glasses with calendula and mint iced tea in them, garnished with sprig of mint and calendula petals

Spring has arrived in Northern California and everything in my garden has greened up and budded out. If you live in a more severe climate, be patient, spring is heading your way soon too. To me, spring is about new beginnings, coming out of dormancy, and fresh energy. Although I like winter better than spring, I do love watching my garden open up and fill with light. One of the first things to flower is calendula. I haven’t been a big fan of drinking a lot of detoxifying teas or going on big organ-cleansing tears. However, I think this spring is a great time to add this to my occasional regimen.

Refreshing calendula tea to gently support your lymphatic system and eliminative processes

Calendula Tea with Cleavers and Mint

4-6 fresh calendula flower heads

2 big handfuls of fresh cleavers

3-4 sprigs fresh mint

How to make it:

Rinse all of the herbs in running water to remove any dirt or insects.

Put all of the herbs in a half gallon jar or other container.

Cover to the top with boiling water and put a lid loosely on the top (don’t screw tight, you want to let the steam out). Let it steep for ten minutes if drinking hot. If drinking cold, let it steep until it cools down and then refrigerate for a couple of hours to get it cold.

Strain before drinking.

Sugar and Pith, half gallon jar filled with fresh calendula, cleavers, and mint

Both calendula and cleavers are lymphatic tonics which, in simplistic terms, means they help your lymphatic system work better to filter out foreign bodies such as bacteria from your body. Cleavers is also alterative which means it helps support your liver function. Mint is good for dispelling gas and stimulating appetite which isn’t why I added it to this tea. I added mint for the fresh flavor and because I’ve got lots of tender new growth on my mint plant right now.


I consult a lot of different sources for my herbal information. Here are a few of the sources I consulted for the medicinal information above:



Medical Herbalism (the science and practice of herbal medicine) by David Hoffmann



Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine by Steven Foster and Rebecca L. Johnson



Calendula officinalis is This Month’s Featured Herb

Sugar and Pith, vintage botanical illustration of calendula

Calendula has been used for hundreds of years for both medicinal and culinary purposes. No one knows exactly how far back this flower has been healing people, but it’s remained in broad use for good reasons. Modern studies are beginning to support what herbalists have always known: it has emollient, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and vulnerary properties. All of this makes calendula a common ingredient in wound salves and skin treatments.

But it has also traditionally been used to color foods like butter and cheese as well as to flavor beverages and stews, especially in medieval times. It was considered the “poor man’s saffron” and added to dishes where one might have used saffron if only one wasn’t a penniless serf. Nowadays you can buy your own crocuses for a reasonable price and grow a pinch of saffron a year if you’re particularly enterprising.

Calendula can be drunk as an infusion or added to other teas. Although it isn’t as popular now, it was used to settle stomachs and heal ulcers, both of the stomach and the mouth.

In the Garden

Sugar and Pith, weathered white and purple lion statue in a garden with calendula growing at its base

Calendula is one of the top five herbs I believe it’s essential to grow in my own garden. The brilliant thing about it is that this flower reseeds itself in most gardens freely. Some people may see this as a nuisance but I can’t enter into their feelings because seeing their blossoms are like viral sunshine. My garden is spilling over with yellow and orange flowers screaming loudly that even when the sky is grey spring is here! I pluck them out where I don’t want them and let them reseed all over again. I think I could be happy in a garden almost exclusively covered in calendula and California poppies.

How to Harvest and Dry

Harvest calendula in the morning when the flowers are fully open but still fresh. If you’re going to dry them in a bundle make sure you leave enough stem with which to do this. If you’re drying them in a dehydrator stem length isn’t as important because after you select all the best flower heads you’ll remove the whole stem up to the base of the flower. Don’t wash your herbs unless they’re very dirty, you use pesticides in your garden, or have pets that might have peed on them. If you choose to wash them be sure to remove as much water and dampness as you can for best quality.

I dry my mine in my dehydrator because I find it preserves the quality best but if you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can tie the stems together in a bundle and hang them upside down out of direct sunlight or you can thread them together with a needle to form a chain of them and hang them somewhere dry and warm. You want to make sure the base of the flower is completely dry before storing or they may mold. Store your dried calendula heads in an airtight jar in a place out of direct light. It will keep for a long time but I recommend using it within six months for best quality.

Calendula in Sugar & Pith products

Sugar and Pith mini triple strength wound salve, four tins of salve on a book page with a calendula flower and petals

Many of Sugar & Pith’s products feature calendula such as the Triple Strenth Wound Salve, Maiden’s Blush herbal bath soak, and all of the lip balms.

Sugar and Pith mini triple strength wound salve, four tins of salve on a book page with a calendula flower and petalsSugar and Pith mini triple strength wound salve, four tins of salve on a book page with a calendula flower and petalsSave





Sugar and Pith triple strength wound salve displayed on a slate stone

Sugar and Pith at the Santa Rosa Community Farmer’s Market

Sugar and Pith triple strength wound salve displayed on a slate stoneI’ve had two weekends at the Santa Rosa Community farmer’s market at the Vet building on Saturdays and it’s so much fun getting out in the world with my remedies, potions, and lotions, getting to meet people in my community and chat with other vendors. The best thing about my first weekend was that I sold a copy of my book Cricket and Grey; Winter.

body scrub, lip balm, and bath herb display at the farmer's marketThis past weekend the best thing is that I sold out of my Embalming Cream. People do think the name is weird but when they put it on their skin they’re won over by the luxurious quickly absorbing feel of it and the wonderful scent. If you’re able to stop by and say hello this weekend you can try it for yourself! I’m making a brand new batch.

Sugar and Pith lip balm, hydrosols, and bath herbs displayed in nests and on a rustic trayI’m really pleased with how my table looks but it’s somewhat cramped. I’ll be adding a second table soon so I can spread out and have a few more things for people to explore such as cubed bread to dip in salad dressing made with my herbed vinegar so people can taste how good it is for themselves.

Come by and say hello this weekend on Saturday any time between 8:30am and 1pm!


Shine Skin Polish: New Product Unveiling

skin polish 3Introducing my brand new product: Shine Skin Polish offered in 4 beautiful pure essential oil scent blends

This salt scrub has a higher oil to salt ratio than most and the sea salt is fine so that it gently exfoliates and cleanses your skin while leaving it hydrated and velvety soft. You can use it in the shower, the bath, or as a foot spa treatment (how I have used it in my personal trials).

First you let your skin soak in warm-hot water, get good and steamy and then scoop a little bit of the skin polish out with your fingers and gently rub into any part of your skin that needs to be exfoliated and hydrated. Don’t wash the oil off, just pat yourself dry with your towel. Your skin will absorb the oil pretty quickly once you’re out of the shower.

If you give yourself a foot treatment with the Shine Skin Polish (it’s a luxury treatment for dry tired feet), do be careful to let the oil completely soak in before walking around on slick surfaces.

I have developed 4 essential oil blends inspired by the seasons. Each one has different aromatherapy qualities. The smell of the essential oil blends might seem strong when you first apply it but the scent will be very subtle on your skin, and as with all pure essential oils, it will fade fairly quickly.

Winter Shine:

The Winter scent is a blend of ginger and pink grapefruit pure essential oils. Winter is a time when we tend to go inward, stay indoors huddled together for warmth and comfort. Historically it’s been a time of dormancy and rest, a time when we come in from the fields and conserve our strength. While many of us don’t stop working during winter these days, we still feel an instinctual urge to hibernate. Ginger is a warming, spicy, uplifting scent that can help alleviate feelings of isolation and depression while pink grapefruit is fresh, sweet, and revitalizing. This scent is perfect for any time of year when you feel the need to brighten yourself up on a dark day.

Buy Winter Shine Skin Polish

Spring Shine:

The Spring scent is a blend of bergamot and rose Damask absolute pure essential oils. Spring is when the sap starts flowing in plants, buds swell up on bare branches and break open into delicate sweet blossoms followed by leaves bursting out, shattering the petals to the ground like paper snow. Spring is a time for growth, reaching for light, emerging from contemplation into action. It’s a time to shake loose the cobwebs and build, plant, sow, create, and start fresh. Bergamot is bright, uplifting, and energizing while rose Damask relieves stress, anxiety, frigidity, and is restoring and harmonizing. Both offer relief to those grieving. This essential oil blend is perfect for easing your body, mind, and spirit out of hibernation of any kind. It’s perfect for reminding you to breathe deeply and move forward.

Buy Spring Shine Skin Polish

Summer Shine:

The Summer scent is a blend of juniper berry, lime, and jasmine pure essential oils. Summer is a time of easygoing rhythms, fruition, extending oneself beyond limitations, being outside (unless you’re me and don’t agree with sun and heat), getting into nature, and dreaming. It’s a sultry season and this essential oil blend celebrates it with a fresh and cooling drink of juniper berry and lime next to an open window through which the sweet sensual scent of jasmine wafts in on a lazy slow breeze. Juniper and lime are both purifying, fresh, astringent, and cleansing while jasmine is soothing, calming, warm, and can restore optimism. Jasmine is also considered an aphrodisiac, so you may be inspired by this blend to get naked and cavort.

Buy Summer Shine Skin Polish

Fall Shine:

The Fall scent is a blend of lavender and vetiver pure essential oils. Fall is a season of reaping, gathering, preparing, taking stock, and celebrating abundance. An abundance of food, work, friends, family, tools, or love, we all have an abundance of something if we stop and look honestly. Fall is a time for fixing what’s broken; mending fences, relationships, and ourselves. We can heal while in hibernation but first we must lay the firewood down, replace weather-stripping, stack the blankets, and fill the larder. Lavender is fresh, herbal, and clean. It eases stress and restlessness and is disinfecting. Vetiver is woody, smoky, and earthy. It’s grounding, relaxing, and balancing which is exactly what you need when you’re taking stock of your life and yourself. This oil blend may inspire you to drop the crap you’re carrying around on your shoulders like a tree dropping its leaves.

Buy Fall Shine Skin Polish

Pick your shine and give yourself a polish!



A Tour of the California School of Herbal Studies

apple tree at California School of Herbalism StudiesThis past weekend I went with some friends to tour the California School of Herbal Studies school and garden. I expected to enjoy myself because a) time with good friends is always enjoyable and b) I mean, herb gardens are my idea of heaven. I think I may have almost short circuited my own system from the high volume spazzing out I did. The only regret I have is that I didn’t ask if I was allowed to take pictures before we left the incredible school lab.

There was a locked cabinet full of finished tinctures, trays filled with students’ tincture projects in progress. There were herb presses (I must figure out how to make one myself!), blenders, scales, beakers, measuring tools, baskets of dried herbs, stacks of cleaned muslin bags for pressing out tinctures and other herbal concoctions, and two big tables in the middle of it all for working on.

California School of Herbal Studies garden in the woodsEverywhere on the grounds and in the garden itself were old plant friends; comfrey, elderberries, mint in flower, feathery beds of yarrow, tall datura plants (“weeds” our tour guide, Rebecca, called them) draped with beautiful pale pink floral trumpets, thistles buzzing with pollinating wasps, tall spikes of mullein, and wormwood. There were also plants I’ve never seen in person before that filled me with the excitement of a kid who’s just been told faeries exist for realz.

rattlesnake master seed podsI only ever heard about Rattlesnake Master this past winter because I found seeds for it on the Strictly Medicinal Seeds website, and here it is in person! I’m tempted to grow it just for its looks. This medicinal herb was used by many different Native American tribes for things like snake bites (hence the name), tooth aches, and nose bleeds.

ashwaganda blossom in a cluster of leavesHello Ashwagandha! I had no idea we could grow this Indian medicinal plant here in Sonoma County.

small straw bale house painted light ochreThis is student housing on the property – a straw bale single room house. We got to peek inside the window and see the beautiful thick rounded smooth walls and I could totally live in that space. It’s also the kind of cabin I gave Cricket’s family in the woods in Winter; Cricket and Grey

pink roses blooming in the California School of Herbal Studies herb gardenI can never resist roses in a garden. I have to stop and breath them in.

bedstraw seed heads, bedstraw going to seedThis is bedstraw. It’s had many traditional uses (mattress stuffing, particularly used because the smell of it repels fleas, milk coagulant, dye) but it’s rarely mentioned in herb books any more.

medicinal valerian in bloom, valerian blossomsValerian in bloom. If you mention valerian to my mom she’ll always mention how terrible it tastes, as though other bitter herbs used in tinctures taste great. Seriously, so many natural medicinals taste rank I’m always surprised she takes a special dislike to this one.

milkweed pods up closeI’ve seen milkweed in bloom before but I’ve never seen their pods. I’m convinced now that terrible little aliens pop out of these pods instead of seeds when no one’s looking. Or maybe this is where faeries are gestated? YOU DON’T KNOW.

Standing in the herb garden at CSHS filled me with such happiness. The kind I only feel in gardens. Some people feel this hiking in the wilderness. I get it, it’s all nature, right? Wrong. There are no ticks in this garden. There are no bear traps or fugitive serial killers or other weird unsavory humans that can hide out of site. I love nature, but I don’t want to get literally lost in it. Or fall off an unexpected cliff-face. Or into a big-ass natural hole in the ground. I like my nature in a garden setting. But not an overly controlled garden. Super manicured gardens are okay, but they don’t delight me the way a slightly over-run garden spilling with surprises does. This garden has weeds because many weeds aren’t weeds at all but useful and good plants to have around, so they only tidy enough that the paths are still visible paths.

If I could afford the time and money to take classes at CSHS, I’d love to do that. It’s a possibility to dream of and work towards. In the meantime I’ve got my own lab and small garden full of natural medicinal treasures to work with. In fact, I transplanted my struggling arnica plant yesterday and forgot to water it, so I’m off to do that. I hope you enjoyed the vicarious tour!