Category Archives: books

Simple Handcrafted Body Care e-Booklet

I’m so happy to share with you my new (and first!) e-booklet called Simple Handcrafted Body Care! This was such fun to make, from recipe creation to packaging to photography to book design. I enjoyed it all. And I hope you will enjoy it as well.

So what’s in it? Well, there are five easy to make and basic body care recipes in here. There are no fancy, unheard of ingredients nor is there a long laundry list of things you need to buy. In fact most you can find in your local health food store and I don’t think there is any recipe that call for more than five ingredients. Each recipe comes with tips on how you can customize the item to your lifestyle, needs and budget. This booklet is for the beginner and for the experienced. I also created this with gift giving in mind, so there are packaging ideas along with labels that you can print out.
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Included recipes are:

  • Honey Kissed Lip Balm – I know I’ve already posted a ‘chapstick‘ recipe, but this one trumps that, I feel. With only three basic ingredients, this feels so luxurious. I put it on every single day and not only does it keep my lips smooth and moist, but it smells and tastes just like honey!
  • Body Butter – This was a fun one to figure out too. I took the basic Beeswax Lotion recipe, which you are familiar with and with one extra ingredient turned it into a sumptuous body butter. Making it into a butter and using safflower oil instead of olive oil, it becomes lighter and less greasy. Now I use it as a daily face cream and when my hair get frizzy I can even use it to tame fly-aways. I also discovered on Halloween, when I went a little overboard with the eye makeup, that you can use it as cold cream! It took every last smudge of sparkly eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara off my eyes.
  • Spicy Aftershave – A few years ago I tried making an aftershave for Scott that called for rum as a base. Not only did he walk around smelling like a drunk pirate, but he said it was sticky. This does not call for rum nor will it make the man in your life have a sticky face. Instead it will make his face feel refreshed after shaving and he’ll smell darn nice too. I’ve included two different aroma combinations with inspiration for creating your own.
  • Bath Salts – Have you tried bath salts before? Boy do they make the bath a whole different experience. This recipe makes the water just a bit effervescent and you step out of your bath with softer skin and smelling oh so faintly of a flower garden. Lovely!
  • Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub – A handful of years ago I bought a microdermabrasion facial kit that cost $50! It made my face feel soft, but it smelled of chemicals and for a little tube, it seemed pretty expensive to me! This facial scrub is every bit as good, but it smells of honey and lavender and my face really seems to glow after I use it. This recipe makes enough to use about a dozen times. I bet you have the ingredients to make this in your kitchen right now!

You know we have three kids and we have to be out of the door, breakfast eaten, lunches packed, early in the morning. To have these things on hand in the bathroom makes those circus-like mornings a bit calmer for me. And I hope they will for you too!

Unlike my previous recipes I am asking for a nominal fee for this booklet. But I also worked to make this an easy to use and beautiful pdf booklet that you can download immediately. With labels included, you can get your holiday gift giving made easily and economically!

Click the button below to get your copy!

Add to Cart

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A preview of what’s to come on Monday…

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A preview of what’s to come on Monday…

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Knitting and Reading

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For a chance of pace today I thought I’d join Ginny’s Yarn Along. I doubt I’ll be participating every Wednesday as for the past three months and for the future three months, I’m certain this picture wouldn’t change. There is such little time to read & knit these days.

This is my first fair isle project, dala horse mittens and I am loving it! It is a challenge to work with two colors and in the beginning even resulted in a fair isle related arm injury. Who knew knitting could be so very dangerous?

My natural yarn dying friend, Jen, lent me The Road Home months and months ago and I’m sure she thinks she’ll never get it back, but she will! I am really enjoying this novel, set up mainly in Nebraska. It chronicles the lives of three family members through two generations and is so well crafted. I already bought another Jim Harrison book to read when I’m done, Dalva.

The Seasons on Henry’s Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm is a must read if you are gardening minded. It too is beautifully written and is the perfect combination of farming/gardening instruction, literary pose and stories of people’s lives. It is written by a woman who lives and works on her brother’s organic farm in the mid-west. The book is divided into months as chapters so I’m trying my best to read a chapter a month, but it’s so hard not to read ahead! You should really give this one a read!

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Urban Homesteading : : A book giveaway

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(update: This giveaway is over, thanks to all who entered!)
We had a lot to celebrate yesterday. First, our baby girl turned one! What a fast and full year this has been and what a joy she is to have. (when she was born) And second, our original Sonoma Garden officially changed hands to a new gardener, and if you can believe it, a blog reader! We wish them the very best.

With all this celebrating, I wanted to share something with you too. A few weeks ago I ran across this book, Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living, being sold at a local coffee shop, of all places. I bought it right then and there and was so inspired looking through it. I’ve noticed in recent trips to the book store that there are many books out there on homesteading, both for urban and rural areas. What sets this book apart, and what made me buy it, is that it seems very personal and almost homespun. There are many stories and pictures of people and their own urban gardens. It is so nice to see pictures of people and their actual yards. Plus they feature many drawings of how they’ve laid everything out in their yards, where they put the raised beds and the chicken coop etc. which I find very helpful.
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What I also liked is that it features projects that are a little different from what you normally see, like making cob buildings, lacto-fermented sodas, keeping quail, making your own bee veil, growing medicinal herbs, making a compost toilet and lots more unique ideas.
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I think it could be easily said that with this recent move we are safely out of an urban area and smack dab into a rural setting, yet this book got us out and experimenting. The boys and I gathered all the materials needed to make cob: clay mud, straw and sand.  In the shade of a walnut tree we got to work making this little sun and a few bricks one summer day. It was very fun! And I also experimented around with making a peach ginger fermented soda. The pictures of the gardens made me get outside and plant some more seedlings.
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So I decided you need this book too. No matter where you live, either in a rural or urban setting, no matter if you live here in Sonoma or halfway across the world, you’d benefit from this book. Just leave me a comment and next Wednesday, September 21st (our anniversary, see lots of celebrating going around) I’ll draw a winner at random. Sound good?

Much luck to you!

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Book Giveaway

The Winner of Wild Fermentation is Megan & the winner of Root Cellaring is Brittney! Congratulations! I’ll be emailing you both shortly.
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I thought since I’m going to kick off 30 Days to a Better Garden next week, it would be fun to start off with a giveaway. I have two books that I hope you’ll be in desperate need of after we spend this summer improving our gardens. Both are about food preservation, Wild Fermentation & Root Cellaring. After experimenting with kimchi this past winter, both Erin and, well, Amazon recommended that I try Wild Fermentation. It’s a fun book and makes me feel a little bit like a mad scientist in the kitchen. The book explains in detail what fermentation is and give plenty of great recipes to try out. And Root Cellaring is probably the most comprehensive book out there on the subject. Not only does it cover how to build a root cellar, but also how to find sneaky spots in your house or apartment that you could turn into root cellars. Plus it lists pretty much every single vegetable imaginable and explains all the different ways on how you can cellar it to last longer.
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All you have to do to win is to leave me a comment and let me know what garden tips you’d like to learn more about over the month of June and I’ll pick a random number next Friday, June 5th. Good luck! Oh, and come back next week to take part in 30 Days to a Better Garden!

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Free Subscription to Organic Gardening Magazine

This offer isn’t valid anymore, but if you are still interested, you can click to subscribe to Organic Gardening.

I just wanted to drop in quickly to let you know about this great freebie:

Organic Gardening magazine is one of our favorite gardening magazines. Along with good gardening advice there are always plenty of drool worthy garden pictures.

If you don’t already have a subscription go get a FREE one courtesy of Stonyfield Farms. All you have to do is join the Stoneyfield Farm community here and then go here to sign up for your free subscription!

(via Money Saving Mom)

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Winter Harvest & Early Spring Planting

Cabbage
It’s that time of year between winter and spring, here in Sonoma. We have been getting ‘in like a lion’ rain/hail storms (thankfully) and yet the cherry plum trees are in bloom and daffodils are beginning to make there appearance throughout town.
Kale
Last Saturday was a sunny day, a rare day for us lately, so we decided to harvest most of the cabbage, the bolting kale and a few of the brussel sprouts which have been growing all winter. Because we’ve had more than our fair share of kale lately, I decided to break out the ol’ FoodSavervacuum and use it to vacuum seal blanched portions of kale to freeze for a later date. Have you used a FoodSaver before? We received one when we got married 6.5 years ago and we really like it. It keeps things fresher for much longer in the freezer. We originally used it for vaccum sealing the salmon that Scott used to catch. But we also use it for freezing large Costco sizes of meat and now for veggies too. A worthy investment if you freeze a lot of food.
Potato Growing
Into the garden went the potatoes: Red Gold, Russet Norkotah, Rose Finn Apples (Potato Garden is where we get our seed potatoes). Old German shallots and Red Wethersfield onions (for green onions), our newly aquired spinach, daikon, and carrot seeds, and lastly peas.

We took out our favorite How to Grow More Vegetables book for some spring planting inspiration this past weekend because they lay it all out for you of exactly how many seeds you should be planting of what vegetables for this time of year for a family of four, isn’t that convenient? Anyway, they listed a rather reasonable amount of seeds for each item, but when it came to peas? It suggests you plant 1800 pea seeds! One thousand and eight hundred! We looked at our measly one packet of seeds and laughed. So I suppose we’ll be about 1775 seeds short of what we should be planting this year. Since I’m not a fan of cooked peas anyway, I’m not too worried. How many pea seeds do you usually plant?

Oh, I also wanted to point out that I added a bookstore link up above, do you see it? I’ve added only books that either we own or that we have read and have liked, I’d never suggest something to you that we haven’t tried ourselves.

I hope your last week of winter is going smoothly! Oh and go here to find out when your last frost date is.

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An Intro into Fermentation : How to Make Kimchi

Making Kimchi
When we were in Kauai, we stopped for breakfast at the Ono Family Restaurant one morning in Kapa’a. In some sort of weak attempt to look like a local, I ordered the Local Girl Omelet. The Local Girl Omelet is not your ordinary omlet, for one it was filled with brown fried rice, but to top it off it was also filled with kimchi. I had never tasted kimchi but I’d heard a lot about it, so of course I had to try it. Kimchi, in case you haven’t heard of it is basically a type of Korean Sauerkraut. But as I found out kimchi is oh, so much more than sauerkraut. The omlet combination was fantastic. I’m not a huge omlet fan. They always are greasy and leave me feeling too full and icky feeling afterwards. But this omlet didn’t leave me feeling that way at all. Maybe we can attribute that to the kimchi. I don’t know. But I do know that that taste of the kimchi…that sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy taste haunted me for weeks afterwards. I wanted more!

Before we had left on our trip I received a copy of Nourishing Traditions from the library, so when we got home I started browsing through it. You can only imagine how happy I was to see a recipe for kimchi in the book and it was so easy to make! And lucky for us, Napa Cabbage everywhere in the Farmers Market right now, so we grabbed head and set home to give this kimchi recipe a go.

If you are used to canning, making kimchi is really going to throw you. Kimchi is made by a process of fermentation. A process that goes so against the process of sterilized canning that it will make you wince a little bit, as did we. You don’t sterilize the jar at all. You don’t boil anything, you don’t use a virgin can lid, you don’t wait for the top to pop. You just put a bunch of cabbage and other vegetables in a jar with some salt and some whey*, pound it down with a spoon handle and let it sit….at room temperature…for days. Are you scared yet? And it may bubble, but that’s okay. And some white film may form at the top (ours didn’t however) and that too is okay. After three days of sitting on your shelf you are ready to eat it and put it in the fridge. I won’t be ashamed to admit that we were a bit scared for our safety to try it. But try it we did and we’ve been adding it to everything now.

Lucky for us we came upon this recipe first because when you really start to research about how kimchi is actually made by the Koreans, the process becomes a lot more involved. So involved that we probably wouldn’t even have attempted it.  But since we haven’t had much kimchi in its pure form, we are happy with our simplified method. What we did learn though that kimchi is one of the most healthy foods in the world! No really, many different people claim that.

The reason it is so good for you is because of all of the good bacteria (lactobacilli) that proliferate when it is fermented. These lactobacilli are found on the surface of all living things but they are especially prolific on the leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. The by product of these lactobacilli is lactic acid which not only preserves vegetables and fruit perfectly, but also promotes the growth of healthy flora in the intestines. Kind of like yogurt.

Back through history most cultures used some sort of fermentation to preserve their food. In fact anything that you hear of today as being pickled used to actually be a fermented item before mass production. Once industrialization took place and fermentation started to happen on a grand scale, they found that the results often varied. So they went in and used vinegar instead of letting the fermentation happen naturally and they also had to pasturize it, which like milk, kills all of the beneficial lactic-acid producing bacteria.

Luckily fermentation is really easy and fun to do at home. Basically you just put a bunch of vegetables or fruit in a jar, pound them for a few minutes, add in any herbs or spices you like and salt. Salt will preserve the produce until the lactic acid starts to get produced. If you add whey it will just guarantee your results.
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So here is the recipe we used, again from Nourishing Traditions. It calls for Napa Cabbage, but I think on this next go around we might use regular cabbage since we have it growing. I’ll let you know how it goes. And I’m excited to learn about this fermentation method. In fact I might try more fermented or pickled veggies to preserve the summer harvest this year. In fact I might have to add this book to our bookshelf: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

Easy Kimchi
(makes 2 quarts)

1 head Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1/2 cup daidon radish, grated
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey* (or use additional 1 T salt instead)

Place vegetables, ginger, red chili flakes, salt and whey in a bowl and pound it with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices. Place them in two quart sized glass jars and press down firmly until all the juices come up to the top and cover the vegetables. The top of the vegetables should be at least an inch from the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days at which time you can put it in the fridge or cold storage.

*You can get whey by draining a quart of yogurt (make sure it contains the good bacteria-we use Pavels) through a clean dishtowel for a few hours. If you do this overnight you’ll end up with more than 4 tablespoons, but it will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months. And you’ll also end up with yogurt cheese as a by product, which is delicious and makes a great alternative to cream cheese.

Are you a kimchi fan? Have you ever fermented anything? Do you have any tips for me and my new obsession?

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More Edible Weeds

We had a good rain storm in December that brought us some much needed water. And then we had this really freak 80 degree weather in January for about a week. So you can only imagine what that has done to the weeds. They are thriving and ready to take over. So while the far northern half of the country is maybe taking a snowy winters break from working in the garden to admire the many seed catalogs that have been arriving, we have been doing all that we can to avoid being covered alive in weeds. Sometimes it seems like there is no rest here!

Many years ago, Scott and I bought a book called Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. We were inspired to get it after a Labor Day weekend camping trip where we discovered wild huckleberries growing near our campsite. Each morning we had huckleberry pancakes. Ever since we’ve had fun finding new, wild edible plants.

This year we’ve discovered a few more edible weeds in our yard that I’d like to show you.

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Chickweed is a scrawny stemmed annual weed. It falls over when it gets to tall and reroots at the leave joints….You an only imagine how quickly this spreads! Anyway, its very pretty and delicate looking with a dainty white five petaled flower at the top. Chickweed is easily distinguished by a single row of teeny-tiny little hairs that grow along the stem. At each leaf joint the row of hairs switch sides.
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Chickweed is known as one of the tastiest salad greens in existance! Isn’t that bold thing to say? I’ve tried it and it is, in fact, pretty tasty. The entire plant is edible, stems and all and makes a great addition to salads. Which is fortunate because at this point it looks like we could provide all of Sonoma with a weeks supply.
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Filaree is another new discovery. We’ve had it growing in our yard all along, but just now identified it. To be honest, it doesn’t look like something you want to eat. It grows right in the middle of our lawn (along with in the veggie garden). As the stems grow they become really hairy. The kind of hairy that you really don’t want to put in your mouth. But luckily you don’t eat the stems, you eat the tender new leaves. Filaree has small five petaled flowers that are a pinkish-purple color.
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If picked young, the leaves have a parsley like flavor to them which add a nice flavor to salads.

If you like to hike and camp, this is a fun book to have. Even though the title says that it is for the West, it says that at least 50 percent of the plants shown in it appear all over the States and 75% appear from in the northern half the states from California to New England. I’d recommend adding Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West to your collection.

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How Do You View Food?

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fennel & orange salad
Is food comfort to you? Is it a way of nourishing you? Is food art to you? Do you relish in stockpiling what you grow? Do you play at being frugal in how you feed your family? Has food become your outlet in fighting the world’s ills? Chances are you might consider all of these things when you think of food. But have you ever thought of food as medicine?

For as long as I remember, I’ve had an interest in food. As the years progressed so has my interest. My interest in food and eating took a rapid step up after spending time in Italy. How can half a year there not change your interest in food, really? To me, at that point, it was mostly about taste. And about community. And interests of growing food started to take a higher interest. I would spend my quiet days between art classes walking through our University’s Urban Farm thinking and dreaming of a future that I luckily live today. I started taking cooking classes and would attempt to translate Italian cookbooks into evening meals.

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waiting for dinner with a gin & tonic…the ultimate health beverage…right?

During my single days in Larkspur, I lived over a French restaurant. While the sounds and smells of french dining filtered up into my windows I set out to perfect the perfect pork chop and apple tart. I had no real interest in viewing food as a way to save money (although I was always near broke at the time), or a way to save the world. I thought it neat to buy things local from the farmers market, but I didn’t make it priority. I didn’t even have so much as a window sill to grow things, so growing food was just a hope for the future. I just wanted things to taste good. I knew nothing about pasture fed animals and ‘free-range’ turkeys seemed like an outrageously expensive indulgence.

Then I met Scott and my simple interest in food was dwarfed by his devoted passion for it. Little did I know that he was busy cooking down in that same French restaurant. He already had a thriving vegetable garden and would shower me with homegrown succulent fare. But again, for us it was all about the freshest, best tasting food we could find and grow. And sharing food with others was always an important element.

Fast forward to just over a year ago. At that point, I had just read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food and we realized that pasture fed, free range animals weren’t a frivolous thing to eat, but they were important to our health. We learned that buying our produce local and seasonally wasn’t just a ‘neat’ thing to do, but that it made such a difference in our world’s future when we didn’t. So food became a little bit more about health as well as a bit more about foods impact for our environment.

My poor baby has asthma!
the evil (yet helpful) asthma medication
At the same time our oldest son at age 3 was diagnosed with asthma. I don’t know if your children have asthma or if you know anyone with childhood asthma, but it is a scary thing to face as a parent. We were faced with having to give him regular inhilations of steroids through this very intimidating face mask. He would cry bloody murder out of fear of that mask anytime we approached him with it. Which only made me even more unsettled about what we had to go through. So I did as any mom searching for a better solution would do and I ordered the book, Natural Relief for Your Child’s Asthma: A Guide to Controlling Symptoms & Reducing Your Child’s Dependence on Drugs. And that made me think about food in an entirely new light. Food really could heal you. We’ve made small changes in his diet and environment that have helped control his asthma enough that we’ve been off the daily Flovent since the beginning of last summer.

You may remember my post on raw milk last month. That post was inspired by my recent reading as well as the reading I’ve done about asthma, allergies and excema. I’ve been doing some additional reading that talks about food as medicine which I can’t wait to share. But before I do, what is your take on food? How do you view food? If thinking about this provides enough fodder for your own blog post, add your link to the comments and I’ll add your link up here so we can all read it.

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