Friday, June 29

Happy Sleep Happy Tummy Tea

Today I received a bunch of teas from Richter's Herbs. Tonight I'm drinking a decoction of fresh ginger, subsequently infused with chamomile and lemon balm, with honey. Essentially I'm playing with herbal teas that promote both healthy sleep and digestion, in other words resolving both anxiety (or insomnia) and indigestion. These herbs have other actions as well, such as antimicrobial and cardiovascular actions, which I won't go into here.

Ginger is a potent carminative, as well as an antispasmodic and antiinflammatory. In other words, it soothes the digestive system, relieves internal tension, soothes and prevents any internal spasms or inflammation, and clarifies any indigestion. It is also famous as a cure for nausea. However it is slightly stimulating. I'm going to look for a potent carminative that is less stimulating for late evening teas, although it is quite suitable immediately after dinner.

Chamomile meanwhile is an herb of many uses. It is both a bitter and a carminative, meaning that it both stimulates digestion and prevents and heals indigestion. It is also a mild sedative, antiinflammatory, and antispasmodic. While it tends to have a mild action overall, in its gentle ways it covers many bases.

Lemon balm (also called melissa) has many medicinal properties, a fact of which I was entirely unaware not long ago. And yet it's not surprising, given its heady scent. It's actually in the mint family, but unlike most mints has a mildly sedative rather than stimulating effect. It is also an antidepressant, antispasmodic, carminative, and tonic. This is the first time I'm knowingly drinking lemon balm infusion, and I'm going to have to explore it more. However I think it will be essential in any happy-tummy-happy-sleep blend, because among the sedatives it is unusual in its cheering or antidepressant property.

Monday, June 25

Yesterday's Essential Oils

Lately I have an affinity for the oil cistus, also called rock rose and labdanum. It is a floral oil, yet warm and a bit spicy. While it's a precious oil, I buy it diluted in jojoba oil from Nature's Gift so it becomes affordable. Zeck recommends cistus for shock. Its warming quality has an affinity with a great range of states. It satisfies my desire lately for a the fullness of a floral oil, yet it's lively, deep, earthy, wise and mischevious. It reconnects me with myself, and with a sense of adventure.

And in particular, the scent reminds me of my parents' house on Cape Cod on hot summer days, when the sun seems to focus its heat on the sand.

A Little Art

I'm reading "One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers" by Gail Sher. Which is an inspired text on approaching writing as meditation (more or less). And it's inspiring me to make art. Indeed the book could apply just as easily to music, scholarship, and a bunch of other things. She says many things about writing and the creative process that are interesting and accurate, but above all her sheer pleasure and intimate honesty in writing are what get to me.

Meanwhile, Gordan noticed a very good sale at my favorite local art store. I now have some better brushes, brush holders, and a palette. My friend Bug explained to me that when mixing colors, the translucense or opacity of the colors will influence what kind of secondary colors will be formed. Here is a tutorial she found me on that subject, which incidentally is part of a series of tutorials on Renaissance miniature painting.

I want to get a couple of dropcloths and some new primary color paints and a good mirror for self portraits, and get to it. The dropcloths are the most essential--I can play with ink before getting the colors. With ink my desire is to simply play with techniques, see what I can glean from books, copy from other pictures, and what I can make up on my own. And how it feels to combine the brush and pen. Also I need some practice in good old representational drawing, I've gotten rusty. With the paints I simply want to do some multicolored self portraits like I used to do with pastels when I was younger.

I'm pondering the stony visage, though. I've been looking through a couple of relatively cheap books I got on Frida Kahlo, the ultimate painter of stony visages. One book relates them to ancient Mayan images. It's also usually the way I would depict faces. It evokes a certain hyperreality, I think. I'm thinking of Giacometti's tiny statues. Perhaps the stoniness expresses a slight trance state, a state of strong focus. It may also hide emotions. Recently I was looking at myself in the mirror, and wondering if I wear that kind of face myself. I'm sure it doesn't come across as stony in my case, more likely blank, or wide-eyed and dull. Regardless, it is often the expression I wear in my own perception. I'm not sure how far I want to take that spirit. Sometimes I feel more like a matured imp, and that might be a good thing to depict too.

I wrote this yesterday:

For so long I wanted an Other to interact with through art. I found it to some extent in the spirits, but they are found outside of art as well, and are more vibrant there. Other humans are absent in art & its atmosphere. They say things like "that's good" "I like that color" "who is it" and "is your painting so sad because you're depressed". That is not the kind of interaction I was looking for. Now I understand, spiritually-viscerally, that I can interact with myself through art. This is what I did as a teenager when I was alone. Later I thought I should grow beyond that, finally I realize I grow into it.


I only barely mentioned the exact thing that I was trying to say. That may be for the best. Anyway if I had a scanner I'd show you the doodle I made while testing my old paints...

Thursday, June 21

Delicious Shifts

Yesterday was deliciously hot, by Vancouver in June standards. In the bright evening Gordan and I walked along the sea wall.

Life has shifted slightly. We are becoming the people we've been wanting to be. Experience is slightly more delicious. We've gotten easier about everything.




I've been reading "Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health" by Donald J. Brown. He profiles around a dozen of what he finds to be the most useful herbs for modern conditions. It's an excellent, straightforward resource, with a lot of useful detail.

Rosemary Gladstar's "Family Herbal" is another excellent resource, it's much more inclusive and traditional and fun. The two books may complement each other well.

One thing's for certain--we're going to be taking Siberian Ginseng, an overall tonic.

I'm also contemplating "Heart Soda", perhaps with hawthorn and hibiscus and rosehips and a little rose hydrosol...

Sunday, June 17

Today's Essential Oils

One thing is certain about this blog--I'll be posting about the essential oils I'm experimenting with. Generally I will simply post the blend or blends I've created and am diffusing that day.

"The Blossoming Heart" by Robbi Zeck is my favorite text for emotional uses of essential oils, and "The Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy" by Julia Lawless is my favorite for physical uses. I approach essential oils as a branch of herbalism, one which is particularly handy for the small apartment dweller. For diffusing oils a candle diffuser is suitable, which you can usually find locally. If you prefer an electric diffuser, I highly recommend the aromastone. You can also diffuse essential oils in the bath or in a pot of water kept at a low temperature on the stove. Be aware of the contraindications of the essential oils you plan to use, although this is less crucial with diffusion than it is with application to the skin. Also be aware that essential oils are poisonous for cats, although cats are fine with hydrosols.

Today I combined two basic blends:

Lavender and Bergamot - This is the blend most suitable for healing depression. Lavender is cleansing and nurturing, while bergamot is sympathetically uplifting. It is not only for depression, however. These are two wonderful oils which both complement most other oils. I consider them both "backbones" in a blend... they provide a healing, cleansing, harmonious background for the other oils. Thus they can be suitable even when it isn't a question of distinct depression, but there is a certain unsettled energy in the air, as a preventative dose of happiness and wellbeing.

Rose and Cinnamon - Zeck describes each oil with two words, two opposites. She designates rose as the oil of love/isolation and cinnamon as the oil of connection/withdrawal. You can probably see why these two seemed like a natural combination to me, and also why I love Zeck's approach! My rose oil is 10% diluted in jojoba carrier oil, to make it affordable. Cinnamon is so strong, it might be nice if it was diluted too.

Together these four oils create a blend which is soothing and cleansing, yet also active, promoting a sweet warmth, appreciation, and insight. It is both healing and inspiring, a great blend for intimate social events.

Saturday, June 16

Lacto-Fermented Soda Excitement!

I'm subscribed to Kitchen Muse, a "traditional food" based weekly meal plan. Every month they sound out a wonderful feature, essentially an article about some food or drink of interest. June's feature was on lacto-fermented sodas.

Fermentation uses bacteria and/or yeast to transform sugars into alcohol or acid. So essentially you need the microbial culture, water, and sugar. With sodas we're going for an acidic result rather than alcoholic. In the later stage of fermentation, carbonation is produced. This is how sodas such as root beer and ginger ale were originally made. If the soda is drunk before fermentation is complete, there's still some sugar and therefore the taste is sweet and mildly acidic.

It's called lacto-fermented sodas because the organisms used for fermenting are generally the same organisms with which we culture milk to produce yogurt. One source for the culture is to use whey, the liquid in yogurt. Another source are water kefir grains, if you can obtain them. In both cases, the soda becomes a source for probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and aid greatly in our digestion and health. The acid is also beneficial for our health, as it allows the digestive system to produce less hydrochloric acid while still digesting effectively. And finally the sodas can be made with various herbal ingredients for flavor and medicinal action.

Here is one theoretical example:

Orange soda, made with...
...orange peel infusion. Digestive stimulant, etc.
...orange blossom hydrosol. Anti-depressant, anti-spasmodic, etc. And
...the juice of one squeezed orange.

You get the idea!

I've ordered these...



...for the first stage of fermentation at room temperature, and these...



... for the second stage of fermentation, in the refrigerator. It was important to choose a bottle that was not too firmly closed, because if the soda overferments it may cause the bottle to explode. And because I'm a little bit anal, I ordered a yogurt cheesemaker to obtain the whey--you can do it simply with cheesecloth and a colander in the fridge, but to me that sounds like a recipe for a mess in the fridge. I'm also hoping that this project will result in more cheesecake around here.

For more information on lacto-fermented sodas, check my bookmarks: http://del.icio.us/sphinxie/soda