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Even the herbs have fairies

The first three books in the Herb Fairies series tell about about chickweed, violet and plantain.

The first three books in the Herb Fairies series tell about about chickweed, violet and plantain.

I have sworn up and down that I will not become one of those parents who forces my kids (or kid, as the case may be) to like all of the same things I like and to do all of the things I like to do. I will be respectful of her taste. I will not immediately poo pooh Katie Perry. I swear.

And yet, can I help it if I’d rather she listen to Prince? Or Bill Withers? Or even Queen?

But I digress.

My not-so-secret strategy for steering her in a more palatable direction is to expose her to all sorts of things I like, but without judgement. And then whatever she goes for, we pursue. Or, if I can find some version that has a bit of a princess vibe (what princess isn’t looking for Prince, in some form or another?) or some fairies attached, I’m good to go.

To wit, the genius of the Herb Fairies. They are a series of books (you order them online and print them out at home) that each tell the story of a bunch of kids, hanging around outdoors having adventures with a particular fairy who belongs to a specific healing herb. There are 13 books in all, plus recipes, activities, pages to color, etc, which means that by the end of the series, your kids (and you) will have a basic working knowledge of a wide assortment of healing herbs. I am a huge fan of natural remedies and alternative medicine, so nothing makes me happier than hearing my daughter ask for chickweed to help heal a scraped knee. Well… almost nothing…

From the same people who created the collaborative board game Wildcraft, comes this whole universe of plants and herbs designed especially for kids to explore and learn from while spending time outdoors and having fun with the whole family. But it’s only available for a short time each year, and now is the moment. Go to Herbfairies.com, download the free cookbook and learn more about the whole series. You can also access the books in electronic form… much easier for those of you with tablets, but less fun.

I know this sounds kind of like an infomercial, but I am still constantly thanking the friend who initially turned me on to these stories and I would be remiss if I didn’t try to pay it forward, so to speak.

Make your own tinted lip balm!

DIY lip balm with crayon and coconut oil

Tinted lip balm, handcrafted in about 10 minutes.

What’s not to love?

  • Pick a color from one of the millions of semi used crayons you have lying around (if you have kids, that is).
  • Peel off the paper.
  • Break the crayon in half and put it in a small container (a ceramic ramekin or a metal measuring cup… just something small and non reactive)
  • Add a heaping teaspoon of coconut oil. (for stronger color, use a bit less oil)
  • You can even toss is a bit of shea butter if you have some lying around.
  • Then heat some water in a small skillet.
  • Once the water is hot, place the bowl (with the crayon and oil) in the water, turn off the heat and wait for the crayon and oil to melt.
  • Mix them up till the color is evenly distributed
  • Pour into a small metal or plastic container.
  • Let it cool down.
  • Use your new lipstick!
  • We used a heart shaped tin from Etsy, but you can use small tin or glass jars, or you can really go for it with lipstick molds and containers.

    Non-toxic, like the crayons. Beneficial, like the coconut oil and the shea butter. Beautiful, like good make up should be. A perfect rainy (or snowy) afternoon activity.

    Keeping it together

    Homemade vitamin C pills!

    Homemade vitamin C pills!

    Well, we’re back from Hawaii. And if the 15 hour multiple airplane journey home wasn’t enough to do us in, perhaps the current blustery 24 degree day is.

    But I refuse to fall, especially so early in the new year. I may be superstitious, but I feel like the way one begins a year affects the entire rest of the journey. So we need to get off on a good foot.

    Nothing says fight-off-cold-and-flu season like some good old vitamin C, but this time, instead of heading out (into the cold!) to buy a bottle, I decided to make our own little chewable tablets. Or pills. Or little round-ish balls, as the case may be. I’m beginning to delve a bit deeper into the world of herbal remedies (my husband thinks I’m turning into some kind of hippie witch doctor) and have discovered some really great sources for helping to bolster our immune systems.

    This recipe comes from Rosalie De La Foret at Learning Herbs.com, a veritable treasure trove of information for the layperson who is looking to reconnect with the kind of herbal wisdom our grandparents took for granted. These herbs are all whole foods, which are undisputedly the best source of nutrients for our bodies. They are also all known to be bursting with vitamin C, along with other minerals and antioxidants that we might find helpful this time of year. It’s super simple… you’re just mixing together 3 powdered herbs and then using a bit of honey to bind them together into little balls. It’s a perfect activity for kids (playdough anyone?) plus the little ones are much more motivated to try one if they helped to make it.

    Here are the details:


    1 tablespoon rose hip powder
    1 tablespoon amla powder
    1 tablespoon acerola powder
    Orange peel powder

    Mix together the first 3 powders, making sure to break up any clumps.

    Pour a bit of slightly warmed honey into the mix and keep adding more, little by little, till the powder just holds together. You don’t want it to be too moist or sticky.

    Then shape the mixture into little pea shaped pills and roll them in the orange peel powder till they are completely coated. This helps to keep them from sticking together.

    Keep them in an airtight container and they should last a very long time. I store mine in the fridge, which keeps the individual pills from sticking together. Then when I’m ready to eat one, I just hold it in my mouth for a couple of seconds and it softens up and becomes nice and chewy and surprisingly delicious.

    For more detailed information about the individual herbs used, check out the original version of the recipe. Also, if you are wondering where one might happen upon some Rose Hips and Amla powder, you need look no further than Mountain Rose Herbals. They have pretty much everything.

    The 2014 gift guide begins now: Chapter 1– Help us feel beautiful, please

    Vintage Black Glamour by Nichelle Gainer

    And maybe hook me up with this dress while you’re at it…? Photo of Eartha Kitt from the cover of the new book Vintage Black Glamour by Nichelle Gainer

    We are officially well into the holiday shopping season. So far into it, in fact, that panic has started to set in. Yesterday, it was October. Today, we have essentially 45 seconds before Hanukkah and a minute and a half to get ourselves together for Christmas (we do both in our family.)

    How did this happen? Or perhaps the better question is… why does this happen EVERY YEAR? When will the lessons of the previous year sink in and inspire me to start buying holiday gifts in September like organized people who have assistants and use Siri on their iPhones and know how to fold fitted sheets?

    Perhaps never. But at least I have some good ideas when it comes to what to give people and I’m happy to share them. For the rest of this week (and maybe into next week, too) I will flood you with all sorts of thoughts about what you might want to be getting your loved ones (or better yet, what you should be asking your mother-in-law to get for you!) for the holidays. Please enjoy, and if you have any great things you’d like to add, don’t hesitate to put them into the comments. I am always looking for new things to ask for…

    Today, in honor of the cold and relentless rain, is all about beauty.

    monk oil

    Monk Oil is my newest obsession. This subtly scented body oil is formulated especially to help us to thrive in the city (and we NYC folks sure could use all the help we can get)! It’s got avocado and apricot oils to moisturize, cedar and lavender to ground and energize, rose otto to lift our mood and yarrow to ward off environmental toxins. But my favorite part is the tiny rose quartz crystal hiding inside of each bottle to help harmonize the whole mixture.

    Mixed and bottled on full and new moons, it feels like you are spreading a little but of magic onto your skin whenever you put it on. And it’s brand new, so your wife/brother/sister-in-law probably doesn’t have a bottle already. And if they do, I bet they won’t be bummed about having a bit more.

    spa heroes beauty subscription

    There are zillions of beauty products out there, but many (if not most) of them have harmful ingredients that might make us feel good for a minute or two, but are really doing harm to our bodies long term. And how are we to know which products are entirely safe? Enter Spa Heroes, a brilliant and reasonably priced subscription service that has done all of the research for us and is ready to help us clear out our medicine cabinets and restock them with the kind of stuff that… well… Gwyneth would probably use. (Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.)

    Every month has a theme: November was all about being luminous, while December’s selections are all about mood and memory. A box arrives at your doorstep with at least one new full sized product (moisturizer, cleanser, scrub, etc) plus a sample or two with no toxic ingredients. There is also a beautifully designed fold-out card with information about the ingredients and benefits of the expert selection plus tips on how to best use your new prize. You use the products, fall in love with them and then can restock (at a discount!) at their online store. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…

    skinny skinny glowing skin kit

    Skinnyskinny is one of those shops in my neighborhood that is next to impossible to leave empty handed. They have their own line of beauty products, all totally natural and handmade, plus they sell little plants, candles, and the Best. Lip balm. Ever. But if I were to be getting a gift from these guys, I’d want the “Luminous You” gift set, which includes cleanser, toner, moisturizer and scrub. That way, I could immerse myself in their universe and come out all glowing and whatnot.

    red flower hinoki mint mineral bath

    Anybody who knows me (or has read this blog for longer than a few weeks) knows how much I love Red Flower. It is far and away one of the best beauty companies out there. Using their products is like drifting into a fairy bath of rose petals and lavender, with magic fingers giving you massages and splashing your face with mystical serums… I could go on forever.

    To be perfectly honest, if you were shopping for me, you could go to the Red Flower store or website and pick anything, wrap it up, and give it to me for the holidays. I promise you I would be thrilled. Today, as I look out over the dark cold rain, I am fantasizing about a nice hot bath, so the Hinoki Mint mineral bath soak comes to mind. It’s both soothing and uplifting, and it always leaves me feeling like I’ve just spent an afternoon at some expensive spa in Costa Rica. Which, I might add, is a beautiful feeling to have.

    ever brooklyn lavender hydrosol

    Last, but not least, comes the hydrosol. Now mind you, I didn’t have the faintest idea what a hydrosol was until my friend Fannie McWatt started her aromatherapy company Ever Brooklyn, but now that I’m in the know I have become a true believer. There is nothing like spritzing your face with a light mist of lavender and feeling this fragrant herb regenerate and renew your skin as it calms your mind.

    Monday, Monday– or more links about getting in shape and eating right…

    SoulCycle polaroids

    A few images from my first day of creating a new Polaroid installation for SoulCycle

    I have started working on a new (black & white!) Polaroid installation for my friends over at SoulCycle. Being around all of those fitness fanatics has got me back into a bit of an exercise routine. And not a moment too soon, as my summer was not super sporty, to say the least. Below is an assortment of the types of links I am suddenly interested in these days…

    Step one of any get-into-shape program is an evaluation of where you are now, right? To find out where you stand, answer these questions and the computer will magically crunch some numbers and spit out the result. Here’s hoping you are 50 and as fit as the average 20 year old, rather than the other way around…

    And then there is the question of joining a gym, or trying to fit exercise classes into your already overbooked days. Fear not! The answer is here in the form of the intense 7 minute workout (made famous by the NY Times article) that Huffpost blogger Sarah Klien wrote about not too long ago.

    Most importantly, here’s where you go to buy really dope kicks online…

    Evidently, this Thursday is National Food Day. I’m not sure how a person is supposed to keep track of all of this stuff, but at least in this particular case, we can now all consider ourselves in the know. Here’s how to find related activities in your area, should you feel the urge to be part of the official celebration.

    Perhaps something else one might do, for Food Day, is consider ingesting something altogether unfamiliar. Like crickets.

    And while we’re on the topic of food… In an effort to get it together and not be paralyzed by the daily chore of dinner-making, I have decided to cook entirely from the NY Times Cooking site this week. I figured limiting my options would be a good thing (if one can call over 16,000 recipes limited). Tonight we’re having corn risotto, to celebrate the very end of summer corn season…

    Yesterday, at some point…

    redbook oct issue

    I knew it was coming (the photo shoot and the interviews were back in mid July) and I’d even seen a digital version (the photo editor sent me a pdf of our page a few days ago). But it somehow didn’t feel real until my mother walked in with the October issue of Redbook in her hands. And there we were, all smiling and made up and happily sharing our family beauty secrets with the world.

    I loved meeting the other families on the shoot and feel honored to be in such good company. The Redbook crew couldn’t have been lovelier or more professional and Andrew Eccles is a world class photographer who has been shooting beautiful portraits since the olden days of film. But best of all was getting to hang out and play dress up with my mom and my daughter, whose company I adore.

    So a big thank you, Redbook, for giving me the opportunity to remember how lucky I am to have such inspiring women around me!

    Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

    More soaps to love

    Lavender liquid soap (and a Vintage Rose refill) from the Southampton Soap Company

    Lavender liquid soap (and a Vintage Rose refill) from the Southampton Soap Company

    I never thought I’d see the day, but we FINALLY finished the random, overly scented liquid hand soap in our bathroom. Oh happy day. I can now go out and buy something that I actually want to use, instead of being mildly annoyed every time I wash my hands (but not so annoyed that my sense of not wanting to waste anything disappeared…)

    I’d recently bought a really nice healing salve from the Southampton Soap Company, so I headed straight to their table at the local farmer’s market and checked out their soap selection, which is formidable. Their products are all handmade locally, the packaging is understated and beautiful, the all-natural ingredients are carefully sourced and I swear there is a little fairy dust in their salve, but don’t hold me to it.

    I am a fan of soap bars, but everybody else in the family prefers bottles, so we ended up with both. First, an all-natural liquid castille soap set– the pump is filled with Lavender, but we chose Vintage Rose for our refill just to change it up a bit.

    A felted bar of lavender soap from the Southampton Soap Company

    A felted bar of lavender soap from the Southampton Soap Company

    And for me, this amazing felted soap bar. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like a sudsy-gentle-exfoliating-bar-washcloth all in one. I think I may be outing myself as a deep hippie here, but I don’t care. Felted soap bars are the bomb, and I plan to make them a regular part of my life from now on.

    And so should you.

    Here comes the sun


    My slightly tattered bottle of Natural Radiance, an all natural sunscreen with rooibus, chamomile, rose hips, shea butter, and a whole mess of other ingredients that help protect and nurture the skin.

    Sunscreen season is upon us. And while slathering thick layers of zinc oxide on my daughter’s skin brings back memories of my childhood swimming teacher (who would have made a perfect drill sergeant in a WW2 movie) I have been trying my damndest to find some effective all natural alternatives. Both because I try to have my family ingest as few harsh chemicals as possible and because I want us to get as much vitamin D as possible, and most sunscreens cut our bodies’ natural production down to a miniscule amount.

    Enter Loving Care Sun Protection by Natural Radiance. An all natural herbal lotion that is loaded with antioxidants like Rooibus and Green Tea, oils like shea butter, vitamin E and coconut oil for moisture as well as sun protection and over 14 herbs selected for their healing and protecting powers.

    If we are spending the entire day outdoors, at the beach or in some flower-ridden meadow somewhere, I’ll still opt for the somewhat waterproof Badger sunscreen, with that hard-to-rub-in-yet-highly-effective zinc oxide. But for the more typical city-style days of running in and out of buildings, trips on the subway, an hour at the playground before we melt and run into an air conditioned store for shelter, etc, this stuff is perfect. And with these ingredients, it’s like you are giving your skin an herbal tea party.

    What’s not to love about that on a hot summer day?

    As summer approaches, so do the ticks…

    intelligent nutrients tick repellent

    This “perfume” is actually a super effective all natural tick repellant by another name.

    If you spend any amount of time on Long Island, or CT, or basically any place in the Northeast, you know all about ticks. You may even be paralyzed with fright, refusing to go outside or even approach a blade of grass for fear of becoming yet another victim of the dreaded Lyme disease.

    Lyme is quite serious, and every precaution should be made to avoid it. But that does not mean we need to stay indoors, or to spray our backyards to death with horrible poisons that are killing the ticks, sure, but also doing who knows what else.

    The best thing to do is to keep vigilant, use natural repellants, wear shoes outside and then check for the little buggers at the end of the day.

    Last year we discovered the above pictured perfume spray-cum-bug repellant from Intelligent Nutrients and I must say, we have not gotten a tick since we started using it. And by we, I mean my daughter and me. My husband, on the other hand, seems to love ignoring my research and advice, can’t be bothered to use the spray, and has found a whole assortment of the little buggers on him at various points both last summer and this one.

    rose geranium oil

    Rose geranium oil is the most oft cited essential oil for fighting off ticks. It’s become my new best friend.

    I finally put my foot down, as I was the one who had to take the little critters, trapped in a zip lock bag, up to our doctor for testing (the Lyme test done on the actual tick is much more accurate than the human version.) After reading this post about a woman and her dog using (and swearing by) rose geranium oil, I ordered some up and presented it to Josh this past weekend. Happy early Father’s Day, dear!

    So far so good. Plus my husband now smells like a rose bush with a hint of citrus thrown in for good measure.

    MDJunction has some more information on using essential oils to kill ticks, including herbs like eucalyptus, pot marjoram and tansy. They also validate the popularity of rose geranium oil for this same purpose. I haven’t spread my wings any further than the two above mentioned potions (trying to keep my hoarding instincts at bay here…) but here’s an interesting post on making your own all-natural bug sprays that is well worth checking out. And if anybody out there has any other tips for keeping the ticks (and mosquitoes, and flies, and gnats…) away this summer, I’m all ears.

    Because as far as I am concerned, the only good tick is a dead tick. That was never on me to begin with.

    Better… Stronger… Faster… More Productive…

    rocket fuel by juice press

    Rocket Fuel. Brought to you by Juice Press. it totally delivers the goods.

    We are now in the home stretch… the May-into-June-into-summer that all parents of school aged kids alternately live for and dread. There are all sorts of year end activities and recitals and gifts that need to be done and seen and made. And it’s important to note that one’s other, more adult, life doesn’t just kindly move over and give you a bit more room to deal with all of this stuff.

    Oh yeah and in my particular case, my teammate in this parenting adventure has suddenly begun traveling for work far more than the one week a month we had become accustomed to.

    So I have been forced to say a tearful goodby to whatever sleep I may have been having in the recent past.

    But no worries. Because there is a Juice Press quite close to me (I worry that JP is becoming the Starbucks of the cold pressed world, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing) And where there is Juice Press, there is Rocket Fuel. And Rocket Fuel is my new best friend.

    It’s got pear, lemon and ginger juice (yum!) guayusa (a naturally caffeinated, antioxidant rich leaf from South America) and maca (more superfood stuff from South America that gives you energy and evens out any hormonal fluctuations you might be eperiencing) Everything a person needs to be present and awake though these trying times.

    Which is great, because actually all of these celebratory school activities are wonderful moments that I would be heartbroken to sleep through, just because I had a deadline and had to stay up in front of my computer till 2 am the night before editing photos and reckoning (again!) with my overstuffed hard drive.

    (but that’s another story for another time…)