Bring Out the Best Skin Ever

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Fragrance, Wellness

Even in her 80s, my Auntie Jo had beautiful skin, which I attributed, in part, to her lifelong use of cold cream. In her day, it was common to cleanse the face of dirt and makeup by slathering on a thick, oil-based cream, then wiping it away with a warm, wet washcloth. Her preferred brand was Albolene, and I used to love dipping my fingers in the large jar as a kid while she went through her evening ablutions.

Having seen her perform the ritual numerous times, I was accustomed to the practice of using oils to “wash” the skin, which is why I was eager to try the Best Skin Ever line of cleansing oil blends from Living Libations.

According to the company’s website, “Washing the face with pure pressed plant oils is an ancient Ayurvedic and gracious gypsy method to cleanse and gently exfoliate the skin.” If you’re like me, you just tried to say “gracious gypsy” five times fast, then you added several of these exotic elixirs to your cart.

Featuring a heady medley of natural essences in a base of jojoba and virgin coconut oils, these potent potions cleanse and soften* skin at the same time while leaving behind an intoxicating fragrance. My favorites are Lavish Abundance (who could resist that name?), Neroli (like an orange tree in full bloom), and Tropical (island flowers with Hawaiian sandalwood).

Unlike the cold creams of old, which contained mineral oil and petrolatum (dead organisms), Best Skin Ever oils are all plant-based and bursting with life. It only takes a minute or two of massaging them into the skin before they are absorbed completely, leaving no oily residue. The only thing that lingers is the lush aroma.

I am a fairly frugal person, but I lost all sense (and cents) over these scents. While I used to wash-and-go, now I tarry over my toilette, so if you haven’t taken the time recently to stop and smell the roses (and the jasmine and the gardenia and the orange blossoms…), bring out the Best Skin Ever and let it bring out the best in you.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Living Libations Best Skin Ever

 

Instructions for how to use these oils for cleansing can be found below the description of each blend on the Living Libations website.

As of this writing, The Raw Food World is having a “Below Cost” sale on Best Skin Ever blends for a limited time, so get yours at an incredible discount while supplies last. These are the 50 ml sizes, which are bigger than they look in pictures and come in attractive frosted glass bottles with wooden caps and a convenient plastic pump. You can use the coupon code “honeymoon” at checkout for an additional 7% off your order. Stock up!

 

*I used to be a product trainer for a skin and hair care company, and it still makes me a little crazy when people refer to oil as a moisturizer. Oil is an emollient, which makes skin soft and supple, but can’t moisturize, because it contains no moisture (i.e. water). Oil can act as a protective barrier to hold in existing moisture, or be blended with water and an emulsifier to create a moisture cream, but it will not moisturize skin on its own. For a moisturizing effect, apply oils immediately after taking a shower, while the skin is still damp, or hold a wet washcloth to your face for a few minutes before massaging in the oil.

 

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More Powder to You

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

Readers of this blog know that I like to use an unorthodox hair wash in place of shampoo. As someone who’s also used henna to dye my hair and clay masks to deep-cleanse my scalp, I’m comfortable playing with paste and mud when it comes to my hair care regimen, which is why I pounced on this trio of plant powders from Khadi Natural.

Amla, reetha, and skikakai have a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine. When the fruits of these plants are dried, ground into powder, and mixed with water to make a paste, they provide numerous benefits for the hair and scalp.

Amla, which comes from the Indian gooseberry fruit, is high in vitamin C, a key nutrient in slowing the effects of aging. It is believed that using amla paste and oil on the hair and scalp can prevent hair loss and premature graying. When used in conjunction with henna, amla can improve dye uptake and intensify hair color.

The soapnut tree, known as reetha in Hindi, produces a fruit that contains saponins: natural surfactants that gently remove dirt and oil. (Soapnuts make a surprisingly effective organic laundry detergent that is quite capable at cleaning without harsh chemicals.)

The pod-like fruit of shikakai can also cleanse the hair, but is primarily touted for its conditioning and detangling effects. It is said to strengthen hair from the roots and promote hair growth.

I have been experimenting with this trio and found that each plant works well for different purposes. Unlike my sweet-smelling hair wash, these powders are “earthy,” to say the least. The upside is that there is no lingering odor once they’ve been washed out. I applied each of them in the same way by mixing equal parts powder and aloe vera gel in a small bowl before working the paste into wet hair. (I discovered that using aloe gel in place of water gives the paste some slip, which makes it easier to massage into the hair and scalp.) For my medium-thick, long hair, 1-2 tablespoons of powder with an equal amount of aloe gel was sufficient for each application.

Reetha worked best as a cleanser. It actually foamed up a bit, like soap, and removed all traces of oil and dirt. This is something I might use once a week or every two weeks to remove buildup and clarify the scalp.

The amla paste did not work for me as a shampoo, leaving some oil behind (and necessitating a follow-up wash), but I’ve found that it makes a great dry shampoo. With its neutral tan color, it blends well with my brownish-blonde hair,* and just ½ teaspoon of the dry powder massaged through the scalp absorbs oil and livens locks on days when there’s no time to wash.

Another way to receive the benefits of amla is to mix 2 teaspoons of powder with 8 oz. of hot water, steep until the liquid cools, strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and pour into a dropper bottle. Apply the liquid to the scalp a couple of times a week, massage in, and let dry. (There’s no need to wash it out—simply brush hair when dry.)

The real star of this lineup, in my opinion, is shikakai. It worked as both an effective hair wash and a stellar conditioner, leaving my hair feeling softer and more manageable than I’ve EVER felt it. I noticed the difference from the moment I rinsed it out in the shower and continued to feel it when my hair was dry. I have no idea what chemical constituents in the fruit are responsible for this effect, but it’s remarkable. Follow the directions for steeping above (replacing amla with shikakai) and strain into a spray bottle for spritzing on dry hair between washes to boost shine and manageability.

As with my Terressentials hair wash, combing out wet hair after washing with these powders is quick, easy, and painless—no conditioner required.

For taming all types of tresses, these plants are a natural, so if you’re searching for hair care solutions that have stood the test of time, more powder to you!


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Amla, Reetha, and Shikakai Hair Powders

 

As of this writing, the Khadi Hair Care Combo is no longer available from Amazon, but the company sells individual tins of amla, reetha, and shikakai hair powders on their website. Alternatively, a Google or Amazon search (e.g. “organic amla hair powder”) will turn up numerous retailers and purchasing options.

 

*For darker hair colors, add unsweetened cocoa powder until the desired shade is achieved.

 

Living Memori

Author: Kirsten K., Fragrance, Wellness

One of my favorite examples of a memento mori, “All Is Vanity” was drawn by illustrator Charles Allan Gilbert when he was just 18 years old.

Death is in the air at this time of year. Reminders of our mortality abound in the form of styrofoam headstones on suburban hillsides, ghost-shaped bed sheets billowing from branches, and costumed skeletons stalking the streets. All Hallow’s Eve gives way to Día de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, on which family and friends remember loved ones who have died. At Catholic school, where Kirsti and I met, All Souls’ Day was observed each November 2nd to commemorate the souls of Christians who’ve passed on (sorry, heathens, you’re S.O.L.—Souls Outta Luck).

It is in this “spirit” that natural perfumer Mandy Aftel created Memento Mori for Aftelier, her Berkeley, California-based fragrance atelier (clever!). Memento mori is Latin for “remember that you have to die,” and this sentiment has been depicted in art throughout the ages to remind us that our time in these bodies is both fragile and fleeting. To create a similar work of art using her perfumer’s palette, Mandy sought to “capture the musk-like smell of skin” with aromatic essences ranging from ambergris to wood violet.

When I first inhaled the scent, it reminded me of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo in New Orleans, a city that has itself elevated the celebration of life and death to an art form. There is something exotic, yet comforting, about the fragrance—a recognition of the simultaneous yearning to explore the new and unusual while clinging to the familiar and dearly beloved (or departed). I don’t know if I was influenced by the description, but it does call to mind the scent of sun-warmed skin, especially when emanating from the warmth of my own skin.

Mandy has said that Memento Mori was a deeply personal perfume for her to create, but perfume is also deeply personal to the wearer, both in the choice of fragrance and how it morphs and changes on each individual to create a unique blend of scent and self. It is a living thing, which is appropriate for a composition meant to remind us that, though our time here may be short-lived, it should be well-lived. So seize the day AND the spray, because Memento Mori may be one of the finest fragrances in living memory.


Stuff  Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Memento Mori

 

Memento Mori is also available as a 2 ml miniature or 8 ml (¼ oz.) liquid perfume. Not ready to commit? Try a sample.

 

Out for Dragon’s Blood

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

If you watch Game of Thrones, you already know what dragon’s fire does to enemy lines, but do you know what dragon’s blood does to facial lines? Croton lechleri, a flowering plant commonly known as “dragon’s blood,” produces a deep red sap that has both medicinal and cosmetic benefits. Its natural latex forms a protective barrier on the skin, acting as a liquid bandage to stop bleeding and speed the healing of wounds and other skin disorders. (When added to hair gel, it also helps smooth split ends while holding styles in place.)

In the short term, dragon’s blood can plump the skin, giving the appearance of smaller pores and smoother lines. Simply squeeze a few drops into the palm of one hand and rub with the fingers of the other hand until the sap turns white, then spread evenly onto the skin. It creates an almost imperceptible second skin that gives a refined, matte look. Dragon’s blood is also high in antioxidants and taspine, which promotes tissue regeneration and elasticity with regular use.

But the benefits of this red resin go more than skin deep. I initially bought dragon’s blood for the intriguing name and the fact that it really does look like blood, but I discovered that it’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for a variety of physical issues, both internal and external. I will not list them all here, because the good folks at The Raw Food World have done that for me (link below), but I’ve been known to swirl a few drops around in my mouth to encourage healthy gums. It always seems a little magical to ingest dragon’s blood, no matter how mundane the reason.

Now that I’ve spilled the beans about this fantastical beauty secret, you’ll be out for dragon’s blood, so tip the scales in your favor and enjoy skin that’s fit for a queen.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Dragon’s Blood

 

From now through the end of September, The Raw Food World is offering Dragon’s Blood at cost ($10.46, reg. $14.95). For the full list of September’s “At-Cost” Specials, click here. Enter the code “honeymoon” at checkout to get an additional 7% off your order.

 

Taking the Waters

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Cold Drinks, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Savories, Sweets, Wellness

Here in Southern California, we’re on the tail end of yet another summer heat wave. It feels like we’ve been pummeled with them this year, barely having time to enjoy a week of “cooler” temps (90s instead of 100s) before the next one rolls in. This latest wave brought some dreaded humidity that made going outside feel like stepping into a wet sauna. Ugh. We’re only midway through the season, so to keep my cool and freshen up when there’s no time for taking a bath, I’ve been taking the waters.

I discovered the culinary delights of rose water and orange blossom water when I got to know my Persian co-workers many years ago. They explained that Middle Eastern cooks use these floral waters in cooking and baking the way that most Americans use vanilla. I quickly learned that the waters also make fragrant and refreshing toners and tonics. During the summer, my favorite cooling trick is to pour them into spray bottles and keep them in the fridge for sweetly-scented spritzing throughout the day.

For years, I could only find Indo-European brand rose and orange blossom waters at Whole Foods and the ethnic foods aisle of some chain grocery stores, but then a large Middle Eastern market opened a few miles from my house and introduced me to a whole new world of culinary waters. There were familiar ingredients, like dillweed, cumin seed, and licorice, alongside less common ones, such as borage, sweetbriar, and willow, but some of the names were unrecognizable to me. What the heck is hedysarum? And fumitary water sounds like a treatment you’d be given on the road to wellville.

I bought them all.

Since I’m more of a baker than a cook, the dillweed and cumin have languished on a shelf, but orange blossom continues to be a favorite scent, and a rose by any other name—whether Naab or Ghamsar Kashan—smells as sweet. A whiff of willow holds hints of violet and rose, while fumitary emits the unexpected essence of peppermint. On sweltering summer nights, nothing beats a mist of mint water on sheets, pillows, and overheated skin, especially under the cooling currents of a fan.

Many of the descriptions online recommend taking these waters as a tonic beverage with plain water and sugar added. According to one, chicory water can “refine the blood,” promoting skin and liver health. Another claims that fenugreek water helps lower blood sugar and strengthen hair. Willow is said to stimulate the appetite, while fumitary (sometimes called fumitory) is beneficial for treating eczema and psoriasis. Hedysarum, which has a flavor completely unfamiliar to my American palate, tastes slightly medicinal, with a sharp earthiness and a trace of fruit that is both strange and exotic … and, apparently, useful for whooping cough.

In addition to Indo-European, I have found culinary waters from Cortas, Al Wadi, and Sadaf, but the largest selection is produced by Golchin. Most of them are only $3-5 a bottle, so stock up this summer and hydrate liberally, inside and out, because taking the waters is (almost) as therapeutic as a trip to the spa.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Culinary Waters

 

If you don’t live near a Middle Eastern market and can’t find these culinary waters at your local grocery store or gourmet food shop, many are available online from Persian Basket.

 

Turn to Mushrooms

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Wellness

In a recent email to his subscribers, Tim Ferriss recommended the Superfood Mushroom Sampler Box from Four Sigmatic. Despite our sleep mask setback, I decided to order the box after reading about Tim’s experience with their mushroom coffee: “I was on FIRE for the entire day. I got more done that day than three or four days prior to that.” For a product that claims to deliver energy and focus with less than half the caffeine of regular coffee and none of the jitters, this was a ringing endorsement.

The “Finnish Funguys” at Four Sigmatic combine mushrooms, adaptogens, and superfoods to make earthy elixirs with nootropic properties. Translation: these plant-based brews can improve mental clarity, enhance memory, and increase productivity.* I was excited to try the samples, including two coffees, two hot cocoas, and four tea-like blends, but when I told Kirsti that I’d ordered mushroom coffee, her reaction was immediate and emphatic: “Yuck!” I thought she’d be intrigued, having just returned from a trip to Finland, where she found both the country and the people to be beautiful and charming, but she’s a coffee purist who was horrified at the thought of a fungus among us. Her too cool for toadstools attitude meant that I was on my own with this experiment.

Check out the effects of coffee #onshrooms.

I’d been expecting the mushroom coffee to taste just like java, but it had a slightly burnt flavor that wasn’t wholly unpleasant, although it wouldn’t pass muster with a coffee connoisseur. What I didn’t actually expect was the physical and mental boost I experienced during the day. I’d already been at work for hours flitting from project to project and talking a mile a minute before it occurred to me that this excellent new work ethic might simply be the effects of my morning joe. I stopped to check in with myself: no jitters or agitation, merely a feeling of energy and drive.

I waited a couple of days and tried the second packet of coffee. Again, I felt that increased and sustained energy as I went about my day. Since I’m not usually a strong placebo responder, I can only attribute the vroom to the ‘shroom. I’ve tried the hot cacao mixes (not sweet enough for me, but easily remedied) and the four elixirs, which tasted like bitter herbal tea. The addition of stevia leaf to Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane and Reishi softens the edge and imparts a light sweetness, but Chaga is best downed like a shot. To help make sense of its sampler, the company has compiled this handy guide, or enroll in their free Mushroom Academy.

The brew that started it all may be more “champignon of coffee” than champagne of coffee, but if you’re looking for a pick-me-up at work that won’t get you worked up, a comforting cup of Four Sigmatic will make you turn to mushrooms. So live like the Funguys and give these fungi a try.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Four Sigmatic Superfood Mushroom Sampler Box

 

As of this writing, the Superfood Mushroom Sampler Box is sold out, but Four Sigmatic products are available separately or in discounted bundles.

For a more in-depth review of Four Sigmatic and their mushroom coffee, visit Nootropedia.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, so nobody’s minding the spore. Drink responsibly.

 

Mask in the Light

Author: Kirsten K., Wellness

“She was blind-ed by the light…”

My bedroom window faces east, and each year around the 1st of June my room lights up like the 4th of July. The angle and position of the rising sun cause laser-like beams of light to find their way through cracks in the blinds and directly onto my pillow. As readers of this blog know, I’m NOT a morning person, so this four-alarm fire at the crack of dawn is a rude awakening. There’s also a street light outside my window that, with its new energy-efficient LEDs, turns midnight into high noon. What’s a nyctophile to do?

I’ve considered and rejected blackout curtains for a number of reasons, so for years my solution has been to wear a sleep mask, but finding one that fits properly and meets all of my needs has proven more challenging than finding the perfect bra (men, you’ll have to trust me on this). Reviews have not been helpful, because people have different sleep habits and quirks when it comes to something covering their eyes. Tim Ferriss, who rarely steers me wrong, raved about a mask that I couldn’t manage to wear for a single night.

A night light is a no-no for quality sleep.

One feature I’ve discovered I MUST have in a sleep mask is eye cavities. You’ll never go back to a flat strip of material once you’ve worn a mask that allows you to open and close your eyes freely. The mask must also be soft, so it doesn’t cut into my skin, but sturdy enough to keep its shape and prevent any material from touching my lids or lashes. The strap needs to be snug, but not so tight that it gives me a headache. The Velcro should be adjustable, but the ends must meet neatly so that it doesn’t get caught in my hair. That’s a tall order, but I’m just getting started.

The primary purpose of a sleep mask is to block out light, and this is more important—and difficult—than you might think. While some people are sensitive and can be awakened by the barest light slipping in around the edges, deep sleepers can also be negatively affected by too much light. Scientists have found that even a typical night light can interfere with the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall and stay asleep. When you consider our exposure to artificial lights and computer, phone, and TV screens before bed and (often) during sleep, it’s amazing we aren’t all zombies (World War 💤). When I worked at an alternative healthcare center, one of the most common complaints among clients was insomnia. Maybe everyone just needed to cut the lights.

Eye cavities and a nose pad block out light.

I’ve always enjoyed nighttime, but I never experienced the bliss of sleeping in complete darkness until I found a sleep mask that blocked out ALL light. Unfortunately, I could only achieve this sightless sensation by lying perfectly still on my back, a position I can maintain for about ten minutes, tops. I move around a lot during the night and prefer to sleep on my side, so I need a mask that moves with me. Unless you attach it to your face with duct tape, however, even the best masks will let in some light when it comes to restless and/or side sleepers, but blocking out most—or even some—light is much better than nothing.

I have used and discarded several sleep masks over the years. Like many relationships, things usually start out great, but then you find something to complain about. I dallied with one that I really liked, but the cover started to fall apart after a couple of washes. Another was just right…until the foam began to disintegrate. I’ve been through straps that have lost their elasticity and others that have become hopelessly tangled in my hair. One mask pinched my nose, while another left crescent marks on my cheeks. I’ve slept with a bunch of losers trying to find The One, but I’ve gone steady with my current piece for almost a year and things are going well, so I’m finally ready to S.W.O.O.N. over it.

Escape™ into sleep with this luxury mask.

Dream Essentials sells a variety of sleep masks, from low cost to luxury, but while you might be tempted to try one of their aromatherapy, silk, or brightly patterned masks, I recommend the Escape™ Luxury Sleep Mask. With its contoured construction, plush material, adjustable strap, and eye cavities, it checks all the boxes. The mask was slightly stiff when I first started to use it, but became more flexible with repeated wear. Some light does sneak in when I’m not lying on my back, but I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Until Elon Musk turns his attention to creating sleep masks, I’ll continue to enjoy a Sleep Worthy Of One’s Nights with this essential accessory.

Since watching Sleepless in America and reading The Sleep Revolution, I’ve come to realize that getting quality sleep on a regular basis is one of the most important things we can do for our health and well-being, so be sure to slip on this luxury mask from Dream Essentials at bedtime and you’ll go out like a light.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Dream Essentials® Escape™ Luxury Sleep Mask

 

The Escape™ Luxury Sleep Mask is also available from Amazon.

 

This is my 100th individual post for The Swoon Society! It’s been a lot of work, so I think I’ll don my mask and celebrate by taking a nap. 😴

 

Take a Baobab

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Wellness

I first encountered the baobab tree when reading The Little Prince in school. I assumed that the pesky plant with the funny name* on the volcanic asteroid was fictional, so I was surprised to learn later that it was a real tree on planet Earth. I can be forgiven for thinking that the baobab was made-up, though, because a) the name, and b) have you seen one? It actually looks like it’s from an alien world. I find it ironic that the tree is native to subtropical Madagascar, because it doesn’t provide much shade from the sun, unless you stand in the shadow of its massive trunk. It does, however, provide a fruit that’s been gaining buzz recently as a superfood.

While I believe eating a balanced diet is more important than fixating on so-called “super” foods, I also believe that vitamin supplements should come from whole food sources. The powdered fruit of the baobab tree is high in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that promotes skin elasticity, strong bones, and vascular health by helping the body build and maintain connective tissue. Plus, no scurvy! Baobab fruit is also a good source of copper, iron, potassium, zinc, and fiber. The powder is tart and slightly sweet, so it mixes well in yogurt (I prefer the coconut milk yogurt alternative from So Delicious) and can be dissolved in warm or hot water with a little honey for a refreshingly sweet-and-sour sip.

While I could get my vitamin C by eating citrus fruits, it’s much more fun to supplement with baobab powder. I dare you to say the name without smiling. It’s exotic and tasty, and you don’t have to deal with seeds or pith (I have texture issues with most fruits and prefer to eat them in smoothie—or pie—form). Vitamin C has become synonymous with healthy immune function, so rather than take two pills and call your doctor in the morning, make the call to take two teaspoons of baobab in the morning and you’ll feel super all day.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Davidson’s Organic Baobab Powder

 

I discovered Davidson’s Baobab Powder while visiting their website to order more of my favorite rose tea, but there are other companies that sell organic baobab powder, including Baobest and Organic Burst.

 

*In my search for the proper pronunciation of baobab, I’ve come across equal instances of bow-bab (as in “take a bow”) and bay-o-bab. Since I’ve always pronounced it as bow-bab, I’m sticking with that.

In fairness, only six of the nine species of baobab trees are native to Madagascar, and only one—Adansonia grandidieri—has that distinctive, otherworldly look.

Standard disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

Hive Talkin’

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Sweets, Tea, Wellness

Last weekend, I attended an event for Earth Day that included a presentation by The Valley Hive, a beekeeping outfit based in the northeast San Fernando Valley. They were invited to discuss the threat to honeybees and what’s being done to protect them—and, by extension, our food supply. This was serendipity, because I’d been wanting to learn more about The Valley Hive since visiting their kiosk at a local mall and tasting a “flight” of honeys.

Head beekeeper Keith Roberts led the presentation with an entertaining and informative talk about the tools and techniques used in beekeeping. He shared some surprising facts about honeybees, which are more fascinating than I’d imagined. Did you know that a hive functions as a pure democracy, with the bees making decisions by consensus that, scientists have discovered, are correct about 98% of the time? We could learn a lot from them about cooperation vs. competition.

But there IS some competition, which occurs when a queen dies or disappears from the hive. Sensing her absence, the bees will start feeding large amounts of royal jelly to a number of larvae. This high-protein substance causes the developing bees to transform into queens, which, upon hatching, will engage in a fight to the death until a single victor emerges. If one of the queens should hatch before the others, she will spear her remaining sisters in a Shakespearean act of mass regicide (and a few other -cides). Hamlet’s got nothing on the hive.

Despite the drama, this story has a sweet ending. The bees make and store honey for food, but produce much more than they actually need, so we humans can skim a little off the top without harming the hive. Honey is rich in antioxidants and never spoils. It has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties and can speed the healing of wounds and burns. While I hear every spring about eating local honey to protect against seasonal allergies, Keith says the results of this practice have never exceeded the placebo effect in scientific studies (having recently read Suggestible You by Erik Vance, I’ve developed a healthy respect for the placebo effect).

Still, it’s always a good idea to support your friendly neighborhood beekeepers by purchasing local honey (defined as anything within 300 miles). Honey is naturally viscous, so large-scale producers must heat it above a certain temperature in order to fill assembly line bottles quickly, which destroys some of its beneficial properties. If your honey has a thin consistency or never crystallizes, it’s probably been subjected to high heat or “honey laundering,” so buy raw and local whenever possible.

Over the years, I’ve purchased many different varietals of honey, from alfalfa to tupelo, but I’d never had the opportunity to try several all at once until sampling the lineup from The Valley Hive. With just a taste of each, I was able to compare the nuances of avocado, buckwheat, orange blossom, sage, and wildflower honeys. It’s amazing to discover how different they are when experienced side-by-side. Sage and orange blossom, both light and extra sweet, are perfect for adding to hot or iced tea. Buckwheat is dark and strong, so it pairs well with pungent cheeses and imparts richness to barbecue sauce. Avocado was described to me as savory and has an almost buttery flavor, making it ideal for dressings and sauces. I bought a jar of wildflower honey for myself (because floral) and a jar of avocado for Kirsti, who likes to cook.

The best news we heard was that honeybee populations have been steadily rebounding over the past few years after the devastation caused by Colony Collapse Disorder. While CCD continues to be an issue, its causes are better understood today as beekeepers, scientists, and agribusiness work together to protect these vital contributors to the well-being and beauty of our ecosystem.

Small-scale beekeepers are usually passionate about the environment and the integrity of their honey, so remember that the “buzz” word is local. By supporting local beekeepers, you also support local agriculture and promote diversity, so get a bee in your bonnet to find a small-batch producer near you (or online), because when honeybees thrive, life is sweeter for everyone.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Valley Hive

 

 

Floral Dose

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits, Wellness

This post is guaranteed to raise your spirits, because we’ve found the cure for the common cocktail. Readers of this blog know that Kirsti and I swoon over floral flavorings, so we almost slipped into a coma when we discovered this bouquet of botanical drink mixers from Floral Elixir Company. With flavors ranging from Orchid and Orange Blossom to Lemon Verbena and Lavender, these sweet syrups will breathe new life into your libations.

Floral Elixir Company handcrafts its line of 13 drink mixers using only natural herbs and flowers. This includes its rainbow of vibrant colors, which is created from a blend of botanicals. The syrups can be mixed with sparkling water to make singular sodas, or used to sweeten lemonade and iced tea. Behind the bar, these elixirs transform mixed drinks into magical potions with palliative properties.

Years ago, Kirsti hosted a cocktail party with a self-serve bar where guests could mix floral and herbal liqueurs (like St. Germain, Crème de Violette, and Canton) with sparkling wine. It was a huge hit, but these botanical syrups from Floral Elixir Company offer even more variety and control for amateur and master mixologists alike. Get started with these recipes and grow your repertoire.

Floral elixirs are the Rx for refreshment, so we prescribe an oral dose several times per day, or as needed, to restore well-being.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Floral Elixir Company Botanical Drink Mixers

 

In their online shop, Floral Elixir Company offers a Mini Elixir Master Set , which includes sample sizes of all their flavors, as well as cocktail kits for Champagne Lovers, Tea Lovers, and everything in between.