Friday, December 17, 2010

This blog isn't dead yet...

Hello dear readers,
I know it's been a while since the last time I posted something on this blog.
A lot of things have happened this year: some good, some bad, some painful & sad...But life continues.

I'm still working on my book and am very inspired to finish it (soon hopefully). I still would like to add illustrations but haven't decided yet which medium to use: paper cutting, watercolor, collages or pictures of papier mache sculptures...Maybe a little bit of each ;).

I also already have another book project, very artsy, that should include my tea & bodycare recipes...This could be a fun & useful book. But let's finish the current one first!

I just participated in a short story contest organized by a french magazine. I like the story I wrote (original concept, surprise elements, semi-open end and room for imagination) in which, according to a good friend of mine, one can recognize my style of writing (though the jury doesn't know me). It would be nice to win and see my tale published nation-wide in that magazine...But even if I don't, there might be some doors opening with new connections and possibilities. Who knows, right?

That's enough babbling for today, I wish you all happy holidays!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Alchemille's September Newsletter

Dear Friends,

I know it's been a long time since you last received a newsletter from me.
A lot has happened these past few months (including a broken ankle) and I needed time for myself to think & heal ;).

I'm still working on my book of tales and I have decided to write a bilingual book (french-english). I also would like to add some illustrations to complement my writings...I think it's gonna take a few more months to finish but I hope to be done by December.

*Now regarding Alchemille's Garden, I have updated my shop with my autumnal selection of teas, you'll find such blends as:
The d'Automne, Journey to Middle-Earth and Amber Spice Tea just to name a few.
*My Luna/Moon teas are also there by cycle (new moon, full moon, first quarter, last quarter) and as a lunar month pack (Moon Goddess Lunar Pampering Pack).
*You'll also find more healing/medicinal/spiritual tea blends like the WeMoon Herbal Tonic (a personal favorite and deeply nourishing blend) or Good Vibrations (great for healing work).
*For the Tea Afficionado, I offer my "ONE SEASON OF TEA - FALL TEA SUBSCRIPTION" which allows you to enjoy each month a different tea, a different taste and a different experience.(These tea subscriptions also make a nice gift.)
I will mail 1 jar each month, according to the following selection (see listing for details):
>October “Thé du Matin”/ Morning tea (green tea, rosemary, orange peel, rosehips, cinnamon and cloves)
>November L'Orangerie (black tea, rooibos, orange peel, cacao nibs and cinnamon)
>December "Thé à l'églantine" / Rosehip tea (black tea, rosehips, rose petals and cloves)
Please note that I never add any aromas, natural flavors, extracts nor essential oils to my teas.

*Always in the spirit of seasonality, I have reintroduced my Fairy Facial Elixirs (for the Fall: Woodland Fairy and Autumn Fairy) which come in a 1/2 oz dropper bottle as well as my Four Season Skin Elixir which can be used both on face and body and comes in a 2oz dropper bottle.
*I'm also adding new rope incenses...I know these are not the traditional incenses people are used to but they are worth giving a try. For these I use the same quality ingredients as I use for my teas. And as far as I know, I'm the only one making these. The scent comes only from herbs, spices and resins...Nothing else is added: no artificial fragrances, scents nor essential oils.
I create my rope incenses by braiding organic cotton twine (the braiding process induces a somewhat meditational state). The ropes are then soaked for a few weeks in homemade scented tinctures (using herbs, spices and/or resin) and left to dry. My scented tinctures may take at least 1 month to prepare and sometimes require multiple infusions. This type of incense is slow burning, allowing you to control how long and how much incense you wish to burn. You can also choose to cut the rope into pieces. You can use rope incense for meditation, rituals, personal enjoyment or for cleansing/purifying the air or a heavy atmosphere.
I'm currently working on an autumnal incense blend (something woodsy and spicy) that would complement my teas & fairy elixirs nicely ;).
*I still have a few Spice Road EcoBeads (handmade botanical beads with herbs, spices and resins), they smell divine!
*Looking for a gift for someone special? Check my Gift Certificates! He/she will be able to pick the perfect gift for him/herself!
~Be Well~
Alchemille

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alchemille's June & July Newsletter

Dear Friends,
Summer is now here (hope you had a wonderful Solstice) and the sun is shining over our heads (make sure to stay well hydrated - think ice tea and lemonade - and to protect your skin).

I know I've been quiet for some time but good things come out of silence ;). For the past few weeks, I have been working on the writing of my first book which will be a collection of short stories. My goal is to publish it by September, in French first (which is my language after all) then I plan on translating the book into English. That's what is keeping me busy lately...I enjoy writing very much, it's like a rebirth for me. I've always loved books and the power of imagination. The perspective of becoming a writer/storyteller is very exciting!

What can be better than a good book & a cup of tea?

Now as far as teas go, I have currently have most of my Summer selection listed (I will add a few more very soon) : French Riviera, Marrakesh Express, Tisane de Provence, Love Potion, Tisane Indienne (great hot or cold)...Just to name a few ;).

I also have my "One Season of Tea" - Summer Tea Subscription available (July to September) which includes:
Marrakesh Express (green tea, spearmint, peppermint and rose petals), Nights in Provence (lemon balm and lavender) and Caravan Chai (rooibos, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves)...Note that these will also be listed individually.
>>The Spring subscription is still available until the end of June (the teas are also listed individually)<<
I also plan to develop new tea blends inspired by literature: either writers, stories, poems or fictional characters (maybe some from my book-in-writing too)...This can be fun and I'm sure you'll enjoy these blends too.

Herbally Yours (as always),
Alchemille

On the Selfishness & Heartlessness of People

I don't know why people are living in a bubble with blinders. They refuse to see the pain, the suffering, the hunger, the disease and the distress of people and animals around them.
What are they so afraid of: germs or emotional binding?
What scares me the most is to see that children are getting cold and disconnected from the world, immune to everything that makes them children: curiosity, hunger for knowledge, joy of living, compassion, empathy...etc
I'd like to hope that hard times would bring something else than the darkest out of people...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Crafty Wednesdays: Knitting Project

This is my first knitting project using looms. I'm not following any specific instructions or patterns, just what I have in hand: old yarns! These are made of acrylic (I usually only use natural fibers but since this is my first try with loom knitting, if it doesn't come out right it won't be such a big deal): a light beige one with a mohair-like feel and a dark chocolate one (a blend of wool & acrylic).

Since I didn't know if I'd have enough yarn for a big project, I decided to keep it simple and reasonable so I'm making a short sleeve beige sweater with dark brown stripes.
Loom knitting seems pretty easy, straight forward and fast. The instructions about how to start, knit and finish are pretty clear...Except that I chose the double knit and that the finishing instructions for this type of knit weren't very obvious. But I came up with a solution of my own ;).

Of course a double knit requires more time and more yarn but I think that for this type of yarn it was the right choice, so far it looks very pretty. I'm still working on the sleeves (in beige only) with the small straight loom, which are basically 2 scarves. Then I'll use the big straight loom and will knit 2 rectangles (front and back) with both the beige and brown yarns to create large stripes. Even though loom knitting is relatively fast, it still takes time to make something. I expect another 2-3 weeks to finish my project. Naturally this is a simple design. Once I get more comfortable with the basics, I can try augmenting and decreasing the stitches and learn about more complex stitches as well.

I recycled some suede & crochet flowers in various shades of brown from an old sweater and I'd like to turn them into brooches (reinforced with black felt on the back). I think these would look great with my sweater ;).

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mondays in the Kitchen: Tapenade de Haricots Verts / String Bean Tapenade

I'm always looking for good savory snack recipes that are also nutritious (this way I don't have to stuff myself with too many nuts and fruits). I'd love to have a fridge filled with spreads, chutneys and condiments of all sorts...But I'd need a fridge the size of the kitchen wall ;).

Today I opened "Légumes Bio ~ Mode d'Emploi" by Valérie Cupillard (which is basically "organic veggies 101": how to choose them, how to prepare them, what flavor combinations work well and of course...recipes). So I decided to try her "tapenade de haricots verts" which uses string beans, bulbous fennel, a white onion and umeboshi plum juice. I had no fennel and no ume juice...So I went with plan B which worked very well.

I steamed string beans with 2 small spring onions. Once cooled, I pureed the veggies with just enough water (usually I reuse the leftover water in the steamer) then I added some black olive paste/tapenade (which brings a certain depth to the puree), dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper and a splash of EVOO (everything to taste). I stirred everything well and spooned the tapenade into a glass jar. It is very good! It probably keeps for a few days in the fridge but I'm not sure it's gonna last that long...;).

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Quick Cookies for Me...and The Fairies

I had a little sweet tooth but I know that I have to be reasonable with my treats. So I whipped up a quick gluten, egg & dairy free cookie dough (no leavening either) that worked just fine. I love the taste of wild rice flour which is somewhat reminiscent of chocolate to me.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/4 cup wild rice flour
  • 1 tbsp sweet potato flour (you can substitute arrowroot, tapioca or buckwheat flour)
  • 2 tbsp date syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • A splash of oil
  • Dried cranberries (optional ~ mine are apple juice sweetened)
  • Water
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all the flours together. Then add the sweetener, vanilla & oil. Stir well then add the cranberries. Stir again. Pour just enough water to have a sticky dough. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Get a tablespoon worth of dough, roll it between your hands then press onto the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack and enjoy ;).

Variations:
-Replace the cranberries with raisins.
-Add 1 tbsp of cocoa powder and/or chocolate chips.
-Skip the date syrup and use apple juice instead of water.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book in Progress...

So far I already have 4 stories that I need to put down on paper. Walking amongst the elder trees and the wild flowers yesterday has had a rejuvenating & an inspiring effect on me. I know that my project is approved by the Faeries & other benevolent Spirits ;).

After further thinking, I have decided that it would probably make more sense to have 2 editions of the book (with the same illustrations): one in French and the other one in English (with my own translations).

My friend Marie also suggested that I make an audio CD...I will keep this idea in mind.

Friday, April 23, 2010

First Short Story...

I just finished writing my first short story (in french) today. I read it to my friend Marie who told me that she was very impressed...That made my day ;).

I have the project to self-publish a collection of short stories both in French and English, with a few illustrations as well. Ideally before the end of the year (October or November would be great).

The tricky part will be to be as close to the french text as possible. I can sometimes get frustrated by the English language because I can't always find the right nuance and therefore I feel like I can't express myself fully & properly...

For obvious reasons I can't tell you, dear reader, what this first story is about but here are a few hints: a loving & dedicated mother, an ungrateful son, haunting remorse and vengeance from beyond the grave...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Super Natural Beet & Lavender Sorbet - SOS Kitchen Challenge


When superfoods are mentioned, most people think of goji berries and other exotic edibles that come from faraway lands. Well I have some news for you folks: beets are a superfood too! And a versatile one since you can have beets raw or cooked, sweet or savory and warm or cold...

"Beets contain vitamins A, B and C as well as iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, zinc, asparagine, betaine (a substance that regulates gastric pH and facilitates digestion), bioflavonoids & natural sugars. Beets are also known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxifying, immuno-stimulant (by improving cell respiration and tissue oxygenation) & rejuvenating properties. Beets also help stabilize the body's pH (acid-alkaline balance), can help treat chronic infections, skin problems, cancer (particularly leukemia), inflammatory bowel disease and liver disease. Beets may help prevent and treat heart diseases and rheumatoid arthritis."

From "The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health" by Pierre Jean Cousin & Kirsten Hartvig

Here's my humble contribution to the SOS Kitchen Challenge:

SUPER NATURAL BEET & LAVENDER SORBET
(grain free, dairy free, nut free, egg free and sugar free)
Makes 4-6 popsicles (depending on the size of your molds)

Ingredients:
  • 1 decent size organic red beet (or 2 smaller ones)
  • 1 cup boiled water
  • 1 or 2 tsp pesticide free/organic dried lavender (food grade)
  • 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
  • 1 or 2 tbsp raw honey
  1. Wash, peel and cut the beet(s) into pieces. Steam for about 15-20 min or until tender, then let it cool a few minutes.
  2. Prepare a tea with the lavender by infusing 1 or 2 tsp of lavender with 1 cup of boiled water for 5-10 minutes (depending on how strong you like it). Then strain the tea.
  3. Put the beet pieces and the lavender tea in a large bowl and puree thoroughly with a hand blender.
  4. Add the vanilla and 1 or 2 tbsp of honey and puree some more until everything is well blended (give it a little taste to adjust the sweetness if necessary).
  5. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze the sorbet for a few hours.
  6. Enjoy ;)!
Tips & Tricks:
  • Make sure that you're using fresh beets. Older beets will have a more earthy and even slightly bitter taste.
  • I used 2 tbsp of honey and found the sorbet very sweet.
  • The sorbet tastes a little different once frozen: the sweetness is noticeable, the lavender (and its slight bitterness as a strong tea) is toned down as well as the earthiness of the beet.
To find out more about the SOS Kitchen Challenge, go to: http://www.affairsofliving.com/sos-kitchen-challenge/

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On Giving a 2nd (or 3rd) Life to Clothes...


About 7 years ago (I believe during my first few months in California), I bought this hand knit sleeveless jacket in a thrift shop. It is made of a mottled beige wool with wooden buttons. Nothing funky but I always appreciate the time & love spent on knitting or sewing a handmade piece. And this jacket has served me well...It used to be a little too large but the washing machine did its magic and now it fits perfectly ;).
Anyway after 7 years I thought it was time for a little revamping. Where most people would see a boring, uninteresting and/or ugly piece, I see potential and that's why I bought it.
So today I've sewn a few crocheted flowers recycled from an old sweater and added a few buttons as you can see on the picture. My jacket already looks more folksy ;)!
I have some leftover brownish cashmere fabric (that I had bought a few years ago to make my husband a sweater) and plan on making a couple "butterfly" sleeves for my jacket.
To be continued...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Multi-seed Muffin Bread


Egg-free gluten-free breads can sometimes be a bit too crumbly. A muffin size bread can be the solution and a good way to keep track of portions...Not to mention that it is practical for traveling and for picnics.

I adapted the "multi-seed bread" recipe I found in "Delicious Gluten-Free Baking with Buckwheat Flour" by Michelle Brewster with a few adjustments:
  1. I replaced the egg with flaxmeal
  2. Her recipe is sweet, mine is unsweetened so I can have my muffins either with something sweet or something savory
  3. I added a little bit more flour and a little less seeds
I have also baked a mini loaf version of this bread before with great success...

Monday, April 05, 2010

Alternative Cooking Bloggers' Awards

There are a lot of people out there who are suffering from...Modern food! Some know it, some don't. Some have light sensitivities while others suffer from life threatening allergies. For other people the immune system is compromised or the digestive ecosystem has been wiped out.
For all these people food, which is supposed to be what keeps us alive & healthy, has become a source of pain and sadness.

Why? Well, modern food has nothing to do with what your grandparents ate. As a matter of fact, if you read the labels carefully when you go shopping, in every frozen, canned, prepared or ready-to-use meal you'll find 1 or more of the following foods (in their natural and/or many modified forms):
  • Wheat (which has been modified to contain high amount of gluten and is a natural source of glutamic acid. Contains anti-nutrients.)
  • Soy (which contains high amount of phyto-estrogenes as well as aluminium. To be edible, it should be fermented. Also contains anti-nutrients and glutamic acid.)
  • Nightshades (mostly potatoes and tomatoes which contain 4 known types of toxins which can make you seriously sick, not to mention that tomatoes contain glutamic acid.)
  • Yeast (convenient for lazy baking since it makes the dough rise without true fermentation like in sourdough bread. The result is a hard to digest loaf of bread, high in phytates (anti-nutrients) and glutamic acid).
  • Salt (much more than the required daily dosage to make your blood pressure rise, your kidney fail and make you thirsty so that you can drink a gallon of soda afterwards).
  • Sugar (highly refined & addictive and also the cause of a whole lot of diseases & health problems including diabetes, hypoglycemia, tooth decay...etc)
  • High fructose corn syrup (made with pesticide laden GMO corn. The whole process is highly toxic).
  • Hydrogenated oils (oils that have been modified from their natural state for a longer shelf life and to clog your arteries)
  • Eggs (from non-vegetarian chickens fed a vegetarian diet of GMO soy & corn as well as a little flax to cover for the lack of omega 3s. Chickens aren't meant to lay eggs all year long and surely not 24/7.)
  • Pasteurized milk (deprived from the natural nutrients and beneficial bacteria found in raw milk, then loaded with artificial vitamins to compensate for the ones lost during pasteurization (which aren't absorbed by the body). Note that any powder form will most likely contain glutamic acid).
  • Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, nutrasweet, splenda...etc, all known neurotoxins)
  • MSG (the most commonly used neurotoxin. Makes fake and bland tasting food super tasty and addictive.)
I could continue and talk about farmed fish, soy & corn fed farm animals...etc, but this is a vast topic and there are excellent books out there that go into deeper details.

And in the middle of this fake food madness, there are still people fighting to feed themselves and their families the right stuff. Even folks with serious allergies can & should eat real and nutrient-dense foods. Because once upon a time, food was your first (and for some maybe only) medicine. So why should the life & health giving food be poison rather than medicine?

I've never been officially diagnosed with anything but I've always been in tune with my body. I have removed all the foods that seemed to harm me, have done a lot of research & reading and found explanations and answers that no doctor ever gave me. Your body knows what's right for you so you need to listen to your body.

Today I'd like to pay homage to fellow bloggers & cooks who chose the path to health & healing for themselves and their families:
  • Elana from Elana's Pantry has chosen to use almond flour instead of a the usual gluten free flours, starches & gums offered to coeliacs. Her recipes are tasty and nutritious, gluten free & dairy free...You won't feel deprived. She's also the author of "The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook".
  • Kelly from The Spunky Coconut also cooks delicious gluten free, dairy free & sugar free meals (sometimes also egg free and raw). She also has a way with creative baking using combinations one would not normally think of such as buckwheat flour, coconut flour and cooked beans...And you know what? It works! Kelly is also the author of "The Spunky Coconut Cookbook". (I believe she is currently writing a second cookbook...)
  • Kim from Affairs of Living is the queen of innovative, alternative & hypoallergenic cooking. She doesn't try to make a gluten free version of a common dish, she has her own way of cooking. New, tasty, different and nutritious. We both avoid the same foods and love vegetables! (I am looking forward to her future cookbook!)
  • Jennifer from Momma Jen's Hypoallergenic Kitchen Adventures is also a creative cook and often surprises me. She follows the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and there are a few restrictions with this diet (which can be tough for some people). Her cuisine is as natural and nutritious as can be. I have made her eggless bean pancakes a few times (using cooked beans instead of bean flour because commercial bean flours aren't soaked & dehydrated prior to grinding) and they are both filling & delicious!
Be well ;).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Garden Update

Yesterday was a nice day and, since I knew a rainstorm was approaching, I decided to do a little Spring cleaning and finish sowing my Spring veggies. I also got some heirloom strawberries delivered in the mail so I planted them right away! ;)

Here's what I've sown:
Lavender, arugula, french radishes, stinging nettle

What is currently germinating/growing:
Broccoli raab, (bulbous) fennel, dandelion, snow peas, carrots, blueberries, gooseberries

What is ready to harvest:
Spinach, turnip greens, Swiss chard, collard greens

For this Summer (that is if I can find room/large enough pots available), I'd like to try growing Minnesota midget cantaloupes again and maybe some zucchinis/summer squashes. I will most likely also grow 1 tomato plant for Andrew since I don't eat nightshades. No need to grow New Zealand spinach since there's plenty that grows wild on the green belt, just waiting for me ;).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lacto-Fermented Kohlrabi Pickles


We've had a warm spell here for a few days (Santa Ana winds) and during those warm & dry days I usually like to ferment things (whether food or drinks)...Fermentation is fun & rewarding!

I had some kohlrabi in the fridge so I figured it was a good time to try Kim's recipe for pickled kohlrabi spears (she has so many wonderful recipes on her blog...and a cookbook in preparation ;) ). I had to do some slight modifications: I didn't have any dill seeds so I replaced them with anise seeds and only used 1 tbsp salt instead of 2 (my body doesn't tolerate salty foods well and I think that 1 tbsp of salt per quart of water is more than sufficient)...Note that there's no whey in this recipe.

Since the temperatures outside were in the 80s, my kohlrabi fermented in only 24 to 36 hours (the jar on the right in the picture). I'm also having a lemon balm infusion to ferment (with a bit of honey and raisins) but that's another story...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Novelties & Changes at Alchemille's Garden

Dear Friends,
Spring is finally here! Time to rejoice and do all sorts of new, exciting & fun things!
Spring cleaning doesn't seem like much fun but it is often necessary.
We are also having a virtual "Spring cleaning" at Alchemille's Garden, I thought it was time to refocus a bit...
Here are the details of what you can expect to find:
  1. No more skin/bodycare items: as much as I love making and using my oils & creams, they aren't as popular as other funky-looking, artificially good-smelling & totally non-natural cosmetics out there.
  2. I keep the teas and as usual, will offer my seasonal blends ;).
  3. I will bring my rope incenses back. These are soaked for a few weeks in my handmade scented tinctures and smell wonderful burnt or not.
  4. I still carry my tribal candles and now also have paleo bowls made of clay. I am currently working on scented versions of my candles.
  5. I am currently working on a book both in French & English and plan on listing a few of my tales on Etsy within the next few months.
  6. I still offer Faery Oracle readings and am in the process of making rune sets (with instructions) so that you can do your own readings at home, for yourself or for your friends ;).
  7. I plan offering more botanical beads and tribal/ethnic beads as well
  8. I love fabrics and have been making one of a kind textile cards for many years (for all sorts of occasions). I feel the time has come to share them with the world ;).
  9. I'd like to offer ethnic/traditional herb & spice blends for cooking delicious meals in the comfort of your home.
  10. Because we all need comfort from time to time and relief from worries & stress, I will offer you my own worry dolls ;).
Note that it might take at least a few weeks to have all the above listed under my shop. Feel free to check my shop from time to time and thank you in advance for your support & patience...
Green Blessings,
Alchemille

Friday, March 19, 2010

2 Good Finds...


I wanted to buy a Bundt pan for quite some time but all I could find were pans made of aluminium (a no-no in my kitchen) or with a non-stick/Teflon coating (even more of a no-no). Thanks to Kelly from The Spunky Coconut, I learned about ceramic Bundt pans (I don't know why I didn't even search for these since I like glass & earthenware). So I searched on Ebay and found this handmade & signed small Bundt pan (about 6 inches in diameter) at a very good price (since I was the only one to bid on it). It's a plain pan with no frills but its size is perfect for my use. Thanks again Kelly!

The other good find is a (cook)book: "Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache: The ultimate feel-good book of natural cakes that taste naughty" by Harry Eastwood. I had to order this book from UK since it is not sold in the US. What makes it so special? Well, all these baked goods are made of vegetables as their main ingredient. Think pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, beets...But also parsnips and eggplants just to name a few. This book also uses almost exclusively almond flour and rice flour (perfect for my gluten free diet). It is low in fat (fats are not an issue with me) and low in sugar (which I will replace anyway). I will have to tweak the recipes a bit regarding the eggs but they all look tempting and delicious. The book's layout is well done and the pictures are beautiful; it is well worth leaving on the coffee table if you don't intend to bake these goodies (which I doubt)...;).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

French Baking...Gluten Free

As I have already said, I have...ahem...a fairly extensive collection of cookbooks (mostly gluten free). I was just flipping through my french cookbooks today and I noticed there was no xanthan gum nor guar gum anywhere (good! I don't use these anyway).

I also noticed that starches such as arrowroot where used only in small amounts (about 1-2 tbsp for 2 cups of flour or so)...Even better: no spongy nor starchy baked goods.

And I found a lot of dairy free and/or egg free recipes. To my surprise, there are no weird egg replacers and flax meal is rarely used.

So this proves that you can bake a tasty cake (and not a piece of cardboard) without gluten, starch, thickener, eggs or dairy products (I don't mind dairy products as long as they're made of raw milk, which I use to make my own yogurt).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cooking with Flavors from Faraway...

One possible problem about cooking with a restricted diet is, well....boredom. I cook everyday for my husband & myself and even though I am a pretty good cook with a lot of inspiration and creativity (note that I like cooking from scratch), there are times when I don't know what to cook or am just plain not inspired to cook.

I have a pretty extensive collection of gluten free, paleo, SCD/GAPS, hypo-allergenic...etc cookbooks (that I use for inspiration and/or with a little bit of tweaking), some of which I like & use more often than others, but sometimes you need something else...Something comfy, something that brings you back to your roots, something that brings an instant smile to your face.

My father was born in Tunisia so I grew up with the exotic flavors of orange blossom & rose waters, dates, harissa, merguez & couscous...So naturally, when I started cooking I incorporated all sorts of herbs & spices into my dishes.

Now that I'm used to soak, ferment, infuse & (slow) cook nutrient-dense foods I feel the need to reincorporate these flavors of my childhood. I love stews for example, because everything is always cooked to perfection: meat is tender, flavors are fully developed...A few days ago, I made a Moroccan tagine (which is technically a stew) for the first time: grass fed lamb, onions, prunes, cinnamon & almonds. At first I was worried that the cinnamon would be too sweet & overpowering but not at all. It tasted different than what I was used to and my taste buds were nicely surprised. I also felt like I went somewhat back in time since I know that combinations of meat/poultry/fish, vegetables, fruits (fresh or dried), nuts & spices/herbs were used in medieval cooking ;).

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Candles & Bowls

I really enjoy working with clay. Besides its relaxing effect and sensuous touch, it seems to put me in a meditative state. I feel like a kid again; the world can stop turning, I'm happy.


I've been making a few Tribal Candles lately for a customer and figured that I also would like to offer the clay containers, without any wax. Just the plain, minimalistic clay bowls. I call them Paleo Bowls because, like the Tribal Candles, they spiritually reconnect me with the Past & the Ancestors.


I'm also working on scented candles. I won't be using essential oils (that's not my cup of tea nor my area of expertise) nor fragrance oils (I dislike anything unnatural). So I will be experimenting with herbs and resins. I also found naturally scented butters (with botanicals and/or essential oils) that I first need to test for candle making. I know people like scents. I also like scented things from time to time, as long as the scent is natural and not overpowering. We are already exposed daily to so many chemicals and synthetic scents, that I truly enjoy the smell of nothing!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Pre-Spring Harvest

I know it's not quite Spring yet but it surely starts to look like Spring around here. Since the Gods of Rain have been generous with us lately, the ground is getting covered with a wild cloak of green. Nasturtiums and oxalis are to be found almost everywhere along with wild fennel and huge mustard leaves. Even trees of the prunus family (cherries, apples, peaches...) are starting to bloom.

As an apartment gardener, I grow what does best in my containers: mostly greens and herbs. I also grow a few roots vegetables and berries. And I just harvested my first spinach leaves as shown on the picture. I tried growing heirloom varieties of spinach but I had bad luck. This time I tried an new (hybrid) variety called Bordeaux Red Stem and I had no problem at all. The leaves have an arrowhead shape and a red stem. They grew to a pretty decent size but I still have to taste them ;).

Now that the days are getting longer and the sun is returning, I will have to plan for more gardening. I've already sown seeds for a beautiful red stemmed dandelion and ordered some bare root 'Mara des Bois' strawberry plants. This variety is a french heirloom which is basically an improved wild strawberry (in terms of size). But since it's hard to find here in the US, I suspect that they played with strawberry genes a little so that they could recreate this variety (the website doesn't provide clear explanations as to the origin of their Mara strawberries).

Anyway, sometimes heirlooms get lost in time (which is a pity and a shame) and there is a need to re-create them...But does that technically make them hybrids? I try to go with heirloom seeds as much as I can because the taste & appearance of a heirloom edible plant is unbeatable. I'm sure the nutritional content is also superior to modern varieties. And I enjoy the whole process of watching the plant grow...Gardening can really teach you a few things about life!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Latest Creation / Ma Dernière Création

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been doing a little bit of sewing lately. For this scarf, I got inspired by a Japanese sewing book. I used a white vintage lace I've had for many years (without knowing what to do with it), a green scalloped lace and some sheer peach fabric (polyester maybe) that I have left from the costumes I made for Tales from Beyond (Nex's Diner part) a few years ago.
I'm quite pleased with the result, which I find very poetic. I made this scarf for myself but I plan on making other ones in a similar style soon...

Comme j'ai déjà mentionné dans mon précédent billet, je me suis remise à la couture. Pour cette charpe, je me suis inspirée d'un livre de couture Japonais. J'ai utilisé une vieille dentelle blanche que j'avais depuis des années (sans avoir quoi en faire), une dentelle verte plus moderne et un tissu semi-transparent couleur pêche (du polyester je suppose) qui me restait des costumes que j'ai fait il y a quelques années pour Tales from Beyond (la partie Nex's Diner).
Je suis assez satisfaite du résultat que je trouve très poétique. J'ai fait cette écharpe pour moi mais je pense en faire d'autres dans un style similaire très bientôt...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Handmade Life...

Lately my artistic self (which I have neglected for a few years now) has been wanting to express itself. I've always been the artist of the family: painting, drawing, writing poetry and novels, sewing, knitting...
It was a time when herbalism, health & cooking (which I also love) were secondary. Over the years, they've taken the first place and I had to put my needles & paintbrushes aside.
But I've had enough! I feel like my imagination (and my inner world) has been taken over by everyday life & chores. And I want it back!
I have tons of fabrics and yarns waiting to be used...And I just ordered a couple Japanese sewing books (with very cute clothing patterns) so that I can redo my wardrobe using my stock of fabrics (and who knows, if I make something nice enough for me maybe I can offer to make it for somebody else?) ;).
I also started to knit a short sleeve sweater using a couple knitting looms and some old acrylic yarns with a mohair feel (I'm not a big fan of acrylic but these were nice looking yarns and I've had them for several years now without knowing what to do with them). I wasn't sure I'd have enough yarn for a long sleeve sweater and I'm also new at loom knitting...But so far, my little project is looking good ;).
I haven't forgotten about my book project but the original idea is evolving. I want it to be truly me and something I can be proud of. So if it means taking more time that I originally thought I needed, so be it...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Alchemille's Garden - February 2010 Newsletter

Dear Friends,
Spring is approaching slowly but surely and we are already celebrating its arrival at Alchemille's Garden!

*TEA SELECTION OF THE MONTH*: LOVE POTION
To celebrate Love, not only at Valentine's Day but all year long!
The Love Potion is a blend of pesticide-free rose petals, pesticide-free jasmine blossoms, organic lavender & organic cinnamon.

For the new season, I also recommend the following teas:
  1. Madame Butterfly: a blend of white tea with lilac, pesticide-free rose petals & pesticide-free jasmine blossoms.
  2. Morning by the Countryside: 100% organic, caffeine free and hand blended with organic lemon thyme, organic spearmint, organic sweet marjoram, organic basil and organic rosehips (And a personal favorite that deserves to be better known!)
  3. Cottage Fairy Blend: organic spearmint, organic sweet marjoram, organic lemon verbena and pesticide-free rose petals.
All these teas (and more) can be found here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Alchemille?section_id=5096792

*FAIRY BEAUTY & SPRING BODYCARE*:
  1. Calendula Spring Balm: a natural lip balm that protects and moisturizes your lips. The Spring balm is herbally infused with calendula, which is one of the most gentle & healing herbs an herbalist can have ;).
  2. The Dryad Cream: inspired by the Dryads, which are tree nymphs/female tree spirits in the Greek Mythology. Handmade with organic sweet almond oil, plum kernel oil, wildcrafted mango butter, unrefined beeswax, organic aloe vera gel & vitamin E (a natural antioxidant & preservative). This cream has a natural almondy scent that I love!
  3. Spring Fairy Facial Elixir: this wonderful facial oil contains sunflower oil, camellia oil, organic rosehip seed oil, plum kernel oil and a touch of vitamin E (natural preservative and antioxidant).
For more details & health benefits, go to: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Alchemille?section_id=5101995

*THE SPRING TEA SUBSCRIPTION IS NOW AVAILABLE* and covers the months of April, May & June.
It includes the following teas:
  1. April: French Riviera (rooibos, rose petals, lavender, rosehips & calendula)
  2. May: Timeless Tea (white tea, rose petals & lavender)
  3. June: Tisane de Provence (thyme, rosemary, lavender & lemon balm)
I offer seasonal tea subscriptions so that you, fellow tea afficionado, can enjoy each month a different tea, a different taste and a different experience. These tea subscriptions also make a nice gift.

ONE SEASON OF TEA” is a seasonal subscription that allows you to receive 3 months worth of freshly blended natural/organic tea (3 2oz glass jars w/reusable organic cotton muslin bags).
The first shipment will take place during the first month of the chosen season.
Feel free to contact me if you have any question or if you are interested in a yearly subscription.
NOTE THAT I ONLY USE ORGANIC, PESTICIDE FREE & ETHICALLY WILDCRAFTED HERBS & TEAS.

The Winter Tea Subscription is still available (January, February, March).
For more info about the Tea Subscriptions, go to: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Alchemille?section_id=5038245

Last but not least, I now offer textile/knit jewelry items, made upon request/special order only.
Here's my first necklace: WILD PLUM

Herbal Blessings,
Alchemille

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Agave syrup: the good, the bad & the ugly

Like a lot of people I've been attracted to agave syrup because it's a natural and low GI sweetener. I've always found it a little too sweet and when I tasted it pure, it left a weird sensation in the back of my throat (a little like the tingling/burning sensation you get when having pure honey with a sore or irritated throat)...But I used it nonetheless, for baked goods mostly.

Then I learned that it wasn't liver friendly and with my history of hypoglycemia (and sensitive liver), I stopped using it right away.

Now I know that agave syrup is not raw (but highly refined), not natural, not traditional and...not even healthy! Just another sketchy "healthy" sweetener on the market...

http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nectar-good-or-bad/

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New Year's Resolutions for 2010

A few dreams to realize and a few things to improve:
  1. Write and self-publish my book (which includes translations, illustrations and more), hopefully within the year
  2. Start exercising more regularly (may need to find a suitable routine)
  3. Continue to cook nourishing foods & make herbal medicine (while spending a little less time in the kitchen)
  4. Continue to explore the wonderful world of fermented foods & beverages
  5. Start meditating again to find balance, soothe my nerves & be less grouchy
  6. Use my time more wisely
  7. Be more organized
  8. Be more positive & joyful
  9. Let my inner child out & be true to myself
  10. Be more creative
  11. Learn more about the energetics of foods & herbs
  12. Watch less TV and start reading my 500+ books
  13. Stop buying books (unless absolutely necessary)
  14. Start sewing & knitting more
  15. Start painting & drawing again
  16. Make more time to take care of myself...Naturally!
  17. Make my little kitchen garden thrive
  18. Be a little bit less introspective
  19. Be more loving
  20. Find my dream home with a garden and/or woods nearby
  21. Work more deeply with Nature & the Spirit Worlds
  22. Indulge very reasonably (not everyday) with homemade, natural & sugar free sweets (using very low amounts of dried fruits, honey, dark maple syrup, date molasses, coconut sugar/syrup or boiled cider)
  23. Continue to make homemade chocolates ;)
  24. Continue living simply, honestly, naturally and a bit more thrifty & frugally
  25. Simply live & be!...
CURRENT MOON

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