Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nature & Art in Our Children's Lives

I am working away at my new book and hoping for input from all of you committed educators, parents, grandparents, doting aunts and uncles, or just plain child lovers. Do you have any specific art projects or nature crafts or adventures you would like to share with me? I cannot guarantee that it will make it into my new book, but anyone who reads my blog will have ready access to your comments. I already have many pages of this section completed, but I am always searching for something magical that can change a child's life.

Here is an example of a craft that I consider magical; it is a skeletonized tomatillo husk that I couldn't bear to compost.

So I looked at it and thought that if I just added a handle and some beads, it would look like a faerie purse. It was difficult to photograph, but look closely. If you can see inside the lacy purse, you'll also see a tiny, tiny, beaded ring that I included as a gift from the faeries. I am going to tuck this purse and ring into my granddaughter's faerie mailbox, which will be the subject of a future entry.

To thank you for participating, I am going to choose one project and the submitter will receive a copy of The Little Green Island with a Little Red House, my blank journal, illustrated but waiting for YOUR words of wisdom, and a hardbound copy of Hollyhock Days.

So put on your thinking cap and write me a note. I look forward to hearing from all of you in the next few days. Please enter your blog comment on or before July 10,2008. I will sign your books any way you would like and we'll ship them to you quickly.

Remember, it's still not too late to plant great things in your gardens or in a big container.

Green blessings to you all,


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Lavender Custards & Sweet Scented Laundry

Since moving to our new/old cottage in town I've planted scores of wonderful lavenders-from the tiny Hidcote with its deep purple blooms to the small mounds of Munstead, the robust Spanish and French, and the wandlike Provence, Grosso, and English. Can you ever have too many lavenders? The bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies don't think so and neither do I!

For those of you who think that clothes-lines are an old-fashioned alternative to dryers, well, lavenders are an even older alternative. Picture the cottage gardens of days past with their lavender hedges strewn with drying clothing. Ladies believed that the lavender would permeate their clothes with its sweet scent.

I can't bear to cover my lavenders and exclude the bumblebees, so I capture the aroma another way. Whenever I harvest baskets of lavender buds for cooking, potpourri, sachets, and moth chaser and bath bags, I save some for my dryer. I fill small muslin bags or pieces of thin fabric with the fresh blooms, tie the bag closed, and toss it into the dryer with each load of clothes. I use the bags over and over until the scent weakens, then I empty the bag onto my carpet and vacuum it, which makes a musty vacuum smell fresh.

Whenever I trim or prune my lavenders, nothing is wasted. Stems are bundled with twine and used as fire-starters. Perfect florets are added to both herbal and black tea blends (go lightly or it will make the tea taste soapy). My own blend of herbs in which lavender figures prominently (herbes de San Luis) is great for salad dressings, as an addition to soups and breads, and as a mouth watering crust for cuts of meat and poultry.

Herbes de San Luis

One tablespoon marjoram
One tablespoon oregano
One tablespoon savory
Two tablespoons thyme
One half tablespoon lavender

Pick fresh herbs early in the morning and spread them on a screen or newspaper to dry.
After herbs are dry, put them into a food processor and pulse 'til coarsely ground.
(You may want to push the ground herbs through a sieve to further process them.)
Store your blend in a tightly covered or glass jar away from heat and light.

One of my favorite and simplest uses for lavender buds is to grind them finely into sugar. The lavender sugar can be sprinkled onto a custard and slipped under the broiler for a minute to make a crunchy and decidedly herbal crust.

Lavender Bath Bag

Handful of lavender heads
Handful of fragrant rose petals
A few lemon verbena leaves
1 ounce of rolled oats (this softens your skin)
Tie the herbs and oats securely in a bag, hang dry between uses.

Summer is nearly here! May you enjoy every day in your garden and home, and may lavender become a part of your life.

Green blessings,