Friday, September 30, 2011

Aromatherapy/Botanicals Tip of the Week

Ever since I was a kid, I've had trouble keeping my skin clear because it's so sensitive and pale. Every little blemish or patch of redness would seem magnified a thousand times on my fair skin. Of course, I tried all of the popular brands of acne care and whatnot, but they were always too harsh and made the situation worse. Luckily, someone finally told me about the wonders of witch hazel, a medicinal plant that has beneficial astringent properties when used in toners or any other facial care products. When I first started using witch hazel, I would buy the type available in most drug stores, which has alcohol in it. However, a few years ago I discovered a brand of witch hazel toner without alcohol, which is great for my skin because the alcohol would tend to be too drying.

There are many options out there when it comes to witch hazel toners, but I've become more interested in making my own to save money. Here is a recipe I found on eHow to make your own toner (find the entire article here):

1. Place the witch hazel bark and water in a saucepan. Allow the witch hazel bark to soak for half an hour.
2. Place the saucepan over a heat source, and bring the water to boil.
3. Put the lid on the saucepan, and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow the contents to cool.
5. Strain the liquid into a sterile, airtight glass container to remove the witch hazel bark.
6. Seal the container securely.

If you're interested in learning more about witch hazel, this site has a ton of fascinating info on the history and uses of this wonderful plant.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2011 Stamford Scarecrow Festival

This past Sunday was the Stamford Scarecrow Festival and, unlike last year, I actually made time this year to go around and take some photos to share! The whole day was a great success. I met a lot of really wonderful people and had quite a few repeat customers from the local farmers market, which is always so great to see.

I shared a booth with my friend Mary Lou, who makes beautiful scarves and shawls. I even bought one of her scarves for myself and another for my boyfriend's mom. Now I'm looking forward to the autumn weather even more so that I have a reason to wear my comfy scarf!

We decorated our booth with leaves, acorns, and miniature pumpkins to keep in line with the scarecrow theme. I love my leafy garland--now that I'm done with the harvest festivals, I'm going to be hanging it in my living room.
Yes, that's my boyfriend making a silly face...
Part of the Festival was a scarecrow competition.This grim reaper scarecrow was my favorite because it was Halloween-themed, and I think this was actually the winner.

There was also your typical carnival food, including hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, fries, etc. Certainly not the healthiest choices, but they definitely taste good ;)

There was a really nice turnout of vendors and fair-goers, especially considering the major flooding we had in neighboring towns the past month or so. I think most people have been itching for a local event like this to get back in the swing of things and do something enjoyable.

At the end of the Festival, they had a cute scarecrow piƱata for the kids. I have to admit, I was pretty jealous when that candy fell and was really wishing I was young enough to play haha.

The Scarecrow Festival is quickly becoming one of my favorite annual events. I just love the atmosphere and it's always great to go to a local event and see the people in your town. What's your favorite local event? I'd love to hear what sorts of things other towns are doing this time of year!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Practical Magic Blog Party

This is my first year participating in the Practical Magic Blog Party and I am so excited to get started! When I first sat down to figure out what I would write about, I wasn't really sure where to start. This has been one of my favorite movies since I was a kid and I've probably seen it over 100 times. Once I started thinking about how much I love Practical Magic,  it became obvious that I should just talk about that--all of my favorite things about the movie. I think part of why I connect so much with this movie is because it is so in tune with the home and life that I hope to someday create for myself. So that's what I'll share with you today: all of the little pieces of Practical Magic that represent my "dream life". Enjoy!

The most obvious place to start is the house. A beautiful, historic, and cozy Victorian home right on the water, surrounded by towering trees and lush flowers:

I could just imagine myself creating cozy little corners and nooks to read in with a nice cup of coffee. I love that every inch of the house has so much character, you can never get tired of looking at it. That's the kind of house I want some day.

When the sun sets and the crisp evening air comes around, you'll find me and my beau sitting on the porch enjoying the calm of the night air.

Traveling now to the interior of my dream home, I would love to have a kitchen like the Owens ladies. There is such a warmth in their kitchen, even though it's so open and airy. 

Ah I would kill for that rustic farm table. And that stove with the huge kettle for concocting all kinds of brews and perfect for this kitchen.

This next shot isn't from the kitchen per se, but I think it still fits within the theme. I dream of someday having an extensive collection of herbs and oils, all kept in pretty antique bottles like the ones in the background here:

One feature of our dream home that my boyfriend and I would really love is a conservatory so that we could continue to grow herbs, flowers, and veggies throughout the year. The conservatory in the Owens' home is particularly nice because it has a feeling of an outdoor garden that's been brought indoors, which is exactly what I would want to create.

Okay, so we would have our indoor garden in the house, but we'd like an outdoor garden as well so that we could spend time outside whenever the weather is nice and have even more space to grow all sorts of goodies. I love the outdoor garden in the film because it seems to me like a combination of a Victorian garden and an apothecary's herb garden, a perfect blend of the Owens history and their present-day use of herbs for medicinal and beauty purposes.

Since I started Candles By Nature, a dream of mine has been to one day open my own botanical shop where I grow my own herbs, which I would then use in health and beauty products and, of course, candles. I didn't even realize until a few weeks ago that the kind of shop I want is pretty much exactly like Sally's shop. I even love the simple, natural, country-inspired feel of her shop. Ahh that is my dream shop. Maybe one day...

I'm sure many would agree that one of the most endearing aspects of Practical Magic is the incredibly strong sisterly bond between Sally and Gillian. This is something else that has always drawn me to this movie because it reminds me of the closeness that I have with my sister, as well as the complexities that come along with having a sister who is so ridiculously different from yourself. Every time I watch Practical Magic I feel grateful for having a sister who I can share that bond with. As they say in the movie, "My blood, your blood, our blood..."

Throughout our childhood my sister and I spent so many hours just hanging out before bedtime talking about random things, bothering each other, and just being sisters. This scene always reminds me of that and makes me hope that we can keep that even when we're two old bitties.

And what would this dream life be without the annual tradition of showing off for the neighbors on Halloween by jumping off your roof (in full witchy garb, of course)? 

I hope you've enjoyed this little adventure into my dream life, as seen in the world of Practical Magic. If you love this movie as much as I do and would like to delve into more ruminations on the subject, please click here and check out all of the other participants of the 2011 Practical Magic Blog Party. Thanks for reading, and Happy Autumn!!  

Here's a fun little tidbit I discovered while pausing the movie over and over again for screen shots: In the scene where the aunts are reading a postcard from Gillian, the post office sign reads “Maria’s Island, MA 02568” which is the zip code for Martha’s Vineyard. Am I the only one that now wants to take a trip there and check it out?  ;)

Aromatherapy/Botanicals Tip of the Week

Hey guys! I'm excited to introduce the first of what will become weekly installments of helpful and fun tips, facts, and projects relating to aromatherapy or herbs and botanicals. I've become increasingly interested in these topics since I've started Candles By Nature. I have been doing some research on my own, so I figured I may as well share with you any tidbits I come across. I know there can be a lot of misinformation online, so I will be doing my best to only post information from what I feel to be reputable sources. If you happen to have any further information on something, or if there is something in particular that you would like me to look into, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I would love for this to be a learning experience for all of us, and part of that is starting a dialogue about whatever it is we're interested in.

For this week's Tip I wanted to find a recipe for lavender tea. I just recently harvested my own lavender and have already tried blending a few buds with my green tea and I loved it. But I was curious if there are any other recipes out there and, sure enough, I found a few other ways of brewing your own lavender tea, right at home.

The following recipes were found on Note Cook. Enjoy!!

How to Make Lavender Tea
First of all, purchase a package of culinary lavender buds. {Or grow your own!}
Second, decide on which tea you want to combine the lavender buds with.
Place teabags in your pot and boil your water in the usual fashion. Before pouring in the boiling water, simply place 1 tablespoon of lavender buds into the pot, if you are making a full pot. If you are making half a pot, use half a tablespoon of lavender buds.
You will find the amount of lavender that works best for you, as you get used to brewing lavender tea.
Allow the lavender tea to steep and pour into cups. The buds can be sipped, along with the tea, and will impart a delicate flowery flavor.

Another method of making lavender tea involves the use of sugar. Lavender goes particularly well with sweet flavors and can be combined with sugar for a remarkable tasting lavender tea.
Simply stir lavender buds into a container of sugar and allow them to permeate the sugar with their flavor and fragrance. Stir the sugar so the flavor disperses. Add sugar to your pot when you are brewing tea.
If you have a grinder, you may choose to grind your lavender buds before adding them to the sugar. Spoon in sugar each time you desire a pot of lavender tea.

Either method works equally well and your sugar will be infused with the lovely flavor and scent of lavender.

Stamford Scarecrow Festival

It's that time of year again...the Stamford Scarecrow Festival is here! This year it's being held on Sunday, September 25 from 11-5 right in the village of Stamford.

I had so much fun at the festival last year, with all of the great vendors and fall-themed activities and I'm excited to be there again this year! If you're in the area, be sure to drop by. And if you're not local, keep an eye out for some pictures and a recap blog post of the event afterwards. 

Happy Autumn!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Find Me on Twitter!

Just a quick note to let you guys know that Candles By Nature is now on Twitter!

I'll be posting about new products, sales, and upcoming events plus tips on aromatherapy and herbal medicine, and any other cool stuff I come across that I think you guys will like. Find me here!

Cooperstown Harvest Festival

This past weekend I was at the Harvest Festival at the Cooperstown Farmers Museum. If you haven't been there yet, you need to go. It's a living depiction of a 19th-century farming village, with a blacksmith, tavern, apothecary, and carriage house. They also have a really cute carousel. During the Harvest Festival, they had all of their regular demonstrations, plus a bunch of vendors and food booths.

Here's some pictures of my harvest-themed booth:

There was also a clown, who the kids loved. He did a lot of juggling and some silly little tricks:

And two musicians walked around the festival playing the fiddle, which made me sad that I never learned to play the violin in high school haha.

The entire Festival was a lot of fun and I met a bunch of awesome people.  The only drawback was that they were both really long days, but it was so worth it ;)