Categories
wheel of the year

Celebrate Samhain!

It’s only a few days until one of my favorite sabbats: Samhain, aka Halloween! I have been very connected to this special day since I was a child, and I now love sharing Halloween with my own little wildlings. It’s that time we invite the spooks and specters in. We celebrate the connection we all feel to the shadows in a way that is steeped in tradition, which makes it feel cozy and safe. It’s our metaphorical way of preparing for the approaching sleep and death in nature that winter brings.

All that said, I have a few simple and cozy ways I’m planning to celebrate the approach of Samhain this week, which I’m sharing here today!

Family Halloween

My family and I plan to celebrate Halloween together in kid-friendly fashion this weekend. We will watch some not-so-spooky Halloween movies, paint and carve pumpkins, and (safely and with precautions) trick-or-treat. I also plan to brew up some spiced apple cider on the stovetop for us to share, infused with those autumn spices we love and enjoy!

Barmbrack

I learned about the Irish tradition of baking barmbrack for Samhain this year, and I am planning to bake some for my family! I want to see if it’s a tradition we’d like to incorporate in the years to come, as I have a strong connection to my Irish heritage.

Barmbrack is a sort of cross between bread and a cake, baked with dried fruits and grounding autumn spices and eaten with butter. It’s a harvest season favorite and is traditionally baked with a little surprise hidden inside—a coin or a ring wrapped in parchment paper as a good luck charm for the person who finds it in their slice! You can find various recipes online, but HERE is the one I’m planning to try.

Cleaning & Clearing

The approach of Samhain has me feeling the need for a bit of a cleaning and clearing, for both practical and psychological reasons. As winter and the holiday season approach, it’s a good time for me to tidy up and de-clutter. I also notice that I’m needing to sort of reset my perspective, or clear out some stale and stagnant energy, as autumn deepens toward winter.

The physical act of tidying up the house is straightforward enough. It’s not my favorite job, but I’ve come to enjoy it well enough when accompanied by audiobooks or podcasts. But each day this week while I work on the cleaning, I plan to choose a candle, incense, or simmer pot with intention and use it to sort of sweep away the proverbial cobwebs, paired with open windows when it’s not raining.

Samhain Teas

I am excited to brew a few tea blends this week with Samhain in mind. Traditions across many cultures relate this time to remembrance of ancestors passed and introspection or even divination. I plan to spend some quiet time with some steaming pots of tea brewed to those ends. My grandma passed away a year ago on October 27th, so she will be very much on my mind this week (and during this week for the years to come), which ties right in.

Here is a tea recipe from Apothecary At Home’s October Rituals & Romance box, which pairs nicely with moments of quiet introspection:

Third Eye Tea-

1 tsp chamomile

2 tsp black tea

1 tsp mugwort

What are your plans for Halloween or Samhain this year? I’d love to hear what you have planned!

Categories
Herbs and Herbalism Recipes

Herbal Spiced “Wine” Tea

Aside from chai, another beverage that I associate with autumn and winter is spiced or mulled wine. The warm, soothing-yet-spirited drink is rich with digestive, warming, and immune-supporting spices. Not to mention how festive and rooted it feels to share this deep, tart ruby liquid with others at a gathering in the colder months.

But! I very rarely imbibe actual spiced wine. Instead, I mix up a similar potion replacing the wine element with extremely beneficial harvest berries and botanicals. They add the same vibrant garnet color, along with nutritional and healing properties, without the alcohol content. An herbal substitute for mulled wine is also quicker and more convenient when you want this type of pick-me-up (any time of day!) and it can be shared with anyone.

You can make your own preferred version of spiced “wine” tea with various ingredients and methods! I’ll share my recipe with you here so you can either use it yourself, or use it as a starting point to concoct your own recipe.

Spiced “Wine” Tea

Rosehips: These tasty red jewels are ready for harvest in October in many locations. You can use fresh or dried (I always have dried rosehips on hand). They add a tart cherry type of flavor, vitamin C, and minerals that aid in heart health, circulation, pain relief, cholesterol and blood pressure health, and even pain.

Elderberries: Dried elderberries impart a deep berry flavor and amazing immune-boosting benefits. Aside from their antiviral properties, elderberries also have anti-inflammatory benefits. I am always conscious to be moderate with the amount of elderberries included, in case of possible digestive discomfort. (I’ve never experienced this side effect myself, but I’ve read that it can happen so I use caution.)

Hawthorn berries: Hawthorn berries add nearly magical benefits of not only boosting heart health in a physical sense, but also soothing and strengthening the emotional heart and aiding with anxiety.

Hibiscus: This is a go-to base ingredient in fruity, berry-flavored teas for me. Hibiscus is an excellent heart ally and gives the tea a full-bodied, cranberry-ish, and even wine-ish taste.

Orange peel, dried or fresh: Obviously vitamin C is a big part of spiced wine. But so is rich, strong flavor! Orange in some form is almost essential to this type of brew.

Spices – cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger: You can’t have spiced wine without your warming, grounding, immune-boosting spices! These add taste, physical and mental health benefits, warming cozy comfort, and synergy between ingredients. Of course, you can get creative and use your own favorite combination of mulling spices!

Optional – rooibos: Rooibos is an herbal ally I adore and use often to fill out and add body to teas while providing wonderful benefits. (See my rooibos profile post for more on this herb!)

You can play around with your favorite berries (even adding fresh or dried blackberries or cherries!), spices, flavorings, and even splash in apple cider for a fruity kick or ginger ale for a fizzy twist. It’s up to you how you concoct your festive, warming brew. Then enjoy it all autumn and winter on quiet afternoons or cozy family gatherings! Or take a thermos of it on your outdoor autumn adventures!

What additional or different ingredients are you going to try in your spiced “wine” tea? I’d love to hear so I can try them, too!

Categories
Herbs and Herbalism Tea

Autumn Chai for Health & Grounding

Since tea is my preferred vehicle for herbalism and ritual, I thought today I’d touch on my favorite type of tea during autumn: CHAI. It is full of benefits befitting the season: digestive, circulation-stimulating, warming, anti-inflammatory, immunity-boosting, and so many more. And chai is extremely grounding, protective, and COZY.

So I’m going to touch on a few of my favorite chai botanicals, digging in with a bit of research and preparation ideas.

Origins

I of course have to begin with the origins of chai. Even if what we think of as the “traditional fall spices” that are included in chai go way back, neither the spices nor chai have Western origins. Masala chai hails from India, a centuries-old traditional and health tonic drink. While recipes can vary widely, the main basis includes black tea and warming spices (the words masala chai literally mean “spiced tea”). The Western world recognized the benefits and amazing taste of chai spices long ago and has adopted and adapted them in many ways (which connects to a long and complicated history of colonialism we won’t get into here today). But regardless, chai and its related spices come to us thanks to their ancient origins in India.

There are so many non-traditional and revised spins on chai out there, either to incorporate different flavor profiles or to address varying health concerns. Milk and black pepper are common and traditional ingredients which helps to make the nutrients more bioavailable, but I sometimes enjoy chai without milk or with plant milk. Some versions include berries, fruits, or different herb or tea bases. My favorite base ingredient isn’t even tea—it’s rooibos! But in general, the essential components combine to aid digestion, immunity, and more, making chai a boon to holistic health.

Components

I’ve recently done some research on the specific benefits of some of my favorite chai spices! Read on for a brief run-through of each:

Cinnamon – This warming, drying, pungent bark has anti-microbial, analgesic, antioxidant, and many other qualities and helps with digestion, cramping, regulating blood sugar, soothing sore throats and colds, and more. Folk tradition also holds to other benefits including protection, purification, energizing, healing, love, and prosperity.

Ginger – Another warming, drying botanical. Ginger is a healing powerhouse! It aids in everything from circulation, inflammation, digestion, pain, cramps, cold and flu, sore throats, nausea, heart health, energy, and many more. It is an energizing and synergy-boosting herb, in both health and folk tradition aspects.

Nutmeg – I had no idea of this until recently, but nutmeg is great for stress, anxiety, and insomnia. This pungent, warming, drying spice is also antispasmodic and anti-microbial, along with many other properties. It is also believed to aid in happiness, love, overall health, and psychic abilities, if that’s your thing.

Cloves – Cloves are great for your teeth and breath! They’re also known to be antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic, anesthetic, and expectorant. Whew! These fragrant little powerhouses aid digestion, colds and flu, arthritis, pain, headaches, and spasms. Cloves are thought to offer protection, purification, general healing, and mental aid.

Other common chai ingredients include cardamom, allspice, anise, fennel, black tea, and peppercorns. Flavor or health variations can include turmeric, rose, mint, fruit like apple or orange, astragalus, echinacea, reishi…it goes on and on. Don’t be afraid to put your own spin on your chai recipes!

Preparation

Due to the hardy nature of the seeds, roots, barks, and such that make up chai, it’s often suggested to make a decoction with the herbs before combining with the tea component, rather than an infusion. A decoction is simple, though: just boil the ingredients on the stovetop for an extended period (it depends on how concentrated you’re going for, but it can be as little as 15-20 minutes), strain, and add to your brewed black or rooibos tea (if you’re not making a strictly herbal chai). Then top with plant or dairy milk if you like! A decoction tends to turn out more concentrated than a simple tea infusion, so that’s why you often add additional liquid to the mix after decocting. How much liquid you add depends on how long you simmer your decoction.

All that said, though, I often don’t have time to make a decoction and need a quicker cuppa! When this is the case, I grind the spices well with my mortar and pestle (you can use a coffee grinder, too) and steep for longer than I normally would with a simple tea infusion—as much as 10 or 12 minutes.

I could go on and on about chai—I feel like I already have in this post—but I think I’ll stop here for now! Are you a fan of chai? What ingredients do you like to incorporate? Which of the basic chai components is your favorite?

Categories
Hygge wheel of the year

Celebrate Mabon!

This is one of my favorite parts of the year! I’ve always loved it and felt like it was MY time: my birthday on the 21st, the autumnal equinox / Mabon (falling on the 22nd this year), and “Hobbit Day” aka Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ shared birthday on the 22nd—which to me counts as a holiday itself! But this post is about Mabon, the sabbat marking the beginning of fall and the autumnal equinox on the wheel of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Mabon begins the wind down of the harvest season as autumn starts in earnest and winter approaches. It is an age-old tradition to celebrate this time, which is associated with giving thanks to the Earth for her life-sustaining abundance, the balance of light and dark, and preparing for the colder and darker winter months ahead.

This is such a busy time of year! It can be difficult to pause and reflect with a slower perspective on this seasonal turning. But I have a couple of simple, cozy plans for enjoying and marking this week with my family.

Simmer Pot

My kids actually have a “virtual learning” school day on Wednesday, and it’s supposed to rain all day, too! So it seems the perfect time for a simmer pot. This simple-yet-magical act will set a cozy autumn mood for the equinox.

It’s pretty simple: choose aromatic autumn ingredients (I’m using apple slices, a bit of lemon peel, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, anise, and allspice), add to a pan on the stovetop and cover the ingredients with water, simmer as long as you like, and add more water as needed so it doesn’t dry out and burn. This will fill the house with a delicious scent and all the cozy autumn vibes to put everyone in the spirit of the occasion.

The dry ingredients for my simmer pot!

Pumpkin and Apple Treats

This is such an obvious one, but of course baking favorite apple and/or pumpkin treats is a simple and almost necessary part of a cozy Mabon. (If you are able and if you like apple or pumpkin!) And of course you can totally buy them and skip the diy portion, if you need to or prefer to. The point is, apple and pumpkin are quintessential to the autumn season!

I will likely bake pumpkin muffins for my birthday treat and the autumnal occasion. I have been using the same tried-and-true recipe for something like 13 years now! It’s simple and delicious. (Check it out here!)

I have yet to decide if I’ll bake any apple treats, too, but I’ll at least be making hot spiced cider and apple spiced tea quite a lot this week and through the season ahead! My birthday gift from my parents was a collection of new autumn mugs, which I plan to put to good use!

Chai

Speaking of those mugs, my hobbit-herbalist heart is ready to start brewing up some grounding, earthy, spicy, immunity-boosting chai. I am in the middle of writing a blog post all about this, so I won’t share too much about it now. But, whether you like to make chai from scratch or order a piping hot cup from a coffee shop, this is a great time to think about warming up with chai!

Okayyy…actually, I can’t help sharing one chai tidbit. I was turned onto adding astragalus to chai for an immune boost by Rosalie de la Fôret in her book Alchemy of Herbs and now I rarely make chai without it. Many of the botanicals in chai help boost immunity already, but astragalus adds a sweet and simple way to kick that boost up! I highly recommend trying it (and checking out Rosalie’s book).

Apple Orchard

We are lucky to have a nice apple orchard not too far from us. Due to Covid, we have yet to take our boys there, and our older daughter hasn’t been in a few years. So, we are very excited to hopefully take them over the weekend to enjoy the woods, the animals (it’s a pretty amazing little orchard), and the apples! I can’t wait to restart this autumn tradition.

So, those are a few of the simple ways my family will be celebrating Mabon! Do you mark the autumn equinox? How do you like to celebrate this season?

Categories
wheel of the year

Celebrate Lughnasadh!

In the northern hemisphere, the wheel of the year has turned to Lughnasadh! This August 1st sabbat marks the midpoint between Litha (summer solstice) and Mabon (autumn equinox). Even though Lughnasadh sits squarely within summer, it is the first harvest festival of the year and the kickoff to the harvest season. Lughnasadh is associated with abundance, as well as the sun, the colors yellow and gold, wheat, sunflowers, corn, berries, peppers, tomatoes, squash, beer, and bread.

Since my little wildlings’ schools start right around Lughnasadh, it’s a busy-but-happy time for us. Just like with Litha, I have some low-energy plans to help mark this sabbat in cozy, grounding ways.

Harvest Treat: Herbed Beer Bread

Bread-baking and enjoying is an essential part of Lughnasadh / Lammas (the other name for the day, which means “bread mass”). My favorite type of bread to bake, which is also thematically on-point for this sabbat, is beer bread. It is SUPER quick and easy, yet delicious, hearty, and rustic. It takes very few ingredients and the beer does most of the work for you—no yeast, proofing, or kneading required!

I’ve put together a Lughnasadh bread recipe Pinterest board that you can peruse and come up with a recipe that speaks to you! My plan is to start with a beer bread base using lemon beer, with some seasonally-specific additions, like possibly orange, pumpkin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and / or calendula. (Depending on how ambitious I feel this weekend!) These flavors are bright and sweet, with the citrus and spices sort of bridging the gap between summer and autumn.

Check this link for the Pinterest board!

Harvest Sip: Lughnasadh Sun Tea

If you have fresh herbs growing in your garden or window sill, now is the perfect time to harvest some and make a sun tea. But if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, or you’re just wanting to try a new recipe, here is the potion I’m brewing for Lughnasadh:

3 parts green rooibos (or green tea)

2 parts tulsi

2 parts lemon balm (fresh or dried)

1.5 parts cinnamon chips

1 part dried orange peel OR some fresh orange slices

Dried or fresh pears, peaches, and/or lemon

Harvest Fun: Sunflower Picking and Harvest Decorating

Mr. Herbology Faerie likes to tease me by fake-complaining when I decorate the house for fall before September 1st. Which I usually ignore! This year will be no exception, though I do plan to hold off on pumpkins and leaves until September. Instead, I’ll focus on sunflowers, wheat, gourds, and yellow in honor of Lughnasadh. Decorating for the sabbats can be a cozy and therapeutic way to ground yourself in the season!

A fun family activity I’m hoping we squeeze in on Lughnasadh weekend is sunflower picking at a local flower farm. We went last year a little too late in the season to get any sunflowers; this year the plan is to head there in time for a sunflower bouquet for Lughnasadh.

Those are some of my low-key plans for celebrating Lughnasadh and the start of the harvest season! How are you planning to celebrate?

Categories
Apothecary At Home Herbs and Herbalism

Apothecary At Home: Mental Health Mastery Study Box

I am so excited to share with you a new way to study herbalism that I’ve discovered! I am partnering with Apothecary At Home, a monthly subscription service sending monthly herbalism study boxes based around health-supportive themes.

Each box contains generous quantities of dried herbs (two features herbs plus one mystery herb); supplies like bottles, labels, and muslin straining bags; a highly detailed, deeply researched study guide with monographs, recipes, instructions, book recommendations, and more; original plant monograph artwork; and fun extras like tea blends, stickers, and more. You are encouraged to work at your own pace and comfort level with the supplied materials to gain a hands-on relationship with herbalism.

I adore the practical, experience-centered approach to this study box. There is no better way to learn herbalism than hands-on with the herbs themselves, and Apothecary At Home brings herbalism class straight to your mailbox so you can do just that. They also offer additional support including an exclusive Facebook community for students and optional monthly Zoom classes centered around each theme! If connecting with other herbalism students at all levels is of interest for you, AAH even creates opportunities for that. And beyond the obvious benefits of teaching you how to create your own herbal medicine, there is something so therapeutic, grounding, connecting, and creatively fulfilling about working with this box.

I feel like a sweet granny witch in her cottage mixing potions when I work with this box!

The theme for July’s box is Mental Health Mastery, a topic that is universally useful! With relaxing nervine herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender, you have nearly everything you need to create your own teas, tinctures, bath soaks, aromatherapy aids, and other preparations to relieve stress, ease anxiety and depression, help you sleep, soothe digestion, and more.

I have already begun creating remedies from this box and I am really enjoying the experience. I’m loving the tea recipes—I have mixed up a jar of Stress Less tea and last night I slept like a baby after drinking a strong cup of it! I plan to begin work on a couple of soothing tinctures next using the study guide. As someone who is already somewhat versed on these herbalism topics, I can say I’ve already learned new information and perspectives from my studies with this box!

I can’t recommend Apothecary At Home enough! I highly recommend checking out their lovely Instagram account to connect with them and see if it would be a good fit for you. They have a new additional tier of educational box in the works, too, so stay tuned to their social media for info on that. And watch this space for more peeks at their recipes and boxes!

Categories
wheel of the year

Celebrate Litha!

If you’re in the northern hemisphere like me, then the summer solstice, or Litha, is approaching! To me, there is nothing more hygge than aligning yourself with the seasons, the natural world around you, and traditions associated with each spoke on the wheel of the year.

To that end, this week I have a few super simple, low-energy activities planned to do with my kids. I am all for low-cost, low-prep ways to ground yourself in the season and reap what it has to offer. But I never seem to have time or energy to put a ton of effort into anything elaborate. That’s not really necessary, though! Do things up as big or as small as you like, but in my opinion, simplicity never goes amiss.

Summer Treats: Fruit Salad, Herbed Lemon Bars, Popsicles

The summer solstice revolves around the idea of transformation. The fruits of the season are ripe for the picking! So I’ve been making super simple fruit salads with local fruits, fresh herbs, raw honey, and squeezed citrus. This is an excellent way to experience the transformation of spring blossoms into summer bounty.

Watermelon, strawberry, peach, basil, lime, and honey fruit salad

Later this week, the kids and I plan to also incorporate some of those fresh fruits and herbs in simple homemade ice pops! We are going to add vanilla yogurt (you can use dairy or plant-based) to make it a creamy, satisfying treat.

Finally, lemon bars are a summer favorite of mine. Add summer rosemary or lavender, and you’ve got a festive, cottagecore-worthy baked treat! While you can find some excellent recipes on Pinterest, I am probably just going to make a boxed mix and add my own herbs in. (No shame in the boxed mix game!)

Summer Sips: Cooling Iced Sun Teas

You can’t beat the power of the sun to brew tea. It’s so simple, and you feel like you’re sipping on summer sunshine when you drink your brews! Just add about a tablespoon of herbs per cup of water in a tea strainer or eco-friendly paper teabag, place in a glass jar, fill with cold water and put the lid on tightly, and leave in full sun for 2-4 hours. I sometimes stir in a bit of sweetener (honey works great or your own choice of sweetener), place in the fridge for several hours, and then sip straight from the jar with a reusable straw.

I have been mixing up hibiscus-based teas for the kids and I lately. Hibiscus is a delightfully tart, cooling botanical that is perfect for hot summer weather. It tastes a lot like cranberry juice as an iced tea, so it’s great for kids! Hibiscus is also known to be beneficial for your heart, circulation, and blood pressure.

Little jars of hibiscus sun tea for the kids!

Here are my two favorite hibiscus blends:

Hibiscus, mint, lemon balm, chamomile, blueberries

Hibiscus, lemongrass, orange peel, rooibos, mint, calendula, gotu kola

Summer Moments: Fires and Flowers

Recently we took the kids for their first trip to a “beach,” at one of the largest lakes in our state. We had a blast swimming and playing in the sand! If you are lucky enough to live near a lake or ocean, it’s obviously a fun way to experience some nature in the summer sun.

Most of my plans for marking the solstice are much lower key, however. Taking evening walks when the heat of the day has just passed, burning citronella candles on the back porch (we don’t even have a fire pit, let alone a place for a bonfire!), and maybe making a craft from spent flower petals are all possibilities on the list.

So, those are some of my simple plans for celebrating Litha / the summer solstice this week! How are you planning to celebrate?

Categories
Herbalism in Fiction

Herbalism in Fiction: Practical Magic

If you read my previous Herbalism in Fiction post, you know I have very specific taste in favorite books, namely varying types of fiction featuring herbalism and absorbing, immersive imagery and description. The next book I’m going to touch on is a new favorite of mine, but by no means new: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

To preface: I’ve heard excellent things about the film; though I haven’t seen it yet, and am very excited to, I’ve heard the overall tone of the film and book diverge a bit. I have a feeling it’s one of those cases where they are separate pieces of fiction that stand up in their own ways.

The book is a complex and magical tapestry woven with strands of sisterhood, womanhood, family ties and legacies, love and loss, the magical and the mundane, uniqueness and self-acceptance. The story begins with two little orphaned sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens, who go to live with their elderly witch aunts in the family’s curious, mysterious old home in Massachusetts. As the girls grow up and go their separate ways, forging paths for themselves in life, they find themselves ultimately needing that family magic in their lives despite their efforts to grow away from it.

Practical Magic is a mixture of literary fiction and magical realism, with heartwarming notes, dark and spooky threads, cozy and immersive imagery, painful beauty, and just the right bits of levity thrown in the mix. It is really a unique work of literature that will really pull at your heartstrings and ignite your imagination if you’ll let it!

As far as this book’s herbalism connection, it is an inextricable part of the dense palette of the story. Lush, vivid descriptions of the aunts’ herb garden, frequent recurrences of lavender and rosemary, mention of concoctions and poisons, and THAT lilac bush (when you read it, you’ll know!) put this book squarely on my list. And the aunts’ house with its dark corners, chandeliers, big window seat, mysterious portrait, and self-dusting woodwork (yes, please!) add just the hygge element I’m always searching for in books, too.

I am so glad I finally read this book! Not only does it tick all my boxes, but the story itself is both deep and thought-provoking while also lovely and sweet, ultimately. And there are a few other books about the renowned Owens women in publication or to come, which promises more books for this list!

Categories
Herbalism in Fiction

Herbalism in Fiction: A Discovery of Witches

I have the most oddly specific favorite sub-genre of books: fiction (be it fantasy, mystery, historical, or otherwise) that includes heavy doses of herbalism and lush, immersive description. So, in case there are others who adore this type of novel, I am going to begin sharing my favorite books that meet those criteria here on the blog. The first book I’m featuring is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (and the whole All Souls series).

The series follows Diana Bishop, a historian and witch who gets caught up in dangers and deceptions after discovering a lost magical book in the Bodleian Library. Having once shunned her powers, Diana must finally come to terms with them to find out what the book means and what it has to do with her. The story also centers around the two other types of creatures, vampires and daemons, and the dynamics and traditions between these three groups of otherworldly beings. Add in romance, ghosts, time travel, real historical figures, science, mysteries, intrigue, dark secrets, and also lovable characters and inviting settings, and you’ve got this thoroughly gripping series in as good a nutshell as I can manage to stuff it into. These books contain magical multitudes.

But I’m specifically here to heap praise on this series for its hygge herbology connections. There is so much to love in these books in that regard! I adore the very lovingly-detailed descriptions of the teas Diana loves and how she takes them, the scenes involving the harvesting and blending of a particular type of herbal tisane at a castle in France (I can’t elaborate because, spoilers), and the unique descriptions of each character’s particular botanical scent. There are viscerally-appealing, incredibly immersive descriptions of locations like dark, antiquarian libraries and cozy Oxford haunts that really stick with you. And don’t even get me started on the depth of detail in the installment that primarily takes place in Elizabethan England.

But far and away, my favorite parts of these books take place in Diana’s witch aunts’ colonial family home in upstate New York. You can hear every creak of the floorboards, smell the mixed scents of wood smoke and coffee and herbs, and feel the weighty presence of the family ghosts in every word. The aunts’ witch’s garden brims with herbs, and there just aren’t enough scenes spent in Sarah’s dark still room with dried aromatic plants and her old coffee-maker-turned-cauldron. The sense of safety and family Diana feels here, even if she tries to deny it at times, is utterly palpable to the reader.

So, all that wordiness to say, if you like this stuff, then read these books! They are my literal favorite books of all time and I will not disclose how many times I have read them. Until you get on the train and come back to tell me how right I was!

Categories
Hygge

This Hygge Business

What is all this “hygge” business about?

You may already be familiar with the popular term, which gained recognition due to the publication of the book The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (and many other books on the topic by others since). “Hygge” is a Danish concept (from a Norwegian word) that refers to a particular type of cultivated coziness and comfort. Things like slow living, hand-made and baked goods, candlelight, quality time in nature, comfortable simplicity, and companionship during such activities.

As you might gather, herbalism and hygge go well together! Creating traditional recipes with natural herbal ingredients and taking slow, quiet moments to enjoy them are all about as hygge as it gets. Sharing one’s love of this with others? Even more so. And gardening, herbal baking, gifting handmade items, using herbal bath products, learning about the botanical world…it all conjures those hygge vibes.

The hygge concept has other points of appeal for me, personally, too. For starters, I learned a few years ago through a DNA test that much of my cultural heritage stems from the very region hygge comes from. Suddenly, my intense, innate need to seek out and cultivate coziness makes more sense! Bring on the pastries, hikes, and scented candles.

My life situation, even before the pandemic, involves being very much rooted (aka stuck) at home. I am a stay-at-home-mom to three kids currently six and under, one of which is being temporarily homeschooled due to the pandemic. Even after they begin attending school in the fall (the twins are four and will be doing half-day pre-k in the fall and big sister will be in first grade), I will still be spending almost all my time at home. My life is fairly solitary and a bit lonely. Focusing on cultivating hygge coziness helps me feel more present, grounded, content, and fulfilled. And it helps take the edge off when loneliness or anxiety get overwhelming.

Connecting with hygge makes me feel connected to something traditional, visceral, and both elementary yet kind of complicated at the same time. In today’s world it is difficult to give yourself permission to slow down and drink in every moment. But this cultivates peace of mind and connection with the small and slow things, the natural world around you, and the quiet contentment you can find within yourself if you pause and listen.