Stephanie Weber of Pickle Things has lived in Portland for the past five years. In her own words, ‘I love it here. Of all of the places that I have lived, I feel the most at home here. I like that it is so beautiful, has a great neighborhood/community feel, progressive and eco conscience and has fabulous restaurants.’ She lives with a dog, birds, fish and soon a cat and roommates who actually own all the animals. A self-described independent, perfectionist who cannot sit still, Stephanie loves fabric (specifically vintage patterns), cool glass jars, 70s embroidered wall hangings, screwball comedies from the 30s-40s, macaroni and cheese, vegetable gardens and rain. Don’t miss Stephanie’s shop and her blog.
Many natural soaps take advantage of herbal ingredients for fragrance and medicinal properties. Some herb and plants are believed to heal or soothe a number of skin ailments without the use of chemicals. Three worth mentioning are tea tree, lavender and calendula.
Tea tree essential oil, which has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties, also smells great. It can be used alone, or combined with other ingredients in soaps that are friendly to irritable or acne-prone skin.
Lavender has been traditionally used in aromatherapy and bath and body products for everything from potpourri to candles to soaps and creams. It is also believed to be calming and helpful to those suffering from headaches and depression.
Calendula comes from the marigold plant. It promotes skin healing and repair. And it is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Of the herbs mentioned above, I find calendula to be the most soothing and gentle. Tea tree fragrance is my favorite in the morning for its energetic scent, or at the end of a hot day – especially if sunscreen needs to be removed.
During the summertime I am able to enjoy fresh lavender. I am fortunate to have a large, healthy lavender plant. So I dry the lavender and make the oil myself, then use it as a moisturizer all winter. In soap, it’s a great fragrance to hand over to sweaty children. They smell better almost immediately.
Dr. Flowers’ store has a great variety of natural soaps. They smell wonderful and arrived promptly, wrapped in embroidered cotton sleeves. The soaps have a wavy cut, which makes them pretty to look at and shows off the herbs within. And I appreciate the eco-friendly packaging.
My order from Dr. Flowers also included small heart shaped soaps, that look nice in the bathroom. And they are very appropriate to have this time of year with Valentine’s Day coming up.
There’s no denying it – America has a sweet tooth. According to the National Confectioners Association, retail sales of chocolate, candy and gum amount to approximately $28 billion dollars annually. All of that sweetness, however, comes wrapped up in a problem. Because candy-wrappers are usually made up of mixed materials, they are generally not recyclable.
The hybrid of paper, plastic and metal that is responsible for keeping your treats fresh and tasty also prevents them from being conventionally recycled. As a result, millions of candy-wrappers end up in our landfills and eco-systems each and every year. Without avenues to recycle the wrappers, we can either choose to reduce waste by buying bulk candy (or candy with more recycling-friendly packaging such as paper or foil) or we can upcycle the empty wrappers into new, usable goods. Here are some Etsy sellers who are doing just that!
Tracy’s passion for upcycling candy and snack packaging came after a recent vacation to the Croatian Islands. She was so taken by the beautiful and colourful designs on some chip bags, that she packed the empty bags in her luggage and brought them back to her Seattle home. It didn’t take long before Tracy found a creative way to use her “souvenirs”. Clever quilt blocks made from the hoarded chip bags were followed by a mini-wallet, which ultimately became the inspiration for her line of accessories. “After making the Croatian chip wallet, I thought about all the chip bags, soda wrappers, candy bar wrappers & coffee bags that get tossed into the garbage,” says Tracy. And so, Squiggle Chick Designs was born.
Dandelion papercut – handcut from 100% rice paper by Li of Papercut Diecut
A wise person once said, “It’s only a weed if it bothers you.” Or, in the case of my yard, “It’s only a weed if it bothers the people next door.” Most people want a lush, green, lawn; free of weeds, including (or especially) dandelions. Personally, I’m fine with a bit of colour in my grass, but that opinion is not shared by my neighbours. So, in deference to their wishes, I am going to make a concerted effort to keep my yard relatively weed-free this summer; in an eco-friendly, non-toxic, low-maintenance way, of course. In my research of earth-friendly ways to eliminate Dandelions, I found myself way off-track discovering all sorts of interesting facts about them, too.
Dandelions have a long history as a medicinal herb. In fact, Taraxacum officinale, the scientific name for dandelion, translates to “the official remedy for disorders”. Applied topically, the naturally antibiotic juice can be used for treating everything from warts and corns to clearing eczema and acne. Taken internally, Dandelion promotes regularity and is an effective diuretic, blood purifier and kidney tonic. With a coffee-like taste and all of the medicinal benefits of dandelions, “Dande Day” is a great alternative for people looking to kick the java-habit. Jesse, of Good 4 You, roasts dandelion root and combines it with chicory to make an all-natural, caffeine-free coffee substitute.
As an edible herb, dandelions rank as of the most nutritious leafy greens out there; high in beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and K. The leaves can be used in salads, soups and stir-fries, while the flowers are most commonly used for beverages, such as wine and tea. With this in mind, four:paper’s Jacklynn includes a recipe with each of her wildflower-inspired notecards, like these (above) featuring cheerful, golden dandelion. (Note: although dandelions can be found just about everywhere, be sure to do your foraging well-away from public areas that may have been sprayed with poisonous herbicides, or look for organic greens at your local market or farmer’s market.)
Dandelion fine-art print by Sunshine Art & Design
In addition to being good for your health, dandelions are actually good for the eco-health of your yard…just ask any ladybug. They are a favourite of aphids (a ladybug’s favourite food) and help to detract them from your precious garden plants. Studies have shown that plots containing dandelions contain more ladybugs and fewer aphids than dandelion-free plots. As a result, the gardens with dandelions had less plant-damage and higher yields. In the lawn, dandelions help to aerate and feed the soil and, when you think of it, can actually make your yard-work easier.
I think I would have a hard time finding a mother who hasn’t at one time or another been offered a sticky fist-full of golden dandelion blooms. Perhaps it is their accessibility and abundance that makes dandelions a favourite flower for children everywhere. I remember spending hours as a child wishing on dandelions that had gone to seed; blowing as hard as I could on the white puffs to ensure that my wishes would scatter as far as the wind could carry the seeds. (Much to the chagrin of weeders for miles, I’m sure.) I still find myself drawn to dandelion puffs, but perhaps in the interest of weed-control I should pick up of these cute tees by Ellembee and make as many wishes as I want without scattering seeds throughout the neighbourhood.
With all of that said, however, I’m still going to have to get my dandelion situation under control before my neighbours revolt. According to the experts, the first step is to promote a healthy lawn through regular maintenance and judicious weeding. At the suggestion of a trusted friend, who is a bit of a gardening wiz, I have picked up an addictively-fun (really!), long-handled weed puller to use on some of my in-lawn weeds. As for the weeds popping up in the sidewalk cracks, I am going to try plain old boiling water, straight from the kettle. Once I’ve made myself a cup of dandelion tea, that is.