Sipping Inner Strength

Not long ago I read a post online somewhere about a woman who was drawn to certain herbs. Really really drawn to them to get to know all sorts of aspects of the plants and their properties. I don't really have that depth of connection with herbs or spices, but I've been a bit turmeric-curious lately.

Every winter I get into a chai latte habit, not the kind of wholesome, whole body warming chai (though I suspect that's what I'm actually craving), but the sugary, dessert-substitute coffee shop variety. It's the spice that I crave, the bite of ginger and pepper combined against the creaminess of milk (soy in my case).

Then I saw turmeric on sale at the grocery store and decided it was time to listen to the whispers. Maybe I'm stirred by the color: the brilliant orange-leaning yellow of an early spring daffodil that reminds me of my MeMa; or the broken-in familiarity of a worn out mustard-colored corduroy jacket, literally threadbare from years of daily wear. There's something about that color.

When cooking with spices I'm more of a garlic and basil gal. The earthiness of turmeric is exotic and unfamiliar but definitely in line with my cold-weather favorite: chai. And no wonder! Turmeric is kin to ginger, but with that earthy familiarity of curry.

If you follow Ayurveda, turmeric is a fiery plant perfectly suited for warming the soul during the winter. I don't know much about Ayurveda, but my friend Rachael does and in a brief discussion with her, I clearly recognized my dosha as Kapha. Turns out, turmeric is a pretty good choice for someone like me. (So are sun salutations, which is a topic for a different strength-focused post.)

Following the draw to turmeric and exploring why has helped me find my Spark: strength. While I usually look towards "rewarding experiences" as inspiration for the new year, rewards are not necessarily the reason to choose a path. The word I need most right now is strength. I could stand to use listen, too, since it's taken me a week to finally accept "strength" as a word to focus on. 

Glad I listened to the whispers. As an anti-inflammatory superfood, guess what turmeric is purported to do? Promote inner strength!

I'm getting to know ways to incorporate turmeric, so a few days ago I made a delicious tea based on this suggestion on 101 Cookbooks :
1/2 T turmeric, a couple shakes of pumpkin spices (though cinnamon or ginger would be just as delicious) 1 T good quality raw honey, mixed into warm (not boiling since you want the honey to keep all its good stuff) coconut milk. Stir every few sips so all the yummy nutrients don't settle to the bottom.

Turns out, I didn't make anything shockingly new or "turmeric milk" and there are recipes all over the place for drinks like this.

Have you been listening to your body lately? What has it been saying?

Even though Petals & Pedals is in limbo (continue on? leave it alone as a nice memory?), I still find myself thinking throughout the week about what would be an interesting and experiential Friday post.

Well, several weeks ago we ran out of dish detergent for the dishwasher. I had on-hand the supplies to make laundry detergent, so I wondered if there was a recipe for something similar for dishes. Lo and behold, Homemade had the answer I was looking for.

I've tried variations since then, but the first batch was my favorite (and is now my go-to) recipe:
equal parts Borax and Washing Soda** for the dish powder, add white vinegar to the rinse aid compartment. With the powder you simply mix them together. I added about 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil to the powder and mixed it again. It made a heavy lemon smell, but not overpowering...I'm pretty sensitive to fragrance and it didn't give me a headache or anything. You can add some baking soda for an extra boost, but I actually prefer to leave the baking soda out.

All in all, I think the recipe that works for you depends on whether your water is hard or soft. This site has some good recipes to play around with.  Mix up a small batch and test it out 2 or 3 times, then try another variation.

**If you're unable to find washing soda, try looking at the pool supplies. That giant plastic container in the back is sodium carbonate, aka washing soda. We found it at one of those liquidation centers towards the end of summer last year.

All these "simplify" posts made me think I'd better show why I feel like we need to pare down. I'm thinking a little self-imposed homework/look book/workbook is sorely needed. You know, a little something like The Marion House Book did.

We (half-) jokingly call our style "Trash Americana". I think I first heard the phrase at a Wilco show, but maybe Mr. Tweedy described the band as Trash Electro-Americana? Whatever, living in a Wilco world isn't really my cup of whiskey; especially not since that last album. The style is also evidence as to why I think this Abe Lincoln needlepoint is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. (found on

I'm on a fairly strict self-imposed spending freeze, though, so I didn't bid on it. Someone else will have to give ol' honest Abe a good home.

A little bit about our stuff: Painting of creepy monkey face by Charlie--I love it so much I had it framed. The space between the painting and the boat are an in-process spot. I've got all sorts of little bits and pieces of art to put up, but I'm not sure what I want to put there. Big boat and display cabinet were both free--the boat from one of Charlie's freelance gigs, the display case from an architectural model we were getting rid of here at work.

Nautical float also a freebie that came home with C. Doily Skulls/assemblage art by C's friend Robert Childers. The wooden school-type clock was a new purchase--a gift for C for Christmas. Ship copper wire string art from Goodwill. The yellow fiberglass kids chair was from an attic sale. Vintage coffee table from eBay. I don't care for this grouping, but since it's behind the sofa I don't see it much and it's just going to stay there.

Plycraft Chair was a Craigslist purchase. The guy swore he took a Herman Miller tag off it, but it didn't take too much research to find out it's not an Eames chair. We're halfway through reupholstering it in tan leather.  The sofa was also a Craigslist find (though not a cheap score by any means) and was recently reupholstered in Alexander Girard for Herman Miller fabric. The best we can guess is that the frame and design are by Knoll.

The balance of pluses and minuses

I talk a good talk about decluttering, and there is so much advice on the topic. I do believe it's a good approach to love what you have.

I also felt like this, found via the Seventh Generation blog, is a good approach:
"Ask yourself what you want your life to look like over the next few years," Grufferman writes, "and you'll come up with a vision for your future, which will be your personal theme. Once you have your theme, you can work on getting rid of everything in your life that doesn't fit the theme, and you will be prepared to let go of the clutter."
Even though I've got a few years before I turn 50, it sounds like great advice. So what would you say is your theme? I think mine would be Greater ecological and creative sustainability.

In Andrea Zittel fashion, actions can be divided up into pluses and minuses:

More trading/bartering.
Thoughtful purchases--living with a mend it mentality. 
Buying used.

Food straight from the farmer.
Homegrown and homemade.  


And living by the William Morris quote {thanks for the reminder Sarah!}:

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."