April 20, 2008

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No... It's a Super Fruit!

What is all the fuss about these so called "super fruits"? They're not really new by any means as they have been cultivated in their various locations for centuries. Recent studies have shown some incredible discoveries so I decided to do some investigation. Connecting the dots between their benefits of ingestion and topical uses made perfect sense and we began using the extracts, pulp and oils of the fruits and seeds in some of our products. (see links below)

Let's go over the top contenders:
  • Açaí Berry: (ah-SAH’-ee) The berries are produced by a palm tree that grows in the Amazon region. Recent studies have shown the small grape-like berries to possess high levels of antioxidants. Historically, Brazilians have used açaí berries to treat digestive disorders and skin conditions. In skin care açaí is being used to prevent signs of premature aging and inflammation of the skin. Studies have shown the extracts of the berries and oils made from the seed contain high levels of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals to help promote skin cell health and fatty acids and phytosterols to help to preserve collagen and boost skin cell regeneration.

  • Goji Berries: Historically used in ancient Chinese medicine, this amazing fruit packs a powerful punch of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Recent studies have shown that extract of the berries helps to calm skin sensitivity, irritation and redness. They are a rich source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C, and chock full of antioxidants to aid in neutralizing skin-damaging free radicals.

  • Mangosteen Fruit: The mangosteen hails from Southeast Asia. Studies have shown that this very perishable fruit and its rind contain a powerful class of antioxidants (xanthones) known to protect and nourish the skin and aid in the fight against free radicals. I have been told that the flavor of the fruit is incredible, but I doubt I will get a chance to eat any fresh unless I travel to Asia as it is hard to come by in North America. I do drink the fruit juice mixed with cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry and açaí berry and it's very tasty.

  • Pomegranate: A legendary fruit with ties to ancient times is native to the region from Afghanistan to the Himalayas in northern India and it is now grown commercially in many locations around the world. It's no news that the pomegranate is busting out all over with antioxidants. Polyphenols from pomegranate are known for their potent anti-inflammatory properties. Pomegranate seed oil helps to refine skin tone and high levels of ellagic acid help boost collagen production. The bright red fruit tastes amazing and it is good for you inside and out. What's not to love?

  • Quinoa: (KEEN-wah) Not a fruit, but an ancient grain that deserves top ranking in the super-foods club originated in the Andean region of South America. Quinoa was revered by the Incas who called it "the mother of all grains." Quinoa contains extremely high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and is a natural source of Vitamin E and antioxidants. Quinoa oil imparts excellent emollient and moisturizing properties to the skin. It also enhances circulation in the skin area treated to help aid revitalization of the dermis.
How's that for a crash course? Don't you feel smarter already? You can find these ingredients and more in our Mangosteen & Açaí Berry, Sanguinello & Pomegranate, and coming soon, Goji Berry & Quinoa Seed collections at Bidwell Botanicals.

You knew I had to throw in a sales pitch eventually, right?

April 18, 2008

Airing Your Laundry

My mother always warned me about airing my dirty laundry in public, but that's not what this post is about. (You knew that, didn't you?) It's about the cost of natural gas or electricity that we use to dry our clothes when there's perfectly good air and sunshine outside our back doors, and it smells better too. Well, I guess that depends on where you live. That might not be the case in Los Angeles or Detroit, but you know what I mean.

When I was first married I lived in a quaint little neighborhood with a fenced-in backyard where I could actually hang our laundry on a clothesline to air dry. What's a clothesline, you ask? It's this really nifty gadget - a string or wire - heavy duty of course, and you use clothespins (another nifty gadget) to secure your t-shirts, jeans and unmentionables out in the sunshine to dry - for free. Oh, and not one of our neighbors called us to angrily complain or report our unsightly mess to the neighborhood association.

There are actually restrictions in many places, including the city I live in, that make it illegal to hang your clean laundry outside to dry. You can get fined for this horrible wanton act! Now I'm not talking about hanging your undies in the front yard for all to see or tossing your towels and jeans over your porch railings for days on end. I mean a discreet little clothesline strung between trees or poles behind your house where no one can see it unless they're spying on you. What would that hurt? Does it actually bring the level of the neighborhood down because you want to save a few bucks? Isn't this the age of "going green"?

If you happen to live in the country or outside of the suburbs you could probably get away with at least hanging out your towels and sheets. I realize it's not terribly convenient but once you dry off with a fluffy towel or plop face down into a pillow that smells of sunshine and fresh air you might find it addictive and worth the effort. If you like the additional fragrance that you get with laundry additives you could use a linen spray with lavender to add a calming floral scent.

Back in my grandmother's day they used drawer sachets, not only for keeping their laundry fresh but also to help ward off moths and other undesirable critters. A sachet is simply a small bag or pouch filled with dried herbs or flowers. You can fill a small muslin drawstring bag with cedar chips and hang it in your closet to keep moths away from woolens and keep clothes smelling fresh. I keep a little satin pouch with dried lavender and rose buds in my lingerie drawer. Shhhh... don't tell my husband, he thinks I smell that good naturally.

The naysayers would complain that if you let one person do it then everyone would do it and it could get out of control. Maybe, but I highly doubt it would lead to anarchy.

Sources for Clotheslines and Supplies:
Whitney Design Outdoor Dryers
The Clothesline Shop

April 14, 2008

Put a Spring in Your Step!

Spring has sprung as the saying goes. Here in the south we've already been treated to bursts of bright yellow daffodils and forsythia, clouds of cherry blossoms and dazzling red tulips dotting front yards and street corners all over town. Masses of vibrant azaleas grace landscapes with shades of pink, white and crimson. The dogwoods recently bloomed in pink and white showing off their southern charm, while drifts of multi-colored pansies happily bob their heads during our frequent spring showers. Birds and butterflies are in abundance, as well as the constant drone of the carpenter bees as they do their hovercraft impersonations looking for a mate and a place to nest.

The temperatures are just about warm enough to set out our summer annuals. I say just about because today we actually got a little bit of snow. That's right... here in the deep south we had snow flakes falling in the middle of the day. Crazy! I'm good with this cold snap though, because soon enough the only cool air we'll get will be blowing out of our air conditioning units, and I have to pay for that pleasure.

I went out and snapped a few shots of the first spring flowers and plants. As you can see some of them are still sporting a light coat of yellow pollen. Anyone familiar with spring in the south knows what I'm talking about. Thankfully the recent rains have washed away a lot of the evil dust, but more is to come with the setting of pine cones and flowering magnolias. It's a small price to pay for the beauty Spring brings us each year, even if some of us have to view it from behind our tightly closed windows.

April 11, 2008

Making Mud Pies

Do you remember when you were a kid and the days seemed to stretch endlessly in front of you. Back then television was something we watched for maybe an hour on Saturday morning to catch the new cartoons. Long hot summer days were spent running around our backyard from the pool to the swing set and back again. Most days we had a sun shower or two late in the afternoon that produced just enough rain for one of our other favorite activities: making mud pies. There's nothing like digging your little fingers into cool wet mud and creating masterpieces to present to your mom and dad who politely pretended to taste them and proclaim them the most amazing creations ever made! Then it was back to running through the sprinkler with a dash into the pool for good measure to wash away the remnants of our day's endeavors before going in for supper.

Now that I'm older I still like to play in the mud, only now the mud is clay. Sea clay, rose clay, cocoa clay, stark white kaolin; the list goes on and on. I've formulated with gorgeous mineral clays from around world including Australia, Israel, France and Morocco. They come in a dizzying array of colors and textures and are enriched with the mineral deposits indigenous to their homelands.

What can you do with clay, you ask? We use them in soaps for their cleansing, soothing and drawing powers. Body and facial masques are made moisturizing, astringent or soothing. Rose and white clays are best for mature or sensitive skin types while sea muds and green clays possess powerful drawing power to pull impurities from your skin.

To make a simple facial masque try this:

1 Tablespoon of Bentonite or Kaolin clay
Liquid of choice (water, honey, cream, yogurt or hydrosols are excellent choices)

Using enough liquid to make a paste, stir into clay until you reach the desired consistency. Using clean fingers or a facial brush spread the mixture over clean face avoiding eyes and mouth. Lie back and relax allowing the paste to work for 10 - 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with warm water until completely removed. Splash face with a cool water rinse, gently dry with a soft towel and apply your favorite moisturizer. Discard any remaining clay mixture. Your skin will feel incredibly soft and clean.

Even though the endless days of your youth may be behind you it's never too late to make time for yourself. So go ahead and make a mud pie, or better yet pamper your skin with a beneficial mud masque and regain that youthful glow.

April 9, 2008

Heaven in a Bag

I went to Whole Foods today (better known as Harry's Farmer's Market around here). I love that place! Being a weekday before lunch hour it was quiet and I could roam around and sample fruits, cheeses and other assorted yummies set up in the aisles. I picked up a brie cheese and smoked turkey panini with fresh basil and tomatoes and a delightful organic mango smoothie by Naked Juice Company for my lunch. Can you hear me sighing with delight?

As I searched for some organic fruits and berries for photo work today I found the most amazing thing ever! I love dried goji berries. I order mine from an organic grower in Tibet to help support their co-op, and also because no one was carrying them locally at that time. They carry several kinds at Harry's now and it's always a good idea to have a back-up source. As I was browsing the shelves of exotic ingredients I spied a bag on the bottom shelf that looked intriguing. Egad! Organic goji berries covered in dark chocolate by Himalania. They were $5.99 for a 6 oz bag; pricey, but I had to try these.

If you've never eaten goji berries, they taste like a cross between dates and dried cranberries. Not too sweet with a slightly tart aftertaste. Goji berries
(also referred to as Wolfberry) are one of the newly acclaimed "super fruits" and have been cultivated high in the Himalayas for centuries. I initially tried them to see what all the fuss was about and now eat them because I really like them. So I figured goji berries covered in deep dark chocolate would have to be good, right? I can't tell you how good (mostly because I'm currently stuffing them into my mouth). The dark chocolate adds a whole new level to the flavor. Plus it's ... well... chocolate! Of course chocolate has its own antioxidant health claims to boast these days, but I always knew it was a super-food. No really, I did!

If you get a chance to try these I heartily recommend them. I wonder what these would taste like sprinkled on top of this freshly made gelato I picked up at Harry's?