Let’s move to Vermont

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Long Trail Brewing

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Apple Hill Inn

Woodstock, Vermont is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited. Matt and I stopped there for one night on our way to Montreal earlier this month, and I fell in love with it.  The downtown area, complete with a library, general store, independent shops. covered bridges, and stone buildings, is nestled in the mountains far away from the noise of city life. It almost looks like a movie set. The trees were ablaze in yellow, orange, and red, and the country roads were scattered with barns and homesteads with corn, pumpkins, and wheat on their front porches. A river runs alongside the town adding to its natural beauty. I also was enamored with the Vermont mindset. Everywhere you look there are independent grocers and farmers’ markets. The sustainable food industry is thriving there, and so are the people. Almost everyone we spoke to had an interesting story to tell.

Here is a list of seven recommendations for where to visit if you visit Woodstock:

(1) Long Trail Brewing – A brewing company with an outdoorsy vibe and a restaurant where you can eat on a deck overlooking the Ottauquechee River. Super friendly servers at the pub. We tried a few different brews and enjoyed the Limbo IPA most of all.

(2) Yankee Bookshop – Cheerful yellow storefront, and a fabulous, well-edited selection of books. I could have happily spent hours in here.

(3) Apple Hill Inn – A B&B amongst the rolling hills on the outskirts of Woodstock run by the incredibly warm and interesting innkeeper, Beverlee. We awoke to the aroma of apple butter and a home-cooked breakfast. I love the simple country aesthetic of the decor, too.

(4) Gillinghams – A popular general store where you can buy just about anything. Homegoods, hardware, food, clothes, toys, books– you name it.

(5) Worthy Kitchen – A no-fuss, casual, wholesome, and delicious farm-to-table restaurant. You can’t tell how good it is by trying to find a menu online– just trust me. And try the donuts for dessert.

(6) Woodstock Farmers Market – A grocer selling local provisions, baked goods, and prepared food. If I lived in Woodstock, I think I’d make daily trips to this delightful place.

(7) Farmhouse Pottery - This place is a dream. A beautiful, light-filled, family-run pottery studio.

First Attempt at a Homemade Apothecary Recipe

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For years, I’ve wanted to try to make my own apothecary concoctions. I’ve dabbled in simple things like mixing herbs to make tea, or combining spices for homemade mulling spices, but never tried lotions. Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs is a solid reference to start with if you’re new to herbs and natural healing like I am. She’s one of the top authorities in the world on herbs, so she knows her stuff. Recently, one of my friends hosted “Apothecary Night,” and we made a cream from the book. We gleefully followed the instructions, and I’m not sure why, I but I was totally surprised when all of those ingredients actually turned into something usable. Like magic. This particular recipe contains calendula oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, beeswax, aloe, water, and essential oil. I used lavender and rosemary scents, but you could use whatever you have handy. It turned out wonderfully moisturizing, and the best part is that I know exactly what’s in it. The ingredients can be pricy to purchase, but once you’ve invested in a shelf of supplies, they can get you far. One of the women at the get-together recommended Mountain Rose for quality, inexpensive ingredients. Gladstar’s book includes lots of other recipes too, such as salves, teas, and bath salts.

Taproot Magazine: Food, Farm, Family, and Craft

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It seems like the days of one-inch thick magazines crammed with ads are waning. Readers are seeking inspirational content and willing to pay a few extra dollars for quality over quantity. Enter, Taproot Magazine. It’s a quarterly published out of Hardwick, Vermont. I discovered Taproot in 2013 at Common Ground Fair, where they had set up shop in the media section. Their motto is “Living fully, digging deeper” with emphases on food, farm, family, and craft. Each issue also has a different focus. The one pictured above is “Mend,” which has inspiration for mending our thoughts, our world, and literal mending of clothes and possessions. It’s full of illustrations and photos, essays and how-to projects. The DIYs are always my favorite. In the most recent issue, there are lots of recipes for apothecary concoctions, household cleaners. You will also find a knitting pattern, an informative piece about planting bulbs in the fall for spring blooms, and a whole bunch of other good stuff. The editor of Taproot is Amanda Blake Soule, who also writes the blog Soule Mama about life on her farm with her family.

A modern homestead in Quebec

There is something very romantic and comforting about a homestead. A place to put down roots, entertain a family, get back to nature, and be a little bit self-sufficient. In today’s world, for most of us, this type of living seems to be from a bygone era, but in the past five or ten years, I’ve noticed an upswing in the number of people craving this humble lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For those of us who love the idea of a rural place, but can’t move to the country, we can take small steps to bring elements of that dream into our lives. Last week, I was excited by a visit to my in-laws’ home in Quebec, where they are building a homestead of their own. They live mostly off-the-grid, growing/making/building what they need. Inspired by their home, I pulled together a fun little list of “modern homestead essentials:”

(1) Clothes line – Line-drying uses less energy and also makes your clothes smell like fresh air that all of the fabric softeners try to replicate.

(2) Apiaries / Bee hives – Raw honey is an antiseptic, and if you make enough of it, you could make a little extra money or trade it with a friend for something else like homemade bread or eggs.

(3) Chickens & coop – For eggs, and meat if you please

(4) A handmade wreath on the door to welcome guests. The one pictured here is made from branches,  pine cones, and other forest-floor finds.

(5) A fireplace or wood stove, to keep warm in the wintertime

(6) Bird houses – Nothing adds to the outdoor ambiance like songbirds flitting around, and kids enjoy watching the wildlife.

(7) Flower & herb beds – For medicinal purposes, cooking, and because they smell good and look beautiful

(8) Handmade project supplies – Whether you knit, sew, build furniture, or weave, handmade gifts are wonderful to give during the holidays and keep you busy during the winter months.

(9) Pets – Kittens or a dog are sure to enliven the place

(10) Musical instruments – For entertaining yourselves around the bonfire on summer evenings. My sister-in-law’s instruments of choice are the banjo and ukulele.

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Their home amidst a maple grove

Their home amidst a maple grove

Bee’s Wrap for Sustainable Food Storage

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It’s always satisfying to see a maker or entrepreneur with an innovative idea crush everything you dislike about a product or an industry. Uber did it with taxis. Seventh Generation did it with household cleaning products. And now Bee’s Wrap is doing it with food storage. Instead of using disposable, plastic wrap that is detrimental to your health, the aesthetics of your kitchen, and the environment, you can use Bee’s Wrap to store bread, cheese, or produce. Made in Vermont, Bee’s wrap is composed of beeswax, organic cotton, jojoba oil, and tree resin, which are biodegradable materials. The wrap is easy to handle, is reusable, smells a little bit like honey, and looks charming on your kitchen counter. One wrap lasts up to a year, and all you have to do is wash it in cool water and dry before reusing again. I love how the woman behind Bee’s Wrap phrases it on her Etsy page: “Bee’s Wrap is an old fashioned solution that feels miraculous in our modern world.” It’s so true that often the simplest, most natural solutions work the best.

Natural and Organic Capsule Makeup Bag

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What if your beauty stash was so well-edited that getting ready in the morning was a breeze?  I love the idea of the “capsule” makeup bag that contains just what you love and use the most, and nothing more. If I had to choose, these are the 10 (okay, 11) items that I’d keep with me. I don’t use much more than these on a daily basis, anyway, aside from a few brushes and tools and basic things like shampoo, conditioner, and face wash.

Yarok’s Feed Your Ends leave-in conditioning spray is an herbal concoction that is equally invigorating and useful for days when you air dry, blow dry, or to refresh second-day hair. (Honorable mention, the less natural Aveda Daily Hair Repair is also a staple for me). Olivine’s Bluebird eau de parfum is my signature scent and I don’t like going a day without it. It ties together my outfit and makes me feel ready for the day. My go-to moisturizer for the past 3 years has been the Pai Geranium and Thistle Rebalancing Day Cream, and I am even more grateful for the nourishment it provides as I get older and my skin is thirstier. It may be odd to include something as boring as deodorant, but this Vanilla Lavender Healthy Deodorant by Lavanila is a must-have.

For complexion I use three products: Dr. Hauschka’s Translucent Makeup (which smells like witch hazel and herbs) for a base, layered with Alima Pure’s Satin Matte Foundation, and RMS Beauty’s “Un” Cover-up under my eyes. For a bit of color, I add Mineral Fusion Blush in the color Pale. This is not tan enough to be a bronzer, but it’s not pink either. I think it livens up my pasty Irish/English skin tone. If you have cool-toned skin, you might like the pink-rose Tinted Lip Conditioner from Ilia in the shade Blossom Lady. On my lashes, I currently use Well People’s Bio Extreme Mascara. Last, but certainly not least, I carry Dr. Hauschka’s Lip Care Stick in my purse with me everywhere and reapply at least a few times throughout the day.

The makeup bag is a washable organic cotton canvas is by Christy Coleman for Spirit Beauty Lounge.

Autumn Favorites

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Autumn is the prettiest time of year in Maine. I sound like a broken record lately gushing about the beauty of New England this season, so I’ll stop there. But I thought I’d share with you some of the things I can’t live without this season.

FOOD & HOME

No autumn would be complete without homemade crock pot applesauce.

Chai was made for the fall season. I recently discovered a local company, Chai Wallahs, at the Common Ground Fair. Essie Button also posted a video that included what looks to be a delicious chai recipe.

Martha Stewart’s Granola Cookies – these are made with coconut oil, and you don’t even miss the butter.

I have been getting a lot of use out of Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian for Everyone cookbook for seasonal recipes. Fall is a good time to hunker down at home and make some healthy comfort food.

These two candles: Sydney Hale’s Woodsmoke and Amber and Maple Syrup Candles, which make your house smell like heaven. The latter has a wooden wick that crackles like a campfire.

Design*Sponge’s fall flower projects

STYLE

Kork-ease Velma Boots – these shoes are comfortable, go with most of my wardrobe, and are really well-made

These items from Horny Toad – Coriander skirt, Elsa pant, Marley tee. I like to buy from Horny Toad because it seems like a socially responsible company that treats its employees well and cares about the environment (they are members of 1% for the Planet and give back in many ways)

My Native Bear scarf, which I posted about here

Bluebird eau de parfum by Olivine

FUN

Apple picking at Rocky Ridge Orchard

Taproot magazine – a publication for natural living with substance

Of course, Common Ground Fair

Woodstock, Vermont – I will be visiting this town in October, and I can’t wait to see autumn in all its splendor

A different kind of fortune: investing in nature & heart

 

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Last month I read Oprah’s book, What I Know For Sure. It got me thinking about what I know for sure. And one thing I know is that the earth is the most precious thing we have. We’ve got to cherish our habitat, our resources, our wildlife, our ecosystems now and guard them closely for future generations. Humankind’s survival depends upon it. Lately, I’ve encountered a few editorials that have got my wheels turning and the ways in which they intersect is food for thought. How can we tread more lightly on the earth? I don’t have expertise to offer, but I do have earnest thoughts.

I enjoy pretty objects, and this interest seems to be at odds with the desire to conserve nature and resources. In my younger years, I shopped a lot. I bought lots of things I didn’t need at the mall, and I ended up giving much of it away to Goodwill. Now that’s out of my system, I try to live fairly minimally in terms of possessions. My habits are by no means perfect but I do much better than before.

One thing I wonder about is what each of us can do to conserve resources and tread lightly. There are endless lists of things from nixing plastic, going paperless, recycling, composting, growing your own food, and we could list small actions for hours. At times it seems hopeless though– what measure can small actions take to counteract our culture’s gas-guzzling race cars, fossil fuel industry, mountains of plastic coffee cups in rubbish bins, and the growing pattern of over-consumption of food and material goods? (Turns out, it is possible to waste much less, at least according to this article about how Sweden recycles 99% of its waste.)

In article for Orion magazine about redefining value in our economy, Scott Russell Sanders writes, “The GDP does not reflect work done at home without pay, volunteer work in the community, or mutual aid exchanged between neighbors. It counts junk food you buy on the highway but not food you grow in your backyard. It counts the child care you purchase but not the care you provide.” It’s true, our traditional definition of success and value is askew. Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if our economy and its success was not valued only in dollars? In some ways, the economy is headed in that direction, which you can read about in Aaron Hurst’s book, The Purpose Economy.

On the topic of consumption, Maxwell Tielman writes for Design*Sponge in the “Consumption Conundrum,” and he advocates for making “mindful” purchases, or goods that were made fairly and sustainably. He urges us to “Live with less. Instead of spending a little on a lot, spend more on the things you really need. Check your labels. Know your sources. Try to connect with the makers behind your purchases, whether they be a clothing designer, a jeweler, or a farmer. And, most importantly, wait. Time, and patience especially, seems to be integral to mindful living. Patience to save the necessary pennies needed to pay the fair price for something.”

Nature is rapidly diminishing. Human connections are becoming less frequent too, as we become more isolated and systems become automated in the internet age. At the same time people are yearning for a bond with the earth, and with each other, even more as these connections become scarce. Those two patterns, especially the latter, have contributed greatly to popular Maker Movement. People want to know the individuals who have crafted their purchases. Or they want to make the goods themselves.

I’ve come to believe in a different kind of wealth, one that privileges nature, relationships, and integrity. This means supporting the farmers at our local market, buying directly from artisans or small businesses. Purchasing goods that were handcrafted with skill, natural materials, and heart.  It means knowing where your money goes when you make a purchase. It could mean building/fashioning/growing the things you want and need if you have the time and the interest. Investing in a different kind of wealth most importantly means recognizing things that have value beyond gold— the natural beauty of our wilderness and time spent with loved ones. These things are the purer than gold if you ask me. If we use them as our compass, we keep towards true north.

Clap Clap Design and fairytale animals

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Clap Clap Design’s whimsical animal print designs are a little bit magical. Something about the animals seems like they could just leap off the paper and start talking to you like creatures straight out of Alice in Wonderland. This farm animal journal is a cute and lighthearted place to recap your adventures, make lists for future plans, and maybe capture some deep thoughts, too.

The designer behind Clap Clap is Mimi Kim. She lives is Los Angeles and sells a lovely selection of stationery, notebooks, and wrapping paper on her Etsy shop.