Big challenge

When I was a small girl, I enjoyed watching fairy tales in black and white, the tales from Grandmother Sheep. She was sitting in an old chair, knitting an extremely long sock, and telling stories about brave lambs and evil wolves. Knitting and talking gave me the right soothing atmosphere at bedtime.

I learned how to knit early, but I did not have enough patience to finish something. In fact, I knit a few sweaters in my teenage and during university studies, but later I preferred dynamics of real life. A week ago, something changed. I decided to knit my own socks!

After about 30 years I decided to go back to knitting and make something what I never even tried before! Thanks to internet, I quickly found the right offer of yarns and tutorials how to knit socks. But it was no longer the soothing atmosphere of Grandmother Sheep. It seemed more like scientific work.

Suddenly I wasn’t sure. Maybe I had waited too long. So I started slowly, on two needles only. Better to make more loops than less, so the socks wouldn’t be small. I used all possible precautions and patiently knit both socks while I kept in mind Grandmother Sheep again. And maybe because of that, my socks became giant in size, just like in the fairy tale.

Next time, I will have more courage and my socks will fit also into other place than only to bed. I hope it will be next time, because I am very disappointed right now.

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How to reach perfection?

Everybody knows that being perfect is an illusion, but each of us is trying to get as close as possible. The desire for improvement is natural, and because of this tendency we have a lot of good in our lives.

But there are people who are obsessed with perfection. They usually would not agree and immediately highlight all the imperfections they have and need to improve. As long as they live inside of their obsession and don’t bother others, it is dangerous only to them in terms of mental and later physical health.

What I consider to be a problem is a lot of people who are paralyzed by the obsession. They are standing at the life crossroads and wondering which way leads to perfection. They want to avoid mistakes so much that they prefer thinking instead of acting. These people are always waiting for some UNTIL. Until I get this and that I can’t start doing this or that. They often become collectors of certificates with zero practice.

I believe in the power of practicing. My drawings are best proof of it. People ask me how I blend the colors, if I have special pencils for it. No, I don’t. I have the most common and cheap pencils, but I patiently put on many light layers until the drawing gets rich in color.

And this is my conclusion for today. You can get close to perfection by unlimited range of imperfections. Being imperfect means that you are on the way. Keep doing!

With love, Ivana

Healthy heart and blood vessels: Hawthorn

In this season, colorful fruits are ripening on thorny shrubs and trees, and the harvest of rose hips and haws is ongoing. I have already written about wild roses Wild Rose: Beauty among thorns, so today I focus on the hawthorn and even experimental products from it.

This year I’ve heard a strong call from hawthorn since blooming. Usually I’m not a big fan of hawthorn flowers because I don’t consider their odor to be quite pleasant even though hawthorn belongs to the same family as roses. Perhaps the hawthorn is a proof that not every rose must smell wonderful.

Listening to my call, I gathered hawthorn flowers and made a tincture or something between tincture and liqueur. Guided by intuition, I added a tincture from fresh roses to the hawthorn basis. Now, the result should harmonize heart on both, physical and emotional levels. Definitely it tastes great!

As soon as the first fruits became ripe, my intuition brought another input. Make vinegar! The rational part wasn’t against. There is enough sugar inside, the taste is similar to apple, and most of the effective substances can act from acidic environment. Since the vinegar preparation takes several weeks, my haws are still in the process of fermentation. Comparing with the apple vinegar, so far the haws are doing very well!  Perhaps vinegar could be another way how to use hawthorn for healthy heart and blood vessels. I would appreciate your experience if you have any.

Being inspired by Lydia with her Pear butter, I tried to make “hawthorn butter”. Since the first moment, it was even challenging or stupid idea. Although the taste of haws is similar to apple, the size is much smaller, and there is a stone inside! Finally I succeeded, but I don’t want to repeat it again! Pitting took ages and proved amount of yellow flavonoids, which has remained on my fingers up to day.

It might seem like I’m already fed up with hawthorn. However in my kitchen is still sitting another bowl of haws, which I gathered yesterday. So far I don’t know what to do with them, but they didn’t want to stay on tree!

Do you have any suggestion? Thanks for sharing.

With love, Ivana

Keep smiling, show emotions!

Living in the virtual world is full of emoticons, and some of them are really weird! It’s easy to push the key on a keyboard and send the picture with a mood because nobody can watch your face and real emotions. Do we really laugh or love as much as the emoticons show?

I don’t have anything against emoticons! I’ve been using them since Windows had not yet existed, and we had to do it with alphanumeric characters only. It has always been a way how to make a cold computer communication more human.

However, it seems to me that we have already come to a strange extreme. We are using emoticons in the virtual world abundantly and often thoughtlessly, while in the real world we carefully hide emotions and, unfortunately, often even in front of ourselves. Are we giving so much effort to make computer communication more human, that we don’t have enough humanity or emotionality for the living outside the keyboard?

So I draw a picture to remind the importance of emotions, all kinds of them. Finally I have seen what I somehow know, that emotions are like water. They are deep and strong, flowing one to another, quietly or in turbulence, usually without warning.  And to survive as humans, we need emotions as much as water. Don’t you think so?

With love, Ivana

Golden buttons

Today I have decided to choose another of the poisonous plants, Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) with a beautiful nickname “golden buttons”, which is exactly how the flowers look like.

Because the plant blooms for a long period of time and the gold-yellow flowers are firm and durable, Tansy easily attracts attention. Therefore it’s important to know that the entire plant, especially the flowers, is poisonous. A small dose can help to remove intestinal parasites, but because the toxin content may vary from one plant to another, it’s safer to use other herbs for this purpose.

The main poison is thujone, which is a terpene, acting as a neurotoxin. The same thujone is present in wormwood and it’s why absinth (herbal liqueur made from wormwood, anise and fennel) has been forbidden in many countries. And that’s why absinth is still so attractive. The story about forbidden fruit is one of the best ads.

Thujone content in leaves is comparable to wormwood, but in flowers it’s roughly three times larger. So if you insist on Tansy experiment, start with the leaves and be careful.

Thujone is also a substance that causes increased blood flow through internal organs, especially in the abdomen and the pelvis area. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid it for sure! The effect of thujone is so strong, that Tansy flowers have been earlier used as a medicine leading to abortion.

Thujone has a strong menthol odor and together with other camphor-like terpenes in Tansy causes significant repellent effects. Try to put a dried bouquet into the wardrobe and see how the clothing moths fly away in disgust.

Did you know that because of the strong repellent effects Tansy has been used in funeral houses? In some countries, they put bouquet into the coffins to keep the bugs away as long as possible.

Anyway, I would like to finish my post in positive. Despite all warnings about poisonous thujone, there is one major healing application. Homemade ointment from Tansy flowers can relieve rheumatic pains.

With love, Ivana

When the swallows return and fly away: Celandine

In my language, Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is more like swallow-wort, which is one of the common names in English as well. I was curious why. What do the swallows have in common with this yellow flower? Perhaps except the shape of swallow’s tail – this could remind on a distance the shape of Celandine’s capsules with seeds. Is it enough?

Then I found a simple connection in books. They say that Celandine has a pretty long period of flowering. It starts at the time of returning the swallows and it’s finished when they fly away to the warm regions. To be honest, I was disappointed with this explanation. I would expect something more sophisticated from books.

So I came back to life, back to my childhood, to my first memories with Celandine. I still remember mom, telling me that this plant grows abundantly in places where people urinate a lot. Of course, Celandine is a widespread plant, but notice that it often grows in dark alleys around pubs or in distant corners of gardens and around paths. Mom is always right 😊

I don’t know if it was an intention, but with this idea, mom took out my liking to taste the plant. And that was also right, because the whole plant is poisonous. Celandine belongs to the poisonous plants with medicinal effects and it is safer not to experiment with it.

The main constituents of Celandine come from the group of alkaloids. Some of them are on the opiate basis – similar to morphine and that’s probably reason why Celandine belongs to the same family as poppy (Papaveraceae). Other alkaloids are toxins or neurotoxins and they have the ability to directly kill the tissue cells. And some of them are healing such as yellow berberin, which is also present in turmeric and is responsible for many of its healing features. With professional supervision Celandine can be very effective especially for liver and gallbladder. Otherwise you can carefully try external application.

Traditionally, the yellow-orange latex from Celandine stem is recommended against warts. Again, be careful! The nice colored latex is kind of corrosive and this is how it works. If it was a harmless juice, the warts would remain on the skin even after many times repeated application. Some people may be sensitive, and touching the latex can cause them red itchy spots on the skin. Then it’s better to avoid this plant.

Do you have your own experience with it? I once drank homemade liqueur from a mixture of herbs including Celandine and was excellent! Looking forward to your tips and experiences.

With love, Ivana

Handicapped nettle

Have you ever wondered where the name of dead-nettle came from? What is dead on it? And why is it called a nettle? Dead-nettle is not a nettle at all!

Although we can find visual similarities in plant construction, botanically they don’t belong to the same family. Looking at the inflorescence, even the beginner will recognize why. Here are no similarities at all. Nothing to say about that the sting nettle (Urtica dioica) grows in two polarities – male and female. Modest dead-nettle (Lamium album) does it with one as most of other plants.

Stop. Now I have joined the same game, comparing what is incomparable. The game has been playing for years, spreading the myth of handicapped nettle. I must say that in my language dead-nettle isn’t dead, only deaf. But the meaning is the same – we are talking about nettle which lacks the key feature.

Dead-nettle has its own features and they are many. Dead-nettle is an important plant and a flag-ship of the whole family Lamiaceae, which contains famous and effective plants like mint, sage, thyme, etc. Would you say about these culinary and medicinal herbs that they are dead or deaf?

I like to gather and drink dead-nettle tea even though I don’t have enough patience to pick individual flowers. Usually I harvest the upper fresh part with the first row of inflorescence.

The white classic is sweet like innocent child and given to tea it gently helps to release mucus from respiratory system. Women could appreciate the release of excessive white mucus from the intimate area. In my herbal soap experience, white dead-nettle is one of choices for the female intimate soaps.

As mentioned earlier Nettle: Excellent Blood Purificator, my body isn’t a big fan of sting nettle. But I love the white handicapped nettle which is not nettle. How about you?

With love, Ivana