mums & fall planting

mums (2)When my mums start blooming in the backyard I know it is time to order bulbs for fall planting. Now is the best time to go on line and get bulbs, there are so many deals going on and one I have been happy with is Dutch Bulbs. I plant them outside and inside in pots. Mums are second to roses for the most popular flower, probably because of their longevity once placed in water. Chrysanthemums, mums, began their journey to Europe 2500 years ago from China. Considered as one of the Four Noble Ones, symbolizing the 4 seasons, they are grown with plums, bamboo and orchids. Its original color was gold therefore the Greeks named them chrysos for gold and anthos meaning flower. Buddhist monks took them to Japan in 400 AD where the emperors fell in love with the flower and sat of thrones of mums. There still exists a Festival of Happiness that celebrates mums. Mums can to the US in the 19th century and because the official flower of Chicago.

swallowtail butterfly


This swallowtail butterfly greeted me this a.m. in my backyard. There are over 550 species of swallowtail globally and roughly 30 in the US. They are the largest butterfly species in North America. Their name comes from the forked wings that resemble swallows. Their wings are transparent, reflecting light through the scales of proteins that fall of while aging. It appears as 2 wings but there are actually four. The average life span of butterflies is 2-4 week. Swallowtail are solitary beauties and do not normally migrate. They communicate, as do all butterflies, through scent and sight. During mating males will do a dance of sort and pheromones to attract the female.  Among others, they substitute on zinnias, oregano, purple coneflower, butterfly bush, overripe fruits, mud and some manure. Fill your yard with native plants that invite bees and butterflies. The Eastern tiger swallowtail (yellow one) is Georgia’s state butterfly.


hummingbird in my backyard

hummingbird in my backyard

Why have I only now truly appreciated the flora and fauna around me? Take hummingbirds for example, all the years living and traveling in other countries and I am just now truly in awe of them in my backyard when clearly they were more abundant in Latin America. The charming hummers blatantly buzzing around me in other countries are now more allusive in my backyard. They announce their arrival with a subtle chirping, basically to ward off the other hummer that is nearing its source of nectar. They can be quite ferocious little critters. And contrary to believe they will sit long spells guarding a feeder or flowers waiting for another to enter their domain. Of the 356 known species, 51 are endangered. In Georgia we have 11 species and only one nests here, the ruby-throated, that has iridescent feathers that you only when the sun hits its throat and it weigh less than 3 ounces. We also have the calliope hummingbird that is the smallest bird found in North America an. the rufous humming bird that has the longest migration in North America, 3000 miles. They gear up for their long treks by consuming ½ of their body weight in sugar and feed around 5-7 times a day. I am amazed at how often they are in my backyard in the flowers in August. They used to come in July but it seems that every year they come later. These ardent fliers can live up to 12 years, so I intend to plant a hummingbird jungle feast for next year.

calendula essential oil


Calendula, a versatile herb, is the essential oil from the pot marigold. Studies abound on its healing properties on the skin specifically burn victims. Due to its high level of vitamin A compounds (carotenoids) it is also known to calm skin irritations such as rashes, dermatitis, acne and chapped skin. It is also known as the poor man’s saffron as it can be used in cooking as a substitute. The petals also make a lovely dye. Another benefit of marigolds is Mother Nature’s bug repellant, planting them around your tomatoes so the bugs won’t eat them.

Historically, marigolds are native to Mexico and were taken to Europe and Asia in the 16th century. There are over 50 species of this earthy plant. To the Welsh, marigolds were “herb of the sun” and if they were not open in the morning a storm was coming. They were used as love charms, and were thought to produce visions of fairies if rubbed on the eyes. Others considered marigold poisonous due to the heavy aroma. In Mexico we were surrounded by marigolds on dia de los muertos, and while in India I saw marigolds were omnipresent. Ironically it wasn’t in Mexico that I learned to appreciate marigolds but in Thailand and India.

Calendula or marigold is one of my favorite oils and can be found in numerous products such as our everyday face kit. Try it!

3 key tips for the novice organic shopper

Switching to Organic Skincare?  3 Key Tips for the Novice Organic Shopper


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  1. Don’t be fooled by packaging

You know the saying don’t judge a book by its cover? Don’t judge products by their packaging. No matter how pretty or ‘natural’ the bottle looks, flip that puppy over and read the ingredients on the back! It’s not about the bottle, although having environmentally-conscious packaging is always a plus. You’re not putting the bottle on your face or skin, it’s what’s inside that counts.

  1. Know the difference between ‘natural,’ ‘made with organic ingredients,’ and ‘certified organic’

There is a huge difference between something that is ‘inspired by nature,’ yet contains a dozen ingredients you can’t pronounce, and a product whose ingredients actually occur in nature, not a lab. Don’t be fooled by natural-sounding names or jargon, or even products that claim to be organic, but are not certified organic. Many products contain a mix of organic and non-organic ingredients, which is not to say that the other ingredients are necessarily harmful, but they aren’t organic. To be able to trust something as completely organic, it must have the USDA certified organic seal on the package.

  1. Less is more

It is a huge misconception that ‘organic’ means less effective. Certified organic skincare products do not contain any fillers or preservatives, so they pack quite a punch! For instance, all of our products are made without water, so they simply consist of pure ingredients, and nothing else. Because of this potency, you’ll find that a tiny amount of a product, such as our Rose Geranium Face Moisturizer, will go a long way. You’ll be buying less often, and seeing better (and healthier) results.




plastic micro beads

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetLittle plastic micro beads

I like to think of myself as trying to be a person somewhat informed about various things. I recycle as much as possible; paper and cardboard as well as steel, aluminum and plastic containers along with glass jars and bottles all go into their appropriately colored recycle bins. I drink tap water avoiding as much as possible buying water in a bottle. On those occasions when I do make such a purchase, I carry the plastic bottle home with me to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way, if I don’t come across a recycling bin. When not doing my own garden compost, I dutifully put my grass and hedge clippings in the green bin.

I was very surprised then to learn that the micro beads in many, or perhaps most, facial scrubs and washes are plastic. Naïve me thought that they were somehow ‘natural’. Not until reading the article Illinois in Ecosalon’s email newsletter did I learn the facts. Cheap to manufacture, these plastic micro beads are cost efficient to beauty manufacturers. Because they are so small, they slip through the filters during sewage and water processing, thus making their way into rivers where they harm wildlife and pollute waterways. Millions of micro beads have been found in Lake Michigan. As you read in the article, the state of Illinois is the first to ban the sale and manufacture of beauty products containing micro beads by the end of year 2017. Check your scrub’s list of ingredients, does it list that the micro beads are plastic?

A good scrub exfoliates your skin, leaving it feeling fresh and rejuvenated.  Even better, when the ingredients are truly natural. That is why I adore HollyBeth’s Grits and Honey Scrub. It’s my favorite product from her beauty and cleansing range. First of all, it smells delicious! Gently fragrant, smelling of,  what else? Honey. Honey not only smells blissful, but has known healing and hydrating qualities too. What a way to start the day or to have a little pick-me-up at day’s end. Secondly, it delicately sloughs off dead skin cells, leaving skin dewy fresh and moisturized. Finally, it rinses off easily and cleanly and, best of all, contains no plastic microbeads. HollyBeth uses for her wonderful scrub a traditional, natural, organic ingredient—grits! It’s a fond Southern staple, both in the kitchen and in the bathroom.    Thoughts on Grits & Honey by Alicia Strickland