Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bonjour From Paris!

Allo! I hope you guys are enjoying Wednesday. I assure you it will be fabulous even if it started out rough. At least that was our experience :) I will spare you the boring details of traveling since (amazingly enough) they are already fading from my memory as insignificant. Right now it is 22:43 according to the clock here and Sean and I are getting ready for bed (trying to convince our bodies that it is indeed night and not two in the afternoon). Despite all the good advice from friends to stay up all day we ended up taking a nap after breakfast and getting up around five to go explore some more. Hopefully that wont mess us up tomorrow.

(The below picture is our first sight of Paris after we exited the Metro at the Arc de Triomphe).

You can see our first meal here it was soooo delicious.

We started out the day so tired we could barely remember any French and mostly ended up using English for most every interaction. However after our nap we brushed up on our approach and I completed my first complete transaction entirely en Francaise. I was very proud of myself, though he did help by quoting the price in English. Everyone speaks a little English so far that we have talked to and most seem to prefer talking to us in English despite our efforts (and often before we even open our mouths!) I guess Americans stand out.

We have taken a ton of photos and already spent a lot of euros and I don't even feel like we are really here yet! Above is Sean in front of the Place de Geffre stitched into a panorama, I love my new camera. Ok, I am going to watch the rest of French Idol (Nouvelle Star) and drink my tea before bed.

Tomorrow our plan is to hit the Musee Rodin and the Ile-de-Cite. We will keep you all posted! Bon Nuit!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bon Voyage

As I sit here, slightly buzzed from too much wine and in a calm panic, realizing that in less than 30 hours I will be in Paris, France, I wonder; am I really going to France? Wasn't that just some weird dream I keep having? But no, no. I am going to France in the morning and I am going to like it dammit! I mean I could not go. I could over sleep and decide to skip the whole thing. After all it has been an eventful week, who needs to add traveling to a foreign country where you barely speak any of the language?> I doubt that will happen.

So au revoir mes ami! I will see you when I return!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lost in Remodeling Hell

Hello blogosphere, I see that it has been more than a week since my last post. I apologize, but right now I have a loooooooooooooooonnnggg list of things to do. In a nutshell I have to finish remodeling a bathroom, move furniture around the house, clean EVERYTHING, plan for my mother 60th birthday party and pack my bags for Paris; pretty much all by thursday. This is going to be an interesting week.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Violet Elixir Walkthrough

Ok, so this is the time (at least here in Spokane!) to pick violets. Why pick violets you ask? Check my previous post on violets here. The best time to pick flowers is the morning before the heat of the day, but after the dew has dried (if you have any dew).

Here is a step by step guide on how to make the Violet Syrup (which is actually an elixir!):

Pick 1 quart jar full of violet blossoms. You can fill the jar loosely, no need to press the flowers tightly, I just pick them using the jar as my container. As long as the place your picking from has low or no foot traffic and isn't sprayed you should be fine without washing them.

Pour hot water (let teapot come to a boil but wait till bubbling stops to pour) over till the jar is full and the water covers all the blossoms (also, check the water level after about five minutes the blossoms will have soaked some of the water up and you will need to pour a little bit more so that the blossoms are indeed covered).

Cover the jar with a plate or its lid (this will not only keep put unwanted things such as flour and sawdust that may be floating around your house as well as keeping in all that heat which is extracting all the medicinal molecules) and let it steep for 2 hours (i usually stick it in the windowsill to add the suns help in extracting the compounds from the violets). Watch the water underneath the violets as it will bleed a rich blue violet color.

When the violet blossoms have steeped for two hours they should look like this:

Strain the liquid off into a small sauce pan. Make sure you use a spoon to press out the violets! Turn the burner on medium to medium-high heat and let reduce by half, this will take about 45 minutes to a couple hours, but it will depend on your burner so keep an eye on it. Do not let the water boil! The liquid should move a little with convection currents and steam slightly so that you know its reducing, but if you start to see bubbles turn down the heat. You don't need to stir it and I recommend you don't.

When the liquid is reduced by half, add the honey and let it dissolve into the liquid. I usually add about 3 tablespoons honey which makes it sweet, but not cloying. (you can substitute sugar for honey if you prefer, but keep in mind that Honey is medicinal in and of itself acting as an antimicrobial) Next add 2 teaspoons of brandy to help preserve (the honey acts as a preservative as well if you want to avoid using alcohol you can simply add more honey.) Adding brandy to this is what makes this an elixir instead of a mere syrup. Also if you don't have brandy available you can substitute with vodka, but you will need to add 3 teaspoons, as vodka is only 40 proof and brandy is 50 proof (usually).

Pour liquid once more through a strainer to catch any blossoms that may have slipped through the first strainer and pour into sterile jars. I am using 2, 8oz and one 4 oz jar. Make sure all the jars have lids that fit! (as you can see below my 4oz jar is lidless). Also make sure to label your jars with not only the title of your concoction (you get to make that up yourself) as well as the ingredients and the date it was made. Elixirs have about a year shelf life, so this should last you all year and through the winter unless you have a lot of coughs to contend with :)

Hope you enjoyed this step by step guide to making the Violet Blossom Cough Elixir. Feel free to leave comments or questions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Update : partie deux

Also, today is my lunaversary! Sean and I have now been married for 80 months! Can you believe that? Me neither. Every month we celebrate by going on date and being nice to each other (even if we haven't been lately). It seems to work, makes us get out together even if we have limited funds and forces us to recall why we married each other in the first place. So Happy Lunavesary! J'taime Sean!


So the bathtub is in place, the window is (finally) installed and it is my job today to install the insulation and measure where to cut the cement and wall boards. If I have time (and the patience) I will actually attempt to cut out the boards and install them, but its not on my to do list :)

In other news, my friends Jillian (from, Gordon and Jaima, are headed to Japan tomorrow! I am very excited for them, but not jealous since Sean and I are headed to France in three weeks time. Really, I'm not jealous...ok maybe a little. So I am bidding them all Bon Voyage or the Japanese equivalent thereof :) zen (good) tokou (voyage)? Somehow I think the online translation could be wrong. Ok, at the very least 幸せな旅行 which roughly translates to "Happy Travelling" :) Ok, how about Japlish: happi-toraberingu!

Also the violets are now taking over the lawn:

Unfortunately I don't think harvesting them is on my to do list today either.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Bathroom Project continues....

My husband said this morning, on the fact that we still don't have the bathtub in place: "It's like camping, but without the fun and more sawdust."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Viola odorata

Well it's now April, so it is time for the herb of the month!* I picked one of my favorite herbs for this month for a couple of reasons. First of all violets just started popping up in the lawn and because my father is suffering from bronchitis. (coincidence? I think not!)

Viola odorata is a small little purple flower with four petals and heart shaped leaves. It likes shady wet places and often hides in lawns (if you don't spray nasty chemicals on them anyway). It starts to bloom mid-march to mid april depending on the weather and what area you live in. I wait impatiently every year for them to pop up and if I am not quick they are all gone by the time I get out to harvest them (I am afraid that with all this snow that keeps covering them up I will miss them again this year). Hopefully tomorrow will be nice enough for a first harvest.

Violets are expectorant (make you spit and move phlegm out of your lungs), alterative (get your lymph moving and clear out the blood), anti-inflammatory, and diuretic (make you pee). The actions together make for an excellent remedy when sick with Bronchitis (especially), colds, coughs and influenza, for they move your immune system through the body and remove waste from the blood and urinary tract more quickly. Violets have also recently come into the scientific spotlight as one of only a handful of herbs that contains a substance called cyclotides. These compounds are disulfide rich proteins that make up an exceptionally stable ring structure that are being explored for therapeutic use in HIV and cancer drugs. You can read more here on the website.

Violets are one of the wild edibles that should be on your stop, pick and eat list. Violets are rich is ascorbic acid and minerals that are especially needed in the spring to get us over our winter deficiencies. Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C is a highly unstable molecule that is easily lost by exposure to heat, light or air, but if you eat fresh (just picked less than 2 minutes before) it will not be degraded.

Violets heart shaped leaves are a reminder that violet is also used to ease the heart. In fact one of violets names is hearts-ease (usually referring to the Viola tricolor species). Violet has been used through the centuries to cure the broken heart and to lighten moods.

The leaves and flowers can be made into a tea (2 tsp to 1 cup of water, let it steep for 10-15 minutes) or as a 40% alcohol tincture.

A good way to make yourself remember that violets are used for bronchitis would be to make them into a cough syrup. I took this recipe from Judith Berger's Herbal Rituals:

Violet Blossom Syrup
lots of violet blossoms
1 quart jar
boiling water

Gather lots of violet blossoms. Fill your jar halfway with blossoms and fill jar with boiling water. Let steep for 2 hours and strain out blossoms (keeping the liquid. Put the liquid in a pan and reduce by half (on low heat). Add honey to taste and 2 teaspoons of brandy as a preservative. Use by the teaspoon for bronchitis, sore throats and sore hearts.

You can also combine it with other herbs, such as thyme Thymus vulgaris for its warming and anti-viral activity; garden sage Salvia officinalis for its cleansing and ability to break up phlegm; and black elder berries Sambucus nigra for their anti-viral activity and ability to induce a fever (febrifuge).

Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman
Herbal Rituals, Judith Berger

*No I didn't put up an herb for March. Sue me!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Amanda: Demolition Woman!

I got up today and went on a magical journey to Lowes, where I bought cement board, wall board, tape and grout. I transported it home and put it away and walked into the bathroom where I proceeded to TEAR DOWN THE FREAKING WALLS!!!! WOOHOOO!!!
I don't know the last time I had such fun. The old wallboard was all water damaged and moldy so most of it tore right out, but I had to resort to a crowbar and hammers to get the parts of the wall that were undamaged. I also discovered the source of the water damage which turned out to be the window.

See when they* installed the newer (smaller) window they had simply placed a piece of plywood in front of the gaping hole and forgot** to seal it at all so there was a nice 1/4 inch exposed seam into the wall that has been there for 20+ years. No wonder its always too cold to take a bath in there.

Anyway I am tired and covered in mold and plaster dust and really loonging for a shower which I will not get until tomorrow at a friends house. It's just poetic justice that the reason I need a shower is because I demolished it.

*The identity of 'they' has been concealed to protect the innocent or not so innocent