Saturday, October 31, 2015

"I wish this peace on everyone... on this lovely day"

I recently watched Brother Sun, Sister Moon, a film about St. Francis of Assisi. Zeffirelli's film left me feeling completely enchanted and enraptured. The beautiful flowers dancing in the breeze, the rabbits watching him, the deer lingering, all as Francis felt God's presence in all living things, in all of His creations.

I find St. Francis of Assisi to be utterly fascinating. October 4th, the day of his feast, I had my parrot blessed; I've been working on a painting of him; I've been pouring over books about him. With joy I met the nuns of the order of Francis and Clare - one nun in particular just embraced me with such love that left my heart skipping beats over such kindness. This is the kindness of the spirit of St. Francis. He's such an inspiration: his love for animals, for nature, for people; his empathy for the poor.

Painting in progress, still have a long way to go.

Current readings on St. Francis:
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr
The Little Flowers of St. Francis, The Mirror of Perfection, St. Bonaventure's Life of St. Francis introduction by Fr. Hugh McKay, O.F.M., D.D.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Michaelmas grapes

"The Michaelmas daisies, among dead weeds, bloom for St. Michael's valorous deeds." 

St. Michael the Archangel, my patron saint, is dear to my heart. September 29th is the Michaelmas, the holy feast dedicated to St. Michael and all the angels. Michael is the warrior angel-saint mentioned five times in the Bible and always in a warlike fashion, three times by Daniel, once by St. Jude, and by St. John in Revelation. Michaelmas is a harvest day of sorts, traditionally a day when harvest needed to be completed as an end to the productive season in preparation for the next. The canonical color of the Michaelmas is white.

Traditionally, there are many ways to celebrate the Michaelmas, some vegetarian options being the old Scottish tradition of "Carrot Day": digging carrots and giving them away as a good deed, harvesting blackberries (the Michaelmas regarded as the last day to pick them), and baking loaves of bread. Alas, I don't have carrots, and I don't particularly like picking blackberries as the thorns are sharp and the berries are usually wormy, nor do I have flour to bake bread at the moment. However, I do have grapes. So I chose to be different and celebrate Michaelmas by picking grapes from my garden and making grape jelly. Yay!

Garden grapes ready for harvest.

Washing and about to de-stem for mashing and cooking.

Until the arrival of Michaelmas, I'll be picking the grapes and making lots of jelly to give as a gift in honor of St. Michael (before the raccoons get their paws on them like they have in the past, those bandit-faced beasts).

The recipe I used to make grape jelly is found here - highly recommended and a lot of fun!

Happy Michaelmas!

For more information, please see:

Saints and Festivals of the Christian Church by H. Pomeroy Brewster

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cloudy Night

Thinking of Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh's story of beauty and the ultimate beauty of finding God, I love how Anthony Blanche tells Charles that he is "that very rare thing... an artist." How Anthony complements Charles in this respect, makes it sound so beautiful and charming. But, as artists know, there's the eccentricities: the obsessive frustration while painting, the feeling of madness, even, when a painting isn't quite as it's needed to be. Yet, there's that deep feeling of contentment when a piece is finished. Even more beautiful, is the discovery that years after a painting is completed, and an artist revisits their work, they see something new. Revisiting my painting, "Cloudy Night," this is the case. It now makes me think of St. Paul's Romans 5:

". . . We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

I had the honor of sharing "Cloudy Night" at an art show and speaking about its symbolism. Doing so was revealing scars, yet very cathartic. That's the thing about sharing art: it's perfectly okay to be emotional. People don't judge you, they want to hear your story. This is what art is.

"Cloudy Night" is a winter piece. It's surrealism. It's also a landscape. But it also conveys a lot of emotion: confusion, sadness, heartbreak, depression, pain, scars. But deep within the clouds is the slight yellow, the hidden happiness coming through... and that is the silver lining. Winter doesn't last forever. Snow will melt, beauty will flower again... and our sufferings bring us closer to Christ.

Cloudy Night, painted by me. Watercolor and Acrylic. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Old School Gaming

I've been a gamer since... well, since I can remember.

If you were a product of the 80's (like me), you'd remember the glory days, too. I remember playing the Atari Pitfall! and then there were the hours I would spend on the Apple II, playing games such as Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Oh, those were good times, indeed. But it got even better, with the release of the NES and Sega consoles. With the NES and SMS came some serious business: obsession and fandom of certain franchises.

With the NES's Zelda franschise, came the cartoon as well as the cereal (which tasted like lucky charms... it was oooooh sooooo gooood) so my childhood was certainly impacted by Nintendo. But the Sega Master System and it's successor, the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, truly enchanted my childhood. I would draw maps of Phantasy Star's dungeon mazes, take them to the very nice school librarians, who would laminate the maps for me.

My obsession for Zelda remains, though, and I get excited about every new game released. As much as I enjoy the new games, I'll always remember the good ol' days. With this in mind, I am sharing an artwork I made in celebration of The Adventures of Link. Retro Zelda tends to be under-appreciated while so many (er, too many) continue to lavish praise over the very mediocre Twilight Princess.

So, here's to old school gaming, and old school Zelda.

The Adventure of Link artwork, drawn by me. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Beer Soap

Ah, the wonders of beer. ("Mmmmmm. Beer." -- Homer Simpson.)

Ahem, well, Captain Obvious and all, but my Irish kin are certainly reputed to enjoy the stuff, exporting some of the most popular of beers, such as the widely known Guinness.

How long humans have been making beer is uncertain, but what is known is that beer has been fermented since ancient cultures, at least since the time of Sumer, and his people, the Sumerians. The Sumerians celebrated their fermented libations with documented hymns, such as the following, as translated by Miguel Civil of The Oriental Institute of the University of Chigago):

In the reed buckets there is sweet beer,
I will make cupbearers, boys, and brewers stand by,
While I circle around the abundance of beer,
While I feel wonderful, I feel wonderful,
Drinking beer, in a blissful mood,
Drinking liquor, feeling exhilarated, 
With joy in the heart and and a happy liver,
While my heart full of joy,
And my happy liver I cover with a garment fit for a queen!
The heart of Inanna is happy again,
The heart of the queen of heaven is happy again!

The ancient Sumerians sound like a bunch of dancing hobbits in the above song. But, mad props to the Sumerians here: the stuff is indeed great, not only because it's, uh, beer, but also because of its beauty benefits! Yes, indeed: Cleopatra took beer baths, just as many in Eastern Europe today take beer baths. It's said to be great for the hair as a rinse; others claim it's great for beautifying the skin. I have used it as a toner for the skin and I'm a fan, hands down. But what's also great about beer, is that it makes an incredible soap. No harsh, unneeded chemicals such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate -- put simply -- beer, used in making soap, means bubbles..

When my Etsy site is launched (sooooooon) such wonderful beer soaps will be available for your bathing pleasure.

My Dragon's Blood Beer soap. 
(No dragons were harmed in the making of this soap.)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rose Syrup

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," wrote Shakespeare, but historically, a rose isn't just any rose when it comes to medicine. Roses such as R. damascena (Damask rose) and R. gallica officinalis (Apothecary rose) are, specifically, herbal roses.

Today, roses are commonly placed in gardens and lawns for their beauty, but in medieval times, the herbal roses were mostly grown for medicinal purposes. The Apothecary Rose, in particular, was used historically to treat a variety of ailments, such as sore throat and indigestion. Classically, in ancient Rome, the rose was also used to treat hangovers. On that note, Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote of thirty-two remedies made from the rose.

Titus Pullo could  probably use some of dat rose med.
From HBO's series, Rome.

A decoction of the Rose, wrote 16th herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, is good for headaches, and pain in the eyes, ears, and throat. I have seasonal allergies which gives me a sore throat, and I am an eccentric, so I wanted to be my own guinea pig and make a Rose syrup, using  a very basic recipe with my own UNSPRAYED Apothecary Rose petals (R. gallica officinalis), freshly picked from my personal garden. If curious, you can probably buy rose syrup online, but please consult a doctor before consumption, to be safe. The following is the result of my own experimentation, and, like the rest of this post, is intended for educational purposes only.

In a saucepan, I slowly brought the sugar water to a boil. I then turned off the stove and removed the saucepan from the stove surface to allow the mixture to simmer. When the mixture cooled, I added my own Apothecary Rose petals to the mixture, stirring occasionally. I allowed the petals to simmer in the mixture for several hours, stirring occasionally. The mixture turned a gentle pink in color. I then strained the mixture through a sieve before bottling.

Simmering Apothecary Rose petals.

Apothecary Rose Syrup... what's left of it, anyway.

Needless to say, I am very pleased with my homemade Rose syrup. The subtle flavor of the rose in the syrup is lovely. Not only did I add the syrup to smoothies, drinks and dishes, I used it medicinally, taking a tablespoon of it before bed to help a sore throat from allergies, and soothing the mucus felt in the throat. For me, personally, I was pleased with it, overall. Rose Syrup FTW!

This post was written strictly for educational purposes only, is not approved by the FDA, and is only to reflect my own personal experiences with herbs.The rose recipe linked and the rose notations is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease and is to reflect my own experience. Do not use or treat yourself with any herb, especially while pregnant or nursing, before consulting a physician.
For more information, please see: 

The Apothecary's Rose, by Rosemagazine.com

Plant Profile: Rose by sacredearth.com

The English Physician Enlarged by Nicolas Culpeper (see page 278, specifically)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Milky Mint Soap

'Wanna tell hand eczema to take off? Milky Mint Soap is the best way to do so!

Of recent months, this refreshing batch of soap has been a hit, as family members have been demanding it, which is pleasing, but also kind of annoying. (Me: "Family, stop mooching my soap and give me five bucks!")

'Can't say I blame 'em, though. Eczema runs in my family, as we all have sensitive Irish skin that doesn't take kindly to the harsh "soap" (i.e., detergent, not soap) from stores. That being said, I do have to admit, there's nothing quite like bathing in an all-natural, milky-mint soap. Made with nourishing organic milk, and using mostly Spearmint essential oil with a touch of Peppermint, the smell is so wonderfully invigorating in the shower! Spearmint essential oil has a sweeter scent than Peppermint, and is also less irritating to the skin, so a ratio of just a little Peppermint essential oil with more of the Spearmint essential oil makes a fine, minty soap.

Freshly poured batch of my Milky Mint Soap

Other essential oils, such as Lavender and Cedarwood, are known to help eczema, but this soap, with the addition of Nettle Leaf powder (known to aid in eczema) as well as the soothing milk, left my hands soft, smelling sweetly, and eczema free. Some people swear by goat milk for soap intended to aid eczema, but in my experience, organic cow milk is just as effective.

Fresh-cut milky mint soap, curing alongside my dragon's blood beer soaps. 

My etsy and ebay sites are under construction, but if you wish to order a batch via paypal, please email me at floweredunicorn@gmail.com.

This post was written for educational purposes only and only to reflect my own personal experiences with herbs and essential oils (I am my own guinea pig; what works for me may not work for you, and please consult a physician before using essential oils). My soaps are not intended to diagnose or cure any disease. Do not use essential oils while pregnant or nursing before consulting a physician.