Giving Up The Bean

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I gave up coffee about a year ago. It was like saying farewell to a friend who had really been there for me. In the morning, through long study and art making sessions, there it had always been, this gorgeous little dark roast of a fruit. No matter what they say about the health benefits of coffee, I’m on a hiatus. I’ve only made exceptions twice this year. Once because it was my birthday and the second time because my friend’s mother was visiting from Tuscany and she offered so sweetly that I couldn’t resist.

For most people coffee isn’t a problem. It has health benefits and socially soothing properties that balance its dark side of jitters, digestion stress and insomnia. My problems with rosacea, my issues with stress and being a little “tweaked” naturally are specific to me. So, while my friends pour macchiatos and lattes made from tiny bits of aromatic black gold, I abstain. I’ll tell you something, it feels good 99 percent of the time. For that other one percent I’ve turned my attention to coffee substitutes.

You may think a coffee substitute is one of those “why bother” endeavors but for the times when herbal tea just doesn’t satisfy that craving for something roasted, that something that takes some milk and goes well with my mood, I have a choice. Choice is key. It’s not about coffee/not coffee. It’s about fulfilling the roasted/not roasted taste that I want. After a year without it and with limited chocolate to boot, it’s not about the caffeine fix anymore. It’s about that taste and to some extent, yes, it’s about the sounds, the smells and all of the ritual.

First came Dandy Blend, which I kind of adore, but it has some sugar beet in it, which I kind of don’t. On days when I’m really on the edge of inflammation I can only have maybe one cup of it without risking a flare up. Compared to coffee which pretty much ensures some redness within an hour, Dandy Blend is still a pretty good option. Next came Teeccino, which is rich in the carob department. I studied their packages and have decided on the French Roast. It’s a little more iffy on the gluten-free aspect than Dandy Blend, but overall, it has bothered me less or the same. Sometimes I think it’s just my internal system, still a little too hyper for its own good, that just goes wonky whenever it even recalls those halcyon days of rich, glistening coffee.

Whatever we give up for our health isn’t just about the thing itself. It’s about the system of our bodies, the network of nerves and organs, that complex control center of the brain. I enjoy honoring my special make up. Making friends with life without coffee or caffeinated tea isn’t the absolute easiest thing in the world, but if it makes you feel better then it’s really not that hard either. It’s just a matter of applying a little creativity to the change. Now, if only cafes would catch on to this idea, since carrying a tea bag or my own stash can get a little awkward. Anyone with a coffee shop who reads this –think about it!! If you’re anywhere between Williamsburg, Bushwick or Manhattan, let me know!

Do you have a coffee replacement you love? Let me know in the comments!


Mullein It Over

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The lungs are where grief can sit and I’ve been having some grief this season, so it’s not so surprising that just when I knew I was at my limit and I knew I should be getting more rest, the flu came and gripped me in a firm bear hug.  This season I’ve had to push through cold snaps and shocks to the heart, deaths of loved ones and traumas I thought were buried have been saying “hello.”

I’ve been marching on. Going to yoga and forging full blast with living and projects. I’ve been giving public readings of my poetry even while I’m focused on writing a book that is always one week away from completion. Then there’s that emotional stab in the back I took in October, that one has been with me,  bugging me at times  when I get to feeling a little sorry for myself.

So, what exactly am I going to do about it now? How am I going to do this differently than I have in the past? Those are the questions a self-healer has to get into and so I’ve been doing just that, getting into the tangles and the nitty gritty of the past and coming at it all with fresh determination in the present.

Let’s just say I’ve been mulling it over and that, has brought me back to an herb I don’t think we hear enough about, the sweet and lovely, mullein, with its yellow flowers and velvety leaves, it’s all about lightening the mood and letting the prana flow. Let go, says, the mullein. Let it flow, says this tall stalk of a weed.

Imagine your lungs growing and flowering, filling with sweet, abundant air. Oh yea.

Mullein isn’t just a great plant ally, it’s a great “starter” plant ally for anyone intimidated by self-healing. Mullein is especially great for lungs and when the flu and the latest polar vortex were shooting through Bushwick, this is the herb that got me through the worst of it. Yes, I used yarrow to bring my fever out and to get it to break. Yes, I remembered to get in there and give my broken heart some love by adding roses and hawthorn berries to my tea. And yes, I made soups with garlic, ginger, and thyme and took an extra dose of my strongest probiotic. I nourish and express attention and kindness to my system, not just to my acute problem when I engage in self-healing. Mullein was the herb that was the clincher this time around. It soothes mucus membranes all over the body. It grounds and lubricates. Mullein is great for the lungs and as mine were tightening into a vice grip that burned at every cough I thought, let me give my lungs some love.

Mullein does what the lungs need, so it’s easy to work with. You don’t need to know if the lungs are dry or wet. You don’t need to know everything about your condition to know if will definitely help you. It’s good and all purpose, and kind of fool proof. For me, and probably for a lot of artists who find themselves juggling between life’s roles and demands, for anyone in any profession who find the career path a little wonky and unreliable, mullein is also a charm. It’s very nature is one of wholeness, of grounding, of helping us get to a place where contradictions aren’t a source of difficulty and where grief can be untangled. Tension, rejection? These are part of daily life balance. Grief? Who doesn’t have it these days. You can learn more about mullein in this great post from a master herbalist and visit me again soon. Sending you love and everything you need to go from patient to self-healer.

PS–if EVER you feel like things are getting worse and you’re getting sicker not stronger, go to a doctor. Remember, this advice is meant to inform and enlighten, not to treat or diagnose.


Brooklyn, Art and Gluten Free Living

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I’ve struggled with New York. I’ve left it, threatened it and come back to it with all the emotional upheaval of a fateful yet twisted romance. Now that I’m living gluten free it’s as if New York and I have moved into the funny, comfortable stage of life together. It’s exciting and challenging, like reaching a new level in a video game. Here are some impromptu insights I’ve culled together regarding my gluten free adventures in the city that I call home.

non gluten free teases at Sugar in the Lower East Side.

non gluten free teases at Sugar in the Lower East Side.

  1. Beware of Adults: Most of the time people in New York who are 40 or older will scoff at you or serve you some snarky look as you ask if out of the 25 breads on offer, one of them might be gluten free. Anyone 30 or younger is less likely to judge you because they’re of the generations born with widespread allergies and sensitivities. The children really are our future.
  2. Those who offer you a lettuce wrap as a gluten free burger option are not your friend. In Manhattan your friends are Bareburger and in Bushwick, there is another option at Bushwick’s Living Room. I’m sure there are others, these are two I know and recommend, since you can get a real bun and not some piece of semi-transparent sadness.
  3. Sugar is all the rage: When eating gluten free in New York there are lots of options for cakes, cookies and cupcakes, not so many for breads and healthier items. There are BabyCakes, Bisco Latte and others who make gf living a joy, however, if you’re watching your sugar intake, good luck.
  4. The open bar is not yours: Gluten free beer is not offered in most NYC bars, much less those sponsored open bars you once relied upon to get your night started. If like me you’ve had to give up on wine, too, all I can say is bring a growler of local kombucha with you to openings and other events. You’ll be special.
  5. GF is the new canvas. There is no greater art than caring for your body. Newly developed sensitivities and intolerances are just a nifty way for the body to say, “Let’s get creative!” and “I will not be ignored.” So use this change of life to go deeper into your series of collages featuring political commentary and Lisa Frank stickers from the 80s. Yes, going GF is a chance to go deep.
  6. Telling people you are gluten free opens you up to assumptions regarding your politics and other beliefs. In a city where stereotyping is an art, you should now be prepared to be labeled a hipster, a foodie fashionista or maybe an allergenista, depending on how into words your critics might be.
  7. Gluten Free pizza is a mean little joke. Don’t believe the hype when it comes to this staple of New York cuisine since most places will take out a thin, frozen disc and serve that to you as GF pizza. Just accept it: pizza is dead to you.

I know this is a short list, but I’ve been meeting lots of people at restaurants and in bars, very nice people who despite themselves are finding food sensitivities lurking in the deepest recesses of their upset stomachs, skin problems, fatigue and mood swings. Smiling softly, these newbies, like me, have entered a new phase of life, one that takes food from the standard discussion of healthy vs. unhealthy and adds the nuance of “healthy for me” choices vs “will destroy me in an hour” choices. In a way, gluten free living is very New York, since it’s kind of niche and smacks of exclusivity. In that way, I tell myself, I’ve entered a club, a type of subculture of people offering tips and sharing sources for “the good stuff.” It’s not quite the French Connection but it’s still pretty underground.




Red, White, Blue –And Green smoothie

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Easy to make, delicious to sip.

Easy to make, delicious to sip.

It’s the season for smoothies but I have two restrictions. I don’t have a full size blender and as part of anti-inflammatory eating, I’m not so keen on taking in foods that are very cold. I don’t want to provoke a heat backlash from my body! Last night I froze some watermelon and blueberries. They’re in season now, so it’s time to play. I made my smoothie using a a hand blender inside a clear quart-sized plastic pitcher. Before I went to making the smoothie, the closest I’ll get to ice cream anytime soon, I decided to give myself a little time to do this at a good pace, to be intentional with the making and the enjoying. I had to take this approach because I was the little girl who always got a brain freeze from slushes and ices. I just like to gobble down my sugar. Yes, it’s a life long challenge.

I took the watermelon and blueberries out of the freezer and went outside. I set my yoga timer for 25 minutes and got to moving my body. When I was done I went inside and checked on the fruit. It was easy to break apart and still pretty frozen. I threw in about two cups of watermelon and blueberries, about half a cup of unsweetened, vanilla coconut milk, I used So Delicious Vanilla Sugar Free Coconut Milk
and 12 or so fresh from my garden mint leaves. When it was done, I poured the smoothie into a tall wine glass and then I took a big sip. Then I started to feel the brain freeze and reminded myself that I need to slow down no matter how delicious this was. The fancy glass helped me in this effort to retrain my internal sweet monster. Anyway, I was inspired this morning and grabbed this snap on my cellphone. Hope you get inspired, too!


Rosacea and The Rose Family

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I walked into Rebecca’s Herbs on a snowy day. I was tired and maybe a little sad, since sometimes, that happens. I was filling in a few of my daily tonic herbs, specifically Nettles and Red Clover; and I was looking over the shelves. Then, something happened, as I on fire, and the herbalist, dewy and healthy looking spoke. She was kind and I felt she could really feel I was having a day where I was doubting my ability to heal. I took her through my extensive protocol and asked her some questions to see if she could sense any holes in my approach.

As I picked a few out choice herbs for my blend the herbalist said, “What about roses? What about Hawthorn leaf?” Roses, yes, absolutely: I knew I wanted those. The rose is moistening, cooling. It’s the Lotus of the West, such are its powers to restore one’s heart and equilibrium. Hawthorne? Why in fact, it is also of the rose family…hmmmm. It seems that rosacea is a blooming of heat on the face, no? And it makes sense to fight one red bloom with another. In fact, most of the rose family herbs seem to be helpful with veins, blood and skin. So, that’s how roses and hawthorn made it into my daily infusion and in fact, as I write this, I realize I might need some more. Since I’m not around Rebecca’s at the moment, I’ll probably stop by Flower Power and then put in a larger order from Mountain Rose Herbs. Roses are expensive, delicate, precious; so I enjoy buying them in small quantities and displaying them like treasures in small jars. I like buying different kinds, too. It’s one of the creative aspects of healing; filling my world with these magical looking items I get to eat and drink. It helps me feel a little magical, too.

rose petals

The other part of roses and rosacea is for my external body. I use rosewater and glycerin in a mist that I spray to moisten, cool and protect my skin from eruptions. The rosewater idea wasn’t completely my own, either. I’d read from Susun Weed’s website that she recommended yarrow tincture in a spray bottle as a way to treat rosacea. The yarrow kills off bacteria and can be used instead of those expensive topical antibiotics. I wasn’t sure how to dilute it, or with what kind of water. My problem was solved when I met a new friend, a really strange kind of fellow who travels the world on very little money but who buys and sells property when he’s stateside. He knows everything about where to find kirtan in NYC and where to study the Gita.

We were walking and talking about life, me and this fellow, and he saw me staring down my face cooling options in the Whole Foods facial section. He then said, “You know–rosewater is the best. It’s simple and it feels good. It’s not very expensive, either.” For some reason, it felt right to listen to this man in a tie-dye headscarf and that night, at home, I put a few droppersful of yarrow tincture into the rosewater. It made all the difference. I haven’t seen the kind man since.

Now, I use roses all the time.

Roses and yarrow, thank you. Circumstance, chance and all you other strange and wonderful herbalists out there that remind me to open my heart, to receive rather than to judge, thank you, too.

For anyone with rosacea or any chronic inflammation reading this, maybe indulge in some roses and let their delicacy and their medicinal powers work with you to heal old hurts and to help you face old doubts.

PS- you must only ingest organic roses. trust me on this and get your roses from a reputable source!


Sweeter than Gold

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The best things in life are allergen free.

Sterling Sweets is my new friend. I’m not saying that because the life-loving, super-positive mother behind it, Jennifer Sterling, sent me these Chocolate Orange Cardamom cookies. Jennifer has an allergen sensitive son and I myself have a peanut sensitive nephew. Also, I’ve recently found myself gluten intolerant. Lots of times you’ll find a baker that will give you nut-free but not gluten-free options or vice versa. If you’ve walked down this road, you’re familiar with the story.

Sterling Sweets looks good when they arrive.

Sterling Sweets looks good when they arrive.

Jennifer and I are more than Twitter friends. We’re aligned. On the path to everyday health, on the path that keeps believes in joy and more than enough love to go around, we’ve found each other. Still, our friendship is new and I don’t solicit packages for review, so how amazing that she simply offered to send some cookies in the mail–all because we were both using cardamom in our recipes. A-mazing!


The packaging and her logo impressed me, as a designer and artist with a history in branding, I can be a bit picky. Would I be proud to send these to a friend? The answer was an immediate YES. Jennifer included one of her cards and immediately I wanted to put it on display. This mom has style and it shows through in everything she’s doing, in every detail.


The cookies got put to the test after I had a little more fun with the packaging. The basket the cookies shipped in was sturdy and simple enough for me to imagine these going straight from the delivery man onto the table.


Each cookie arrived intact. Each one still had little sugar crystals dotting their delicate surface. The scalloped edges reminded me of elegant tea biscuits, the kind I’ve had in some hotels. I brewed some water and took a break from my medicinal blends to enjoy some Love tea by Pukka. It has roses and citrus notes and I thought it would be a light, but appropriate compliment.


The teaware I had on hand was simple, I borrowed one of the happy cups from the cupboard, since getting sweets in the mail felt like a happy occasion. Elegant? How about magical and good for the heart.


No sesame, no wheat, no peanuts–none of the eight most common food allergens. Would they survive a dunk test? Would they feel “fake” somehow? The answers were “yes” they dunked and held their own, dissolving into my mouth and making for a very happy tongue; and “no” they didn’t taste the least bit fake. These cookies are the real deal.


As the early spring snow melted outside the house where I was visiting and as the dog wondered if I was going to share, I sailed into a little break-time and some mid afternoon bliss. Food sensitivities no longer mean what they did a decade ago; now there are options and the ones that are made with this much love and dedication, are surely my favorite.

Join Sterling Sweets on Instagram or visit the website to see more of what I’m talking about; authentic sweetness is worth its weight in gold and in my heart, it’s worth even more.

Tito loves cookies but I wasn't sharing.

Tito loves cookies but I wasn’t sharing.

PS–if you’d like to order some Love Tea for yourself, here’s a link!


Rosacea 101

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The other day an email arrived. Could I help a friend with some tips? He’s been diagnosed with rosacea and is overwhelmed with all the information out there. How could he not be, I thought. I know I was overwhelmed for the first few years and because of that I tried all sorts of products and tried all types of makeup. Finally, when my skin was so bad that I submitted to laser treatment just to get it under control, did I feel empowered and determined enough to change everything in my life and “cure” this incurable condition. I’m a few months in and what I’ve learned has been tremendous. Over several posts I’ll share what I’ve tried and I’ll share what works for me. I don’t proclaim it will work for you, but it might help you get to the root of your own path before you’re to the point where food, drink, sadness, happiness–just about anything brings on the heat and the pain of rosacea.

I’m on a year plan. It might take longer than that, but I’m not expecting major changes for at least this year. Also, saying that it’s only a year helps me get through the idea that I will “always” deny myself things I love or “never” have a chance to be better.

Here are some of the basics of what I’m doing and why I think they’re important:

Purifying and cleansing:
from my teeth and gums to my internal organs, I’m cleansing, purifying. I’m using toothpaste that nourishes my gums and eating more herbs in my daily meals. I’m taking out the emotional junk and meditating, too. From top to bottom, inside to out, I’m helping my body lighten up and clearing it of what no longer serves my organism.

Letting go: part of purifying and cleansing is letting go. I don’t “need” coffee. I don’t need alcohol–at least I don’t need anything more than I need to feel comfortable in my own skin.

Being Sweet and Gentle:
Anger, fear, impatience, depression, these are part of life, but sometimes we get into ruts where we see more of the darkness than we do the light. It’s a slow process, but when you’re willing to shift your mental orientation to be more positive it can allow your internal fire to remain steady, but not encourage it to get out of control. Self love, self acceptance, these are key to healing.

Embracing the moment with Joy: Sweetness is part of healing, joy it the other side. Sweetness is what I give myself when I feel weak or overwhelmed. Joy is what I encourage myself to feel as I get back into running or as I attempt to settle into a meditation I find challenging. Joy instills wonder in me, as if I were a totally new and alien being who just popped into my body. Instead of feeling tired, it fills me with the extra energy I need to grow my discipline, to accept my setbacks.

Consistency: Oh look, it’s a new cream! Oh look, it’s a new XYZ! There’s always some new product on the market and many of them are good, but my skin, my nervous system wants more consistency, more predictability and so I’m not letting my head turn at every new promise. How I wash my face, if it’s working most of the time, is how I am washing it for the next six months. Only if something I’m using feels very wrong from the beginning, will I change it.

Giving up on “Isms” is key:
I need some red meat from time to time. I can’t always afford to eat 100% organic. I am being flexible. I am being thoughtful. Although I’m trained in biodynamic herbalism, I am incorporating the most basic, foundational information and herbs from Chinese Medicine, from Ayurveda, and from Western Medicine, too. It’s all flexible based on what my heart, my mind and my intuition tell me is right for me. I accept that all this knowledge is here for me and all of it is conspiring to help me.

When appropriate I’ll provide links to items I’ve been using and that way you’ll be able to know exactly what I’ve used. I’ll let you know it’s a complex little system, but unraveling this knot is way more interesting than giving up or resigning myself to a lifetime of antibiotics or disfiguring eruptions and permanent flushing. A little bit of wisdom, a little bit of creative energy and hopefully something I’ve done will help you find your path to healing, too.


Review: Fusions Meets Fusion

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Last week was a little offbeat for me. Instead of a tea tasting I was invited to a food tasting–and a car preview! I’m a major fan of mass transit, and even long walks, but I’ll admit I live for long drives on winding highways. One of my baby pictures is of me, holding a pink, toy Cadillac.

Coconut water at Root Down

Coconut water at Root Down

That’s why Fusion meets Fusion was such a nice change of pace. I got to see what Ford was up to, outfitting their new eco-ride with foam made from soybeans and other non-petroleum resources and I got to eat at one of my favorite places in Denver, Root Down.

The Fusion – available as a hybrid

The night’s special menu included ingredients that are being used in the Fusion or that Ford is hoping to use in the car as time goes on; and Root Down did it right. Known for their support of local, organic and slow food practices, I wasn’t surprised. There were coconut cocktails, edamame hummus, chocolate coconut pots de creme and a dandelion-black quinoa cake. Let’s just say, it was tasty and largely a gluten free offering. YUM.

The Night's Menu

The Night’s Menu

I know that big companies are having a hard time getting it right when it comes to meeting the ethos of herbal living and less consumption. That being said, there are some good intentions to reinvent the wheel as we know it. That’s no small task and as I see it, everyone is welcome at the herbal, sustainable table. Let yea cast the first stone if you’ve never failed to compost! Lastly, I’m all for finding a way to include dandelions back into our lives, since I’m a big eater of the much-maligned, bitter green. Not only does it take toxins out of polluted soil, and cleanse the liver, it might be a key to new forms of rubber that will go right into our cars. It holds promise. From all sides, we humans, hold some promise.

Enjoy the recipes from Root Down’s Chef, that he specially prepared for the event!

Edamame Hummus:
2 cups Edamame
2 1/2 Each garlic cloves, lemons (juice and zest)
5/8 cup olive oil
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 avocado
1 1/4 tea salt
1/2 tea pepper
1/2 tea ground cumin
1/4 tea ground coriander
1/16 tea cayenne
1/2 tea agave

Using a high powered blender or processor blend edamame, garlic, lemon and tahini. Add oil slowly to emulsify. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Serve with chips, crackers. (The chef served them with blue chips)

Chef talks about the local, fresh red dandelions he uses.

Chef talks about the local, fresh red dandelions he uses.


Mama’s Morning Glow Quinoa

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This is a morning quinoa recipe that is part of an anti-inflammatory diet and rich with protein. The pumpkin seeds provide zinc, which is great for men and women looking to boost fertility. The sesame seeds are an amazing source of vegan calcium, grind them a little before toasting if you want to boost your absorption. Start the day warm and heat up your creative juices with staying power.


I toast sesame and raw pumpkin seeds as needed. I get a small skillet and heat it for a few minutes on medium heat on a gas range. First I toast the big seeds on the heated skillet, about halfway, then I add the small seeds and toast them together to finish. It’s easy, you use some of the same wrist flicks you might for pancakes. It takes about 3 – 5 minutes. For this recipe I like to highlight the nuttiness in the flavor profile, so I use two tablespoons of sesame seeds and 2 – 3 tablespoons of the pumpkin.


Mornings are busy so I have quinoa set aside from the day before. I try to buy my quinoa fair-trade and to keep the cost down I look for it in the bulk aisle. I cook mine without salt, so it goes well in sweet or savory dishes. Here I put about half to three quarters of a cup in a small saucepan. I cover to the top of the quinoa with coconut milk or whatever milk you prefer. I add a little fresh sliced ginger and some cinnamon. I let it come to a simmer and then if I have fruit, I add fresh, organic blueberries. I let it heat for a little while longer, just until the berries might start to burst, not very long at all. If you like bananas, like I did today, add some banana, about a quarter of one, cut to match the size of the blueberries.


When the heated quinoa mix is done, top it with the seeds, add a little extra ground cinnamon on top and then swirl a little maple syrup over it all. Serve and get ready to glow, all day long. I really like this recipe because the colors and sizes of all the elements play off of each other nicely. The maple complements the toasted seeds and the ginger and the blueberries are refreshing and zingy together. You could experiment with standard quinoa and black sesame seeds for a similar taste and a whole other look, and try cardamom instead of cinnamon if you’re pregnant. Enjoy!



Mama’s Hibiscus Mint Tea

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I’m a little obsessed with Hibiscus. Its color is deep and jewel like. Its taste somewhere between tart and tangy. I’d been mixing some blends in 2012 but it wasn’t until I was in Austin, Texas again last year that I remembered how well it pairs with mint. In fact, once you add the mint, there’s no need to add sugar to the tea at all.

Both the hibiscus and the mint are cooling to the body, and the mint provides a nice amount of digestive support and tastes refreshing. Lots of women these days have tension and stress, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol. Hibiscus is said to help with these issues. Maybe this is why it has been popular throughout the ages in warmer climates where remaining calm and cool is a state of mind and a daily health benefit.

The blend seemed perfect and simple, but I was thinking it could pack a little extra healthy something. Red clover is one of those herbs you can have all the time. It’s nourishing and for women it promotes fertility and it also is said to ease menopause. It’s beneficial for men’s fertility too. The colors worked, the taste worked, so I added it in and took a few pictures to share. You can do equal parts mint to hibiscus and a half part of clover. Try that out and adjust to taste. Let is steep covered, for about 15 minutes or so and then…enjoy.

If you’re looking for a good supplier of loose herbs you’ve probably heard of the trusted and lovable, Mountain Rose Herbs. they also have a Hibiscus Tea, (with a great name–Hibiscus High) all blended for you! I’ve been meaning to try it, especially since they introduced their beautiful, compostable packaging. Delicate and classic, just like hibiscus.