6:03 ET…12_21_2014

Winter solstice. Dark skies. Cold temps. No wonder bears and other animals decide to hibernate! Some days that indeed feels like the perfect plan. Today is the shortest day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, we get only 9 hours and 4 mins of light here. That’s kind of a bummer until you flip it around and realize the positive, that TOMORROW it immediately starts getting better! The days start getting LONGER! Another positive about the long winter nights is, that if there is a clear night, it can be spectacular star gazing.

WInter Stars

Isabella has decided to “accentuate the positive.” She is listening to music (“Baby it’s Cold Outside” just happens to playing as I type this. A fun winter song of dilemmas and choices that often makes both Izzy and I smile!) Izzy (her nick name) knows the importance of attitude as these dark days role thru the winter. Remember, the dark skies make the bright stars appear to shimmer and sparkle!

We (Izzy and I) want to remind you that Isabellas role, in the community of Botaniums, is that she is the driving force behind “The Knowledge Café.”  A place that strives to always offer a warm welcome to all that travel through the doors and to be a gathering place for all. The Knowledge Cafe is a place of wonderment for many and that delights Izzy. The Café not only houses the Joyful Sparkles Bakery of Julia with its delectable goodies and beverages, but also acts as a general store with books, handmade local gifts, fun technology, an art gallery as well as arts center, and sometimes even an art studio. All this helps foster friendships, and connections. Izzy believes in the importance of all these facets of life, especially the friendships and connections part-life is not nearly as much fun or interesting without those!

All this helps reminds her, and by proxy we hope you too, that life is actually pretty darn great….Despite winters cold temps, head colds, slush/mush, dark days, and some of the other less exciting winter attributes, there is still plenty of reason to smile, snuggle, enjoy and be happy.

According to Victor Hugo-Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” How can we argue with a famous poet, novelist, dramatist?

…One kind word can warm three winter months. – Japanese Proverb…
Make Victor Hugo proud – use kindness and laughter to warm up these long dark winter days and nights!

Positivity – It’s beginning to look like December.


North of here there is 18″ of snow and winter for sure…South of here it is no doubt warm and sunny…Either way, there is no uncertainty that this is “The Holiday Season.” There is a very loud hum, almost a world vibration, of messages, products, sounds, scents, and traditions. A never ending fascinating topic to me is the world of advertising and how it plays upon all our senses and how it communicates messages. Communications must have two parts. A sender and a receiver. We, the consumers, are clearly the receivers. The senders, the advertisers, seem to think we are like sponges, waiting for a new liquid to absorb. The messages are so strong, and relentless, that most of us can’t help but soak some in!

The first thought was to find the origin of the word communication.

communication (n.) late 14c., from Old French comunicacion (14c., Modern French communication), from Latin communicationem (nominative communicatio), noun of action from past participle stem of communicare “to share, divide out; communicate, impart, inform; join, unite, participate in,” literally “to make common,” from communis (see common (adj.))” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=communication

If we use the above, then, the advertisers create their message to share, to impart upon us, and invite us to participate in the fantasy/reality of their products. Fair enough-that’s their job, and many do it extremely well. As the receivers I would like to think we could be a bit more discriminating, but it gets tougher with the constant bombardments. The bottom line of all the holidays, despite your “given” religion, is a good one. A message of unity, peace, and joy. The candles and lights do indeed brighten up our minds and hearts. The greens are pleasant scents in closed up tight winter homes. Giving to others is encouraged. Advertisers want us to buy, but the bigger message of generosity, and sharing is a good one. The IDEAL is a good message. The world the advertisers are creating is not real, but the underpinnings of those symbols, the signs, the traditions in their purist form, those are good things. Maybe that’s why the advertisers can “get away with it” so blatantly? They know, we all know, what matters are the underpinnings.

The above Botanical Beauties are Vaboom and Julia. Vaboom (left) is the keeper of words. Her favorite words are ones of kindness. She offers you kindness. To the right is Julia. She is the community healthy food chef and baker. Food is an easy way to share, often bringing people together. Food is nourishment for the body, and sometimes the soul. Food goes with the art of communication; i.e., discussion. For those of us up here in the colder parts, a hot beverage is always a welcome treat. When it involves chocolate, it’s a extra delight! Julia has two mugs of hot cocoa to share. You can add whatever you would like to yours! … These two Botanicals join me in my personal communication to you. It is simple. I hope this message finds you with health, happiness, joy, and peace in your lives. May kindness rule, may whatever is causing you trouble find its way to your past, and may your future be bright….Add more kindness, add more hot chocolate, and with a little magic you will be guided through the winds of December. Hang on tight, sometimes it’s a bit blustery and gusty!

It’s always a good thing to join in and help others.

This post will begin a new mini series for us.

Heirloom Charlie on his upcyled, recyled tractor getting ready to do some organic farming!

Last year we tried to help out with the use of Heirloom Charlie. He was introduced to you all in May 2013, and with each sale of an Hieloom Charlie product I stated I (as The Botanical Beauties & Beasties) would donate 15% to Long Life Farm. The hope was to help out a family in need to be able to obtain a CSA farm share within the Long Life CSA program. This translates into the ability for a family to eat fresh organically grown vegetables that has been grown locally without the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides. Well, last weekend I am proud to say I did indeed write a check for the intended purpose. I was not able to raise enough to buy a whole share, but Laura (one of the owners and farmers of Long Life Farm) told me that the Botanical Beauties check brought the total up to the needed $ amount to indeed obtain a share for a lucky family. Other shareholders had also donated monies, and this check just happen to be that last part. I find that wonderful in a strange and magical way. I am thrilled to be able to help out in this small fashion.The website for Long Life Farm is http://www.longlifefarm.com. I  find the site engaging and hope you take a minuet to check it out. It is filled with all sorts of good information! 

Another cool piece of this story is that Heirloom Charlie is also a main character of our new book! The book is coming along nicely-I think we may do some test marketing at The Hopkinton Farmers Market this summer. (Sundays 1-5 Hopkinton, MA.) If you are interested, and particularly if you know anyone in publishing, please let me know! Heirloom Charlie now has a new nick name- the (working) title of the book is The Food Dude!

Now, on to one last piece of business for this post.

Our helping this summer will come as blog postings and a new character called Diggerfoot. Diggerfoots purpose is to help a friend of mine who’s name is Kirk. He, his wife (Cindy), and a daughter (Charissa) will start hiking the 2,666 mile Pacific Crest Trail in a few days. Cindy has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In his own words- from his website http://www.humanityhiker.com“We will use the hike for a mission to spread Hope for Alzheimer’s.  The first avenue of hope is with Cindy’s journey, demonstrating that people with Alzheimer’s still can pursue their dreams.  The second avenue of hope is through raising awareness for how lifestyle choices can improve Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.  The most important of these lifestyle choices is physical exercise, the only “treatment” show to halt and even reverse brain decay.  The third avenue of hope is through Exercise for Brain Health Research, for which we are raising funds.” To see, how you can help us spread Hope for Alzheimer’s please visit his website. Kirk will naturally be writing about their hike, my postings will be an additional outlet to let more people follow their path, and raise awareness of Alzheimer’s. Naturally, my post will link to Kirks site which has a plethora of resources and a place where one can donate if you care to help the cause in that way. So get your hiking shoes tied and get ready for a long distance hike from Canada to the Mexico boarder! Next posting on the trip you will get to meet Diggrfoot and see how the trip is going. These post will be peppered into the “normal” Botanical postings, and DIggerfoot will be acting as an interviewer looking to share a bit of the adventure with you all!

Growing, people and our business

A few weekends ago we (that would be I and the gang of Botanical Beauties) were off again to a pretty special little town called Sharon Springs NY.

First, a heartfelt thanks and a nod to Cobbler & Co. located on Historic Main Street in Sharon Springs. They are now on the list of places you can walk into a brick and mortar store and buy Botanical Beauties & Beasties cards! It is a delightful store filled with wonderful treasures. Straight from their website- “Cobbler & Co. is a twelve-room eclectic gift shop. We offer an ever-changing array of gifts for you, your family, your friends, your home and garden and all of your entertaining needs...Take a look around our store and remember, we can ship anywhere!” (www.cobblerandcompany.com/index.html If you find yourself in that neck of the country I highly recommend a visit. For that matter, there are quiet a few stops worthy in Sharon Springs and the nearby environs.

Botanical Cards in the store.
Our cards displayed in the Cobbler & Co. card room. Hurrah!

Which brings me to Sharon Springs generally. The 2,000 census counted the population  as 547!  Sharon Springs NY is up in the Mohawk Valley, not too far from Cooperstown for you baseball fans. The countryside is beautiful, the wonderful Adirondack Park and Catskill Mountains are close by borders giving you some idea of its beauty. The ride is about 3 hours for me, the people I meet are always warm and friendly, meaning both the town folks and the fair attendees. Although I am lucky to even get close to breaking even when I am done with gas, lodging, fees etc I find myself returning each time. Why? What draws me to these shows 2x a year? The annual Garden Party (as the spring show is called) and the Harvest Festival (as the Fall show is named)- it seems like a crazy idea to keep going? So, why do I keep returning?

All this brings me to the words of hope, fascination, and charm. I think these may be the hidden charms of Sharon Springs?  There is something a bit intangible about it all, but it is contagious. I never know whom I will meet, but they are inevitably interesting people at these festivals. Some of it is plan old small town living, some of it is who these festivals draw in, and some of it Sharon Springs and its community. Granted, The Beekman Boy’s name is behind these fairs, it was fairly predominate, now it is a bit obscured. (Their FB page.) As a matter of fact, ETSY will be running the fair in the fall, so well see how that plays out. Regardless, The Beekman Boys are still a “draw” and fans come out to play!  There is a tour their home (a separate but planned extra if you so wish) and a fun array of other scheduled events happening on these weekends. For sure, it is a fun “weekend get-away” for many. I have decided to add to my weekend routine…after the arts fair is over on Saturday, I walk over (about 500 steps) and have a lovely cool cocktail on the amazing front porch of the American Hotel. Totally relaxing after a long day.  One never knows who might turn up there to chat with, and I like that! It is what I consider a quintessential front porch, and I met the nicest folks last time.

The American Hotel

Part of what is fascinating about Sharon Springs NY is its history. Here is a brief glimpse.  At one point, about 1836-1860, Sharon Springs was well know for its mineral water spa, with multiple large grand hotels and boardinghouses. By 1841, the village had become world-famous as the social elite came to take the waters. Magnificent large hotels and forest-like parks graced the village landscape. During the second half of the 19th Century, Sharon Springs was home to over sixty hotels and rooming houses accommodating over 10,000 visitors each summer. By the early 1900s… the summer clientele with the influx of European visitors (had become) primarily from Judaic tradition.” (more info.)  “Thanks to its sulfurmagnesium, and chalybeate mineral springs, Sharon Springs grew into a bustling spa during the 19th century. At the peak of its popularity, Sharon Springs hosted 10,000 visitors each summer, including members of theVanderbilt family and Oscar Wilde (who gave a lecture at the now-demolished Pavilion Hotel on 11 August 1882).” (more info) Sharon Springs also had a great location – in the 1800s two major paths (turnpikes and canals)  were constructed and Sharon was connected to Albany as well as larger cities like NYC easily. Farmers with cash crops of wheat and hops were now well positioned to thrive. To add to the good fortune of Sharon, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad open a spur thru Sharon, and the age of the spa was pretty well golden! Eventually, as family (and so spa and hotel proprietors) aged, fires, a hops blight, Prohibition, plus a few more national factors, Sharon Springs thriving success was brought to a halt. Here’s an interesting tidbit According to a NYT article (26 August 2000) “After World War II, Sharon Springs got a second wind from the West German government, which paid medical care reparations to Holocaust survivors, holding that therapeutic spa vacations.” More info.) In 1994 Sharon Springs, and its Spa-related structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places and Sharon Springs became a Historic District. The walking tour and the accompanying plaques were created to guide visitors through our history. The plaques showcase the many buildings, some still remaining, some long gone and put them in their historical context.” (Here is  a link to a brief, but complete  story of the fascinating history of Sharon Springs. More info. 

In todays, world Sharon Springs is again picking its self up and seems to be a story of revitalization.  There are charming stores and delicious restaurants to peruse and enjoy.  It appears that growing communities of artisans (both material and culinary) are living, and moving to the area…and don’t forget-I always seem to meet nice people there! Need a break? Try out a visit during the Fall Festival Sept. 20 & 21, 2014: Arts, countryside, amazing food, fun, frolic, and pretty much guaranteed a pleasant time.

Sharon Springs Collage