this week’s contributor is lynn till. lynn is a plant nerd. and along w her friend, robin, she’s about to launch a company, linden beauty, that creates whole-plant-based skincare products. i need them to launch soon as they make the most incredible facial toner, serum, and lip balm. as a beta tester, i couldn’t get over the gorgeous and natural scents of their offerings — as well as the efficacy of them! you’ll be sure to hear more about linden beauty from me as they get ready to open up their online shop and start carrying their stuff in other denver stores.
A Denver Home Companion | lynn till linden beauty
After living in the Baker neighborhood of Denver for five years, our family moved to the City Park West area earlier this year. We moved from a late 1800s small, victorian urban homestead to a new industrial eco-friendly 2 bedroom apartment, it’s been a big and mostly positive transition. I’m now able to walk my oldest son, who’s in 4th grade, to school, which is hands down my favorite thing about our new place. We drive far less, are an easy walk away from the Denver Zoo, and have two full bathrooms now — which is a huge perk for this mama of three messy boys.

Yet I do miss having a chunk of earth to get my hands dirty in. Our chickens joined a friend’s flock when we moved. We still get their eggs, but I miss my early morning walks in the garden while they pecked and clucked around me. I miss seeing all my herbs popping back up in the spring. I miss carefully collecting from the stinging nettles patch to make our favorite bright green soup. And I miss prepping the raised beds for veggies. Luckily, the patio at our new place will work great for container gardening. Plus, the city is teeming with lovely little plants popping up around every corner: in side walk cracks and up and down the alleys. It makes for fun discoveries during our daily walks. I listed some my favorite springtime plants and their uses below. If you go urban foraging just make sure you know for sure what you are collecting, use common sense, stay away from places that might have been sprayed with chemicals and those that are in high dog traffic areas…and most importantly, have fun!

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) This much maligned weed is a true healing powerhouse, containing more vitamin A than carrots, plus vitamins B, C, D, choline, and inulin. The whole plant, root, leaves and flower are edible and considered medicinal and packed with antioxidants. Dandelion leaf tea is a cleansing and non-potassium depleting diuretic, making it my go to tea for cycle related break-outs and bloating. Plus the leaves make a lovely, slightly bitter addition to any salad and are seriously amazing sautéed w/ a bit of garlic. The flowers can be made into wine, jelly and can even be dipped in batter and fried up for dandelion breakfast fritters!

 Sweet Violet  (Viola odorata) I look forward to the delicacy of eating sweet violet flowers every spring. The aroma is to die for! All you need to do to candy them is paint their petals with egg white, coat with super fine sugar and let air dry for three days. Super easy. Their cooling, slightly slippery, fresh leaves can be eaten in salads, taken as a tea to relieve a raw throat, or crushed and rubbed on blemishes.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) If you have ever planted peppermint in your garden you know it has the ability to spread out and take over quickly. It’s also one of the first herbs to pop back up in the spring. Peppermint tea soothes belly aches, is helpful to sip during a cold, and is just plain delicious. I like throwing a handful of fresh mint leaves into the blender with some lime juice, greens, and ice for an energizing mojito like detoxing green drink.

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) Midwifes know this plant for it’s ability to slow bleeding after birth or during a heavy menstrual cycle and foragers know it because it’s in the mustard family and offers darn yummy, slightly spicy leaves in early spring. Shepherd’s Purse tea may help stimulate and tone the kidneys and urinary tract and helps clear uric acid for the body. This pretty weed has the cutest heart shaped seed pods and I’m such a plant nerd that I even had incorporated them into my wedding bouquet!

If you’d like to learn more about the awesome plants popping up in your neighborhood and how to use them or to share your favorite urban foraging recipe, leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!

For additional resources check out these helpful books:

thanks, lynn! i’m definitely gonna go take a look around my yard and neighborhood and on walks for these plants. i’ve never thought this is something i could do myself. also, i am so excited for you and robin and linden beauty.

if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.

this week’s contributor is andrea from the maiden metallurgist. i first discovered drea’s blog on apartment therapy, what has to be at least three years ago now. i loved it and followed it and soon found out her and i have many similarities (she moved from denver to chicago to be w her hubby and i moved from chicago to denver to be w mine, for one). we both had babies around the same time and both give a lot of real estate on our blogs to talking about motherhood, marriage, home, and how awesome our little ones are. we’ve gotten together in denver a couple of times and, let me tell you, this woman is not only an excellent writer, but also intelligent, thoughtful, fun, and honest.

since her and her hubby bought a home outside chicago, they’ve become avid gardeners and she’s diligent about using her goods to the fullest. today she talks about what she does w her produce (and what she buys at the farmers’ market) to make refreshing summer drinks.A Denver Home Companion | shrub by the maiden metallurgistA Denver Home Companion | shrub by the maiden metallurgistA Denver Home Companion | shrub by the maiden metallurgist 

Shrub, aka drinking vinegar, is my summertime obsession. The drinking vinegar is infused with fruit (and at times herbs and spices) for use in mixed drinks.

The American version of the shrub has its origins in 17th century England where vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season. In our home, we keep a variety of shrubs on hand for quick-mixing sodas or cocktails. The flavor both mellows (the vinegar) and becomes deeper (the fruit) the longer it sits in the fridge. It might sound weird, drinking vinegar, but it is so refreshing and cool.  

I like to make different drinking vinegars seasonally with what we grow in the garden or what I find at the farmers market. Or, if it’s too early in the season for fresh local fruits, whatever looks good in the organic section at the grocery store. 

My basic recipe for shrub is equal parts fruit, sugar, and vinegar of your choice. Macerate the fruit and sugar for several hours letting the sugar draw out the fruit’s’ juices, then add the vinegar and let sit overnight. The next day, strain and discard the fruit pulp (or serve over ice cream, yum) and reserve the infused vinegar. Combine with seltzer, gin, vodka, white wine, champagne or prosecco… use your imagination! 

The beauty of shrub is that there are enough combinations of fruits, vinegars, and herbs/spices to keep your mouth excited all season long. And, if you plan ahead, well into the winter. 

Shrub 101- basic fruit shrubs
  • Raspberry and champagne vinegar
  • Blueberry and apple cider vinegar
  • Strawberry and champagne or balsamic or white balsamic vinegar
  • Rhubarb and white wine vinegar
  • Stone fruit (peach, plum, nectarine) and apple cider vinegar
  • Blackberry and red wine vinegar
  • Mango and rice vinegar
  • Pineapple with coconut vinegar
  • Grapefruit and white wine vinegar
  • Watermelon and white wine vinegar
Shrub 102- now add some depth
  • Herbal- Mint, Rosemary, Lemon verbena, Basil, Tarragon
  • Floral- Elderflower, Violet, Rose, Lavender
  • Spicy- Peppercorns, Ginger

thanks, drea! i am so glad you introduced me to something i had absolutely never heard about. i am looking forward to trying a few concoctions myself this summer.

if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them!

i am so excited to start my contributor series here on the blog! when i first did a call for contributors from readers, i had no idea what response i would get. i’m delighted to say: it was a good one! and i have so many interesting bloggers w totally different backgrounds from all over who will be sharing their stories, experiences, tips, and how-tos here on A Denver Home Companion over the next couple of weeks.

without further ado, i’m going to kick it off w a post by sarah, of crazy virgo, who is both my interwebs and IRL friend.

A Denver Home Companion | Crazy Virgo

Hello. I’m Sarah. I found Emily through a common friend, and have been girl crushing on her ever since. She has graciously allowed me to guest write on her blog. I’m a mother to a 2 1/2 year old little lady. I’m a writer. I’m 35. I’m divorced. And with that intro, I’m going to dive in. 

As a mother, I dream of what kind of legacy I’m going to leave my daughter, Sylvia. I gave her the name of a writer who greatly influenced my life, and as a writer, I want to influence her life, even if she’s not a writer. Constantly, I find myself thinking what life lessons she’ll learn from me. What she’ll tell her friends about me. As any mother, I want to make my daughter proud. Every day is conducted with her in mind, yearning to be her hero in everything I do.

I recently had a year of change. I’ll spare you the details, but 2012 was my worst and best year to date. I’m 35, so that’s saying something. I’ve done some living. I woke up on January 1 with a hangover, no job, divorced, and no immediate plans for my future. Not the absolute best way to start the year. But, I didn’t jump into a bottle or anything. I’m more of an optimist than that, plus all the bottles were empty, hence the hangover. I was, however, at square one, with what I thought would be a long uphill climb. Time to trade in the Blahniks for the Nikes. However, the year took off pretty fast. I got a great writing job with a start-up advertising agency, enrolled in a fiction writing class, and became a regular yoga class attendee. Then, just as I was hitting a stride, I hit a speed bump, tripped, skinned my knees, abruptly ended my contract job with the great start-up and found myself back at square one.

However, this time, thanks to yoga and breathing, I was smiling –skinned knees and all– while in square one, because this time I wasn’t stressing about what happened next. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I guessed it had something to do with the sweet child sleeping in the room next to me. Then, it dawned on me one night while lying in bed letting my mind wander, that I had given my copywriting career in advertising 13 years. That’s a freaking long time. And, I realized that I just don’t care anymore. I don’t love it anymore. It doesn’t get me excited and amped up the way it used to. And, more than all of that, it wasn’t allowing me to enjoy the time with my daughter. The workload I had been carrying was weighing on me, sitting on my shoulders, forcing me to constantly think about all the work I had to do after Sylvia went to bed, instead of playing with her and soaking up every minute of her time between pre-school pick-up and bedtime. That is certainly NOT why I gave birth to this amazing creature. Wait, what? Was I having an epiphany?

So, I made a decision. If I am going to raise a little woman who is strong, assertive, ambitious, independent, passionate, and wise, then I’d better start making an example of myself by doing the same.

So I am.

I quit!

Well, writing for advertising, that is. I will write for myself. I will write things that please me and make me proud and happy. I’m going to actually write the novel I invested money and time into learning how to write. Ok, Ok. I can’t just quit cold turkey, unless of course a pile of money falls into my lap (that can happen, right??!?!). I have to take freelance jobs here and there to put organic food in sweet Sylvia’s mouth, and adorable Sweetwater sandals on her feet, but work isn’t going to be my driving force. She is.

With everything I am, and everything I do, I will ask myself, “would Sylvia be proud of me? Will I want to tell Sylvia about this one day?”  Because I’m going to live more extraordinarily, instead of ordinarily. Yes, that will be hard, because some days a lady just wants to be tired and lazy and a lump on a couch. Fine. So be it. I’m sure Sylvia Plath and Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf took a day off here and there, and watched the flowers grow (because, of course there wasn’t any marathons of Sex and the City to veg out to, or season issues of Vogue to pour over). But, I want to make every day in this life count, for Sylvia and me, and us. I want my legacy for her to be a woman that is unafraid. I want everything I write to be useful for her, whether emotional or humorous or scary or truthful.

I may fail at being a novelist. But if I do, I will fail trying. And 50 years from now Sylvia will say, “my mom was crazy and awesome and totally fearless. What a woman!”

thanks, sarah! sweet sylvia is so lucky to have you as her mama.

if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them!