Turquoise Barn

An Eco-Conscious, Green-Certified Retreat, Event, & Education Center located in the Catskill Mountains on an Organic farm. Offering group workshops, retreats, outdoor event space....specializing in sustainable Botanical Cuisine, Nature Therapy, and more! An ideal venue for YOUR retreat, wedding, or friends/family gathering. For more information, please visit our website.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Love Affair with STINGING NETTLES
 Nettles.....Stinging Nettles.....Oh how I love thee…..
let me count the ways and share them with you.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

(Note:  This is an updated post from 2011 - I added some additional info and pictures but it is basically the same post - thought it was an appropriate time to reshare : ))

Although I’ve known about this plant for many years,  my love affair with Stinging Nettles began after really "experiencing" this amazing plant.   It was actually one of the first “weeds” I discovered over 15 years ago when I first moved onto my property.  Before I knew better, Nettles was a just a scary weed that I would avoid brushing against or weeding without gloves, lest I’d feel the sting and breakout in a rash. 

My very first encounter with Nettles was casual.  

In 1993 I was diagnosed with anemia and a friend recommended I try Nettles tea to bring up my iron levels.  So I bought some from the health food store and began drinking as a tea.   It wasn’t long before I had forgotten all about the Nettles of my past -  until I became pregnant. 
I had read that nettles was a good tonic for pregnancy so I decided to buy some get back to drinking it again.  I also drank red raspberry leaf tea, another tonic recommended for pregnant women.  

Nettles, Red Clover, Mallow

I was excited to discover that I had red raspberry leaves on my property and decided to try and harvest the raspberry leaves myself to make a tea.

However, it was inconceivable to me to even think of harvesting, stinging nettles – ouch! 

For a long while I had read & heard of stories of individuals actually harvesting & eating wild nettles not just for medicinal purposes but for food.  

Really?  I was intriguedWell, it took me awhile but about 7 years ago I decided to FINALLY give it a try.  It had been on my “list of things to do” for a long time.

Honestly, I really wasn’t interested in sautéing or cooking with them since I prefer to eat a diet of mostly raw foods, especially when it comes to greens.  

I had heard of people using them raw in smoothies.  Since I was already drinking green smoothies everyday, this just seemed like the most logical place for me to start.  

And needless to say, stinging nettles & I have become good friends........that's how my love affair began.  

Yes, nettles and I have progressed - our “relationship” has evolved - in fact, I love nettles so much that I no longer need to wear gloves to harvest.  

Just like any relationship, if you are gentle, respectful & kind, you will be repaid with gentleness, respect, and kindness (and in the case of nettles lots of health benefits too) – if not – look out – your gonna get stung!   
 Needless to say, I love the taste and smell of nettles – for some reason it reminds me of green tea but without the caffeine side effects.   In fact, I make a delicious nettles ice cream that tastes like green tea.  (I'll be making this for my upcoming retreat)  

Other ways I love my nettles include: 

Incorporating them into my crackers, cheeses, dips & desserts to add a unique flavor and loads of nutrition. 

Also wonderful both fresh 

and dried as a tea, for infusions, and tonics. 
I use the leaves, stems, & seeds.  

Why Nettles?

Nettles are a great source of Calcium, Manganese, Vitamin A, K, and protein.   Medicinally, Nettles have been used to help with a variety of aliments including (but not limited to) anemia, joint & muscle pain, arthritis, allergies, bladder infections, bronchitis, gout, hives, kidney stones, PMS, dandruff.  

If you are interesting in learning more and experiencing this wonderful herb first hand, we will be harvesting, preparing, and EATING Nettles at our upcoming retreat (along with some other nutrient dense, delicious wild food tonics, elixirs, and botanical cuisine)  For details, click here.  

Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite Nettles Smoothies

Wild Edible Green Smoothie 
We serve this whenever in season at the B&B and during our retreats – besides being high in protein, loaded with vitamins & minerals; it’s also great for cleansing.  Wild edibles are much more nutrient dense than cultivated greens;  you may actually feel a “buzz” of energy after you drink this.  But what about the “stinging” of the nettles?  You can wear gloves to harvest – once blended, the sting will be gone.  And……you may also be wondering about taste…..absolutely wonderful….I refuse to eat or drink anything JUST because it’s “good for you” – no nose holding going on here.  

1-2  cups stinging nettle leaves
½ lambsquarters
1/2 cup kale
2 frozen bananas
1 cup blueberries or 1 cup papaya
1 cup pineapple (optional - for extra sweetness)
½ cup spring water

Blend all ingredients together in a *high speed blender and serve.
Optional: Top w fresh or dried nettle seeds,  bee pollen or cacao nibs 

Note:  When harvesting Nettles, use just the leaves and only harvest BEFORE they begin going to seed. At this point, you can harvest the seeds; use fresh or dried for toppings on salads, smoothies or soups.  

If you do not have access to any of these greens – you can substitute spinach, swiss chard, kale, or collards.

*You can make this in a regular blender, although I prefer using a Vita-Mix 

Caution:  Do not harvest or eat nettles when they begin flowering or going to seed – can cause irritation to the urinary tract.   

NOTE:  The information offered on or blog & website; in our workshops, classes, & retreats, represents the views of the author/presenter.  The views & information offered are intended for informational purposes only and not intended as medical or health advice.  We do not accept any responsibilities for any liabilities resulting from the use of this information.   We recommend consulting with a licensed health professional before using essential oils, herbs or making any changes to your diet, exercise program, or lifestyle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Palo Santo Essential Oil - Exotic, Earthy, Grounding, Intoxicating

For the past few years, I have been hosting a series of Essential Oils Workshops entitled "The Art of Essential Oils".  The topic of Essential Oils is vast, and new research about the benefits of one of Mother Nature's most powerful resources are growing each day.  In addition to become home staples, Essential Oils are now being used in hospitals and clinics around the globe.  

That being said, the oils I use and discuss apply only to high quality, pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. If you are new to using essential oils, please read my previous post "The Art of Essential Oils" for a basic introduction to how essential oils work and why you may want to incorporate them into your everyday life.  I also touch upon a bit of history, the importance of using a quality oil, and where to purchase.  

Palo Santo

Often described as exotic, earthy, spiritual, grounding and intoxicating, Palo Santo is one of my favorite essential oils.  It is also one you may want to consider adding to your "medicine" cabinet  as research is (re)discovering some of the powerful healing properties available from this magical oil.  

Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is a tree that grows along the coast in South America and is from the same botanical family as Frankincense from the Middle East. Both have numerous healing properties, and in some cases Palo Santo may be may be used as a less costly alternative to Frankincense.    


Palo Santo's properties contribute to a variety of benefits that support the mind, body and spirit.  The list below offers some of the ways this intoxicating oil may be a beneficial addition to your oil collection. (or good reason to get one started!)  

Although mainly considered to be a spiritual oil, Palo Santo offers some amazing healing properties that are currently being researched.*  The essential oil contains a high limonene content (75-76%) making it an excellent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacteria, immune boosting, nervous tension, joint pain, and may inhibit cancer (specifically breast)*. The oil (and smoke from the wood), may also be used as a mosquito and bug repellant.  I am currently using with Frankincense for a nodule that I have on my thyroid.  I'll keep you posted on the results.  I also add to coconut oil or vitamin E oil and apply use on my face as a moisturizer.  

Known for its long history as a spiritual oil (along with frankincense, myhrr, sage), Palo Santo was used by the Incas and still used in a number of Shamanic rituals.  Attributes:  Opens the third eye and crown chakras, deepen meditations and spiritual awakening, cleansing, purification.  Combine with Frankincense to enhance meditations and spiritual quests.  

Most oils from trees including Western Red Cedar, Spruce, Cedarwood, and Frankincense, provide stabilization; grounding both physically and emotionally. Suggested uses: Balancing, grounding, calming, introspection, releasing anger & fear.  


Dogs - fleas & ticks. As with any essential oil - always consult a veterinarian before using on your pets, especially with cats - they are extremely sensitive and even the inhalation can be fatal.  


The name Palo Santo means "holy wood" or "sacred wood".  Primarily recognized as a spiritual oil, Palo Santo was used by the Incas to purify and cleanse the spirit from negative energies and as a powerful medicine. 

Most are probably familiar with the wood pieces from the Palo Santo tree, however, the essential oil is much more concentrated and versatile to use.  Both have a sweet, balsamic and earthy aroma with incense-like overtones, which I find intoxicating!  

The Palo Santo tree lives for 80-90 years.  The essential oil can only be extracted from dead trees and fallen branches that have been left dying on the ground for a minimum of 2 years. The resin is driven into the hardwood when the wood dies and matures, thus developing its unique and powerful chemistry.  The longer the tree is dead, the more powerful the oil. In Ecuador these sacred trees are protected and it is against the law to remove or cut down Palo Santo trees. 

Suggested Usage:

Direct Inhalation:  Place a drop on the palm of your hand, rotate to rub into the center, then inhale with cupped hands. (stay clear of your eyes).

Diffusion:  Straight or blended with Frankincense, Vetiver, Grapefruit or Lemon (any wood or citrus is nice).  Chamomile & lavender added make a nice relaxing blend (for topical as well)

Topical (skin) - Neet on throat chakra, ears, temples, 3rd eye or with a carrier oil - I prefer coconut oil.  I prefer to use neet (without carrier oil), however, always test your skin sensitivity.  Use with carrier oil, purification, lemongrass as a natural insect repellant.

Note:  Pure Palo Santo essential oil has a very concentrated scent ~ I love it ~ but if it feels too strong to you, I would suggest using with a carrier oil and adding a light citrus to lighten. 

If you are interested in learning more or experiencing the magic of essential oils and herbs, join us for one of our upcoming workshops or retreats.  Please visit www.turquoisebarn.com for more information.  

If you are interested in ordering essential oils contact me for more information or you can order here: Oil❤️

Reference Guide for Essential Oils - Connie & Alan Higley
Young Living

**when ingesting essential oils, please use precaution.  There is much controversy on this top and not all oils are considered safe for ingestion.    

NOTE:  The information offered on or blog & website; in our workshops, classes, & retreats, represents the views of the author/presenter.  The views & information offered are intended for informational purposes only and not intended as medical or health advice.  We do not accept any responsibilities for any liabilities resulting from the use of this information.   We recommend consulting with a licensed health professional before using essential oils, herbs or making any changes to your diet, exercise program, or lifestyle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Art of Essential Oils

An Introduction

For the past few years, I have been hosting a series of workshops entitled “The Art of Essential Oils”.   This stemmed from my obsession with essential oils and how they have become an integral part of my life - and - like most addictions - I just can’t live without them and want to share.  But this is a good one as there are multiple benefits and ways to bringing these sensual beauties into your life. 

I’ve used essential oils since I was a teen way back in the 80’s mainly as a fragrance.  In my early 20’s, I discovered the therapeutic benefits and naturally began using them for basic ailments.  And as someone who is extremely sensitive to smells (I think I was a dog in a past life), essential oils are the the only scents I can tolerate.

Some of my obsession, I mean collection ; )


Essential Oils have been used for thousands of years - from perfumes and aromatherapy to culinary and medicinal purposes. Used in the embalming process in Egypt, well preserved oils were found in King Tut’s tomb,recipes were recorded on the walls in hieroglyphics and there are over 200 verses in the Bible that mention the use of essential oils.

Essential oils (and herbs in general) were our first medicines.  Unfortunately, we have lost our connection with nature and with it the lost art of natural healing.  Fortunately, however, we are becoming more aware of the benefits and in a sense, we are rediscovering our history.  The history & lore  of Essential Oils is a vast subject; I encourage anyone interested in learning more to explore this fascinating topic.    

So what exactly are essential oils and how do they work?

Beautiful plants

Essential oils are tools that can aid in detoxifying, nourishing, enhancing, and creating balance in our environment, bodies, mind,and spirit. Technically, they are complex volatile liquids that are distilled from plants including shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, stems and seeds.  They defend plants from insects, harsh environmental conditions, and disease. They are also vital for a plant to grow, live, evolve, and adapt to its surroundings. They contain trace elements of nutrients, hormones, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and anti-bodies. 

Research has shown that a large percentage of EO are anti everything (in a good way) anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-tumoral, anti-parasitic, anti-infectious, antiseptic. They carry oxygen to the cells destroying bacteria & viruses while restoring balance to the body, stimulating and strengthening the immune system.  

EO are the regenerating, oxygenating, & immune defense properties of the plants.  When used on humans or animals, EO may provide similar benefits.  Disease begins when cells lack the oxygen for proper nutrient assimilation.  EO contain oxygen molecules which help to transport nutrients to starving human cells.  By providing the needed oxygen, EO also work to stimulate the immune system; detoxifng cells & blood in the body. 

Some EO have the ability to pass the blood brain barrier and current research is has found that essential oils may be useful in helping with Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s & MS. 

Because they are organic substances, they do not have harmful qualities to healthy cells when used correctly.  They do not have residual effects as do most chemicals.  New research and discoveries about the benefits of one of Mother Nature's most powerful resources are growing each day.  *Therapeutic grade Essential Oils are now being used in hospitals and clinics around the globe.  For anyone interested in reading about some of this research, the pub-med website (search for essential oils) has a number of recent studies available to the public.    

How to Use

There are 3 basic methods for using essential oils.  I'm only touching on the very basics here, perhaps in another blog I'll go into more details; or if you are interested in learning first hand, we discuss, demonstrate and experience all three of these methods in our classes & retreats.   

1.  Inhalation - direct, diffusor, vaporizer (cold only for therapeutic benefits!)  

2.   Topical - application to the skin (largest organ of the body) 
      Applied neet - undiluted directly to the skin (use precaution!)  
      or with a carrier oil - my first choice is coconut oil.

3.  Ingestion - controversial, do your research and use precautions.

I add EO to  food to enhance flavors while gaining therapeutic benefits

Why Essential Oils?

So besides the therapeutic and sensory experience, why else would one consider using essential oils?  What about prevention; reducing your amount of exposure to toxins that can cause illness & disease?

The amount of chemicals found in everyday household & beauty products and over the counter medicines is astounding AND not to mention toxic to both humans and animals.  Many of these chemicals are hormone disruptors, carcinogenic, and linked to a myriad of health issues.  In some cases, many are BANNED in various countries.  And we are not just referring to the obvious culprits like Fabreeze and Glad plug ins.  These chemicals are found in everything from laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoos, soaps, deodorants, most cleaning supplies, cosmetics, cold & flu medicines - even those advertised as natural or organic still contain toxic ingredients.  I have a great watch list that we hand out in our workshops - you will be surprised when you really start reading and checking your labels what you are actually exposing yourself & family too.

So what can we do about it?  In the world we live in, it is almost impossible to completely shield yourself 100%.  However there are a number small steps we can all take to begin reducing the amount of toxin exposure and for ourselves and families, as well as taking preventative precautions and building our immune systems. 

Incorporating Essential Oils can be a first and easy step.  We can begin by learning and understanding simple ways to replace harmful household & beauty products and over the counter medicines, with safe (and pleasant to use!) alternatives.    In addition to being highly effective for cleaning, healing, and prevention; essential oils offer an incredible sensory experience AND can also be more economical.  

Detoxing is a topic of great depth, and of course involves more than just using essential oils.  However, it’s a great first step. If you are interested in learning more first hand, I offer a number of workshops and retreats where you can learn and experience some of the magic first hand : )  *Our retreats also incorporate other tools, such as diet and meditative activities to help balance, cleanse, and nourish mind, body & spirit.  

A few non-toxic products I make (all purpose cleaner, hand sanitizer, body scrub) 

How and Where to Purchase QUALITY Essential Oils

Not all essential oils are created equally. To truly benefit from the oils, I recommend using only high quality therapeutic grade oils. As essential oils are become more popular, a number of new manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and creating less than optimal qualities.

I did quite a bit of research and choose Young Living.  Honestly, at first I was hesitant because of the cost and the mlm; and there are a number of other companies out there to choose from, some even off shoots from Young Living.  I based my decision on the fact that:  they have been growing on their own farms and making high quality oils for over 20 years (before it became trendy); they have extremely high standards -In fact, they sell stock that does not comply with their standards to other companies!  

And most importantly, after trying a variety of oils; for myself, I found YL to be of the highest quality AND most importantly, they work the best for me. 

Additionally, when using essential oils, be sure to listen to your intuition, find a scent that speaks to you, let it tell you where to apply on your body, what to blend with, when to apply.  Most oils have multiple benefits and properties that overlap each other, if you have an aversion to an oil or it just doesn't feel right, don't use it.  For example, there are over many essential oils that have anti-bacterial properties or work as spiritual enhancers, choose the one that feels, smells, **tastes, right to you.  Use ALL of your senses!  

If you are interested in learning more about my upcoming workshops and retreats, please visit my website at Turquoise Barn

If you are interested in ordering essential oils contact me for more information or you can order here:  bit.ly/oillove

Next up:  Palo Santo Essential Oil - Exotic, Earthy, Grounding, Intoxicating

Reference Guide for Essential Oils - Connie & Alan Higley

NOTE:  The information offered on or blog & website; in our workshops, classes, & retreats, represents the views of the author/presenter.  The views & information offered are intended for informational purposes only and not intended as medical or health advice.  We do not accept any responsibilities for any liabilities resulting from the use of this information.   We recommend consulting with a licensed health professional before using essential oils, herbs or making any changes to your diet, exercise program, or lifestyle.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

GREEN Greens Soup for a Cold White Wintery Day

SPRING is just around the corner ~ Winter is ALMOST over - or so it seems (and what a relief after sub-zero temps that seemed to be never-ending). - a balmy high of 36 today, dropping back down to -8 tomorrow.....

So until then.......here's a soup recipe that I have rediscovered this winter.  This is not a raw recipe but uses low heat - you can adjust to your preferences.  It can also be made without steaming and just blending in the Vita-Mix - still good but the taste does change a bit.  And....it's a great base soup with a variety of options to add in after and make it your own.

Green Greens Soup 

This recipe was adapted from an Urban Organics newsletter from 1996 or 7 - Brooklyn - a full page of HANDWRITTEN recipes.  (Oh i miss those days).  Super easy and really tasty - even Miguel (my teen son)  liked it and he usually doesn't go for anything THAT green. 

This soup is also excellent on it's own or makes a great base for adding other yummy ingredients to create your own tasty version. (see suggestions below)


5 cups of greens*
1 fresh chili pepper (green, red, or both)
Black Pepper & Salt (I use pink Himalayan) to taste (I like this with lots of pepper)
1-3 cloves garlic (optional to taste)3 cups of water (sometimes I'm in the mood for concentrate so I only add 1 cup - or less)

*I use 2-3 cups of spinach and whatever other greens I have on hand. When available, use wild greens such as stinging nettles, miners lettuce, lambs quarters, watercress, etc. - more on this in another blog : )
Lightly steam greens, garlic, & chili pepper. Remove chilies - puree greens & garlic - add salt & pepper, return to pot with chilies - warm to desired temp. If you have a vita-mix, you can use that to blend AND warm in place of the re-heating (or heating at all - see below note)  - depending on what temp you desire.

Original recipe calls to add all ingredients bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes - I only steam until wilted a few minutes at most. You can also just blend in a vita-mix although still yummy, it does have different taste. Original recipe calls for 2T wheat to make the broth thicker - if I want a thicker soup I either adjust the water or substitute kudzu root.

Optional toppings:  Add veggies, fresh herbs,  stir in a small dash of fire-cider or a drizzle of olive oil with a dash of black pepper essential oil (therapeutic grade only!).  Recipe suggests garlic croutons - I add the left over pieces of my raw onion crackers - perfect : )   
~ Enjoy......AND for everyone experiencing the crazy winter - stay warm and for those who are not - well, send some warmth and sunshine our way please.