Facing the End of Winter

To be fair, it is probably more spring-like here in Ireland; every time I’ve heard lately from the Philadelphia folks, it has been in the form of a groaning “…and there’s more snow!” Believe it or not, it “snowed” here twice this week (wee flurries for all of five minutes), which is very rare.

It is an ideal time – while still contemplating just how you’ll meander up to that threshold between winter and spring – to make small steps in shedding the skin of winter and in dreaming of your garden, to contemplate what you’ll plant this year; seeds, too, are hidden in the dark and the cold. Waiting.

Here are two simple herbal adventures you can undertake while planning your farewells to winter.


Your skin has likely suffered to some degree throughout winter, wherever you are. No need to pay exorbitant amounts at spas or salons; you can turn and face the newness of the coming spring with an easy do-it-yourself herbal facial.

We focus here on two simple steps: a relaxing steam, followed by an enlivening mask.

What You’ll Need


Clay pulls out toxins and impurities from the skin. You can choose from various types: Bentonite, Kaolin, and French green, white, or red clays.

Bentonite clay is rejuvenating and cleansing for all types of skin. French green clay in particular – which is often used at spas and has high nutrient and mineral content, along with micro-molecules that help absorption (thus great for oily complexions) – helps to stimulate, tone, and cleanse the pores.


This is how you personalize your pampering treat: do you desire to merely refresh, or do you want to moisturize or heal blemishes…? The combinations are endless, but here are some popular suggestions to get you started:

Fresh or Dried Herbs and/or Essential Oils: Normal skin: rose, ylang-ylang, geranium, calendula, lemon balm, lavender; Dry/Sensitive: elderflowers, marshmallow, calendula, lavender, lemon balm, sweet violet, chamomile; Oily/Blemished: elderflowers, tea tree, thyme, peppermint, lavender, geranium, sage, rosemary


A towel, two bowls, and boiling water (honey and/or yoghurt optional)

What You’ll Do 

The Steam

* As always, consult your health practitioner before doing a steam; they may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those with heart issues, asthma, cystic acne, eczema, rosacea, etc. *

Place your chosen herbs (about 1-2 tbsp of each) in a bowl and then fill the bowl halfway with boiling water. (If you are adding essential oils, add 1-4 drops at this point).

After about 3-5 minutes – and when it isn’t too hot for you to handle; you don’t want to burn yourself! – simply lean over the bowl and drape the towel over your head as if you were inside a tiny tent. Steam in this manner for about 10 minutes. Your face will be quite wet by the ideal point.

If you find it too hot under your towel, by all means sneak out for a breath. If your skin is already suffering dryness, steam for only five minutes. For normal and blemished skin, you can do this once or twice a week.

Extra Moisturizing Options: We can become so dried out in winter! If your skin feels too dry to handle a mask, you can do a gentle facial massage afterward the steam to retain moisture: use a light oil such as apricot kernel, jojoba, or avocado and massage into your skin by using small circling motions.

Another option is to mix honey and yogurt with your mask and/or follow the mask with the application of honey (spread honey very gently over your face, leave for about 15 minutes, and rinse with cool water). Maia also uses raw honey on her face and then steams it off.

The Mask

First, cleanse your face (so if you didn’t steam, wash).

In your second bowl, mix together the clay (1 teaspoon). You can mix with a teaspoon of honey and of yogurt, if using. If not, use a 1 teaspoon of water and adjust as needed (add more clay if you end up with too watery a mixture).

Apply to face and neck, avoiding the sensitive skin around your eyes. It is lovely thing to soak in the bath while the clay dries on your face (and easy to clean up afterwards). Leave for 15-20 minutes and rinse with warm followed by cool water. Follow with the application of honey if desired.


Are you facing a view of a barren or snow-covered yard? Why not plan an herb garden this year? In a couple of weeks, just in time to start planting seeds indoors.

In the meantime, if you are deciding or have decided on what you want to plant, bring your dreaming into creative reality by handcrafting some botanical markers for your future garden.

What You’ll Need

Large smooth stones

Dark ones work best visually if using white paint, pale ones for black.

Waterproof paint

Eco-friendly is best, most especially as it will be near the soil. Exterior paints contain fungicides and you’ll want to avoid oil-based paints and paints from old containers.  Aim for low VOC paints or acrylic (acrylics are fairly waterproof but are microscopically porous in the elements, so you could even consider a varnish).

Small Paintbrush

The smaller the paintbrush, the greater control you will have in making letters. If you have a particularly small stencil set, you could use that for the lettering, too.

What You’ll Do

Simply decorate your stones with the names of your herbs. Other ideas: paint an image of the plant as an identification aid, add the botanical names, or just go where your own creativity leads. Then place your markers where you intend to plant as you plan out and visualize your garden – or when you have planted, so you remember where to expect your seedlings!



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