Mochas Among the Greenery

Wendy and Colorful Trees

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  Now, while I agree wholeheartedly with Cicero here, I feel he may have omitted a few other necessities in life – such as one’s morning cup of coffee.  I function much better after I’ve had two cups of that delicious brew.  It awakens my senses as part of my daily ritual for facing the world.   Coffee can be highly useful and beneficial in a variety of manners.  One of the many ways I use coffee is to reuse it’s byproduct – coffee grounds.  I have a small garden on my balcony at home, and I have found used coffee grounds are excellent as plant food, due to its high levels of potassium, nitrogen, and other trace minerals – all of which are important for healthy plant growth.  But is there such a place where coffee and plants come together in a beautiful, harmonious environment?  Yes, there is.

Grubb Nursery 01

Located in the Bayview area of San Francisco, there lies a hidden garden of wondrous delights known as Flora Grubb Gardens.  Established by landscape designer Flora Grubb (yes, that is her real name) and French chef Saul Nadler in 2003, this charming array of plants and plant accoutrement is a feast for the senses.   There is also a fountain within the garden, in the form of Ritual Coffee Roasters,  a coffee distributor that has one of its stores inside. Established in 2005 and launching a coffee revolution, Ritual’s main goal is “to craft the very best cup of coffee available anywhere.  Period.”   One may get tea or coffee, and wander about the luscious grounds, admiring the elegant plants and handiwork of clever artisans.  I ordered a mocha from the friendly and attentive barista.  It was that flawless cup of perfection true coffee connoisseurs seek.  I sipped my beverage and began my journey among the greenery.

Vertical Garden on Metal Wall

One of my current obsessions is vertical gardens.  They provide a beautiful, living wall of art, and introduce the wood element to an environment in a chic and unexpected way.  Pictured above is a grouping of six vertical panels of rich succulents.   Each panel measures 20″ by 20″ and is available for purchase at Flora Grubb, or at their online store (plants not included).  I’d love to try my hand at creating a vertical herb garden perhaps using one of these boxes.  More information about the D.I.Y. vertical garden panel is available here:  http://shop.floragrubb.com/vertical-succulent-garden-d-i-y-panel/  Flora Grubb also offers a great tutorial on making you own vertical garden:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=894

Grubb Furniture 03

Since Christmas, I’ve been debating what to do with my leftover string  lights.  I’m thinking of draping them along some kind of metalwork, like the beautiful filigree pieces above,  Using reclaimed scraps from a variety of sources, they make great conversation pieces, and work well indoors or out.  Although more intended for vines and foliage, I think string lights would adorn them quite nicely.  Classy and colorful Fermob garden furniture can be seen throughout.  The neon green-yellow chair on the right is part of their Luxembourg Collection, while the other pieces are all part of their Bistro Collection, which is based on the original French design patented in 1889.   I’ve been thinking about acquiring some of those folding chairs, too.  I really like the blue one in the bottom left.   More information about their Bistro furniture can be found here:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=2450

Buick Planter

Broken items or things in disrepair often attract sha, negative energy, into an environment.  Is it always important to either fix the damaged item, or re-purpose it in a new and fashionable way.  This classic car, a functional beauty in its heyday, has been reincarnated as a planter.  It’s almost apocalyptic in how the plants, a wood element, have taken over this very metal automobile.  It works brilliantly in this space because you have the other three elements working together in harmony alongside the wood and metal (the sunlight and red wall representing fire, the earth below, and the water sustaining the plants).  I like how they use every available area in the car to house a plant.  There are even trees growing through it!  A miraculous and thought-provoking piece of living art.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

These concrete chaises were deceptively comfortable.  I sat here for a while with my mocha and didn’t want to get up.   Many people have mixed opinions about this pair of cement seating, but I like it.  However, I imagine they would be difficult to move around the property.

Justina, Plant and Coffee

Pictured above is my friend Justina with her coffee and a new addition to her plant family.  It’s a crassula of some kind, but I cannot tell you which one.  It’s cute, though.

Grubb Nursery O2

Gardening is one of those activities that is life-affirming and nourishing at the same time.  From a feng shui perspective, it is one of the few actions that incorporates the physical touch of all five of the elements:

  • Wood – The plants themselves
  • Fire – The sunlight for the plants to grow
  • Earth – The soil in which it grows
  • Metal – Gardening tools and implements
  • Water – Also needed for plants to grow

Yin and yang theory also plays a part here.  Many people use gardening as a stress reducer from their hectic, technological yang-filled lives.  Gardening can be a relaxing yin activity, which helps to replenish and balance out stress levels, bringing one back to nature and away from a highly mechanical world.  In addition to being a creative outlet, gardening is also good exercise for people of every age, from young children to retirees.  Not to mention one can grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Most home-grown veggies taste far better than the store bought varieties.   There is also aromatherapy of sorts working outdoors provides – the various scents of the soil, plants, flowers and air can literally invigorate the soul through olfactory means.  (The smell of fresh-cut grass is a proven aphrodisiac.)

Grubb Plants

The scenery and items at Flora Grubb Gardens are constantly changing and evolving, with new wares coming in almost every day.   I plan on returning here on my next business trip to San Francisco, to see what is currently being offered.  And to have more Ritual Coffee.  (Used coffee grounds also act as a bug repellent, for insects that meander through the soil, such as ants and slugs.  It’s not toxic to them, but will definitely keep them away.)  Come of think of it, I may not be able to wait that long for Ritual’s fine roasts – thankfully, one can order all of their coffee right here:    http://www.ritualroasters.com/store/  I believe is was Thomas Jefferson who said, “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

Flora Grubb Gardens

1634 Jerrold Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94124

415 626-7259

Hours:  Monday – Saturday  9:00 am – 5:00 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

http://www.floragrubb.com/idx/index.php

Ritual Coffee Roasters (located inside Flora Grubb)

415 694-6448

Hours:  Monday – Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Friday – Saturday  9:00 am – 4:30 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

http://www.ritualroasters.com/

Cinnamon as an Aphrodisiac

Mentioned several times in the Bible, and in ancient Chinese writings, the fragrant spice known as cinnamon has been enchanting civilizations across the world.  Originally from Sri Lanka, cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree (part of the Evergreen family).  Cinnamon sticks, as we know them today, are pieces of the dried bark which naturally curls under heat.  These are then kept as sticks, or ground down into the powdery substance that most people use today.

The history of this well-traveled spice is quite colorful.  Those in ancient Egypt and Rome would use cinnamon for its sublime taste in various cuisines, and as incense.   It was also used for the embalming process during mummification, and taken medicinally.  The Romans would burn cinnamon as part of a funeral pyre, or in honor of the recently deceased.   During the Middle Ages, only the very elite could afford the spice, as most seasonings of that time where exorbitantly expensive.  Cinnamon was also valued for its preservative qualities when applied to meat, due to phenols which inhibit bacteria growth responsible for spoilage.  The fragrant aroma of cinnamon also helped to mask the stench of aged meat.

Cinnamon has many health benefits.  In addition to being a viable source of fiber, calcium, magnesium and iron, this natural substance can also lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and regulate blood sugar.  According to the U.S.  Department of Agriculture, use of cinnamon has been shown to suppress the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cancer cells.

From a feng shui perspective, cinnamon is very yin in essence, as are most spices.  Because it is more sweet than savory, its nature is even more yin than other seasonings.  As for the  elemental connection, it has  strong wood element, as it’s quite literally tree bark.  Its comforting brown hue is an example of the earth element.  I also feel that cinnamon has a bit of fire attached to it as well, as it conjures a natural warmth on the tastes buds.

Cinnamon has also been used throughout time as an aphrodisiac.  For both men and women, the use of cinnamon as part of one’s regular diet has been shown to naturally increase sex drive, due to its ability to  enhance blood circulation, gently heating up the body from the inside.  According to a study performed by the The Smell & Taste Research Foundation, located in Chicago, of the over two hundred scents tested on men, Cinnamon was the victor in causing and sustaining male arousal.   In feng shui terms, this makes complete sense.  Passion, romance, and sex are all controlled by the fire element.  The wood element feeds fire.  Cinnamon is wood, and therefore the use of this wooden spice assists in feeding the flames of passion.

There are many ways to add cinnamon to one’s way of living.  Below are the ones I personally use:

  • Sprinkle some on Hot Cocoa.
  • Sprinkle some on Vanilla Yogurt or Apple Sauce.
  • Add it to your Coffee!  Not only do I sprinkle it on top, but I mix a tablespoon of cinnamon in with the coffee grounds, when making a full pot.  It tastes sensational.
  • Cinnamon Toast.   I spread coconut oil over my toast, sprinkle cinnamon, and spread it all around.  Delicious and satisfying.
  • Aromatherapy.  Light cinnamon scented candles to heighten the romantic mood.  These are available from a variety of distributors, but the best time to buy this scent of candle is after the winter holidays; they’ll usually be on sale.
  • Mulled Wine and Sangria.   Whole cinnamon sticks are a great enhancement during autumn and winter.  Allow the stick to just lounge about the glass within the beverage; this adds a festive enticement to both beverages.  (This can work for other drinks as well)
  • Add to anything Pumpkin or Sweet Potato related.

And some other things I haven’t tried, but am going to:

  • Sprinkle some on Oatmeal.
  • Enchilada Sauce.  Add a teaspoon or two to canned (or fresh) enchilada sauce while it’s on the stove.  It adds a little mole flare to it.
  • Honey Tea.   One part cinnamon to two parts honey, combined in hot water, makes a delicious, healthy tea.  A tea bag could also be added  for further flavor.
  • Essential Oil.  Cinnamon scented oil is another way to influence a room’s chi and scent.
  • Cinnamon Buns.  Cinnamon buns are one of the best breakfast foods after a night of romantic bliss.  Those Cinnabon people are quite clever.
  • Sprinkle on top of Roasts, be it ham, pork, or lamb.
  • Lotion.  Various lotions and massage oils on the market today are cinnamon scented.  I need to purchase some.

Another way of using Cinnamon goes all the way back to biblical times – literally.   Proverb 7:17 is about a seductress luring a man to bed.  It indicates that the woman in question used cinnamon, myrrh, and aloe to “perfume” her chamber.   Aloe has a sweet, woody aroma, whereas myrrh has a very distinct, nutty scent.  Combining these two with enticing cinnamon, and you have an ideal olfactory recipe for creating a deeply sensual environment.  Try adding some more cinnamon to your world, and you may notice a very definite increase in passion…

Ganoderma and Camping

Miner's TentWhen camping in the wilderness, it is best not to eat random mushrooms one finds in the forest.  Indeed, some of these toadstools are not fun guys at all, causing anything from stomach cramps to death if ingested.  Since I’d rather avoid death, I tend not to eat mushrooms when embracing nature.  Unless you count the ones in my coffee.  It sounds odd, I know, but recently my friend Kari introduced me to a flavorful company called Organo Gold.  All of their products, including their coffee varieties, have a secret ingredient in them called ganoderma.  Ganoderma is a flat, table-like mushroom that grows on wood.  This beneficial chanterelle is known for it various health properties, including the control of blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation, relief of fatigue, and bolstering of the immune system.  China, Japan, and other Asian countries have known about ganoderma for centuries.

Brown and Cream Mushroom

I was quite pleased when my friend Kari became a distributor for Organo Gold.  Although ganoderma is available from a variety of sources, no other company has been able to make it taste as tempting as the good people of Organo.   Coffee, in itself, brings a wonderful earth element to the table, with its rich brown hues and terrene aroma.   It is mostly a yin beverage, but I feel this also depends on how sweet one makes it – yin is sugary, whereas yang is more savory, from a sweetness standpoint.  There’s also the argument that it’s stimulating effect is more yang in its origins.  Personally, as someone who has chosen coffee as a lifestyle choice (not an addition), I would be lost without my two cups in the morning.  So, I would say it’s more yang in its energies due to the caffeine.   Also, coffee drinkers are less likely to develop type 2 Diabetes, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.  I tried two of the impressive Organo beverages, and was astounded to say the least.

The most popular of their products, their Black Coffee has a distinct nutty taste to it, almost like hazelnut.  This is what I like to call the Frangelico Aspect.   The nuttiness flavor stems from the ganoderma extract in the brew.  Very, very tasty.

Organo Gold’s Black Coffee in Cafe Latte form.  Already sweetened with cream and sugar, this is just like having a latte ready at one’s fingertips.  The Frangelico Aspect is here as well.  Perfect for those who love hazelnut lattes.

Another reason I praise Organo is that all of their beverages need only one additional ingredient:  boiling water.  As a mircobrew, the coffee comes prepackaged in individual servings, with each box having multiple packets.  This is the ideal product to take with you when your coffee maker isn’t close at hand.  It is especially perfect to enjoy while relaxing on some seafaring vessel – or when one is camping in the wilds of nature (I prefer Cabrillo State Beach above Malibu).  Kari’s website for Organo Gold is below, and if you have any questions about the coffee, feel free to email her at kari.larson21@yahoo.com.     I am looking forward to having their hot chocolate this winter, perhaps by a roaring fire…

Update:  Due to some incredible and positive career changes, Kari is no longer selling Oregano Gold.  To find a distributor near you, please refer to their website:   http://www.organogold.com/