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6 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

self-care ritualsMeghan ZahariComment

The summer solstice on June 20th is the longest day of the year. It's also referred to as "midsummer" even though it is the first day of summer and the end of spring. But living in the middle of a cold prairie province means that, for me, I just planted my garden, the cottage was just opened a few weeks ago, and my white skin is just starting to get a glow. It hardly feels like "midsummer" everywhere in the northern hemisphere, even though some places have been enjoying blistering heat for months already! The solstice is also an indicator that the hottest months are ahead. So why not reign in this natural occurrence with a little celebration, the way previous traditions did?

Since the days following the summer solstice begin to shorten, the solstice was traditionally a time to celebrate the sun. The word solstice loosely translates to “sun stand still,” and its influence has always been extremely important to agricultural societies. This day was a special time to gather and celebrate, and honour the sun shining in the sky, allowing food and crops to grow and offer us sustenance. Singing and dancing around a bonfire was the most common tradition associated with the solstice in earlier times. Many countries still honour the custom.

I get together with a few friends every solstice and equinox. It’s been a really interesting way to stay in touch with the natural occurrences of our planet, and I'm always surprised how changes of season often bring a lot of internal shifts as well. On the winter solstice, we ate comfort foods and shared things that we needed to let go of. In spring, we did a plant swap and talked about budding ideas for the new year. Now, the summer solstice is almost here. So, a fire and possibly an in-season flower swap is on the agenda.

If you’re hoping to find a way to celebrate the summer solstice, here are some old and new ways to do it:

1. Have a bonfire

Hilltop bonfires seemed to be one of the most popular ways for ancient Celts to celebrate and it’s still a very common tradition all around the world. In some European countries, it’s an extremely significant outdoor celebration; dancing, singing, and huge bonfires being the central excitement of the event. 

Solstice idea: Gather your closest friends, set out a moody midsummer playlist, and keep a bonfire going until the sun dips below the horizon. Nosh on some in-season ingredients, and request themed attire!

2. Get yourself some flowers

Celebrating summer is a perfect excuse to buy yourself some flowers and have the smell of fresh blooms in your home. Who doesn't enjoy a fresh little bouq on her dining table? If you've got blooms in your yard, try snipping a few to build your own arrangement.

Solstice idea: Hunt down some ribbon, floral wire and floral tape, and snip or purchase some of your favourite in-season blooms to make your own flower crown, corsage or necklace. Maybe you can wear it to your themed bonfire celebration!

3. Light a candle

Summer solstice celebrations don't need to be loud, and they don't need to be bustling with tons of bodies. If you’re not feeling like a wild outdoor party, opt for something more low-key and celebrate the fire of the sun by lighting some candles around your house.

Solstice idea: Light some candles and have a seat to think about some things you’re grateful for or things you’re hoping for the rest of the year. Hold a piece of sunstone, and throw on “Here Comes The Sun” for an especially on point solitary solstice night.

4. Two words: Sun. Piñata. 

If you're celebrating with little ones (or if you're a kid at heart), DIY a sun piñata to create a memorable summer celebration that your littles look back on fondly, or even look forward to each year.

Solstice idea: Fill a piñata with yellow ribbons, gold coins (of the chocolate variety, perhaps?), and yellow flowers and break it with your kids, or your best friends. Cause, who can turn down sunshine-themed games that remind you of childhood birthday parties? Bonus points if you use foraged sticks from the yard to bang on the piñata.

5. Forage

Midsummer means blooming gardens! Spend some time walking around and foraging whatever you can get your hands on (and isn’t on your neighbour’s lawn). Make a bouquet, hang them to dry, or cleanse your home with the smell of summer by burning the fragrant pickings.

Solstice idea: Gather some friends and spend the solstice evening wildcrafting and foraging together. You can also pick things from your own garden, and exchange your harvest with friends. Someone always has an abundance of tomatoes!

6. Get outside

Okay, but seriously: get outside on the longest day of the year! Go on a walk at lunch, spend the evening at a park, sit in your backyard. Whatever works for you! Soak up some sun. And hey, maybe you’ll get a festive tan/sunburn to boot.

Solstice idea: Dinner can be really special on the solstice. Set out some evening lights, make a light, in-season meal with crisp salads and fresh juices, and dine slowly beneath the setting sun. You can go formal and invite guests over to chill on the deck, or you can have a romantic evening picnic for two.


Ten ways to use lavender

botanicalsVanessa KundermanComment

Everyone's favourite herb is perhaps known for its sweet and soothing scent, but it also has many dynamic uses around the home and yard. If lavender is one of your faves, check out some of these awesome ways to use this plant that you may not have known about, including the dried flower, essential oil, floral water, and living blooms:

FACIAL OILS

Adding lavender essential oil to facial oils like coconut, evening primrose, jojoba, rosehip oil and more, helps reduce scarring in skin and also treats acne-prone skin thanks to its antiseptic properties. Add 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil to a 25ml bottle of your favourite skin-safe oil.

KEEP DEER AT BAY

If you have a problem with pests like deer in your yard, try planting some lavender in the problem areas. If the animals are snacking on some of your fruits/berries/veggies, a border of lavender will help protect them, since deer are deterred by the smell of lavender.

DREAM PILLOWS

Filling a small satchel with dried lavender is a great aromatherapy technique to help you develop healthy bedtime rituals. Lavender releases a soothing scent that can help you relax and drift to sleep. Tuck a dream pillow on your night table or inside your pillowcase to keep the sweet fragrant scent wafting around you all night. Snag our dream pillows here.

SMOKE CLEANSING BUNDLE

Burning dried lavender is a great herb for smoke cleansing. You can use it alone or add it to other dried herbs, like pine, cedar, chamomile, sage varieties and more. Traditional folklore offered to burn lavender to activate its romantic properties of attraction when set aflame. If love spells are your jam, add some dried lavender to your rituals.

LAVENDER BATH SALTS

Lavender essential oil and dried herbs can be added to epsom salts, sea salts, dead sea salts and Himalayan rock salt to create a spa-like bathing experience. Lavender helps to soothe irritated skin and also has anti-fungal properties. Check out Provence, our lavender bath soak.

FLORAL SUGARS

Lavender sugar is the dream. Add desired amount to your white sugar, and pulse through a blender. Pack the floral sugar tightly in a mason jar, and store it in a cool, dark place for two weeks to allow the lavender to infuse the sugar. You can add lavender sugar to some sweet summer recipes for a light floral treat.

TENSION HEADACHES

Lavender essential oil helps reduce tension headaches. Apply the oil on your temples to help relieve aches. Remember: essential oils are potent. They should never be applied alone, as they can burn skin. Always cut your essential oils with a carrier oil, like jojoba. Add 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil to a 10ml roller filled with a carrier oil of your choice, to apply evenly and safely. Snag our lavender, Solace, pulse point oil here, to banish those headaches (and get a sweet perfume, too).

THE BEST DIFFUSER BLEND EVER

I have a secret diffuser blend that keeps my home fresh and smelling sweet. But not too sweet, you know?This isn't a bakery. Visitors always ask what that great smell is when they come over, and my secret is diffusing essential oils that help clean the air and remove pollutants. Here's the blend:

15 drops lavender
4 drops tea tree
6 drops eucalyptus
5 sweet birch
1 drop peppermint

DETER MOSQUITOS

If you're bombarded by mosquitos, but hate the scent of those unnatural, harsh bug sprays, try rubbing some dried lavender along your skin. The scent keeps the bugs away, and keeps you smelling sweet. And don't worry about covering every ounce of exposed skin - rub some along your arms, neck, and if your legs are exposed. It will be enough to keep them away from you since they won't come near the scent.

LINEN CLOSET

Keep your linens smelling sweet and fresh by keeping a couple tiny satchels or dried bundles in the linen closet. You can also hang some dried bundles in your dishes and food cabinets. They will help keep pests out of your space, and keep things smelling fresh.


Five secrets to growing your best edible garden ever

botanicalsVanessa KundermanComment

Are you planning on growing your food this summer? Fresh food grown from your own backyard is not only deeply satisfying, but a healthy habit, too. Imagine an entire season of fresh salad, juicy tomatoes, and all the sparkling cucumber water you can dream up? The most exciting gardens are a combination of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, but if you're looking to grow and put food on the table this season, anchoring your garden around nutritious vegetables is where it's at. Here are five secrets to growing your best veggie garden ever:
 

HAVE A WATERING SCHEDULE

Having a set watering schedule benefits your indoor and outdoor plants, but outdoor plants need a little more regular watering. Making a habit of getting out to water your plants everyday will help them grow to their full potential. You may have some finicky plants who only want their roots soaked, or who prefer completely drying out in between watering, but when it comes to veggies, they need a lot of water. Unless you've had a string of rainy days, your veggies actually do need that daily drink of water. Develop a watering schedule for the gardening season, regardless of your gardening zone. Water them decently everyday, rather than deep soaking once a week.
 

WATER YOUR PLANTS IN THE MORNING

Did you know there is a sweet spot when it comes to watering your plants? Watering your plants in the morning is the best time when it comes to growing your best edible garden. When you water your plants in the afternoon, the hot afternoon heat and water may actually blister some of your plants' delicate foliage. Watering too late in the evening can bring on pests and disease by not letting your plants dry out properly with the help of the sun. Watering in the morning is still cool enough while giving your garden plenty of drying time.
 


Want to add a little magic to your green thumb?

Check out our Botanical Grimoire for practical and magical gardening tips, like how to use your roses in love spells and how to use mint for the tastiest mojitos on the block. The Botanical Grimoire includes 50 magical plants to add to your garden.

Check it out here!


USE SOIL WITH A HEALTHY, THREE OR FOUR-WAY MIX

Soil health is the most important part of your garden, regardless of what you're growing. If your soil is deficient in nutrients, how can it grow healthy, lush food for you all summer? Depending on our gardening zones, we also have different soil. Some may be full of clay, others may be sandy loam, and some may be rich black gold. If you're unsure how to test your soil to see it's health, opt for getting new fresh soil that has had some nutritional help. A good combination of rich gardening soil will have a mix of peat moss, top soil, manure, compost and/or sand. You'll save money by visiting a stone/soil yard rather than buying a bunch of bags from Home Depot, but depending on how much you need, a couple bags may be enough. Even better? Start composting to make your own amazing soil!


PLAN WITH PESTS IN MIND

Certain vegetables and herbs thrive when grown side by side, largely because certain pairings help deter pests that one plant are prone to, and vice versa. Before sowing your seeds or planting your veggies, plan what plants you will put where depending on how they grow together. Here are some popular pairings:


Tomatoes do well with basil nearby, but they also like chives, parsley and marigolds in close vicinity, too. But they aren't a fan of cabbage or potatoes - so keep those guys separate.


Carrots dig rosemary, sage, and peas, but they hate being anywhere near dill.


Cucumbers love being with pals like beans, peas and radishes.


Lettuce types like being near carrots and radishes. Planting these three together are known to do exceptionally well as a trio! Lettuce also likes cucumbers, so think about planting some climbing cucumbers above your lettuce (who prefer some shade).


Beets like being next to some tasty onions.


Broccoli and cauliflower dig rosemary, sage, dill and anything with a fragrant aroma (even mint, but mint can take over the garden if not planted in a container, so plant with care). Just be sure to keep them away from your tomatoes. 


ATTRACT THE BIRDS AND THE BEES

Bees are imperative pollinators that help your garden thrive. When a plant is heartily pollinated, it produces the best potential food for you! Conversely, when a plant is under-pollinated, the plant's produce may not fully develop or grow mangled or deformed. Bees transport pollen among plants, helping fertilize them for the best growth. Bees like blue, purple and white flowers, and flowers that are native to your area as they are familiar to the bees in your area. Alyssums, asters, lavender, mint (and the mint family), and geraniums are all great choices that bees love. Our friends from Northlore (Peace Honey crafters), say their bees love Bee Balm (wild bergamot)!

Birds help pollinate the garden, too, and they also eat unwanted bugs and weeds! Attract birds by providing perches and feeders, water features, birdhouses, and some bird seed to lure them in. Trees also provide good shelter and nesting sites.