florence's officina profumo farmaceutica di santa maria novella

10.14.2014

Note: This post was previously published here as a part of my freelance work.
On a recent trip to Italy, I visited the world mecca for holistic beauty. Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is the oldest known pharmacy still in operation today. But don’t be fooled when I say, “pharmacy.” This place is so much more than your average CVS or Walgreens. I was so struck and amazed by the institution, that I wanted to share a peek inside its walls. If you ever find yourself in Florence, please, pay the site a visit.
The pharmacy originally belonged to the convent, Santa Maria Novella, which may sound familiar as the name of Florence’s main church located in the city center. Record of an infirmary first appeared in 1284, but it wasn’t until 1609 that we can prove the convent had a friar herbalist. In 1612 the pharmaceutical workshop opened to the public, and in 1667 the pharmacy became famous beyond the city’s borders. The convent’s monks were growing herbs, making distillations, and creating ancient remedies within the renowned apothecary. Because modern medicine did not yet exist, herbs and natural remedies were still being used to cure diseases and to care for the body. The pharmacy was also a sort of social destination where guests would come to be entertained and treated to delicacies. 
In 1871 Cesare Augusto Stefani became tenant of the city, and owner of the property. It was at this time that the pharmacy left control of the convent, and moved into the modern day. The current private management’s objective is to combine the lessons of the past with the needs of the present. They work very hard to continue selling remedies originally invented at the pharmacy and to continue herbal traditions. The space itself is well-preserved; arched ceilings, striking frescoes, marble floors, and small courtyards make wandering it’s maze an entertaining fete.
Today the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella sells everything from ancient preparations, extracts, and essences, to cosmetics, liquors, and fragrances. Products like Acqua di Santa Maria Novella are particularly interesting. The specialty water was developed in 1614 by friar Angiolo Marchissi as an “anti-hysterics” remedy. You dilute one teaspoon in water and drink in small sips to help with anxiety or to soothe digestion. 
Herbal-based beauty products honor traditions past that are again becoming popular today. Intriguing hair rinses in scents like lemon verbena claim to add shine, and they sell cleansing body oils to use in place of skin-drying soap. The smells are all so delicate and alive. It’s like rereading your favorite old-world novel where women would take bathes with rose and orange blossom, pampering their skin with oils and patchouli. Here, you can also have them blend essences to create your very own custom fragrance. 
Myself, I walked away with Acqua di Fior D’Arancio, a face toner with the most beautiful and relaxing of smells, and Aloe Gel Viso Corpo to help sooth razor burn and after sun skin. Next time I go back, I think I’ll need to get a little more adventurous with my purchases.
What product do you think you would want to try?

weekly scenes

10.06.2014

While last month was all about picking up and leaving for me, October is setting out to be a month of settling down. Fall's crisp air has definitely arrived, and already I can feel myself wanting to cozy up. For the first time in awhile I have no plans to go off an any adventures any time soon. I've been enjoying the quiet of home, of getting things back in order. I'm excited to have more time to simply be with loved ones. Adventuring this month will come in the version of pumpkin patches and haunted houses, but every night I'll come back home to snuggle in my own bed next to the man who means the world to me. It will be a great month of recharging, getting me ready to pick back up and hit the road once again. I'm sure.

acorn squash and brown rice with pomegranate, pistachio, and kale

10.03.2014

Note: This post was previously published here as a part of my freelance work.
In fall we welcome comfort. Cooked soothing foods fill our stomachs with happiness and warmth on a crisp day. Acorn squash and spices like cinnamon evoke memories of a time when things were simpler, when all our cares drifted on a breeze with autumn’s falling leaves. This, is a dish to take you there.

Warm acorn squash mixed with fresh local yogurt provides a creamy earthy balance to this dish’s modern additions: pistachio, pomegranate, and kale. Seasoned with cinnamon and ginger, the spice-derived flavor allows it to be a healthy kickstart for your new season. No butter, no cheese, no large amounts of fat needed. Now how is that for comfort food?
Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
1 cup long grain brown rice
2.5-3 cups water
1 small white onion, chopped small
2 cups chopped kale
1 bouillon cube
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 inch peeled ginger
1/2 cup yogurt
1 lg. garlic clove, chopped into large pieces
1 pomegranate
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 tbs rice vinegar
olive oil for sautéing
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Cut your squash in half, gut out the seeds, and set to roast. You can either roast it at 350F for approx. one hour, or if you’d rather set it and forget it, bake the squash at 200F for 3-4 hours. Remove and let cool.
2. In a small stock pot, sauté onions in olive oil. Once slightly see-through, add rice, and stir it around for a minute. Add 2 cups water, kale, bouillon cube, cinnamon stick, ginger, and garlic. Stir thoroughly, cover, and let cook.
3. In the meantime, gut out your squash and mix together with yogurt. I used Pequa Valley, a delicious local yogurt sold at Greensgrow. Cut open your pomegranate and remove seeds from the white flesh innards of the fruit. Set seeds aside.
4. As the rice cooks down, continue adding water until the grains become fully cooked. Once it is finished, let sit for 5-10 minutes.
5. Stir in squash, pomegranate seeds, pistachio, and vinegar, along with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool a bit more before serving to deliver fullest flavor.