The Summer Afternoon Cuppa

Every so often, I will share my weekend cups of tea on Instagram and one thing may have become a bit apparent: I’m trying to drink less caffeine on the weekends, particularly in the afternoon. So I’ve started creating some lovely non-tea herbal and fruit infusion on the weekends.

One of my favorite herbs for an iced tea is red raspberry leaf. Long lauded as a remedy for all manner of “women’s trouble,” I like it for it’s dark, tannic bite that is reminiscent of black tea, without the caffeine. Mixed with a sweeter herb, like peppermint, and served over ice with a touch of local honey, this makes a lovely afternoon infusion.

I’ve also found a fondness for flower-based infusions. Red clovers have a grassy flavor and impart a pink color to an infusion. Mixed with lavender, the herbal-floral quality of the lavender mixes with the clover and makes a delightful infusion, particularly with a bit of honey and lemon.

Finally, sometimes I take my afternoon infusion hot. One of my favorite simple cups is an infusion of fresh mint leaves from my garden, steeped for a five to ten minutes, and served simply in a tea cup, with no additions. The brightness of the mint and the warmth of the water are perfectly comforting and invigorating, without being overly stimulating.

Of course, all of these are best enjoyed outdoors, if the weather permits, or else curled up next to a sunny window with a good book.

A Homemade Herbal Eye Balm

Last week on Instagram, I teased a photo of a snow-day craft project. I had spent some time reading beauty reviews and decided I wanted to make my own nighttime eye balm. I had some herbal infused oil that I made for holiday body butters but ultimately didn’t end up using, and lots of other skin goodies. I had infused calendula and red clover, both fantastic for sensitive skin, in avocado oil, which has loads of vitamins, plus a high level of oleic acid for nourishing dry skin. Since I don’t get acne right around my eyes, I didn’t worry about using a high-linoleic acid oil.

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Then, I decided to use mango butter and babassu oil for the solid fat portion of my balm because Tata Harper uses mango butter in almost everything she makes, and babassu oil absorbs so nicely into the skin. I finished off with a bit of cetyl-stearyl alcohol to harden it up, as it’s less occlusive than beeswax, and some Vitamin E, both for skin benefits and to prevent rancidity. I melted the hard oils and fatty alcohol together, then added the liquid oil and Vitamin E, and then poured it into a little tin that I had leftover from making lip and nail balms. I did sterilize the tin with some 95% alcohol before using it. I let it harden at room temperature, to a rather firm, translucent balm.

At warm room temperature, it’s almost a gel, but upstairs, where it’s a bit cooler, it becomes quite firm. I sometimes have to scratch out a bit of the balm with my fingernail, but as soon as I put it on my fingers, my body heat melts it instantly. I dab it on my ring fingers and the pat it all the way around my eyes as the final step of my night time skin care routine.

Herbal-Infused Eye Balm

Infused oil:

Fill a jar with half calendula petals and half red clover blossoms. Pour avocado oil (or oil of your choice) over the herbs to cover. Poke down with a chopstick or skewer to remove air pockets and top off with oil. Allow to sit in a cool, dark place for several week, shaking occasionally. To use, strain out the herbal matter and reserve the infused oil.

Eye balm:

2g cetyl stearyl alcohol
4g mango butter
4g babassu oil
6g infused oil
1g Vitamin E

Melt together the cetyl stearyl alcohol, mango butter, and babassu oil until completely melted. Add the Vitamin E and oil and stir until well melted and incorporated. Pour into a tin. Fills just a bit more than one 1/2-oz (15g) tin.