Understanding Unassisted Childbirth as a Choice by Sheri McCaskill

            In order to understand why women choose unassisted childbirth (UC) we must first define what the term unassisted childbirth means. In some situations, and reference materials UC is also called free birth, autonomous birth or unhindered birth. (Miller) For the purposes of this project, I am looking to understand only planned out of hospital births without the assistance of a medically trained birth attendant. In some cases, the women who choose UC are trained in attending births in some way, if they were the only trained medical professional in attendance, I still count this as an UC. Women are rarely actually alone for UC and may have family and friends present. (Freeze, 2008)

                    My aim is to understand what motivates women to choose this option, and what kinds of obstacles they may encounter in doing so. Women seem to have many options when it comes to the birth experience in America, yet relatively few choose non-normative, out of hospital births. We have very little data concerning women who choose to give birth without the assistance of a medical professional in the United States (Miller and Schriver, 2012) and I would like to gain a greater depth of understanding into who they are and why some mothers choose something so outside of what the current culture in our country dictates as normal.

                    I believe that women who choose UC do so for a number of reasons. Many of the primary reasons are due to previously negative experiences in hospitals or with medical care providers. Others are personal, spiritual or religious beliefs. Much of the data surrounding the choice in UA is unrecorded or inaccurate due to women feeling stigmatized or judged for their decisions, particularly with medical professional. I believe there will be trends among women who make this choice, not only in previous experience, but in other choices they make regarding their own and their child’s health beyond birth. I believe there is an upward trend in making the choice to birth without medical assistance, and I believe it is important for the medical community as well as the community as a whole to understand more thoroughly the reality of the risks associated with birthing at home and how to best understand the choices women make in a non-judgmental and compassionate way.

                    According to Plested less than 1% of women in the United States choose to give birth at home, and less than 1% of those that do choose to do so unassisted. This is interesting to me since birthing outside the home is such a recent trend from a historical perspective. Women most frequently choose homebirth after having one hospital birth (Rossi and Perfumo, 2018) which leads me to consider the possibility that their hospital experience was a factor in their decision. I’d like to explore the key motivating factors for making the choice to birth unassisted, and what they mean. I will delve deeper into several of the most frequently mentioned reasons for choosing UC.

                    Empowerment was a key term that frequently arose in the literature I examined and is a major self-reported marker of why women choose to birth unassisted. Women mentioned that they feel more in control and proud of the accomplishment when they birth without medical assistance. They feel powerful and independent and want others to understand how empowering the experience can be.

            The next major theme explored in choosing UC was a distrust of the medical establishment. Women cited negative previous experiences with both medical professionals and hospitals. Not only did they believe they were undervalued as patients, but they also felt like their requests were not considered when being treated in these situations. Respect is a recurring theme in choices of birthing situations. Miller and Lalonde said that, “improved outcomes, including fewer cesareans, enhanced bonding, improved breastfeeding, decreased reports of stress after birth, and reduced need for operative deliveries, when women had companions during labor and birth, were treated as equals in the birth process, and were allowed to hold and breastfeed their babies immediately after birth.” Women do not feel they are treated as equals when they are in hospitals or birthing with medically trained personal.

                    Religious motivations factored into some accounts of women’s choice to birth unassisted. Either these women felt that their beliefs wouldn’t be respected in a hospital environment or their beliefs dictated limited medical care.

                    One woman I personally spoke with had a confidence in her own knowledge over the knowledge of others. Many women feel they can prepare and educate themselves enough to take control of their own birth experience. This is particularly true of women who had had more than one previous birth. They did not give authoritative knowledge to medical professionals and instead felt that they or their social circles held more authoritative power.

            Some women expressed fear of unnecessary medical intervention and believed that birth with a trained medical professional would put them at higher risk for interventions. In 2016 Plested said “the encounter with maternity services is experienced as stepping into a risk obsessed system driven by fear” Statistics proved that this in fact was the case. Women who give birth in a hospital do have higher rates of unnecessary C-sections and other medically induced complications (citation).

                    Next, I would like to look at factors that may have gone into the decisions that women made on where and how to birth as it applies to UC.

                    It is common for women to feel that others perceive their choice as the wrong one. Women believe that there is a stigma surrounding UC and choose not to tell many people when they do make this decision. They also mention feeling shamed or judged by others as an irresponsible mother by those that don’t understand the reasons behind their choices. Women not specifically that they feel stigmatized by those in the medical community, and they cite this as a reason for choosing not to engage with medical professionals.

                    Lack of medical support factors into the decision-making process. There is some concern among women that if something does go wrong during labor, they could be denied proper medical care when they do choose to seek it or that it will not be available at all.  Because of this, women have hidden still born babies, and have even died from complications rather than seek professional treatment. Women who do consider the choice to birth unassisted but ultimately do not, frequently mention those as a reason for choosing otherwise.

                    It seems that women who are aware of this option in birthing but do not consider it, say that they lack personal knowledge or authoritative knowledge about birth. They also say that they fear complications and emergency situations arising. (Plested, 2016)

                    We do not have enough data on this type of birth due to many of the above-mentioned factors, and there is no way for women to self-report UC outcomes and experiences. Only by continuing an open dialogue can we understand the motivating factors for their choices. If the medical establishment has failed to provide what women want and need in their birthing experience, I believe they will continue to make choices that do not include doctors and hospitals. We also must allow women the freedom to choose what is best for themselves, without stigma or shame.

Citations:

Miller, Amy Chasteen, and Thomas E. Shriver. “Women’s Childbirth Preferences and Practices in the United States.” Social Science and Medicine 75, no. 4 (2012): 709–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.03.051.

Rossi, A. Cristina, and Federico Prefumo. “Planned Home versus Planned Hospital Births in Women at Low-Risk Pregnancy: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.” European Journal of Obstetrics Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2018.01.016.

Van Der Hulst, Leonie A.M., Edwin R. Van Teijlingen, Gouke J. Bonsel, Martine Eskes, and Otto P. Bleker. “Does a Pregnant Woman’s Intended Place of Birth Influence Her Attitudes toward and Occurrence of Obstetric Interventions?” Birth, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0730-7659.2004.0271.x.

Dannaway, Jasan, and Hans Peter Dietz. “Unassisted Childbirth: Why Mothers Are Leaving the System.” Journal of Medical Ethics 40, no. 12 (December 2014): 817–20. https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2012-101150.

Chasteen, Amy, and Thomas E Shriver. “Social Science & Medicine Women’s Childbirth Preferences and Practices in the United States.” SSM 75, no. 4 (2012): 709–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.03.051.

Freeze, Rixa Ann Spencer. “Born Free: Unassisted Childbirth in North America.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. The University of Iowa, 2008. https://search.proquest.com/docview/287924589?accountid=10223.

Snowden, Jonathan M., Ellen L. Tilden, Janice Snyder, Brian Quigley, Aaron B. Caughey, and Yvonne W. Cheng. “Planned Out-of-Hospital Birth and Birth Outcomes.” New England Journal of Medicine 373, no. 27 (2015): 2642–53. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa1501738.

Plested, Mariamni, and Mavis Kirkham. “Risk and Fear in the Lived Experience of Birth without a Midwife.” Midwifery 38 (July 2016): 29–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2016.02.009.

Cummins, Molly Wiant. “Reproductive Surveillance: The Making of Pregnant Docile Bodies.” Kaleidoscope 13, no. 1 (2014): 33. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.686.9862&rep=rep1&type=pdfWax, Joseph R., F. Lee Lucas, Maryanne Lamont, Michael G. Pinette, Angelina Cartin, and Jacquelyn Blackstone. “Maternal and Newborn Outcomes in Planned Home Birth vs Planned Hospital Births: A Metaanalysis.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2010.05.028.

Miller, Suellen, and Andre Lalonde. “The Global Epidemic of Abuse and Disrespect during Childbirth: History, Evidence, Interventions, and FIGO’s Mother-Baby Friendly Birthing Facilities Initiative.” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 131 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2015.02.005.

Barker-Williams, Kerry. “A Systematic Review to Examine the Evidence Regarding Discussions by Midwives, with Women, around Their Options for Where to Give Birth.” Practising Midwife, 2017.

Feeley, Claire, and Gill Thomson. “Tensions and Conflicts in ‘Choice’: Womens’ Experiences of Freebirthing in the UK.” Midwifery 41 (October 2016): 16–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2016.07.014.

Feeley, Claire, and Gill Thomson. “Why Do Some Women Choose to Freebirth in the UK. An Interpretative Phenomenological Study.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 16, no. 1 (December 21, 2016): 59. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-016-0847-6.

Jackson, Melanie Kathleen. “Birthing Outside the System : Wanting the Best and Safest Women to Choose a High-Risk Homebirth Or,” no. July (2014). https://search.proquest.com/docview/1948832128?pq-origsite=primo.

Gibson, Erica. “Women, Birth Practitioners, and Models of Pregnancy and Birth—Does Consensus Exist?” Health Care for Women International 35, no. 2 (February 2, 2014): 149–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/07399332.2013.810219.

Cameron, Heather Jean. “Expert on Her Own Body: Contested Framings of Risk and Expertise in Discourses on Unassisted Childbirth.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Lakehead University (Canada), 2012. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1758020391?accountid=10223.

Orchid Obsession

Okay, I know I haven’t written anything for a long, long time. In true me fashion, I have been super busy, got a new job, went back to school you know, little things. But now’s the time to get back at it and flex my blogging fingers.

I started writing this post about a year ago, and then life got in the way, but I have recently been asked to babysit a rather large orchid collection, forcing me to learn about these amazing plants quickly. I was a little scared, since their owner calls them his kids. I believed  them to be delicate, but they’re all still alive and blooming under my care(so far). I’m pretty proud of myself and my orchid babies. Right around the same time, I decided to come back to writing my long forgotten blog. When I opened it I saw this post staring me in the face, just waiting to be finished:

When looking through some old pictures with my family, I came across several taken at the botanical gardens in Balboa Park, San Diego. As I oohed and ahhd at the great orchid pictures, I mentioned that I was reading a book about orchids. My son responded with “why are you so obsessed with orchids?” Now, I don’t think that I am, though I do like them. There are certainly those who are OBSESSED with the mysterious plant family. Historically it has caused irrational behavior amongst growers, collectors and conservationists. So for today’s post I’m going to talk about a few books for the Orchidaceae lover. If you are not yet among them, maybe these reads will inspire a new obsession. My interest has been reignited with my newly adopted foster plants. Orchids just seem to keep finding me! It must be meant to be.

The Orchid Thief By Susan Orlean

This is the book I was reading when my son called me obsessed. It’s like a good true crime drama but with flowers! Fact truly is stranger than fiction in this tale of John Laroche, the truly orchid obsessed man and the Seminole tribe that helps him as he evades law enforcement. You’ll learn a ton about the orchid industry while also being entertained. A bizarre book, but completely enjoyable.

The Flowering of the Strange Orchid by H.G. Wells

This one is a short story that just might give you nightmares. The master of science fiction tackles the Victorian obsession on having the rarest most beautiful and difficult to cultivate orchid. I loved the Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau, but this has to be my favorite H.G. Wells story yet, of course. Look below to see which of the “kids” I think looks like it might belong in this story. Maybe my next post will be about plants in horror, there are so many good ones, and this has to be among the creepiest.

Orchid : a cultural history by Jim Enderby

If you’re into orchids or plant folklore this book is not to be missed. Mr. Endersby really knows his stuff. It will tell you about additional books and a few movies you might want to read and watch too. Did you know Charles Darwin wrote a book on orchids? There are so many interesting stories here, and it’s not written like a dry account of history or science, I think you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did.

Here’s a few of the “kids”  in bloom.

Meet Your Friendly Neighborhood Weeds

Wednesday evening I was invited to speak at a local community garden. I was so excited to share with the community some of my herbal knowledge, and thought the people might like to learn more about about the plants they are growing… unintentionally. The weeds! To a botanophile, there are no bad plants, just misunderstood plants.  In this post my goal is to help you all understand those poor unloved weeds. I’ll briefly profile just a few of the most common and disliked.

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bindweed (Convovulus arvensis): Also known as wild morning glory. Ahh, the despised nemesis of gardeners everywhere. The young shoots and leaves are actually a popular green often eaten in Vietnam, India and Turkey. Medicinally the flowers have laxative properties, the roots and leaves are a topical haemostatic and have even been used to treat spider bites and poisoning. The latest research on this plant looks promising for cancer treatment by limiting blood flow to tumors. Opening in the morning and closing at night, they can be awfully pretty too. Got a bindweed problem? Why not plant Vinca vine or a decorative species of morning glory with it, and you’ll have a beautiful viney flower garden.

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense): Also known as creeping thistle, lettuce from hell, and even cursed thistle you know this one is unloved! All Cirsium species are edible cooked or raw. You can eat the center stalks, the young leaves (tastes a bit like celery), older leaves stripped of spines, the root, the seeds and the flower. Medicinally it has been used to treat mouth conditions, poison ivy and intestinal parasites. Its pollen is a favorite of honeybees. Save the bees! And the weeds!

It was hard to choose just a few, there are so many wonderful and hated weeds out there. But this next one, I have always particularry disliked… until I discovered it’s virtues.

Siberian Elm (Umlus pumila): Also known as Asiatic elm, dwarf elm and Chinese elm. Medicinally Siberian elm is a promising substitute for the over harvested, and endangered slippery elm (Umlus rubra). It is also resistant to Dutch elm disease which has decimated most native elm populations. The leaves are edible, and quite good as a tea. The bark and leaves are used medicinally like the slippery elm for sore throats, weak digestion, skin lesions, UTI’s, coughs and malnutrition. It starts out as an ugly shrub, but I have seen them grow into rather beautiful shade trees.

Maybe now you see the weeds from my point of view? In the words of  that lovable donkey, Eeyore….

Want to know more about useful weeds? Here are a few books I’d recommend:

Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives by Timothy Lee Scott

Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat by Ellen Zachos

Wild Edibles: A Practical Guide to Foraging, with Easy Identification of 60 Edible Plants and 67 Recipes by Sergei Boutenko

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu: Book Review

If you were to ask me:

“Sheri, what is your favorite plant?”

I’d probably reply with something like:

“I don’t know, I have a ton of favorites! To an herbalist, picking a favorite herb is like picking your favorite child.”

However, secretly anyone who really knows me, has always known of my deep and somewhat rebellious love of dandelions. A favorite? perhaps. So when I saw on the spine of this book ” BOOK ONE OF THE DANDELION DYNASTY” it certainly piqued my interest. Then I saw the stunning cover…….

Oooh! Pretty! I finally decided to read this one, with nothing more to go on, and I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long.

Once I began to read, the herbalist character, gentle and strong Jia, of course, quickly wins my heart. When asked her favorite plant she replies:

“They’re all dear to me, but I admire the dandelion the most. It is hardy and determined, adaptable and practical…the dandelion’s leaves and flowers can fill your belly, it’s sap cure your warts, its roots calm your fevers. Dandelion tea makes you alert, while chewing a root can steady a nervous hand…it is a versatile root and useful plant that people can rely on. And it’s playful and fun.”

My beloved weed makes an appearance several times, always along side wisdom. I do hope the eloquent pen of Mr. Liu can convince many more to love the humble little plant as I (and Jia) do.

The story is reminiscent of A Game of Thrones, but instead of having that medieval-ish feel, it’s more Asian. It’s a beautiful and tragic, epic play for power. A fight for the right to rule the lands of Dara, a recently united group of city states or small countries. We begin with several major contestants for the crown, and eventually narrow it down to just a few. Each of Dara’s little areas have distinct cultures, worship distinct gods and trade in their own types off goods.

It is difficult to write about the plot without giving too much away, but I think, like in A Game of Thrones, you’ll choose your favorites quickly and root for them, unless they fail, and then before you know it a new favorite character will have won you over. Idealistic warrior, female general, unruly and fun loving rebel? There are just too many great characters to choose from. I expect this pattern to continue into the next book too. Only maybe (and the author does hint) that it just might be a battle of wits and will of the strong (but so far minor) women next…I’m excited!


Already read The Grace of Kings and want to know more?

Many of the concepts presented in the book mirror Qin Dynasty history, for one of the best sources of information about the Qin Dynasty, I’d suggest reading Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty by Sima Qian.

The game of cupa as played by Mazoti, I believe to be based on the ancient game of Go or Weiqi.  It’s challenging and fun. Try Go for Beginners by Kaoru Iwamoto or for a more cultural perspective of this fascinating game, a moving novel, The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa.

The gods take an important role in the story, curious to know what the ancient Chinese gods roles were or hear more about Chinese mythology? Check out The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China by Leonard Everett Fisher

Or maybe take a break from reading, enjoy the summer by getting outside, making a few dandelion crowns then snacking on one of my favorite dandelion recipes from LearningHerbs.com and the amazing herbalist, Rosalee de la Foret: Dandelion Fritters. Yum!

Gooseberry elderflower jam

One of my favorite food blogs, and a super delicious and calming, immune boosting herbal recipe.  If you can get your hands on the ingredients, give this one a try. You wont regret it!

Nettle and Quince

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For years there was an acidulated gap in my life.

While I grew up on the sour tinge of gooseberries (as well as raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants…) just-picked from the fairy-tale garden of my grandparent’s neighbor in Switzerland, for all the intermittent years since, gooseberries virtually disappeared from my life. They are not all that popular in France, and were not common at the Turkish market in Berlin where I did most of my shopping; markets have since proliferated there, I am sure gooseberries now feature prominently. The berries magically reentered my world In New York at Union Square market, and they are impossible to overlook in London. I have moved to gooseberry heaven.

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Gooseberries grow wild in Northern Europe, they thrive in cool, moist climates, which explains their prevalence here, and a notable claim of northern superiority: Scottish gooseberries were historically considered superior to those of England (conversely, English gooseberries…

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The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian- Book Review

 The cover of this one caught my attention immediately; quirky and fun. Kinda like the book it’s self. Is that a Gargoyle holding a whisk you ask? In fact it is.

Zoe, is a 300 year old herbalist, antiques dealer and retired alchemist.  In an attempt at a new start, she buys a fixer-upper in Portland, Oregon. While unpacking her things she is surprised by a French stowaway, Dorian a living, breathing, and gourmet cooking gargoyle. When 14 year old Brixton, the neighborhood trouble maker, who just knows the house is haunted, spies the gargoyle through window while snooping around, Zoe tricks him into helping her clean up the house, in exchange for not pressing charges. After all she can’t let him tell the world about their secrets.

Dorian is convinced that Zoe is the only one who can help him decode his ancient book and save him from returning to his stone state forever. Zoe is not so sure she can help, she has, after all given up on alchemy. Then one day she comes home from a  walk to see the handy-man she hired dead on her door step surrounded by an odd smell. She may have to reopen her alchemical lab, and painful past memories, to figure out what is really going on.

The unlikely murder mystery solving trio team up to investigate. They delve into the city and it’s resident tea shop patrons secrets. Soon there is another attempted murder, this time on someone they know and care about. Dorian is dying, and there’s a murder on the loose. Things start to get more serious, and they all could be in danger. The police investigator assigned to the case suspects the new girl in town, and in return Zoe thinks she might be falling for him…

It’s a mystery, so I’ll leave it at that. No spoilers here. It was a fun read, and as an herbalist it was refreshing to see the few herbal references were researched and not unrealistic, as were the historical alchemy references. Though I thought Zoe was bit too much of the stereotypical herbalist type (we’re not all like that!) What really brought it all together for me was reading the afterword. The author shares her story of the writing of this book as a tool to help her through her cancer. She also thoughtfully shares a few of the recipes from the book (and a link to her website with more!) I haven’t made any of them yet, but plan on it. They sound pretty good! I am certainly looking forward to the continuation of this series.

Did this book encourage you to explore more? Wanna read more about plant alchemy or maybe you’d like to try a few more vegan recipes? Here’s a few recommendations you might enjoy.

The Alchemists Daughter by Katharine McMahon

The Chemical Choir: A History of Alchemy by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

A Druids Handbook to the Spiritual Power of Plants by Jon G.Hughes

Chloe’s Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way  by Chloe Coscarelli

Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London’s Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor-Book review

 Since seeing the beautiful Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady as a young girl, and later reading Pygmalion, I have been enamored with London’s flower sellers. So when I saw this book on the “new” shelf at my library, I didn’t think twice about taking it home with me. I didn’t even read the back cover or the first page before jumping right in, and once I did I couldn’t put it down.

This is a story within a story. Tilly Harper is a young woman beginning a new life, far away from her country home, as an employee of Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London. Florrie and Rosie are children doing their best to survive on the streets of London selling flowers, and looking out for one another. Shortly after she arrives at the Home for Watercress and Flower Girls, Tilly finds a journal that once belonged to Florrie, written more than 30 years earlier.

As the story unfolds the great love of Florrie for her little sister Rosie is told along side Tilly’s jealousy of her own sister and the events leading up to their falling out. When Tilly reads of Rosie’s disappearance in the journal she becomes determined to discover what became of the little girl, and in the process learns more about herself than she bargained for. Though I found it a tad predictable, I didn’t think the characters could see the whole picture like I could, and they believably took longer to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

It is more than a historical drama. It is a story of love and redemption. It is a story of self realization, for more than one character. It is as beautifully told as the flowers in the story.

That alone makes for a great novel, but the part that really captured me, was the truth behind the novel. Hazel Gaynor goes above and beyond by sharing her inspiration for the book with us. She shares fascinating additional resources that she came across while researching the book, and the story of the man who inspired her character, Mr. Shaw. I love to learn new things through historical fiction, Hazel Gaynor helps take the challenge out of it. I can follow her carefully researched path to more knowledge on the subjects instead of stumbling down my own. It’s kind of a two in one fiction/non-fiction book. Because of all this, I will certainly be watching for more books from her in the future.

Curious about some of the themes in A Memory of Violets? Here’s some additional reading.

Covent Garden: The Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Markets

Indoor Paupers by ‘One of Them’: Life Inside a London Workhouse

Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London

Silk Flowers: The Complete Guide to the Fine Art of Silk Flower Making. From Anemones to Roses

Charles Booth’s London, a Portrait of the Poor at the Turn of the Century, from his Life and Labour of the People of London

Outlander on Starz?….yes, please.

Another installment will air tonight. Am I looking forward to it? Well, yeah, but I wasn’t too sure to begin with.

For a book series that is near and dear to my heart, I was admittedly pretty worried about how it would translate on screen. So many of my favorite books have been turned into horrible movies. I’ll also admit that at first I wasn’t too excited about the casting. Claire’s too skinny and Jamie is not big enough, and his hair’s not red enough. But I have come around. The actors are convincing, and now I can’t decide if Sam Heughan is actually really hot, or if I only think so because he’s Jamie Frasier. Because we all know Jamie Frasier is smokin. That’s just a fact. They really have done a pretty good job with it, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here. Will they stick to the books? I do hope so, but how are they going to age the characters?

So if you haven’t seen it yet, I will warn you, it’s not one to watch with the in-laws. It gets pretty steamy right from the get go. Mr. Herbs and I watch it together, often with a dram of my favorite scotch (just to get us in the right highland-like mindset). It has enough action and adventure to keep him happy, and the steamy bits? Well, I don’t think he’s complaining about those either…

What do you all think, is Sam Heughan really a hottie or is it my imagination? Is he the right guy to play Jamie? What about Caitriona Balfe, is she the best Claire? Who would you have cast?

My first book review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Welcome to my first real post! In considering what to possibly write I decided I should focus on whats important to me. I am a Certified Master Herbalist and a librarian, and have, for so many years been seeking out books that have to do with plants, herbal medicine and the history and folklore of healing. I thought why not focus on that unique, little genre of fiction? You can look up all the great herbal resources out there on any herbalists website. But if you’re like me and love a good story, you want more than a dry text book. You want to feel apart of another world, become immersed in your learning in every way possible; something I think can only be accomplished through reading fiction.

So, I hope you enjoy reading my reviews and recommendations!

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I wanted to start off this blog by briefly reviewing a book that I think will appeal to a wide variety of readers, Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel, The Signature of All Things. It is a story about life and love, suffering and beauty.

This is the story of the life of Alma Whittaker. She is born into a life of science. From an early age she is encouraged to study the world around her, and to engage in conversation with great men of science and discovery. Her world is the huge estate she grows up on, and it’s impressive library and greenhouses. Alma is not the kind of character which you can imagine yourself in her shoes, but she is still relate-able enough to gain your sympathies. Through her lifetime you will follow her on her journey of self discovery, and then onto self actualization and appreciation.

Like her heroine, Gilbert’s writing is filled with stoic grace and dignity. She conquers the topics of botany, evolution, and theology, reaching those not just looking for a good story, but also those interested in these sciences and the history behind them. I loved it because it introduced me to the real world history of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Captain Cook, and the plant hunters that made botany what it has become today. It touched on the history of botanical illustration, the roots of evolutionary theory, and the first western contact with Tahiti and the surrounding islands by missionaries and naturalists. I found myself heading to Google more than once to find out more about a subject Gilbert mentioned in passing. This is the kind of story I enjoy because I went into it with a little knowledge of the subject, and came out inspired to find out even more.

Interested in reading more about the ideas explored in The Signature of All Things? Try these non-fiction books:

The Plant Hunters: The Adventures of the World’s Greatest Botanical Explorers

The Golden Age of Botanical Art

The Gardens at Kew

The Heretic in Darwin’s Court: The Life of Alfred Russel Wallace

Enjoy!