In the third installment of our Student Feature Series, we chatted with herbal blogger, recipe developer, photographer, and videographer Stephanie Mary Pavelko (@MyTinyLagunaKitchen). Stephanie has completed a number of Herbal Academy’s courses, including our Botanical Skin Care Course, The Foraging Course, and both the Introductory and Intermediate Courses—all while enjoying her membership to The Herbarium.
Stephanie lives in California and brings that sunny, laid-back joy to her herbal studies and her blog, My Tiny Laguna Kitchen. We loved hearing how she has used her herbal education to build her business, and we hope you enjoy this interview with the sweet and talented Stephanie Mary Pavelko!
Interview with Stephanie Mary Pavelko (@MyTinyLagunaKitchen)
HA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started your path into herbalism.
Stephanie: There’s so much about studying herbalism that inspires me and keeps me motivated! I first got into herbalism to pursue my own and my family’s wellness. I truly believe in the nurturing power of herbs and the benefits they can provide. The more I understand herbalism, the more I wish to incorporate it into my own life.
I’m also a holistic wellness and recipe blogger who writes about herbalism, creates recipes that include herbs, and photographs herbal recipes and all of their magic. I guess that would be the more “business” side to my herbal studies. While nourishing myself and my family, I can share what I learn with my community as well.
HA: Why did you choose to pursue your herbal education with the Herbal Academy?
Stephanie: This may sound a little nerdy, but having a background in graphic design and photography, I was so impressed by your site’s user experience and branding. After I dove in and found out how much knowledge the Herbal Academy provides, I was hooked. I was so impressed with the user experience and how the education and information are laid out.
The other amazing feature of the Herbal Academy was that I always wanted to be a part of an herbal community. After seeing that the Herbal Academy had such a beautiful and welcoming online community, pursuing my studies through you really appealed to me that much more!
HA: Do you own an herbal business or brand?
Stephanie: I do! My business is online blogging, food and herbal photography, and videography. I not only develop my own recipes that I share with my community, but I also stage and develop photography and videography for clients as well. Most of my clients are herbalists or have a similar passion for herbs and want to create tinctures, recipes, and herbal projects together.
Herbal Academy gave me the confidence I really needed to combine my own experience with the education I received to start making my own skincare products and other recipes. By expanding my knowledge, I have a better grasp of how to incorporate herbs into my recipes, which I can then share with the community.
Speaking about herbs and using them correctly is vital to providing high-quality information.
Since most of my business is about developing recipes and photographing or creating recipe videos, I was able to learn solid fundamentals of herbalism that I could then apply to my blog and business. This gave me the confidence and understanding to express my ideas and creativity.
HA: How has your herbal education deepened your connection with nature and the seasons?
Stephanie: Understanding how the seasons bring in new herbs—and how the cycles of the planet provide the medicine needed—has really deepened my connection with nature and the seasons. Now when I go hiking or for a nature walk in my community garden, I’m able to identify, and connect with the plants on a much deeper level and express gratitude for their resilience and what they offer me.
Every time I see a familiar herb or flower it’s like seeing an old friend.
HA: Do you feel empowered by your herbal practice? If so, how?
Stephanie: Throughout my herbal journey and studying with the Herbal Academy, I feel like I have the tools and knowledge to make my own medicines, grow my own plants, and identify useful herbs. I used to read how to do things like that in books, but I have now begun to integrate that into my practice. It wasn’t until I took the classes at Herbal Academy that I felt confident enough to put some of these ideas into practice. Now I feel confident enough to make my own tinctures, skin care products, and a variety of formulas for myself and the loved ones around me.
HA: Have you learned more about your ancestral roots and traditions through your herbalism studies? If so, what have you learned?
Stephanie: Learning more about my ancestral roots and traditions actually led me deeper into my herbal studies. A couple of years ago, I went to Peru and had my coca leaves read. The woman asked me what my lineage was. She said that I was a healer and she could see my ancestors surrounding me who were also healers that were guiding me. At the time, I was working in the corporate world, but every chance I got, I would dive in and learn more about spirituality and nourishment through food and herbs. When I got back, I began learning about my roots, and even about Polish Whisperers, who are women in Europe who heal through prayer and herbal medicines.
Thinking about my roots and past traditions gives me great joy and fulfillment. I want to carry on these traditions myself.
HA: If you were an herb, which herb would you be?
Stephanie: Oh, this is a really really tough one! How does one choose? After much pondering and thought, I think I would have to choose a rose. Not only does rose inspire us to open and heal our hearts, but she also encourages us to bloom to be our best selves without comparing ourselves to anyone else.
HA: What is your favorite recipe from the course(s) you’ve taken?
Stephanie: My absolute favorite recipe was also one of the simpler ones. It was how to infuse olive oil with different herbs and flowers. I really loved making the infused oil recipes, since they can be a base for any of my skincare recipes. Or, better yet, used on its own!
I used to spend SO much money on fancy non-toxic lotions. After learning this process, I now feel empowered and inspired to make my own.
It saves me a lot of money, and I feel like it’s also better and more sustainable for the environment. I use these herb-infused oils throughout the day to nourish my skin.
HA: What were you looking for when you enrolled in your Herbal Academy course that you were not able to find elsewhere?
Stephanie: I was brought to the Herbal Academy by your easy-to-find knowledge and depth of materials. It was a one-stop location where I could find beautifully structured courses and breadth of knowledge on the many uses of herbs all wrapped in an easy-to-use site. The variety of recipes and photos, along with the amazing online community is priceless.
HA: Has your herbalism experience encouraged you to learn and explore other related niches, like botanical crafts, gardening, natural dying, aromatherapy, etc?
Stephanie: Oh my goodness, you have NO idea. This year I became a member of our community garden right here in Laguna Beach, California. It’s been such a dream come true as I grew up gardening with my Grandma in the Midwest during the summers. Those are still some of my fondest childhood memories. Now my list of botanical crafts is endless! My partner and I live in a tiny one-bedroom studio in Laguna that we’ve basically transformed into an art studio. Somehow we also manage to work, design, cook, and sleep in there. Long story short, I have a backstock of projects that are lined up, including, botanical dyeing, flower pressing, and of course baking with dried and edible flowers. Lots of the baking projects can be found on my blog too!
HA: Do you enjoy sharing your herbal knowledge with others in your life?
Stephanie: Yes! I absolutely love connecting with other people who are passionate about herbalism in any form. Herbalism has been my biggest creative outlet and inspiration for my blog, which includes photography, recipes, ebooks, videos, and blog posts.
I love the thought that the flowers, plants, adaptogens, and herbs are my co-workers, which gives me so much contentment and joy.
Sharing the healing properties, beauty, and photography/videography that I’ve developed for myself and for my clients inspires and motivates me every day.
HA: If you were to recommend an Herbal Academy course to your best friend, what would you say?
Stephanie: The first thing I’d mention is how welcoming the online community is. If they were a beginner or an expert, they could really connect with and learn from the community and shouldn’t worry about their knowledge level. I’d also really express how much I love that the Herbal Academy is so accessible to everyone and how easily digestible the education is.
I especially love that the Herbal Academy’s photography and videos make it feel like I am right in the classroom learning with everyone.
HA: Tell us, what’s next for you in your herbal journey?
Stephanie: Being on the herbal journey is a lifelong adventure that I am so honored to be on. My next steps are to get more involved with the herbalism community. From my blog perspective, I want to create more inspiring and nourishing recipes for people. Also to share my health journey with my community and the role that herbalism has played along the way. As I grow, my dream would be to work with more passionate herbalists and create content for them in the means of recipe photography and videography.
I love how beautiful and natural herbal photographs and videos are and believe that they can truly inspire others to start their own herbalism journeys. It’d also be nice to expand my garden and grow herbs myself so I could possibly start a store and make my own custom skin care products and formulas.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our Student Interview Series with Alyson Morgan (@AlysonSimplyGrows), or go back and read our interviews with Cat Seixas (@TheOliveTreesAndTheMoon) and Ashley York (@WhimsyandWhile).
Inspired by Stephanie’s herbal journey? Take the first step today by perusing our online herbal courses.
Photo credit: All images in this post are by Erica Zakrzewski (@lunamunn), except the images with the California poppy tincture featured, which were taken by Stephanie (@mytinylagunakitchen) herself.