Posts tagged interviews
What's in My Bag with Val Elkhorn of Woodspell Apothecary

Val Elkhorn is an herbalist that, in her lovely words, “uses practical magic to heal land and body by cultivating the forest and crafting bitters.” She is the owner of of Woodspell Apothecary and captures her Michigan woods life in a beautiful series of photos that she posts to her instagram. Val is also a creator of magic and herbal goods, (make sure you follow along to get updates about her product launch and shop restock on July 29th!!) as well as curator and writer for her free monthly publication, the Forest medicine Journal. I’m so excited that Val was willing to share what she keeps in her bag to feel powerful and connected to herself and the land around her. Enjoy.

Spencre xo


My name is Val Elkhorn and I am an herbalist living in the middle of the Michigan northwoods. I craft specialty bitters that incorporate the magic and flavors of the forest as well as other well-loved herbs. Aside from growing and producing this medicine, my main focus is to explore and share various sustainable agriculture practices as the world and climate change. Forest farming and biodynamics are what call to me the most. I believe all the medicine, food, shelter, and magic we need can be found in the forest, and by working with the rhythms of the earth we can produce the largest harvests while also connecting to our roots.

When I’m not working in the garden, I spend most of my days with my dog Odin, traversing the thousands of acres of woods that surround my house. From the carpets of wintergreen to the mighty white pine, medicine is offered in every nook and cranny. Because our ancestor’s stories are no longer passed down from generation to generation, I try to seek out those who remember. The crimson cardinal flower and wise elderberry are two of my favorite allies. Even the lakes and streams of this water state have taught me more than I can ever repay.

What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
  • Bag: This bag is amazing. It’s a stylish cross-body bag that is durable and has pockets on the inside for my various tools. I take it with me when I’m going on a short walk in the woods or travelling to town.

  • Trees of Michigan: I love tree medicine. Not only do they offer their bark, roots, sap, and leaves, but many branches can be used for crafts, tools, and building supplies. This little guide is small enough to tote around with me and is very helpful in identifying trees in the winter when most trees have dropped their leaves. I also like to have this on hand when travelling to other parts of the state with trees I am not as familiar with.

  • Pruners: My most important companion. I have multiple pairs of these in my bag, car, home, etc. just in case. I love the simplicity and durability of this brand and I’ve found them to last longer than any other pair I’ve owned. If you ever only buy one pair of pruners make sure they’re Felco brand. 

  • Plant Alchemy Solar Eclipse Zinc Sun Shield: Although a good portion of the year is cold and snowy in Michigan, I need to have this with me during the summer months. It’s smooth coverage and natural ingredients make it a no-brainer for me.

  • Forest Salve: I make a big batch of this forest salve every winter when most things are hidden under the snow. I forage pine resin, wintergreen, juniper, and black spruce and infuse in hemp oil to make this healing salve. When you live in the woods, there are constant scrapes, bruises, burns, and other wounds that benefit from the use of a salve and I use this on almost everything.

  • Bitters: As a person with a sensitive stomach and unpredictable digestive system, I have to have bitters on me whenever I go out to dinner with friends or spend the weekend with family. These are delicious and help to keep everything running smoothly. I also use them as an alcohol alternative when I want to take part in social festivities without drinking and being prey to the dreaded hangover.

  • Foraging knife: This knife is perfect for stripping bark and harvesting mushrooms. Handmade out of damascus steel, it has a nice hefty weight, but is small enough to carry into the woods for long periods of time. It also comes with a nice leather holster with a loop for your belt as well.

  • Sketchbook: I am a writer and an artist at heart and love to have a journal with me when I wander into the woods or travel. One of the best ways I have found to get to know a new plant is to sit and sketch it. You begin to notice the fine curvature of the petals and formation of the leaves, and soon the plant takes on a life of its own. I found this journal on Etsy and am obsessed. The UK based shop makes these sketchbooks and journals out of recycled materials and I love the rustic simplicity of it.

  • Wisteria oil: Wisteria has been a favorite plant of mine since I was a child. Its dreamy mysterious vines have always filled me with wonder. This oil smells heavenly and is used in magickal practices to bring illumination and elevate consciousness. I use a few anointing drops when meditating in the woods and can find complete serenity. 

Find Val online and on Instagram @woodspell.apothecary

What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
What’s In My Bag with Nadine Joseph of Pretty Mushroom
What's in my bag with Nadine Joseph

Nadine Joseph is the founder of Pretty Mushroom, an herbal elixir blend company based in Seattle. Nadine reached out to me earlier this year and I was immediately taken with the transparency of sourcing with where she gets the herbs and mushrooms for Pretty Mushroom’s products. If you know me, you know that I have a deep love of mushrooms and that I also have a strong dislike of over harvesting and unethical standards, especially when it comes to shrooms. That is not the case with Pretty Mushroom however. Nadine is very upfront about where she sources her powders, which I LOVE and her elixirs taste amazing too. Both Connor and I have been putting a scoop into our coffee each morning and I’m so excited to start including these powders in my at home baking. So, I hope you enjoy the following article and look inside Nadine’s bag!

Spencre xx


What we put in our bags says a lot about who we are and what we do - and I am no exception to this. A good portion of my day is spent doing magical marketing things for my company, Pretty Mushroom, on my office computer. But the part of me that has a deep love for the outdoors always leads me to spontaneously “disappear” on hiking trips throughout the week. Because of this tendency, you’ll see that my bag carries all the bare necessities that I need when I check out for a few hours, plus a few things that aren’t exactly “utilitarian”. I’ve been toting around an army green messenger bag for years. It isn’t pretty - it’s marred by various turmeric stains from leaky bottles and carries the crackly remnants of leaves and flowers that I’ve picked up from my various adventures. But, bringing along this bag is like carrying a little piece of home wherever I go and I love it.

Nadine Joseph

Nadine Joseph



So, here is what's inside: 

Library Book: One thing that shaped me growing up were weekly trips to the library. Pouring over books for hours inspired a sort of curiosity and appreciation for the world that I’m not so sure I could have gotten otherwise in the small town that I grew up in. I’m always reading, and my latest categorical obsession is ethnobotany, the study of the traditional knowledge and customs of people concerning plants and their medicinal uses. At my company Pretty Mushroom, we source herbs/mushrooms that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practices for hundreds of years. Recently, I have been exploring ways to show appreciation and respect for the traditional roots of the herbs and mushrooms that we use in our blends. The wellness industry isn’t exactly diverse, and I feel like one important step towards diversification is recognizing the cultural background of the wellness practices that we have integrated into western wellness. 

Badger Lavender and Bergamot Sleep Balm: My dad used to keep a tin of this in his bedside drawer, and I have fond memories of taking it out, opening the tin, and giving it a good whiff because it smelled so relaxing. Now, I use it to moisturize my hands and lips, particularly in the winter. The soothing aroma of lavender and bergamot instantly makes me feel at home, no matter where I am. 

Book by Mary Oliver: Mary Oliver’s words are a salve to me; reading her poetry often has as calming of an effect as a warm mushroom latte. Her poetry and prose combine a mindful spirituality with a deep appreciation and love for nature. I have an anxiety riddled, type “A” personality that can be both a blessing and a curse. When I feel overwhelmed, taking out one of Oliver’s books and reading always quiets my mind - kind of  like a meditation. 

Felix Gray Glasses: These glasses filter out harmful blue light from my computer screen, eliminating the eye strain and headaches I used to get. I have never been a personal fan of social media/screen time, and I have mixed feelings about the fact that so much of my time as a wellness entrepreneur is spent behind a screen. The discussion of social media/technology and its effects on our bodies is probably best saved for another time, but while I find a balance that works for me, these blue light filtering glasses ensure that my eyes stay protected. 

Bobble Water Bottle: I carry a fierce fondness for this water bottle that is a result of me having it since I was 12 years old. On the days that I forget it at home, I feel like something is missing. For me, hydrating regularly while I am on the go is a die hard habit.

Dog Toys: I have a super wiggly and loyal chocolate lab named Cora. She goes with me almost everywhere, especially on my random hikes. Whenever I’m stuck in a creative rut or have had a long day working, I’ll always find myself taking Cora to the park.  I’ll throw this tennis ball with her a few times to play fetch. 

Nadine’s pup, Cora

Nadine’s pup, Cora

Happy Mushroom Blend: When I decide to work on my laptop at a cafe or juice bar, I will often mix this in with whatever drink I get. This blend protects against stress, reduces fatigue, and increases overall well-being. Oftentimes, I mix this in with chai lattes and coffee - it adds a tinge of chocolatey goodness to whatever I happen to order *and* I get all those adaptogenic benefits. 

Happy Mushroom Blend! Click photo to read more about the product

Happy Mushroom Blend! Click photo to read more about the product

Sunscreen: I grew up in Florida - the good old sunshine state. I have fond memories of my dad always reminding me “Did you put sunscreen on?” It’s a habit that never quite stuck with me - sunscreen has alway felt so greasy on my skin. Lately, I have been keeping this in my bag so that (hopefully) I’ll remember to slather some on. I’m trying, Dad! 

Gin Gins Ginger Chews- These are a lifelong obsession of mine. I love the combination of flavors - sharp ginger and sweetness. Their company also has sustainable farming practices and have made efforts towards more sustainable packaging. I love them all around!

A bottle of Lemon Turmeric Tonic: I make a large batch of this every weekend and it’s a zingy on-the-go drink that leaves me feeling refreshed. The Pretty Mushroom blend in this tonic recipe vanquished the itchy raw patches of eczema that I have been battling since before I can remember. I tried seemingly every potion and salve out there to get rid of it, but what ended up doing the trick was a combination of diet changes and some anti-inflammatory adaptogenic herbs/mushrooms. I combined all of these into our Pretty Mushroom blend, which contains a high curcumin content turmeric that is potently anti-inflammatory. It never fails to kick my eczema’s butt! The blend also consists of rose hips and astragalus for protection against hyperpigmentation, photoaging, and wrinkles. I drink this tonic throughout the day, everyday. If my body feels a bit off balance or if I’m on my monthly cycle, I’ll add some grated ginger to the mix for its potent anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects. 

- Lemon Turmeric Tonic Recipe -

1/2 c Unsweetened Sparkling Water
Juice from 1 Lemon
1 tsp Pretty Mushroom Blend
1 tsp Maple Syrup
Juice from 1 Orange (½ cup OJ)
Optional: 2 tbsp grated ginger

(1 Serving)


My Pronouns: Her/She


Company Instagram: @ItsPrettyMushroom

Personal Instagram: @ItsaNadine

Nadine Joseph is the co-founder of Pretty Mushroom, a line of adaptogenic blends that enhance beauty, mood, and mind. With a background in neuroscience research, she created Pretty Mushroom as a way to simplify the oftentimes confusing world of adaptogens into something inclusive, approachable, and science-backed. Keep up with Nadine on Instagram here.