Saturday, December 22, 2012

Amazing Dark-Chocolate Truffles

I know they don't look all that appetizing, but let me tell you - I am a chocolate connoisseur, and I am addicted to these things.  Not only are they easier to make than cookies (and make for a very good last-minute recipe), but they are also easier than the usual candy-making process.  They are rich, but not too rich, and you can roll them in cinnamon, cocoa powder, sprinkles, coconut, nuts, etc.  I tried rolling them in sprinkles, coconut and a mixture of cinnamon and cocoa powder.  The cinnamon/cocoa powder mixture is the best one (in my humble opinion).  Enjoy!

Amazing Dark-Chocolate Truffles

2 12-oz bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips                      
1-1/3 cup heavy whipping cream (I actually added a tad more than this)
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
sprinkles, coconut, nuts or cocoa powder for rolling

-Place chocolate chips and whipping cream in a double boiler.  Stir often until completely melted.
-Remove from heat and add vanilla extract and desired spices.
-Pour into a glass bowl and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
-Using a teaspoon, scoop out the truffle mixture, roll into balls and roll in desired topping (great job for a kid).
-Place in mini cupcake liners (makes for easier transportation).

*Depending on the size truffles you roll, this recipe should make approx. 40-50 truffles

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tales From A Stay-At-Home Mom: "Tell Me Your Sorrows..."

Whether you are a Stay-At-Home Mom, Working Mom or something in-between, you inevitably experience trials on a daily basis.  By "trials" I mean challenges, heartaches, hardships - and sometimes -sorrows.  (There are scores of mothers in Newtown, Connecticut that are experiencing untold, indescribable sorrows today following the horrendous elementary school shooting, as well as thousands across the country mourning with them.)  If you are a Christian, these trials are often magnified by Satan, the enemy of our souls, in an effort to get us to turn away from our faith in Christ.  They might be family trials (which are very prominent at this time of year), health trials, financial trials or spiritual trials.  You might not have anyone you trust to talk to about them, so you hide the pain inside, and the stress and bitterness that results might spew out of you and affect your relationships with your children or immediate family members.  Sister, you are not alone.  Not only are there thousands of other moms who feel the same way you do, but there is a person that is always walking with you, longing to hear you tell Him your story - including your sorrows.  His name is Jesus.  In The Chronicles of Narnia:  A Horse and His Boy, Jesus is portrayed as the Great Lion, Aslan.

I read Chapter Eleven of A Horse and His Boy during a particularly difficult time in my life a few years ago, and God, very literally, spoke to me through it.  Several days ago, the Lord brought the passage to my mind as I was throwing a pity party for myself regarding various trials I am currently encountering.  As I re-read the chapter, I remembered those comforting - yet stern - words He spoke to me through C.S. Lewis, and knew that I needed to share them with you as well. 

Let me give you some background on the passage:  Shasta, a young boy, is the main character.  He is riding his horse through a dark night - so dark that he could see nothing around him.  He has just recounted all of the horrible things that had happened to him over the past few months, and as a result, he is reduced to tears as he goes along through the blackness, all alone atop his horse.  After a while, he realizes that something very large is walking beside him, breathing quietly.  It is Aslan.

    " 'Who are you'?  he said, scarcely above a whisper. 
    'One who has waited long for you to speak,' said the Large Voice.  Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.
    'Are you - are you a giant?' asked Shasta.
   'You might call me a giant,' said the Large Voice.  'But I am not like the creatures you call giants.'
    'I can't see you at all,' said Shasta, after staring very hard.  Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, 'You're not - not something dead, are you?  Oh, please - please do go away.  What harm have I ever done you?  Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!'
    Once more he felt the warm breath of The Thing on his hand and face.
'There,' it said, 'that is not the breath of a ghost.  Tell me your sorrows.'
    Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman.  And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan [a city] and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert.  And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis [Shasta's friend].  And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.
    'I do not call you unfortunate,' said the Large Voice.
    'Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?' said Shasta.
    'There was only one lion,' said the Voice
    'What on earth do you mean?  I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and -'
    'There was only one:  but he was swift of foot.'
    'How do you know?'
    'I was the lion.'  And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. 'I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis.  I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.  I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.  I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time.  And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.'
    'Then it was you who wounded Aravis?'
    'It was I.'
    'But what for?'
    'Child,' said the Voice, 'I am telling you your story, not hers.  I tell no one any story but his own.'
    'Who are you?' asked Shasta.
    'Myself,' said the voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook:  and again, 'Myself,' loud and clear and gay: and then the third time 'Myself,' whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it."

Every time I read this passage, I hear the Lord saying quietly, Daughter, tell me your sorrows.  When I know He's there and He cares about me and what is happening in my life, I then feel confident in pouring my heart out to him - negativity, bitterness, whining and all.  He then says, I do not call you unfortunate.  I orchestrated every bit of it - not only that, but I was walking with you every step of the way - even when the darkness was so thick around you that you could barely see your own hand in front of your face. What you thought was happening to your detriment, I was working out for your good.  When you knew you were in danger, I was protecting you from even worse things than those.  When you were hurting and alone, I sent someone to comfort you. I provide strength; I point you in the direction you should go - and yes, sometimes, I must wound you or someone you love.  You might never understand why, but I do.  Who am I?  I AM THAT I AM.  Your Father, Savior, Healer - the One Who Sees.  The Just and Merciful and Mighty God.  I AM LOVE.  And I love you with an everlasting love, even when your circumstances tell you I don't.

Dear Sister, you are never truly alone if God is your Father and Christ is your Savior.  God never lets a single one of your tears fall to the ground unnoticed.  He knew you before you were born; He knows how many hairs are on your head; He knows your heart and He offers to carry your burdens and sorrows.  I encourage you to hand them over today - set your heart free so that He can fill it with His love and comfort.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4 (NIV)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tales From a Stay-At-Home Mom: Not LOST - Just Frustrated.

You know you have a major problem when you're still mad about the season finale of a show that ended almost two years ago.  That's me with LOST - it was my all-time favorite TV series - until the final episode, that is.  I spent a very, very long time watching this well-written, well-casted show, only to find out that the whole, beautifully confusing mess was not in fact a well-crafted tale with a creative and Earth-shattering ending, but a "dream" of sorts in which the characters had to try to work their way out of a purgatory-type place.  They were DEAD the whole time, and because of that one fact, the entire story line no longer mattered.  It wasn't REAL; nothing that happened mattered; the writers sold out in favor of viewer satisfaction.  They did what they deemed necessary to tie up loose ends and resolve conflicts for loyal viewers, but what ended up happening was that they tried a little too hard, losing the very essence of the show in the process (characters and viewers alike were LOST the whole time - until the last episode, that is).  Perhaps some were satisfied -but not me.  I would have been much happier to have seen a real ending that didn't negate the entire lives of the characters; I would have welcomed some frustration and only half the answers; I would have preferred to hold onto the mystery and all that the characters worked for, and still be LOST in the end.

Unfortunately, I can relate my LOST frustrations to life as a Christian.  Some days, (well, most days,) I just want answers, whatever the cost.  Why won't my daughter just sleep?  Why won't my other daughter just listen?  Why did he say those things to me?  How did such-and-such happen?  Why are you letting such-and-such happen?  Since I can't see my whole story and God can, I sometimes wonder why He doesn't just give me a spoiler, a trailer - something that will help me get through tough times.  Instead, He asks me to trust Him to write a better story than the writers of LOST.  My life DOES matter - in fact, God sent His Son to die for me so that I might have life - life in abundance.  If I know from this TV show experience that I would prefer mystery and half the answers (or none at all) as opposed to a bunch of forced answers that attempt to "satisfy" me unsuccessfully, then you would think that I'd be content with remaining in the dark about the story of my own life.  Of course, that's not the case.

Fleshly desires constantly war against spiritual wisdom.  I know that God would never be able to build our characters if we didn't walk through the journey of our lives blindly, in a sense, trusting Him to be our guide; leaning on Him for direction instead of trying to do it on our own; keeping our eyes on the promise of Heaven.  I'm also well aware of the fact that He has given us quite a few answers in His Word.  As for me individually, God will tell me the story I've been longing to hear when I see Him face to face.  The whole story - frustrations, mysteries, joys, disappointments and all - the answers to the whys and hows I ask every day.  However, when I think about standing there before my holy, majestic God, I don't think I will want or need any answers at all.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Easy Lotion Bar Recipe - Another Great Gift Idea!

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy these lotion bars were to make, as well as by how well they actually work!  I love the scents and the fact that, when you use the bars, you don't have to take your rings off - you can just avoid them :)  Use them just as you would regular lotion.  One recipe makes five smaller bars and one larger bar (pictured above).  I hope you give them a try and enjoy them as much as I do!

(I found the recipe here.  I have basically condensed it and included exactly what I used to make the bars.)

Easy Lotion Bar Recipe - Peppermint-Cocoa Scented

1 cup coconut oil
1 cup cocoa butter wafers
1 cup beeswax pastilles
18 drops peppermint essential oil
approx. 1 tsp. Vitamin E

Directions:  Mix the oil, butter and beeswax in a double boiler (or small saucepan resting on top of a larger pan filled 1/3 with boiling water) dedicated to wax projects.  Melt completely, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat and add essential oil and Vitamin E (I squeezed a few Vitamin E supplements into the mixture).  Pour into molds.  Let cool completely before removing from molds.

*Cleanup Tip:  Place the double boiler back on the stove, heat it up and wipe it out with a paper towel.  Place the spoon in the boiling water and then wipe it off with a paper towel as well.*

Easy Lotion Bar Recipe - Lavender Scented

1 cup coconut oil
1 cup beeswax pastilles
1/2 cup cocoa butter wafers
1/2 cup shea butter
45-50 drops lavender essential oil
approx. 1 tsp. Vitamin E

Directions: Mix the oil, butters and beeswax in a double boiler (or small saucepan resting on top of a larger pan filled 1/3 with boiling water) dedicated to wax projects. Melt completely, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add essential oil and Vitamin E (I squeezed a few Vitamin E supplements into the mixture). Pour into molds. Let cool completely before removing from molds.

*Cleanup Tip: Place the double boiler back on the stove, heat it up and wipe it out with a paper towel. Place the spoon in the boiling water and then wipe it off with a paper towel as well.*

Monday, November 26, 2012

How To Get Ink Off Of Microsuede...

I'm mostly posting this so that, when it happens again, I remember how to clean it when my child misses her paper and draws all over my microsuede chair with a blue pen!  The chair that we cleaned is a dark-sage color, so I'm not sure if this would work alright with light-colored microsuede (we also have an off-white microsuede couch - from experience, sometimes water marks show on that couch, but not on the dark-colored chair).  You'd have to do a patch test to be sure.  Happy cleaning!

1.)  Remove the pen from the offender's hand.  This is important.
2.) Make a paste out of baking soda and water.  Using a damp cloth, saturate the pen marks with the paste.  Let sit for at least an hour.
3.) Rinse the cloth with hot water and wipe off the baking soda paste.  By now, your ink marks should be greatly diminished, but not yet gone.
4.)  Take a toothbrush (not a used one, please,) and squirt some Dawn dish detergent on it.  Gently scrub the ink marks with the toothbrush until they are gone.

*My husband actually suggested the Dawn - I didn't think it would work, but, alas, it did.  I was very surprised, but pleased all the same :) 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Peppermint-Cocoa Lip Balm - Great Homemade Holiday Gift Idea!

I'll admit, I was hesitant to begin my foray into the intimidating world of making cosmetic/personal care products.  However, after taking the plunge, I'm LOVING it!  Not only does this lip balm smell good enough to eat, but it is comparable to the Burt's Bees chapstick that I usually buy.  I wanted to make something that was gentle enough to use on my two-year-old and didn't contain any petroleum derivatives, like most of the commercial chapsticks do (with the exception of Burt's Bees, of course :).  I found this recipe on Mountain Rose Herb's blog (modified slightly and doubled) and I'm so glad I tried it.  I don't think I'll ever buy commercial lip balm again.  I even made a variation of the recipe that is more of a healing, cooling-type lip salve (recipe coming soon). 

Beeswax is my new best friend.  It is a clingy friend, however, so you'll need to designate a pan and wooden spoon for this - and other - wax-related projects (I picked up a small saucepan at a garage sale for  .50 cents and chose one of my many wooden spoons for this particular project).  Also, you can find the supplies you'll need at Michael's, Pat Catan's or a similar store in the soap-making section, but I purchased mine online at Mountain Rose Herbs.  I am extremely pleased with their quality, and most of the items I purchased were organic and affordable (some things were MUCH cheaper than I saw at Catan's).  Give this recipe a try - you won't be disappointed.  Plus, as usual, your detoxed beauty bag will thank you.

Peppermint-Cocoa Lip Balm                                 

2 Tablespoon cocoa butter
6 Tablespoons sweet almond oil
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons beeswax pastilles
20-30 drops peppermint essential oil
A few drops of vitamin E oil (optional, but recommended - I just punctured a Vitamin E supplement and squeezed it in)

This is how it looks while melting...
To Prepare:  Place butter, oil and beeswax in a small pot or glass bowl and gently heat in the top of a double boiler (or larger saucepan with water in it) until contents have completely melted.  Once melted, remove from heat and mix in the essential oil and Vitamin E.  Immediately pour mixture into lip balm containers. (Tins are available at the link to Mountain Rose Herbs above, and I also saw them at Catan's.)  Allow to cool completely before placing lids on the containers.  Done!  You can now add some nice bling to the lids and give them away as gifts.  This recipe makes eight 1/2-ounce tins.

This is how it looks when melted and ready for essential oil.
**Cleanup Tip:  Place the pan back on the double boiler, heat it up, and then wipe it out with a paper towel.  If you try to use water, you will not succeed!  Then dip the spoon in the boiling water and wipe the wax off of it.  Much easier than how I initially tried to clean up :)**

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cabinet Detox Project: Use Vinegar, Not Chemicals!

Yes, I know, vinegar can't be used for every cleaning purpose, but I'd have to say it's effective for most cleaning purposes.  If you're trying to disinfect your house during a flu epidemic, you should not use vinegar; it's not effective at killing viruses.  However, if you're trying to get rid of mold or bacteria, use vinegar, not harsh chemicals!  In an article from CBS News (from a 2009 48 Hours special), the microbiologist for Good Housekeeping magazine put vinegar to the test:  the results of this particular test show that vinegar is about 90-percent effective at killing mold and 99.9-percent effective at killing bacteria.  I'd say those are some pretty promising results!

I have recently used straight vinegar to clean two things that no other commercial cleaner (besides bleach) could tackle - hard water deposits on my shower head, and those gross rings around the back of the bathroom and kitchen faucets.  For the shower head, I simply tied a bag of vinegar mixed with baking soda onto it and left it there for a few hours.  Then I wiped it off and it was good as new!  For the rings around the faucets, I soaked a few paper towels in vinegar and placed them around the faucets.  I left those on for about an hour and the grime wiped off cleanly with no elbow grease at all.  (Better instructions for both of these tricks can be found here.)  I was extremely pleased with the results of both experiments.

I regularly use vinegar to deodorize the house (just place a bowl half-filled with straight vinegar in the room you'd like to deodorize) and as a general cleaning spray that I mostly use in the bathroom.  (I fill an empty spray bottle with straight vinegar and add a few drops of tea tree oil essential oil.)  Not only does this cost me less than buying several bottles of commercial deodorizers and cleaning agents, but it also spares my lungs from inhaling any harsh chemicals.  Vinegar is a welcome addition to my detoxed cabinet.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Honey Puffed Rice Cereal - No Sugar, Preservatives or Artificial Anything!

Several months ago, I found a variation of this recipe and have been making it every week since.  The kids LOVE it, it costs less than buying 2 to 3 boxes of cereal per week (which I would otherwise be doing), and it is not loaded with sugar, preservatives, artificial colors or hidden ingredients.  It's also great with yogurt and fruit!

Honey Puffed Rice Cereal

1 6-oz bag of puffed rice cereal*
2 sticks of butter
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp of cinnamon (or sprinkled to taste)

*I get my puffed rice cereal from Super Wal-Mart - no preservatives and it costs $1 per bag.  I've noticed that not every Super Wal-Mart carries it, however.

Directions:  Heat oven to 375-degrees Fahrenheit.  Divide the rice cereal between two cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 minutes.  While the rice cereal is in the oven, melt two sticks of butter in a glass measuring cup.  Add honey and stir until incorporated.  Divide the butter mixture between the two cookie sheets.  Mix to coat the cereal (I use a spatula).  Sprinkle with cinnamon and mix again.  Bake one more time for 10 minutes.  Let cool for 1 to 2 minutes, but make sure to use a spatula to scrape and mix each pan before it gets cold (otherwise, it will stick to the pan).  Let cool in pans.  Place in airtight container.  This batch usually lasts us 1.5 weeks.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Loaded Cottage Cheese - Tasty Snack!

It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon and I felt  like loaded potato skins.  Too bad I didn't feel like making them.  Instead, I concocted this tasty snack (and it took me less than 5 minutes).

Loaded Cottage Cheese
1 bowl cottage cheese
shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
chopped green onions
crumbled bacon (or real bacon bits)
Directions:  Layer in a bowl and devour!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tales From a Stay-At-Home Mom: "You Can't Always Get What You Want..."

"But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need..."  There's actually some wisdom in that old Rolling Stones song.  Obviously, we are better off sometimes with what we need rather than with what we want, but that doesn't mean we're not very disillusioned in the process (which is a repeated theme in the song).  Ending up with what you need instead of what you want doesn't exactly make a person happy.  In fact, it's frustrating - and in some instances - infuriating.  That's why this is one of my favorite lines in the song: "And I went down to the demonstration/to get my fair share of abuse/Singing 'We're gonna vent our frustration/if we don't we're gonna blow a 50-amp fuse'".  I can relate.  When I don't get what I want, I want to vent my frustration or blow some body's ears out trying.  The problem I encounter at that point is that it's God's ears that I'm usually trying to blow out, and that never ends well for me.

God has never answered any of my "why" questions.  Ever.  Probably for good reason (not that the Creator of the Universe ever needs a reason).  That doesn't make it any easier for me to swallow, however, because when I don't get what I want, my first round of ear-splitting whining usually begins with "WHY NOT?  Why me?  Why does SHE get such and such and I don't?"  The voice in my head that God hears must sound worse than my four-year-old sounds to me on her most whiny of days.  So not only am I acting ungrateful at that point, but I quickly reveal my covetousness and the horrid sense of entitlement that I harbor in my heart.  Who in the world do I think I am to act that way?  To say those things to a loving God who sent His Son to suffer and die for MY sins?  Nine times out of ten, I don't stop there, though, even when I know I'm in deep and see humbling repentance on the horizon.  Just like a rebellious child, I plant my feet, cross my arms and turn my face away from the only one who can make my frustration dissipate.  "I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do....I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out...What a wretched [wo]man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:15, 18, 24-25).

It's hard to repeatedly ask God for something and repeatedly see the opposite of that prayer occur.  If we could see the future, we'd all probably whine a lot less when we receive what we need as opposed to what our hearts desire.  The most difficult thing for me to get over is the sense of hurt that I feel when I "think" I'm asking for bread but getting stones instead.  The conclusion that I have to arrive at is that God knows my motives for asking what I ask, and my motives are most likely not as innocent as I would like to believe they are.  I am a sinful being with sinful desires that I often justify as needs.  So my motives might be one reason that I can't always get what I want.  Another reason is that God sees the tapestry of my life in finished form, while I only see the ragged ends of the yarn poking out the back in crazy patterns that don't make sense to me.  God always, always knows what is best, no matter what it looks like from my lowly, human perspective.  Remembering these things always brings the shepherd King, David, to mind, who certainly did not always get what he wanted. His words echo in my heart: "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O LORD...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be...Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  (Psalm 139:1-4, 16, 23-24).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars Recipe (Easy & Versatile!)

Sugar-free, nutritious, no preservatives or hidden ingredients, and easier to make than cookies!  Nope, I'm not kidding.  I have honed this recipe over a period of several months to make sure that even my almost two-year-old (who calls them "cookies") begs for them when she sees them.  This is one sweet snack I don't feel guilty about giving to the kids at any time of day!  What's even better about this recipe is that it's so versatile - you can include both the dates and raisins, one or none; you can substitute chocolate chips instead for a chocolate-coconut granola bar; or you can add just about any dried fruit or nut (like cranberries and walnuts).  These also freeze wonderfully and can easily be made gluten-free by using gluten-free, quick cooking rolled oats.  Enjoy!
Homemade Chewy Granola Bars Recipe
(Yield: One 9x13 pan)
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almonds, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dates (or figs)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/3 cup agave nectar
3 medium eggs
2 Tbs coconut oil
3 Tbs water
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Directions:  Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk agave and eggs in a separate bowl.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.  Add water and mix until well-moistened.  (If you prefer a more uniform texture and want to go through the trouble, at this point you can put the mixture in the food processor and pulse a few times.)  Press mixture into the prepared pan with wet fingers or a spatula.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown slightly.  Let cool completely before slicing.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge (or freeze for a quick, fresh snack).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cabinet Detox Project #3 - Easy Homemade Cough Syrup

When I say easy, I mean easy!  This recipe is basically herbalist Rosemary Gladstar's Honey Onion Cough Syrup recipe (I don't have a link to the recipe, otherwise I would have included it - here is a link to the video of her making it) - all I did was add some ginger and garlic as she recommends.  Just cover the three ingredients in honey, cook on low for about 30 minutes, strain and voila!  You have an awesome cough syrup.  (After I strained out the onions and garlic, I put them on the burgers I made that night - yum!)

According to, "Honey...has been found to be especially useful in treating upper respiratory infections.  A study at Penn State College of Medicine in 2007 found that a small dose of buckwheat honey was more effective than an over-the-counter cough treatment for children."  Not to mention the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children under the age of four should not ever be given over-the-counter cough syrup (and I don't even use it myself due to the questionable ingredients, so why would I give it to my kids?).   Yet another reason to just go ahead and make your own!

Easy Homemade Cough Syrup
 Rosemary Gladstar says that this recipe is a remedy for colds, the flu, sore throats and coughs, and should be taken by the teaspoon (as needed) by children or adults as soon as they feel a cold or flu coming on, as it boosts the immune system.  (Due to the raw honey content, do not feed the syrup to children under the age of two.)  I didn't think I would like the flavor, but alas, I have been proven wrong.  I could do that bottle some damage!  My four-year-old even loves it.

Since the raw honey I use is amazing (and pretty costly), I am stingy with it, so I cut Rosemary's recipe in half and made a smaller batch so I'd have some left over for my Elderberry Immunity Syrup (recipe coming soon).  I'll bet you have all of these ingredients within reach - give it a try! 

Easy Homemade Cough Syrup

1/2 of a medium onion
1 cup raw honey (see instructions below)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-inch slice of fresh ginger

Slice onion into very thin half-moons.  Place in an iron skillet or small saucepan and cover with honey until onions are just covered (depending on how big your onion is, it might take more than one cup).  Add garlic and ginger.  Cook on low heat for 30 minutes, or until onions become soft (make sure the heat doesn't go above low on your stove, otherwise the honey will become too hot and the enzymes will begin to be destroyed).  Strain and pour into a glass jar.  Label, refrigerate and use as needed.  The mixture should keep for several weeks.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cabinet Detox Project #2 - Tooth Powder

I know what you're thinking, because I thought the same thing myself - "What the heck is tooth powder?"   My Western consciousness has only ever known toothpaste, so when I stumbled upon tooth powder, my reaction was a mixture of interest, fear and disgust.  The thought of brushing with dry powder, as opposed to my lovely, mint-scented paste, was rather horrifying.  However, the thought of getting rid of all of the nasty ingredients that I know exist in my commercial toothpaste (some of which I can't even pronounce) gave me the gumption to go ahead and try it.

According to, "Many people in developed nations prefer to use toothpaste, which is simply hydrated powder in a tube".  That puts things in perspective. This website also mentions the following:  "While dental hygiene has improved immensely over the ages, tooth powder has actually been around for quite a long time. The Egyptians used it, for example, as the did ancient Asian cultures. Europeans tended to use plain toothbrushes with no water until around the 1800s, when cleaning powders became popular. Many people made their own, and some commercial preparations were actually quite dangerous, due to the use of toxic filler ingredients. Toothpaste began to be marketed in the late 1800s, although it did not catch on immediately."  Obviously, things haven't changed much in terms of the fillers used in commercial pastes!

After checking with my dentist, who said, and I quote, "baking soda is the best thing you can brush with, because it balances the pH in your mouth," I created the following recipe based on a few recipes that I found floating around the internet.  I already used Arm and Hammer toothpaste with baking soda in it, so I was already used to the salty flavor of the ingredient.  This recipe is actually very palatable; the mint and cinnamon flavor is very reminiscent of the flavor of regular toothpastes (and the cinnamon fights microbes in the mouth).  Also, you can just increase the amount of baking soda in the recipe if you don't have any calcium powder handy (I took calcium supplement tablets and ground them in a spice grinder).  The calcium is meant to be "remineralizing", but I really don't know how accurate that claim is.  One thing to keep in mind, though - I have heard that baking soda can exacerbate high blood pressure when used daily or multiple times daily as a tooth powder, so if you have high blood pressure, this might not be for you.

I initially started using the tooth powder a few times a week at nighttime and my regular toothpaste at all other times, and slowly increased how much I used the powder as I got used to it.  I absolutely love it - it leaves my teeth feeling extremely clean!  At my most recent dental cleaning, the hygienist told me that I didn't have much plaque build-up at all (which isn't usually the case for me), and no cavities!  So I'd say it does a great job cleaning.  Give it a try!

Mint-Cinnamon-Clove-Flavored Tooth Powder 

Homemade Tooth Powder

1 tablespoon baking soda
3 tablespoons calcium powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon pure mint extract

Mix the ingredients together in order in a small bowl.  If there are any large granules present, sieve through a tea ball (or any sieve with a very small mesh).  Leave the mixture out until the extract has dried.  Place in a small container (I used a travel-sized lotion holder with a snap-top lid that I got at the drug store for .50 cents for easy application).  Wet toothbrush and pour a small amount of the powder on to brush.

*The powder will stain your brush, but not your teeth :) 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yummy Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie is perfectly paired with a hot cup of coffee or tea on a cold, rainy October day!  Unfortunately, there is not much that is healthy about the recipe, but it can easily be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free oats and gluten-free all-purpose flour, or 100% whole wheat pastry flour (which is what I used in the cookies pictured).  Also, I don't find the cookie to be overly sweet like other pumpkin cookies I've had in the past, and the texture is great - not too soft or wet as pumpkin-based cookies can sometimes be.  These are always a big hit in my house - everyone comes back for seconds (and sometimes thirds if I'm not carefully guarding the cookie jar)!  Happy indulging :)

Yummy Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached or whole wheat)
1-1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, or more to taste**
dash of ginger and nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

**Make sure to use new pumpkin pie spice - I have noticed that it loses its flavor rather quickly.  You might have to add more spice than listed above if yours is on the older side.**

Directions:  Heat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.  Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs and vanilla.  Combine the remaining ingredients.  Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool and enjoy!  (Makes about 2 dozen cookies.)
Sweet and Savoury Sunday

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Broken Branch

Walking through an apple orchard in the fall is a singular experience - not at all the same as traipsing through a grape vineyard or English garden (although those have their own individual beauty).  The air is crisp and quiet; the leaves crunch under foot; the apples stud the trees like juicy rubies - you want to pick them, yet at the same time, you also want to stand beneath and stare at their majesty for a while.  A sense of abundance and life pervades an orchard.

Several years ago, after a particularly difficult time in my life, all of these thoughts were crossing my mind as I made my way through a family apple orchard.  The orchard hadn't been well taken care of that year, so I was trudging through knee-high grass, picking rather haphazardly.   I happened to look up to see that a very large branch of one of the apple trees had been broken - either by lightening or wind.  Surprisingly, the end of the broken branch was still flowering and actually had good-sized apples on it.  In that moment, God said to my heart, "See, I can bear fruit even in brokenness." 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tales From A Stay-At-Home Mom: Where Is My Worth?

Western Wall in Jerusalem
I once read an account of a mother who left a high-profile job after her child was born to stay home full time.  After raising her child at home for a while, she was offered another job in that same field - a field where she could use her time and talents to make a difference in the world, as well as to garner a very sizable income.  This was her response to the would-be employer (I'm paraphrasing from memory) - "I am doing a very important work [as a mother] and cannot stop until it is completed". 

She was referencing the Bible passage in Nehemiah Chapter 6, where, when faced with an invitation from his enemies to stop the building project on the Wall of Jerusalem to come to a "meeting" that would do him more harm than good, Nehemiah replied, "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.  Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" (vs. 3).
This mother viewed the life of her child as a "great project", a project that she was not willing to put on hold for any reason. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cabinet Detox Project #1 - Natural Deoderant

While at the grocery store shopping for aluminum-free baking powder, it suddenly hit me - Why do I want to avoid ingesting aluminum, yet I slather it all over my underarms on a daily basis?  From the baking aisle, I wandered over to the deodorant section and was astounded to read the high price tag on the "natural" deodorants (which also contained a bunch of chemicals that seemed unnecessary).  So, at a loss as to what to do, I continued to use the deodorant I had, but the dilemma remained on my mind the whole time. 

Not too long after my grocery store epiphany, someone posted a GREAT natural deodorant recipe on Facebook and I decided to give it a try.  Don't get me wrong, I was a bit of a skeptic at first...but I soon became a believer.  It took about two weeks for my body to get used to the change, but once it did - I swear to you - it works just as well as my trusty old Secret antiperspirant did in the "odor" arena. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grapes of Wrath (8 Tips on How NOT to Make Concord Grape Jam)

There are few things that I despise in the cooking world, and making Concord grape jam is definitely one of them.  I love walking through the vineyard, because it conjures images of Jesus teaching his disciples while walking among the vines (I always think of John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.").  The smell of grapes in the vineyard and in the car after picking them is fresh and invigorating, a signal of impending cold weather and falling leaves.  Then, once I get home, I remember how much I loathe those beautiful, plump pieces of purple flesh.  I begin to sweat.  I begin to pray.  I search for excuses to leave the house and not come back.  That being said, I have compiled some tips (after 12 hours of hard grape labor) on how NOT to make grape jam to hopefully make your experience a little better than mine...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ginger Honey Lemon Tea

Since the weather is slowly turning here in the North, and my toddler has a runny nose to prove it, I figured I'd share my favorite "cold fighter" recipe - Ginger Honey Lemon Tea.  I drink two to three cups of this tea per day as soon as I start feeling the slightest bit of a cold coming on.  I have also used this dosage, together with eating two garlic cloves per day and adding one cup of rosemary tea (and lots of sleep), to successfully treat Mastitis.  (Due to a severe reaction to antibiotics I had a few years ago, I have to avoid them whenever possible.)  This tea is easy to make, tastes great, and I can attest that it greatly reduces the symptoms and duration of colds that I have had.   According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ginger, in addition to helping in the treatment of the common cold and flu-like symptoms, can also be used to treat motion sickness, vomiting and painful menstrual bleeding.  I keep a bag of peeled, sliced ginger in the freezer year-round, as well as a bottle of lemon concentrate in the fridge in case symptoms strike when fresh ginger and lemons are not in the house. 

Here's how to make the tea:

1/2-inch to 1-inch slice of fresh ginger root, peeled
4 cups water
3 squeezes fresh lemon juice (or one good squeeze of concentrate)
1 teaspoon raw honey (or more or less to taste)

In a saucepan on the stove, bring ginger root and water to a boil, then reduce to simmering for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced to half the original amount.  Remove from heat, pour into a mug, add lemon juice and honey, and enjoy!

 *Please note - since ginger may increase the risk of bleeding, consult a doctor regarding ginger use if you are currently taking blood-thinning medications (including aspirin), diabetes medication or high-blood pressure medication (ginger may lower blood pressure in some people).*

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tales From a Stay-At-Home Mom (a.k.a "Manager of Chaos") - Part 1: Who Am I??

As a stay-at-home mom, I feel as if I have better insight into why the dear Shona mothers of Zimbabwe are no longer called by their first names after becoming mothers, but by "Mother of  (insert name of firstborn child)" (see my older post about this here).  For some reason, in our culture, the identity shift following childbirth is not always seen as a positive one; many new moms look negatively at this shift as a loss of some important parts of their former selves.  The Shona mothers, however, appear to understand that, even though some of the old identity appears lost,what has really happened is that it has morphed.  A mother pours herself into her child, emptying herself morning by morning, night by night, until less of the mother's "self" and more of the child's being fills her life and character.  It is a natural morphing, a necessary part of growing as a woman and mother - and this type of change is OKAY.  Let me repeat that in another way - it is OKAY if you feel as if you're missing a part of your former, before-kids life - I'm sure caterpillars miss their numerous legs (in one sense or another) after becoming Monarch butterflies.  However, if we lived in Narnia and they could speak, I think they'd say that they wouldn't trade their wings for anything.  I certainly wouldn't trade my motherhood for anything that I had in my life or personality or dreams prior to motherhood. 

Don't let our misled culture fool you into short-changing your precious little ones by pouring more of your blood, sweat and tears into your own desires (or unmet desires) than into the well being of your children, who depend on you to raise them up in the way they should go.  Our children are more important than the idols we have worshipped since our youth - US.  That is a hard word to swallow, I know.  This is a Bible verse I like to read when I struggle with this concept:  "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Psalms 127:3-5a).  Children are a reward, a blessing, a treasure to value and take pride in.   They are well worth the sacrifice.

Back to the butterfly analogy:  I'm going to wager that caterpillars, while in the cocoon, are rather confused.  First of all, it's dark in there, and they can't see the change occurring in their body.  Secondly, it probably feels funny.  We, as mothers, are in a similar position:  It's hard to see the changes happening in us, and as a result, our world appears a bit dark at times.  Kids can be frustrating and challenging, and even annoying (don't judge me, I know you know what I'm talking about :).  Often,  we pick up more toys and crumbs, and wipe up more poop than we'd like to admit.  We can't see the future, so we don't know just how beautiful our children or our lives are going to become, which makes that "dark" time all the more disheartening.   One thing we can take courage in knowing is this:  God knows the plans He has for us.  He knows exactly how the tapestry of your life is going to turn out, because He's the one weaving it.  He alone knows how gorgeous your wings are going to be.  Whether you're working full time or staying at home full time, don't lose heart during your cocoon season.  You might not recognize yourself for a while when you emerge from it, but you'll be astonished - and in awe - at what you've become.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some Food for Thought...2 Ways

While I'm in the process of posting some new content, I wanted to leave some food for thought:  My favorite Energy Ball recipe (adapted from the recipe on Wellness Mama's website and my go-to candy alternative), as well as a quote to chew on while you're chewing...

Energy Balls

1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup whole, pitted dates, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cocoa powder (optional - if you want a less-sweet ball)

Place almonds into a food processor and chop into small pieces.  Remove from food processor and put into a bowl.  Put dates, raisins and cinnamon into the food processor and pulse until it clumps together into a ball.  Remove the date and raisin mixture from food processor and mix with the almonds by hand until well incorporated.  (Should be about the consistency of stiff cookie dough.)  Roll into balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Here's the quote...came across it in my research on modern media (from

"Media exposure has become America's most widespread and serious addiction...Addictions literally change our brains.  They do so by changing the chemical balance and flow within the brain, or by altering the brain structure, or by changing our emotions, motivations and memory capacity.  Addictions cause withdrawal symptoms when exposure to the addictive item is eliminated and they cause us to lose control over how much exposure we seek to experience.  The American Psychiatry Association indicates that addictions may produce a desire to reduce our exposure - a desire we are unable to satisfy...To be fair, as we put the media under the microscope, it is important to note that the media can and sometimes do provide important benefits...But, often as not, media content winds up serving the lowest common denominator because that's where the largest audience - and, consequently, the money and notoriety - is to be found.  Sometimes that makes media content a distraction from more important or helpful matters.  In more serious cases, however, media content can become a debilitating obsession for individuals, and a pathway to societal deterioration."


My Apologies...

Forgive me for neglecting my blog for, well, what appears to be a very long while.  Since I am no longer a "working" mom (i.e. one who works outside of the home), my perspectives have greatly changed, and I have learned quite a bit about being on both sides of the fence.  Let's just say I have a lot to share now, and, hopefully, the time to do it.  Stay tuned...upcoming posts include "Tales from the Manager of Chaos (a.k.a Stay at Home Mom)" and "Thoughts on Christianity and the Modern Media".   Happy scrolling :)