Tuesday, August 31, 2021

My Favorite Podcasts - Seasonal Selections

I don't know about you, but I've grown absolutely in love with podcasts! It surprises me, really, because I can't listen to an audio book to save my neck! Five minutes in an my mind is already wondering and I have no idea what the story is even about.  That makes me sad, really, but it is what it is. But with podcasts its completely different, especially when the host is interviewing a guest and it makes for a lively conversation. There is just something entirely different about the format that easily holds my attention. 
In recent months I've taken to listening to one every day over lunch, which I usually try to have sorted ahead of time, and with the arrival of September and the pending new season, that set me on the hunt for some episodes with a cozy, autumn theme.

Homemaking With the Seasons - Autumn - Becky O. Cole - My absolute FAVORITE podcast!
Autumn Seasonal Guide - Nature, Gardening, Food and Foraging - Another with Becky O. Cole!

I did want to add in closing that often when researching seasonal living, one can easily find themselves delving into alternative religions and belief systems. You may come across this in a few of the podcasts I have linked above. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am careful not expose myself to anything that would oppose scripture, but at the same time, I often re-work things you might say, and view everything through the lens of God and Christianity. For instance, some belief systems attribute powers to specific stones, and since I believe in the healing powers of herbs, it's not hard for me to accept that there could be healing properties in stones as well? Where I differ in my beliefs about them is that if such powers exist, I attribute that power to God and give praise to Him. I don't worship the stone, I worship the creator of the stone. For me nothing exists outside of God. If an herb or a flower has healing properties, I believe that is an extension of God Himself, and that without Him they would be merely rocks and weeds. If you are not a Christian and believe differently, you are still welcomed here and I pray that we can learn from one another. My only rule, I suppose you would say, is that we treat one another with respect.

With that being said,  I do hope you find a few things here to enjoy, and if you do, please leave a comment and share! I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 30, 2021

Our Autumn and Winter Home Apothecary

Last year while I was traveling in the van, I spent a lot of time studying up on herbs and specifically on building your own home apothecary.  When we arrived back home in December, one of the first things I made was Fire Cider. I have struggled with seasonal allergies and ear aches all of my life, and since fire cider is known to help treat colds, I figured it might do the same for alleviating the symptoms of allergies. It also claims to boost your immune system, and in this day and age, that's definitely a good thing! What I do know is once I started taking it, my sinuses were clearer, and as a result my allergy symptoms were much improved, and while my ear felt full at times, I avoided my annual ear infection!

This year I added Four Thieves vinegar to the mix. The origin of the name is a little dark. The story goes that during the 18th century plague in Europe, four thieves robbed the homes and graves of those who were sick and dying yet never became sick themselves, supposedly attributed to their consumption of this herbal tonic. So while I won't be using it for that purpose, **wink wink**, I decided that I would give it a try as well. This vinegar is made with garlic, a strong antibacterial in its own right, combined with four different herbs, one for each thief, but many recipes call for more.(see below). *It is used to help to prevent the spread of communicable diseases like the common cold and influenza.  

So as you can see, both of these vinegars serve similar purposes, and perhaps making them both might seem like a bit of an overkill, but since I'd never tried Four Thieves, I decided to give it a try and see how I like it.  If you're interested in adding one or both of them to your home apothecary, here are the recipes I used. This week I'll be adding Elderberry Syrup and Fermented Garlic Honey to our apothecary and I'll share those with you, as well!

1 large red onion, chopped
3 heads garlic, chopped
1 organic lemon with peel, diced
½ cup fresh ginger root, grated
½ cup fresh turmeric root, grated
¼ cup fresh horseradish root, grated
¼ cup fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
A few fresh cayenne or jalapeño peppers 
If you want your fire cider spicier, you might use more peppers, or omit them altogether.  You can always add more later. I like mine spicy and used one of each!
1 Cinnamon stick
Honey to taste
Raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar

This recipe is VERY flexible. These are the ingredients I use, but you can substitute some and add others.  Just google "Fire Cider" for a wealth of variations and choose the one you like best. Last year I used an orange instead of lemon, and may still add it back in!

Place all ingredients except honey in a half-gallon jar, and cover with raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Be sure to cover the herbs by at least a few inches, then cut a square of parchment or wax paper and cover the jar before tightly capping it.

Store in a warm place for a two weeks, shaking the jar daily.

After three weeks, your fire cider is ready to use, but you can keep infusing for much longer if you prefer, before straining it. 

Once you are ready, strain out the herbs from the liquid, or you can blend the whole batch in a blender and and let it sit for an additional week before pouring off the liquid. If you do, there is no need to shake it so that the ingredients are allowed to settle.

Once you’ve finished infusing the herbs, add warmed raw honey to taste, I usually add about a 1/3 of a cup. Mix thoroughly, and bottle. It will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool place, but longer if you do refrigerate it, perhaps indefinitely!

Fire Cider can be taken as a shot, just pour 1 oz. into a shot glass and drink it straight up! You can add extra honey or cayenne to taste if you like.

Add a couple of tablespoons to your herbal tea, it's especially nice with lemon ginger tea.  If you don't like tea, you can mix it with hot water and honey. 

You can add a small amount to orange juice or lemonade for the littles in your life, of even for yourself, if you prefer.

Fire cider also makes an excellent marinade for chicken, or drizzled over salads .

NOTE: For the "four" dried herbs, You can choose herbs with the properties you desire by doing a little research. As with the fire cider, if you google "Four Thieves Vinegar", you'll find a a number of variations, many of them using more than four herbs. This is another recipe that is very flexible. The recipe I followed called for six different herbs and I added two more from another recipe I found, so technically this is Eight Thieves Vinegar!

4 cloves of garlic, cloves separated, skins removed, and crushed 
1 Tablespoon of dried thyme
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of dried juniper berries
1 teaspoon of lavendar
1/2 teaspoon of dried sage
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups of organic apple cider vinegar (you can also use regular vinegar, if preferred)

Add all of the herbs to the jar, and cover with apple cider vinegar. 

Place a piece of cheesecloth or wax paper over the top of the jar and screw the lid on tightly.

Shake and store in a cool, dry place for two weeks. 

After two weeks the vinegar is ready to use. You can either strain the herbs, or leave them in, the choice is yours.

Four thieves vinegar can be used as an all-purpose cleaning spray, by adding one part vinegar to one part water in a spray bottle.

As with fire cider, you can use it as a vinaigrette and drizzle it over salad.

*To use medicinally, take one teaspoon a day to ward off germs.

* The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

My Favorite Autumn Playlists

September arrives this week, and summer slowly fades into that most beautiful of seasons, Autumn!  I'm planning on putting out all my favorite autumn decoration on Tuesday, and to help set the mood I'll turn to some of my favorite vintage autumn playlists.

I discovered Jake Westbrook's lovely assortment of seasonal music during Thanksgiving last year and I've been listening to them several times a week since. They provide the perfect background for writing and crafting, and for helping to lull you back to sleep at 3 a.m., which seems to be happening to me a lot lately. World events and my own struggles, which are nothing in comparison yet still personal to me, has made for some restless nights and jaw clenching days of late. It's just how my body processes stress, no matter how small. I'll feel a headache coming on and realize I've had my jaw clenched for hours. My paternal grandmother did the same thing, and the older I get the more I find I am like her. That being said, I'm taking a mindful approach to combating stress and approaching it with an even more heightened awareness of my daily habits and routines. I'm making adjustments as needed, and listening to my favorite music is part of that plan.  

The links below are from You Tube, which is where I originally discovered them, but I've since found them on Spotify, as well. I chose to link to You Tube in case some of you might not have a Spotify account, but if you do and you'd prefer to listen to them there, just search for Jake Westbrook, or "Vintage Autumn Playlists" and you should be able to find them pretty easily. Also, if you do happen to have a Spotify account, I've created a few seasonal playlists myself, you can find the Autumn edition, here.  I also have it linked in the left side bar. I hope you'll enjoy it!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Autumn Day Keeper
Available Friday, August 27!


Simple Vanilla Syrup

For years and years now I've been drinking my morning cup of coffee with creamer, my favorite flavors, being Peppermint Mocha, Hazelnut and Vanilla.  But a couple of years ago I started noticing that within a couple of hours of drinking it, I often developed a stomach ache. I experimented with different creamers, tried to drink it black, and eventually just gave up and decided to live with the pesky symptoms, reasoning that it was better than the headache and lethargy that set in without it, especially since for reasons I couldn't explain, it didn't happen every day.

But when Covid hit finding my favorite creamers turned into a treasure hunt, and while other people were stocking up on toilet paper, I was buying creamer by the caseload. The amount of real estate it took up in our refrigerator was ridiculous, not to mention the expense, since truth be told, I actually added a splash of coffee to the creamer. Thus began the search for an alternative.

My first solution was to bite the bullet once again and just drink it black. And I T-R-I-E-D, I really did.  I bought flavored coffee, played around with the scoop to cup of water ratio, but the result was the same every time, I hated the bitter taste and lost all the joy my morning cuppa' brings! My daughter suggested oat milk, and while I liked the creaminess, it did little to lessen the bitter taste, and for a brief time I returned to my weekly expedition.

Then one day I decided to read the label to see what it contained with the thought that I might try making my own, and as is typical with so many other things the American public consumes with little thought, or maybe it's just me, I was appalled by the paragraph of additives that I could neither spell nor pronounce, and when I googled them, it was cringe worthy! I won't go into that here, but just trust me, if you like coffee creamer, google the ingredients, I promise it will raise an eyebrow! Needless to say that was the last time I bought another bottle and became determined to find a solution. 

Now before I go on, I want to say that yes this recipe contains sugar, in fact it contains quite a bit, and yes I'm aware of the ill effects of sugar, but bear with me here, because at this point in my life at least, I'm ok with that. I'm not an advocate of extremes, and for me personally it's all about balance. I don't eat a lot of sweets, almost none in fact. Some weekends I might make a batch of chocolate chip cookies or my favorite chocolate cake, but since it's just me and my daughter (who eats sugar less than I do), I give three quarters of that away to my neighbors who are all too happy to partake. But sugar is not something I have chosen to eliminate completely from my diet, and in the case of flavoring my coffee, I'd rather three common ingredients than a slew of additives I can't pronounce and know nothing about. That being said, you can make a sugar-free version and use a sugar substitute. I read somewhere that allulose works well, as it dissolves exactly like sugar does.

- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract.

Add sugar and water to a saucepan and simmer stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.

Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

To flavor your coffee add 2-4 Tablespoons to an 8 oz. cup of coffee, more or less depending on your taste. 

Makes 1 cup of simple syrup.

NOTE: This is the basic recipe for simple syrup, but after experimenting with it myself, I use 1 cup of sugar to 1/2 cup of water. I like my syrup a little thicker and a little sweeter, and this ratio does the trick. That is why the syrup in my picture has a deeper golden hue. If you follow the basic recipe it will be lighter. You can play around with it to find the ratio that works best for you. 

If you like flavored coffees, then I highly recommend simple syrup as an alternative. If you like the creamy texture, you can always add in a little milk.  This syrup is also great with iced coffee and latte's which is next on my list! Let me know if you give it a try, I'd love to hear how you liked it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Alone, But Never Lonely

"What a lovely surprise to finally discover how un-lonely being alone can be."


Being an introvert, I enjoy spending most of my time alone. And with my husband in Alaska and my daughter working full time and spending most of her free time with friends, that's most of my days. 

A lot of people ask me if I'm ever lonely, and while I do miss my husband, we talk almost daily, and I do see my daughter every day. Social media gives me access to family and friends, and my daughter has a little Chiweenie, and even he is often more than I bargained for.  So overall I would have to say that while I am alone a good deal of the time,  I'm never lonely.

Thankfully I enjoy my own company, and I have a wide array of interests to keep me busy. This weekend I completed the cross stitch piece you see above from start to finish, and painted a few pieces of furniture, including a bookshelf that once belonged to my grandmother. I gave it a few days to dry, and then yesterday I moved my favorite books from another room and organized them so that I would have them all close at hand.  Tropical Storm Fred has been making his presence known this week, with a few tornado warnings here and there, but for the most part it's just been several days of heavy clouds and light drizzle, the perfect kind of day to read, or watch the latest episode of Andy Griffith (I'm on Season 7 right now, so nearing the end).  The past two weekends I've also held a little movie marathon, and watched Doris Day movies, and then this weekend it was Dean Jones. I've got a stack of Don Knotts movies ready for Saturday. To be honest there are so many things I want to do I doubt that I'll ever finish them all, and the list just keeps growing as I discover new things. I want to learn to punch needle, felt, and latch hook and I'm slowly gathering supplies to begin after the first of the year. And I guess I'll forever pick up my knitting needles and try again, so far with very little success! All in all I lead a very full, rich life between these walls, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I enjoy being alone, my soul is at peace in the silence.

So what about you, what are some of your favorite hobbies to pass the time? Are you an empty nester with endless days at hand, or a young mother who would give anything to just go to the bathroom alone? I remember those days, and I understand! But no matter our phase in life, it's important to find time to be alone and to enjoy the things we love, and I would encourage you to be intentional about setting that time aside. If you struggle with being alone, push yourself to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby. Visit the library and pick up a new book or a DVD. Myself, I don't think there's ever been a day when I was bored,  there aren't enough hours in a day to do all that I want to do. Keeping busy has never been a problem for me. I suck the marrow out of life and do my best to intentionally live every minute of it!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Thinking Ahead To Autumn

I had to make a special trip to Dollar General this morning for coffee filters. I've had it on my list the last three times I was out, and I STILL forgot to pick them up. But not being able to make coffee tomorrow morning made the trip today a necessity. I try to avoid having to make special trips for one item, but in this case it was a happy inconvenience as they had just begun to put out their autumn decor.

I don't know if any of you frequent Dollar General. They get a bad rap for often being dirty and disorganized. But luckily we have a fairly new location just a few blocks from the apartment that is well managed and always well stocked. I buy all of my cleaning products and toiletries at DG as I haven't found the prices to be cheaper anywhere else, and with their weekly $5 off $25 coupon every Saturday, it makes it even more affordable.

But the thing I think I love the most about DG are their seasonal decorations. I've been shopping there for years now for cute additions to my decor, especially for autumn and Christmas. They always have a few pieces every year that I just can't resist, and almost always for under $10, and often even $1-3!  They only had a few items out today, but already I picked up these cute little buffalo check pumpkins. They were in a bag, 6 for $3 in two different sizes, small and large. I put them out as soon as I got home, because I didn't see the point of pulling out the bins when my plan is to decorate in just a few weeks. I hope to have everything out and ready for the season by September 1. Thankfully I don't have nearly as much autumn decor as I do Christmas, so it's easy to do in a day.

In the mean time I've still got a few projects on my summer to-do list that I hope to finish up this week. On today's agenda was to FINALLY paint an old bookshelf that used to belong to my grandmother.  I remember it well from my childhood, it's where she kept her stacks of  favorite back issue magazines, and my grandmother LOVED magazines! It's also where she set aside some copies just for me, especially McCall's so that I could cut out the monthly Betsy McCall paper doll! Such fond, sweet memories.

I've had it ever since she died, and originally I painted it white and distressed it to match the other items in my daughter's nursery.  It housed a small collection of her books for a number of years, until finally she decided she didn't want it in her room anymore.  I've wanted to paint it black and had it on my to-get-around-to-someday list for about five years now, and over the weekend I decided that it was high time.  I had some left over paint, just enough to get the job done, and so this morning that is exactly what I did. It's drying now, and then this afternoon I'll check for the places that need a little touching up, and then tomorrow I'll distress it and then put it back in its place and fill it with my favorite books.

So what about you, are you trying to wrap up summer projects, are you excited for autumn and have you started decorating?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Small Things That Fill My Days

This past month, in addition to single handedly moving all-the-things that we still had in a very large storage unit into the apartment, stacking them in one room, temporarily, until Kate's room mate moved out, and then completely tearing down my bedroom and moving into the larger one that her room mate vacated, and moving everything from storage AGAIN, and organizing it all in my old bedroom which is now our "in home" storage unit, I also found time to

.. . . do some thrifting, and was so happy to find the little tray you see in the second picture that says, "Bless Our Home". One of my all time favorite finds and only $1.99.

 . . . do some reading, Liturgy of the Ordinary, I'll be sharing more about that soon. I also found the bookmark you see in the first picture. My absolute favorite that I thought I had lost. 

. . . . I cross stitched. I made up the three red work pieces you see above. I'm going to work on finishing them off this weekend.

. . . . and I painted. I've had a box of "thrifted" items that had been collecting in a box for months now, so one afternoon I took several of the items out and finished them up and now they've all found a place in and around the apartment.  I'll share some pictures of them in another post.

What projects have you been working on this summer?

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Goodnight, Mr. Tom - A Lovely Movie!

A couple of nights ago I was having a hard time sleeping, so I decided to listen to a podcast that I had bookmarked earlier in the week.

The podcast was Risking Enchantment: Episode 5 - The Sanctity of Smallness.  This was my first time listening to this particular podcast and I absolutely LOVED it and I'm looking forward to listening to more episodes very soon. This particular episode dealt with the ways that certain stories and writings encapsulate a love for a small and simple life, so naturally, I was very drawn to it! I want to dedicate an entire post to it as it inspired many ideas and I took LOTS of notes.

But today I wanted to share one of the movies that was shared in this episode, Goodnight, Mr. Tom.  As with many movies, it was based upon a book written by Michelle Magorian, which you can find and read for free, here. I will admit I broke my own rule and watched the movie first, because to be honest, I have so many books I am reading and want to read right now that I'm not sure I want to add this one to my list. That being said, I read several reviews that praised the movie for how closely it followed the book, so I was pleased.

It is a beautiful, yet tragic story that touches on subjects such as child abuse, war, and death, making it, in my opinion, suitable for older children and adults. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as such, wanted to share it here with you.

If you've seen the movie or read the book, I'd love to hear what you thought! Or if you've never seen it and decide to watch it, let me know if you enjoyed it.