Monday, June 30, 2014

Right Now

Right now, I'm loving...

...a weekend home alone with the hubs, a chance for a few casual meals, an evening outing, a late night movie (at full volume!), and a morning to sleep in... then, at the end, two kiddos who returned from their own outing to Mimmy and Pappy's house super snuggly and happy to be back.

It's the best way to end a weekend, in my opinion... and come to think of it, it's a pretty good way to start out a week, too!

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 27, 2014

This Moment

Playing along with Amanda today... in her words: 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Kitchen Apothecary

It's no secret in my family that I'm very pro-natural treatments for what ails ya. When my dad gets a tension headache- blackstrap molasses water and white willow bark (if I can get him to take it). When my daughter gets an upset stomach- ginger. When the Littles have the sniffles or a little cold- elderberry tea and a hot bath with epsom salts and eucalyptus. Sore throat? Drink some warm peppermint tea with honey.

You get the idea.

I am by no means an herbal guru, and I am still learning about the plants- both from my woods and fields and from far away places- that offer healing; I probably will be for years and years. It is fascinating to me and I hope I can some day walk through my land and know every plant, shrub, and tree, as well as their uses, and to have an apothecary stocked with those plants ready to be used to heal.

I have found some wonderful go-to resources as I build this little home apothecary, both online and written. One of my favorite standbys is Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs. This little book is a handwritten at-a-glance that I keep in the drawer with all my herbs and such, and is beautifully written and easy to use. I would highly recommend it. I have also found The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine from the Four Directions by J.T. Garrett helpful, as it provides a beautiful symbiotic context when we start thinking about the use of plants for healing.  

I have also found many interesting tutorials and such online that have been pinned on this Pinterest board.

Over the years I have slowly gathered bits and pieces of my little healing stash, and tucked them here and there throughout the kitchen, in the pantry and spice racks, and even underneath bathroom sinks. When we made the move to this new house I finally committed to putting it all in one place- in the kitchen- where they are ready and waiting to be used when the need arises.  

So what now resides in my deep, spicily-scented kitchen apothecary drawer? Well...
  1. Activated charcoal. This was one of the first things I bought for our medicine cabinet when we had our first baby. Activated charcoal is used to reduce toxicity, used externally or taken internally. Our daughter got into a bed of fire ants, and using a paste of activated charcoal and baking soda I was able to ease her pain, draw out the poison from the ant bites, and reduce the swelling on her little feet. I also had the opportunity to do the exact same thing for our son when he was almost the same age. Have I ever said how much I hate fire ants? *ahem* Moving on. 
  2. Honey. We have always loved honey in and on our foods and drinks, but we also use it when we're under the weather. Honey is naturally antibiotic. You can put honey directly on to minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, and it will protect the wound and aid in healing. Honey is also one of the best throat-coaters for coughs and sore throats. Bonus: my kids love 'honey tea' when they're sick because it's sweet! We have local raw honey in the pantry and UMF 15+ Manuka Honey from New Zealand (thanks, Grammy!) for the real nitty-gritty stuff.
  3. Aloe vera. OK, technically my aloe plant is on the kitchen windowsill and not in the drawer, but it is unbeatable when a distracted hand bumps the hot oven. A quick pinch off the tip of an aloe leaf and a cooling slime oozes out for your burn-soothing pleasure. My use of this plant is pretty limited to burn treatment, but there are a ton of resources out there focused just on the amazingness of aloe and all you can do with it (like this one). 
  4. Epsom salt. I have recently started reading about the use of epsom salt in the garden, and will probably add that to the list of reasons to keep this stuff on hand, but in the past my big paper carton of epsom salt under the bathroom sink has mainly served to lessen body aches and soreness due to illness or overexertion and to soothe the itching of bug bites or the burning of sunburn.
Those are my top four, which I've always had around and use with the most frequency. All my other goodies can be summed up in what they're used for most frequently around here:
  1. Immune support/antimicrobial: honey, echinacea, garlic, cinnamon, clove, marshmallow root, yarrow, cranberry, elderberry, ginger, rose hips, lemon balm.
  2. Cramps/body aches/headaches: epsom salt, valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm, white willow bark, turmeric, yerba mate, black strap molasses.
  3. Sinus pressure/drainage: slippery elm, raspberry leaf, peppermint, eucalyptus.
  4. Fever reduction: yarrow, peppermint, elder flowers, elderberries, burdock root. 
  5. Expectorant/diuretic: comfrey, marshmallow root, licorice, eucalyptus, thyme, hibiscus flower, dandelion root, chicory root.
  6. Insomnia: chamomile, lavender, passion flower, valerian root, lemon balm.
  7. Digestive troubles: ginger, chicory root, dandelion root, comfrey, lemon balm, hibiscus flower, chamomile, Peruvian bark powder, activated charcoal.

It has become quite a hobby, this kitchen apothecary thing I've got going on in this island drawer of mine. I've had the opportunity to use most of the remedies listed above to treat my family and bring them back 'round from feeling crummy to feelin' fine. It's a pleasure and an honor to use these healing plants for the ones I love, and the more my eyes are opened to what's around me and what purposes these plants have, the more thankful I feel. What a beautiful balance we can find with the world around us, if only we look... if only we try.

Disclaimer: I am in no way an herbal guru, and anyone with severe symptoms of any kind should seek professional help! This info is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or injury. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Little Fish

My kiddos have been taking swimming classes this week. It's their first time ever taking real swimming lessons. They've always loved the water, and they jump right in when they're visiting Grammy, Nanny, or Mimmy and Pappy, but they can't properly float, swim under water, or do real strokes and maneuvers. So this summer they got a "swimming scholarship" from Grammy and Gramps, and every morning this week we've headed to the Natatorium.

Audrey has taken right to every lesson so far, but Henry's needed some convincing to get in the water. It is a little overwhelming, though, with all the splashing and yelling and kids and lifeguards and oy... and each lesson takes just a little less to get Hen out with the rest of the kids, so maybe by the end of the week he'll be right at home!

One thing's for sure though- they both are having a blast by the end of the class, and we leave each day with the happy anticipation of coming back again the next morning. That's no surprise though, because we always knew they were little fish.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Right Now

Right now, I'm...

...hearing thunder! We were teased with a brief misty shower yesterday while it rained and rained in the towns all around us. Now, looking at the radar, it appears we may get the chance to catch up.
...also hearing the washing machine- again- as I have had to do a load of Henry's sheets every single morning, plus a load after nap times (usually), because for some reason we're slipping backwards in this potty training thing right now.
...still enjoying raw milk in my coffee.
...thinking we may have collected enough wild blackberries to go for a batch of jelly today!
...high-fiving myself for signing the kids up for indoor swimming lessons. They would be so bummed if their first class this morning was cancelled due to this weather.
...prepping for a visit from our dearest Aunt KK, fresh home from a trip to South America and in need of a margarita, I'm sure!
...loving the way the kids snuggle with stuffed animals in the dimness of a stormy morning, waiting for it to be breakfast time and for Sissy's sun to turn yellow.

Right now I'm gearing up for a week of juggling... places to go, errands to run, people to see, garden chores, visitors, house work stuff... you know, the usual stuff that makes the world at home keep spinning.

Keep spinning, y'all. Happy Monday!

Friday, June 20, 2014

This Moment

Playing along with Amanda today... in her words: 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


My mom has launched full force into her summer break with a new toy- a potter's wheel that she's learning how to use for the classes she'll be teaching in the fall. She's an artist of many mediums, and this learning process isn't exactly from square one for her, but like all fairly new materials she wants to spend some time with the clay and get to know it, so that's what she plans on doing with her summer.

My Aunt Karen is an amazing potter with a gallery worth of pieces to show for it, and a heart for sharing what she knows. This week she came and threw down with my mom in her studio and got her all inspired and stuff.

Today, it was our turn to try out the wheel.

Clockwise from left: mine, Audrey's, Henry's

I have an entirely new respect for potters and their craft. People, this is way harder than it looks. I couldn't even center the ball of clay on the wheel the right way, and it took me three (or was it four?) tries before I called my bowl-pot-thing finished. The fact that my Aunt can pull from these sticky masses the symmetrical, thin-walled pots and bowls and vases she probably makes with her eyes closed and one hand behind her back at this point is just... wow.

I treasure every pieces she's gifted us, but I'll see them all with newly opened eyes after this afternoon. They are works of art, and wow will my coffee feel even more special in the morning, steaming in one of the mugs she made!

Now what will I do with that little bowl I made?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

(More) Wild Babies

Remember last year around this time when our dog, whilst exploring our new home, stumbled upon these wild babies? Well, it must be a tradition she thinks is worth repeating, because this evening she found another furbaby hidey-hole...

According to Animal Advocates' Skunk Manual, these kits were close to two weeks old, as they had a full coat of fur but their eyes were still sealed shut. They were living in a den apparently dug under the pavement of our driveway, about 20 feet from the doors. Our dog has been digging like crazy all around the driveway for weeks, and we've been back-filling all her trenches and cursing her, completely oblivious to what was actually under there... until tonight.

Alas, just like last year, Leeloo got to the first one before we could quarantine her in the garage (by the way, did you know baby skunks can spray even before they can see? ask me how I know), but we saved the other two from her foaming, sneezing attack. I blocked the dugout accesses with big rocks and left the two kits together just outside the blocked den with the hopes that the mother will come back at dusk and relocate them... hopefully somewhere farther away from our back door!

Never a dull moment around here I tell ya!

Post edit: the morning after this incident we rushed outside to check the blocked den and to our relief the mama skunk did in fact come in the night and rescue her kits. There was no sign anywhere around the driveway that she dug back under, so hopefully they've found a peaceful spot in the woods farther from our back door!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Right Now

Right now, I'm...

...practically glowing over the love that poured from my Littles in appreciation of their Daddy on Father's Day.
...feeling proud of myself for finally making this shirt I pinned ages ago on Pinterest as my contribution to the rest and relaxation craved by- dare I say- every Daddy on Father's Day.
...thinking it may be time to stop hiding from the heat and get out to the garden to finish the weeding, bug management, and crop rotation I started earlier this week. Ugh. for some neem oil- my beautiful, strong, productive zucchini are slowly falling to an infestation of squash bugs, and there is only so much that hand picking and soapy water can do.
...still laughing at this cat video. I think I've watched it at least five times. It gets me every time.
...enjoying the plotting and planning of the little shindig we'll have here at home for the four of us to celebrate the Summer Solstice this coming weekend!
...taking a quick peek back at last year around this same time, and feeling a wash of relief that things are so different now.
...loving the manageable to-do lists, the sunshine, and the wide openness of the week ahead of us.

Wishing all a happy Monday!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dear Dad...

Dear Dad,

When I wrote my note to Mom last month, it got my wheels turning about you, too. Just like with her, I realize now how inadequate my 'thank-you's have so frequently been... I have always felt true gratitude whenever did I say thank you, but behind them all there have always been these unspoken thanks:

Thank you for busting your ass, Dad. Always. Every day. Selflessly for us all.

Thank you for hovering. I really mean that. I never realized- in the moment- that I was getting a message, over and over, that you cared... but I did.

Thank you for your goofiness, your humor, and your quick wit.

Thank you for always just being there; there when I needed something, there when I thought I didn't need anything, there even when it was really, really inconvenient for you.

Thank you for letting me be alone when I needed it; thank you for letting me go when it was time.

Thank you for teaching me the value of hard work, the value of the money earned from hard work, and the importance of planning and budgeting.

Thank you for always talking so openly about the hard stuff, thank you for your honesty, thank you for your patience.

Thank you for being an amazing Pappy.

Thank you for being an amazing Dad.


Saturday, June 14, 2014


Ah, the weekend his here, and a celebratory one at that! Between the meals and the projects and the secret making, and the outdoor play and the bubbles and the time with the chickies, I thought I'd pause at my computer to wish all those Dads, Daddys, Papas, Fathers, Grandfathers, Pappys, Grampseses, and Granddaddys a very happy Father's Day weekend! May you all feel the love and appreciation you so deserve.

Happy weekending!

Friday, June 13, 2014

This Moment

Playing along with Amanda today... in her words: 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Raw Milk

For quite a while now, I've been coming across references, blurbs, recommendations, and praise for consuming raw milk. I've always been curious, but I don't like change, and I'm a slow-moving, read-and-research-ad-nauseam-before-making-the-leap kinda girl, too.

I read about different families, via some of the blogs I follow, and their love affair with raw dairy (like here, here, and here). I read about the nutritional differences between pasteurized and raw milk, and the damage done when milk is pasteurized (from this book, and this one too, and this whole website). I even found a few less-smitten, more objective articles that were still convincing that there was something to this raw milk thing (like this article).

I was already on board with the organic-is-better-than-factory-farm-milk thing. I had even switched our family over to organic whole milk from grass-fed cows. I was learnding. But I couldn't quite get over the mental/societal/familial block about raw milk. So I kept reading.

Then, this past weekend, I stumbled across a fairly local raw-milk dairy (well, local to my parents' place, where we were heading), called them up, spoke with one of the farmers at length, and decided to head down and pay them a visit. I've read multiple times that a high-quality, safe raw milk dairy would check two important boxes: 1) they'd have permits to sell their raw product(s), and 2) they'd be happy to show you around their place. Both boxes were checked with this dairy, so we went to have a look-see.

We walked through the facilities, we talked with Regina- the dairy farmer who had been milking her own cows and consuming the raw product all her life, as well as feeding it to her children- and we met the cows. I finally felt convinced, and we bought our first gallon of raw milk (as well as a wedge of their raw gouda, which was amazing).

It feels so funny to be making such a big deal about buying a gallon of milk the way it naturally comes out of the cow. Honestly, though, there really is a lot of fear built up about the dangers of consuming things that aren't pasteurized, preserved, or processed. My mom will tell of my grandpa (her dad) who got 'milk fever' when he was a boy from drinking raw milk, and how his symptoms never completely left him... and it's true- the possibility does exist that some pathogen could make it in to milk that might have been killed with the pasteurization process but that will linger because it's raw. However, there is an equal chance that you'll get food poisoning from milk that's been traditionally processed, even organic milk (just ask my dad).

SO this past weekend we ventured into Raw Milk Land. We chose to take the risk that the wholesomeness of this food- in it's natural form and with all the good enzymes, proteins, fat, and bacteria- will benefit us more and harm us less than would its pasteurized counterpart. It's not a choice anyone should make just because we (or anyone else) believe in it, and it might not turn out to be right for everyone. For us, though, it was part of the logical progression of this Real/Traditional Food path we're on, and so far we're loving this raw dairy thing!

Interested in finding raw dairy resources in your area? Try looking here: