Elderberry Syrup – A Natural Home Remedy for Colds

Well hello everyone! That long, unannounced hiatus of mine was called the first trimester of pregnancy. I simply had to prioritize taking naps myself while Estella took her naps! AKA – the time I do all my blogging! A lot of things got put on the back burner, but the blog was probably one of the first to go and the last to come back. Sorry! But here I am again, and I have no intention of going 3 months without a post until maybe when the baby arrives in January. A baby arrives in January!! : )

With school season approaching and Fall and Winter coming up faster than we might like to admit, I thought this would be the perfect time to share this recipe for elderberry syrup, a homemade remedy for colds which can also be taken daily as an immune boosting supplement! Read on to hear my experience with it and to get the recipe!

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I was introduced to elderberry syrup a couple years back, and after hearing about how this stuff could kick a cold to the curb in no time, I decided to pick up a bottle. Although I had read many reviews, I was still skeptical. It seems that in today’s world where we are so used to modern medicine, it’s hard to believe that anything natural, simple, possible to make in your own kitchen could really work. But since I’m not convinced modern medicine is always the best answer, I figured it was worth a try. My experience? Success! I was amazed by this stuff! When taken properly (we’ll talk about this later on) I have recovered from many colds that had barely gotten started on me! Marshall has had the same success, and now Estella is able to take it as well.

The only problem I was finding was that it was pricey to keep around. Then one day I stumbled across a recipe for it! Although the up-front cost of buying the dried elderberries and the raw honey is higher than buying one bottle of pre-made elderberry syrup, in the long run you get many more ounces of elderberry syrup for your money by making it at home. I had never tried my hand at making “medicine” before, so I was a little bit skeptical. Would this really work as well as the kind I had purchased? Would it be too difficult to keep up with and in the end we’d just never take it because I didn’t want to buy it but couldn’t find the time to make it? I had my doubts.

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Well, it turns out that it only requires about 5 minutes of hands-on time, and although it has to simmer for an hour, all you have to do is peek at it every once in a while to make sure it’s still simmering but not boiling too rapidly. In other words, it’s easy.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups of water
2/3 cup dried elderberries (I buy these online through either Amazon or Vitacost)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of raw, preferably local honey

Directions:

Add the water, elderberries, and cinnamon into a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and then simmer for an hour. Strain the mixture and discard the elderberries. Add the honey once it has cooled but is still warm, and mix well. Poor into a glass jar with a lid and store in the fridge. Should last for up to 2 months.

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Method of taking and dosage

I can’t stress enough how important it is to start taking this at the very first signs of a cold, and taking it consistently until 1 or 2 days after you stop feeling symptoms altogether. If you work outside the home, figure out a way you can bring it with you to work because those 8, 9, or 10 hours away from home could jeopardize the ability of the elderberry syrup to work. That being said, if you forget or are unable to take it at any point during the sickness, don’t just give up. Even if you end up getting a full on cold, it can still help alleviate symptoms and make the cold go away faster.

For Adults: Take 1 tablespoon at a time, every 2 – 3 hours, up to 5 times per day

For Children (no children under the age of 1 due to the honey): Take 1 teaspoon at a time, every 4-5 hours, up to 3 times per day.

If you want to take this as an immunity booster in hopes of preventing colds altogether, take 1 tablespoon for adults or 1 teaspoon for children once per day.

And just to end with a touch of cuteness, here is Estella enjoying a dose as an immunity booster : ). She was insisting she have some after I pulled it out to take pictures for this post. Another bonus is that it tastes great!

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5 Household Uses for Baking Soda

When I first started my journey towards a more natural lifestyle, meaning that I was starting to buy organic food, replace my toxic cleaners for safer alternatives, overhaul my makeup bag and medicine cabinet, etc. I was immediately noticing that these things were almost always more expensive, and sometimes by a lot. What that meant to me at the time was simply that I could not afford to purchase everything I would have liked to. For me, it wasn’t feasible to switch everything over and never look back, because we didn’t have the money. But then I realized that by making a few sacrifices in other areas, such as not eating as much meat, familiarizing myself with the bulk bins, which often have much lower prices, and just living an overall more simplified lifestyle, we could afford a lot more of the products I was hoping to buy.

Now that Marshall is done with school we have a lot more wiggle room with our finances, but even so, we have financial goals and plans, and a budget we follow pretty strictly. I knew from the very beginning that a huge part of this journey was going to be learning how to make things on my own, because that is almost always cheaper. I have found a couple of resources that are very affordable and have basically countless uses, and one of those is baking soda.

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You can buy 13 pound bags of baking soda at most department stores and some grocery stores for around $10, which will last you a long time and replace so many different products in your home. Here are a few things I use baking soda for that you may not have heard of before.

  1. Tub scrub – Coat the affected area with baking soda, and if the tub was not already wet add some moisture. This could be a multi-purpose cleaner (recipe to come!) or tub cleaner, or just water. Let it sit a few minutes and then scrub scrub scrub! Your tub should now be nice and clean!
  2. Face exfoliant – I use this on my face every couple of days. I just wet my face, put about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda on my fingers, get them just a little wet, and then gently massage all over my face (and neck if you’d like), and rinse it off. I don’t like exfoliants to be too abrasive and this one is just right for me. My face always feels so fresh and clean after I do this.
  3. Dish stain remover – We have a set of white mugs that get stained regularly since they are being filled up with tea and coffee repeatedly. When I start to notice that they are staining I just put about 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda in the mug, add about a tablespoon of hot water, and then just scrub it with a sponge or rag. The mugs are left shiny white!
  4. Laundry soap – Baking soda is one of the key ingredients in my Homemade Laundry Soap.
  5.  And the funniest use for baking soda is…….Crayon remover – Estella was recently introduced to crayons. She almost understands now that the crayons are only for paper, but on her first day she colored on the doors, the floor, and her shoes. When I found it on the door I actually thought it would come right off with a multi-purpose cleaner. I was wrong. Nothing happened at all! Then I tried baking soda and it came off so easily! Baking soda saved the day again. For the floor I just sprinkled on some baking soda and used a wet rag to scrub the crayon off, and for the door I got my rag wet first, sprinkled some onto the wet rag, and then scrubbed it off that way. Both worked great!

In addition to baking soda, there is another product called washing soda. The texture is very different, and washing soda cannot be ingested, but they work very similarly. For most of the above ideas you could use washing soda, in fact, that’s what I would suggest for the laundry soap, but I would not use the washing soda as an exfoliant because it would be much more abrasive. The texture of washing soda is much more course than baking soda. Here is a description of the difference between them from a blog called Penniless Parenting:

The difference between baking soda and washing soda is water and carbon dioxide. Seriously. Baking soda’s chemical makeup is NaHCO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). Washing soda’s chemical makeup is Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). When baking soda is heated up to high temperatures, it breaks down to become washing soda, water steam, and carbon dioxide.

If you want to do more reading about the differences between baking soda and washing soda, here is a good start. How to Make Washing Soda. They are not actually the same thing, but they can often be used interchangeably.

So if you find yourself in the place I was a few years ago, wanting to switch to more natural household supplies, go head and grab yourself a big ole’ bag of baking soda. You’ll be glad you did!

Sources:

Penniless Parenting

Natures Nurture Blog

Cloth Diapering – Why Do It?

When I started researching cloth diapering before my first daughter was born, I learned that it’s a whole world I never knew about with an overwhelming amount of terms, brands, methods, ideas, and information.

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I have now been cloth diapering for over a year, and through my experience and research, I have developed opinions and preferences that I feel are helpful and worth sharing. I spent hours on YouTube, blogs, and diaper brand websites because I couldn’t get all the information I wanted in one place. I’m not about to say that if you read this series of posts you need not read anything else, but I am going to do my best to do a thorough explanation of the terms used for cloth diapering, the different kinds of diapers available, which ones I like for what purposes, how to prep them, use them, and clean them.

But before we get into all of that, today I just want to talk about why to cloth diaper. I can see why one would be hesitant to cloth diaper when it requires additional laundry, which may be the last thing you want to add to your list as a Mom, but there are a few main reasons that I cloth diaper that I want to share with you, and these reasons have been motivation enough for me to spend the time on extra laundry, so let’s get into it!

 

  1. Safe for baby. This is my top reason for cloth diapering. Disposable diapers are made with various plastics and many chemicals, all of which make them work very well and are even said to be safe, but I’m not really comfortable with them. Dioxins and sodium polyacrylate, two of the chemicals found in disposable diapers, have either been linked to or have caused cancer, reproductive and infertility problems, asthma and respiratory distress, hormonal problems, developmental & cognitive problems, suppressed immune systems, diabetes, endometriosis, allergic reactions, chemical burns, and chloracne. Now, to be fair, they are used in very small amounts and even said to be safe, but I’m not sure how they justify the safety, and it’s not worth the risk to me.
  2. Environmentally friendly. This is also up for debate since you need to use water and electricity to wash the cloth diapers, but I feel much better about not throwing hundreds of diapers into the landfill every year, particularly because I don’t think my water usage in the Midwest can really help California or Africa or any other place where they have water shortages. I’d rather produce less waste than more waste and cloth diapers are a huge way I can do that.
  3. Saves $1,000 – $2000 per child! The up front cost of cloth diapering could range from $100 – $800 if you really went all out, so honestly, if you only want one child and are not concerned about the safety or environmental impact of disposables, you won’t save a remarkable amount. But if you plan to have even two children the savings start to add up.
  4. They are so adorable! As long as you can avoid the trap of buying all the cutest prints when they come out which will lead to an excessive amount of diapers and way more money spent than necessary, this part is super fun!

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For me, the extra effort and time that has gone into cloth diapering my daughter has been totally worth it! I don’t regret it and I will definitely do it with our future children as well.

 

Sources:

Awesome Beginnings 4 Children – The Harmful Chemicals in Disposable Diapers

Livestrong – Chemicals in Disposable Diapers

Webmd – Solving Your Diaper Dilemma

 

3-2-1 Homemade Hand Soap

I have a general rule that I follow when buying anything packaged, whether food or cleaning supplies, and my rule is simply this:

There should not be numbers on the ingredients list.

That just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t always know what the numbers mean, but that’s kind of the point. I like to know what the items I am buying are made of so that I can make a good choice about whether I think it’s best for my family, and I don’t think hand soap made of numbers is best for my family. This soap, however, is made of only 3 ingredients all which I can pronounce, and it is free of numbers.

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This is not to say that there are not perfectly acceptable hand soaps for sale at the store, but this homemade hand soap could not get any easier, it is customizeable, and you can be confident about the safety of it for your family.

The star of the show here is castile soap. If you are new to the world of homemade household products there is something you should know. Castile soap is about to become your best friend. If you pick up a bottle you will definitely be able to find uses for it. Trust me. From laundry soap to hand soap to toilet bowl cleaner, it is quite versatile. You can buy it here, but it is typically cheaper in stores. You can find it at many grocery and department stores, and once you get the hang of using it you’ll want to buy it by the gallon.

I hesitated to post this recipe because I thought there was hardly any point with only 3 ingredients and 2 minutes required, but then I thought, that’s what people want! People want recipes that make homemade household products approachable and feasible. This recipe is definitely both of those things.

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For this recipe you can use scented or unscented castile soap. I almost always have unscented  since I use it for a variety of things that I like to customize with different essential oils, but if you prefer to leave it unscented that works as well. Many essential oils have anti-bacterial properties including lemon, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree, all of which are oils that are very versatile, so if you are choosing to add them you can choose based on which scent you prefer or which oil you think you will get the most use out of if you are purchasing them for the first time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with combinations either!

3 ingredients, 2 minutes, and 1 hand soap later, you can let me know if you like it!

3-2-1 Homemade Hand Soap

Here’s what you’ll need:
Foaming hand soap container (I have this one) – If adding essential oils you need to use a glass one because they will eat away at plastic.

Castile soap

Essential oils (optional)

water

Directions:

Fill soap container with 1 part castile soap and 4 parts water, leaving room for the lid. Add essential oils if using. Shake well and use!

Additional tips:

-No matter what size your hand soap container is you can follow the same guidelines of 1 part soap, 4 parts water

-My hand soap container is 12 oz. and I use 15 drops of essential oils

-The soap may need a shake every once in a while if there is sediment at the bottom.This is not an issue and probably won’t happen too often.

 

My Favorite Homemade Granola Bars

Marshall and I have this routine of always having breakfast together. It’s kind of like a date except we are at home, and if Estella wakes up early she gets to join us : ) …so not really like a date at all I suppose, but it is still set aside time that we know we will spend together every morning. We are both breakfast eaters so there is never the question of if we will eat breakfast, just what we will eat for breakfast. Since a lot of the things we like to have require some amount of prep (some even the night before), before heading to bed we always discuss what we will have for breakfast the next morning so that I can either start the prep then or leave enough time in the morning to make it. There is another category of prep though, and that is where these homemade granola bars come in.

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These homemade granola bars fall into the category of breakfasts that can be made any time of day to have on hand for those mornings when you don’t have time to make breakfast. No prep the night before or in the morning. They have made many an appearance at our breakfast table and have surely passed the test of time in our home. These still require time to be made, but it’s convenient that you can make them whenever you want to and you don’t need time in the morning.

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Once you get the hang of making these you’ll be able to whip them up quickly, with the exception of the few hours in the fridge that they need to firm up and hold together.

These are nutty, chewy, chocolatey, sweet, healthy, and delicious!

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MY FAVORITE HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup nuts of choice

1/4 cup sesame seeds

3/4 cup ground flax meal

1/2 cup cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup dried fruit of choice, chopped if using a larger fruit

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut – optional

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the oats, nuts, and seseame seeds on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes or until frangrant and lightly golden. Set aside to cool until ready to use.

In a large bowl, combine flax meal, cacao nibs, dried fruit, shredded coconut, cinnamon and salt.

In a small pot, combine the honey, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Gently heat until coconut oil melts and honey is thin.

Combine all ingredients into the large bowl and mix well.

Line a 9×13 pan with sides at least 1 inch deep with wax paper. Dump entire contents of the bowl into the pan, spread out evenly, place another layer of wax paper over the top, and then press firmly into the pan so that they hold together once chilled. Place in the fridge for at least 3 – 4 hours before cutting into bars. Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Variations:

-Use 1/2 cup puffed millet in place of 1/2 cup oats for a lighter, chewier texture (the puffed millet should not be toasted).

-If using chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs make sure your oats are well cooled before you combine everything so that the chocolate chips don’t completely melt (unless you want the chocolate melted and spread throughout!).

-You can use a smaller pan if you prefer a thicker bar. These are about 1/2 an inch think.

Homemade Laundry Soap – Easy Inexpensive and Effective

It took me a long time to start this blog.

There were many reasons for this. One being my own fear. Would people be interested in my content? Would they like my writing style? Would I have enough ideas to keep it going, and if there were long gaps between posts would I lose readers? Does the amount of readers matter to me, and what happens if I don’t get many?

The second is because I couldn’t decide if I should start with a recipe, something mama related, a natural product that I like, or simply post just to say I’m starting the blog.

The third reason is that after deciding what to start with and writing almost the whole post, the entire draft disappeared and was nowhere to be found.

And after THAT, the fourth reason is that I re-wrote the post, had it almost ready to go, and my internet connection was so bad for three days that I couldn’t even load up my site!

So what I learned through all of this is that I DO have enough love, passion, and interest for the topics I plan to write about because I have had many chances to give up and forget the whole idea of the blog. But here we are. Here is my first post, and you’re here reading it. Hopefully I haven’t already lost your attention before even getting to the subject of today’s post. So before I ramble anymore, let’s get to it!

After giving more thought to the mission of this blog – to encourage and educate on natural homemaking – I chose to start with homemade laundry soap. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One being that it applies to everyone. We all wear clothes, use towels, and sleep with sheets (at least most of us). Even if you don’t do laundry yourself, you are probably using things that were washed in the washing machine with laundry detergent.

Two being that it doesn’t always turn out exactly right.

Have I confused you? Would you expect me to only share something perfected, impossible to mess up? Here are my thoughts: Life is not perfect. Things don’t always go as planned. Accidents happen. We make mistakes. Sometimes dinner ends up on the floor, our tried and true bread recipe doesn’t rise properly, or we shatter a glass a on the floor before 8am. When things don’t go as planned, they can always be solved, worked around, or discarded, and it shouldn’t steal your joy, your confidence, or ruin your day. I want to practice laughing when the bottom of my banana bread sticks to the loaf pan while the top half comes out just fine. Why? Because these are the little things in life. I want to practice “…laughing at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25) because the days to come might hold larger bumps in the road than separated laundry soap. Are you with me?

And with this laundry soap, the only thing that has ever gone wrong is that it hasn’t properly homogenized. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I wish I could explain but after a couple years of making this and troubleshooting, I really don’t know. But what I do know is that either way it will wash your clothes.

If you’re wondering why you should make this at home when you can easily buy it at the store, even for a good price (and you won’t have to shake it), here is why.

This homemade laundry soap is:

  1. Free of Harsh Chemicals such as bleach, fragrances, surfactants (cleaning agent), and carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer). These chemicals can cause skin, eye, and lung irritation, respiratory and liver damage, and can potentially cause cancer. Between the three items mentioned above (clothes, towels, and sheets), these things are rubbing up against our body, touching our skin, and leaving behind any residual laundry detergent on us, which can then be absorbed into our bodies. I don’t know about you but I sure don’t want these chemicals inside of me.
  2. Fast and Easy to Make. I make this 1 gallon at a time and it takes me less than 5 minutes, which makes 64 loads worth of soap!
  3. Gentle on Clothing. Anything washed with a gentle soap has the potential to last longer than when washed with conventional soap that can be harsh on clothing.
  4. Cloth Diaper Safe. I know this only applies to some of you, but this soap works great for cloth diapers! No build up from unnecessary chemicals that can cause damage to the diapers which will shorten their life, and no leak or stink issues! Of course you will still need to strip them every once in a while (which I will talk about in a future cloth diapering post), but for the day-to-day this is a great option.
  5. Environmentally Friendly, at least compared to alternatives. Plus, you can use the same container over and over again and don’t have to purchase and discard a jug every time you run out.

For all of these benefits it’s worth the five minutes it takes to make this for me. And before I take any longer to get this posted by trying to perfect it or impress you, here is the recipe!

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Supplies:

1 gallon jug – an empty milk container or a previously emptied laundry detergent container (well rinsed!) will work great.

1 cup baking soda wash- or baking soda (I have had better luck with it homogenizing when using baking soda wash)

1/3 cup salt – you don’t need iodized salt, that’s just what I had on hand

1 cup castile soap – I use unscented

Directions:

Dissolve the baking soda and salt in a few cups of warm water in your jug. Once dissolved, add the castile soap and fill to the top with water. Shake until well mixed. use 1/4 cup per load.

Optional extras:

1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar can be added to the washing machine for the rinse cycle as a fabric softener, brightener, and/or deodorizer. I haven’t found this to be necessary, but depending on your water and the soil level of the items you’re washing, these are options. You can also use vinegar as a stain remover by soaking the effected area for a few minutes to a few hours before washing.

Essential oils can be added for scent – 10 – 30 drops per 1 gallon container of soap, depending on how powerful you want it. You could also purchase scented castile soap if you like one of the options available. Stick with unscented for cloth diapers though.

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Sources:

I have learned the information from this post over the course of a few years. These are not the only sources I learned from but if you’d like to do additional reading these are some useful sources.

Global Healing Center – Do You Know These 6 Facts About Laundry Detergent?

Environmental and Health Assessment of Substances in Household Detergents and Cosmetic Detergent Products

Environmental Working Group – Tide Laundry Detergent Rating