Monday, September 28, 2015


After learning I have an autoimmune disease and finding that I really struggle to overcome even the most basic illness I've decided to be proactive about maintaining wellness this year.  I've always done a few things to prepare our family for flu season, like making an elderberry tincture and keeping a natural version of antibacterial hand spray on hand for each person in the house but I've been warned by my ND and GP after my two trips to urgent care this past year that I need to be extra cautious about getting sick. So, how does someone NOT get sick? Well, I know it isn't completely avoidable but I'm going to try my best and if I can't keep myself from getting sick I can at least have something on hand to lessen the duration of an illness (time I have to suffer) and to help do this I made an Elderberry syrup.

Elderberry is known for its ability to lessen the duration of the flu, it is also good for alleviating the symptoms of a cold.

If you are interested in making your own syrup for this coming winter, here is how you do it; 

1/2 cup elderberries (dried) - sambucus nigra or sambucus nigra sbsp. canadensis
3 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks (broken up)
1 pinch of ground clove
1 pinch of dried ginger 
1/2 cup raw honey

I normally use fresh elderberries but our favorite spots to find the plant have now been destroyed by development :(  We do grow our own but the deer don't share so… this year I purchased elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs.  They also have a great video on making elderberry syrup if you prefer to follow that.  You do not have to use cinnamon, clove and/or ginger but I think it makes the syrup taste 1000x's better and they contain beneficial properties that aid in relieving various ailments. 

Make sure you use RAW HONEY, preferably local and organic.  There is a significant difference between raw honey and processed honey.  The antimicrobial and antibacterial enzymes found in honey are destroyed when honey is heated beyond a certain degree which is why the processed honey you usually find in grocery stores is not what you want to be consuming.  When people tout the benefits of honey they aren't referring to your grocery store variety, they are talking about the honey straight from the hive.  If you just want honey to use as a sweetener than go ahead and buy the processed version but if you are looking to benefit from honey's healing properties you'll want to buy RAW - ORGANIC - LOCAL
This also means you need to keep in mind that honey should never be heated above 95 degrees F. It's the heat that degrades honey.  In this recipe you'll probably want to have a thermometer on hand to make sure your liquid is at or below 95 F before you add your honey.

Measure out the water and place it in a sauce pan, then add your berries, broken up pieces of cinnamon, a pinch of cloves and a pinch of ginger. 

Bring to a boil and then cover and lower heat to a simmer for 40 minutes.  Make sure to stir the contents every 10 minutes as it simmers (to prevent sticking to the bottom of pan).

After 40 minutes remove from heat and strain.  I did this by covering a jar with cheese cloth because I couldn't find my strainer.  The joys of a disorganized kitchen.

After boiling I was left with 1 1/2 cups of liquid so to make sure the syrup wasn't too sweet or too bland I put in 1/2 cup of raw honey, stirred til it was completely dissolved and the taste was perfect!! (remember: do not add honey until temp of liquid is below 95 F). Pour into a glass jar for storage in the fridge.

Make sure you write the date on the top of your jar since you are going to want to discard any unused syrup after about 3 months.

This recipe makes a liquid syrup that is not the consistency of the syrup most people are use to.  It will not resemble maple syrup or have the thickness of Robitussin.  This is a watery syrup.  Make sure you refrigerate the finished product or it will go bad quickly.  This recipe does not contain a natural preservative, if you want to extend the shelf life of your recipe you'll need to add an alcohol like vodka or brandy.  Natural Fertility and Wellness has a great recipe with brandy included.

You can take this syrup as a preventative at a dose of 1 tsp a day to boost immunity otherwise if ill take 1 tsp 2x's daily. 

**Although a lot of research has been done on elderberry the verdict is still out on whether it is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding, same goes for if you are on other medication or have any health problems so it is best to speak to your health care provider before using. 

Friday, September 18, 2015


In 2009 I purchased an H2EO Ultrasonic Diffuser.  It lasted 4 good years.  I decided that it was time to buy another one this spring so I spent several months checking out the reviews of various diffusers online, dragging my feet on which one to buy.  My first thought was to go back to the H2EO because it had been a great product in the past but I wanted to compare it to some of the current diffusers and possibly try something different.  While checking out various diffusers I decided to check current reviews on the H2EO diffuser and what I found was that the consensus amongst several buyers was that it was crap.  Here are a few comments from Amazon:

"Only lasted two days."

"Diffuser quit working after just 3 months."

"Stop working after one month."

"doesn't give enough vapor, cheap design."

"Company won't honor warranty."

Those comments should have scared me off, right? Um… well… I decided since the overall rating of the current H2EO Ultrasonic Diffuser was 3.5 stars out of 5 and having previously owned one that lasted 4 years that it was fine to buy another.  WRONG!!!

Exactly one month ago I purchased a brand new Ultrasonic Diffuser.  I was extremely careful to follow all directions as usual; use only pure essential oils, make sure the water is distilled and not tap, place the diffuser on hard flat surface, do not block ventilation of fan and DO NOT OVERFILL (that's standard for any product that takes water and this one has A FILL LINE so you can't make any mistake when it comes to how much water to put into it).  

On week 4 (3 days ago) the diffuser started acting odd.  The mist output had stopped on the lowest level and when I would shut it off it would take a minute to shut down (before it would shut off right away).  I called the company because not only is the company local so I thought maybe I could run it over for them to look at, I wanted to find out what was wrong before it broke entirely.  The customer service rep at Plant Extracts International (producer of the diffuser) was absolutely no help.  It was obvious she knew nothing about the machine.  I made her aware from the start that I had owned one previous, it lasted 4 years and that I took very good care of the diffuser as to not break it.  When I told her about the mist output her response was "you're just use to the old one and the output on this is a lot less."  I told her about the unit not shutting off right away like it had before and her response was "that's normal."  I knew I was wasting my time because she kept talking in circles like that so I said "I am afraid it will break entirely so is there anything I can do about this right now and she said "don't worry, it is working fine."  Um… ok. 

So, 2 days ago I filled the diffuser to run it again, making sure I did not exceed fill line.  About 30 minutes into it running I went to shut it off and I noticed the unit had gotten hot.  I thought that was weird but I was shutting it off anyway so I knew it would cool down and I'd run it another day.  Tonight when I filled the diffuser and went to turn it on nothing happened.  The blue lights came on but it is otherwise completely DEAD.  I quickly grabbed the directions to see what that meant and this is what it says:

Here's the thing.  I have the diffuser sitting on a wooden table with nothing near it.  It is just the diffuser and the hard wood table. I also DID NOT overfill the unit, the fill line is very clear and I NEVER exceed it.  So, what will happen if I send the machine back to the company? They'll say that the warranty does not cover misuse because they'll blame me for overfilling it or obstructing the fan.  Which is what I've read on Amazon happens quite frequently to those who have called Plant Extracts International to report their diffuser stopped working after overheating.  They blame the customer and do not honor their warranty. 

So this post is really a BUYER BEWARD message.  The H2EO Ultrasonic Diffuser is one of the most expensive on the market leading people to believe it is high quality but the reality is it is truly a piece of junk.  Maybe back in 2009 this product was made in the U.S.A and now they manufacture it in another country because this newer H2EO unit is not the same as the one I owned before; body is cheap plastic and very light, the mist output is almost non-existent and the diffuser itself is weak, I could barely smell the essential oils after the first few uses. For something so expensive ($90) you'd expect better quality. 

So if you are still considering this diffuser after reading my post I think you should also read this:

And make sure you check out these reviews HERE and HERE.  Choosing to buy this product is much like playing Russian Roulette. It will be hit and miss whether it functions or lasts.

The company has found a great way to make the customer think they are getting an awesome product through pricing and promise of warranty but they are really just ripping people off.  You are better off buying an inexpensive version because at least if it fails to function after a month you don't feel like you are out much money.  Yes, I am pissed and now I have to start looking for another diffuser so if you are reading this and you have one that you love, please share it in the comments. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I placed my first order from Mad Oils recently; love the fast shipping, the personal touch "thank you" gift with FO sample and the quality of their essential oils and micas.  Unfortunately, after using their Lemon Cupcake mica my cp soap ended up looking a little orange instead of yellow :(  Their website says it isn't unusual to end up with orange the first 24 hours but it has been 2 weeks and it is still more orange than yellow.  Their micas do mix up nice and smooth in the raw soap though, better than other suppliers I have used.  I'll try using the yellow again in another recipe, this time with a different essential oil, and see how it turns out.

As for their Grape Nehi mica, that came out perfectly.  A perfect purple that lasts.  Also, their lavender essential oil has the truest and best scent of all those I have used from soap suppliers.

Mad Oils is definitely on my list of go-to shops for soap supplies.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Kids are always getting bit by something; mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, gnats, sand fleas… you name it and when they get bit they scratch, scratch, scratch and whine, whine, whine so as a parent you search for something to stop the itch and unfortunately everything you find is usually some commercial concoction that never really works anyway.  So what should you do? Reach for plantain.

Plantain is a child's best friend in the summer.  It not only stops the itch from biting bugs but it also ends the pain caused by stinging insects too.  My kids usually just grab a handful of plantain leaves, chew it up and slap it on the spot that needs attention but sometimes it is more convenient to have a plantain salve, like when out on a lake in a canoe or during travel when bringing fresh leaves along or finding it in the wild just isn't feasible.  So I had Aiyana make her first container of salve.

Here is a picture of plantain and you can read more about it HERE

To help identify plantain in the wild, here are a few helpful pictures

These seeds grow up from the center of the plantain plant

Plantain leaf

When you tear a plantain leaf you should see little vein strings as shown above

First, Aiyana went out and gathered a bunch of plantain leaves.

Washed and dried them.

Chopped them up.

Added them to the olive oil then heated.  The plantain sat in the warm oil for 2 hours.  This is the rush method.  I usually prefer keeping medicinal plants in a jar with oil for up to 6 weeks before straining but my daughter and I are on a mission, or I should say I am on a mission to teach as much as possible before the snow flies. LOL! So… we went with the rush method.  This oil sat for a week in the jar after  they were heated for 2 hrs.

She strained the oil out of the jar.

There are various ways you can extract the medicinal properties from a plant; we chose the solvent oil. You can tell the oil did its job by the color difference you see below.  Olive oil on left, plantains beneficial properties extracted into the olive oil on the right. 

 We poured the plantain oil into a double boiler, heated it up, added some beeswax to make the salve.

We think plantain oil stinks so we added lavender essential oil to to cut the smell.  Some people will add essential oils because of their beneficial properties but it is important to remember that eos are damaged by high heat, so to maintain their effectiveness you do not want to heat them above 80 degrees.  We used lavender eo in this recipe purely for the natural scent.

Here's the finished product after poured into tiny tins.

Couple notes on Plantain salve vs. Plantain leaves, we've found that the plant works much faster to relieve itching than the salve so if you have a choice, use the actual leaves from the plant.  The salve works but it takes a little more time.  We've also learned that it works really well on our dogs.  We have one dog that happens to be allergic to bug bites and certain types of material and when he develops hives the plantain salve brings about relief.

Herbal Roots does have an e-zine on plantain that is really good also.  The salve above is not listed but other crafts and ways of using the herbs are.


4 oz fresh plantain leaves
16 oz olive oil
.5 oz beeswax
24 drops lavender essential oil

Thursday, August 20, 2015


At this time of year we have every insect imaginable hanging out in our backyard.  You have to be very careful if you walk the trail around the Joe Pye Weed and Goldenrod because literally hundreds of wasps, honey bees and bumble bees call the JPW & GR a source of food.
One of hundreds of yellow-jackets calling our yard home right now. They are hungry for the Joe Pye Weed and Goldenrod.

Monarch butterflies are just interested in the Joe Pye Weed.

This little lady(bug) has been spending her day poking around the goldenrod.

I saw this frog and thought it was deformed but turns out it was crossing its legs like that on purpose.  Who knew they did that? I didn't.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I decided it was time to teach my youngest about herbs.  After quizzing her I found that she knows quite a bit but it was time to incorporate some fun stuff.  We are going to work our way through as many herbs as we can until winter arrives and our herb garden and wild medicinal plants have died back.  For each herb she is journaling, coloring, and creating. 

A while back I found this book:
You can find this for sale on Amazon - CLICK HERE
It has a bunch of cute kid stories about herbs such as The Lion and the Wise Teacher about dandelions or The Star's Gift about lemon balm.  It is a perfect addition to our herb study.  We also subscribe to Herbal Roots Zine which focusses on one particular herb and contains crafts, herbal remedies, stories, etc... Those we'll save for when the plants are all gone and it's too cold to go outside. The rest is all mom.  I created a "type" of herb curriculum that we'll be following until she tells me "mom, stop, I can't take anymore." LOL!

We started with Aiyana picking out a plant of her own to communicate with and she chose lavender.  She started talking to it, asking it questions… once she understood that on a basic energetic level we are connected to all things, even something as simple as a plant we moved on to lemon balm, my favorite herb.  It was the first herb I planted when we moved into our home 8 yrs ago and it has pretty much taken over a quarter of our yard (expected and wanted).

Unfortunately, our lemon balm has passed its prime for the season.  It now has flowers and no longer has that strong lemony scent which means the oil content is low.  My daughter is already somewhat familiar with the herb so it wasn't a problem, we just picked up the dried version from our local natural food store and worked with that.

No, it's not Lemon Ballom. LOL! We corrected that later. 
What did she create? Tea.  She loved making her own tea, can't say she loved the taste so much though. LOL! I told her as we move into other herbs she'll combine several for a much better tasting tea :-)



Plantain is perfect for bug bites and our mosquitos are now out in full force so my daughter will be making a plantain salve for those nasty itchy bites she always gets.
So, today we started with Lemon Balm.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


It is that time of year again, when the kids think they get to sleep in for the first time since the school year ended but instead I am dragging them out of bed at 6 am to go berry picking.

We headed out to our favorite farm yesterday, Sam Kedem's Nursery in Hastings. It was a perfect day; sun was shining and temps were decent.  When we arrived, there were more pickers than I am use to so we got busy before all of the berries were gone.  We ended up with 16 lbs worth of juicy organic strawberries and rushed home to make jam.  

As usual, what was suppose to be a family affair turned into my oldest daughter cutting up all of the strawberries and me finishing the rest on my own. LOL! That's ok, I enjoy it.