Sunday, February 22, 2015

Elderberries to the Rescue

I guess it had to happen.  The crud.  You know the one.  The one my son gets each February and then is passed on to me as the primary cleaner of snot, maker of hot tea, in other words - Mom.  For the first time in MANY years he was not hit as hard as usual.  I believe it is because we have slowed our lives down by homeschooling which has allowed us to rest when we are ill without the stress of knowing we should be "somewhere".  Also, the focus on essential oil use with near constant diffusing and applications, the use of rich homemade broths and staying hydrated has also helped.  Just to add a little something extra in the healing department I ordered a large quantity of Frontier dried elderberries last week from Vitacost.  After a few days of not being delivered due to the ice storm hitting our area, it finally arrived!

Happy Happy, Joy, Joy!

Pinterest has been, of course, a great resource, but if I am discussing healing the body, I want to be very sure that what I am saying is correct or at least has some basis in science.   And, recipes vary slightly depending on which source you are using.  Many sources use cinnamon to enhance flavor, some list ginger as optional and some bloggers suggest adding essential oils. Below is my recipe to add to the many sources you will find on the web. 

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

1/2 cup dried elderberries 
3 cups water
1 cup local raw honey
1 tbs freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon

If sick take one spoonful in the morning and one at night.

Bring elderberries and water to a boil on medium high heat.  Reduce, cover and simmer for 
30 minutes.  Remove lid, add ginger and cinnamon and cook for an additional 15 minutes on
 low (no lid).  Remove pot from stove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in honey until completed mixed.  Pour into 2 mason jars.  Add lid and store one in fridge and if desired, place
 the second jar in the freezer (or preferred freezer container) to be used as needed.   If you are freezing a jar of syrup, it must be completely cooled without the lid for one hour.  Also, you must leave at least one inch between the syrup and lid for expansion.  I find that placing jars on a wire rack is safer than placing on hard freezer surface to prevent cracking.  

You'll notice that I have NO GINGER in my photo though I do have it in the recipe.  As I pulled out all of my ingredients, as luck would have it, I had no ginger.  Not only did I have no ginger, but after being stuck at home for four days due to an ice storm, I also had no car keys.  My wonderful good samaritan husband dug my car out of the ice and accidentally pocketed not only his keys - but mine.  That's okay!  Many recipes do not call for ginger, so we forged ahead using the resources we had.  Let's talk about the ingredients and let's begin with the elderberry.  There are many sources available explaining on elderberries and their health benefits.  This one from the University of Maryland Medical Center tells us, 

"Elderberry, or elder, has been used for centuries to treat wounds, when applied to the skin. It is also taken by mouth to treat respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. In many countries, including Germany, elder flower is used to treat colds and flu. Elder may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties."

A study from Purdue tells us that elderberries are filled with vitamins A and C as well as powerful antioxidants.  It also tells us that elderberries have been used for generations as folk medicine to treat sore throat, cold and flu.  Now we know a little bit about elderberry.  Why raw local honey and why ginger?   Many health experts such as Dr. Oz, Dr. Mercola and Dr. Axe sing the praises of honey. 

The two most important things honey does in this
 recipe  is helps boost your immune system and soothes
 coughs and sore throats. 

(We know honey has lots of other great uses as well!)  And, as the elderberries are slightly tart, it's nice to have something sweet to help it go down.  Finally, let's talk about the ginger.  Ginger is another immune booster and induces sweating which we all know if healthy.    It has,

"broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic properties, to name just several of its more than 40 pharmacological actions.1 " (Dr. Mercola)
Now that you know the secrects of elderberries, honey and ginger and have reliable sources to support this centuries old folk remedy you are on your way to keeping yourself and your family happy and healthy as we wrap up these long winter days.  As for me, I have armed myself with as many wellness tools as I can while we wait out this winter storm and am dreaming of the return of the sun as I mark the pages of my newly arrived seed catalogs. 

"Everyone should be his own physician. We ought to assist and not force nature. Eat with moderation what agrees with your constitution. Nothing is good for the body but what we can digest. What medicine can produce digestion? Exercise. What will recruit strength? Sleep. What will alleviate incurable ills? Patience." ~Voltaire

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Homeschooling with The Hobbit

In case you don't know, we are (by we I mean the Sun and I) huge fans of good fantasy fiction.  That's why I was so excited to see The Hobbit as one of the language arts offering from Memoria Press. As this is our first year homeschooling, I wanted to have some fun while giving him quality curriculum and I needed to see where he was academically on things such as writing.

With our love of all things Tolkien, this was a 
great starting point for the 7th grade year.  

 Now we are coming to an end and this week Noah has been working on a final project to present the study to us.  The project is primarily artistic in nature, though there is more to it such as copywork, as the academic portion of this work was completed within The Hobbit Student Guide.

As we worked through The Hobbit, I found some really fantastic resources through a Google search as well as on Pinterest.  It's funny, my bright 13-year old has enjoyed the study guide and the art and all that we have done with this book, but he still loves to color (don't we all?), so I have found some great coloring pages suitable for any age that we included in his book.

One of the things I love about the Memoria Press work is it is a full language arts study.  Comprehension questions, independent writing, vocabulary words, artistic instructions - you get the idea.  If you are not familiar with Memoria Press, I highly encourage you to take a look at it.  It is a classical Christian curriculum - for us the emphasis is on classical.   And, you can purchase Memoria Press in pieces.  You do not have to order an entire curriculum.  The student guide for The Hobbit is approximately $9 and the teacher guide is similar, though if you are a fairly well read homeschool parent, I don't know that you neccessarily need the teacher guide.  You can always order it later if needed.  If you are lean toward purchasing study materials that are not from curriculum companies, there are several available including:

  • A guide from 7 Sisters Homeschool (geared toward high schoolers, though I definitely think some middle schoolers could tackle it)
  • Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you have not been to this website, it's a great resource.  There are some free items and many from $1.99 to $5.00 which are worth that and more.  When we first began homeschooling, I thought I would make most of my own curriculum and found that while I am suited to teaching, there are many others who have created some great resources that I can take advantage of.
  • This unit study is from a teacher that has been so kind as to put his/her own study guide online.  It's really a true literature study that not only studies the work itself but discusses literary terms such as foreshadowing.  Very well-rounded!  (This unit is far too in-depth for elementary school.  It is suitable for middle to high schoolers with great comprehension and writing skills.)

In addition to a study guide, we added self-directed art and copywork to our endeavor.  Why copywork?  There are many reasons that copywork is used in curriculums that rely heavily on Charlotte Mason or Rudolf Steiner's teachings.  For us,

copywork reinforces spelling and improves handwriting.   

I have found that with my son, he tends to get sloppy when free-handing his independent work but reigns it all back in when doing copywork.  We found this great series of Hobbit copy pages from Walking by the Way and my son has really enjoyed reading through the quotes and copying them!

So, we have academics and copywork.  What about the art?  We have approached this several ways.  One is an art project for my son's room.  We found a map of Middle Earth that he loved, printed it and it is now adorning the wall in his Hobbit hole.  (It really is a room fit for a Hobbit!)  I do a lot of decoupaging and art myself, but stumbled across this at Milk and Cookies and knew he would love it as well. 

Finally is the book.  Ah....the book.  We have taken different art pieces that created while working with the Memoria Press Student Guide, the copywork, his coloring pages and a beautiful cover that he created and bound them together in this book as his final project.

Noah is a VERY well read child and has fantastic comprehension.  Working with The Hobbit was really more of an exercise of an academic study of a work of fiction.  By adding in the other components we created a well-rounded lesson that was also quite enjoyable for him.  And with that, I'll leave you with this:

"'Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.'"

Saturday, February 7, 2015

21 Day Root Chakra Challenge

Let's talk about your Muladhara - your root - your first chakra.  Did you know you have one?  Everyone does!  I first learned of the chakras when I began my Reiki training in 1997 and spent many years working on balancing what I know to be the foundation of my physical body.   Through the many years of being a mom, working, losing a parent, etc., I feel I have lost touch with that vital part of my health.  I think that is one of the best parts of my essential oil renewal.  For many months I have been reacquainting myself with a deeper spiritual practice that I sort of let slip by as I focused on the mundane yet important aspects of life.  My Reiki practice is once again part of my daily life and I love incorporating essential oils from the cellular level up.

Nathan (darling hubby) and I have been using Do Yoga With Me for our at-home yoga practice.  When I decided to use February to focus on the first chakra, I went immediately to their website to find a great meditation and yoga video to support this important work.  I do my meditation in the afternoon as it is the part of the day when I have the lowest energy.  You can do your meditation whenever it best suits your schedule or level of energy.

I began to really research which oils would support Muladhara balance.  Could timing be any more perfect?  Cypress is doterra's February special and is the perfect oil to support grounding oneself and bringing balance to your life-force.  Frankincense has a similar effect in that it helps ground but brings an overall feeling of wellness and balance but most importantly, heals on a cellular level which is ideal when working with the first chakra.  You may be asking yourself, "why Wild Orange?"  Typically a second chakra oil, I decided to add WO to my Muladhara blend to bring clarity.  One of the issues with the first chakra is feeling untethered and confused with a general lack of control.  The wild orange will serve to help shake off the uncertainty and bring a healthy emotional state to your practice.  In addition, oranges are considered to be an Aphrodisiac!  If your libido is suffering, you most likely have first chakra issues.  By pairing the wild orange to with the oils that promote grounding, you may be able to increase your loving during this month of LOVE! 
Try to end your day with a detox bath of epsom salts.  The Epsom Salt Council recommended this article on a ritual bath that may explain why epsom salt baths work.  You can follow their directions and add baking soda and sea salt for an added kick to your bath.  

I recommend that you attempt to do this challenge each day.  This can be a challenge for sure!  If not, set your start date and your end date 21 days later.  Do the challenge on as many days as you can.  It may amaze you what these steps plus good intentions will do for your during that time.  

I'm going to be updating my own successes on my blog and on my FB page.  I'd love to hear from you if you are doing the challenge and what you are finding from this combination of yoga/meditationa and essential oils.

"Surely a man needs a closed place wherein he may strike root and, like the seed, become.  But also he needs the great Milky Way above him and the vast sea spaces, though neither stars nor ocean serve his daily needs."  ~Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert

Friday, February 6, 2015

I Vaccinated My Children But I Did It On My Terms

The year was 2001 and we were new parents anxious to everything right and natural for our precious new baby.  Midwife?  Check.  Birthing Plan?  Check.  Breastpump?  Well, we had to rent that one.  Some things didn't go according to plan.  After 8 months of being quite ill, I delivered 5.5 weeks early due to the onset of eclampsia and our son spent nearly two weeks in the NICU after birth by cesarean.  So, my birth didn't go as planned, but one thing we did plan on and stuck to was an alternative vaccination schedule.  I remember like it was yesterday the day we walked into the NICU to see the newly born Sun and ran into the ped who said, "We are about to give him a Hep B vaccine."  I don't think so.  Did any of you read our very instructions that clearly stated, "NO vaccinations?"  Obviously not.  In fact, it was not until our son turned seven and we were planning a trip to China that we decided to vaccinate him for Hep B.

Once home from the hospital we worked out an alternate vaccination plan with our pediatrician.  She was NOT thrilled.  In fact, after two years of being in disagreement about all of our parenting choices (extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, removal of dairy due to our son's projectile vomiting and the alternate vaccination schedule) we decided to go our separate ways.  Our son by that time was nearly fully vaccinated - on our terms - with the exception of Hep B and Varicella (chicken pox).  Upon finding a new doctor, he agreed that we did not fall into any categories to necessitate the aforementioned Hep B and he believed that the chicken pox vaccine was/is completely bunk (since that time, they have realized that the Varicella only gives 4 to 6 years of immunity and have now added a second dose).  However, we decided to give our son that vaccination as well due to our trip to China.

So, why the alternative schedule?  It was around the time our son was born that the autism - vaccination correlation began to take hold.  Since then, the science behind that has been proven as incorrect but it is difficult to undue what was once done.  Why the foothold on this idea?  Why do smart, educated, well-read folks, people like my husband and I, continue to be distrustful of vaccinations?  I suspect the evidence is mostly anecdotal.  How many times have we seen friends and relatives with a crying baby who was running a fever due to that day's round of vaccinations?  I can tell you that our first pediatrician told us in no uncertain terms that vaccinations and fevers are entirely coincidental (yes, she's still practicing) and that babies who run fevers after being vaccinated surely were already sick (every one of them).    Our own son cried and ran fevers when receiving ONE vaccination.  I cannot imagine giving him a full round in one day!

What about adults?  How many people get sick after receiving a flu shot?  How many have aches and pains after receiving their own vaccinations?  I know I did.  I remember being vaccinating with the MMR before heading to college and receiving other vaccinations, like Hep B before our last trip abroad.  Knot in arm, headache, general malaise.  If this is how WE feel, what are multiple vaccinations doing to our children, our very small children, often as young as 9 months?  Going even further, do you know that the CDC has given nearly $2 BILLION in vaccine payouts?  These were the folks who reported, fought, and had the means to go to court.  How many cases are unreported?  I have friends whose children went into febrile fevers causing seizures the day of their vaccinations.  The peds response?  Not vaccination related, coincidental, etc.  In other words...not reported to the CDC.

I'm not telling you to not vaccinate your children.  In fact, just the opposite.  Vaccinate.  Do it for me.  Do it for you.  But, know the risks.  Ask for an alternate schedule.

  And, know that right now as many cry for stricter laws on vaccinations, that you are not getting the whole story. 

Below are links to a few websites that offer more information on the issues with vaccinations, such as the newest kid on the block - the HPV (Gardasil) vaccination

Huffington Post:
Breit Bart:
Judicial Watch:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Times: Imbolc

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.
(mid-17th century English poet Robert Herrick 1591-1674)

Today is Candlemas, or, as many recognize it and I have long known it - Imbolc.  It is associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid and the Christian saint - Brigit.  (Long story, but here's a link to the best online explanation if you want to know more: Wiki.)   If you have not done so, it is time to take down any remaining greenery leftover from Yule or Christmas.  Spring cleaning is a must between now and the equinox!  And, it's time to plant your seeds of intention to be harvested throughout the year.  

My journey of authenticity has long had me celebrating these ancient days associated with the sun, with planting, with the seasons - celebrations of the turning of the Earth and its profound effect on how we live our lives.  Today, in the US, the groundhog saw his shadow, predicting 6 more weeks of winter.  I always find it quite funny as we have 7 weeks of winter remaining before we are officially into spring.  Living in Tennesse, I sometimes feel we have an unfair advantage to many other parts of the Western world as we truly have four glorious seasons.  And, though I really detest winter - in that I can never be quite warm enough - I love the opportunity for introspection, the chance to slow down and hibernate, and that the Earth has time to do what it needs to do to prepare for the next season of growth.

The children and I discussed the significance of the day and after preparing a traditional feast of Shepherd's Pie (yes, I know I'm obsessed) and shortbread cookies, we lit beeswax candles and all went round the table sharing what we were grateful for.  Part of my gratitude is the garden space we created last summer which I began planning once again today.  I spent the time between putting the potatoes on to boil and taking them off to mash circling items from my seed catalog which happened to arrive today (there are no coincidences).  The notion of fresh swiss chard, ripe tomatoes and yellow squash will take me through the next few weeks until the sun begins to warm our days.  

 There are many ways to think about this time of the year.  Many faiths and traditions that recognize this time in February when we look to the light to sustain us through the cold winter months.  Regardless of how you honor it, how you utilize it, relish in the darkness while looking toward the light, plan for the planting and then the harvest, go inward and reflect while you can for soon spring will arrive and your days will once again be filled.