Basic Elderberry Syrup Recipe w/ Variations

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 – 1 cup honey
  • addition water or ice to reconstitute  water after boiling

Tools:

Procedure:

  • bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add elderberries (and any other additional ingredients that I will discuss in the variations section below)
  • cover and simmer for 30-60 min
  • strain into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer & press down on the herbs with a spoon to squeeze out all the medicinal goodness
  • re-constitute your strained liquid with water (or ice to cool it if using raw honey) until it measures 3 cups again
  • add honey and stir or shake until well combined
  • store in the fridge in a jar

How long will it stay good?

  • Approximately 1 month in the fridge.  If you don’t think you will use it up that quickly you can cut the recipe in half *or* freeze half of it right away for use later

How we use it:

  • Preventatively we try to either eat a little bit every day during the months of Sept – March (I love to add it to oatmeal, in smoothies, over pancakes, etc).  If we haven’t eaten some, I will give all the children about 1Tbsp in the evening after dinner and for those who are adults (or of adult size), I will give 1.5-2 Tbsps
  • During cold or other viral illness I will repeat the above dose up to 4 times during a day

Variations: (these are in addition to the above recipe ingredients except where noted)

  • 1tbsp sweet cinnamon chips, 1 tsp cloves – these add a nice flavor and contain their own medicinal properties
  • 1/4 cup astragalus root either in addition to *or* sub for half of the elderberries in the recipe
  • 2-4 Tbsps rose hips
  • The recipe I make most frequently includes 1/4 cup elderberries, 1/4 cup astragalus, 2 Tbsps rosehips, 1Tbsp sweet cinnamon chips, 1 Tbsp orange peel, and 1 tsp whole cloves

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A passion for organics

Eczema Itch Relief

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When I became pregnant with our current sweet little bundle, my eczema flared up in a big way (all over my forearms and legs) and I felt the need to switch from using a topical steroid, although I was only using it very sparingly, to help manage my symptoms.  First let’s talk about combatting the ITCH that comes with eczema.  I needed something that WORKED.  Half the battle with most varieties of eczema is the itch is so irresistible and scratching breaks and damages the skin further in addition the the inflammation that is already occurring.  So finding something that would tame that itching sensation was a high priority.

I made a simple salve, with shae butter, peppermint essential oil and spearmint essential oils (EOs) that I carried with me at all times during a large active flare up so when things started getting itch very quickly, I could apply a small amount and avoid further damaging my skin from scratching it.  Both peppermint & spearmint EOs have “antipruritic” properties (another name for this is “anti-itch”).  I like to blend the two, as the high menthol content of peppermint essential oil can be problematic.  (Read more about peppermint essential oil safety here).  If you’d like to explore using these EO’s for their anti-itch properties, keep in mind that a little goes a long way.  The most convenient way to test what concentration is right for you is get a small bottle with a roller top (like this one) and fill it with 1 tsp olive or other liquid oil.  Then add 1 drop each of peppermint & spearmint oil and give it a try.  This gives it an approximate 2% EO concentration, which is a lower end medicinal amount for an adult (read more about essential oil dilution HERE and HERE).

I found I personally needed a 4-6% concentration to provide the relief I needed with using the smallest amount of salve.  We also found that this worked wonders on bug bites & poison ivy rashes as well.  An added benefit is you get to smell wonderful :D.

Peppermint EO is VERY POTENT and not recommended for use on infants and young children.  Lavender EO is a good alternative for young children (you still need to dilute it!) and I am also looking into peppermint/spearmint/plantain infused oils as a safe alternative for young children suffering with eczema.

“All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison….” Paracelsus (1493-1541)

Six Years Debt Free

In 2008 we set out to get out of debt knowing it was a good thing, but not really knowing how good. The journey was intense, but it remains one of our best memories and learning experiences. If you’re not familiar with our blogging history, the precursor to “The Scott Family Adventures” was a blog called “If I Were Debt Free” in which we documented our life changing steps towards being debt free.

Six years later, a lot has changed but not our desire to live debt free. It hasn’t been easy as we have to preach to ourselves often to trust God in the tough situations.

In 2008 we did debt countdown in which we came up with (almost) 100 ideas of things to do when debt free. We hadn’t looked at the list in a while, and at first thought it would be fun to comb through and give an update on everything. But that was proving way too tedious. And we found that our priorities and desires have changed drastically in some cases. So we’ll just highlight a few of the major things.

  • 82 – Buy a House | We “bought” our first house in 2012- not quite according to our ideal preferences stated in the original post, but we are thankful for how God worked things out.
  • 77 – Pay cash for a second car | We bought our 15 passenger van with cash when our Thomas, our 6th child, was born and we outgrew the minivan. The big van was well used but it is still serving us well. We were able to pay cash for another car as well when the aforementioned minivan-turned-commuter-car was totaled after hitting a deer. Praise God it was only the van (and deer) that was injured.
  • 70 – Climb a mountain | In 2009, we climbed the West Spanish Peak in Colorado. In subsequent years, we spent several months hiking little parts of the Appalachian Trail close to home.
  • 43 – Plant a garden | We got to plant our first garden last year (2013), and we expanded it even more this year. It’s hard but rewarding work!
  • 41 – Have more kids?!?! | At the time of writing the original post we had four blessings. We have welcomed four more since, and are about to be joined by #9 early next year.
  • 34 – Get wisdom | “Dad” spent this whole year reading through Proverbs each month and it has been enriching. We’ve read together as a family as well, learning quite a bit!
  • 32 – Get the kids in some activities | This year we’ve found ourselves in a quite a few – ballet, soccer, homeschool co-op, youth group…

Today we celebrate six years of being debt free (except for the house now). We would love to hear your debt-free adventures!

What did I do wrong?

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The sky has been so grey lately.  I have felt so tired, so withdrawn, so unmotivated.  I caught myself asking “what am I doing wrong???”  UGH.  Why is that always my first assumption?  That I did, or am doing something wrong, therefore that is why life isn’t easier.  I keep having to preach the same refrain to myself…

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:2-5 ESV)

God is not surprised by my lack of motivation.  Nor the grey and rainy days.  He is not surprised that my children are not obeying me like little robots and that I will constantly have to discern the difficult line between grace and obedience when training them.  He is aware that my energy will fail me when I need it most and my body will refuse to continue on despite the fact that there are a million things that need doing.  He has overcome the world.  By his grace and his mercy, all those little things left undone will be covered over.  All these parenting failures, he will make it right in the end.  He is refining me.

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Psalm 95:7-8a)

Lord, do not let me harden my heart in my frustration.  Be my peace in the chaos.  Be my JOY in despair.  Turn these ashes into something beautiful.  Amen.

Staying Sane

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Daily rituals… we all have them.  Some are helpful.  Others?  Not so much.  I have a few daily rituals, and they’ve always been a source of comfort and calm in the midst of the moment to moment unpredictability of raising 8 (soon to be 9 *grin*) sweet children.#1. Taking the time to really enjoy my coffee.
I love the smell.  I love the warmth.  I love the creamy goodness.  I love how I perk up about 30 minutes after drinking it.  It just always hits the spot.  I drink it in the morning, and in the mid-afternoon.  I usually try to sit by myself for a moment (hard to do around here) and don’t talk for a few minutes.

#2. Turn my mind off from thinking about the things I do every day.
I do this for a few minutes before bed, usually with the help of *sudoku* puzzles.  All day long my mind is usually focused on all the things I it takes to do daily life.  Sudoku has nothing to do with any of it and it challenges me to think differently that I have been all day long.  It also helps me to go to sleep.  If I don’t change my train of thought before laying my head down on my pillow, I usually lay awake for some time with my thoughts racing about the day.

#3. Listen to my Audio Bible (thank you “YouVersion” app on my iPhone!)
Normally this would happen while I make breakfast or take my shower.  It helps me get in my general daily bible reading.  A must if at all possible!

What daily rituals do you have that help you “stay sane”?  🙂

Who Am I?

NOTE: I wrote this post some time near the end of last year (2013).  I am astounded at what the Lord has done in such a short time and am overwhelmed at his grace and mercy towards me.  There is a small update at the end.

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 ESV)


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My disorder has manifested in a strange way.  The tips of my finger are usually raw or crusted over with a “scab” as the skin underneath attempts to heal.  It takes a LOOOOOOOONG time before my finger is healed as the skin usually flares up again before it’s had a chance to heal.  At the moment I only have two fingers which have recognizable fingerprints.  When this first started happening it struck me as a scary thing to not even have fingerprints!  One of the few things that are overtly “ours” as human beings is our fingerprints; they’re unique.

Chronic illness, tragedy, and death, has a way of bringing us into an identity crisis.  How we have known ourselves has been drastically altered and we feel “lost”.  For many months going through the more trying moments of my disease, I struggled with knowing who I was.  I unknowingly found a lot of my identity and value in the things I was able to do (such as cleaning, cooking, etc).  I couldn’t do any of these things for a few months.  I could do very little for myself during this time as well.  My dear husband, who deserves a whole volume written just for him and how he has served me during this time, often had to help me get dressed and frequently help me wash my hair.  I asked the question again and again, how is it even of any benefit that I exist any more?  I prayed many time for God to please let me not wake up.

I discovered apart from Christ and his redeeming power, I didn’t have the will to live.  In the eyes of the world, who values people for their ability to produce, I was worthless.  In Jesus, my life is worth something.  Only HE can redeem this train wreck of a situation and make it something beautiful.  It doesn’t matter what I have the ability to *do* because in Christ, it is all about what he can do.  Any good that has come out of this illness has been because of what he has done and the abundant grace that he gives.  I can’t even begin to fully understand all of what he is doing, but I trust that is for my good and will be for his glory.

As I patiently wait on the Lord through this, I will turn my face to him, like the flower does towards the sunlight, and keep my eyes fixed on the glorious treasure that awaits me when this is all over.  Jesus.  Forever.
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AN UPDATE:

A picture is worth a thousand words so….

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I still have very very mild flare ups, but I have found more natural alternatives to steroid creams that have proven very effective for me.  I had a bout with skin eczema on my arms beginning at about 8 weeks into my pregnancy, but my hands have been largely ok excepting very mild flare ups when my diet is less than ideal for more than one meal in a row.  I suspect my arm eczema was due to unknown environmental factors and hormonal shifts that happen rapidly during the beginning of pregnancy, but *really* I have nothing to tie it to conclusively.  The eczema on my arms has left me with patches of lighter colored skin (which gives me a nice spotted puppy look), but has been more or less completely gone for about 6 weeks now.  You also might note the lack of wedding band – it just doesn’t fit any more 🙂 my fingers are so un-swollen, it just falls right now.  Until I get it re-sized, it’s kept in a safe place so I don’t lose it.  DaddyScott and I are doing fine lol.

Who are you calling short?

It’s a strange and wonderful thing when your children no longer just out-number you, but now we’re beginning to be out-grown!  Over this past year, J has grown at least 4 inches.  Passing me in height, which is not a particularly difficult thing to do, but he is quickly closing in on DaddyScott too.  Looking UP to my child is a very strange feeling indeed 🙂 I wonder if eventually I will be the midget in the house??  At least I will always have L, who has always been my short girl and doesn’t seem to be breaking that trend any time soon.  This is just such a good visual reminder for me… that my children will grow up.  There is no stopping it or slowing it down so we might as well enjoy it.  Love you J 🙂  Maybe you’ll be as tall as your G-pa Scott!

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