How I Decorate My Home and A Link

I have always enjoyed decorating my home for the seasons and I’ve used whatever I had on hand.  I sometimes pick up stuff at Goodwill or the Dollar Tree for decorating too but I change it around a lot to suit me.

Recently I found a lady and her business right after my own heart!  Her name is Barbara and her site is The Shabby Tree.  I follow her on Facebook and Instagram.  The Shabby Tree is a boutique store but I follow Barbara because she has a new video every day with tips, ideas and how-tos. She has great ideas for decorating and they’re budget-wise. And she seems to be just the sweetest, friendliest lady!

Check her out!  She was the inspiration for me to use my silver platter for this arrangement today:

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Collard Greens

I think I was about 20 years old before I ever ate collard greens. We just didn’t have them when I was growing up, though my Mother said her mother cooked them. I think my Dad didn’t like them and that explains that!


Like all greens you have to wash collards really well before cooking them or you’ll end up with grit in your teeth. I wash each leaf and break off the biggest tough parts of the stems. I do leave in some of the smaller stems.

I’ve cooked collards for many years now and it’s amazing all the different ways people have of seasoning them. I’ve settled on using a piece of smoked pork, red pepper flakes, a pinch of sugar, minced garlic, salt, pepper and sliced onions. Now, we have a vegetarian in the family so I always cook a small pot of collards with no meat, they’re good, too.

The thing about collards is that you need to let them cook a LONG time to really bring out the taste. So, I put everything in a big crockpot and let it cook on low overnight. When I know I will be here all day I cook them in a pot on the stove, adding water as needed.

To cook collards:

Pick over each leaf, tearing out any imperfect places and breaking off large, woody stems.
Wash each leaf well.
Chop the leaves into bite sized pieces and place them in a big pot.
Add enough water to fill the pot about 2/3 full, don’t worry about covering all the leaves, they will cook and shrink, or “cook down” eventually.
You can add water if needed later.
Add all the seasonings to the pot of collards.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow collards to cook for several hours until they are very tender and flavored with the seasonings. Don’t be surprised if this takes 4-6 hours.
Serve with cornbread!

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Elderberry Syrup Time!

The Elderberries are ripe and we’ve been picking them. Here’s my Elderberry syrup recipe. I’ve included the spices that I’ve been using in my Elderberry Syrup for a few years now.  We like it a lot!  In fact, I could just drink it, it’s that good.

A few years ago I learned about the usefulness of elderberry syrup to fight off viruses. I learned about it while my husband was doing research for his 19th century doctor impression that he does when we reenact. I have a feeling that I got sick this winter because I had not been taking it. It is a preventative mainly, but you can take it if you get sick too, to help you get better more quickly.

Some of the scientifically documented benefits of elderberries that I have read about:
*Boosts the immune system
*Contains 3 types of flavonoids. Flavonoids help the body to fight at least 8 kinds of flu viruses.
*Stops the production of hormone-like cytokines that cause inflammation.
*Reduces excessive sinus mucus secretion.
*Some studies indicate that they reduce swelling of mucous membranes and improve sinus drainage by decreasing nasal congestion.

I’ve been making elderberry syrup ever since I first read about it. Here is how I make it and how we use it. I am not recommending that you use it. You will need to do your own research about elderberries and determine if it is something you want to use for your family. And if you are pregnant or nursing, please consult your doctor or health care provider before you use elderberries.

You need to cook those berries!

Its also very important to use completely ripe elderberries, don’t use pieces of stems or leaves and to cook the berries and juice before using it in syrup or in tinctures. Although enzymes and probiotics are retained if you do not cook the berries and liquid, its not very safe to use raw elderberry juice in your syrups and tinctures.  Unripe or uncooked berries can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, weakness dizziness and  numbness.  You can see why it is especially important to cook the berries and juice before using it with children.  


Elderberries grow all over the place around Tennessee back roads and the edges of fields. We find lots of it at my mother-in-law’s farm and quite a bit more along country roadsides. Elderberry blooms in May and sets fruit in June. You want to pick ripe berries to make the syrup.

Don’t bother picking individual berries. Just cut off the whole stem of berries and place each bunch into a plastic bag. If you pick first thing in the morning, you won’t need to wash them, I don’t recommend washing them anyway. You can keep them stored for months and months before using them.

When you get them home, tie up the bag and pop the whole thing into the freezer until you are ready to make your syrup. I usually have to pick at least three times to get enough berries to make syrup.

Some people dry the berries and use them for syrup. I don’t go to that trouble, I make the syrup from fresh berries. Here are the proportions of berries, water and sweetener you need and the basic instructions.

1 3/4  cup fresh berries
3 cups fresh, preferably filtered, water
2/3 cup sucanat OR 1 cup honey. I use honey.

If you want to include the spices in your syrup, here they are, but they are optional:
1 teaspoon of peeled, grated ginger
1 4-5 inch long cinnamon stick
4-6 whole cloves (to your taste)

 

Combine berries, sweetener, spices if using, and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer about 20 minutes or until the concoction is reduced by about half.
Check to see if it is thick enough for you by taking a tiny amount of the liquid on a cold metal spoon. Blow on the liquid and then tilt the spoon to see if the liquid is thick and runs off the spoon slowly.
Strain out the berries and solid matter, and press the berries as you strain, to extract all the juice. Let the syrup cool and then bottle it. I use mason jars and corked bottles. It will keep in the frig almost indefinitely, but I make it fresh every summer. You can even store it in the freezer!

If you’ve missed the berries this year, mark the plants with a ribbon or piece of cloth so you can find them next year. Let your tag stay there all year so you can use the blossoms if you want to. They are hard to see once they make berries so leave your tag on as long as possible.

It’s not an exact science, and you will probably get a different concentration each time you make it. Practice will tell you how long to cook it and how much to take each day. I don’t think you can over-do it dosage wise, it is very mild, but of course you will want to do your own research and find out all you can before making elderberry syrup.

All the adults in our house take 1 tablespoon per day. The children anywhere from 1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons. When ill with a flu-like virus, an adult can take a tablespoon three or four times a day. This is just what we do, you will need to do research to find dosages that are right for your family.

 

To can this syrup:

Add 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice per half pint of syrup.
Cover with hot lids and rings, water bath can for 15 minutes.

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A Fresh Perspective

 

 

 

He is your friend who pushes you nearer to God. – Abraham Kuyper

 

God has recently given me a friend.  I have several friends, some even close friends.  But this woman is different, she pushes me relentlessly toward God. And she probably doesn’t even know she does. Immediately I knew that she was a kindred spirit. Those don’t come around really often at least not for me.

And to top it off, she is almost 30 years younger than I am.

Age really doesn’t matter when the LORD sends you a friend. She tells me I’m wise but every time we have a Bible study or just talk about God I am the one who learns SO much.

I think times of refreshing can come in the form of someone to walk beside you, even for a short time, and through whom the Lord breathes new life into a weary, dry mind.

Real friendship in the Lord is quite a gift.

Another thing that has happened lately is I’ve been listening to new preaching.  I needed this new, fresh perspective. Not that this preacher is any better than others I’ve heard but he does bring me a new way of looking at the Word. And I’ve received in his teachings a challenge to study and dig deep in the Word which I’ve missed for a while.

These are true blessings from God. People brought to my life to encourage, teach and refresh.  I didn’t even know how low I’d been for a long time but I had prayed and God answered.

 

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Things I Would Tell the Young Me

You’ve seen lists like this.  But have you ever really put thought into making one yourself?  It has been really tough for me to do it but here is my list.  What is your list of five things you’d tell a young YOU?  Here is my list …….

  1. Your mom and dad would argue and fight even if if you weren’t there. Don’t take it personally. It’s not your marriage, not your fault, not your decisions. Focus on being you, being good and true.
  2. Choose your friends very wisely. It may mean that you don’t have many friends, but the ones you have will be the keepers.
  3. When you go to college, major in music if you want to. don’t allow anyone to persuade you to major in something you’re not in love with. There will be people who say all sorts of discouraging things to you, push ahead.
  4. Stay in college, don’t quit even for a little while. Don’t quit for anything. You’ll get finished even though the math is hard. Then, you’ll be able to choose what you want to do in life and you won’t feel like you’ve done things out of order.
  5. Everyone in Church isn’t a Christian. Everyone in Church doesn’t deserve your friendship. You’ve always been a person who respects others but you don’t have to allow people to speak into your life who don’t deserve that honor. Back away from them. Seek out truly godly people to learn from.

What’s your list?

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Ginger Tea For A Cold

Its cold and flu season again.  This is a tea that I drink all winter and its been on my website a very long time… except that in this version, I add some cayenne pepper to help your immune system fight those viruses. Plus, it just tastes good!

 

 

 

 

GINGER TEA
…this will warm up the frostiest person in your family, and it’s great for those who are ailing.

4 cups water
2 oz fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
5 whole cloves
Juice of one lemon

Bring all to a boil, simmer for 2-3 minutes. Strain into cups and sweeten as desired with honey or stevia preferably but go easy on the sugar, its not so good for your immune system.

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Candied Orange Peel

Right after Christmas, when we have lots of citrus on hand, I start making candied orange peel. Its an old fashioned candy that folks used to make to keep from wasting the peel.  I like just plain orange peel, I know its not a taste everyone likes though. The sugar makes it palatable for everyone.

The best kind of oranges to use for this are thin skinned ones. You CAN use naval oranges but you’ll have lots of pith to remove before you can candy the peel. Its just easier and I think the thin skin is better tasting anyway.

It doesn’t matter how much peel you have, you’ll be cooking it in the same amount of syrup. But you can save the syrup from batch to batch and just add sugar and water to it as you need.

Its best to use organic oranges for this too, but back in the day before we had organic stuff, I just used regular oranges and washed them before I set them out in a bowl for everyone to eat.
Also, it doesn’t matter how shaggy the peels are but if you want nice even pieces of candied peel you’ll want to cut and quarter the oranges as you peel them. Store the peels in a bowl in the kitchen til you have all you want to make the candy.

First, put 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan. Bring it to a boil and then drop all the orange peel in it. Boil for 10 minutes.

At this point if your peel has lots of white pith on it, you’ll want to take the peel out of the syrup and use a spoon to scrape off a lot of the pith. The more you scrape off, the stiffer and harder the finished candy will be. I like it kind of chewy so I leave the pith on when using thin skinned oranges and I don’t scrape it all off of the peel of naval or Florida oranges either.

Return the oranges to the syrup and bring back to a boil for 10 minutes. If you didn’t scrape pith, just leave the orange peels in the syrup and let it boil another 10 minutes.

Now take the peel out of the syrup draining it as best you can while reserving the syrup if you want to use it again, and let the peels drain. I use a small colander.

Next put about 2 cups of sugar in a large plate ( I use pure cane sugar) and piece by piece press the boiled peel into the sugar. Some people even use a rolling pin to press the sugar into the peel. I just use the back of a spoon.

Next you can cut your sugared peel into strips and lay it on parchment paper or a wire cooling rack to dry. I have even dried it in a dehydrator on about 110*F for a couple of hours, works great. When the strips or pieces are no longer wet and are sort of firm, they’re ready.

Store dried candied peel in glass jars, tightly covered. It will last a long time on the shelf if it is really dry, but I like to freeze it to have on hand for months.

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Welsh Cakes

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If you like candied fruit and spicy baked goods, you’ll like these old-fashioned cookies.
Welsh Cakes are like scones but spicier and thinner. These are some of my favorite cookies and I only make them at Christmas. They go really well with a bold tea like Welsh Breakfast, Scottish Breakfast or English Breakfast.

 

 

2 cups flour
1/2 level tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp) butter
1/3 cup caster sugar (superfine granulated)
1/2 level tsp Mixed Spice (All Spice / Pumpkin pie spice) (optional)
1/2 cup or about 2 oz candied peel. I used what I had left over from fruit cake making.
1 egg, beaten
Cream to blend…. you really do need to use cream in this.

1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl.
2. Cut the butter into the flour mixture. Add the peel.
3. Stir in the egg, then add enough cream to make a firm dough.
4. Roll out the dough to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick, cut it in to 3 inch rounds

Traditionally, you would cook them on a hot buttered griddle iron or in a heavy frying pan for about 10 minutes, turning when the underside is brown. However, I baked them in a 350* F oven on a stone until they were lightly browned.
Serve warm with butter and honey. Makes about 10

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