The Bluestocking @ Home

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Winter Care | Elderberry Syrup

It’s that time of year again! Time to replenish our stock of Elderberry syrup. Seasonal threats are looming and aside from our regular essential oil protocols, we soothe sore throats, coughs, and boost our immune systems with this luscious, silky, maroon elixir! Every year I recommend it to friends, sometimes to strangers even, and every year I get asked for the recipe so I thought it was a good time to share it here … finally!

I’ve been making this recipe for nine years. I found myself spending a small fortune on store bought Elderberry syrup which would disappear before our eyes when shared among the three of us (at that time). Additionally, nine years ago Elderberry syrup wasn’t as readily available locally to me and the nearest natural food store was a good 45 minute drive from us, which made replenishing our supply tricky.

It dawned on me that surely there could be a way to make my own Elderberry syrup at home, so I researched and googled and found a great tutorial from Mountain Rose Herbs, gathered supplies and dove in! We haven’t look back since and my kids have grown up with this remedy, asking for it regularly and getting excited when they see me pulling out all the ingredients.

Nowadays you can order organic Elderberries from Amazon and other retailers such as Mountain Rose Herbs easily. The other ingredients are also fairly simple to source, and I buy mine in bulk and keep my pantry stocked with them. Cloves, cinnamon sticks, and honey are always in the pantry. And fresh ginger is easy to pick up at most grocery stores.

Below is my personal recipe that is a large batch. It will yield four (4) cups of syrup. You can always half the recipe to match your specific needs.

Ingredients:

1 cup dried organic Elderberries

2 cinnamon sticks

10 cloves

2 Tbs grated fresh Ginger

2 cup honey (raw & local ideally, but use what you have or can get)

4 cups of water

Directions:

In a medium sized saucepan, combine Elderberries, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer on medium heat for about five minutes. Turn down heat, cover and allow to simmer until liquid is reduced by half. About 15-20 minutes. But keep an eye on it to ensure you don’t lose too much liquid. If that should happen though, simply add more water and allow time to reduce again.

Once you have your reduction. Strain over a measuring cup or bowl. I strain mine into a 4 cup measuring cup and that way I know I have the two (2) cups of liquid that I need. Really strain and squeeze out the liquid out of those Elderberries! Don’t let any of that goodness go to waste! You are only using the strained liquid for this syrup.

Add the two (2) cups of honey to your strained Elderberry reduction. Slowly stir to combine. Transfer to a jar or bottle for easy use. Allow syrup to cool and then store in refrigerator.

Shelf life is quite long, or it has been at our house. Since I store it in the fridge we have used ours for several months without any trouble, but if you would like to use yours faster then a smaller batch might work well for you.

Notes:

As soon as the syrup is made and while it is still warm, everyone in our family takes a dose. The warmth of the syrup soothes throats.

Regular “dosing” is about a tablespoon per person as needed.

Children under the age of 1 should NOT consume honey. However an alternative would be to use maple syrup or even a corn syrup as a substitute. You can reserve some liquid from the original reduction and mix with maple syrup or corn syrup instead.

Obviously, Elderberry syrup or this recipe is not meant to treat or cure disease. I am not a doctor. But I know that when my family isn’t feeling well due to colds or other respiratory illness, we find a warming comfort and soothing of symptoms when adding Elderberry syrup to our winter self care routines.

Nourishing our bodies with real foods has made such a difference in our home. We still get caught by illnesses here and there, but being able to reach for natural remedies that support our immune system makes all the difference.

There has also always been something very soothing for me, as someone who finds such peace and calm in the kitchen, to be able to continue traditions like these in my own family and feel empowered by the knowledge of old recipes that in their own way also nourish the soul.

Happy Winter dear friends! Stay warm!

Warmly and With Love,

Magdalena

P.S. Here is the original Mountain Rose Herbs video that I got my start with!

Mountain Rose Herbs Elderberry Tutorial

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Snow Day!

Snow Days, real honest to goodness snow days, with heaps of snow and air so cold you can see your breath, and most of the city shut down (perhaps even most of the State in our case) don’t happen here often.  So when they do, we celebrate them!  And take lots of photos.  In fact, when we weren’t playing outside ourselves, we were relishing and soaking in the photos of all of our friends and loved ones also playing in the snow around town and around Texas.  And indeed, in all the other parts of the South where snow comes knocking only occasionally and is thus met with shouts of rejoicing and the clamoring of children to throw on their coats and boots and hats as quickly as possible at the risk of missing their chance to build snowmen and throw snowballs.

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Snow in Texas has been on the wishlist of probably half the children I know for months and today a good number of them got their wish.  Our two munchkins were no exception!  The anticipation of the snow kept everyone awake way past any decent bedtime, so I let them sleep in and spent some time on my own quietly relishing the beauty of freshly fallen snow on a January morning.  It was absolutely what a snow loving, Texas dwelling Northerner needed today!

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And with this deep arctic chill that we seem to be caught in this year, for the first time that I can remember in my nearly thirteen years in Texas, the snow did not melt away by noon or end of day!  The mercury was decidedly set on not rising above freezing all day and it’s no exaggeration to say, baby it’s cold outside, with temperatures hovering at the 15F (-12C) mark!  Brrrr!!

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This snow day has now manifest into a second “snow day.”  Though without more snow accumulation, it is simply a chance for Texans to let the mess on the streets clear.  With weather events like this one coming rarely, we lack the proper infrastructure for clearing roads like they do in other parts of the country where snow and ice are dealt with swiftly and cold temperatures are no excuse for missing school or work.

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And maybe that’s why we love our snow days so much, because they allow us the room to pause, to play, to relish and soak in the beauty of it all while we can … because believe me by February we will all be plotting out our Spring gardens and no doubt,  back in flipflops and shorts.  Just kidding, there will likely be shorts as of the weekend, short sleeves at the very least!

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In the meantime, snuggle up friends, stay warm, drink hot chocolate or warm tea, eat warm soup or chili or chowder or stew, read good books, play games and cherish the moment!

Warmly,

Magdalena

 


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On Seasons

The winds are changing here.  More and more mornings greet us with cooler temperatures, carried in on ever-so-slightly brisk winds.  I have watched these past few weeks in awe as the leaves  have gracefully changed colour;  reds and oranges and yellows inched their way onto a new tree, spreading through our landscape with subtlety but also in such an intentional way.  And the sight of leaves ever so gracefully and peacefully floating and swirling from their tree tops to the ground has become an elegant dance that calls and beckons us to come outside and play.

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Autumn at Caddo Lake ~ Texas

Last week, the change in colours was brilliant, though fleeting!  On a Monday the reds were so fiery and yellows glowed with an intensity reminiscent of burning bushes and there was a holiness in it, and how could it not take your breath away?   Every day that week, I wanted to soak myself in the moment.  We drove around with only scenery in mind and just took it all in.  A mere seven days later,  many of these same trees stand bare, leaves scattered at their base like fallen ashes.  Yellows have turned deeper orange and then brown, and are beginning their descent as well, as wintry winds begin to weave through the branches, as though sweeping away the last remnants of a lovely party that must, alas, come to an end.

And now we feel ourselves drawn inward again, huddled by cozy fires and comforted by the warmth of hearty meals bubbling on stoves.  And so we nest.

The bustling nature of modernity has perhaps somewhat blurred our connection to nature and her rhythms.  So often we are rushing ahead to the next moment that we hardly have time for pause and reflection.  We live in an age where it is possible to be connected to literally everything we could think of with a few swipes and taps of our fingers, our technology a form of wizardry in its own right.  We can stand in the middle of nowhere and still be connected to millions of other people, accessing information from all corners of the world, privy to the thoughts, ideas and ramblings of people in places we have never heard of or seen.  I don’t deny the lure and the comfort in finding the world a smaller place than it sometimes seems.  I have so often found solace in knowing that I am not alone in my thoughts, my joys or my struggles.

And yet, there is the yearning for balance.  Too much of one season is never a good thing.  Anyone who has ever lived through a long and fierce winter can attest to that! Though similarly, anyone who has experienced a seemingly never-ending scorching summer where the heat refuses to break understands the yearning for cool autumn days!

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Autumn at Caddo Lake ~ Texas

But we all have seasons in our own lives don’t we? We have our very own Summers and Winters, Springs and Autumns.  Our very own ebbs and flows, even though sometimes it is hard to place your finger on it.  Others times, we know and can distinctly sense the difference in our own season to not only the season outside, but to the seasons of those around us.

There are seasons in our lives that buzz with activity and growth; living them, we feel full of energy and excitement, chasing dreams and passions is what we hunger for, our personal Spring.  Our Summers bring feelings of pleasure and relaxation and a yearning to soak in the gifts of beauty around us.  Our Autumns refreshing us with their brisk winds, reward us with the harvest and bounty of the hard work of the previous seasons.  And our Winters, our own personal dormancy.

Sometimes Winter feels like the end.  For many people winter is the dreaded season.  I love winter.  I cherish the quiet and the insular.  For me it is a time for reflection and for renewing strength.  Would it be possible to burst forth in Spring without the quiet moments of Winter?

Sometimes Winter does mean loss.  Having suffered through my own dark and quiet moments of mourning, perhaps nothing is harder than feeling alone in a season of Winter when others are joyfully celebrating Spring and new beginnings.  But in that there is a lesson too.  The realization that there is in fact, a time for everything under the sun.  And Winter cannot last forever, ultimately we all must come out of it.  Even the longest, darkest and coldest of winters eventually gives way to that first spring bud or that brave blue crocus that has the tenacity to poke its head out from under a blanket of snow and stand as a beacon of hope reassuring us that a new beginning is not far off.

Sometimes, our seasons last years and perhaps that is why we do not always recognize them as such, but whether they be short or long they are part of our journey.  Our journey of constant renewal and change.  Nature’s seasons are always about forward motion; one leg of the journey giving way to the next.  And no matter how dark things get, how hard the storm rages, in time the sun shines again, in time a new balance is found.  It may not be the same balance as before but it is nevertheless a balance.

As winter inches (or in some places plows) her way towards us now we feel her sting, but we are also given a chance to cocoon ourselves for a short while.  And although life around me seems to be bursting with activity and excitement, I am also yearning for a time of reflection and quiet.

Our universe is filled with these archetypal metaphors of rhythm, of seasons and change, of life and death.  The rhythm of expansion and contraction is always present.  And with it, the reminder that even when things are contracting they will eventually expand again.

As for me, I look forward to a little self-induced cocooning.  I am craving colder night and crisp mornings, of more time spent curled up with good books and scribbling away in journals, of crackling fireplaces and hot apple cider, of rosy cheeks flushed from outdoor play, of the stillness of the woods as nature slumbers and the brightness of the stars as they somehow seem brighter in these winter months.

I hope that wherever you are and whatever season in life you are in that balance, joy and hope find you.  If you are basking in the excitement of Spring and Summer, may your adventures fill your reserves and take you to places that you never imagined.  And if you are contracting and turning inwards to the quiet days of Autumn and Winter, may you find wisdom and peace in the gentle solitude of those days.

And if you find yourself in a Winter not of your own choosing, I pray that hope finds you.  I pray that wounds have time to heal and that your spirit finds renewed strength.  That even in the darkest, coldest moments, the promise of Spring remains that twinkling, glimmering light that beckons you forward.   Spring will come again, birds will sing their joyful songs and the trees will once again come alive bursting with life.