Monday, June 26, 2017

Adventures in Family Camping (Part 1)

Our only family camping history consists of a two-night trip up to Lost Lake two years ago, and we had to leave early because all three of the girls were very sick and just continued to get sicker. It had its fun moments but it was mostly we need a little redemption.

So when the life/school/work planets aligned to give us almost a month of free schedules this summer, we decided to go on a big camping trip in our new (to us) tent trailer and really see if we can make this "we're a camping family" thing happen.

I have always loved to camp but it's been pre-children. When it comes to executing a successful camping trip with small people and making sure we have all our ducks in a row, I'm a complete novice with a tendency towards disorganization and forgetfulness. Thank God for checklists.

The Tent Trailer: 

Our little tent trailer is a 2004 Tucson in great condition. My dad found it through a neighbor and we caught it before it went up on Craigslist. The trailer pops out to a full on one side and twin on the other, and the little kitchen setup has a propane stove and a hand pump sink, plus a little furnace. The canvas and upholstery is all in good shape, although I'd love to eventually cover at least the upholstery. It runs on propane, electricity, or battery. We also asked the girls to name the little trailer but we haven't come up with a suitable moniker beyond Disney princess name suggestions. Best of all, it can be towed by our Subaru Outback!

The Itinerary: 

We live in an stunningly beautiful area of the U.S.: The Pacific Northwest! Having our jumping off point of Portland makes it relatively easy to go anywhere. We have Washington and the Puget Sound area to the North, the high desert and prairie of Oregon to the East, Redwoods and abundant mountain lakes to the South, and the rugged coastline of the West.

It's been hard to pin down where we want to go (and to make sure I don't overload our itinerary as is my habit), so we picked one place to start: The Northern Cascades and Diablo Lake, which will be a first time visit for all of us.

We changed our minds and are going to brave a long road trip for Glacier National Park in Montana.

Diablo Lake photo taken by "Nein09" on Flickr CC

{This is Part 1 of our Family Camping series. Stay tuned for more as we get ready to head into the Great Outdoors.}

*Disclosure: This site and individual post contains Amazon affiliate links.* 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Easy Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is one of our winter staples and a traditional folk medicine staple in many parts of the world. And while I like to buy it from great companies, with our family of five it can get pretty spendy. So, last winter I ordered a bag of dried Elderberries and decided to try my own recipe.

It's quick and easy, and there are so many variations of recipes around the web, some with spices and some without. I'm posting the easiest, no-fuss version. Also, just a head's up, it's not thick and syrupy like store bought versions. It's definitely more of a juice consistency. I add it to a little cup and put in a tsp. of cod liver oil and they drink it down like a shot. But, I'm also stingy with my honey. Make it sweet enough and they'll be begging for more! 

Benefits of Elderberry (Sambucus) from Herb Wisdom

"Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Bioflavanoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell."

Give it a try! A bag of elderberries lasted in my freezer for one full winter and then another month into this current winter. We don't take it every day if no one is sick, but if we're fighting the sniffles or a stomach bug, we take it multiple times per day.

I purchased Organic Dried Elderberries and Dried Elderberries from Frontier Co-Op on Amazon.

Super Easy Basic Elderberry Syrup

1 cup dried elderberries (try Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups of water (or try 3 1/2 to stretch)
1 cup raw honey or to taste (I like Mickelberry Gardens or Bare Honey, both are treatment-free)
Optional: a few cloves, a chunk of ginger. 


1. Add the elderberries, water, and cinnamon stick to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. When the mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to low, partly covered, and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
3. Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a stainless mesh sieve or strainer. Press the berries into the strainer to squeeze out all the juices. The leftover berries can be composted (or I read a recipe for elderberry vinegar, etc.)
4. Let the mixture cool before adding the raw honey, or the heat will neutralize the honey's beneficial properties.
5. Pour into jar and stick in fridge, where it will last 1-3 months!

Dosage: 1/2 - 1 tsp. for kiddos, every other day seems to help. 1 Tbsp+ for the adults. If you're sick you can take it more frequently, too.

There you have it! Simple, easy, cost-effective elderberry syrup!

*(This article contains affiliate links)*

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Books on my Wish List

Last weekend I attended a training for teaching yoga to people with Post-Traumatic Stress (Disorder). It was so fascinating but also incredibly intense!

So this week, I've taken a little rejuvenation time by planting more of our vegetable garden and visiting the local nursery for some extras, like a climbing Jasmine to hopefully grow over the chain-link fence in our backyard, and some strawberry plants and a blueberry bush.

My strategy for gardening, rather than being exotic and growing things I know we won't eat (hi, beets!) is to plant a LOT of things that we eat a LOT of. Lettuce, carrots, celery, cucumbers, zucchini...also, growing things that cost more in the store, like berries. Now we have a raspberry and blueberry bush, and some strawberries. I swear, my kids can tuck away $50 worth of berries in the blink of an eye.

Andy and I had the conversation over the past few weeks of how to work more gardening and house maintenance into our daily rhythm. It's hard to add a new habit! It's also hard living in a rental, when some adjustments aren't possible. But there is a lot of small things we can do and we are trying to find the inspiration and motivation to tackle some projects.

I picked up A Wilder Life while visiting the new 2-story Anthropologie store downtown (holy overwhelm of beauty) and immediately went on my wish list.

"Like a modern-day Whole Earth CatalogA Wilder Life gives us DIY projects and old-world skills that are being reclaimed by a new generation." 

The Hands-On Home is right up my alley.

"Covering everything from cooking, canning and preserving to making your own nontoxic home and personal care products, this fresh take on modern homemaking wil help you make the most of your time, effort, and energy in the kitchen and beyond." 

And How to Be a Wildflower: A Field Guide  is just plain whimsical and adorable.

"Encouraging self-discovery through encounters with nature, beloved artist Katie Daisy brings her beautiful paintings and lettering to this collection of things to do and make, quotes, meditations, natural history, and more."

What are your favorite life/home/dream/garden books?

(PS! All book descriptions from the Amazon page, and all links are Amazon links)