Homemade Scents DIY

 

I found these recipes circulating on the internet and just had to share them with you!  Now that cooler temperatures are upon us and we’re firing up the woodstoves, a steamer pot full of rich, natural potpourri is a wonderful treat for the senses.  Scent is such a powerful connector, linking us to people, places and events and is a simple way to create a warm, inviting atmosphere in your home.  Now, if you don’t heat with wood, don’t fret!  You can always use a kettle on low heat on the back of the stove or an Aromatherapy Electric Simmering Pot.   I love these electric simmer pots because you can move them around from room to room without worrying about children and pets around an open flame—or forgetting that you had potpourri on the stove until it cooked dry, ignited and stunk for days.  Ahem.

What I really like about these recipes, aside from the fact they’re not putting toxic chemicals into the air in our home, is that you can make many of these out of kitchen scraps like citrus peel, frost-bitten herbs or fruits that have begun to go south.  AND if you’re really clever, which I know you are, you can make these shelf stable and use them as handmade gifts.  Simply dehydrate the apple and citrus slices, cranberries and herbs, toss them in a bag with the remainder of the ingredients and sprinkle with any extracts, spices or essential oils.  Seal them tightly in a pretty bag and give them as a gift with an electric simmering crock.  Can you think of a nicer gift for a teacher, bus driver, mail deliverer or secretary?

Here are some simple, non-toxic, handmade scented recipes for you!

CINNAMON APPLE:  1 sliced apple +  1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon + 1 tsp. maple or vanilla extract + 2 cups of water

MINTY CITRUS PINE:   1 sliced lime + 1 tsp. vanilla + 1 small branch of fresh pine needles + 1/4 cup fresh mint + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 cups of water

WINTER CITRUS   2 sprigs rosemary + 1/2 of sliced lemon +  1/2 sliced grapefruit + 1 tsp. vanilla  + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 cups of water

CRAN-ORANGE   1/2 cup fresh cranberries + 1 sliced orange + 1 tsp. whole cloves  +  2 cinnamon sticks + 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg + 2 cups of water

MULLED ROSEMARY  3-5 cinnamon sticks + 1 sliced orange + 1-2 sprigs of rosemary +  1 cup fresh cranberries + 1 tbsp. cloves + 2 tbsp. nutmeg + 2 cups of water

SPICED VANILLA  4-6 cinnamon sticks +  1 tsp. vanilla extract +  rind of 1 orange + 2 tbsp. cloves + 3-5 bay leaves + 2 cups of water

But don’t stop with these recipes!  Create custom scents for your house using ingredients from your kitchen!  How about Viennese cinnamon using inexpensive coffee grounds, a few cinnamon sticks, and a dash of vanilla or maple extract to 2 cups of water?  Or chocolate mint using a few tablespoons of Dutch cocoa and a dash of peppermint extract?   Or candied citrus, with orange slices, vanilla extract and Dutch cocoa powder?  Personally, I love more savory combinations such as cranberry, rosemary and bay leaves.  But anything works so long as it’s pleasing to your senses!

So tell me, what are your tricks for making your home smell amazing during the long, closed-window seasons of fall and winter?

 

Posted to SimpleLifeMom Homestead Blog Hop

A Hard Nut To Crack

As I talked about in the post last week, black walnuts are in season and abundant this year!   At our last home, we had access to just a few black walnut trees on a neighboring property.  Now we’re on a property with dozens and dozens and dozens of black walnut trees, with thousands of walnuts laying in the driveway rotting and dead spots all over the front yard from the tannin in the husks.  This year we decided we needed to figure out SOME way to make use of those nuts to prevent both waste and a big mess, but as you know, black walnuts are difficult to both clean and crack.  But I think we hit upon a few good ideas this year, both for the cleaning and the cracking.  All you’ll need is a cage/trap/perforated metal containment of some sort and a power washer.

We gathered about 15-5 gallon buckets of really grossly-ripe walnuts from the front yard and dumped them 1 bucket at a time into an old live trap.  It was clean, don’t fret about it.

My darling husband set the power washer to the strongest spray setting and turned it on the walnuts, rolling the cage from front to back every minute or two to ensure all the nuts were receiving the full brunt of the spray.  (Pardon the blurry picture…there was gunky overspray splattering everywhere!)

 

 

After approximately 5 minutes of power washing, the nuts were clean and we spread them on a sheet to dry in the grass.

 

 

So step 1, the cleaning, is done.  Now onto step 2, which is far more difficult.  For the past 14 years, I’ve tried numerous methods for cracking black walnuts.  I’ve tried the small handheld versions you find at Walmart and broke about 3 of them.  Tried a mallet.  Tried a brick.  Used a vise.  Ran over them with my Jeep.   Some of the methods worked, some of them failed miserably, most of them resulted in mangled black walnuts with glass-like shards of walnut shell crushing the meat that had to be picked out in miniscule bits.  Yes, it IS that hard to crack a walnut shell.  I seriously don’t know how the squirrels do it.  This year, my husband decided it was time to take the plunge and invest in a quality nutcracker to harvest all those expensive nuts!  And oh did he find a good one!  We love the Master Cracker for Black & English Walnut, Plus Filbert Nut/hazelnut, Pecan, Macadamia, Chestnut- American Made!

If you’ve ever tried to crack black walnuts, you KNOW how difficult the process is but this cracker is so easy to use, my sweet Petunia did it one-handed without breaking a sweat.

So here are some of the features that we like.

  1. The grip is rubber-coated, so it’s comfortable to use, even after a hundred walnuts.  It’s also easy to wipe clean.
  2. It has a large wooden base, approximately 5X20 inches, so you have a very secure surface to work on that won’t slip and slide around.  I love that I don’t have to clamp this to a countertop or bolt it to a work table.
  3. It has interchangeable cracker cups, so you can crack small nuts like hazelnuts right up to large, tough black walnuts.  There is literally no nut you can’t crack with this cracker.  Except a coconut, possibly.
  4. It has a heavy spring so the lever-action feels very secure.  There’s no slop or play in the handle, is what I’m saying.
  5. The ratcheting action of the handle allows it to crack even the hardest nuts with almost no force required.  A child can use this cracker with no problem.
  6. It’s American-made.  Love that!  Apparently there’s a very similar Chinese-made product that costs far less…but as with most things,  you get what you pay for.  Check on youtube for a side-by-side comparison and you’ll see what I mean.

I think my only “complaint” is that I wish the base had a more durable finish for cleaning up afterwards.  It appears to have a rubbed-oil finish, but a gloss would make it easier to wipe up any black walnut mess!  Not that that interferes with the function of the cracker, just saying.

Now I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not cheap.  This model runs over $100, but given the price of black walnuts at the grocery and the fact we have thousands of them wasting in the front yard, it was a sensible purchase for my family.  This cracker will most likely pay for itself in just a year or two, especially given how much I love black walnuts!

I don’t do product reviews often, and when I do, it’s only for products that really work well and save me time and labor.  This cracker does both, so I’m very comfortable recommending it for those of you looking!  Til next time!

 

Posted to SimpleLifeMom Homestead Blog Hop.

Home Warming – Or – Hygga For Beginners

 

Home warming has taken on an urgency for me of late.  As I’ve said before, I am no fan of winter.  I don’t like wind and snow.  I don’t like cold body parts.  I don’t like the 14+ hours of darkness and having to wear a dozen layers of clothing just to walk to the mailbox.  I’m a total summertime, heat-loving southern girl and about this time of the year, I can feel the dread building.  I wouldn’t call it depression necessarily, but a “funk” is quite apropos, I think.  I become sluggish, perhaps a little withdrawn and melancholy.  So the last year or two, I’ve put extra effort into creating an environment to lift the funk and enjoy the season; the Scandinavians would call it hygga, our grandmas would call it home warming.   Both people groups would call it creating an atmosphere of welcome and coziness, of little luxuries and creature comforts, of warmth, kinship and familiarity.

In times before central heating, electric lights and 24/7 communication, home warming/hygga was necessary for survival, both physical and mental.  We needed the season of rest, the tactile warmth, the small comforts and the togetherness to survive and thrive during those long winter months.  Unfortunately, our culture has rejected the psychological benefits of slowing down and gathering in…and it shows, my friends.  Up to 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of SAD (winter blues) marked by decreased energy, lack of concentration, lack of interest in friends, family or activities.  Many turn to light therapy to treat SAD, and I think that’s great, but there’s still the psychological angle that we’re missing.   That coziness of home and family creates a sense of well-being that we still desperately need, maybe now more than ever!

So what are the steps we can take to begin home warming and make the coming cold, dark season one of blessings instead of burdens?

Home warming at its best!

  • Light a fire.  There is simply nothing that creates coziness in a room and draws people together like a crackling fireplace.  A natural wood fire is obviously the best choice, but even a gas or electric fireplace can create a similar effect.  Pull a chair close, add a thick throw and a warm mug of tea and that’s absolute bliss right there.
  • Use candles, flameless candles or lanterns.  Overhead, task lighting has it’s purposes, but there’s nothing like those little pools of warm, flickering light!  Coupled with warm fragrances, candlelight creates a literal “light in a dark place” that we are instinctively drawn to.  Think of Christmastime when there are no lights on in the room except for the lights on the tree.  That’s hygga at it’s best.
  • Add scents.  Nothing fake and perfume-y, thank you very much, but perhaps simmering spices in the steamer pot on the woodstove, boughs of pine or rosemary to toss into the fire, honey-scented beeswax candles.  Fragrance is a powerful connector that shouldn’t be overlooked!
  • Incorporate texture.  This one is huge for me!  Think of those traditional, cozy fibers and fabrics and incorporate them into every aspect of your life.  Warm angora sweaters, comfortable fleece-lined hoodies and leggings, thick wool slippers, downy comforters, flannel sheets, faux fur, thick knit throws, Sherpa coats, felted wool mittens.   Even on a modest budget, with some savvy shopping, you can incorporate plush textures, comfortable fabrics and warm fibers into every room and closet.
  • Bring the outdoors in.  Decorate with pinecones, evergreen boughs, chipwood baskets full of kindling for the fire, dried flowers and leaves in a wreath, a small stack of logs by the fireplace.  All these elements will help you feel connected with the outdoors even when it’s too cold to go outside.
  • Mindful indulgence.  This is a tough one for most Americans.  Our pendulum tends to swing from one extreme to another; from absolute deprivation to complete abandonment.  I think home warming/hygga during the cold and dark of winter calls for measures of indulgence that warm both body and soul, but those measures should be balanced with thoughtfulness and self-control.  Think small portions of excellent quality chocolate (no Hershey bars allowed!). REAL hot cocoa topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of red pepper.  Buttered tea sweetened with a teaspoon of honey.  Freshly popped kettle popcorn.  Mulled cider or wine.  A slice of warm pie.  A cookie fresh from the oven.  Savor the experience!
  • Enjoy simple, wholesome food.   Close on the heels of mindful indulgence is the need for basic, warm food.  Nothing warms body and soul during wintertime like a pot of bubbling stew, a warm loaf of bread,  a roasted chicken with root veggies or a hearty, cheesy casserole.  Keep it simple, my friends!  We don’t need complicated recipes and elaborate presentations to make a meal that nourishes our family and friends!
  • Relax with favorite activities.  Put down your hand-helds, America, and pull out a board game, a puzzle, a favorite book, cuddle under a blanket, watch a family movie or do a craft.  It’s no waste of time to slow your body, settle your mind and de-stress.  While we can’t hibernate (Oh I wish!), we can set time aside to rest and enjoy ourselves.
  • Spend quality time with family and friends.  I’m not talking about throwing elaborate dinner parties; just gather around the fire, enjoy a meal together, tell stories, play games.  Be with people that make you feel content, loved and connected.
  • Go outside.  Ugh.  I don’t like this one smidgen, but it IS beneficial to bundle up and get some fresh air.  (At least that’s what I tell the kids after we’ve been snowed in together for 5 days and I’m about to come totally unhinged.) Take a walk, play in the snow, ride your bike or just take a car ride to see the scenery.  Nothing will make you appreciate a warm hearth, cozy slippers and a steaming mug of cocoa like freezing your fanny off outside. 

I don’t know what the Old Farmer’s have predicted for this year, but I’ve already begun the process of home warming for winter.

The heavy blankets are coming out of storage to be aired, yarn is being knitted or crocheted into hats and scarves, firewood is being stacked and the pantry stocked with small indulgences like quality teas, chocolates and coffees.   While I can’t control the arrival of the season, the length of the day or the bracing temperatures, I can control my response.  When the {{{brr shiver shiver}}} arrives, I plan to greet it like an old friend and enjoy it’s company for a short season and I hope you will too.  Til next time–

Decorating For Autumn

We’ve talked about some pretty meaty topics here in the past couple months; topics such as emergency preparedness, stocking a deep larder for the hard times and food preservation in all forms.  Today, let’s lighten things up a bit and talk about decorating for autumn.  Decorating our homes is an important activity and I’ll tell you why:  we don’t decorate our homes just to make them look a certain way,  we decorate our homes to make them FEEL a certain way.  The way our homes “feel” affects our emotions, our stress levels and even the way we connect with people in our family.

Think I’m over-stating the matter?  How does a cluttered room, particularly loud colors or overly-strong fragrances make you feel?  Anxious?  Agitated?  Stressed? Smothered?  Now, how about a tidy room painted a soothing shade with a warm inviting fragrance and seasonal elements?  See what I mean?  The object of seasonal decorating is to prepare our minds, bodies and souls for the season in front of us and to provide a respite from the season behind us.  The way open windows in early spring lift our spirits, so does a cozy fire, warm mulled cider and a football game in autumn.

Let’s decorate for autumn using our 5 senses as a guide!

Sight:   Warm fall colors, flickering candles, natural elements and rich fabrics are an inviting, calming presence in a home after the hazy days of summer.  Add throw pillows in shades of ochre, eggplant and pumpkin to the sofa.  Decorate the mantle and dinner table with dried autumn leaves, mini pumpkins, pine cones, sunflowers and acorns.  Set beeswax candles and electric carriage lanterns in quiet corners to invite people to sit and linger in their glowing pools of light.  Here’s the one I’ve been using for years and never seem to tire of:Electric carriage lanterns make decorating for autumn simple!

Candle Warmers Etc. Carriage Candle Warmer Lantern, Black And don’t neglect the outdoors!  Adorn the porch with shocks of corn, hay bales, mums, gourds, burlap ribbon and Jack-o-lanterns.  Though it’s a little more difficult, the outdoors should look just as warm and welcoming as the indoors.

Touch – It’s time to begin swapping out the lightweight cotton items for cozier fall ones.  Bring out the down comforters, fluffy pillows, thick area rugs, heavy drapes, festive tablecloths and runners.  Unless you have allergies, go for natural fibers such as angora and wool in traditional patterns like thick cable knits and plaids.  With the advent of central heating, we don’t necessarily need those items for physical warmth, but nothing speaks of emotional and familial warmth and comfort like those textiles.  Top it all off with a toasty fire for total bliss.

Sound  – I don’t know about your house, but in my house autumn means football season and a constant barrage of THE Ohio State University fight song lol.  But seriously, if you have cable or satellite TV, check out the XM radio and find some seasonal music.  Or classics.  Or movie scores.  It doesn’t matter, just put away the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet for a season, alright?

Smell – Fall is all about fragrances for me.  Throw some cinnamon and fragrant spices, vanilla beans and apple peels in a steamer pot on the woodstove.  Add an oak log to the fireplace.  Use a wax warmer to melt spicy scented wax.  Bake a loaf of bread, cookies or a cake to get that amazing scent all through the home.  Use fragrance to recreate those smells from your childhood and favorite holidays.

Taste –  Put away the sweet tea pitcher and tall glasses (gasp!) and set up a drink station in the corner of the kitchen or dining room with a Keurig, heavy mugs, a canister of homemade cocoa mix, quality teas and coffees and maybe a tin of biscotti.  It’s welcoming and convenient for guests and family alike to find everything they need for a soothing cup of something warm, all in one spot.  It will also prove to be the spot where people linger, I guarantee it!  Add some fall flavor with some pumpkin spice creamer and throw in a few mini pumpkins for color.

For me, autumn feels like a coming home.  After the frantic months of spring and summer, with it’s vacations, gardening, canning, late nights and no routines, Fall is a welcome respite and I want my home to reflect that fact.  Tell me how you decorate in fall to welcome the change of season….til next time.