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

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–

Practicing Biblical Hospitality

 

Coffee and hospitality are kith and kin

I learned the art of hospitality at my Mamaw’s elbow.  When I was young, her house was THE place to be.  It was a little 5 room house in the middle of nowhere with no air-conditioning, but it seems there were always people there.  For holidays, we just squeezed extra chairs into the little kitchen and made do.  In summertime, everyone piled outdoors and we spent the humid, buggy evenings under the Catalpa tree or on the porch swing.   Aunts, uncles and neighbors sipped coffee or iced tea while the children waded in the creek and my Mamaw swatted flies.  It was the same way at my Great-grandma’s in eastern Kentucky, bless her heart, except the house was even smaller and she was much older.  We never really DID anything, we just WERE, and that was enough for everyone.  My grandmothers were experts in the skill of cordial reception.

I don’t feel like hospitality is a skill that comes easily for me.   By nature, I’m a bit of an introvert.  Okay, truth be told,  I could probably become a recluse pretty easily.  Given the drama of modern life, I could totally check out, lock the door, gate the driveway and spend my life communing with myself.  But as hospitality is a quality synonymous with my Appalachian/Tidewater/Southern culture, I’ve made the decision that it’s a skill I’m going to learn, even if it kills me!  So recently, I started studying hospitality and had what can only be described as a “Well DUH!” moment as I discovered that I had NO CLUE what hospitality was about.  Despite the fact our culture uses the words entertaining and hospitality interchangeably, there’s a world of difference there.  According to the Free Dictionary:

Entertain: To hold the attention of with something amusing or diverting.

Hospitality: Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.

Well now, those are very different meanings.  It’s not hospitality I loathe, it’s entertaining.

Entertaining says “Look at me and what I did to amuse you!  My house is spotless, I worked hours on your meal, I perused Pinterest for a solid day to find the perfect dessert recipe, I folded your napkins into little swans.  Aren’t I amazing?!  Aren’t you entertained?!”  It’s about impressing people, and impressing people isn’t about loving them, it’s about loving you.

Hospitality says “You look exhausted.  Why don’t you come over for supper tonight?  We can have leftover pot roast.”  It’s about taking the focus off self and placing it on others, who likely need the focus far more than you do!  It’s a means to imitate Jesus, who fed the hungry, welcomed the poor and washed the feet of his Disciples.  It’s worrying less about the place settings and more about who is sitting in the place across from you.

So why don’t we practice hospitality anymore?  Several reasons come to mind.

  • First, I think we’ve absolutely confused hospitality and entertaining.  Hospitality is peace and comfort.  Entertaining means stressing out over how the house looks, the meal we’ll serve and where the salad fork goes.  Life is stressful enough without inviting more stress in so why bother?
  • Second, we’re so stinking busy with work, school, kids, extracurriculars and volunteering, who has the time to add anything else to the schedule?
  • Third, we live in a culture obsessed with perfection.  We watch these silly DIY programs that show us how our homes SHOULD look with the perfect appliances, granite counters, expensive art work and perfect shade of navy blue paint on the walls; and our homes don’t look that way, so we’re loathe to have people in.  But friends, it’s all an illusion.  THOSE homes don’t look like that except through creative, deceptive editing.
  • Last, we’re afraid.  Of being judged.  Of making mistakes.  Of being too real.  Of feeling awkward.

But as we can plainly see, it’s possible to offer a “cordial and generous reception” regardless of whether your carpet is stained, your place settings are mismatched or you burned the biscuits because you were too busy talking.  Hospitality is all about being with people.  Doesn’t that lift the burden of having people in?

If you’re a follower of Christ, the practice of hospitality isn’t a suggestion, but a command.  We’re called to meet the needs of people around us, which can be a daunting task, especially if you confuse hospitality with entertaining.  But let me make that task a little less daunting by offering these words to you:  Jesus never said serve 5-course meals with fine silverware on an heirloom mahogany table.  He said “Feed my sheep.”  He never said, when I was a stranger, you rented a bouncy house, threw a themed buffet and had the cutest party favors.  He said “You welcomed me in.” Isn’t that beautiful?  Jesus just ate with people (fishes and loaves!), comforted the sick and the poor and we should do the same!

So for those of us (self in particular) who sometimes struggle with the idea of opening ourselves and our homes to strangers…what are some baby steps to help us learn the skill of hospitality that our grandmothers practiced so effortlessly?

  • Start slow – What if you asked one couple to come over for coffee once a month?
  • Keep it simple – Elaborate meals and presentation are not required.  How about pizza on paper plates and cold iced tea?  Or as the weather cools, a bonfire with marshmallows and spiced cider?  Coffee and cake after church?
  • Look to fill a need – Is there a new mom that could use a break?  A house-bound neighbor?  A college student just home from school for the semester?  Feed them!
  • Do it on the cheap – Don’t get hung up on elaborate ingredients, expensive china or new furniture.  See:  Keep it simple.
  • Practice, practice, practice – Like any other skill, hospitality improves with practice and eventually it will become second nature.
  • Accept invitations  A simple way you can learn to offer hospitality is by accepting hospitality.  What did your host(ess) do that made you feel warm and welcome?  What would you do differently?

We all want to be world changers.  We want to know that our lives count for something and that when we’re gone, we’ll leave the world just a little better than when we got here.  Perhaps the most practical way we can effect that change in today’s hurting world is by opening up our hearts and homes and welcoming in a stranger.    Til next time—-

 

 

A Soft Place To Fall

Summer vacation ended today and my sweet children returned to school after a long, lazy break.  It’s odd…you don’t realize how quiet this big, old farmhouse is until the kids are gone and there’s no one fighting over the remote or wrestling the dogs.   With the return to school comes a return to homework, projects, flute practice, recitals and a flurry of other events that leave us breathless long before our winter vacation begins.  Throw in Mom and Dad’s busy schedules, commitments to church and community and “bonus” activities like birthdays and holidays and our lives feel more harried than ever.

It wasn’t til I returned to work after 12 years of being a stay-at-home-mom that I learned the importance of warming the home; not literally of course, but in spirit.  After a frantic day at school, the only place I wanted to be was home, with my people, gathered in around the fireplace.  The thick, plaster walls of this home that’s seen 2 centuries of life serve as a shield from the noise and desperation of the world outside.  A warm home is a refuge; a place to nurture the senses, restore the spirit, rest the body and calm the mind.  A place to drop all pretense and immerse yourself in the warmth of family.  Home is not just a house, but a haven, a place of respite.  So how do we go about creating a soothing environment that will comfort our family after a long day in the world?  Let’s use the five senses to map out a warm home.

The #1 thing that makes a room visually uncomfortable is clutter.  There’s something I find incredibly calming about clear countertops and tables.  Our eyes need a place to “rest” and surfaces that are covered in papers, junk, knickknacks and personal items create a frantic space that doesn’t allow that rest.  It took me many years to figure out that simply clearing off the kitchen counters, supper table, desks and side tables reduced my anxiety.  Isn’t that crazy?!  So clutter is enemy #1!  Color and lighting in your home also serve to enhance or detract from the mood.  Of course, this is all subjective and everyone’s preferences will be different, but there’s a coldness to overhead, task lighting.  It creates harsh shadows and feels sterile and busy to me, for lack of a better word.  Unless we’re actually working on a task that requires bright, overhead lights, I prefer the soft glow of table lamps and electric lanterns.  When it’s cold and dark outside, I feel especially comforted and drawn to those small, cozy areas of light.  Not sure that lighting really affects the mood of the house?  Imagine a home that’s dark except for the glow of the Christmas tree and it’s hundreds of twinkling lights.  Home, in the most literal aspect, should be a light in dark places.

Fragrance is also vitally important.  Of course we don’t want our homes to smell bad, but how much thought do we give to the impact that a pleasant fragrance has on the mood of our home?  There are certain scents that are indelibly etched in my mind, in connection with particular people.  I cannot smell the aroma of cinnamon Redhots without thinking of my grandmother’s kitchen and a particular dessert she was fond of baking.  Fresh, wild honeysuckle reminds me of my mother-in-law.  Buttercream, of my mother and her favorite candles.  Scent is a powerful, powerful force in creating mood and memories, so why not use it to further enhance the comfort of your home?  In fall and winter, I keep a simmering pot of water on the back of the wood stove, full of cinnamon sticks, apple peels, whole cloves, used vanilla beans and whatever else I happen to have laying around the kitchen.  In spring and summer, lighter fragrances like hyacinth, lilacs and citrus are favorites.  A favorite trick of mine is to crack the front door when it’s time for the children to arrive home from school….so they can smell the aroma of dinner or dessert as they’re walking up our long driveway.  Typically, you can see when they catch that first scent of home as they quicken their pace toward the door! 

Inarguably, taste is my son’s favorite sense and the one he enjoys practicing most at this moment lol.  My children know when they come home from school each day there will be a small, delicious treat on the kitchen counter, along with a glass of iced tea, local milk or a mug of cocoa.  We don’t do a lot of processed or fast foods, so their snacks and meals are simple, hearty fare that reflect my Appalachian/Tidewater upbringing.  We enjoy seasonal homegrown veggies and carefully preserved fruits all year ’round and my little food-snob children are pretty quick to point out when restaurant food doesn’t taste as good as home cooked.  Love that!  They closely associate homemade food with celebrations and will happily tell you their favorite meals and what Mom does that makes them so special.

Aside from visual, touch is my most important sense when creating a comforting home for my husband and children to come home to.  Our home is 3100 sf, with 14 rooms and 10′ ceilings, but it feels cozy to me.  The carpet in the living room is soft and plush.  The fires in the wood stove and fireplace are warm and beckon you closer.  The old down throws invite you to cuddle with someone, even if it’s just our Pointer, Molly!  There are comfy feather pillows to rest weary heads and thick mattress toppers to rest tired bodies.  The tactile comforts of a cozy rocking chair pulled close to the fire and a blanket pulled up to my chin…oh that’s bliss.

And finally, the last sense is sound.  What is the soundtrack of your home?  Yelling?  Noisy TVs and electronics?  Conflict?  Rattle-y appliances?  Slamming doors?   Oh Mercy, sound is so influential to the mood of your home and it’s the sensory area I’ve had to work on hardest.  After a long, hard day, no one wants to be greeted with harsh words, so I practice putting extra care into greeting my husband and children with kind words each afternoon.  The TV is shut off and the first words they hear are how much I missed them and I hope they had a great day.  No quarreling about messy rooms or chores that need to be finished.  No loud appliances.  No yelling at the dogs for digging in the flower beds.  I want the soundtrack of our home to be loving words in a gentle voice.  And laughter, so much laughter!

Our lives are more stressful than they’ve ever been before and so it’s absolutely vital that we make our homes a soft place to fall.  Our spouses and children need to know that at the end of the day, no matter what school or work held for them, home is where their peace lies.  When they cross that threshold and close the door, the world has been left behind and what lies inside is comfort, coziness and acceptance above all.  Our grandmother’s practiced this skill—that’s why we have such wonderful memories of time we spent there!  While we can’t necessarily rush out and buy new plush carpeting, expensive artwork for the walls or eider-down quilts for the beds, we can use what we have at our disposal and invest ourselves into our houses to create an atmosphere worth coming home to.

Til next time—–

 

Christmastime’s A Coming…

 

I know.  I know.  You don’t have to say it….it’s WAAAAY to early to be thinking about Christmas.  But my friends, if you subscribe to the idea that handmade and from the heart is the way to go for Christmas gifts, NOW is the time to start thinking about it.  I don’t know about you, but beginning around early-November, our schedules take a dramatic uptick in general busyness.  Of course there’s Veteran’s Day remembrances and breakfasts, followed closely by Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  Not long afterwards, our little town holds “Christmas In The Village”, complete with a parade, shopping, and a free community dinner at our church.  Then there’s Petunia’s band recital, a church play with it’s weekly practices and Christmas Eve worship.   All of which I love and would hate to miss and would hate to miss, but there’s only so many hours in the day!

Schedules aside, in the past few years, my thinking about gift-giving has changed.  Oh Lardy, it used to be that I would work myself into a frenzy trying to buy the perfect gift for everyone on the list; children, adults, neighbors, siblings, parents, cousins, sibs-in-Christ.  And the older we/they got, the more difficult it became to buy gifts, especially with loved ones who live out of town or state and so the obvious thing to do was purchase gift cards.  Then one Christmas, I kid you not, we sat down in the living room and exchanged gift cards with our siblings.  That’s to say, we just traded them.  I must have had the most ridiculous look on my face as the full impact hit me.  We did nothing more than pass a gift card to the right and accept one from the left.  (Close your eyes and visualize that.)  The following year, things changed.  Well, my attitude changed.  My job as a dear sister and auntie wasn’t to make their Christmases;  my job as a sister and auntie is to love them.  And one way I can love them is to bless them with a little gift I made with my own hands, just a simple reminder of my affections.

So now, homemade gifts are at the forethought of my mind and my goal is to have 90% of the preparation done by Halloween.  Which admittedly is a big task!  I try to come up with new, fresh ideas each year as no one wants the same gift year after year and to which I can only say—God Bless Pinterest!  Some gifts that have gone over incredibly well in the past few years included handmade, scented soap with a homegrown loofa sponge and crocheted cotton spa cloths,  Anna/Elsa crocheted hats for my niece, homemade blackberry cordial, pans of baklava, jars of homemade maple syrup and so on.  For this year, I’m considering baking extracts,  blackberry mead, small quilted pieces, flavored honey, herbal tea blends and new scents of soap.  If things go well and I learn to weave baskets, there may also be a small basket or two to offer.  With the kids returning to school, I’ll use the lull to begin creating gifts and hopefully be finished well before my target date.

I’d like to share a trick with you that has served me extremely well in the past few years:  a gift closet.  So, memory isn’t one of my stronger points and invariably, I’m going to forget *someone* from my list and invariably, that person will show up on my door with a gift for me.  Que c’est embarrassant!  So over the past few years, I’ve built up a small collection of gifts that I keep on hand for just such an emergency!  Some of the handiest items have been small 31 totes and Longaberger baskets, candles, coffee mugs, books, candle frames, lotions, stuffed animals and inexpensive games.  A couple cute pieces tucked into a nice tote or basket make a sweet gift for anyone and you never have to worry about the person you’ve forgotten.  At least that’s been my experience with a gift closet!  Now is a great time to get started stocking your closet for the upcoming holidays.  Don’t be afraid to shop markdowns and seasonal items….a quality gift is a quality gift, no matter when you bought it or how much you paid for it.  Now get to it….it’s only 132 more days til Christmas!!!

Til next time, my festive friends!