Monthly Archives: August 2013

My Top Ten Must Haves For Cold & Flu Season

Cold and Flu

(there are actually 13 items in the picture – I have grouped the teas, cold medicines, and essential oils together). 

It’s approaching fast and before you know it, the dreaded cold and flu will be here. November is the official start so you might as well fill that Thanksgiving cornucopia with a few remedies and concoctions because along with the seasonal festivities, comes seasonal ailments.

Last year was the pinnacle of illness for our family, friends, and especially me. It all started with the month-long “cold” in December, picked up on New Year’s Eve with the flu, and ended in February with a newly pregnant me on the bathroom floor battling the Norovirus (I know, not a pretty image). All of those ailments hijacked my system and made for a not-so-fun winter and a pretty scary Facebook page.

The good news? There are remedies to assist in the prevention and treatment of the above illnesses.  John managed to avoid all sickness with the use of these products and Jack never came down with the flu or the Norovirus. Here is our list of top ten must haves for cold and flu season:

1. Astragalus Root Liquid Extract

I sure wish I had discovered this powerful herbal tincture before cold and flu season last year. By the time I had learned of this ancient treatment’s cold fighting abilities, it was too late for me. I was pregnant and already battled the month long cold and the flu. It was by accident I discovered this treatment and it worked well for John all season long. So what is it? A powerful, Chinese herb used to improve immune system function. I like this article from Natural News.

2. Ancient Secrets Hypertonic Seawater Nasal Spray

This nasal spray is 2.0% Sodium Chloride derived from seawater. This product has a easy press valve that releases a fine mist. Use it during the winter and allergy season to keep nasal passages flushed and  moist.

3. Zicam Cold Remedy Oral Mist 

Zicam oral mist (not to be confused with the intranasal spray and swabs that were recalled by the FDA) really, really works. This zinc concoction does in fact shorten the duration and severity of the common cold. I have used it for years with no side effects. Simply spray in mouth per the directions on the bottle. The nasal product line was recalled by the FDA due to many users permanently losing their sense of smell.

4. Hyland’s Daytime and Nightime Cold’ n Cough 4 Kids

Both of these products are homeopathic and are safe kids ages 2 and up. My son Jack has used both of these and both work very well in keeping him comfortable when a cold hits. I especially like the Nighttime blend because it allows him to sleep comfortably.

5. Badger Eucalyptus & Mint Aromatic Chest Rub

Think is the natural form of Vicks. While this rub is not as potent as Vicks rub, it gets the job done. We use it as a chest rub, lymph node rub, and foot rub during times of illness. It is refreshing and has an adorable badger sipping tea on the cover. What’s not to love?

6. Oil of Oregano 25% Oil Blend and Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Both of these essential oils are disease killing powerhouses and should be readily available in your home. I use a pre-diluted brand of oil of oregano to treat ailments of all kinds. It works great on cold sores and the common cold.

Oregano Oil – Known as “nature’s antibiotic” is as I said before, a powerhouse. Here is a helpful blog post on the usage of oregano oil.

Please note, oregano oil should be diluted as necessary prior to usage. It is a strong, powerful oil. Never take essential oils internally or use undiluted oils on your skin without the proper dilution. Consult an herbalist or a reputable book for more information. In addition, pregnant women should avoid using oil of oregano.

Eucalyptus Oil – This oil is  great for diffusing, cleaning, and inhaling during cold season and all year long. Simply inhaling this powerful oil through steam clears up sinus congestion and fights head colds. I use it all winter long and it helps tremendously. Taken internally in large does, eucalyptus oil is toxic.

Here is my favorite wintertime, all-purpose house cleaner using eucalyptus oil: Fill a spray bottle with mostly water, add a few drops of dish soap (I like Seventh Generation Lavender – it smells great) or tea tree castile soap for added antibacterial properties, and add about ten drops of eucalyptus oil. It makes a great antiviral and antimicrobial cleaner.

7. Coconut Water

Coconut water is nature’s Gatorade so skip the artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup and opt for this wonder liquid when sick. Coconut water contains natural electrolytes, sugars, and  potassium. *did you know coconut water can be used as a universal donor because it’s makeup is the same as blood plasma?!* Here is a link with some information on the benefits of coconut water.

8. Tea

Ahhh, what’s not to love about a hot, steaming cup of tea? Tea was first steeped about 4700 years ago in China and has been credited for it’s amazing health benefits ever since. Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, second only to water. While not all teas are created equal or have the same illness battling properties, there are a few teas we consume often during cold and flu season. These three beauties keep us feeling hydrated and aid in the prevention of and treatment of the cold and flu.

Turmeric Tea – Turmeric is a true disease fighter. My husband stayed illness free all winter and he drank about two cups a day. Unfortunately, turmeric tea should not be consumed by pregnant women; therefore, I missed this boat for a good chunk of the winter. The benefits? Check them out.

Organic Echinacea Plus – Echinacea has long been sipped by those fighting the common cold. It has been toted to shorten the duration and ease symptoms. I religiously drink this tea during the winter and during times of illness, sadly, pregnant women should not consume echinacea; therefore, I again missed this boat last winter. Which brand is best? I love Traditional Medicinals.

Just for Kids – Organic Cold Care Tea – My son loves this tea made just for kiddos! It is a blend of elder flower, linden flower, chamomile flower, and peppermint leaf. Many tea formulations are too powerful for children so finding this blend by Traditional Medicinals was a lifesaver.

9. Burt’s Bees Honey Lemon Throat Drops– When I think throat lozenges, I think of those powerful, mentholated drops, and cringe. I have never enjoyed cough drops simply because they are too overpowering. Last year I discovered Burt’s Bees own line of throat drops made with honey and 2.0 mg of menthol. They are not overpowering and work really well. There are 20 drops per bag making them a bit pricey. Thankfully, I hit a clearance section at the grocery store last year and stocked up. Interested in making your own honey drops? Check out this Pure Honey Cough Drop Recipe from Little House in the Suburbs:

10. Vitamin C 

My husband loves those effervescent, vitamin C packets and uses them when he feels as if he is coming down with something. They are little vitamin shots that help support the immune system. We happen to have the Target version of Emergen-C in our medicine arsenal. We also keep chewable vitamin C supplements for daily use. Increasing your vitamin C  intake in the winter is a good way to help ward off the cold and flu virus.

So, there you have it. My top ten must haves for cold and flu season. Do you have any remedies, products, or concoctions you can’t live without?

Happy (healthful) Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Getting Ready For Baby & Move


With only 43 days to go until due date, it is time to get serious with the baby preparations. Since we are experiencing some minor complications and Jack was two weeks early, I am preparing myself for an earlier arrival with Baby Morgan (just in case)!

At this point I am on modified bed rest, meaning no resting in bed but taking it very easy for the next two weeks. No lifting anything. No extensive stair work. No prenatal yoga. No laundry baskets up and down the stairs. This makes it more difficult to get everything done along with packing for our move of an unknown date and regular house tasks; however, I am making some progress.


Install car seat bases into the car and truck.

Pack hospital bag. This includes coconut water and some of these amazing things from Genevieve at Mama Natural –

Put together Jack’s Big Brother Surprise Bag.

Pre-register at the hospital.

Pick out baby announcement design.

Take Jack to have his 3-year photos done at JC Penny

Maternity photo shoot.

Babies R Us to buy an Ergo carrier, breastfeeding supplies, pack and play sheets, bassinet sheets, and stock up on infant diapers and wipes for the first month before we begin cloth diapering.

Pickup laundry detergent and dryer sheets. With Jack we used BabyGanics. We have used many of their products. All are excellent. For laundry (not diapers – we use Charlie’s Soap for washing diapers) I love:

Pick up a few more cloth diapers for our stash.

Pick out a baby memory book and a foot print / hand print keepsake.

Put together a few freezer meals.

Hose down, dry, and pack away all outdoor toys and beach toys.

Clean out front hall.

Go through Jack’s Fall/Winter 4T clothing bin and label, “Jack’s room.”

Drop off a truck load of stuff to Salvation Army.

Put together a “home bag(s)” for the move. Bag(s) will contain paper goods, dish soap, hand soap, shower curtain liner and curtain, toothbrushes and other needed products, all-purpose cleaner, garbage bags, camera, vitamins, and batteries. It is good to have a few supplies on hand when needed so we don’t have to dig through boxes to find what we need.

Purchase some more Ziploc Cube Bags.

Have list for move supplies ready – we will need drinks and food for those helping.


Potty training Jack.

Christmas shopping for Jack.

Packing the attic.


All infant clothes washed, dried, and placed in tote.

All cloth diapers washed, dried, and placed in tote.

Daytime arrangements made for Jack while John and I are at the hospital.

Yearly organization folder system put together.

All books and homeschool materials packed in totes.

All puzzles and games packed in totes.

Freezer cleaned and organized for the move and to make room for pre-cooked meals.

Nursing “wardrobe” purchased.

Franklin has a new tank – this was not on the original list; however, unforeseen events while on vacation caused us to have to replace it.

That about sums it up! We have a lot to do before due date. Let’s hope Baby Morgan ends up being an October baby as scheduled.


Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Lavender Hydrangea Play Dough

Lav Play Dough Cover

Today is our first day back to “normal” since returning from our week-long vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee. John went back to work this morning and Jack and I have done stuff around the house, mostly playing and some mild housework.

This morning I saw the flowers on our hydrangea bush are just about gone. I decided to pick some remaining flowers and make play dough. Lavender essential oil adds a nice touch and Jack really enjoyed the floral dough. This would be a great way to use up any remaining flowers from the garden or inside your home.

Lavender Hydrangea Play Dough Recipe

Ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 2 tbsp cream of tartar, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1.5 cups of boiling water, 5 drops of lavender essential oil, and 1 handful of hydrangea flowers.

Directions: Combine all dry ingredients into a bowl or pot. Mix in vegetable oil and essential oil. Add water and mix until it is a dough consistency.



To use, spread out on wax paper and have kiddos roll out the dough and add in the flowers.  It doesn’t take long to cool and is usable almost immediately.




Enjoy the aroma and color!

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Fall Bucket List


bucket list

It is that time of the year again, well almost. Before we know it, autumn will be here! Not sure about you but autumn is my favorite season. Everything from the warm, rich colors to spiced cider and apple pie is right up there at the top of my favorite things list.

This year we are expecting our second child at the beginning of October. I know life with a newborn and a toddler will be exhausting; however, with a little planning and a fall bucket list, I am sure we will get to enjoy each day of autumn doing a little something to celebrate the season.

So, here it is, some ideas for a 2013 Fall Bucket List. Enjoy!


The Pumpkin Patch

This one is a given! Bring the family, a wagon, and a camera to your local Pumpkin Patch. Pick some pumpkins for your front porch and for a homemade pumpkin pie.

Go Fly a Kite 

Grab a kite and the family for an afternoon of soaring. Autumn is naturally breezy and the perfect time of the year to throw on your favorite sweater and spend the day outdoors. Don’t forget to swing by your local coffee shop for a pumpkin spiced latte.



Apple Picking

Again, grab the family, a wagon, and a camera. Hit your local orchard and fill those bags. You may arrive home and wonder what exactly one is to do with so many apples. The options are endless. We love homemade apple butter. I have posted my recipe at the end of this post.

Autumn Crafts

This one is a given for our family. During each season we try to do a craft each and everyday. We do everything from painting to coloring pages. We make play dough and do a lot of sensory activities.

painting pumpkins

The Fairapple fair

Most towns across America have annual fall festivals or county fairs. Pack up the family and head to your local event. Maybe your town has an annual parade, fair, or even a farmer’s market event. This is a great way to support your local community and have fun at the same time.

Leaf Peeping

Autumn wouldn’t be autumn without those richly colored leaves. Jump in the car or on your bikes and head out to an area where the leaves are stunning. We like to collect some of our favorites for crafts and pressing. Make sure to bring your camera.


Get In the Kitchen

Autumn is my favorite time in the kitchen. I light my favorite Yankee Candle and heat up some warm spiced cider and get cooking. I enjoy using my crock pot most in the fall because the smell is unbeatable. Also, it allows for some bulk cooking. With all the apples, pumpkins, and in our case, venison, it is imperative we prep our food supply and make it last. Below is my favorite apple butter recipe.

Traditional Crock Pot Apple Butter

You will need:

3 lbs of apples, 3 cups of sugar, 2 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp. of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. of allspice, 1/2 tsp. of cloves, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 cup of apple cider or water.

Fill your crock pot 3/4 of the way full with peeled and cored apple slices. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and cook on lowest possible setting until apples are a thick, butter consistency. Keeping cooking down if too much liquid is present. Make sure to stir. Pour into canning jars and freeze or hot water can them for shelf stability. To can leave 1/4 head space and boil in water canner for 10 minutes.

I hope everyone gets out there this fall and enjoys the season. It will be here before you know it. Making a bucket list is a great way to make sure you get to all of those fall activities.

The Joyful Homemaker

Why We Homeschool


It may or may not come as a surprise to most who know our family, but we are in fact, a home school family. Gasp! Yes, you read correctly. We endorse home education and believe it works for us. While this choice is a no-brainer for us, it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, even people in our lives. Our family is split smack down the middle with one half being supportive and the other half, well, not so much.

My husband and I both attended college for teaching. I went the bachelor degree route and he went the masters. After having spent time in endless education classes and doing my own evaluations of career choices, I decided against teaching. My decision against teaching was later solidified as a correct one while substitute teaching during a job layoff.  My husband also decided against finishing his master’s in education because he simply, “didn’t like the bureaucracy of it all.”

Fast forward to 2010, the year Jack was born. It was during this time our conversation on education got real. We talked endlessly about the local school systems and poured over alternate educational options, like Montessori and private schools. We knew immediately we could not afford to send our children to private school, so we scratched it off the list. We held Montessori education close but alas, it too had a major cost factor. We scratched our heads and resigned ourselves to the public sector.

It was less than a year later we met a family, now very best friends of ours, who home educate their children. While it was never immediately clear to my husband and I that we would or could home school, it was to our friends. During a dinner conversation one night the topic of education came up. Our friend is a former public school teacher and we somehow got on the topic. I started to tell my friend that we just don’t feel comfortable with public school but financially, we don’t have any options. My husband chimed in with a resounding, “Jack cannot go to public school.” My friend said, “well, you could home school, you know?” I looked at my husband and back at my friend, “I can’t home school. I know nothing about it.” She simply looked back at me and said, “you’re already homeschooling.” She was right. We had already started with the necessary foundation and didn’t even realize. We were fostering a love of learning and building a learning environment right in our very own home. My husband looked at me and said, “We’re homeschooling!”

So, now the million dollar question, why home school?

  1. HOW – We want our children to know how to learn. Simple. We want to build the necessary foundation and supply the necessary tools to engage them in understanding how to learn. We want our children to have the skill set to set out on a learning mission without having to be told every.single.step.
  2. QUALITY vs. QUANTITY – It isn’t how much one knows but how well they know it. In public schools students are taught multiple subjects each day for the entire year. They are conditioned with a bell when it is time to stop and move on to the next subject or activity. In our home, we believe focusing on each subject for an undetermined amount of time based on our child’s desire to know that subject will enrich them.
  3. FREEDOM – This one is simply the freedom to pick a subject of interest and freedom to explore the world. Right now our son Jack is only three; however, he loves bugs. He may still have an interest in entomology when he reaches middle school; however, he most likely would not have the time or want to study entomology along with all the subjects designated by his grade level. With the freedom to choose his own subjects along with the basics, he could really delve into the world of entomology by getting out into the back yard or the woods. The freedom to learn what one loves opens up an entire world of learning. One educational exploration leads to another and can easily be tied into other subjects. A day in the woods may lead to a math lesson or a journal writing.
  4. NO TESTING – Enough said here. Testing is nothing more than a means to an end and it doesn’t fit into the educational map we have outlined for our children. They will have to take the SAT for college admittance and tests in college; however, children test themselves every day in their other work. The greatest test is whether they know how to learn and love what they do.
  5. LACK OF DISTRACTIONS – Phones, texting, sexting, social media, bullying, pressures such as premarital sex, drugs, gambling, violence, etc. OK, I can almost see the rolling eyes but let’s face it, we all went through public school and each of the above distractions were in my school everyday. Did I choose to engage in those practices? No. But they were distractions and when I think back on some of these distractions, I think back to the time in third grade I was sexually bullied on the school bus for the entire year. The driver did nothing to stop the boy and trust me, the entire bus could hear him yelling swears and sexual comments to me. Thankfully, the boy was nowhere near me since we had assigned setting areas on the bus. I also think back to school in general and I remember the above distractions being very blatant. I simply do not want these distractions in the educational life of my children.
  6. BECAUSE WE LOVE OUR CHILDREN – WHOA! HANG ON A MINUTE! DON’T SLAM DOWN THAT SCREEN YET! This in no way implies parents who use the public school system love their children any less. NO WAY! I know many amazing, loving, “would trust my children with them,” parents who send their kids to public schools and love them with every fiber of their being. We believe for us that spending each day educating our own children is the most important thing we can do for them because we love them with everything we have.

So there you have it. The reasons we educate at home. We love our children and wish for them to have a quality education in a distraction free environment. In our home environment they can build a quality vs. quantity education by embracing the freedom they have and ultimately know how to learn.

Happy Homeschooling,

The Joyful Homemaker

Pregnant, Packing, and Planning

It is time to get back to the blog! July proved a month of insanity on the home front between being in my third trimester and putting in an offer on a short sale, blogging really wasn’t happening.

We have started packing, organizing, and overhauling our belongings. This is going to propel me into a blog series on organizing a move though I will admit, many days I simply want to curl up on the couch with a book. I forgot how tiring the third trimester is!

So, back to the blog! Happy August and happy homemaking!





Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker