Thursday, February 17, 2022

January 2022 Homemaking Newsletter


“A true home should be the container for reviving real hospitality, true culture and conviviality, real fun, solid comfort, and above all, real civilization. And the most creative thing that anybody can do in this world is to make a real home. Indeed, the homemaker is as important as the house, and being a “housewife” is the most creative, most important job on Earth.”

"The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands."
~ Proverbs 14:1

I can't believe it is 2022 but here we are! And this time, I will try to keep up on my monthly newsletter a bit better! This is a place in which we chat about homemaking happenings and any other ponderings which do not fit into its own post. It is simply some old fashioned, womanly, Titus-2 chit-chat... would you like to join in?

My daughter made her favorite festive combination of black and white cookies for the New Year. The chocolate cookie has a marshmallow melted atop which is smothered in chocolate frosting. The sour cream “vanilla” cookies are enjoying a buttery frosting along with a sprinkling of toasted, sliced almonds. Although I am always a chocolate girl, I must say I prefer the sour cream cookies in this bake off. They are absolutely amazing! The recipe for the chocolate surprise cookies can be found here. The recipe for the sour cream vanilla cookies will be found here. Though the recipe is called "Buttermilk Cookies", we call them "Sour Cream Cookies" as we substitute sour cream for the buttermilk in the recipe. 

And yet again, more cookies (this time Oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate chip)! Our little home often feels like a cookie factory… a beautiful place of mouthwatering production! In fact, sometimes I pretend just that. That my home is a place of “professional” industry. Today I’m a bakery (with cooling racks set nice and neatly on the table), tomorrow I may be a pharmacist concocting herbal medicinals (with glass jars all lined up and ready) and the next day I might be a nurse caring for a loved one (with the tea kettle going and the chicken soup stirring). You never know what your day brings as homemaker but it’s always exciting and important if you decide it is.


“The kind of vision that brings the special out of the ordinary has long been a part of the American tradition. Even in the tiniest frontier cabin, pioneer women found ways to express their creative urges and to add touches of loveliness to their environment.”
~ Emilie Barnes

I've also repurposed some thrifted flannel fabric into a set of “winter prairie” un-paper towels. 

I think these reusable paper towels are a modern day testimony to that way of life. Every time we add little touches with our two loving hands, we are following in that beautiful tradition of making do in little ways, saving money and being resourceful with a feminine spirit (because floral fabric makes everything lovely). 

I had made seasonal sets for autumn and summer and was asked if I would do winter. The answer was an immediate “yes” when I saw this remnant fabric at the thrift store a few months ago.

These un-paper towels are very absorbent as they are “double-ply” flannel and wash extremely well. You can keep a stack in a basket under or on the kitchen sink for easy access. 

It’s a pretty money saving project that our pioneering ancestors would definitely have approved of… I haven’t purchased paper towels in 10 years and I can’t tell you how much it affected our grocery bill in a positive way!

A step-by-step tutorial is shared here. And of course, you are always welcome to just cut up a stack of absorbable fabric into squares and use them in the same way without sewing anything.


I've also been making more medicine!

I’ve been treating my family with our in-house apothecary for over 20 years… I used to buy the natural products but eventually began making many of them as it was much more economical and satisfying.

Here is another instance where the homemaker functions as the country doctor, herbalist and/or apothecary (despite the modern day perception of homemakers, we know the Proverbs 31-inspired homemaker is a well rounded storehouse of knowledge and skill and this is one way she can “look well to the ways of her household”).


What I love about herbal medicinals is that they work to build up the immune system instead of masking the symptoms and breaking down the body with an overload of foreign chemicals. They nourish and heal instead of simply drugging you.

That is my “layman’s terms” explanation at least!

With just a handful of herbs, you can make a multitude of medicinal tinctures, syrups and salves.

For our household, the most versatile herbs we utilize are calendula, rose-hips, elderberry, lavender and chamomile.

I also keep fresh ginger in the freezer as a part of my apothecary and use fresh garlic for fevers (just rub it 3 times a day on the bottom of the feet of the fevering patient as it’s a natural antibiotic).


Citrus is in season right when we need that extra dose of vitamin c and we use it in many of our winter medicinals as well.

With this handful of herbs, you can treat colds and flus, stomach issues, skin ailments and insomnia.

I share my favorite recipes HERE (along with some “how to begin” information) that even your children may enjoy making. 


Teaching your children to heal with God’s pharmacy is a beautiful gift to pass down and one that may turn into a lifelong hobby and blessing. Plus, it’s one more way to keep a sustainable household in these uncertain times. The women of the great castles in Tudor times were responsible to keep medicinals for those in their village and I personally see the wisdom in local healing in our present circumstances.

"The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth;
and he that is wise will not abhor them." 
~ Ecclesiasticus 38:4

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
~ Hippocrates


I also received a basket of homegrown, organic kumquats! For those of you who have never seen one, a kumquat is like a mini oval orange (though not as sweet, quite tart and with seeds inside like a lemon). 


It’s an odd little fruit and was quite fun to preserve! I almost had nothing to put up in January for my seasonal shelf and this little bag of free local fruit saved the day! I used this recipe (from Taste of Home) and reduced the sugar to 5 cups and it was still plenty sweet. 


I've also done some refreshing in our pantry, some closet re-organization (which I'll share in it's own post) as well as a little project regarding the sewing/craft world (in which I will also share in it's own post shortly). It's been an enjoyable time getting the house in order for spring.

I'd like to share one more thought regarding our homemade pantry... Ever since we had to move from our 25 acre farm (for personal family reasons), I wondered if I would need to retire from the homestead life.

Though it certainly would have been easier, a part of me didn’t want to let go. After 20 years spent developing those skills, I didn’t want to get rusty. Plus, with current events as they are, I didn’t want to get lazy.

The old ways is what kept the Depression Era women able to provide for their families during hardship. Because many had grown up on farms in that time, they had much knowledge to glean and lean on in their dire circumstances. In addition, an extra food supply is always prudent and a homegrown one is also healthier and more economical. Plus, I just simply adore stocked pantries! 

I was surprised to see what we were able to preserve with what little resources we have available to us right now. By growing vegetables in every nook and cranny, we have kept up a decent supply of food storage! With every friend and neighbor sharing excess fruit, we were able to add little by little to our larder by canning, freezing, fermenting and dehydrating.

Don’t let your background hinder you! I was a suburban born girl with zero skills at marriage and was able to learn and do these things. 

Skills can be acquired at any age and is something you can pass down to your daughters to make a lovely Proverbs 31 legacy no matter where you live. It’s a beautiful generational gift to leave behind. We may not be millionaires but there are special things we can pass down that doesn’t require money. And in the future, “know-how” may prove a more valuable commodity to our children than paper dollars.

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”
~ Proverbs 13:22


As far as books go, I just finished reading Jane Eyre and am still recovering. Ms. Bronte is an excellent writer and you can feel the emotions and struggles of Jane so keenly through her words. My daughter and I read it simultaneously and had much enjoyment discussing everything chapter by chapter. We hope to watch some of the film versions soon. Regarding movies, I really can't recommend any. It seems to be harder and harder to find "clean" entertainment.

With that being said, what about you dear reader? What wholesome and lovely things have you been reading, watching and/or working on? As always, recommendations are much appreciated as hearing about your homemaking endeavors always inspires me!

Happily homemaking,
♡ JES

(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which help support this blog. Thank you!)


“Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work. She wore a loose Mother Hubbard... The dress came down to her ankles... Her thin, steel-gray hair was gathered... Strong, freckled arms were bare to the elbow and her hands were chubby and delicate... She looked out into the sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position... the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure & quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook and if she ever really deeply wavered… the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.” 
~ John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath

A mother of faith is the glorious glue in the family. In these unprecedented times, it is vital to be strong for your loved ones. They feed off your feelings. If they perceive you are falling apart, they too will folllow suit. If you feel some days are more than you can bear, cry out to God for wisdom and strength. But don’t give up as that is exactly what the adversary desires.

It is time to follow in the footsteps of the brave Biblical women before us - to be courageous like Esther, faithful like Ruth and have the gentle strength of Mary when she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”

For now is not the time to lose heart but to gain victory, don your apron and keep the home!

“Be strong and of good courage,
do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God,
He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you."
~ Deuteronomy 31:6


16 comments:

  1. I've never watched or read "The Grapes of Wrath" for fear I wouldn't be able to shake it. Some things really get to me. You already know I don't "watch" much but have been enjoying the BBC Farm series on YT (Tudor Farm, Victorian Farm etc.)

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    1. Yes, that is a healthy fear! That time period can be very overwhelming to watch...

      And YES, I have seen a few of those farm series (specifically Victorian Farm) and really enjoyed it! Thanks for the reminder as I haven't seen Tudor Farm yet!

      I hope you are feeling better!

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  2. My Mom made a delicious sour cream cookie with browned butter icing when I was a child and it was my absolute favorite. A few years ago I asked her for the recipe and she does not remember them at all which is kind of sad. She is in memory care now and all those things are forgotten so be sure to get to get those favorite recipes as a legacy to pass on.

    Chamomile tea is a real favorite here. It is so soothing and relaxing. It just makes the day melt away. I have been fortunate to have a friend who has poured hours and hours into me by teaching me natural healing and kinesiology. I am so grateful for that. We do not take any prescription drugs and I want to keep it that way by using what God has provided if at all possible. Such simple things can keep us well and save us so much money that it is sad that so much of the old knowledge is being lost just like the recipes.

    I have to admit that my non paper towels are Dollar Tree towels that I bought for the kitchen but the color bled every time I washed them so I cut them in half and they are still going strong for that use after many years. This was long before the pretty homemade ones. We do keep paper towels but use only about six rolls a year.

    I enjoyed reading your post today!

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    1. Yes, so true about gleaning all the good things from the previous generation before it is too late!!! And that is beautiful what you said about natural healing... We drink a cup of chamomile tea infused with various dried fruits and lemon each evening. It is a lovely ritual and tonic ♥️ As far as your paper towels go, the idea is to save money so I would say you are quite successful in your Dollar Tree endeavor! Thank you for sharing Lana. You always add so much food for thought ♥️

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  3. J'aime être une femme qui prend soin de son foyer et encore plus lorsque je vous lis! merci infiniment pour tout ce partage inspirant.
    Sophia

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    1. How kind of you Sophia ♥️ "Merci" from the bottom of my heart ♥️

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  4. I recently read two books that might be of interest - "A Square Meal" about how the US fed (or didn't) people during the Depression. I had no idea that things were as bad as they truly were with people actually starving - it was shocking. The other book is "A Green & Pleasant Land" the truth and myths about how the UK fed itself during WWII - very interesting and not always what we've been led to believe.

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    1. Wow, both look like very enlightening reads! I wonder if my library will have those!!! Thank you so much for sharing Margie ♥️ Much appreciated!

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  5. Thank you for this. I am a wife, mom of 2 sons, grammie of 9 (5 Bigs and 4 Littles); Office "Mom" and so on...
    This message is so true. Whether at home or on the phone or at work, I need to be the strong one many times or the rest fall apart. Some days I want to stop being strong and be allowed to depend on someone else; but it seems that God is my rock all the time; DH most of the time and I've learned to leave it this way. Even (especially) when life gets tough and struggles increase.
    Again, thank you for these wise words.
    Kay in Nebraska

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    1. Thank you Kay for sharing that.. it can be very hard! But when it is hard, there is undeniable growth ♥️ (As difficult as it is!)

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  6. Thank you for the lovely newsletter! I can't wait to bake the sour cream cookies. The calendula oxymel looks easy to make. Your posts are so informative, yet beautiful and calming. Your site is a true gift to your readers.
    Blessings,
    Leslie

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    1. Dear Leslie, thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement ♥️

      You will not be disappointed in those cookies! Let me know how they come out! ♥️

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  7. JES, I am late catching up with all the blog posts in my blog reader...this post was so lovely. Thank you so much for this inspiration and encouragement. I particularly like the idea of the un-paper towels. I don't have any flannel but perhaps I can find a flannel sheet to cut down at the thrift store.

    As for reading...I just read the first four books in the Mitford series by Jan Karon and I highly recommend them. These heartwarming tales of life in a small town, from a Christian perspective, provided a perfect escape from the cares of the world today.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to share! Those Mitford books have been on my reading list for awhile! I am trying to find a complete set at the thrift store before I begin them but maybe I should just collect them one by one and start now? Decisions, decisions :)

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  8. Hi Jes, I am thoroughly enjoying your wonderful, inspiring blog. I am curious how you use your frozen fresh ginger root? I have some at present and don't want to waste it. Your blog has read inspired me lately to find ways to use everything wisely and also be vigilant in keeping shelves stocked with the fruits of labour. Such a joy!

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! :) I most often use it in my recipe for the cold/flu medicine linked below:

      https://strangersandpilgrimsonearth.blogspot.com/2015/02/how-to-make-calendula-cold-and-flu.html

      and in stir fry dishes that call for ginger! Hope this helps!

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