Follow by Email

Meadow Muffin Gardens logo

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Farewell to One Heck of a Year 2010

One more day to go and we must say farewell to the first decade of the new millenium.
This past year has been a challenge and that is an understatement. It has been a year since Meadow Muffin Gardens was born as far as going from the nudges of family members to being in print on the license. How exciting it was when we first opened that envelope. And then when my son got my website up and running....
To see your own name online is so very cool. There is no other way to describe it.

Just learning the necessary computer skills took me on such a roller coaster of emotions. Sooo many times I wanted to just quit. I just wanted to be out in my gardens and tinkering around in the kitchen with the many recipe ideas. I hadn't the time to be struggling with my inadequecies dealing with this necessary gadget (it was great when it worked).

I discovered Etsy in March from a magazine at the laundramat of all places. Suddenly I had to learn to understand my camera in order to have decent pictures for the listings. I had to rediscover my creative writing skills long buried in the all assuming pace of raising a family. The task of finding out where to get the containers for these products and the labeling for those containers was a story in itself. Granted it was fun to set up the shop but it got to the point I wasn't getting my everyday work done.

With so much competition with other sellars on Etsy it is easy to feel like you're invisible in cyberspace somewhere. Imagine the excitement when I had my first sale! It was in May and the item was the Tension Headache Massage Oil. I was shipping all the way to California.
But then there was the education of how our postal system works.

So much to learn, so many mistakes, some of them costly, but perserverance was the word of each and every day.
I tried the route of setting up at a few local gift shops, a few restaurants, as well as a local farmer's market. People are usually pretty loyal to whatever body care products they are already using and not knowing who I am or what made my items so special, my time spent with these endeavors was mainly exposure, giving out lots of business cards.

My first holiday season with Etsy was so exciting. Once your sales tally creeps up and you start getting positive feedback, people are more apt to pay the shop more attention. My shop does stand apart from many of the others in the Bath and Beauty category.
Meadow Muffin Gardens cators towards all natural personal care without the use of preservatives, petrols, synthetics and perfumes. A select group of people are attracted to this sort of thing. Either they are looking for healthier alternatives to what they put onto their bodies just as we are concerned with what we put into our bodies. Or they have sensitive skin, allergies, or medical reasons and are tired of not trusting the labels of the products on store shelves. As we are more concerned with living a greener lifestyle, what we purchase as consumers becomes a matter of concern.

So with the coming and going of each of our four seasons, it is time to reflect a bit and let it sink in just how far we've come. I want to thank my ever so patient and helpful family for their encouragement and support. My wonderful husband for never saying a word at the charges necessary to get set up. My amazing children for their help in teaching (or just doing it for me) the steps needed in every direction.
I thank all of those great customers who gave me a chance by trying out my shop items and giving me feedback so I knew where there was a need for improvement.

Here's to a great year behind us and hopefully an even better year ahead with 2010. The gardening catalogs are arriving in the mail, and as any gardener knows, it doesn't take long before the itch to get back out there begins!

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Easy drop cookie recipes for the holidays

Christmas cookies are part of the fun of the holidays. Even if you don't bake on a regular basis any other time of the year, it seems we all get the urge during the holidays to at least find time to bake a few childhood favorites.

Pictured above are two of our classics: Chocolate chip and Snickerdoodles

The chocolate chip recipe is one of those "back of the box" recipes that was cut out and saved years ago. It is called The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie from the back of the Crisco shortening can. You can take the basic recipe and use any of the variety of chips available such as milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, mint chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon, white chocolate, M & M's, or butterscotch. This picture is the Mint Chocolate Chip version.


In a large bowl cream together the following four ingredients by hand or with an electric mixer until well blended.

1 1/2 cups Butter Flavor Crisco or any type vegetable shortening
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Add 2 eggs one at a time and blend well

In another bowl combine these next three ingredients and sift thoroughly.

3 1/2 cups unbleached or bleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 baking soda

Add dry mixture to shortening mixture a portion at a time and combine until just blended.

Stir in:
2 cups of desired chips
2 cups walnuts or pecans (optional)

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls or tablespoon (depending on how large you want your cookies) onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 375 degrees for 9 - 10 minutes for chewy cookies and 11 - 12 minutes for crisp cookies.
Let cool a few minutes on the pan so they don't fall apart and then remove to wire rack to cool. Don't leave on pans too long because they will continue to bake on the hot sheets and could stick.

Makes about 4 - 5 dozen cookies depending on their size


Snickerdoodles were a favorite of Dutch Colonists and no one knows for sure where they got their unusual name. If you like cinnamon you'll like Snickerdoodles. Cinnamon is one of those spices that can help you stay healthy during cold and flu season. The health benefits of cinnamon can be attributed to its antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, astringent and anti clotting properties.

In a large bowl mix together the following ingredients with a wooden spoon or mixer.

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Add 2 eggs one at a time and blend

In another bowl combine these four ingredients and sift thoroughly.

2 3/4 cups unbleached or bleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tarter
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Add dry mixture to shortening mixture.
Shape into 1 inch balls.
Roll in a mixture of:
2 Tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon

Place cookie balls 2 inched apart onto ungreased cookie sheets
Bake at 400 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes

Cool a few minutes and remove to a wire rack

Both of these recipes freeze well and hold their shape.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Homemade Holiday Gifts - Decorative Lit Bottle

This frugal gift idea is ideal for the person who loves to explore thrift shops for treasures.

Collect interesting bottles with decorative designs in the glass. Or you could save neat wine bottles and remove the labels.

Choose multi-colored lights, white, or a solid color of your choice. A 50 bulb strand is best. If your bottle has a narrow opening use lights with only the positive end with the other end starting with just a bulb.

Gather silk flowers, grape vine or whatever theme you want for decorating the bottle. Craft stores carry quite an assortment if you cannot find what you want at second hand shops. Add a ribbon if desired. Use your imagination or try to match the theme with the interests of the person receiving the bottle.

Some ideas could include:
Grapevine with grapes as shown above
Sea shells
Christmas tree ornaments
Pet toys or little treats

Starting with the end bulb slowly work the string of lights into the bottle. The handle of a long wooden spoon is helpful to carefully push the lights to the bottom of the bottle as you add more. The positive plug will be left on the outside. If you have a way to cut an actual hole in the glass then do so at the bottom and work the lights upward instead.

Add your decorative touches and plug in! Makes a great nightlight!

Homemade Holiday Gifts - Cranberry Holly Floating Candle Jar

A crafty idea for your child's teacher, hostess gift, or just for your own holiday decorating.
This holly, cranberry, floating candle creation is sure to please anyone on our gift giving list.

Gather together the following items:

1. Wide or regular mouth size quart canning jars.

2. Plastic lids to fit the size mouth jar you chose.

3. Bunch or bunches cut holly branches, depending on how many jars you plan to put together.

4. Bag or bags whole cranberries.

5. Floating candles. Size of the candles is up to your preference.

6. Ribbon or raffetta to tie onto jar as a decorative touch.

Cut the holly branches into smaller pieces to fit into jar and fill about half to three-fourths full.
Add cranberries to make a layer about one inch or personal preference.
Fill jar with water leaving enough head space for the candle so as not to overflow.
Add candle and cap tightly.
Tie decorative ribbon around rim of jar and that is all there is to it.
Recipient just needs to know to remove the lid and light the candle.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Babies

Christmas 2010 will always be a year remembered in our household because it was a milestone year for our two children. It was our daughter's last Christmas before college graduation and our son's last Christmas before high school graduation. For as exciting as it was for all of us to plan the next moves in their lives, it was also a very reflective time to think back on past holidays.
Now, five years later, we not only have two college graduates, but both of them are married and off on their own! The word reflective is an understatement, by now it's more of a need for a tissue box.
Twenty-three years ago on Dec. 24 our son came into this world too early, too traumatically.

Dealing with Systemic Lupus, my pregnancy was a very planned, high risk ordeal from the start. An autoimmune condition, my body treated this child as an invasion and tried to reject its presence. With lupus the immune system is in overdrive and actually turns on itself. Steroids and blood thinners helped keep things under control in hopes to at least get beyond the congenital age of 28 weeks. We made it to 32 weeks before things started to go very wrong and the birth was induced. Toxemia and thrombosis became a risk to both myself and the baby.
Whisked away immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit it wasn't exactly the scene a mother envisions.

Mother Nature is quite amazing. Our son's nervous system and lungs were both strong for his congenital age, while his body's ability to keep itself warm was underdeveloped. Breathing on his own was a definite plus. He just needed time to continue to grow. Our tiny baby remained in the hospital a month to gain body fat and once he hit five pounds was allowed to go home.

By that time my own flare-up from the Lupus was under control, for I had ended up back in the hospital myself, and I was more than ready for him to come home. My poor husband, I'm sure he was a wreck, but as too often the case, emotional support for the husband/dad is often overlooked.
Mid-January was our Christmas celebration that year, and the tree was still up and waiting for us.

Over the years, our son thrived and caught up developmentally. Premature children have immature nervous systems which can result in being overly sensitive to stimuli such as noise, light, touch or stress. Told in most cases these children catch up developmentally by the age of eight, we didn't worry over every little setback from teachers. I think one of the most annoying things with evaluations is the tendency to label children with some type of developmental disorder. My mother's best advise for raising children was "this too shall pass".

Children need to know they are good at some thing, some passion. With him, it was music. He received his first acoustic guitar for his ninth birthday. His passion for music went beyond a hobby. To take an idea and put it to words and then to music is amazing. Songwriting really is poetry set to music. Studying lyrics and what those words are saying can be a very useful tool to understand one's child and how they think.
Below is a song written at the age of 18 when social issues, politics and ethics weigh heavily on the minds of our young people about to step out into the real world.

Upon graduating from High School, college was the goal, but after his freshman year, being the high achiever he is, he took his future one step further and joined the Army. As a mother, the jumble of emotions felt over this voluntary decision was overwhelming at times. While many young people his age are more into relationships and parties, here this young man was mapping out his financial and career path. The lyrics of the above song hint at what has now become a desire to work in journalism, and using the military to gain contacts and connections seemed the ideal route to attain that goal.

Now an American soldier, our Christmas baby of 1992 will be turning 23, another birthday celebration for our once three pound baby who has become quite the young man. With college under his belt, commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, his beautiful bride by his side, the world is opening up with opportunity.
He certainly took to heart his Dad's advice whenever unsure about a decision, "When in doubt, go for it.".

And let that be our Holiday wish for all of our young people entering adulthood in this insecure world in which we live.

Happy Holidays!

July 25, 2015

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Origins of Our Christmas Traditions

Understanding why people behave as they do is always a fascination. People go through the traditions of our holidays, go to church, spend money, do what is expected, celebrate however their family's have always celebrated, and rarely stop to question 'why?'

The origins of the the candy cane, the Christmas tree,  Christmas carols, Christmas cards and our beloved Rudolph tale are explained below.
And of course I had to include the letter from Virginia Wolf asking the editor of "The Sun" if there really was a Santa Claus. What a wonderful explanation which clears up doubts we all may have had. As Francis P. Church said, "The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see".

The history of the candy cane can be traced back to Germany. In 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral was said to have bent straight white candy canes into the now-familiar "J" shape to represent a shepherd's staff. He then gave them to children in the choir to keep them happy during long Christmas services. The custom soon spread throughout Europe.

Later, candy canes came to America. A German immigrant by the name of August Imgard was the first person to decorate his Christmas tree with candy canes, back in 1847. Prior to 1900, Christmas cards only showed all-white candy canes. Around that same time, it is said that candy makers started adding peppermint flavors to the candy canes.

This is one version of the Christian candy cane story:
A candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy for Christmas that incorporated symbols from the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure white candy to symbolize the virgin birth and the purity of Jesus. He then shaped it in the form of a "J" to represent the name of Jesus and the staff of the "Good Shepherd." Finally, he added red stripes to symbolize Jesus' blood and suffering on the cross.

The candymaker hoped that each time someone ate his creation they would be reminded of Jesus and the great love God gave us at Christmas.

The story of the Indiana candymaker has been widely circulated and retold, while other stories suggest the candy cane was created long ago as a secret symbol that would allow persecuted Christians to identify one another. Neither version fits the timeline of historical records. The German choirmaster who is credited with turning the usual straight candy sticks into staff-shaped sweets lived in the late 17th century, long after most of Europe had become Christian, and well before Indiana became a state or candy canes came to America. Also, historical records from various parts of the world show the canes were all-white until the early 1900s.

Our beloved Christmas tree traditions are part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. With the arrival of the winter solstice, people brought evergreens native to their area into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death. These included palm leaves, mistletoe, holly, and of course the evergreen tree branches of which we are familiar.

Our modern Christmas tree evolved from the Germans and Scandinavians during the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. Around 1500, it is said that being in awe of the beauty of snow dusted evergreens in the woods, he brought a little fir tree indoors, lit it with candles, and used the symbolism to tell the story of Christ's birth.

The arrival of the Christmas tree to the United States most likely began either with Hessian troops during the American Revolution or with German immigrants settling in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Puritans didn't approve of the custom, therefore in New England the tradition spread very slowly.

An actual market for Christmas trees was born in 1851 with the brainstorm of a Mark Carr. He hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and ended up selling all of them. Within 50 years, one in five American families had a tree at Christmastime, and today the custom is nearly universal.

Interesting is the fact that farms dedicated solely to raising Christmas trees started during the Great Depression. People didn't have money to spend on landscaping, therefore nurserymen began to focus on the care of evergreens and prune them into the preferred symmetrical shape of the Christmas tree. Only six species make up the majority of the nation's Christmas tree trade. Scotch Pine ranks first, followed by the Douglas Fir, Balsam Fir, Spruces and White Pine.

Most of us know by heart at least a few Christmas songs, and have heard many others, both secular and religious. During the 12th century, St. Francis of Assisi wanted to teach people about the birth of Jesus Christ, and did so by adding religious lyrics to well-known tunes. Many carols were written in Germany during the 14th century.

One of the more well-known hymn today is "Silent Night" which was written in Austria in 1818. Supposedly, on Christmas Eve, Father Joseph Mohr, the pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, solved the dilemma of a broken organ by taking a poem and giving it a melody.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” comes from England and was written sometime in the 15th century. It was one of the most popular carols for centuries, finally published around 1833.

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole commissioned the first commercial Christmas cards in London. The cards were illustrated by John Callcott Horsley with a picture of a family drinking wine and sold for one penny each. Although his design choice was criticized for promoting the "moral corruption" of children, Cole's idea spawned the beginnings of one of the most important holiday traditions.

One interesting aspect of the early history of Christmas cards is that you seldom saw illustrations that depicted snow, Christmas trees, or winter themes. Instead, people preferred to send cards with pictures of flowers, fairies, and lighthearted landscapes that would remind the recipient that Spring would soon be approaching.

 In 1875, Louis Prang became the first printer to offer commercial Christmas cards in the United States. The cards were very successful and quickly spawned a number of cheap imitations that ultimately led to the demise of his business. You can see a sample of cards from this time period by browsing through the gallery on the Emotions Cards Web site.


A man named Bob May, depressed and broken-hearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His four-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing.
Bobs wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mummy could never come home.

Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mummy just like everybody else's Mummy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger.

It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.

Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.

Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook!

Bob had created a character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.

The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn't end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book.

Wards went on to print, 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller.

Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.
Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph.
Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."

 Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad.
In fact, being different can be a blessing.


 Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and went on to became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.
Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
"Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Real Thanksgiving Story

Are you a history buff who has an interest in the origins of our holiday celebrations?

The information reprinted below is from a site called Native American Wisdom.

Thanksgiving: Fact or Fiction?

by Jonathan Holmes

In the minds of many Americans, when asked the question, “When was the United States first settled?”, invariably the response will be, “in 1620 when the Pilgrims landed.” This so called “origin myth” has frequently been termed “the story of the first Thanksgiving” in many children’s books about the subject.

However, beginning the story of America’s settlement with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in 1620 leaves out not only the Native population, but also the Spanish, African and French as well. As a matter of fact, the very first non-Indian or non-Native settlers in this country known called the United States, were African slaves left in Georgia in 1526 by Spaniards who abandoned a settlement attempt.

According to Jeannine Cook, in Columbus and the Land of Ayllón: The Exploration and Settlement of the Southeast published in 1992, in the summer of 1526, approximately five hundred Spanish colonists and one hundred African slaves, and perhaps some free African colonists, under the command of Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, founded a settlement in America called San Miguel de Gualdape.

The colonists had sailed from the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in July 1526 aboard six ships. In August, they had landed at Winyah Bay on the mouth of the Pedee River, in what is now South Carolina, near present-day Georgetown. However, they failed to find an Indian village, which they felt from past experience would be necessary for food until crops could be planted and harvested, so they sailed further southward. On what would later become the Georgia coast, Ayllón and his colonists found a village of Guale Indians and chose to settle nearby.

Although physical remains of their settlement have not been found, historians and geographers have utilized surviving navigation logs and other records to reconstruct the 1526 voyage. Based on the latest research, the San Miguel de Gualdape settlement probably was situated on the mainland of what today is McIntosh County in Georgia, opposite Sapelo Sound. Disease and disputes with the local Guale Indian village caused many deaths in the settlement, and finally in November 1526, the African slaves rebelled, killed some of their Spaniard masters, and escaped to live with the local Guale tribe. By now only 150 Spaniards survived, so they evacuated back to Haiti. The former slaves elected to remain behind. Consequently, the first non-Native settlers in this country we now know as the United States, were Africans.

In 1564, approximately 250 French Protestants or “Huguenots” as they were called, established a settlement on the St. John’s River near present-day Jacksonville, Florida calling it La Caroline, commanded by René Goulaine de Laudonniere. Then in August 1565, some 600 Spanish soldiers and settlers under Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés came ashore at the site of a Timucuan Indian village, fortified the fledgling village and named it Saint Augustine.

According to findings by Kathleen Teltsch, published in the New York Times in 1990 titled, Scholars and Descendants Uncover Hidden Legacy of Jews in Southwest, when the long arm of the Spanish Inquisition established itself in Mexico City, some Spanish Jews, called Sephardim in Hebrew, (the descendants of Jews whose ancestors lived on the Iberian Peninsula), fled with Don Juan de Oñate in 1598 and established permanent settlements in what is today New Mexico and Colorado.

In addition, beginning the origin story in 1620 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, omits recognition of the first British settlement in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and also omits the Dutch, who were living in a settlement in what is now Albany, New York by 1614.

Just before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts Bay, a process started in Southern New England which would lay a foundation for the Plymouth Colony which was to come later.

By 1617, British and French fishermen had been fishing off the Massachusetts coast for decades. After filling the hulls of the ships with Cod, they would go ashore to gather firewood and fresh water, and perhaps capture a few Native Indians to sell into slavery in Europe. It is now considered likely that these fishermen transmitted some illness to the Native population.

The Plague which started escalating in the Southeastern coast of New England in 1617 made the “Black Plague” of 1348-1350, which killed an estimated 30% of the population of Europe, pale by comparison. Some Historians theorize the New England Plague was Bubonic, others suggest it was Viral Hepatitis or Influenza. In any event, within three years the New England Plague had wiped out close to 96% of the Native population of coastal New England. Native tribal societies were devastated. During the next fifteen years additional epidemics, most of which we now know to have been Smallpox, struck Native Indian populations repeatedly. John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Plymouth beginning in 1629, called the Plague, “miraculous.”

According to R. C. Winthrop in Life and Letters of John Winthrop, 2 volumes, 1864–67, Gov. John Winthrop wrote a close friend in England in 1634 saying,

“But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the Smallpox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection…”

The result of the Plague of 1617, which is said to have reduced the coastal Native tribes from 30,000 to approximately 300, helped to prompt the myth of the legendary “warm reception” the Pilgrims enjoyed in 1620 from the Wampanoag Federation of tribes. In actuality, Massasoit (b. 1580 – d. 1661) of the Pokanoket tribe, and leader or Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation, was eager to ally with the Pilgrims that arrived in 1620 because the plague had so weakened his villages, that he feared the stronger Narragansett Federation of tribes in Rhode Island and the Tarratine Federation of tribes in Maine that would likely take advantage of the situation. Especially since war had broken out between the Tarratines and the Penobscots in 1615. When Nanapashamet, the Grand Sachem of the eleven villages of the Massachusett Federation of tribes offered help to the Penobscots, the Tarratines of Maine hunted him down and killed him in 1619.

The Massachusett Federation of tribes, around what is now Boston Harbor, had been powerful enough to drive off Samuel de Champlain and his men when they tried to settle in Massachusetts in 1606, and in 1607 the Abenaki tribes successfully expelled the first Plymouth Company settlement from the coast of Maine. However, by the time the Native populations of Southeastern New England had replenished themselves to some degree, after so many being killed by Plagues in 1617, it was too late to expel the European intruders.

Bear in mind that the Separatist Puritans on the Mayflower, later known as Pilgrims, numbered only 35 out of the 102 settlers on board. The other 67 persons on board were ordinary folk seeking their fortunes in the new Colony at Jamestown, Virginia. Why the Mayflower never arrived in Virginia, but ended up in Massachusetts Bay, is still up to debate. The “origin myth” states that the Mayflower was blown off course. However, a great majority of Historians now believe that the Dutch bribed the Mayflower’s captain and part owner, Christopher Jones, to sail north so the Pilgrims would not settle near their settlement of New Amsterdam, now known as New York City.

It is further believed that Massachusetts Bay was then chosen as a good site because of the known absence of Native Indians, as a result of the Plague three years earlier, in addition to the good fishing known to be off Cape Cod. In fact, John Smith had studied the Massachusetts Bay area previously in 1614 and he published the result of his explorations on his land and coastal survey in a guidebook called A Description of New England printed in London in 1616. The guidebook included a map drawn by Smith himself, of the land he named New England. A guidebook one of the 35 Pilgrims carried with them on the Mayflower. (note: A rare copy of this book was purchased at Sotheby’s Auction in New York in 1999 for $211,500.)

Despite having ended up many miles from other European settlements, the Pilgrims hardly “started from scratch in a wilderness” as the “origin myth” would have us believe. Throughout Southern New England, Native Indian tribes had repeatedly burned the underbrush, creating a park-like environment. After first landing at the tip of Cape Cod in what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, the Pilgrims assembled a boat for exploring and began looking around for a site for their new home. They chose Plymouth perhaps because of it’s beautifully cleared fields, recently planted with corn, it’s sheltered harbor, and a brook of fresh water nearby. It was a great site for a town, because before the Plague of 1617, this had been Squanto’s village of the Patuxet tribe.

The new Plymouth colonists did not encounter a wilderness. In fact, in Three Visitors To Early Plymouth: Letters about the Pilgrim Settlement in New England During its First Seven Years by John Pory, Emmanuel Altham, and Isaack deRasieres, edited by Sydney V. James, Plymouth colonist Emmanuel Altham noted in a letter in 1622 that,

“In this bay wherein we live, in former time, hath lived about two thousand Indians.”

In addition, the colonists received help and support from sources not fully known by the majority of Americans today. In his sailor’s journal, written by a colonist on his second full day in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and published in the work done in 1901 by Azel Ames titled, The Mayflower and Her Log, July 15, 1620-May 6, 1621, Edward Winslow writes of he and a companion, saying,

“…we marched to the place where we had the corn formerly, which place we called Cornhill, and digged and found the rest, of which we were very glad. We also digged in a place a little further off, and found a bottle of oil. We went to another place which we had seen before, and digged, and found more corn, viz. Two or three baskets full of Indian wheat, and a bag of beans, with a good many of fair wheat ears. Whilst some of us were digging up this, some others found another heap of corn, which they digged up also, so as we had in all about ten bushels, which will serve us sufficiently for seed”…. “The next morning we followed certain beaten paths and tracks of the Indians into the woods, supposing they would have led us into some town, or houses”…. “When we had marched five or six miles into the woods and could find no signs of any people, we returned again another way, and as we came into the plain ground we found a place like a grave, but it was much bigger and longer than any we had yet seen. It was also covered with boards, so as we mused what it should be, and resolved to dig it up, where we found, first a mat, and under that a fair bow”….. “Also between the mats we found bowls, trays, dishes, and such like trinkets. At length we came to a fair new mat, and under that two bundles, the one bigger, the other less. We opened the greater and found in it a great quantity of fine and perfect red powder, and in it the bones and skull of a man”…. “We brought sundry of the prettiest things away with us, and covered the corpse up again. After this, we digged in sundry like places, but found no more corn, nor any thing else but graves.”

In Karen Ordahl Kupperman’s book, Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580-1640, published in London by J. M. Dent in 1980, she states that the Pilgrims continued to rob graves for years. However, more help came to the Pilgrims from an even more unlikely source named Squanto, also known as Tisquantum.

1911 illustration of Tisquantum or Squanto teaching the Plymouth Colonists to plant maize.

In the “origin myth,” Squanto was a solitary member of the Pautuxet tribe, part of the Wampanoag Federation of tribes, who had supposedly learned English from fisherman, and as a “God sent savior”, taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and fish in the new wilderness, which helped them survive their first winter in New England.

According to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, a leader of the Plymouth Company in England, around 1605 a British Captain stole Squanto from Massachusetts when he was still a boy, along with four members of the Penobscot tribe, and took them to England. There Squanto spent nine years, three of them in the employ of Sir Ferdinando Gorges. After which, in 1614, he arranged for Squanto to be returned to Massachusetts.

Later in 1614, after skirmishing against and then making peace with the Patuxets, John Smith returned to England, leaving a second ship to fish for cod under the command of one Thomas Hunt. Luring Squanto and about twenty other Wampanoags on board, Hunt kidnapped them and then seized about seven others on Cape Cod before sailing for Málaga, Spain. There Hunt began selling his captives as slaves until some priests intervened and redeemed the rest, including Squanto, in hopes of converting them to Christianity. Squanto’s movements are unclear for the next three years until 1617, by which time he had somehow managed to get to London. Living in the home of John Slany, the treasurer of the Newfoundland Company, Squanto became immersed in the English language and culture, and he began to see in the colonial ambitions of Slany and his associates the means by which he could return home.

Squanto’s plans moved closer to realization when, on an expedition to Newfoundland, he became reacquainted with Thomas Dermer, an officer under John Smith in 1614. Like Smith, Dermer had left Patuxet before the fateful kidnapping. Dermer took Squanto back to his former employer, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, then the most determined colonizer of New England. Although he had already failed in several attempts to use kidnapped Indians to advance his endeavors, Gorges was persuaded by Squanto’s evident knowledge of the region, his apparent standing among his people, and his professed loyalty. So with Thomas Dermer at the helm, Squanto finally sailed for Massachusetts in the spring of 1619.

Now Squanto set foot again in Massachusetts and walked to his home village of Patuxet, only to make the horrifying discovery that he was the sole member of his village left alive. All others having perished in the Plague epidemic two years earlier.

By the winter of 1620, struggling to survive, half the unprepared Plymouth colonists succumbed to starvation and disease during the harsh winter. Finally in March of 1621, members of the Pokanoket and Nemasket tribe convinced Samoset, a visiting Abenaki with ties to English traders, to sound out the beleaguered colonists. Finding them receptive, Samoset returned a few days later with Squanto, whose knowledge of the English and their language exceeded his own.

As translator, ambassador and technical advisor, Squanto was essential to the survival of the Plymouth Colony in it’s first two years. In the book edited by Samuel Morrison in 1981 titled Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647 the first Governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford called Squanto,

“…a special instrument sent of God for our good beyond expectation. He directed us how to set our corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also our pilot to bring us to unknown places for our profit.”

Their “profit” was the primary reason most Mayflower colonists made the trip. Contrary to the myth, religious freedom was only a secondary motive. Squanto was not the only advisor for the Pilgrims either. As critical as he was to Plymouth’s fortunes, Squanto’s usefulness was limited because he had no power base among the remaining Wampanoags or other local natives. In the summer of 1621 the colony invited a second Indian, a Pokanoket named Hobbamock, to live among them, and he stayed for several years serving as a guide and ambassador. In fact, Hobbamock helped the Plymouth colonists to set up fur trading posts at the mouth of the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers in Maine, along the Aptucxet River in Massachusetts, and along the Windsor River in Connecticut.

All this brings us to Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims did not introduce the Fall Harvest Thanksgiving Ceremony.

Northeastern tribes had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. However, in the Fall of 1621, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, decided to have a harvest thanksgiving celebration of his own and invited Massasoit, the Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation to come as a guest. Massasoit arrived on the appointed day with ninety warriors, and gifts of more food, including apple cider, deer, lobster, clams, oysters, smoked eel, corn, squash, wild rice, smoked cod fish, and popped corn with maple syrup. The Wampanoags remained at Plymouth for three days and the celebration continued for several more days after they left.

When the next great wave of Puritans settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, there was such a shortage of food, that the new Governor, John Winthrop, sent one of the ships back to England to purchase as much food as possible. When it returned in February 1631, Governor Winthrop ordered a day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated by all the settlements in the colony. The first such celebration to be held in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in ten years since 1621.

Other than in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they were held as a local custom every year from 1631 on, thanksgiving celebrations were held sporadically in the European colonies in America during the 1600s and 1700s. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress recommended that each of the colonies observe a day of thanksgiving every year, and when George Washington later became President, he proclaimed November 26th to be a National Day of Thanksgiving. However, the custom fell into disuse in a short time, and the States that did observe an annual thanksgiving day celebration, did so on a day that best suited them, although they all observed it in the Month of November.

During the Civil War in 1863, when President Lincoln felt that the Union needed all the patriotism that such as observance might muster, he proclaimed Thanksgiving a National Holiday to be observed on the last Thursday in November. However, the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony were not included in the celebrations at that time. It would not be until the 1890s that the Pilgrims were included in the celebration traditions. In fact, Americans did not even use the term Pilgrim until the 1870s.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that some historians believe that Thanksgiving became such an important holiday in the New England States because the Pilgrims and the Puritans wanted a festival to replace the Christmas Holiday that they had refused to recognize or observe, and which was banned outright in the 1640s. Although this may have been the case in the early years, both holidays became important to all New Englanders after Christmas became a legal holiday in the United States in 1856.


Addison, Albert Christopher. 1911.
The Romantic Story of the Mayflower Pilgrims. L. C. Page & Company: Boston, MA.

Ames, MD, Azel. 1901.
The Mayflower and Her Log: July 15, 1620 – May 6, 1621. Houghton, Mifflin & Company: Boston, MA.

Anderson, Virginia Dejohn. 1993.
Migrants and Motives: Religion and the Settlement of New England, 1630-1640 in Katz, ed. Colonial America. McGraw-Hill, Inc.: New York, NY.

Bercovitch, Sacvan. 1986.
A Library of American Puritan Writings. Volume 9 – The Seventeenth Century. Ams Press, Inc.: New York, NY.

Bradford, William. Samuel Eliot Morrison, ed. 1981.
Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647. McGraw-Hill: New York, NY.

Cook, Jeannine. ed. 1992.
Columbus and the Land of Ayllón: The Exploration and Settlement of the Southeast. University of Georgia Press, Darien, GA.

Davis, William T. 1883.
Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth. A. Williams and Company: Boston, MA.

Deetz, James. 1996.
In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. Anchor Books Doubleday: New York, NY.

Garvan, Anthony N. B. 1951.
Architecture and Town Planning in Colonial Connecticut. Yale University Press: New Haven, CT.

Greene, Jack P. 1988.
Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture. The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Heath, Dwight B. 1963.
Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Corinth Books: New York, NY.

Hume, Ivor N. 1969.
Historical Archaeology. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, NY.

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. 1980.
Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580-1640, J. M. Dent: London. (reprinted 2000 as Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America. Cornell University Press)

Perkins, Frank H. 1947.
Handbook of Old Burial Hill: Plymouth, Massachussetts. Rogers Print, Inc.: Plymouth, MA.

Pory, John, Emmanuel Altham, Isaack deRasieres, edited by Sydney V. James. 1963 (Reprint 1997).
Three Visitors To Early Plymouth: Letters about the Pilgrim Settlement in New England During its First Seven Years. Applewood Books, Plymouth, MA.

Simmons, R. C. 1976.
The American Colonies: From Settlement to Independence. W. W. Norton & Company: New York, NY.

Smith, John. 1971.
Advertisements for the Planters of New England. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Ltd.: Amsterdam.

Young, Alexander. 1841.
Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers of the Colony of Plymouth: from 1602 to 1625. C. C. Little and J. Brown: Boston, MA.

Teltsch, Kathleen. 1990.
Scholars and Descendants Uncover Hidden Legacy of Jews in Southwest in New York Times (Sunday, 11 Nov 1990, p. 30), New York, NY.

Winthrop, Robert Charles. ed. 1864-1867 (Reprint 1971).
Life and Letters of John Winthrop. Vols. 1-2, Boston, MA.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas

Ideal gift ideas for any member of a family!

The needs of a man, woman, child or infant are covered within these baskets full of goodies.

The women's theme basket contains:

1. Serenity Moisturizing Facial Cream
Nourishing moisturizer utilizing therapeutic nut oils
and Sandalwood and Lavender essential oils
2 oz. plastic jar

2. Honeybee Facial Wash
Gentle honey and glycerin cleanse and help retain
moisture for sensitive skin
2 oz. plastic jar

3. Rosewater Facial Astringent and Toner
Sun infused rose petals pair with witch hazel as part
of facial cleansing and freshening.
4 oz. plastic spray bottle

4. Sleep & Dream Mist Linen Spray
Linen and air spray to help relax and encourage sleep.
4 oz. plastic spray bottle

5. Shea & Coconut Oil Body Butter
Whipped, light body butter for full body moisturizing.
Very nourishing, ideal for eczema sufferers
4 oz. plastic jar

6. Plantain & Coconut Oil All-Purpose Balm
Ideal for chapped skin or as a first aid salve for minor
wound care, diaper rash
2 oz. plastic jar

7. Honey Lemon Lip Balm tube
Relief from sore, chapped lips

The men's theme basket contains:

1. Sensual, Relaxing Lavender/Sandalwood Massage Oil
A deep muscle massage is a treat for any man.
2 oz. plastic pump bottle

2. Restless Sleep/Restless Mind Massage Oil
Helps unwind and relax a tired mind and bodily
2 oz. plastic pump bottle

3. Fungal Fighter Foot Powder
Anti-fungal powder for athletes foot or jock itch.
6 oz. plastic shaker bottle

4. Stinkfoot Odor Foot Powder
Helps reduce odor caused by trapped moisture and bacteria
6 oz. plastic shaker bottle

5. Weekend Warrior Muscle Overexertion Relief Balm
Relaxes tense and sore, overused muscles.
2 oz. plastic jar

6. Plantain & Coconut Oil All-Purpose Balm
Relief from dry, chapped skin or healing minor wounds.
2 oz. plastic jar

7. Yarrow Insect Repellent Body Spray
Deet free bug spray and aid for bug bites.
4 oz. plastic spray bottle

8. Honey Lemon Lip Balm tube
Moisturizes dry, chapped lips.

The child's theme basket contains:

1. Sinus and Chest Vapor Rub
Relief from chest congestion due to cold symptoms.
2 oz. plastic jar

2. Settle'n Down Children's Massage Oil
Help your child relax and calm down with your loving
touch and this calming essential oil blend.
4 oz. amber glass dropper bottle

3. Sleep Aid Dream Mist Linen Spray
Delightful linen and air spray sure to help your child
settle and drift off into slumber.
4 oz. plastic spray bottle

4. Calendula and Comfrey Herbal Boo Boo Balm
An herbal salve to aid in the healing of minor cuts,
scrapes and burns.
2 oz. plastic jar

5. Hurting Tummy Oil
Utilizing the wonder of peppermint for this belly massage
oil to help deal with motion sickness or cramped muscles.
2 oz amber glass dropper bottle

6. Germ Fighting Cold Season Air Spray
Antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal essential oils
help keep germs at bay with this air and surface spray.
8 oz. plastic spray bottle

7. Honey Lemon Lip Balm tube
Moisturizes dry, chapped lips.

The baby's theme basket contains:

1. Flower Fairies Diaper Rash and Skin Irritation Cream
Apricot seed oil infused flowers of calendula, elder and
lavender become a very soothing, healing salve for your
baby's bottom, cradle cap or baby eczema.
4 oz. plastic jar

2. Flower Fairies Baby Massage Oil
Baby's skin is very delicate and sensitive.
Apricot seed oil infused flowers of calendula, elder and
lavender bring you an oil ideal for replacing lost
moisture due to bathing. Help your baby relax and enjoy
your gentle touch.
4 oz. amber glass dropper bottle

3. Lovely Lavender Baby Powder
Talc free, soothing baby powder helps keep your
baby's bottom dry and fresh between diaper changes.
6 oz. plastic shaker bottle

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time of Reflection

Seasonal reflection:
"Our gardens are tired, they've given their all,
The bounty is gathered, we're ready for Fall.
Herbs cut and dried, seeds stored away,
Swallows have flown, mice hide in the hay.
Take time to listen, the message is there,
Blessings abound, our work now to share.
Give what you can, but take a moment to rest
Take care of yourself and you'll give back your best."

As the months just seem to blend one into another it is easy to let these beautiful days slip away as we focus more on the day to day schedule of demands than on taking advantage of the moment.

Once frost hits, these beautiful Fall days will become another memory in a year fast coming to a close.

Hopefully we all remembered to take notes of what worked and what didn't in our gardens. In only a few weeks we'll be getting 2011's seed catalogs in the mail. By then the gray doldrums of Winter will have us color starved gardeners aching to begin the planning stage of next year's garden layout.

So while there is still time, get outside and really take it all in before we wake one morning to a glistening landscape.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Out of the Box Sampler Etsy team boasts over 125 members! They cater to finding the best candles, bath n body, jewelry, gourmet edibles and all kinds of other handmade shoppes on the web. They promote those shoppes by putting together the most incredible sample boxes each month in which people receive 15-17 different businesses samples all in one box. What a great way to market a shoppe. It allows a seller to get their products directly to a target market and into the hands of consumers that are looking to purchase from businesses that produce handmade items.

The Out Of The Box Sampler is one of only two original sample box websites that’s still in business. They have been promoting businesses since 2006. They have a huge success rate and continue to grow every month. They advertise in hundreds of online locations, and continue to send out media packages every month to magazines, newspapers, blogs and more. They are the ONLY sample box business to be featured in the Country Sampler magazine. They were in the July issue of 2010! The Country Sampler magazine is a huge print magazine that goes out to over 15 million readers! That brought in lots of attention to their website and in turn to those businesses who joined contributing!

Meadow Muffin Gardens has contributed to the October sample boxes due to be on sale Oct. 5th. I'm looking forward to see what opportunities arise from this invitation.

The Out Of The Box Sampler also has a facebook page!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Equinox and Harvest Moon

According to the Farmer's Almanac the month of September belongs to Jupiter. Jupiter shines at its brightest on Sept. 21st and this close visit can easily be seen even without a telescope. The article below is from another site. Read on for a fascinating little lesson. A great reason to take the time to go outside at night and really study the night sky.
The action begins at sunset on Sept 22nd, the last day of northern summer. As the sun sinks in the west, bringing the season to a close, the full Harvest Moon will rise in the east, heralding the start of fall. The two sources of light will mix together to create a kind of 360-degree, summer-autumn twilight glow that is only seen on rare occasions.
Keep an eye on the moon as it creeps above the eastern skyline. The golden orb may appear strangely inflated. This is the Moon illusion at work. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, a low-hanging Moon appears much wider than it really is. A Harvest Moon inflated by the moon illusion is simply gorgeous.
The view improves as the night wears on.
Northern summer changes to fall on Sept. 22nd at 11:09 pm EDT. At that precise moment, called the autumnal equinox, the Harvest Moon can be found soaring high overhead with the planet Jupiter right beside it. The two brightest objects in the night sky will be in spectacular conjunction to mark the change in seasons.
The Harvest Moon gets its name from agriculture. In the days before electric lights, farmers depended on bright moonlight to extend the workday beyond sunset. It was the only way they could gather their ripening crops in time for market. The full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox became "the Harvest Moon," and it was always a welcome sight.

I find it fascinating to understand why people did the things they did. The gathering of the harvest before the cold sets in was critical for survival. Remember the fable about the grasshopper who figured he'd worry about tomorrow when tomorrow came and dilly dallied while the ant worked nonstop preparing for the approaching winter. When cold weather settled in the grasshopper had few supplies while the ant was tucked away with plenty of food in storage.
Many of us learned about "getting our work done before play" as well as "everything in moderation" from that little story. Should the ant be expected to share with the grasshopper with the hopes he learned his lesson? Is "all work and no play" always such a bad thing? So many great topics for a group discussion.
With everything we need at the nearest supermarket it is easy to get away with irresponsible behavior, poor planning, and self-discipline. I suppose one can get away with it as long as there is a regular paycheck and the interconnecting system of our society doesn't fail. Can you imagine if a few cogs in the wheel would just stop. If we couldn't get fuel for transportation, if electricity would no longer be available. Would the average household know how to use alternative means to stay warm or get to water or even make a loaf of bread?
Those self-sustaining people of the past worked right into the moon lit night to get everything done in time before cold set in. Even if we are thankful we don't have to work so physically hard these days it would be nice to have such knowledge stored away along with the canned foods.

Information provided by Science@NASA

Friday, September 17, 2010

Everything In Due Time

The one area of any business I found the most challenging for me is how to sell myself.
When a person thinks of being their own boss they often overlook the fact that being your own boss also means being your own employees, note I said employees, plural. My area of skill and interest lies from the garden to the kitchen preparation of the creams and such. Learning to be comfortable with the computer, bookkeeping, and public relations has been a rather large hurdle. Without the help of my teenage children I doubt things would have gotten further than a few bazaars.

For starters, I had no idea how to put together a website. We found out that it isn't necessary to spend a whole lot of money for a website designer. Maybe someday I'll want a site that is more elaborate but for what I need at this point we could handle it ourselves using either Yahoo or Vista. Their customer service help is invaluable.
For a very manageable monthly fee we got started and can upgrade anytime. It was very exciting to learn how to use services such as palpal and propay for online credit card payment. I come from the generation that ordered through a catalog, wrote a check or called it in, then waited 4 - 6 weeks for delivery. Years ago we would never expect to receive a package the same week it was ordered. Our fast paced society has so increased expectations that the pressure has doubled to remain competitive.

I also got very frustrated with the packaging of my products. Choosing the right containers and finding how to get waterproof labels was as time consuming as making the products. We had bought a great ink jet printer only to soon realize that you need a laser printer for adhering the ink to waterproof labels. Only after I spent money I didn't yet have on a labeling company did I discover who offered printing services. Finally a friend led me to the most personal service I could want through a UPS store who was willing to download the labeling software I already was using in order for them to be able to open the files on their system. I'm sure as funds allow I'll improve my labeling system but for now that headache was put to rest.

I got involved with a local organic farmer's market which geared toward the health conscious consumer. To stand there on the other side of the table as people stroll by, it is very hard to figure out what to do with myself. Do I remain quiet and let people show interest and ask questions or do I get a bit chatty and risk them feeling uncomfortable and drifting away. I know for myself I don't like when a vendor watches me studying their products. If I have a question, I'll ask. So what I've discovered is that if people don't know a thing about me or what I am selling, they'll take a business card and hopefully look it up later. I've discovered that those hours spent at the market were not in vain at all.
The vendors next to me selling edibles is a whole other ballgame. People come to these markets intending to buy their organic produce and fresh baked breads. Though my products fit in with the whole back to nature scene, my type of products are something that takes some study and decision making. People need to find out what makes my stuff worth spending their money on when they can find brand name body care products at any store. Just having confidence in the quality of my line has been a turning point. I know its value but when you're standing there feeling very vulnerable to judgement it is easy to get insecure. So at this point I've learned not to be so sensitive. It is much more about networking and connections than on the spot sales. Its about getting the word out there.

One of the greatest compliments I had so far was an invitation to be part of a crafter's blog. That was so exciting to see my online interview posted on her site. What a great way for exposure!
Her site is:

I never thought I'd have the time to get involved in blogging or reading forums and other peoples' blogs. Now I understand how I have to keep up with the times and take advantage of networks like facebook, blogging and accumulating "fans" and "friends" even if I never really meet these people.
Times change and we have to go with the flow. As the saying goes, "Everything in due time."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kid Approved Zucchini Breads

To you it's zucchini bread, to your kids, call it spice bread, chocolate bread, or cakes if you add frosting. Whatever you call it, serving zucchini as a dessert is a great way to not only use them up, but add a vegetable to the menu.  

Summer zucchini can easily go from excitement over the first few to the joke about how many have trouble finding homes when people just want to give them away. Instead of ending up adding some of the abundance to the compost pile, I shred them for later use.

Shred them in the food processor then measure out 2 cup portion sizes into baggies and freeze. They are then ready to go for baking or adding to casseroles or soups. If the zucchini is young you don't have to peel them before shredding. If they are like a baseball bat the skin may be thicker so to avoid noticeable "green pieces" in your bread you better peel it first. When defrosted you'll notice a lot of water in the baggie and just a small lump of vegetable. Don't drain off the water. It was part of the zucchini to start with and your baking bread won't know the difference between this and fresh.

Here are three great recipes for zucchini bread!
Pictured above are the Chocolate Zucchini and the Speckled Zucchini breads.

recipe comes from Kitty and Lucian Maynard's book, Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or half unbleached white, half wheat)
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup butter (3/4 cup) softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup milk (or yogurt or vanilla yogurt)
1 cup nuts (optional)

Sift together the dry ingredients.
In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar.
In another bowl mix together the eggs, vanilla, zucchini, milk and nuts.
Alternate combining the wet and dry ingredients with the creamed mixture.
Spread batter into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Cool before taking out of pans.
Makes two loaves

Recipe from Gregg R. Gillespie's cookbook, 1001 Muffins, Biscuits, Doughnuts, Pancakes, Waffles, Popovers, Fritters, Scones, and Other Quick Breads

3 cups all-purpose flour (or half unbleached white, half wheat)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup either semisweet chocolate chips or cinnamon chips
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt (plain or vanilla)
2 cups shredded zucchini

In a large bowl, blend together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and either chocolate or cinnamon chips.
In another bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then beat in the oil, vanilla extract and either sour cream of yogurt.
Using a spoon stir in the zucchini.
Combine the two mixtures, blending until the dry ingredients are well moistened.
Spread batter into two greased loaf pans
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes depending on your oven. Check with a toothpick
Cool before taking out of pan.
Makes 2 loaves

recipe from Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman's cookbook, From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour (or half unbleached white, half wheat)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup raisins

Beat eggs till foamy
Stir in sugar, zucchini, oil, and vanilla
Sift together dry ingredients
Combine wet with dry ingredients, stir in nuts and raisins
Pour into bread pans which have been greased only on the bottoms.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Cool before removing from pans
Can be used as a bread or frosted as a cake
Makes 2 loaves

These recipes freeze well for later use.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The More You Know, The Further You'll Go

When my kids would generalize about school and claim they were either good or bad at certain subjects I'd try to nip that attitude in the bud.
To generalize and say you're lousy at science just means you haven't found an area within that field that interests you.
One great perk about home schooling is that a student can take a topic that excites him and dive into it with all the time he needs to really explore and learn the information.
My children were not home schooled but we always had a library of information to look up the answer to whatever question they had. We always tried to do hands on projects on our own to make a subject more interesting and a real learning experience.

I remember when my daughter was little we ordered this "make your own perfume" kit for Christmas. Dabbling around with that set and learning about the molecular structure of these fragrances helped her realize that chemistry and biology can be much more interesting than the formulations and memory drills she had in the classroom. It wasn't too long before that interest blended with our passion for earth and life sciences and we learned the difference between natural and synthetic, and how our bodies interpret various chemical makeups. Suddenly, science became a fascinating rather than intimidating part of our lives.

Meadow Muffin Gardens
Making lotions and creams has always been a challenge. Most people have heard the saying "oil and water don't mix" in reference to relationships. Well, that is literally true as well; there is a knack to blending oil and water and keeping it that way. I've had creams and lotions look fine at the time of pouring only to observe later and realize that underneath the solid surface lies a little pool of water. With practice and more research as to what I was doing wrong, I think I've gotten over that hump of hit or miss.

I have several "oops" jars under my bathroom sink. They are fine to use, the beneficial properties are still there,, it's just a bit greasy. When I think back on all those creams I proudly gave to friends and family to try out as I was learning, I could either cringe or smile in good humor.

The point is that in order to succeed at anything, we need to be willing to fail and keep plugging away till we get it right. Perseverance is a term I use all the time with my children as they try to keep their heads above water with every challenge that they encounter in growing up. One of our favorite musical groups, The Mighty Manatees, has a line in a song "Don't go straight, Go forward". There is a lot of wisdom in those words. Anything worthwhile usually doesn't come easy.

Remember when we were still in school and wondered where in the world we'll ever use the stuff we struggled to learn? We all have what it takes to succeed. The key is to get out of your own way. Our fear of failure and insecurities need to stand aside so we can fine tune those God-given skills that were there all along.

You never know, you may be pleasantly surprised one day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

September - End of Summer Reflection

September has always been one of my favorite months of the year.
Being my birthday month it holds special memories of things we've done to make my day my own.
But aside from that September has always been a happy sad time. Back in May the approach of Memorial Day meant long, lazy, hazy days so anticipated for the summer ahead.
However, that empty calender still managed to fill its slots with day to day responsibilities and suddenly here we are watching for the approaching school bus. A new and exciting chapter of another season is just opening up and the kids are ready to take on what is next in life.

Everything got done I suppose but with everyone going in their own direction it is getting more difficult to manage the fuzzy moments of family time. It is a very sad day for me when I wake the morning after the first hard frost and I need to say good-bye to my flowering and garden friends, so beautiful and giving all summer long.

So September is the time when my husband just knows what is churning inside my head and we head for the hills and go hiking. Mentally refreshing and physically stimulating, a good walk really does help put things in perspective.
This year's Labor Day weekend was spent trekking the trails of Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania. Within an hour's drive from our home, this beautiful region is a great attraction for enthusiasts studying hawk migration, those hiking the Appalachian Trail and seeking a bit of solitude.

The above view is from atop the point called Bear's Rock. A well marked trail, the walk was a pleasant hike enabling good conversation without too much need for concentration on our footing or catching our breath. But we also tried to stay quiet long enough to hear what was being whispered all around us.

Observing the feel of the breeze, the look of the land, its a clear message that the plants are getting tired, they've completed another cycle of intense growth, did what they had to do, and now need a rest. We have to do the same. Take advantage of the moments we're given, do what needs to be done and then let go and let be.

Yes the summer is nearing its end, the weather is cooling off, the house may seem too quiet again. But now we can look forward to another chapter, another season of opportunity.
Fall festivals can be as exciting as the musical festivals of summer, holiday bazaars can be as full of treasures as flea markets, and of course the upcoming holiday season has the potential of as much family time as we can handle.

Take a moment this Labor Day to set aside a time for yourself to reflect with pride your own path, to appreciate our country's history, and just why this day in September came to be a national holiday.

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence" 
Martin Luther King Jr.