Follow by Email

Meadow Muffin Gardens logo

Friday, July 27, 2012

Loosen the Binds, They're College Bound

People ask me which child is harder to let go, a son or a daughter. Seems like a ridiculous question but does cause a parent to pause and be honest with ourselves if we subconsciously have different expectations between our children.

With my daughter it was a day of emotional turmoil as she and myself worried how we would handle the college move-in day without making spectacles of ourselves at the moment of parting. Of course we did, but in our defense we blended right in with the other blubbering mothers.

 That scenario was a bit more one-sided when it came time for our son to make his departure. He has had one foot out the door for months and was very ready to begin a new chapter in his life. Our daughter was just as ready to spread her wings but I have to admit we did hover over her a bit longer. With our son we were more conscious of embarrassing him in front of his peers. His eye contact before saying good-bye relayed the message to me, 'Call me later when we can talk, just be cool for now'.

My husband and I think it funny to think back only 10 - 20 years and how things have changed. Dorm rooms are the same size as they always were, yet somehow students back then managed to fit stereo systems complete with oversize speakers, desk computers with their huge monitors, and even a TV set. Now we send them off with a laptop computer, and hand-held devices, all of which take up minimal space, yet their rooms still need organizational maneuvering. Even the bed-side table has no need for a phone and alarm clock, just a docking station.

Always the mom, I put together an assortment of "what if" items from my Meadow Muffin Gardens shop. The idea is the hope of covering the bases for ailments that result in a phone call home; of which there is little for me to do from here.

Care Package
Students on their own are often challenged with stress overload, time management challenges, sleep deprivation, and susceptibility to illness. My policy is "first do no harm", so before they rush to the drug store and use products haphazardly, I'd hope they'd at least try the natural route first. Our bodies really do want to heal themselves and once back in balance, ailments often resolve themselves.

This Care Package assortment contains natural means of handling things like headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, blemishes, sore muscles, as well as odor and germ control. The links below will take you into the Meadow Muffin Gardens shop to read about each item in more detail.

Sleep Aid Linen or Air Spray

This linen and air spray is ideal for the anxious student who has trouble relaxing the mind and body. This calming, pleasant smelling spray is a great form of aromatherapy appealing to both guys and girls.

Foot or Shoe Odor Powder

Laundry duties are not always high on a busy student's agenda, therefore the hamper can develop nasty odors. The same goes for athletic bags and shoes worn without socks, and the smelly feet themselves. This Stinkfoot Powder is great for absorbing moisture and freshening offending odors.

Blemish Spot Treatment Astringent

Change in routine, diet, sleep habits and stress all contribute to annoying facial, chest and back break-outs. Our Herbal Vinegar Blemish Treatment packs a powerful punch by utilizing the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of various medicinal herbs infused in apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is known for balancing skin pH. This blend can be used as a facial astringent (diluted) or as a spot treatment on the blemish itself.

Rosemary n' Lavender Body Spray

Girls can use as a body spray and guys would probably use it as an air spray around their desk. Either way this blend is a great combination to get going in the morning or as a pick-me-up to help with concentration while studying. Lavender helps one relax and Rosemary perks up the brain.

Germ Fighting Air n' Surface Spray

With so many people living in close quarters, dorm rooms are a breeding ground for germs. This essential oil blend has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties very helpful to destroy germs on surfaces such as computer keyboards, phones, door knobs, bathrooms, and so on.

Muscle Ache Overexertion Balm

Overexertion from athletic training, gym workouts or just an action packed weekend can easily result in sore, achy muscles. Herbal oils, aromatherapy and beeswax combine to form a balm wonderful for relief from those aches and pains.

Tension Headache, Muscle Ache Massage Oil

Muscular tension in the neck, shoulders and back are often the result of intense concentration, incorrect posture or sitting at a desk for long periods of time without stretching.
The essential oil blend relaxes jangled nerves and helps reduce inflammation.

Immune System Booster

 Elderberries have long been used in herbal medicine in the form of a syrup to be taken daily during cold season to boost the immune system or as a natural remedy to aid the body in its fight against a cold or fever. It can be taken right off a spoon or added to hot water to drink as a tea.
This item isn't part of the care package since it needs to be refrigerated and not all students have access to a refrigerator. If interested and you want it to be included in the care package just add its listing to your purchase .

 Hopefully our now adult children will take care of themselves, but it is comforting to know that they are prepared to handle issues as they pop up so little annoyances don't develop into actual illness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flying Flowers, the love of the Butterfly

Butterfly Haven

Hershey Gardens in Hershey Pennsylvania is the home of a magical butterfly sanctuary.

The Butterfly House is part of the children's area but with the butterflies, the bird observation area, the ABC garden and all the little extras to attract kids to the plant world, this section is a fascination at any age.

Listed below are some of the numerous types of butterfly species housed within the greenhouse type structure. The attendants for the butterflies watch over them with great care. It is very important that they don't escape so visitors are inspected before exiting for any butterflies hitching a ride. Strollers are not allowed due to space restrictions and also since the butterflies are everywhere it is easy to harm them by accidentally stepping on them. Without predators, these flying flowers float around without a care. They have food, shelter, water, warmth...what a life during their short adult life spans which averages two weeks to a few months depending on the type. Included was a display of all the various types of chrysalis' so amazingly camouflaged to look like leaves and bird droppings.

The buckeye caterpillar is part of the brushfooted family. It is found throughout most of the U.S. except for the Rocky Mt. states. It is found in open areas with low vegetation, such as along roadsides, railroads, fields and meadows. To attract them plant snapdragons as a food source for the larvae and a variety of flowers for nectar for the adults.

The julia is a subtropical butterfly from Brazil to southern Texas, Florida and Mexico. They feed on the nectar of firebush and lantana.

The malachite is a tropical butterfly widespread in Central and South America. In America, they can be found in Texas and Florida. The caterpillars feed on green shrimp-plant and the adults feed on fermenting fruit.

 Several types within Hershey's Gardens are from the swallowtail family. This family contains species that are the largest butterflies in North America. Swallowtails get their name from the "tails" on the back edge of their wings that reminded people of the forked tails of Swallows.

The tiger swallowtail butterflies can be found all throughout Alaska, Canada south through the U.S. east of the Rockies. Swallowtails favor broadleaf trees and shrubs. Birds avoid them due to a chemical in its body that makes it distasteful. Very common among gardens, farmland and meadows.

The spicebush swallowtail is such a beauty with its blue and black markings. Sassafras and Spicebush are North American natives and are the needed host plants for the caterpillars. The eyespots and big head make this caterpillar ferocious looking to predators. Adults feed on honeysuckle, butterfly bush, Joe Pye wee, zinnias and coneflowers. Birds avoid this type as well due to its foul taste.

The zebra swallowtail has a favorite location around the Potomac area near Washington, D.C. and into Virginia along rivers, but they do extend westward to the Great Plains. A host plant for the eggs to be laid is the paw-paw tree. Adults dine on a variety of sources with sweet nectar. These butterflies can live for up to six months.

Another swallowtail, the eastern black swallowtail, has a range all the way west to the Rockies and then the western black swallowtail is found. Plant preferences are parsley, carrot and dill and nectar sources include phlox and milkweed. Very common among gardens and farmland but avoids wooded areas.

Viceroy butterfly
is often confused with the monarch butterfly. There is an extra black line across the viceroy's hind wings that distinguishes it from the monarch. Milkweed butterflies such as the monarch are distasteful to predators, therefore similar looking types are also avoided. Viceroys live throughout most of the U.S. and Canada. They frequent moist areas as well as open meadows seeking thistles, asters and goldenrod. The larvae eat the leaves of trees such as the aspens, poplars, willows and fruit trees.

Easy to identify because of the stripes and long wings, the zebra longwings are normally found in the south and mid-western U.S. They prefer the edge of forests. Passionflower is the sought after host plant for the larvae. The flowers are toxic but harmless to the longwings and makes them distasteful to predators. This type of butterfly can live up to three months. They are the only butterflies known to eat pollen, which is a form of protein, enabling them to live longer than living on only nectar (sugar) sources.

Being a tropical resident, the white peacock is active throughout the year. They are closely related to the buckeyes and are native to the very southern Florida and Texas areas and like wet, swampy habitats. Caterpillars feed on ruellia and water hyssop plants.

Hershey Gardens included a few moths as well. Moth larvae develop in cocoons rather than chrysalises. Moths can be distinguished from butterflies in that they are night dwellers, have heavier bodies, and have feathery antennae, whereas butterlies' are wiry with clubbed tips.

moths are widespread across the U.S. and Mexico and often can be as large as 4 inches across. With its long tail and eyespots as a distraction from its head, they can often escape predators. Luna caterpillars feed on the foliage of broad-leaved trees such as birch. As adults they do not feed at all, so only live a few days.

Looking surprisingly like a butterfly, the cecropia moth belongs to the family of silk moths. Its range extends east of the Rocky Mountains of the U.S. and southern Canada. Also known as the robin moth, this moth is the largest in North America with a wingspan of six inches. Having no mouth parts they only survive long enough to find a mate and breed, from one to two weeks. The caterpillars feed on shrubs and trees, such as dogwood, box elder, willow, sugar maple, alder, birch, and fruit trees.

About the same size wingspan as a hummingbird as well as rapidly beating its wings as it feeds, the hummingbird clearwing moth is also called sphinx moth or hawk moth. These moths can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. Common in the eastern U.S. and Canada these moths feed on hawthorns and flower nectar during the day. Caterpillar food source include shrubs such as the viburnum. Rather than spinning a cocoon, the caterpillar digs into the soil.

I'm not sure if this type of moth was at Hershey Gardens but it frequents our area and it is so cute I had to mention it.
Its common name is Rosy Maple Moth
The habitat is deciduous forests but its eggs are laid in maple trees.
They range from Canada down to Florida over to Texas.

The many plant types throughout the butterfly house included:
Butterfly bushes, lantana, coneflowers, rubeckias, verbena, lobelia, joe-pye weed, salvia, phlox and the shrub called spicebush.
Other valuable plants include dill, fennel, nettles, butterfly weed, milkweed, aster, marigold, zinnia, tithonia and the shrub buttonbush.
Water was supplied by way of a little pond and puddling areas.
Fresh fruit was offered on plates at ground level.

A great source for more information:
Host plants for caterpillars 
Nectar plants for butterflies 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Raspberry Pickin' to Fingertip Lickin'

Homemade Raspberry Vinegar

Memories of hay making during the heat of the summer months are a mixture of the good times of family working together and the misery of the sweat and bugs. However, it is with fond memory that we can recall taking breaks and walking the field edges looking for ripe berries. First came the black raspberries, then the red raspberries which are also known as wineberries, and the blackberries with their solid rather than hollow centers.

As children, we knew where the good spots were located along the country roads, and would peddle our bikes with our buckets clamoring from the handlebars. We knew to wear long pants even on the hottest days or we'd pay the price later with unsightly scratches and most likely poison ivy.

As adults, the days just fly by with our daily activities and unless we actually schedule a time slot to pick berries, their season is over before you know it.

Raspberry vinegar is surprisingly simple to make.
In a large saucepan, combine 4 cups white wine vinegar and 1/2 cup sugar.
Bring almost to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.
Do not boil.
Have 3 cups fresh raspberries waiting in a large jar (about 6 cup capacity)
Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the berries and cover the jar with a cap.
Let the jar stand at room temperature for 48 hours.

Strain through several layers of cheesecloth into a clean bottle or jar.
Seal with a cork or lid and store in a cool dark place.
Yield is about 4 cups.

Raspberries are very healthy for you, as they are loaded with powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants necessary for a healthy immune system. Ellagic acid is an antioxidant which protects your cells from becoming damaged. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that have antimicrobial properties that help fight off Candida. These flavonoid molecules are also what give raspberries their red color.

Ellagitanins are a family of compounds that are reported to have anti-cancer activity. Of all the antioxidants, these are considered the biggest contribution to their antioxidant capacity.

Raspberries are a rich source of vitamin C, manganese, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, potassium, and copper.

Raspberry vinegar is a great tasty vinegar for any salad greens combination. Especially good is a spinach salad consisting of spinach leaves, dried cranberries, almond slices, feta cheese and fresh diced apples. Topped with raspberry vinegar and olive oil and you have a very nutritious, tasty salad different from the ordinary. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trash or Treasure? Junk or Jewels?

Losing our parents is heartbreaking enough but when faced with a deadline to clean out a house to settle the estate, it can be overwhelmingly exhausting, emotionally and physically.

Our parents were raised with the belief that to throw anything out was wasteful, that everything will have a use one day. Children of the Depression era, they knew how to make due with what they had and taught that way of living to their children. We are proud of that part of their character but now that we are suddenly faced with such an array of  treasures accumulated over a period of fifty years, it can feel like drowning, and there is the very real temptation to just heave rather than take the time to sort through everything.

 I am certainly not wasteful but in managing my own home I cannot tolerate clutter and want to live as though if we had to move quick it wouldn't be overwhelming. I rarely actually throw things out, I donate to our local thrift shop. Most of my things are secondhand anyway so rarely feel guilty when I get tired of something and subsequently come out of the thrift shop with as much as I took in. 

We already had the walk through of the home with a realtor to give us a real estate appraisal. She had so many pointers for us it made my head spin. To say we have a lot of work to do is putting it mildly. But one very important thing she made clear was to not be in too much of a hurry to throw stuff out. There will be an upcoming auction and we were told many of those things we may consider trash are a prize find to someone. People get very creative in their homes and gardens with gathering "stuff" to use as planters or in craft projects. Cooking pots, tea kettles, tea cups, flower pots, mens' work boots, baskets, even if cracked or chipped
are reused for such things as planting containers or bird baths and feeders.
If it was just the main rooms to sort through it wouldn't be so bad, but once you throw in the attic, basement and garage it is enough to send one over the edge. However, once we sorted through all the stuff that really was worn out trash we began to visualize the potential treasure cove. So many finds are either great for collectors, valuable as antiques or sought out by those who take vintage jewelry and clothes and repurpose them into amazing ideas of creativity. 

Pictured above are ways I took other peoples' trash and turned them into my own treasures. The wrought iron arch was brought to me by my sister who found it set out for the trash truck. The cement mushroom is really a flower pot and a bird bath stand my creative father had put together for my mother at one time years ago. The metal frog was found at a flea market and fit right in with my husbands passion for music. And the flower collection pictured below is my way of utilizing a bunch of old galvanized pots and buckets I retrieved while sorting through my parents' possessions.

The things that we've saved from the homes of our parents are not always those pieces of financial value. My mother-in-law's cross stitches are precious to me. Knowing the work that goes into needlecraft, it breaks my heart to see those pieces end up at thrift shops. Not a fly fisherman himself, my husband now treasures the beloved fly rods and hand-tied flies of his father. My own Dad had quite an assortment of tools and gadgets amassed over the years. Pocket knives, watches, favorite books, so many things that suddenly hold sentimental value. He was very creative at taking pieces from either the farm equipment or scrap yard and coming up with something very unique for the yard or garden.

So as we children approach that period in our adult lives where we are the older generation, we have attained a new level of maturity. As long as we had our parents, a part of us always felt a tad childlike in their presence. Not that they did anything to warrant that in us, but I suppose that is normal. If anything, the roles were reversed as our parents' health declined and they needed us to make decisions for their welfare.

Now aware more than ever of how our behavior appears to our own children, many deep seated issues can be put into perspective. Our parents did the best they could with what they had at the time. Whatever tensions were between parent and child should be put to rest. Everyone walks their own unique path in life and deals with things at that time. We may never understand why a person was the way they were. Not many people are an open book to be able to read the details behind their story. We are all faced with the good times and challenged with the bad. We make decisions and later deal with either the rewards or the regrets.

What I do know about our parents, and probably most people, is that their biggest fear with death is that their lives hadn't enough meaning or that their memory will be forgotten. How reassuring for them to be told that to have the blessing of being someone's son or daughter, sister or brother,  husband or wife, Mom or Dad, and finally Mom Mom or Pop Pop, there is little chance they will ever be forgotten. Their spirit lives on through every one of those lives they have touched.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Salt of the Earth


'We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came. "
By John F. Kennedy

Neil Shubin, a paleontologist, wrote the book "Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into A 3.5 Billion Year History Of The Human Body".

A paleontologist is a scientist who studies prehistoric life. He claims that the bodies of sea creatures are just simpler versions of our own and to understand their anatomy will cause us to rethink what it means to be human. His mother was a surgeon who had always told him that our own anatomy is unintelligible without a knowledge of its evolutionary origins. She believed all creatures are linked.
One of his discoveries was the unearthing of a fish with elbows and a neck, a long-sought evolutionary "missing link" between creatures of the sea and land-dwellers.
He explains what evolutionary science, i.e. paleontology, comparative anatomy, genetics, embryology and developmental biology have to tell us about the human body, and how it came to be the way it is.
He is careful to say that he see's science and religion in two different spheres, that he is involved in the study of DNA, not getting into the discussion of evolution vs. creation.

Interesting is the fact that the water content of our bodies is a salty water solution very similar to seawater. Below is a link to an article with interesting information as to how seawater is so very beneficial to us.

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, discovered the therapeutic qualities of seawater by noticing the healing affects it had on the injured hands of fishermen. The seawater not only restricted infection risks, but patients who followed treatments involving the use of seawater found that it also promoted pain relief. It is now known that sea salt therapy is an effective treatment that assists in the rejuvenation of the cells and also induces a healthy exchange of minerals and toxins between the blood and the water.

 Thalassotherapy is the medical use of seawater as a form of therapy. It is based on the use of the ocean and its products such as salt, seaweed and mud as a means to help restore the body's natural chemical balance.  The name comes from the Greek words thalassa ("the sea") and therap ("treat").
The principle behind thalassotherapy is that repeated exposure to sea air and immersion in warm seawater, mud, clay, and protein-rich algae helps restore the body's natural chemical balance. Seawater and human plasma are very similar. When immersed in warm seawater the body absorbs the minerals it needs through the skin.

Benefits of Sea Water Therapy
1) Immune system: immunity refers to the natural healing power and defense power that is inherent to human beings. In other words, it refers to resistance against virus and bacteria, or the resistance against malignant neoplasms. This means the improvement in natural healing power and resistance serves as an important health promotion indicator.

2) Endocrine system: The endocrine system refers to adjustment of bodily functions that are critical for sustaining life.  Research revealed that thalassotherapy has a potential to recover a low responsiveness of hypothalamic-adrenal endocrine system, which is caused by stress

3) Relaxation: Effects for mind and sleep: our study on the mental changes brought by the stay in a marine environment for the thalassotherapy showed that positive psychological effects were noted such as peace of mind, vibrant life, increased energy level, stability and self control, regain of self confidence, better introspection, and improvement of response behavior against stress. As to sleeping, improvement in the quality of sleep was obtained.

4) Metabolism: Seaweed helps to balance circulation that improves oxygenation and nutrition of the connective tissues. Thus, it can be stated that seaweed: Speeds up local metabolism allowing the body's own lipolytic (fat-burning) enzymes to access fat in hard to reach places. This is characteristic of cellulite and other figure disorders where the atrophying of the connective tissue prevents proper irrigation of interstitial fluid via the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems. Laminaria, Ascophyllum and Fucus Algae are rich in organic iodine, which stimulates metabolism.

5) Skin allergies: Sea-bathing gives an antiseptic effect to the skin and reduces histamine that causes inflammation and itching sensation. The National Pediatric Hospital, allergy section, has been giving the therapy since 1988 many successful results. The balancing effects of seaweed on circulation leave the skin's complexion radiant with an even tone and coloring.

6) Anti-inflammatory: Seaweed flushes out toxins and by-products of metabolism via the lymph system. This is valuable in the elimination of trapped fluids around the thighs, knees and ankles. White Algae, which is rich in calcium and magnesium, plays an important role in the elimination of fluids and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Below are the listings for sea salt products found within Meadow Muffin Gardens!

These links will take you within the Etsy shop but they can also be found within the Zibbet shop or the website

citrus blend bath salts

fungal fighter foot salts

bath salts/massage oil combination for cellulite 
lemon zest body salt polish

peppermint bath salts

basil/lavender/rosemary/frankincense body salt polish

ylang ylang/lavender bath salts

 lavender bath salts

 patchouli/lavender/sandalwood bath salts

mandarin cream bath salts

Salt baths are so common that we often forget the fact that "the simpler the better". A soak in warm salt water has long been used for achy joints and muscles as well as periodic detoxification. The addition of essential oils add their own therapeutic value as well as the pleasure of the aroma.

Epsom salts are not the same as regular table salt. Epsom salts are known as magnesium sulfate. Magnesium and sulfur are naturally present in sea water. Modern diets consisting of primarily processed foods are often deficient in these minerals. When you soak in a salt bath containing epsom salts your body will benefit as these minerals are absorbed through your skin.

Magnesium is important for combating stress by producing serotonin, which is a mood-elevating chemical that creates a sense of calm. By lowering the effects of adrenaline, blood pressure comes down, sleep is improved and basically the nerves and muscles function properly.

Sea salt is also different from table salt in that rather than being pure sodium chloride which is refined from mined rock salt(halite), sea salt is evaporated sea water. It still contains natural minerals.

Examples of the minerals in salt are calcium, potassium, bromides and magnesium. Calcium increases circulation and combats fluid retention. Potassium energizes the body, and bromides ease stiff muscles.

Dead sea salts originate from the Dead Sea, which is a salt lake located in the Middle East. The saline and mineral rich marshes have been used since ancient times for therapeutic and beautifying purposes.
Adding these luxurious salts to your bathing experience will help you understand why even the beautiful Cleopatra demanded rights to these mineral rich natural salts.

Being soluble in water, bath salts leave behind no residue therefore help keep your tub clean. Those of us with water softeners are aware that salt is what softens the water so it only makes sense that bath salts create soft water which enables any soap you use to clean better. And last, the addition of salt compared to a bath without salts is warmer for a longer period of time.