using herbs for homemade gifts

The herb garden is my favorite!  The immediate reward compared to the little input in maintaining it is what I love. The little plants are inexpensive and several of them come back every spring. You’ll be surprised how particularly prolific herbs are! The delight in stepping out of the farmhouse kitchen and cutting a handful of sage for the chicken roast can’t be easily surpassed. Of course, the herbs’ various scents are pleasurable for even the littlest ones in the family : ).

They enjoy chewing on the leaves of most of the herbs. “Spearmint tastes like chewing gum, but it doesn’t make a mess in your hair.”

Over the summers, we’ve put together little herb favors from our own harvest. Homemade food gifts are always cherished for their thoughtfulness. Maybe consider presenting the herb-infused gifts to friends with a list of serving suggestions.

Lavender sprigs are a delicate bundle to gift.  It will brighten anyone’s day gathered in simple ribbon.  This takes no time nor effort, yet it may cheer the recipient alongside a simple batch of cookies or a pot of soup.

Salt-Herb Blends – Sprinkle a custom seasoning onto vegetables and meats before cooking, or pass it at the table.  Combine 1/4 cup coarse salt with 2 to 4 tablespoons mixed ground spices, chopped fresh herbs, or zest (be sure to refrigerate fresh-herb and zest blends; discard unused portion after 1 week).  Try mix-ins such as caraway seeds and pepper; thyme and lemon zest; toasted black-and-white sesame seeds; and chile powder and oregano.

Herb Infused Honey – Enhance the flavor and aroma of an ordinary jar of honey by putting in two or three sprigs of fresh herbs into the syrup.  Lavender is a wonderful addition!

Herb Infused Olive Oil – Choosing a pretty bottle always makes the gift special.  Wash the herbs and dry them thoroughly.  Extra virgin olive oil will taste best.  Add the herb sprigs, a couple of whole garlics (unpeeled) and even a little chile pepper for a full flavored oil.  Oil is often used for preserving food, so it will not go bad at room temperature.

Herb Infused Vinegar – Select a favorite mild vinegar (white wine or rice) and add 5 herb sprigs to 2 cups of vinegar (a 12-16 oz. bottle will do great).  Oregano, rosemary, tarragon, or thyme, lightly crushed or left whole add a fair amount of flavor to the vinegar.  The vinegar can be stored at room temperature. 

 with love, Damaris
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Life Lately

Pumpkins, acorn squashes, buttercup squashes, and butternut are adorning the inside and the outside of our house. Slowly they make their way into the oven, meanwhile, we still have a fall harvest farm stand. We have small decorative pumpkins for sale too!


Doesn’t fall inspire you to get in the kitchen? Butternut cream soup, snickerdoodle bread, maple pumpkin pie (here’s the recipe), beef stew, homemade chai lattes, fresh apple cake…Ahhhh. Our tummies are warm and full. Baking season is in full swing in our farmhouse kitchen, and no one’s complaining. I’ve been putting some muffins and sweet loaves in the freezer for when the baby comes. A little prep will come in handy : )


The crisp air is uplifting, and since the evenings are shorter, we’ve done a couple day outings with Nathan. Even the flower colors are stunning! We hope to get out a few more times before the northern frigid temps settle in.


The older five children are in fall sports. It’s really low-key, but it’s so fun to get out there and kick the ball on cool Saturday mornings! They play a game of soccer followed by flag-football.


Just throwing in a delicious baby eating doughnuts, because he’s irresistible : ) Nothing speaks fall cozy like waking up on the weekend to enormous doughnuts Nathan’s picked up fresh from the bakery!

with love. Damaris


Family Currents: August Abundance

August has been lambing season! We had marked the week on the calendar as to when the two ewes were due, but the exact day would be a surprise. On the last evening of our trip to Washington DC, we got a little text from a friend who was coming to count the barnyard animals once a day. We were in the outdoor hotel pool, and everybody was out of the water so fast to see pictures of the new addition. By the next week, the second ewe had her lamb, and now one cannot tell the lambs apart. We were surprised at how fast they are and how soft they are. Pure white little beauties!

Our mature pig Holly is due to have her litter in early September! Did you know a female pig’s gestation is 3 months + 3 weeks + 3 days?


Nathan found a swarm of bees in the work shop this week and rehomed them into a hive box. We’ll give it a couple more days to call it a success! Hopefully they like their new home. Then we’ll move the box to join the other hive. This will make a third hive. All of the mid-summer honey has been bottled! Feel free to email us, contact us through this post, Facebook, or Instagram if you’d like to enjoy some raw, unfiltered honey.


We love to go blueberry picking! This U-pick farm has a high bush variety which makes it very easy to reach and fill your bucket without bending low to search for the little fruit. It was a later in August than peak season, so we were left with smaller berries and fewer clusters. We ate our fill while picking and still gathered 8 pounds of blueberries! We enjoyed them all weekend and froze 6 quart bags with the rest.


Samuel’s birthday was mid-August, and it was so much fun to celebrate this sweet baby boy! We cannot handle all his sillies! You can read about his special day here. Since chocolate is his favorite food in the entire world, Eva baked this delicious cake. He was so tickled to open presents with trains, tools, and tractors!


A couple of weeks ago, our family went on a road trip to Washington DC where we attended the Bible Family Conference, visited nearby Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon, and of course enjoyed the national monuments, the Smithsonian, and the Museum of the Bible. Wrote about all the trip adventures here. We can’t wait to go back and learn some more! It was a great place for families – and large families too : )


The first Saturday in August always gets marked on the calendar early in the year. Our family doesn’t want to miss the Highland Games! It is such a summer highlight for us! The St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit puts on a full day of Celtic dance competitions, scone and shortbread shops, kilts, swords and traditional jewelry booths, Border Collie dog races, Shetland Sheepdogs and long-haired cattle for petting, caber toss, tug-o’war, hammer throwing, and other traditional Scottish games. We came home with a dozen lavender-lemon shortbreads that were Mmmmmm.


Farm fresh produce are available every day at the farm stand. We pick heirloom tomatoes by the bushel. The dark purple eggplants, sweet corn, okra, bell peppers and jalapenos are glossy and gorgeous. The spaghetti, buttercup, and butternut squashes are perfect, huge, and at the stand. All restocked daily. We also have real maple syrup and raw, unfiltered honey for sale at the farm stand. Come stop by the farm!

with love. Damaris


Family Currents: What we've been up to

Happy August, dear friends! The sun is hot and the tall straight grasses have been cut down. Haying time came in July, and now the hay bales are stacked and stored in the big red barn.


We’re certainly enjoying going through the summer bucket list! We recently went to the Henry Ford Museum and to the lake. Packing a lunch and calling it an adventure day is by far our favorite summertime activity.


Isabel had a birthday in July. She’s now 8 years old, and she’s so happy about it! Isabel has always been the most easy-going, low-maintenance, even-keeled child. She only requested cupcakes, and we made these filled with vanilla pudding. Filled with jam or any pudding is always absolutely delicious.


The two younger ewes are a mixed breed and shed most of their winter coat, but not all of it. After some time of high temperature, we realized we’d need to shear them. Nathan bought a pair of shears online and had his first successful sheep shearing experience. One of these ewes follows him like a dog when he’s in the pasture. Really, all the sheep (even the ram) are gentle and skittish.

By the way, the two older ewes are due to lamb in just a couple of weeks, and I’m giddy with excitement!


We’ve been at the pool everyday (all morning) for swim lessons. I couldn’t get all the children to swim in the same timeslot, so we bring books, a basketball, snacks, and I plop myself by the poolside until lunchtime. A couple of times we’ve taken a walk though the neighborhood, but it’s easier to just play and read while we wait.


Nathan and the boys did a mid-summer honey harvest this past week. We have about 7-8 gallons of raw, unfiltered honey. Couldn’t be more fresh! It tastes so different than the late summer/early fall honey! The color is very golden and the flavor is light and mild. Our honey bees can be spotted at anytime of the day feasting in the herb garden (hyssop, thyme, oregano flowers), the white clover in the pasture, and the vining plants in the garden (cucumber and squash flowers).


We opened the farm stand again this year! Farm fresh produce are available everyday. Eggplants, cabbages, red cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, and jalapenos are looking good! The tomatoes are not quite there yet. We also have real maple syrup and raw, unfiltered honey. Come stop by the farm!

with love. Damaris


Kitchen Transformation: Before and After

The kitchen is the heart of the home.

I didn’t have a list of kitchen must-haves except that of a bright space that would feel clean and unruffled. Sometimes therapeutic and sometimes invigorating, our kitchen has become just what we needed it to be. And for this we are grateful.

We painted the walls pearly white and the trim sharp white which immediately freshened our transforming kitchen.

The island is the hub of the kitchen.

Whether it’s mixing batter for batches of muffins, stirring ingredients for Saturday morning pancakes, rolling out pizza dough with friends, the island is the perfect place for children to help. The kitchen didn’t have an island, and I knew we wanted to find a solution. While Nathan took a pause from the house remodel to attend a work conference, the kids, my mom (here visiting and helping), and I went to IKEA. Our solution was in the clearance center. I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I was paying at the register. It had a large mark on the butcher block, but the price was worth taking it home. We kept it in the barn until the kitchen was ready for its centerpiece. We had the two bar stools from our old house which I painted black.

Cupboards speak style not just storage.

The cupboards are low end updated with oak doors in the 80s. Brass knobs and so many closed up spaces felt heavy and dark. We hadn’t a budget for a kitchen renovation, but we bought paint and hardware for the cupboards. I took the top cupboard doors off to show open shelves and chose a bright white for the paint. I painted to bottom cupboards a fieldstone gray for interest and depth. Inexpensive industrial pendant lights and craigslist refrigerator and stove added a modern comfort. A long woven diamond rug and a brightly patterned curtain instead of pantry doors helps to soften and warm up our kitchen. I like that these two items could be replaced when we need a fresh kitchen look for a very low cost. With a breadboard backsplash and brackets under the upper cupboards, Nathan gave it a familiar farmhouse feel.

Rethinking bare necessities.

We don’t have a dishwasher nor a microwave, which can be unusual and surprising since our family size of nine is growing. Both Nathan and I had grown up without a dishwasher, and it has been good for us all to slow down at the sink. Two of the children take turns by month doing the dishes. Sometimes mom comes to the rescue at breakfast and lunch when we’re trying to move quickly to the next activity (go somewhere, start school, etc). We recently acquired these plates, which is proving to make their job easier. The new dishes are very lightweight and chip resistant. Using canning jars for drinking glasses has reduced the amount of broken cups dramatically.

As you can imagine, we love and well-use our kitchen. It was a cost-effective renovation but well worth it.

Let’s plan a time for tea!

with love, Damaris


The Best Way to Make Candles With Kids

I have been curious about candle making for years, but really never looked into it. I was intimidated by the supplies, the hot wax, my lack of tools, etc. After Nathan and the boys harvested our honey last fall, I finally had a ready supply of beeswax. After a little bit of research, I learned that candles can be made by using a slow cooker. This made all the difference for me! Hand-poured beeswax candles were something my girls and I could do together with jars we already had. The only things we needed were wicks (available at any craft store). In my opinion, this method is the BEST way to make candles with kids! Also, making our own candles was fun because by choosing the ingredients, we ensured the candles were non-toxic. Plus, they’ll make really cute handcrafted gifts!

We didn’t add any scent to the candles because I wanted the beeswax’s natural aroma to come through. Maybe next time, we’ll add essential oils for the aromatherapy benefits which help stimulating or relax the senses. It seems that a good ratio is 10 drops per candle that might hold about 1 cup of wax.

The simple candle-making formula (regardless of the melting method) is 4 cups wax + 1 cup oil.

Essentials:

Wax: I used our beeswax reserved from last year’s harvest of honey (most of the wax comes from the caps which the bees put on the completed cells of honey. The caps are cut off in order to drain out the sweet honey!) and a bag of 100% beeswax chips. There are a couple other choices of wax at the craft store such as soy wax (from soybean oil) and paraffin (from petroleum), but, of course, beeswax looks, feels, and smells delicious!

Oil: I used coconut oil. Palm oil would be great too. The oil of your choice should be a solid at room temperature. I was curious as to why oil in addition to the wax is used and found out that many candle makers will add shortening to their candles to give the candles a creamier consistency and help them to adhere to their containers. Coconut oil is a natural alternative to the shortening.

Slow Cooker and Slow Cooker Liner: It was the perfect way to melt the wax + oil without watching it carefully over the stove. It doesn’t have the danger of boiling over plus it’s hard to burn anything in a slow cooker! We did use a slow cooker liner, and when we were done using up all the wax I rolled it up and threw it away. Couldn’t have been an easier clean-up. Using a slow cooker also allows for children to help without trying to work on the stove top with a bowl of hot wax that’s melting over a boiling pot of water. Also, the process is not rushed since the slow cooker can retain its temperature for a long time (especially on the warm setting). With the stove top method, the wax will begin to harden around the edges fairly quickly once the heat is turned off.

Measuring cup with a spout: I tried using a ladle to pour the wax into the jars, but the hot wax dripped off the side of the candles. Once it cooled and hardened, I was able to scrape it off, but the spouted cup worked so much better! I did use the ladle to pour it into the measuring cup.

Jars: This is the fun part! You can use mason jars, mugs, tea cups, little crocks, anything that is heat resistant. Reusing an old candle jar is very frugal. If there’s a bit of wax that can’t burn, freeze the jar for a couple hours and the wax should pop right out or use a butter knife to pry it out.

Wicks: We bought these at our local craft store. At least 6 inches is good and trim off the extra length. If the jar is more than 2 inches in diameter, you may want to use two or three wicks so the wax melts evenly.

Hot glue gun: Eva hot glued all the wicks to the bottoms of our jars to keep them in place. It work perfectly!

Easy Steps:

  1. Line the slow cooker (I used these) and add the wax and oil.

  2. Turn the crock pot on low for 1-2 hours. Whenever the wax has melted, you can turn it off (melting time will depend on the amount of wax).

  3. Hot glue (a drop of super glue or a bit of melted wax will work too) the wick bases to the bottom of the jar. Ladle the melted mixture into the measuring cup and carefully pour into the jars. If wax spills on the sides of the jar, wipe it with a paper towel immediately or allow it to dry and wash it off (dish scrubber + hot water).

  4. Add the essential oil to each individual jar (optional).

  5. Place all the candles out of the way and allow them to harden for an hour or two (depending on their size).

  6. Once the wax hardens trim the wick down close to the hardened wax.

  7. Allow candles to cure for 48 hours before burning.

with love. Damaris


Family Currents: Niagra Falls, Birthdays, Doll Making

My cousin’s visit from Spain was undoubtedly the highlight of the month of June. Before he came, we had given some thought to what fun things he may have never tried or seen before, so we ate hard shell tacos, s’mores, had a bbq night, and roasted hot dogs over the fire. We took a short trip to Niagra Falls which will be memorable for everyone.

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Both Nathan and William had birthdays in June. We usually celebrate at home and let the birthday boy or girl pick a favorite meal and dessert.

William picked this cake from a Pinterest picture, and it was delicious! Here’s the recipe if you want to make it for your crew.

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Nathan’s mom came over a couple of days and taught the girls some basics of the sewing machine and a few stitches. Their diligent labors produced these beautiful dolls! Thank you, Grandma for teaching, helping, and guiding the girls!

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In the last few weeks, I also found a little bit of time to work on a couple projects. These outdoor ticking pillows and the linen throw brought be so much joy to make!

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Watching all the plants come into their full glory with big bright blooms and tiny vegetables brings us whoops of joy. We’re enjoying delicious kale salads, but nothing else yet ready for harvest.

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There are 20 new young pine tress on the farm! Ten are Norway spruce and ten are white pine. They’ll be replacing dead ones and being added to the perimeter of the pasture.

with love. Damaris


How Does Your Garden Grow? A Simplified Vegetable Garden

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

– May Sarton

Here we are, officially summer with a garden that is thriving and prolific. Gardening sounds like a complicated matter, but it’s truly not. We’ve simplified our vegetable gardening, and today I’m sharing with you what we do.

In early spring, we begin talking about the future vegetable garden. We brainstorm and make a list on a piece of scrap paper of what we like to eat. We also add a new vegetable every year, just for fun. Most plants want a hot sun and moisture, so selecting a level spot in the yard or making a raised bed is important. Equally crucial is to choose a sunny area for the vegetable garden.

Spring is well underway when we finally get to the garden plot and begin to prepare for it. We always long anticipate mid-May since we wait to plant until we’re certain Mr. Frost won’t be paying us a visit. Some veggies could go into the soil earlier in the spring and still produce very well. A few of the hardier varieties include cabbages, potatoes, carrots, radishes, and peas.

The next step is to mark the sunny, level area of the garden and till it. It is important to wait until the ground is dry. We till in organic material like leaves or compost (the pig helped us this year!). It’s helpful because we don’t use any other fertilizer. Now we’re ready to plant!

Seeds are preferred because they offer more variety and are inexpensive, but seeds mostly need to be started indoors earlier in the year. We buy starters (seeds already sprouted) from a nearby greenhouse with the exception of seed packets for lettuces, spinach, corn, and pumpkins. We’ve had good experience with putting the seeds right in the soil at the same time we plant the little starters. The starters generally cost about 4 for $.79. Using them keeps the process very simple without all the forethought and labor of seed germination. Also, the percent of loss is higher with seeds than with starters.

We mark rows before planting so we know what’s going to come up in each row and to prevent them from being trampled.

Although we could do a slow trickling of garden work every few days, we’ve always planted everything at once which also simplifies the process. The boys fill a wheelbarrow with compost from our compost pile and mix in peat moss from our local garden center. We dig a little hole, add a spadesful of the nutrient-dense compost+peat moss mixture, add a little water, put in the little plant, cover the hole with dirt, and add a little more water. Lastly, we press the surrounding dirt to prevent the plant from flopping or falling over with a heavy rain.

We plant the vining plants in the back of the garden to give them room to spread out. Some years we’ve planted them under the corn which also gets planted in the back because of it’s height. Vining plants such as all the pumpkins, summer squashes, winter squashes (acorn, butternut, buttercup) and cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe are quite hardy and get very large.

Now it’s the time for patience and expectation to do it’s thing. A light evening rain and a 90 degree summer day are the magic combination. Since this may not occur on a daily basis (really, or even with enough regularity), the early morning or after-dinner hour is the best time to water.

In the early weeks after planting, the weeds grow faster than anything else and risk crowding everything out. The seeds are germinating and the seedlings are so tiny that weeding can actually be a difficult job of discerning the weeds from the spouts. But the plants keep growing and eventually, the weeds aren’t so aggressive.

So what’s in the garden? Red potatoes and golden potatoes, green and red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, peppers (red and green bell, jalapenos, ancho), heirloom tomatoes and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, buttercup, butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon, pumpkins, and corn.

New for this year: purple potatoes and okra

Perennials: rhubarb, asparagus, and kale.

Gardening sounds like a complicated matter, but it’s truly not. Do you have a garden? Did you star your seeds early indoors? How does your garden grow?

with love. Damaris


The Loft Reveal!!!

Happy Monday morning, friends! Through the pictures on the blog, Instagram, and Facebook, you’ve been able to see small frames of our beautiful farmhouse. We’re excited to welcome you into our home and plan to slowly introduce you to our little piece of world by sharing more “now and before” posts. I’ve been looking through some of the before pictures, and I could hardly believe it! Honestly, I had forgotten what some of the rooms used to look like. Nathan is responsible for most of the transformation. He has great taste, and I know you agree : )

We bought the farmhouse in 2014, and like most homes, there’s always one more thing to fix. The latest remodel that is pretty much completed is The Loft.

Our house did not have a loft, but in the renovation of the girls’ bedroom, the ceiling collapsed! You don’t even want to know the plaster/dust/black debris that covered Nathan and two church friends that were helping that evening. The three of them slaved away to clean up the mess with shovels and wheelbarrows. One of the guys helping out was an architectural student at University of Michigan, and had a great idea – “Hey, instead of replacing the ceiling, why don’t you just leave the attic open?” And now we have a loft : )

We opened up the ceiling to follow the roof rafters, that allowed us to expose some beautiful hewn beams. Then we extended the wall above the girls doorway back into the attic about 8 feet, that gives the girls an attic loft that’s about 8′ deep by 16′ wide.

Carpet cozied up the space immediately, and we found a perfect dresser in the IKEA clearance room. Our oldest daughter, Eva, had been looking forward to this little space, and she has made it all her own.

with love, Damaris


Family Currents: The Birds and The Bees

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I went to the orchestra. We have been attending this program for children for years, and it never disappoints! The performance is splendid and the auditorium exquisite. The program welcomes all school groups. While we were there, Samuel hung out at Nathan’s office and pretended shy while everyone hoped for some cuteness.

We are so excited to introduce the new addition to our farm! Harry the ram is a calm male that is wooing our four ewes. Larry the llama doesn’t mind him hanging around, and they’ve welcomed him to the pasture better than we had expected. We hope to grow the flock with some lambs coming late summer!

Alexander and Nathan’s Dad attended an all-day beekeeping class last week and had fun learning some crazy facts. They came back excited to start another season of honey bees.

And that’s a wrap for syrup! Nathan and the boys boiled gallons and gallons of the last sap collected all weekend. We are so very grateful for their labor! This time, the boys got to roast marshmallows, and the girls were oh-so-jealous. We have been enjoying selling this precious amber sweetness. If you would like some 2018 local maple syrup, please contact us by replying to this post or email (under the category contact), Facebook, or Instagram. The supply is limited : )

with love. Damaris