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


The Herb Garden + How to Dry

Our vegetable garden is so rewarding, but there is something special about the herb garden that is absolutely delightful. It’s location is right outside the back door, which makes picking a few leaves or cutting a couple sprigs a breeze. Culinary, edible, and medicinal, there are countless benefits to delicious herbs. Even if you don’t enjoy them as ingredients, the fantastic fragrance is revitalizing.

If you’re thinking that vegetable gardening seems too laborious or overwhelming, or perhaps that you don’t have enough space or skill, herbs are the perfect, happiest place to begin. They really are no-maintenance. Herbs are mostly perennials which is always a win/win in my book. Plant it once and enjoy it every summer after that.

They also thrive in full sun and in soils that many vegetables won’t tolerate. Because of their strong scent, pests leave them alone, and they require no fertilizing. Herbs are also pretty drought resistant, but they look and taste better when well watered.

They can be harvest as needed by either cutting some stems or plucking a few leaves. Always leave a minimum on the plant to support regrowth. I have read that cutting herbs in the morning is best when aromatic oil concentrations are highest.

Walking through the herb garden is energizing, and their aroma livens my day. Our family cooks mostly with sage, rosemary, chives, basil, and thyme, but all the herbs are delightful to cut and bring indoors in little vases to revive any room. We’ve planted a few of our herbs (yarrow, hyssop, salvia, echinacea, bee balm, lavender, and chives) with the wildflowers because their blooms hold such beauty and color!

Oregano was the first herb I ever grew. It was a transplant given to me by a friend wrapped in foil many years ago. We now enjoy dill, bee balm, echinacea, marjoram (an annual in our zone 5), tarragon, basil (an annual), peppermint, spearmint, salvia, sage, hyssop, chives, rosemary, yarrow, lavender, thyme, lemon thyme. Parsley didn’t come back this summer. Parsley is an annual, but the seeds have kept the herb coming back in previous years. Another self-seeding herb is dill. Dill is not technically a perennial, but, if allowed to seed, it should come back every year.

The girls pick small bunches of most herbs to chew on and are teaching Samuel to do the same. They all have green teeth when coming in from playing outdoors : )

Drying Herbs:

I only have experience with drying sage, rosemary, and thyme. These are very easy to preserve and retain their flavor and scent for months after being dried. Fresh parsley is a classic garnish, but it’s moistness makes it difficult to dry. We use peppermint and spearmint in fruit salads, garnish on dessert, but mostly a few leaves in the pitcher of brewed tea. I haven’t experimented with drying them yet.

Simple steps for drying herbs:

  • Place one kind of herb in a large basket or drying rack, outdoors but not in the sun. Toss a few times until crispy-dry, typically a week. Run your fingers along the stem to remove leaves. Discard the stems. Store dried leaves in a clean, dry glass jar away from heat and light. Label and date.

  • Another easy method is to bundle with a rubber band and hang upside down in a dark area with good air circulation until crispy-dry (a week or two). Hang the dried bundle to freshen a room, or remove the leaves from the stems. Store in a jar. Label and date.

  • Dried herbs should be stored out of the light and in a cool, dry place.

Using Fresh versus Dried Herbs in Cooking:

When cooking with fresh and dry herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you’ll need less. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need three times less dried than fresh. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, you need only 1 teaspoon of dried (since 3 teaspoons equal a tablespoon). Fresh-cut herbs can be wrapped in a paper towel, stored in resealable plastic bags, and then put into the refrigerator. Store dried herbs in a cool, dark, dry place.

Growing herbs is certainly one of the purest joys of summer. Using fresh leaves as needed throughout the summer brightens any meal. It’s not too late to grab a couple of herbs that you enjoy cooking with or better yet, get a transplant from a friend!

Which ones are your favorite fragrant herbs?

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


Farm Update: Early Summer

A Swarm Of Bees In May is worth a load of hay...

We moved the hives to a different location closer to the orchard and in the shadow of huge pines trees. Nathan and William have been checking on the new bees to make sure they’ve been settling in and making themselves at home. No stings yet!

A was an Apple pie; B bit it; C cut it; D dealt it

Nathan and the boys planted eleven new apple trees this spring. We love that they’re mostly heritage apples which one can’t find in the grocery store. The happy little trees are Harrison, Orleans, GoldRush, Early Fiji, Cox’s Orange Pippen, and Russet. Even though it will be a few years until harvest, the kids are putting in their orders for pies and crisps!

Mary Had A Little Lamb

The sheep are very low maintenance during the warmer months when the pasture is thick with nutritious grasses. Harry is our ram, and the four ewes stay pretty close to him. We expect that two ewes are pregnant and due in August! Larry, the llama, still keeps guard, but Harry has mostly taken over moving the sheep around the pasture.

This Little Piggy…

We’re discovering that Holly has a temper sometimes. When she’s annoyed at the flies, she squeals lets out a loud grunt. Holly gets so excited when one of the kids is coming near and when Nathan pulls up the drive way. She’d been in a temporary pen, but just a couple of wees ago moved onto a bigger and better abode. She shares pasture with the sheep and the llama, and they don’t seem to care. You already heard that we added little Rosie who follows Holly around.

More news about the pigs: We are borrowing a boar (a mature male pig) from a nearby farm in hopes to have piglets in early September. The boar has made himself at home, for he insists on eating first. He also tilts the water trough enough to make puddles and cool off in the mud.

There was an old woman, Went blackberry picking…

The raspberries have been unkempt and overgrown, and finally this spring, Nathan tilled a larger plot and has been transplanting them with the boys. It’s a larger raspberry patch now and has room for growth.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

We planted the garden in May which seems late to other hardier zones, but not much earlier than that we still have nights below freezing. We have become used to this rhythm, and it works well for us because around that time, we are finishing the longer schooldays. Also, waiting till May allows for less careful watch over the seedlings. We plant everything at once, even the hardier varieties that would stand lower temperatures. This simplifies the process for us, and we still enjoy a hard day in the soil with as many hands as are available to help. This year, Nathan’s Dad shared his insight and labor all afternoon. It made a huge difference in how much we were able to get planted!

I’m enjoying putting a blog post together about vegetable and herb gardening. It will be ready soon!

with love. Damaris


Family Currents: Novelties

November winds have blown the leaves off all the trees, and, if Michigan had a rainy season, I’d say we’re smack-dab in the middle of it. Yesterday barely got above 30 degrees! Needless to say, we were chill even in the house! Baking a couple custard pies did help warm up our tummies and the kitchen. Baby Samuel has been living in this one-piece ever since they days got colder. I love the hood for a little extra warmth at night or when head outside, but the 316 snaps on the bottom are no joke- ha! Carter’s has a huge sale right now, and I have my eye on this one for him too!


Recently we came across this great find at an estate sale! This 12-inch cast iron skillet was rusty, but that was easily solved. I still remember my Yayas (both my grandmothers in Spain) using their large cast iron skillets when I was little! I do love how good the food tastes and how low maintenance they are!

There’s no denying winter’s sending it’s warning chill, and we were grateful to find a few more thrifted sweaters. The girls’ corduroy skirts and cat tights will be perfect with them!


The kids came in from turning over the compost pile, and William (our treasure finder) was holding a large seed that had sprouted a tree. On closer inspection, it was an avocado pit that had begun to grow in our compost pile! For the last month, Alexander has been nurturing it in the basement and took this picture of it for you to see how it’s thriving. Completely accidentally, but we may be enjoying guacamole someday, friends!


Shortly after we shared our news of Larry the llama joining our farm, we saw this promotion from World Market. We couldn’t believe it! The kids have really enjoyed looking through it, and these are my favorites from their Llama-Rama Collection. They have over 50 llama items ranging from pajamas to tea towels, lamps and wrapping paper – yay!

Isn’t the little golden llama trinket dish darling? Even if you don’t have a real llama, you can still feel like you went on an exotic trip to Peru!

with love, Damaris

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Family Currents

We wait so long for peaches to be in season here! Usually, we eat fresh peaches sliced with our meals so quickly that I can ever make anything else with them (peach pie with crumb topping- I miss you!). This week, I reserved three large peaches for this cake which we had as Sunday morning’s breakfast with plain yogurt. I didn’t add the cinnamon-sugar over the peach layers and skipped the pecans (I had run out), but it was still so scrumptious!


Baby Samuel wasn’t so happy to stay inside with his crackers, so I brought him with me to the garden. Since I couldn’t pick veggies with one hand, he sat on the grass and was delighted to watch. He watched the ruby gems drop in my palms, and he reached for the ones that fell near him.

The latest with the garden: The cauliflowers are done, only a couple heads of cabbage left. Corn, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, and broccoli are still growing happily. The sweet potatoes and the Brussels sprouts will be a fall harvest, and the potatoes need to be dug up today! Kale, my friends. Kale keeps growing and growing and nothing kills it. So we eat it until no one has the courage to dig for it under the snow -because it will still be there! It has been a very sad summer for the squashes and zucchinis. Every year is different!


The days have been quite cool lately, and we have been enjoying the outdoors! Samuel is never very far from the little girls! It makes my heart happy more than it does theirs – ha!


We love to go to the farmer’s market, and I dream of the day we can have our farm goods displayed there too! I imagine the kids bagging baked goods for customers, and the children’s pleasant faces making people feel welcome. Nathan met us there since it is only a short walk from his office. We bought apple fritters, and the kids ate more samples than I thought was polite!

photo credit: Eva

Nathan offered to buy lunch at a tiny place by the market, and we shared a Korean bibimbap (rice bowl with chicken, veggies, and a fried egg on top).

We didn’t want to say good-bye, so everybody agreed we’d walk Daddy back to the office. Such a pleasurable day!


Lastly, we have big news coming your way! It may or may not involve fluffy bottoms. We will share a full post on their arrival and how they are settling in. Look for it this week!

with love, Damaris


Family Currents

This is our first year having a farm stand! It has been so beneficial for the children to work together on harvesting, sorting, wiping all the veggies and, of course – counting the coins in the jar! Now they know some reward for the hot days of weeding. If you’re in the area, stop for a visit!


Nathan and I got away for the evening while the kids read books and played with Grandma. Our hot date: We went to a sheep farm! That’s what everybody does on a date (wink). It’s a farm nearby, and we met our future ewes and lambs there.

We spent all of our time talking, and then got Chipotle on the drive back. Of course, a quick stop to pick up bubble teas to-go for the children, and even Grandma loved it too!


We enjoyed a couple days away last week as a family. As a surprise to the kids, we stopped at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. They didn’t know until Nathan pulled on to the base!


Our trip was short, but jam packed. We spent an afternoon at the Air Force Museum and a day at the Ark Encounter, then finished with a weekend family discipleship conference. You’ve probably heard about the life-size Noah’s ark exhibit. It was truly huge! It took longer to get through it than we thought it would. We had packed our lunches but left them in the van when we went into the ark… About 2:30 we were making our way back to our van after pressing on to finish the experience. Everyone had a good time – lots to see, but they were definitely hungry!

with love, Damaris