Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), or Spotted Touch-Me-Not, is a leafy plant found plentifully near shady, wet, woodland areas such as creek banks. It blooms mid-summer to fall with orange-y trumpet-shaped flowers.
Known for its usefulness in soothing skin irritations, burns, insect bites, and inflammation, jewelweed can be especially helpful in preventing or treating poison ivy rashes. The juice from the leaves and stems neutralizes the oily urushiol left behind from encounters with poison ivy or stinging nettles, if used before or soon after exposure.
The alternate name of touch-me-not is derived from the tendency the seedpods have to "pop" when touched. The seeds of this annual plant self-sow in large stands; above you see jewelweed growing profusely along a bank flanked by sunny black-eyed susans. The plant attracts honeybees, hummingbirds, and butterflies to its colorful jewel-like blooms.
I hand-picked loads of jewelweed at a neighbor's property (with permission), so that I could infuse its beneficial qualities into a specialty soap. The leaves and flowers were simmered in oil, which I then used to create my Nature Friend bar. I also incorporated the chopped leaves, along with plantain leaf, which is another great dermatological herb.
Lavender and peppermint essential oils promote healing and anti-histamine action, reducing the itch and inflammation. Lather on this soap before going outdoors as a shield, or use to cleanse affected skin after exposure. Even if you haven't caught the rash in time, this gentle goat's milk formula can soothe troubled skin and assist in the quick healing of the rash.
Jewelweed: what a kind provision of our Creator! Have you used jewelweed soap before, and has it successfully worked for you? Let us know your story!
March 22: The back deck was a great place for starting garden seeds!
Bell Pepper (4 varieties)
Tomato (8 varieties)
I filled several aluminum foil trays with a soil mix, and after watering the seeds, I placed the covered trays in the windowsill behind our sofa to germinate.
Meanwhile, we collected empty eggshells in a half-gallon jar. For what purpose, you ask? I got the idea from a friend, who mentioned she heard that using a crushed eggshell solution to water seedlings may help feed them. Looking into it, I found that dissolved eggshells are considered by some to provide calcium to plants, which is especially beneficial for tomatoes. Does anyone know whether this is true? I figured I'd try it, since we had a ready supply of eggshells (especially from Sarah's baking).
I spread the shells in one layer on a cookie sheet and baked them for 10 minutes, which made them brittle enough to crumble. Eventually I had enough finely crushed shells to fill a quart jar. I will mix the powdered shells with water and a bit of vinegar to dissolve the calcium into solution.
Fast-forward to April 24: The seeds have sprouted 3-4 weeks ago, stretching toward the meager light source. It became high time to transplant the delicate seedlings into individual pots to continue growing.
I am looking forward to growing the below heirloom Italian bell pepper variety, shared with me by my friend Meg, along with a few other heirloom tomato varieties she passed along.
The transplanted seedlings were placed back on the windowsill with labels, until they are sturdy enough to plant outside in the garden in just a couple of more weeks.
I water the plantlets each day; a clean milk jug with holes punched in the top works wonderfully as a gentle sprinkler.
Will keep you updated on the progress of the garden as the spring and summer move along.
Last week I was assigned to make all our evening meals, like Sarah did for our family last month. I enjoyed planning out the menus and included many new recipes to try. It was a task to come up with foods that the whole family would enjoy, especially since most everything sounds good to me, but I think it was mostly successful.
I mentioned before the week started that there would be at least 3 different nationalities represented in my cooking, so everyone was curious to see how the week unfolded. Each morning I would post the menu on the refrigerator, so that everyone would know what to (hopefully) look forward to, rather than it being a complete surprise.
The first day of the week was going to have the warmest temperatures, so I chose that night to grill outside.The burgers were spicy, basted with this sauce, and to stick with the Caribbean theme I made a cool pineapple/mango salsa to top them. While the hamburgers were grilling, a foil packet of carrots were also easily roasted alongside.
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies (delegated to Sarah)
This was a fun and relatively quick meal to prepare. In years past some of us have enjoyed ordering Kung Pao chicken at restaurants, so I decided to create it at home. An authentic ingredient missing from my version was Sichuan peppercorns, but the substitution of red curry paste gave it some heat. Roasted red peppers and broccoli went well with this Chinese dish.
I made this recipe for lunch midweek, using the last of the butternut squash from our 2012 garden, and Wednesday night we had various leftovers.
Italian night! Gnocchi are homemade dumplings/pasta, many times made with potatoes, although the beginner recipe I followed called for ricotta cheese. It was fun and easy to do, as pasta-making goes. I ended up making enough for about 15 servings, so we have been enjoying it for additional meals, too. The tomato sauce for this main dish (similar to this) was inspired by some of my grampa's favorite recipes that he wrote out for me long ago. Prosciutto, Italian cured ham, was stirred into the seasoned sauce.
The special dessert was somewhat of a Pinterest fail....it didn't look quite as cute as the original. I put aside the star tip and spooned the creamy chocolate mixture into bowls. It still tasted good.
When your main dish is a "cupcake" (sprinkles included), you have a complete meal! The meat took a shorter time to cook than if I had baked it as a typical loaf. It was topped with mashed potatos and broiled.
I put the ingredients in the crockpot to cook most of the day, and it was close to being ready when we got home from church that afternoon. Traditional Irish soda bread has just 4 ingredients, and we ate the crusty loaf with our soup, it being St. Patrick's Day. Sarah wanted to make a green dessert, so later that evening we sipped on Coconut Lime Floats.
And that wrapped up my one week of cooking. Granted, if I were normally cooking every day, I would have included some simpler stand-by meals, but I wanted to pack in as many new recipes to experiment with as I could into this special week. There are a few more I want to try...maybe once Granny returns and can join us!
My hardy rosemary plant has stayed green all winter, but since we're expecting up to 20 inches of snow overnight through Wednesday, I thought I'd cover up the plant to protect it from the weather until spring actually arrives....
Jonathan had built 2 cold frames for me last winter, so I took one from against the south side of the house and put it directly into the garden over the small stand of rosemary.
Now the fresh rosemary nestles inside the cold frame amongst the drab brown of the other spent herbs, waiting for the snow to fall tonight.
A lettuce mix in one of our raised beds had spent the cold months under the other of my cold frames. I picked several leaves to bring inside while I was out taking photos.
Trimmings from the tallest stalks of the rosemary plant found a home in the windowsill, and hopefully they will develop roots to be replantable outside.
Welcome to our week at a glance....where Sarah, Mom, and I will share about some of the activities we have been accomplishing at home.
Mr. Puffenbarger from Southernmost Maple Camp asked me to make a special batch of maple soap, using his maple syrup, to sell at the upcoming HighlandMaple Festival in March, so I got right to it! Two additional scents of soap have been poured into my molds this week, ready for spring sales. I also delivered an order of soap to a local gift shop.
Another large project that has been in the works is several matting and framing jobs. A friend asked me to custom frame two rooster art prints for her, so while I have all my materials out, I am also gradually completing 12 cross-stitched pieces that have needed to see the light of day.
These stitched pictures were done by either Sarah, Mom, or me within the last...ahem, 10 years. This winter is a great time for me to dig them out and get them to the point where they can actually hang on the wall. We spent time choosing the right color mats, and I measured and cut out the mats and the necessary foamcore. I will be stretching the fabric around the foamcore to ready it for framing. Right now everything is all spread out on Granny's bed--thanks, Granny! :)
Below is one of the almost finished framed rooster pictures. Jonathan and Dad came to my assistance with the final hanging hardware. I'm so happy these are now ready to deliver!
Mom read about a moisturizing eye cream made with just coconut oil and vitamin E; she mentioned the idea to me, so I whipped some up for her while supper was coming together one night. So simple!
And the meal we were making was Peppery Chicken, which we had prepared ahead of time and frozen back in December. It just needed cooking up on the stovetop, and we served it in lettuce-lined homemade pita pockets, pictured below. I made some extra pitas as my weekly trade in exchange for fresh eggs.
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This week, besides some various cleaning projects, I have been in the middle of menu planning. Hannah and I will each be taking a week to plan, shop, and make all the supper meals. My assignment is next week, so it's been fun coming up with my menu. I always like to keep my meals secret, so I won't go into what I'm planning yet. :)
I can say that I did some bartering as well - I made a big pan of homemade brownies in exchange for a chicken that may just turn up on the supper table. Maybe there will be some posts next week about how everything turns out!
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Oh, my! I turned around and blinked, and a whole week has passed!
It's been a busy week as I've waited for the heat pump repairman! He arrived three different days to change out the motor, and change it out again; but this afternoon we finally have heat upstairs!
I've also been planning my trip to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton--taking place just two weeks from now! Emails have been flying back and forth with friends in Williamsburg trying to set up lunch and dinner get-togethers as I pass through that area the first day.
My friend Chris, who invited me to come, has been planning out our activities while I'm there. After the Quilt Festival, we may take a day to have a Girls' Sew-In or visit some quilt shops? Or both? I think these are going to be some fun play dates, and I can hardly wait!
I've also been at the sewing machine finishing my Saturday Sampler Block of the Month. Since the bed is still in the living room...ahem...I decided to make good use of it and put all eleven blocks inside the bed for a photo:
The pinkish block in the left row, third one down, is the latest block I sewed this week. Our final BOM class is this Saturday...so when I finish the last block, it will go in that empty 12th spot you see.
I finished another sewing project also....and I'll post about that later. With Sarah doing all the cooking
next week, I'll have plenty of time to put some Valentine letters in the mail!
So that's what we've been doing instead of blogging! What can you check off your list this week?
We traveled up to Connecticut to visit Dad's side of the family for Thanksgiving. It was good to stop in and see Grampa's new apartment and listen to him reminiscing with stories of Italy, WW2, and family history.
Everyone gathered midday as we enjoyed snacking, chatting, and preparing for the bountiful meal.
Mom and I went downtown to a lovely little shop located at the historic train station district, otherwise known as the Wharf. Appalachian Piecework has started carrying my soaps, and they were having their 1-year anniversary open house, so we took the opportunity to visit for the first time.
The shop is full of beautiful antique textiles, baskets, and more. Laurie, the shop owner, designs and hand-dyes scarves, weaves linens, and restores old fabrics.
We loved wandering the rooms and capturing the vignettes she had arranged so perfectly. Bags of unspun wool were tucked everywhere, and fragrant dried herbs hung from the ceiling.
Of course, Mom loved the old quilts that were displayed; it was almost like we were in a museum, yet we could touch the exquisite items.
We could walk through Laurie's sewing studio nestled in the back of the store; piles of eye-catching scraps were waiting to be stitched into a new masterpiece.
While we nibbled on homemade cookies (similar to these), grapes, and apple cider, Laurie and her daughter began arranging my handmade herbal soaps in an antique wash bowl nearby.
More quilts hung near a large loom in the front room, and a jar of colorful dried flowers adorned a shelf.
We noticed many old baskets which were made from salvaged wood that Granny would have loved seeing.
We enjoyed soaking in the atmosphere and hope to bring my aunt when she visits in December.
We'll each take a part in telling our side of the surprise birthday story! There are so many behind-the-scenes arrangements to be made when attempting to put on a party, while keeping it from the mom of the house! We are grateful for all those who lended a hand and prayed for us, and we missed those of you who could not attend.
"Wow! What a great day. Aunt Bet and I were on our way back down to South Carolina on Saturday since Deb didn't have power at her house after the big storm when Jonathan called and said the power was on again! I was so glad to hear that. So Bet and I turned around and headed to Deb's. That way we could be there the next evening to see the surprised look on her face! It was good to see so many of her friends. I'm thankful to be part of her past, present, and future."
Aunt Bet writes:
"My job in the great surprise birthday caper was to occupy the birthday girl while the rest of the family made final preparations for the big reveal! Easy, right?
I begged for an afternoon visit to the Verona Antique Mall--not much persuading was necessary when I mentioned my request to Deb. We got to the mall, wandered several aisles, and I realized that time was fleeting. My job was to get Deb back to the house by 4:45.
Amazing how fast time flies in an antique mall! She couldn't understand why I was ready to go. I used the "I'm overwhelmed by all these antiques and choices" excuse. But she kept wanting to visit one more booth in the mall until finally I persuaded her we really needed to go. While I was making a little purchase (another potato masher for Granny!), Deb went to cool the car. I made a quick phone call to Hannah letting her know we were on the way home.
Driving up the driveway, Deb began to suspect something was up. "Who are all those people and what are they doing?" The gang had gathered at the top of the driveway to welcome the birthday girl home.
Her mouth dropped and she started pointing out various people, hardly believing they were all there to celebrate her birthday. What fun! We finally surprised the person in the family who is least likely to be surprised by anything!"
Jonathan relates: "Before Mom and Aunt Bet got back from the antique mall, I went out to retrieve the Leaning Tower of Pizzas. On the way home, I saw Dad's truck pull onto the road ahead of me! Yay! He was able to make it back from working the storm for a little while. He was there to surprise Mom when she drove up and stayed for a quick chat before he had to return to work. We were so glad that God answered our prayers that he would be able to be part of the celebration!
We thank the Lord for His providential sovereignty in giving us a godly mother and for His grace in allowing the party to come together despite the chaotic weekend!"
"Hannah and I had a ton of fun planning the decorations and how everything would be set up! Taking inventory of our party supplies, we found blue and red plates, flag napkins, and plastic utensils. On our way back from market last week, we were able to quickly stop by the dollar store and pick up some balloons, streamers, tablecloths, cups, and star confetti for the tables. Hannah cut out red, white, and blue paper triangles for a bunting, made some paper pinwheels, and snuck out early Sunday morning to pick fresh flowers for a couple of simple, beautiful arrangements.
As we were planning out what the menu would be, we knew it would have to be something easily prepared and stored secretly. The pizza would be taken care of with Jonathan running out to pick it up while Mom was away. Vegetables and dip would work too, but we had to buy extra veggies to supplement what was in the fridge. Not wanting Mom to wonder where they came from, we stored everything in a cooler in an upstairs room. :) It was convenient that we were bringing vegetables for snacks at church and could at least prepare some without arousing suspicion.
For dessert, I made chocolate cupcakes and homemade peach ice cream. Finding the time to bake 90 cupcakes was a little tricky, but thankfully Aunt Bet, Granny and Mom went out shopping on Friday, and I was able to rush around in a tizzy baking them. Since it was my market baking day anyway, all my ingredients and supplies were ready to go.
Frosted and sprinkled, the cupcakes were hidden away in the guest room, awaiting the big day. I found these printable cupcake toppers, cut them out with scalloped scissors, and taped each one to a toothpick. On Sunday, once it was time to bring out the cupcakes, some of the guests and I stuck the toppers in. (Thanks, Mrs. O. and Laura!)
The quadruple batch of peach ice cream had to be frozen in the ice cream freezer in 2 installments, AFTER Mom had left, so it was a bit of a mad rush to get it done in time. Aunt Bet brought some huge, fresh picked South Carolina peaches just for the ice cream, and they were so delicious."
"Guests came from near and far away to join us for this special event. Mom was excited to talk with many dear friends who were present.
It was soon time for the pizza party to begin! Everyone enjoyed gathering in the shade behind our house to escape the evening's sun. Families scattered around the yard and porch munching and fellowshipping.
Perfect spot for a picnic!
The sweet W. family were all dressed patriotic for the occasion. It was a great opportunity for some to renew acquaintances and make new friends.
Mom has always wanted to invite people for a hymn sing, but plans for one have been put on hold...until now! She never suspected that her desire would actually come to pass as a special birthday surprise. After we finished up Sarah's delicious ice cream, we gathered the chairs and hymn books and sang for awhile into the evening.
Several people requested favorite hymns, and we even had a few budding musicians playing along on some numbers with banjo and guitar.
Joining our voices together in song to God was a wonderful end to the evening." Deb shares:
"Oh my! I couldn’t believe this gift when I opened it! It’s beautiful! My friend, Chris, made this creative and colorful quilt using the Scrappy Spools quilt pattern, and I absolutely love it! What a special remembrance of this special day! Thank you, Chris!
All around this was a wonderfully surprising day--I think I like surprises after all! I’ve been so blessed and honored by everyone who came—some traveling from across town and others traveling up to three hours to get here! I am amazed and humbled! Your presence was the very best gift of all! Thank you so very much!
I’d especially like to thank all my family for cooking up all this fun and going to so much trouble to keep it from me! Ahem...
And I'd like to thank all my friends and family for the emails, phone calls, birthday cards, gifts, and well-wishes you sent my way. I don't think I'll ever forget my 60th!"
We enjoyed having some guests in our home over the past few weeks, so I'm finally getting around to sharing a few pictures of their visits.
Carolyn and Garnett, friends of Mom and Granny from many years ago, arrived to join us for the evening on their way home to South Boston. It had been awhile since we had seen them. Mom fixed a delicious meal, and our time with them included conversation around the table and singing some hymns to send them on their way.
One Sunday afternoon, we had a family from church follow us home for the rest of the day. We enjoyed chatting during the afternoon and learning more about each other.
The ladies talked around the table and pitched in to help with the meal preparations.
It was a beautiful evening, so we walked around viewing the gardens, and everyone got a chance to see Jonathan's new bee hives. Comb is busily being built!
After supper we got out a few instruments and then sang together for awhile in praise to the Lord.
Their family blessed us with several songs they had learned as they ministered at nursing homes. What a treat to hear them sing harmoniously as a family!
It has been a joy to get to know these fellow believers.