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Best Ever Chai Tea

I have a confession to make…..

I LOVE Chai Tea.  No, lovely ones,  you just don’t understand, I R-E-A-L-L-Y love Chai Tea.  It is my lifeblood in the winter.  The truth of the matter is, it is probably all that runs through my veins, I drink so much of it.

The piping hot, tantalizingly sweet steam that gently swirls up from the creamy delight below makes my cold winters day.  Ahhhh, inhale it in.  The spicy aromatic herbs warm my nostrils and get me to salivating before I can even get the smooth curve of the warm cup to my lips. The warm spice, and gently sweet creamy liquid dances fluidity on my tongue. I swallow.  Loving warmth spreads first down my throat to my stomach encouraging happy digestion, then continues to warm my numbed extremities from the cold and frozen tundra that is Northern MN mid-winter.

As I put the Chai kettle on the stove, (yes, I have a kettle reserved for its sole high and lofty purpose of making chai), I anticipate the dancing of the herbs and the aroma wafting from the whirling and twirling that is this sacred dance of tea in the making.  I believe this dance and the resulting anticipation of what is to come to be my favorite part of the process.  As the steam rises from the kettle it lifts the spicy aroma and ones spirit along with it.  The spices meld and mix together as they dance over under around and through, at first as a gentle waltz, then picking up tempo to a passionate flamenco-esque number.

The heat rises, the pungent spice begins to pierce the air and fills heart and home with a zest for life. With triumphant fanfare, and a graceful sweeping gesture, I add the tea in one motion, return lid to kettle, and wait with eager knowing.  The Chai is nearly prepared.  It is whisper silent in the dark and chilly kitchen, and I wait for this ever important last step to tea nirvana.  My winter frozen fingers reach for an oversized mug from the top shelf of the cold and frosty cupboard. (Our kitchen is on an outer wall in our northern home, and the butter freezes in there!)  At last my cold numbed toes wrapped in wool, shuffle over the stiff tundra of linoleum to the refrigerator to search out the milk. I quickly produce it from the fridge and bring it over to greet the expectant oversized mug.  It is almost complete, save the last bit of magic that happens within the burgeoning mug.

With great anticipation buzzing through my veins, my trembling hands remove the lid from the kettle to reveal what is the treasure of a warm and gently spicy tea awaiting its sole purpose of defrosting my winter bones.  I ladle and strain.  Add milk and a touch of honey for sweetness to balance the spice, and wah-lah! It is done.

There before my eyes appears an oasis of delight on a frozen dimly lit morning, offering the loving promise of warmth for both body and soul, delivered in a cup.  I wrap frigid fingers tightly around and press in, breathe in, all that is chai.

Best Ever Chai Tea

To 3 quarts of boiling water add:

20 Whole Cloves

20 Whole Green Cardamom Pods

20 Whole Black Peppercorns

5 Sticks Cinnamon or 1 tsp. Cinnamon Bark or Chips

1 tsp. Chicory

1 tsp. Dried Ginger Root

Continue boiling in covered kettle 15-20 min. or till desired amount of spiciness is reached, remove from heat, and add:

1 tsp. Red Rooibos Tea, or 1/4tsp. Black Tea

Place lid back on kettle and allow tea to steep 5-10 min.  Strain herbs and tea from liquid and return to kettle.  Keep on the stove on low to keep chai warm as you enjoy through the day, or pour into carafe. Add milk and honey to taste.

Makes 3 quarts of the Best Ever Chai Tea

Video

Bee Keeping Revolution

Today I am sharing a video with you that blew me away!!!  This may very well revolutionize beekeeping for the homesteader, and honey enthusiasts everywhere! WOW!!!

It never ceases to amaze me that people are changing the world one idea at a time.

I have wanted to delve into the world of beekeeping, but it has seemed very complicated and overwhelming…not to mention expensive, but this could change everything.

Imagine a beehive in EVERY. BACKYARD.

One simple idea and plenty of grit may very well change the world for the good.  Amazing what results from one person simply living his/her truth and walking the less traveled path.

These hives are called Honey Flow Hives.  Check out their website and support their grassroots efforts, here.

A beekeeping revolution has started.

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Simple Things

Its the simple things in life that sometimes go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Like indoor flushing toilets for example.  We use it everyday…how often do we stop to give thanks for a functioning septic system?!

Today I give thanks for our outhouse.

Although it is not a warm, and flushing system, I am forever grateful that we have an outdoor biffy for back-up emergency situations.  Like a frozen septic system.  The lack of snow cover in our area and one too many waaaay below zero cold snaps, creates the  perfect storm situation for frozen drain fields, pipes, etc.

Now, do not be concerned dear readers, this could be much worse.  If we did not have the outdoor biffy, we would be washing buckets for our family of six.  Puts things into a little better perspective…don’t ya think?!!! ;)

In all honesty, I like the biffy.  It is quiet, has a nice view overlooking the yard and the chicken coop.  The birds will serenade you while you go about your business, and absolutely nobody is pounding on the door wanting to come in!!!! All in all, it is a pretty peaceful experience.  We use the biffy quite a lot in the warmer months, it makes it easy to not have to slip off boots, or come in from outside when we are working in the summer.  Winter biffy use is a whole other experience.  Bundling up to use the bathroom, takes planning, care and a bit of forethought.  And also some quick steps down the snow-packed path….When you are putting on extra long underwear to use the toilet, you really just have to stop and giggle at the irony.  The bite of -25 degrees can really get the blood pumping and the business done in a hurry, wanting above all costs to avoid frostbite on the unmentionables!!!!

All kidding aside, our situation is very short term.  It appears that only our drain field is frozen, and not the pipes, so as soon as it warms up enough that we can pry the frozen lid off the septic tank, we can get it pumped. So please don’t worry about us, we take this in stride as part of our homesteading adventures.  SO, for a few days we may have frosty cheeks, but all is well, we are grateful to live a simple and honest life, and the sun shall warm us up again, this is after all, Northern Minnesota folks!

So today, I give thanks for the simple things….like an outdoor biffy.

 

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Homestead Style Dark Chocolate Cake

mmmmmmm…..

I may need to wipe the drool from that title, sorry about that, folks!!! ;)

All silliness aside, in honor of valentines day and all things delicious and lovely, I bring you my favorite cake recipe.  This was originally my Mom’s recipe.  Some of you may have grown up with a crazy cake recipe, and if so, this will be familiar, it has the same bones.

The main differences between this cake and my mom’s original recipe, is the type of oil used, and the amount of cocoa added.  I’m a little liberal with the chocolate, but boy is it decadent.  I use olive oil in place of the vegetable oil called for in the original recipe.  If you have never experienced an olive oil cake, you are surely missing out!  I did this quite naively several years ago when I was learning to use healthier oils and fats in my cooking, come to find out, it is a common thing in France, and an olive oil crumb texture is simply amazing!!!! I have never looked back! ;)   I also add a bit more homemade vanilla for good measure.

It is moist, delicious, simple with a beautiful crumb, that may leave you licking your plate clean.  The best thing about this cake is that it doesn’t seem to dry out, that is if it manages to last more than one day… but continues to get more moist and delicious.

Homestead Style Dark Chocolate Cake has been the go-to for birthday cakes, cupcakes, cold and blustery afternoons, and the like for years.  It is tried and true. It is a cake that is SO good that it doesn’t even need frosting. SERIOUSLY.

On our homestead, our favorite way to dress it up for company is with raspberries or strawberries preserved from the garden, and freshly whipped honey cream.  Totally fancy, completely gourmet.  It is a simply lavish rustic dessert that will knock your socks off!!!

Enjoy!

Homestead Style Dark Chocolate Cake

3 c.  All-purpose flour

2c.  Evaporated Cane Juice

6 HEAPING TABLESPOONS Cocoa*

2t.  Baking Soda

1t.  Sea Salt

1c.  Olive Oil**

2t. Apple Cider Vinegar

4t.  Homemade Vanilla Extract

2c.  Cold Water

  • Add all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl in the order given.  Stir together.  This cake can be mixed by hand with a fork or a whisk, or with a stand mixer. 
  • Add wet ingredients to mixing bowl, and mix completely, either by hand or with a mixer, being careful not to over whip. Mix until well combined, only a minute or so.
  • Pour cake batter into a greased and floured, 9×13 cake pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees 30-40 min.
  • Serve with freshly whipped honey cream and berries, or warm right out of the pan!

Be sure to wipe the crumbs from your face!!!

* When I say HEAPING TABLESPOONS, I really mean it!!! As much as you can get on that spoon baby!!!  I use a regular tablespoon from the silverware drawer, not a measuring spoon and load it up till no more will fit on!!!  It is literally 6 mountainous tablespoons….that’s what makes is sooooo good!

**In regards to olive oil, I usually use Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which gives a stronger flavor to the cake.  This is something that we all love and are used to, but if this is your families’ first experience with olive oil in your baked goods, may I kindly suggest using a lighter oil with a lighter flavor.  This is the kind that is labeled to be used specifically for baking.  It will have a lighter yellow color, but is still lovely and delicious, and gives a delightful crumb!

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A Letter for Mamas

Dearest Mama,

You are beautiful.

Even with bags under your eyes.  Perhaps more so, because we know that your tireless hands and heart work overtime, doing for those you love.

We know you do, love us that is.

We can tell it in the way that you stay up late to prepare for the next day.

The way that there is always a hot meal on the table, or bubbling away in the kitchen.

The way that there are fresh undies in drawers and socks in the washer.

The way the last minute school projects are finished with patience and a smile.

The way the homework gets done, even when we don’t want to.

The way that you say ‘no’ to things that are not in our best interest.

The way that you read us stories, build legos, play outside and run barefoot in the grass.

The way that you make snow angels in winter says that love really is all that matters, not test scores, or sports scores.

We love that you teach us, that you listen to us when we speak, that our opinions matter.

We love when you get the giggles for no reason, and none of us can stop laughing.

We love your touch, your soft soothing voice, your words of encouragement.

We love that we are superheros in your eyes.

But most of all we just love you.

Plain and simple.

We love who you are when no one else is looking.  We love you at your best, and we love you when you think you are at your worst.

We love you for you.

So let your light shine mama, we are watching, and learning how to let our light shine too.

Love,

Your Kids

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Our Homestead Love Story

Winter is a good time for reflection.  It has a quiet energy that moves you into a space of peaceful contemplation.  As I fully embrace the darkness and quiet, it gives me time to really open my heart to where we are, where we have been, and where we want to continue to go and grow as a family.  There have been many honest conversations hearts whispering to one another in the stillness and comfort of dark.  Perhaps the absence of bright light allows a soul to softly peer deeper within.

With hands and hearts held tightly, my man and I continue to explore what it is, which direction our paths should take in this season of life, and it occurs to me that no matter what direction our paths take, or have taken in the past, they always circle back around to our homestead, to a family-centered, simple, self-sustaining lifestyle.  A dig in the dirt, hard work, sweat on brow, made with own hands sort of life.  A life filled with love, embracing the seasons shoulder-to-shoulder, heart-to-heart, fully and simply all in for it all, together.

As we continue to explore with hands held tightly, my man and I, I wanted to share a little bit about who we are, and why we do what we do.  So here it is, Our Homestead Love Story.

Our happy little homestead began growing roots long ago.  A horse-lovin, butterfly chasin’ country girl met a true grit, down to earth family man.  It was love from the beginning.  Never mind they were teenagers….

Not all stories are love stories, but our homestead story is.  Love is what its all about, and sharing that love was the motivating reason for this blog.  When I began writing, I envisioned a beautiful space to share wisdom and knowledge with others that I had gleaned along the way, but also to share the joys and the hardships of learning to let go, learning to become more and more self-sufficient, and mostly learning to love and trust that life is beautiful, and God is good.

Our homestead and our homesteading skills have developed organically, gently budding, unfolding, and growing, ever changing with the season of life we have passed through.  We continue to practice the skill sets that serve us, learning new, and growing as we go, but also letting go and learning from the moments that no longer fit the season we are in.  This is intentional living.  Being and becoming aware of what you embrace in life and when it is time to acknowledge with gratitude, and bid farewell.  Knowing that what it is that you are letting go of in grace, has helped you and grown you as much as possible, and you must now say good-bye to move forward.  Embracing the unknown, opening hearts, minds, and body to learning what is yet to come, whether a new skill, or a new moment in life that is going to grow you into a better you.  Often times, they are one in the same.

We were both lucky, my man and I, that our parents raised us with skills.  Our parents and grandparents were and are independent individuals with strong hearts and convictions.  We strive to pass this on to our children, a skill-set that helps them to be resilient, self-sufficient, independent minded, and followers of their wild hearts.  We want to encourage them to follow their dreams, know the ways of those who have come before, so that they too, can choose an different path, an independent lifestyle that allows them the freedom to create the life they want to live.  To follow the path with courage that God has intended for them.  To grow their roots strong and deep so that they may grow and bloom their lives into fruition.

This is the love that sustains our homestead.  This is our homestead love story.  A love of living closely to the land and seasons, the love of a simple, intentional life, the love of growing and guiding children.  This is why we chose this life and continue to choose this life.  A simple existence filled with the love of a family, working, learning, growing together each and every day.  This is why I write.  To share our journey, to allow others to see that it is not only possible to live and survive this way, but also to thrive and grow, allow a beautiful life to unfold each and every day.  To encourage and embrace the less traveled path.  To count blessings and moments, live fully, deeply, and madly in love.

I do not know where God will take us, but I do know that I will continue to write and share our journey, our hearts, and our story.  I strive to create community amongst other like minded souls so that we all may continue to live and grow together no matter where our roots are planted.

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Intentions for a New Year

 

A new year is a new beginning.

Begin again, start fresh, wake anew.

Intentional living allows one to be open to making changes in her life.  When she has the courage to openly see what is working, and what is not.  When it is time to build on, or time to let go.

Cultivating a path of awareness allows one the opportunity to tread where she has not yet traveled.  Where the path may be narrow and overgrown with foliage, but yet remains a path waiting for tender feet and hearts to tread.

Reflecting on days already traveled, awareness shines softly on pieces of my life that I want more of, more of days filled with my kids, my man, and my family.

More moments around the home fires.

More twinkling eyes sparkling with mischief, more simple glances exchanged.

More smiles and giggles.

More I Love You’s whispered in the dark.

More stolen kisses.

Just plain more of what is important to me.

What fills my heart and soothes my soul.

More of what I was put on this earth for.

More of being me, a mama, a lover to my husband, a homesteader at heart, an artist, singer, writer, dancer, story-keeper, yoga teacher, foodie, wine-drinker, friend.

An embracer of the moment.  A counter of blessings.

Happy New Year!

May you be blessed with more of what feeds your soul and makes your heart sing in 2015.