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fall colour

fall beauty

maple trees

fall beauty at home

In front of our house stand three majestic maple trees whose leaves turn brilliant red, yellow and orange each fall. Set against the bright blue sky on an incredibly mild fall day, I couldn’t help but lay down in the pile of fallen leaves with the kids enjoying the crunching sound under me, the smell of fallen leaves and the colours. A day of gratitude to remember in the cold of February.

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Anointment Soap = Stain Remover

Anointment Soap takes the stain out!
Anointment Soap takes the stain out!
Anointment Soap takes the stain out!

This topic has come up a few times now but this is the first true customer testimonial that has come in complete with photos! I have three kids, a dog, two cats and eight hens (not in the house – most of the time). I have a lot of messes – and when it comes to carpet and bedding, I certainly reach for a bar of soap and start scrubbing. I have noticed that it works really well to get tough stains (vomit, peanut butter on carpet and paint are three that come to mind recently) out.

Another friend and longtime Anointment customer sent me a quick note one day to tell me that when her usual stain remover didn’t work, scrubbing with a bar of Anointment soap DID!

And this recent email (and above photos) from my dear friend and long-time Anointment customer, Taryn (also a mom of three):

“[My daughter] got paint on her top at preschool. I wish I had more pics. I tried hair spray, rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover with a nail brush – nada! So I grabbed the bar of lavender and used it to wash away some of the above mentioned chemicals. Magically the stain looked lighter. More lavender and a little nail brush, gonzo!!!! This shirt was ruined. Not now!”

If you’ve got tough stains and a bar of Anointment soap (scent doesn’t matter), scrub away! An easy, effective and environmentally safe way to deal with stubborn messes around the house! Let me know how it works – leave your comments below!

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Rhubarb Iced Tea (a summer recipe)

We’re having a kitchen party this month at Oh My! Handmade. Check out my recipe for Rhubarb Iced Tea. Perfect for the summer heat!

In my family, beginning in toddlerhood it isn’t uncommon to be offered a cup of milk and sugar with a splash of tea, strengthening bit by bit, year after year, until your cup is brimming with hot orange pekoe and a splash of milk.

As a toddler, I rejected it.

Many childhood family memories revolve around the tea ritual. My mom and dad drink tea every single day at noon and again in the evening. It is a ritual that allows them to slow down and reconnect in a busy day. My mother habitually puts the kettle on the stove at quarter-to-twelve, bringing the water to a rolling boil, turning off the burner and steeping one teabag for exactly ten minutes. My father would arrive home from work for lunch every day and have his cup of tea and a bologna sandwich with mustard.
After we were in bed I would hear the ticking and whistling of the enamel kettle on the stove as my mom brewed the second pot of tea for the day, often accompanied by a bowl of peanuts and Ganong’s gum drops.

As a child, an adolescent, and a teenager, I still rejected it.

I went off to university when I was twenty, living in a co-ed residence away from home for the first time. In the midst of a stressful semester I looked for small comforts. Going to coffee with a friend was always a great pick-me-up but I never acquired a taste for coffee. A friend from Barbados with similar tea-drinking traditions offered me a cup of tea one evening. And that’s when it took.

My daily life centers on the rituals of brewing tea. I brew a pot of orange pekoe first thing in the morning, again at noon, and often enjoy a caffeine-free rooibos tea (unheard of in Atlantic Canada when I was growing up) in the evening. I have a collection of handmade mugs by various potters that warm my hands and my heart when I enjoy a hot cup of steeped tea. No project is begun without first putting tea cup in hand.

In the summer months I also enjoy iced tea on a hot day. Inspired by a delicious rhubarb iced tea I was served at Local Source Market (http://www.localsourcemarket.com/) in Halifax and the abundance of rhubarb in the backyards of Atlantic Canada (including my own), I developed this recipe to capture the essence of spring and the comforts of tea even during the heat of summer. The rhubarb delivers an unusual sweet-sour flavour combination that delights and surprises!

Rhubarb Iced Tea

You will need:

Chopping board
Knife
Cheesecloth
Fine-mesh sieve
Sauce pan
Measuring cup
Spoon
Large Metal Bowl or heat-safe pitcher

Ingredients

2 c. rhubarb, chopped
2 c. white sugar
3 L cold water
4 orange pekoe tea bags (New Brunswick’s King Cole comes highly recommended)

Preparing the rhubarb syrup

In a sauce pan combine rhubarb and sugar. Pick thin, brightest red stems you can find. Remove and dispose of leaves.

Simmer rhubarb and sugar over low heat, stirring occasionally for two hours. Remove from heat, allow to cool. When syrup has cooled, strain pulp through cheesecloth-lined sieve. Dispose of pulp, set syrup aside. Meanwhile, prepare tea.

Bring cold water to a rolling boil. Add tea bags and steep for 10-20 minutes. Remove and dispose of tea bags. Add rhubarb syrup to prepared tea and stir thoroughly. Allow to cool to room temperature, pour into a glass pitcher and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

Pour yourself a tall glass and enjoy!

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pasta punctuation

pasta punctuation

Sometimes when you’re at home with your children the smallest things are funny. As I was cleaning up under the high chair after a spaghetti lunch a perfectly formed ampersand greeted me under the table. I couldn’t stage that if I tried. There you have it. Pasta punctuation.

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Sunflower + Calendula Soap

Last week I had the opportunity to lead a soapmaking workshop with a small group of youth from the Sackville Community Garden. Using organic sunflower oil and dried calendula (a type of marigold with excellent skin soothing properties) from their garden we made a small batch of a lovely mild soap.

This was a first for me – I have never given a soapmaking workshop before. I have learned that my workshop space is not particularly well suited to having a group of people! I did enjoy the process and got a rare chance to experiment with a new recipe AND make soap in a rectangular mold for the first time (oh how it is so simple compared to round molds)! It remains to be seen how interested the youth were – their willingness to participate in the process – well, they were a bit stoic about the whole thing but maybe they’ll come to appreciate it later on.

Sunflower oil contains a high percentage of high-oleic acid oils which makes the soap much slower to harden than I am used to – after 48 hours they were still easily ‘smooshable’ when removing them from the molds.

Sunflower + Calendula Soap

This soap also contains a small amount of annatto seed infused in the lye, giving the soap a lovely light yellow colour and tiny reddish flecks. I can’t wait to try it out and compare it to the super-secret-and-highly-coveted Anointment soap formula.

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Catherine MacLellan house concert

We are hosting a house concert with the lovely and talented Catherine MacLellan SATURDAY, JULY 14 at 8 pm at our home in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. I will have tickets available at the Sackville Farmer’s Market Saturday, July 7 and Saturday, July 14. You can also contact me if you’d like to make arrangements for tickets.

Come one, come all. You don’t want to miss this!

She’ll be playing in our 110 year old parlour with great acoustics – her guitarist is coming too, the full meal deal! See the Facebook event for extras and details!

In case you need more (from catherinemaclellan.com):

    Winner at the 2010 East Coast Music Awards:

  • Female Solo Recording of the Year
  • Folk Recording of the Year
    Four time winner at the Music PEI Awards!

  • Songwriter of the Year: Catherine MacLellan – “Take a Break”
  • Female Vocalist of the Year: Catherine MacLellan
  • Album of the Year: Catherine MacLellan – Water in the Ground
  • Folk Recording of the Year: Catherine MacLellan – Water in the Ground
    Winner for Solo Artist of the Year at 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards

  • #1 Roots Artist on iTunes Canada
  • PEI winner for CBC Radio 2 – Canadian Song Quest

YOU SHOULD COME!

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Spring Chicks

Spring Chickies - 3 weeks old

Oh it has been so long. Life has caught up with me again and in the day-to-day-ness of it all, I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon. I think of it a lot, if that means anything!

We’ve had a full spring – and spring came early, which means we’ve had lots of projects happening around this old farmhouse including the arrival of our spring chicks! We have eight baby laying hens that for a month lived in a cardboard box in our mudroom with a heat lamp shining over them night and day. Their yellow fuzz quickly gave way to “grown up” feathers and while the kids were enamored with their new feathered friends I was relieved that the cats and dog didn’t give them the time of day.

A weekend’s worth of work (thank you Kent and Steve) on Jeff’s behalf means the chicks are now living in a corner of our barn that my brother has dubbed “the Taj Mahal” – it’s a pretty sweet hen house complete with wood paneling and vinyl flooring (scrap, I might add). We were able to reuse a door that was removed during our renovations. The chicks, who are largely un-named except for two – Brown Betty and Ginger – seem pretty happy in their new homes. We’re hoping to have daily egg deposits by September.

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Jeff & April MacKinnon Win Premier’s Award for Energy Efficiency

This week Jeff and I and, by extension, Anointment Natural Skin Care, were the recipients of the Premier’s Award for Energy Efficiency. We attended a gala evening in Fredericton and were presented with a beautiful award made by New Brunswick potter Tim Isaac.

Jeff and April MacKinnon – Energy Efficiency Champion – Residential Sector

Our Home

Jeff and April MacKinnon and their three children moved from Nova Scotia to Sackville in April 2011, and into a 150-year-old Victorian farmhouse overlooking the Tantramar Marsh. Even before taking possession they began to research how to make their home more comfortable and much more energy efficient. The MacKinnons had some experience with energy efficiency upgrades having improved the EnerGuide rating of their Nova Scotia home by 30 rating points and reducing their energy bills by almost 50 per cent.

Shortly after moving in they had an energy advisor conduct a pre-upgrade assessment, the first step in their extensive energy efficiency retrofit. The most significant recommendation from the assessment report was to replace their home’s electric baseboards with an energy efficient central heating system. Jeff determined that with the grants available from the Efficiency NB’s Residential Energy Efficiency Program and the federal ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program, a ground source heat pump would provide an efficient system with low operational costs and a reasonable investment payback period.

Over a five month period the family took a top-to-bottom approach to make their home more efficient. The heritage home that, at one time, was the site of a post office, blacksmith shop and grocery store, was retrofitted from an EnerGuide 36 to 76, as energy efficient as an average new home built today.

In addition to the ground source heat pump and modern ductwork and controls, the MacKinnons added spray foam insulation to the basement stone walls (R12) and the header space (R18), blown-in insulation to the attic bringing the level from R0 to R50, they replaced six windows, choosing ENERGY STAR qualified models in locations that would maximize solar heat gain and they also carried out extensive air sealing with the use of caulking and weather stripping throughout the home.

Jeff says prioritizing which areas to improve, selecting products to use and working with contractors & suppliers was made easier with the resources available on Efficiency NB’s website. The site’s Resource Centre features presentations and other helpful links and resources on topics such as insulation, heating systems and building materials. “With the use of these resources we were able to make informed decisions,” he explained.
The MacKinnons are proud of what they have accomplished over the past year and have become advocates for energy
efficiency and Efficiency NB in their community. Jeff feels that retrofits are better for the environment than building a new home considering the total carbon footprint required to clear land, create and transport new materials, construct the building and dispose of waste. “The greenest and most efficient home is one that’s already built,” he says. They are often asked about the work they’ve completed and are quick to emphasize to the importance of doing research and using resources like those available through Efficiency NB prior to undertaking an energy retrofit.

Jeff and April were chosen as the recipients of the Energy Efficiency Champion – Residential Sector Award for their
impressive retrofit which improved their home’s EnerGuide rating by 40 points and reduced energy consumption by
over 60 per cent.

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Sugarin’

Sugarin'

For the last few years my brother has been tapping his trees, collecting sap and making maple syrup in small quantities (2-3 litres) for our own use. This year we were so excited to collect our own sap from four very large and mature maple trees in our own backyard. On a good day these four trees will produce 20 L of sap which will translate to about 500 mL of syrup. We boiled down the sap on the weekend over a wood stove in my brother’s garage. Next year, we’ll plan a party around sugarin’ time!

Last week we had RECORD high temperatures that caused the sap flow to stop and many of us feared the season was over. My brother’s trees were producing “cloudy” sap, an indication that the buds were formed and that the sap was no longer useful for sugaring. Our own trees, however, seem to have restarted, so there is still hope for the seaon!