Micro Maple Production

2012 Tap

2012 Tap

I was listening to a conversation some parents were having after a choir concert at our school a couple weeks ago.  A dad was talking about making maple syrup. I chimed in, and said, “We make maple syrup, too! How many trees do you tap?”  He responded, “Oh, about 300″. I got quiet, and he asked, “How many do you have?”… “Ummm, One”, I said sheepishly… I am sure he thought, “Well isn’t that cute”.  ;)

We have a small, lonely maple tree in our back yard.  We love that tree.  It gives us some yummy, sweet amber goodness every year. Even if it is just a small yield, we are so proud to be able to make something from our tiny homestead.  We have been doing this now, for a few years, and we look forward to the season when the nights are below freezing, and the days are above freezing. It is the beginning of Spring! There are times when the sap is a small drip, and other times when it just pours into the bucket on especially warmer days. When the bucket is full, we pour the sap into clean plastic jugs and continue to do this until the sap ceases to flow.P1110232

The first year, we cooked our sap over an open fire, which was an fun experience, but hard to control. We, now, cook the sap on the stove for several hours in a stainless steel pot, adding more sap as the water evaporates. When it gets low and dark, we transfer the liquid sugar to a smaller pan, and check the temperature with a candy thermometer. We let it continue to evaporate, and then transfer to clean jars.  Each year, we get a different amount of syrup. Six gallons produce very little syrup, but we enjoy every bit…On pancakes, ice cream, or straight from a spoon.

Fruits of labor.

Fruits of labor.

Do you have a maple tree in your yard? If so, you really should try this. It is quite a fun project for the whole family, is little work, and costs next to nothing. Being able to produce anything on our own is such a rewarding experience.




Ginger Love

Yes, my hubby is a ‘ginger’, and sure I could jabber on about how wonderful he is, but I will save that for another post.  ;)

The other day I started feeling a little ‘ooky’.  You know…that ill feeling that suddenly whooshes over one’s self?  I realized if I was going to get anything done this week, and be able to enjoy the weekend, I had better get my herbal arsenal prepared. Try as I might to prevent illness, at times of stress, these stinkin’ bugs seem to find a way to invade and inconvenience my life.

Ginger Honey Lemon Tea

Ginger Honey Lemon Tea

The first thing I did wasI make a ginger/honey/lemon infusion.  Since I didn’t have any fresh ginger or lemons on hand, I used my tube of ginger and lemon juice.  I always keep these in the fridge for those times when I don’t have the whole versions. I use 1 tablespoon ginger and steep covered for about 20 minutes.  I then add lemon juice and honey to taste.This, in my opinion, is the easiest and a very effective way of fighting the crud.

Ginger is one of the most easily accessible herbs for many different health issues. It is probably my favorite herb, and if I only had one herb on hand, ginger would be the one I would prefer to have.  what is so great about Ginger (Zingiber officinale)? Well, let me think…do you have about an hour? It is well-known for its  anti-inflammatory properties; contains 12 antioxidants; improves the body’s ability to assimilate other herbs, and protects those herbal compounds from being destroyed by the liver and continue to circulate in the blood for a longer period of time. Ginger allows for better absorption of other herbs in the intestines.  And if all that isn’t enough, it helps reduce serum cholesterol levels; aids in circulation.  A new study shows that ginger boosts white blood cells more effectively than echinacea.  The 12 phytochemicals it contains work together to boost the immune system.  In the East, ginger is used for killing intestinal parasites. In Chinese medicine, it is used as a warming agent. It works well with those who have cold limbs and can help stop excessive uterine bleeding.  One can use as a compress for cramps, nausea and pain. To make a compress, use 2 tablespoons ginger root or powder in 2 cups boiling water.  Steep for about 15 minutes.  Keep it covered.  Dip a clean cloth into the ‘tea’ and squeeze out any excess liquid and apply warm to abdomen. Reapply every 15 minutes.

I use ginger often as a digestive aid. I used to pop Pepto Bismol nearly every day. For many years, I have had issues with heartburn, tummy aches, and some IBS symptoms. It was due to stress for the most part, and since learning how to use stress-relieving techniques with breathing, exercises, and using herbs for nourishment and nervines, I haven’t had as many troubles.  On the occasions when I do, I reach for my ginger tincture. Its warming action slows digestion, is helpful for nausea, and heartburn.

I, also, use ginger in essential oil form. Because my mom has osteoarthritis, I decided to make her a blend of essential oils, including ginger, diluted at around 2% in a carrier oil.  Ginger increases the blood flow to extremities for cold, arthritic pains of the hands and feet.  It is, also, very helpful for warming swollen joints irritated by dampness.

There are so many uses of this ‘jack-of-all-trades’ herbal rhizome.  You can see why I love it so much.




Slàinte (cheers!) to you on this St. Patrick’s Day. 

We have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day for a few days, now.  This morning my husband made our youngest son Good Luck Pancakes, but the celebration has been going on since Sunday.cloverpancake                 

Being of Irish descent, my husband loves to celebrate this day, and we have always made our usual corned beef and cabbage, most times in the slow cooker every year.  A few times he has incorporated more traditional Irish dishes into our celebration, and Sunday was no exception.  He decided to utilize his Christmas present, and brine and smoke a brisket.  As much as he loves to cook on the charcoal grill, I got him a Smokenator attachment for his grill.  After a trial run on Saturday, he was ready to go.

The meat had been brining for 5 days.  He used several differen20150308_175658[1]t kinds of aromatic spices and two different kinds of salt (and lots of it) for this project.  Juniper berries, cardamom, and star anise, were among the delicious ambrosial spices used.  He turned the meat everyday to be sure it was getting nicely infused with that lovely potion.  We all had to smell it whenever he opened the container, because while it didn’t look all that appetizing, the scent was heavenly.20150314_051239[1]

He, then, had to soak it for 8 hours in water to allow for some of the salt to withdraw from the meat.  He then prepared the some hickory chips.  The hickory gives the meat more depth, and that characteristic smokey taste. He did have to start more batches of charcoal so he could keep the grill at an even temperature, which was fairly challenging.


The meat needed to cook low and slow to get that nice crust on the outside with tenderness on the inside.  It was a long process, but he had many other things to keep himself busy, and the mood remained upbeat with jovial celtic fiddle and folk music in the background (Thank you, Pandora).  He made a traditional potato dish called, colcannon. One of the earliest Irish

ref20150315_104412[1]erences to this dish, which is a combination of mashed potatoes, cabbage, and leeks, was in 1735. He did add bacon to this concoction, because… you know, everything tastes better with bacon.  So, back to History, it was originally a dish for Halloween festivities for marriage divination.  Charms were hidden in bowls of colcannon, and if an unmarried girl were to find them, it was considered a marriage proposal.  Lucky Charms?

He was, also, working on the dough and filling for an Irish apple custard pie…Uh… yes, please. We were all excitedly awaiting the taste of the spoils of all the exuberant labor he had put into this meal.  Everything was looking and smelling incredible, and he was crossing his fingers (you know, for luck) that it would all taste as good as intended.  And believe me when I say it was delicious, aromatic and simply beautiful!







We finished the day with dessert, a bit o’ Irish Whiskey….








And a beautiful view. The meal was magical, the company was divine, and the sky was perfect…20150315_165649[1]

Síocháin (Peace),







March 14, ’15 (3.1415)

Today is a special day in the mathematical world.  It is Pi Day!  Classrooms all over the country celebrate this day with special projects and eating PIE.  Not a bad way to spend a math class!

What makes today ‘Pi Day’?  Well, Pi ( π ) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.  It is a constant number, so it will be the same, no matter the size of the circle.  A circle is a little bit more than its 3x its width around, thus… 3.14 (March 14).  Today is even more significant because the next two numbers in the Pi sequence is ’15’.  So this year is the only time we will see this number on the calendar: 3.1415.  The numbers do go on from there, as it is infinite and patternless, and has been calculated to one trillion digits past the decimal, but we will stop there for now.  Did you know the spherical volume of our entire Universe has been calculated at just 39 digits past the decimal?  Another piece of fun trivia is that Pi, the numeral ( 3.14 ) spelled backwards is Pie!  :)

The symbol ( Greek letter π )Pi was first used in 1706 by William Jones.  A ‘p’ was chosen for ‘perimeter’.  Using this symbol became popular when Swiss mathematician, Leonhard Euler adopted it in 1737.

How is Pi helpful?  In Geometry, we use Pi to calculate the area of a circle, and the volume of a cylinder.

There are t-shirts, coffee mugs and mouse pads for the math enthusiast in your family.  You can even get an app for your phone called the Pi Trainer, if memorizing digits sounds like a fun pastime to you. In my family we, basically, tolerate math, but Pi Day is an interesting and fun subject.

For more giggles, I have included a video of our son and his friends celebrating Pi Day.  This was a project they did for math class a couple years ago.  Not especially educational, but cute.

Enjoy some Pi today,




Raise Funds for Your Organization

nifty-brownNow is the time to decide what you will be using for a fundraiser in the next school year.  Are you looking for a unique and practical way to raise funds for your school or organization?  Consider looking for an Indie business who offers a fundraising program.  We have worked with several schools and organizations, and have helped them raise much needed funds.  Our products are beautiful, useful, make wonderful gifts, and people love that they are handmade.

We offer a variety of our best selling soaps and lipbalms, and the process is smooth.purple-PMP-teachers  We offer up to 50% profit to your organization.  We have order forms for the Fall/Holiday and Spring seasons.  Our holiday fundraiser items are delivered before winter break in time for the holidays, and our spring fundraiser can be promoted for Mother’s Day.

Handcrafted in Jackson, Michigan.  We use natural, organic, and fairly-traded ingredients in small batches for assured quality.

You receive a ‘sniffy’ and sample display with poster, 50 free order forms, and a custom web page for your participants to conveniently order online if they wish.  This allows for out of town family and friends to support your organization and have their order shipped directly to them.

We will be at Art 634 tomorrow, March 8, 12-4 with packets of information, as well as products to purchase and a custom Bath Salt activity.  Please contact us at candy@nakeenatural.com for more information, and view our holiday Sell Sheet below.




ART 634

430183_10150579777386487_572720162_nArt 634 is THE coolest building in Jackson, MI.  Nestled next to our old historic prison, this building is art in and of itself.  In the 1850’s, it was a manufacturing facility for wagons and carriages.  Over the years it has housed many businesses, including trucking operations, a warehouse facility, and even illegal and illicit activities (hmmm).

Today it is a Center for the Creative Spirit.  Within the walls of this building, you will find music, dance, photography, sculptures, jewelry, home design, yoga, painting, theater arts, and even hair design.  There is no limit to the kind of creativity you will find here.

Every month, ART 634 hosts a very special event that is simply, yet, art634gallerydescriptively titled, 2nd Sunday.  Every 2nd sunday, you will find a reception ‘meet and greet’ with a featured artist; be serenaded by a local musician or band; have your kiddos participate in a make-n-take project20150208_124257 sponsored by a different tenant every month; choose to experience a yoga session; shop for unique and local art from the merchants who have their studios within the building; and, also experience a taste of some outside local businesses that come and share their handsome wares.  Even the owner of the building, Maggie Riggle, is an artist.  You will find her beautiful hand-dyed scarves and other unique and beautifully handcrafted items in her personal studio.crupi

I am so happy to be able to participate in 2nd Sunday events.  I love being there.  The old creaky wood floors, and the exposed brick walls.  So raw and delicious to behold.  It is a glorious place to be, with an atmosphere that is not easily explained.  One can almost feel the creative spirit floating around the rooms.  The talent is immeasurable, and the personalities are fun and contagious.  You will experience southern hospitality with a cool eccentric vibe.

This is not the end of the creativity at ART 634.  They, also, have a large back gallery that can be used for parties, conventions, and wedding receptions with a darling covered porch that is reminiscent of a gorgeous plantation style home.

20141109_144659Why don’t you come visit on the next 2nd Sunday, March 8.  With the warmer weather coming, you will find some fun outside events and healthy food trucks, as well.  I can’t talk of ART 634 without mentioning my lovely friend, Carrie Joers.  She organizes events, designs marketing materials, website and facebook photos, and is a beautiful and talented artist and photographer.  It won’t be hard to find her.  She is like an elegant butterfly, fluttering around, spending time with as many people as she can.  What a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon.






Chivalry is Alive!

I am going to take go ahead and take full advantage of my bragging rights today. :)


Awww! Isn’t that sweet?

Our 20 year old son, who is in college, came home yesterday with a few grocery bags, and a beautiful flower arrangement.  He has to work today, so he wanted to celebrate Valentines Day last evening.  I had no idea what he had up his sleeve, but he asked if he could make dinner for his girlfriend and celebrate with a date in our basement.

I tried to keep busy so it wouldn’t appear I was actually being nosy about what he was up to.  I asked him what he planned to make, and he told me that he was going to make homemade pizza and double dark chocolate cookies because dark chocolate is her favorite.  He has never made pizza dough before, nor has he made cookies from scratch, so I was curious to see how it would turn out.

As he was making the dough, I had to resist the temptation to jump in and help him.  I answered any questions, but tried with all I could muster not to offer too many ‘suggestions’.  I went into the other room for awhile and when I returned, the photo above is what I saw.  IT made my heart melt.  Wow.  The more I watched what he was doing, the more my heart melted.  He designed a beautifully handcrafted evening for his Valentine.


Handmade pizza… Hungry now, aren’t you?!

He set up a table downstairs with his flowers and gift, his handmade dinner and dessert.  It was even candle-lit!

I was awe-struck that such a young man would be so creative and thoughtful, but why was I so surprised by this?  I shouldn’t be. He did learn it from someone I know.  No, no one sat him down and told him what to do, or how to do it.  He learned it from watching someone else over his lifetime.  And that someone is his Dad.  My husband is the most thoughtful gift-giver I have ever known.  He is so creative, he could really go into a consulting business teaching this craft.  But, really, you can’t ‘teach’ this stuff.  Sometimes it just ‘is’, and it is also learned by example.  My husband learned this craft from his mother, actually.  She is an incredibly thoughtful person and gift-giver, and that is where he has received the basis for the wonderful qualities he has.  He chose to use those qualities and build on them to be the wonderful husband and father he is today.  We hear so much these days about our young people, and how they are selfish and arrogant, and nothing like the young people from years ago.  I beg to differ on the ones in my household.


On the beach of Lake Superior with my Love.

I have some beautiful character-filled men in my life.  My husband and boys are all very unique, kind-hearted, and simply lovely.  My boys have and are learning many things from us, whether we like it or not.  We certainly aren’t perfect, and aren’t always great examples, but for the most part, I think we have done very well.  It is ultimately their choice to not only take the goodness they have learned from listening to us and watching us; but also learn from our mistakes and not-so-proud parent moments to form themselves into the good humans they will ultimately ‘become’.  I am certain they will choose wisely.    Thankfully, they have a Dad who lives his life with integrity and selflessness, and treats his wife with the utmost respect and love. I am a lucky gal, and they are incredibly fortunate to have a Dad who shows that Chivalry is still alive and well.  And, evidence shows he is passing that sentiment on to his sons.  A legacy to be proud of.



Embracing Winter

We are still in full winter mode, here in Michigan. As you can see from the photo below, we had some digging out to do this past weekend!

Michigan Snow in January

Michigan Snow in January

People seem to forget they we live in a state with a solid winter season.  Yet, every single year, most will fight against it, whining and complaining; dreaming of trips and taking actual trips to warmer climates just to ‘make it through’.

If we choose it, this can be a magical time of the year.  We could change our attitudes, and embrace each season, lovingly welcoming all of the magic of each.  When we stop struggling against ‘what is’, something peaceful happens.  Contentment is a beautiful thing.

I can’t fully explain exactly how I came to change my attitude about winter.  I have never hated winter, but I have participated in the bickering about it.  Maybe it just becomes ‘something to talk about’ or ‘misery loves company’, but it isn’t pleasant.  It never feels right to be ungrateful.

As I have been going through my herbal studies, I have come to understand there is reason for winter.  There is a time for every season, and winter is a time for reflection, reading, studying, taking it a bit more slowly.  There is even a different way we should be eating with each season.  I always feel as though I need to go, go, go.  All.the.time.  To sit down and do ‘nothing’ without guilt has always been difficult.  I have never felt comfortable taking naps, sleeping in, or reading a book in the middle of the day.  That is about to change.  I am giving myself permission to do those things on the weekends that don’t have ‘events’ tied to them.  Giving myself permission to be ‘still’…. and enjoy it.

Enjoying a Warm Fire on a Sunday Morning.

Enjoying a Warm Fire on a Sunday Morning.

I am very new to this, but I feel it is helping me grow.  At least one of the weekend days, I get up and get my coffee.  I sit down on the sofa, in front of the mesmerizing warm fire, and just be.  I reflect on my goals, my dreams, hearing the winter birds outside, and I read if I wish.  Study if I wish.  All with no guilt.  No regrets.  I am fully aware I can’t do this every weekend, but I will do it when I can, and do it well.  Things will be at full speed soon enough… most times the very next day.  But for now, I am slowing down and enjoying this time on a Sunday morning.  Just another way I am practicing wellness.  Tomorrow will bring exercise and work.  Summer will bring much more activity. Today I rest and realize how glorious this season can be.

For the Yum and Health of Curry

I really do love curry, and have been using it to flavor my rice, eggs, and sometimes on my sandwich. My husband makes a killer squash bisque with curry.

So, what exactly is curry powder? Curry powder is a blend of Indian spices. The three main spices are Coriander Seed, Turmeric, and Cumin. There are many variations of curry that may also include: black pepper, cayenne, fenugreek, mustard, and sometimes cinnamon and cloves.

Not only is curry an incredibly aromatic and delicious spice blend, it also carries many health benefits.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been said to be “Nature’s Crusader Against Disease”, and “Medicine Cabinet in a Curry Bowl” by different herbalists. The parts used are the rhizome and the tuber. It is warming and drying and spicy. It has been used for thousands of years for many ailments. It is anti-inflammatory, and used for arthritis and has been used by some as a replacement for celebrex and inbuprofin. It has been used as an antacid, headache reliever. It promotes digestive secretions and has been helpful for diverticulitis, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. It has been known to help with cholesterol levels. There have been studies that have shown turmeric helps prevent cancer, and helps stop some cancers from metastasizing. It can help externally with sprains and bruising, but it does stain anything it comes in contact with, including the skin. There are many other said benefits including, helping nervous system disorders, type 2 diabetes, menstrual pain… and, I hear it helps get rid of ants! I will have to try that this coming spring. Turmeric does need to be buffered somehow, whether it is in food, in olive oil or ghee or in a capsule. Please research contraindications before using, as it is known to be a blood thinner, and not for pregnant or lactating mothers. It is fine as a flavoring in food, though.

Coriander Seed (Coriandrum sativum) comes from the same plant as cilantro. Did you know that? The taste is pungent, and it is aromatic. Coriander is a wonderful carminative, meaning that it helps with digestion. It is a cooling herb. It helps neutralize heat. The seeds have been used for gas and constipation and has a ‘descending’ action making it helpful for GERD. It is anti-spasmodic and can help with diarrhea and IBS. Promising results have been shown for preventing colon cancer. There are certain considerations, as it is safe for most people, but some have been severely allergic. People who are on blood-regulating medication or using insulin should have their blood sugar levels monitored if they are regularly taking coriander as it could lower their blood sugar levels. As always, research for yourself to make sure it is a good choice if using in larger amounts for longer periods of time.

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a good source of iron, manganese, and other nutrients. It is an antioxidant, and some research shows better activity than vitamin C. It has been known to help with diabetes. It contains phyoestrogens, and is good at preventing osteoporosis. It has shown to lessen the bone mass loss in post-menopausal women, and has been used to assist in food poisoning.

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) is most likely in your curry blend. Black pepper can help with digestion, arthritis, depression, flatulence, blood pressure. One really neat thing about black pepper is that it increases the bio availability of other herbs in a formula. It helps assimilate so more of the herbs get into your system and work better.

Cayenne (Capsicum anuum, Capsicum frutescens, and several other species) is one red hot healer! Among its many benefits include: boosting metabolism, the cardiovascular system, blocks pain, generally stimulating, thins mucus, activates pain sensors, releases endorphins, reduces platelet aggregation, and lowers fat levels. The hot ‘bite’ of this herb is caused by the constituent capsaicin. Cayenne can also stimulate hair growth when used on the scalp.

Again, please do your own research to see for yourself the wonderful benefits/contraindications of these herbs.

Here is a nourishing recipe from Learning Herbs for you to try:

Kitchari: The Chicken Soup of India

Be well!