A Game Of Charades, With Spirit

Spirits have come to visit me since I was eight. My first visitation was from my  father.  I did not know he had died until he told me himself. Newly deceased family members still almost always come to say goodbye to me. I generally see and hear them objectively, just like I would see or hear you. I occasionally sense their emotions or other personality details as if they were my own.

My favorite 94-year-old uncle passed away recently. He was something of a character while alive, and apparently still retains that quality in spirit. I did not yet know that he had passed. I thought I heard someone call my name several times in the morning, in my kitchen. The voice was rather faint, and high-pitched and it sounded very far away. I didn’t recognize it, and I didn’t see anyone, either, so I went about my business.

I was outside on our patio dead-heading geraniums that afternoon when I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye, to my left. I turned to look and saw the lower body only of a spirit, from the waist down. I perceived the spirit to be a very thin, elderly man wearing tan khaki pants and tennis shoes without socks. It was as if he was part of a wavy mirage, the kind you see on a hot summer day. His feet were about a foot off the ground, and his legs were moving like crazy! He moved right through the door into our mud room, so I followed him into the house to see if I could learn more. I couldn’t figure out if he was tap dancing, doing a vaudeville dance or some sort of Zumba workout.  It was like a theatrical game of charades. I giggled out loud.  It was one of the strangest things I have ever seen! By the time I got into the house he was gone.

Later the same day, I received a phone call from my cousin. She told me my uncle had passed away in the early evening the day before. I shared my spirit visitation story, with some chagrin that I couldn’t be sure it was him, or, even what exactly he was acting out. I had pondered it all afternoon, into the evening, but had not been able to figure it out.  My cousin seemed puzzled also, and said her Dad didn’t even like to dance, and never had.

Then my cousin told me how her father had died. It seems that even at his advanced age he insisted on riding his bicycle recklessly without a helmet on dirt roads and hills near his house, like Evil Kneival, to his elderly wife’s dismay. I had known he still rode his bike when he was 80, but understandably assumed he had finally given that up  many years ago. My cousin told me he had fallen off his bike many times, with frequent trips to the hospital for bumps and sprains, but this time the fall proved fatal. A neighbor saw him wipe out on the bike and called his wife, who called the ambulance.

My uncle survived the fall for nearly two hours at the hospital, and his wife and daughter were with him when he passed. My cousin said he seemed very pleased with himself and his situation.  The last words he left his wife and daughter were that he had always hoped to go out while he was riding his bike. Bingo! That was what he was showing me with the crazy leg movement. Even though I did not see a bike in the vision, he was still riding his bike like a maniac in spirit. Message received.


My Review Of A Great New Herbal Cookbook!

I am fortunate, indeed, to have been invited to do a second pre-release digital copy review of this delicious new herbal cookbook, The Herbal Medicine Cookbook, by Susan Hess. I want this book in my library, too.

Susan Hess is a therapeutic herbalist and native weed wrangler. Since 1997 Susan grew a wonderful line of handcrafted herbal products through her business, Farm At Coventry, and is now at a new location, The Stillroom At Pitch Pines.

Susan routinely shares her expertise and knowledge of herbs in community education workshops and through her twelve month “Homestead Herbalism” course and teaching gardens.

After reading her cookbook it is clear the lady is a chef, too! Her recipes and photography were mouth watering. I can’t wait till her book arrives! It is available as a pre-order on Amazon with an official release date of January 15th.

Here is the link:


My Review Of A Wonderful, New Herbal Book!

Have you been burning to learn to make your own herbal remedies? There are so many herbal books out there I am sure it is difficult to know which to purchase or where to start.

I feel honored to have been invited to do a pre-release digital copy review of The Healing Power Of Herbs, by Tina Sams. I so wish this book had been available when I first started learning about herbs and I heartily recommend it to you. It contains a wealth of knowledge about 30 often used herbs and plenty of projects to hold the interest of even a well seasoned herbalist. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon and the official release date is January 15th.

As you move through the pages you will feel as though you are learning from Tina directly, hands-on, in her kitchen.  She has a friendly, clear writing style and the photography is beautiful.

I have been studying medicinal herbs, learning to make herbal medicine and growing herbs for nearly twenty years. I learned a lot of what I know from Tina Sams, the author of The Healing Power Of Herbs and the owner/editor of The Essential Herbal Magazine.

Here is the link:


Elderberry Syrup (11th hour gift!)

Happy Winter Solstice! The countdown to Christmas, or Yule has begun in earnest.   I like to gift my close neighbors with something I have made during the holidays. Some years I give munchie food gifts such as spiced, glazed nuts or cookies, but as I was pondering what I had on hand I remembered I still had Elderberries in the freezer, bail wire bottles and several Elderberry booklets I had ordered for them last fall. If you have dried Elderberries in your pantry, or branches in your freezer, please read on. There is still time!

Dried Elderberries make a great syrup, and require less equipment. I use dried berries and the following ingredients ratio from Tina at The Essential Herbal when I make dried berry syrup.

Syrup From Dried Elderberries:

1 cup dried Elderberries

3 cups distilled water

1 1/2 cup Honey (approximate) OR twice as much granulated sugar as there is liquid

Place dried berries and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Cool, then pour through a fine mesh strainer, pressing firmly with large spoon to extract as much juice as possible. More liquid can be strained from the berry mash by placing it in a clean towel, old t-shirt or cheesecloth and giving it a good squeeze.

If using honey: Return the juice to the saucepan and simmer until liquid is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Cool slightly, and stir in honey.

If using granulated sugar:

Measure the remaining liquid, and stir in twice as much sugar as there is liquid. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 3-5 minutes.

Refrigerate the Elderberry syrup, or, freeze the extracted juice and make the syrup later!

If you love Elderberries like I do, consider ordering A Gathering Of Elders from The Essential Herbal online. It is a wonderful little booklet and my favorite go-to for every imaginable Elderberry recipe and folklore.

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Today we are making Elderberry Syrup from frozen native western Mexicana Blue Elderberries we gathered last fall. Any of the blue or black Elderberries are edible when cooked. (There is an Elder variety with red berries, but they are toxic. Leave them be!)

Our native Elderberries have a thin white coating on them, similar to grape must, which disappears with advanced ripening or water. They are a deep blue-black color under the coating. I make fresh syrup every fall, and inevitably there are a couple bags more than I need, so, I throw them in the freezer, branches and all. My fresh Elderberry syrup recipe also originated from An Elder Gathering.

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The berries are easier to remove from the stems when they are frozen. Some people use forks or cake combs, but I find they literally fall off the stems if I rub them between my thumb and forefinger. Submerge the berries in water, rinse them well, and drain them in a colander before placing them in a deep kettle. Add only about 1 cup of distilled water to the kettle of berries, because they are incredibly juicy and you don’t want to overly dilute their goodness. Bring the berries to a boil, mashing them with a potato masher now and then. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

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You may notice a few tiny leaves or stems, or maybe a green berry or two in the first photo of the kettle. I pick as many as possible out of the kettle, when I see them, and don’t worry about the rest.

After boiling and simmering the kettle, remove the lid and allow the berries to cool to room temp. We use a food mill to separate the juice from the berries. If you don’t own a food mill, whatever you use for making applesauce will work fine. I used one of those old fashioned cone sieves for many years. Use a clean towel or an old t-shirt to squeeze the juice out, or press through a wire mesh strainer with a large spoon.

Next, strain or press the juice from the berries into a container with measuring marks. Add 2 cups of sugar to each cup of juice to the kettle. Stir to start dissolving the sugar, and let the kettle sit for about 10 minutes. You’ll notice that the color of the berries and juice in the kettle has changed to a beautiful purple or Burgundy color.

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Bring the syrup with dissolved sugar to a boil, and boil for 3-5 minutes.

Using a funnel, fill sterilized bail-wire bottles with the syrup to within 1 inch from the top. Close the lids, and allow to cool.

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Refrigerate and enjoy! Evidence suggests Elderberry syrup enhances your immune response to flu viruses and colds. Beyond that, it is great on ice cream and in teas. Even children love it. Stay healthy this winter!


Christmas Magick



Once upon a time, 30 Christmases ago, the mailman delivered a life changing parcel to our home. It was addressed to me, but I didn’t recognize the address or the handwriting.

Inside that box were three hand knit Christmas stockings, one with my name on it, and the other two were inscribed with my two children’s names. They exactly matched the stockings my husband and his sisters had treasured since they were children. They were made by my husbands maternal aunt on the east coast, who I had never even met!

I was so touched it made me teary. Except for my grandma, nobody had ever made anything this nice for me. I told myself that one day I would learn to knit socks and make Christmas stockings for other children and newcomers to our family. It turns out, socks are my favorite projects to knit!


Aunt Cal passed on 4 years ago, but last time we met she said her heart was lighter knowing I was going to carry on the Christmas stocking tradition. Making them, and gifting them, brings the joy and light of the season straight into my own heart.


I’m Back…


Hello everyone.  I didn’t just bail on my blog.  I took a fall over a year ago blowing out my shoulder and sustaining a fracture of my right arm just below my shoulder as well.   And yes, of course, I am right-handed.   A stainless plate and 8 screws were installed during surgery and have been holding it all together for a while. Healing from that has been such a trial of patience for me.


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I felt like this!

For several months I couldn’t wear a coat, couldn’t write, couldn’t type, couldn’t drive, couldn’t go outdoors to walk by myself, was unable to sew, knit, cook, bake or even hold a book, i.e., all the things I love to do!  Meditation helped me become fairly adept at accepting my limitations and letting go of what I couldn’t do.    My husband has been amazing and wonderfully helpful the entire time.  I am so thankful.

Physical therapy has helped recently, and at this point I can do most of what I love to do, though there are still weight restrictions on what I can lift and I can’t raise my arm very high yet.  Over all, I am feeling so happy and grateful to have my life back, it almost feels like magic.

I have missed my morning walks, and I have really missed reading so many of your great blogs, too.  Here’s to beginning again!