Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DIY - Cough Drops?

I found this article in an e-newsletter today, "DIY: Herbal Cough Drops," complete with what appears to be a simple recipe. I haven't tried it yet. Neither Len nor I is sick right now.

So, I dare you to do it for me. One of you readers must have a scratchy throat, a nagging tickle in your chest...

You may find it helpful to read the whole article from The Herb Companion at the link above, but for the daredevils who would rather just get down to it, here is their recipe for homemade cough drops:

Powdered herbs
1 cup sugar, or honey
1/3 cup light corn syrup, or honey
1 1/2 cups water
Powdered sugar, for easy handling
  1. Steep your preferred soothing herbs in 1 1/2 cups of water to make a tea.
  2. Mix sugar and corn syrup with tea. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils.
  3. Continue boiling without stirring until the mixture begins to crystallize; reduce heat. Wash away crystals from the side of your pan with a damp cloth.
  4. Remove from the heat after a few minutes. Drop some of the mixture from the tip of a spoon onto a greased surface. Allow to harden and cool completely before removing. Roll the candies in powdered sugar and wrap in waxed paper for storage.
The article suggests a few different herbs with expectorant qualities; I bet you have at least two of them in your spice rack already—ginger and thyme. It also links back to past articles about the best herbs for soothing a sore throat.

Somebody let us know if you try this at home!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Socks and Fuzzy Slippers

How low do you keep your thermostat in the winter?

Growing up, I was accustomed to my parents' standard setting of 68°, a commonly acknowledged threshold between comfort and energy conservation. Now married, I face winters of perpetually icy hands as the standard was knocked down a couple of notches to 66° (this is Len's threshold of comfort and part of a compromise that means I freeze in the winter and he sweats in the summer).

Yes, the house is cold. I sure can feel the change made by those two degrees, but I can take it because they make an even bigger change in our utilities usage. And don't we all like tangible results, like smaller gas bills? I make up the difference in my comfort level by walking around the house wearing socks and fuzzy slippers. It works. Thick, fuzzy socks by themselves do not cure my toe-cicles; it's the layering of regular socks with thick, warm slippers that does the trick. When your feet are warm, your whole body feels warmer. (It works the same in reverse, too: If you're hot in the summer, take those socks and shoes off! You'll instantly feel a littler cooler.) Take it from somebody who hates dressing in layers, the sock/slipper combo is very comfortable—not at all restricting like wearing three turtlenecks.

Of course, my hands are still cold but I find that keeping busy, like moving around a lot, cleaning the house, helps get the blood flowing to the extremities. Wearing—or burrowing under—fleece is also quite effective. And burrow we do, for at night, our programmable thermostat bumps the heat down a few degrees more. We don't notice that temperature change because we're snug in bed, but we do notice the big chunk it takes out of our gas bill, yet again. The heat is programmed to go back up to 66° shortly before we have to wake up. It goes back down again while we're gone for the day. That's when the cat burrows.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Post-Holiday Post

Happy New Year, everyone! No, I am not going to suggest that you make a New Year's resolution to be greener. That's what Earth Day is for. (Watch out: it's only a few months away!) Instead, I just want to share a couple of highlights from our whirlwind holiday season that I think are relevant to this blog.

A beautiful sight. Driving up and down I-55, as we often do to visit family and friends, we pass a somewhat new wind farm. In the flat land of central Illinois, these fields of slender, white, three-armed wind turbines are—in my opinion—an elegant, magnificent sight, especially in an otherwise brown and barren winter landscape. At night, they are a wide matrix of red dots in the dark, blinking in unison (gotta warn those low-flying aircraft). I love it.

Homemade holidays. There were a whole lot of heartwarming, handmade gifts exchanged this year on both sides of our family. Most of it was good food: We gave out our apple, crab apple, and pear butters, of course, as well as some of Len's Bacon Cheese Beer Bread. We received homemade berry jams, grape jelly, hot salsa, bow tie pasta, tomato sauce, candied nuts, and fudge. And, in the DIY category, various gifts of family memories went around: a book of memories and old photos on CD, a DVD of old family videos, framed photos from a wedding this summer, and memory frames of VFW and American Legion hats paired with a photo of Len's grandpa when he was young and in uniform. Great stuff.