Elderberry Syrup: Nature’s Cough Medicine

Temperatures are dropping fast around Grand Rapids this time of year. In the past, I would normally get anxious. Not because the holidays are approaching, but tis the season for colds and flu. I have a son who has asthma and even a small cold can begin to constrict his lungs. That leads to coughing and if left unchecked can send him to the emergency room with a full-blown asthma attack.

While a healthy diet goes a long way in building a strong immune system, it isn’t a bulletproof vest. I debated with myself for years if over-the-counter cough medicine and prescription drugs were the only solution to help our son through the colder months. I knew there were alternative answers out there but I didn’t know what they were.

Then I stumbled across Wellness Mama and she challenged me to think outside the box. Perhaps the medications we need are not at the pharmacy but in our backyards. Using plants and herbs as natural remedies was the answer I was looking for – enough with the steroid treatments and daily medications. I began a new journey making elderberry syrup for problems with asthma, colds, and flu.

Just this past month, my son’s entire preschool class came down with a terrible cold. When he woke up with a raspy cough I began giving him two teaspoons of elderberry syrup every two to four hours. In two days he bounced back! For the first time ever we avoided steroid treatment and a trip to the doctors.

elderberry syrup

Elderberries medicinal benefits are simply outstanding. The bioflavonoid in the berry juice destroys a viruses’ ability to infect a cell. People with the flu report less severe symptoms and speed up recovery when consuming elderberries while sick. The anthocyanins enhance the immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. What does that mean? These unique proteins send messages to the immune system to regulate an immune response by increasing antibodies to defend the body against the offending agent.

Local Honey

Local raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Honey strengths the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, and alleviates allergy and asthma symptoms. When the throat is irritated from raspy, dry coughing and the bronchial tubes are inflamed – honey soothes.

Elderberry Cough Syrup Recipe


  • ½ cup dried elderberries
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup raw honey


1. In a saucepan, combine elderberries and water. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Strain off the berries from the liquid then stir in the honey to create a thin syrup.

3. Bottle the elderberry syrup in glass mason jars with a lid. Refrigerate for up to three months.

Where to Find the Ingredients

If you live in the Grand Rapids Metro, check out one of Harvest Health’s locations or Elder and Sage for quality ingredients. Otherwise, Mountain Rose Herbs is a premium herbal company that supplies all these ingredients on-line.

Everyone is more susceptible to coming down with an illness this time of year. Why not make a batch of elderberry syrup ahead of time to be prepared? Who knows, it might just be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

When It’s Cold Outside Get Crafty Inside

I’ll be honest.  I’m not a fan of cold weather.  I’ve lived in Michigan my entire life.  But I still don’t like the cold.

I do believe it’s healthy to get outside as much as you can…so we do.  But it’s also nice sometimes to stay inside.  So as soon as the weather gets cooler I’m looking for fun indoor activities.

Around here that means it’s time to get crafty.  Here are some easy fall crafts and activities to do with your kids or by yourself!

  1. Paint with fruits and vegetables – Slice any fruit or vegetable to use as a stamp.  You get all different shapes and sizes.  Plus you can use up produce that is getting old.
  2. Make placemats with wax paper – Use leaves or color a picture and place them between two pieces of wax paper.  Iron the paper until both sides stick together.  Trim the edges.
  3. Make all of your fall/Thanksgiving decorations from nature – Go on a scavenger hunt in your yard or a local park to find sticks, pine-cones, leaves, rocks, etc.  Then get creative making decorations with them.
  4. Make Christmas cards and gifts – It may be early for some, but if you start making cards and gifts now you’ll be less stressed when Christmas approaches.  Plus you’ll have unique, heartfelt, homemade gifts for your friends and family.  Homemade baked goods and spice blends make great presents, as do crafts that you and your children create.
  5. Paint pottery – Find a local paint-your-own pottery studio (like Naked Plates) and create your own masterpiece.  This is a great thing to do with your kids.  Make a serving dish together and use it at all of your holiday gatherings.  Your kids will be so proud.
  6. Make Halloween costumes – There’s still time!  Instead of spending a lot of money to buy a costume, let your kids help make their own.  See how creative you can be using what you have at home.  Is that a fairy princess chef I see?
  7. Recreate the first Thanksgiving – Have your kids help make pilgrim and Indian costumes.  Read about the first Thanksgiving and put on a play.  You can even make a mini feast of what they may have eaten.
  8. Make a countdown chain – Make paper chains to count down to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then let your kids cut one ring off each day.
  9. Make art with food…and eat it! – Provide an assortment of sliced fruits, vegetables, nuts, crackers and dips (nut butters, pesto, hummus, etc.) and let your child get creative.  Make a picture on a plate (maybe a face or an animal or even something abstract).  Then eat it!  You can take a picture to capture their creation.
  10. Write a book – Help your child write their own book.  Fold blank paper.  Let them create a story.  If they are young you can write the story as they tell it.  If they are older they can write it themselves.  Then they can illustrate it.  After the book is finished read it together…over and over.  It’s a great way to help them be creative.

Fall is a wonderful time to be outside, breathe the crisp air and see the beauty of nature.  But it’s also a great time to be creative with your kids inside.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to stir their imagination and spend quality time together.  Plus you can get some of your holiday preparation done in advance.

What sort of fun activities do you do indoors once the weather becomes cooler?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

© Donielle


This weekend thousands of kids will spend time dying Easter Eggs in the most brilliant of colors, a custom so ‘normal’ that most parents don’t give it second thought. And the ones that do often times  make allowances for the fact that “it’s only the shell”, thinking that the dye and any chemicals contained in it stay on the outside.

But is that the case?

What I do know about eggs is that the shell are porous, meaning that what’s on the outside of the shell can make its way to the inside as well. And for this reason we’ve actually never bought the egg dying kits from the store. Instead we use simple ingredients out of out refrigerator and cupboards.

To make denim blue eggs:

Chop half of a head of red cabbage and place in a medium-sized pot. Cover with water and simmer for 20-30 minutes, strain and let cool. (you can also use blueberries, and we actually like to add 1/2 cup of blueberries to the pot along with the cabbage) Add your hardboiled eggs and 3 Tbsp white vinegar to the blue/purple water and let sit for at least 30 minutes for a light blue, overnight for deeper color.

To make pink eggs:

Simmer two cans of beets (with liquid from cans) with a cup of water for 20 minutes, strain and let cool. Add your hardboiled eggs and 3 Tbsp vinegar to the hot pink liquid and let sit 30 minutes for light pink, overnight for deeper color.

To make vintage brown eggs:

Stir 3 Tbsp of chili powder into 2 cups hot water. Let cool and add 3 Tbsp white vinegar to the mix. Place eggs in the jar/bowl and let sit for about and hour or overnight for more pronounced color.


  • Use older eggs. There actually is a scientific reason (something or other about the membranes and oxygen coming in from the egg’s pores that pull it apart from the shell), but eggs that are about 2-3 weeks old will peel from the shell the easiest.
  • The color of the egg matters! White eggs will produce brighter colors, brown eggs are a bit harder to dye and will be very “vintage-y”.We actually have a couple of hens called ‘Easter Eggers’ that lay light blue-ish-green eggs, which lent very well to the blue dye.
  • Turn it into a fun experiment for kids. I know as a parent we want our kids to have the same fun experiences that we had and sometimes feel like we’re depriving them of “life” when we choose not to do what the majority of society does. While my kids have never done conventional Easter eggs, we had a great time guessing what colors would come from different foods and what colors the eggs would be. With older kids (or moms with more patience with 4 year olds than I have) can use strips of masking tape or leaves tied to the egg in tight cheesecloth to make fun designs and patterns.
  • To give them a shine after they are dyed and dry, take a bit of oil and polish them up. This gives them a beautiful vintage shine.
Naturally Dye-ing Easter Eggs.

© Donielle


Links with other color options:

*this post is linked to Fight Back Friday

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

Remodeling Projects That Help You Breath Easy

Spring is here and with warmer weather comes the itch to clean, organize and remodel our home!  My husband loves a good project, so we have plenty of experience.  But some of our concerns are usually how much it will cost, how long it will take us and because of our little ones running around, how safe it will be!?

If you are doing a remodel there are plenty of non-toxic and eco-friendly options so your home will not only look better, but the air quality will be safer for you and your little ones.  Here are some non-toxic options for a couple common remodeling projects.


Painting my sis room - the Colorphoto by: gadeeeer

Painting is one of my favorite projects because it is fast, cheap and easy.

The smell can be torturous though!

Thank goodness for all the options in low and no VOC paints.  VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, which is what causes the smell and adversely affects the air quality in the room.  The EPA has shown that when new paint is drying that the VOC levels can reach 1000 times that of outdoors…… how scary!  It is good to know you can get low/no VOC paints at all the big name home improvement stores, for less than $40 a gallon.  These paints come in the same awesome colors and finishes as the older style paints.  So you can transform your room from blah to ta-dah and feel good about it.



The Path Less Travelledphoto by: vek

A new floor can make your room look luxurious and feel great.  But the off gases can literally make you sick.

Off gases are, basically, the release of toxic chemicals in to the air.   If you are in love with the fluff of carpet you can go with wool carpet and a felt padding, but don’t expect it to be a cost-effective option. You can spend up to $2500 for a living room of wool carpet.

If wood is your love you can opt for reclaimed wood, but the price on this depends on if you reclaim it yourself or have professionals do it for you.  I even read that linoleum is an eco-friendly option.

“Natural linoleum produces no toxic off-gassing. True linoleum is made from pine rosin, sawdust, cork dust, limestone and natural pigments. These all combined with linseed oil (from flax seeds) and matted to jute backing. Linseed oil has natural antibacterial properties which may give added benefit. Linoleum can also be used for desktops and table surfaces.”  Greener Building

Keep in mind there is a difference between vinyl flooring, which is sometimes called linoleum, and true linoleum, so do your homework! Linoleum is relatively inexpensive, ranging from $4 to $7 a square foot.

So next time you get an itch to revamp your living room, feel good and breath good knowing you can spruce things up without hurting your pocketbook or your lungs!

For more information on products for home renovation: Environmental Protection Agency


Homemade Play-dough

Easter Playdough

photo credit: philscoville

Playing with play dough is a simple rite of passage for children. I fondly remember sitting for hours on end at the table when I was young; building, crafting, mixing and matching. Watching my child now to the same brings me great joy as I watch how accomplished he feels sculpting a new creation.

Store bought play dough is not only expensive, but also filled with preservatives that make me a little squeamish to have around young toddler mouths. Making your own at home is definitely a frugal option, lasts a long time, and is sure to please every kid at home (even the kids at heart). Even more fun is allowing the kids to pick their own colors and help make it – a science lesson for sure, but also a lesson in mixing colors.

No-Cook Play Dough

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (you can get white cornmeal to make dying easier)
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup warm water
optional – food coloring

Method of Preparation

Mix all ingredients together and knead until pliable. Add additional flour or water if needed to gain the right consistency. Color if desired.

Stove Top Play Dough


1 c. flour
1/3 c. salt
1 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
1 c. water
optional – food coloring

Method of Preparation

Mix all of the ingredients (minus coloring) together in a pan and place over low heat.  Stir often until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Turn out onto waxed paper and cool until you can handle. In a medium bowl, mix and knead with food coloring until desired color, or mix smaller batches multiple colors. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (originally found at The Finer Things in Life)


All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.