The crud has hit our home. Robb and I have both been battling a cold the past few days and with Caleb only 4 months old, we’ve been careful to try not to spread it to him. Thankfully I’ve read that breastmilk contains protective antibodies to help Caleb’s immune system fight off infection and illness. He seems to be good right now but I’ve been keeping a close eye on his health.

Cold’s suck. I’ve never liked taking medicine to begin with but now I have to take extra precautions while breastfeeding. I’ve always preferred time, rest, and a good dose of Vitamin C. Elderberries are a great source of Vitamin C (as well as being said to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-influenza, and anticancer properties) and while I usually create a hot tea with the dried berries and a bit of honey, I also like to transform the berries into an oxymel for easy consumption.

A oxymel is basically a syrup with apple cider vinegar added to give it a sweet and sour taste. This is definitely an acquired taste. I actually like it, it is very reminiscent to a shrub. When I’m starting to feel a bit under the weather, I take about a tablespoon full every 4 or 5 hours. For Robb, I mixed a bit of the oxymel with some tonic water – though I admit, he did not like it one bit. I highly recommend stocking up on dried elderberries BEFORE cold and flu season arrives as they become harder to find and a lot of shops sell out. This recipe also needs to sit for a few weeks so make it early on during cold and flu season to make sure that you have it on hand. Once it’s prepared, it’ll last for about 6 months in the refrigerator.

I’ve also been taking Zarbee’s Naturals Baby Cough Syrup + Mucus. Since it’s safe for infants 2+ months, I figured that it would be safe for me to consume. It has a delicious grape flavor and helps to clear mucus and soothe irritated throats. There are no artificial flavors/sweeteners/drugs/alcohol/dyes, only organic agave syrup, English ivy leaf extract and a few other items.

Now that I’m over this cold… it’s time to prepare for allergy season~…

Print Recipe
Elderberry Oxymel
Course Herbal
Servings
Ingredients
  • raw apple cider vinegar
  • dried elderberries (purchase here)
  • raw local honey
Course Herbal
Servings
Ingredients
  • raw apple cider vinegar
  • dried elderberries (purchase here)
  • raw local honey
Instructions
  1. Fill a quart or pint sized mason jar 1/3 full with your dried elderberries.
  2. Add an equal amount of honey and apple cider vinegar. Stir well and cover with a plastic lid (the vinegar will cause a metal lid to corrode).
  3. Let this mixture sit for about 4 weeks, shaking the jar a few times a week. When it's done, strain it through cheesecloth, taking care to squeeze the cheesecloth to get out any extra bits of liquid.
Recipe Notes

I like to store my finished oxymel in a glass amber bottle but you can use any container. It'll last for about 6 months in the fridge.

Share this Recipe

I still remember the first time my mother and I attempted my granny’s 16-layer chocolate cake even though it has been almost 20 years now. We had worked all afternoon on it, carefully cooking each paper thin layer of cake, guarding the fudge-like frosting as it cooked away on the stove so that it wouldn’t burn, and finally, assembling it. Pleased with ourselves, we stepped out of the kitchen until a loud splat brought us running back. Our beautiful cake was now in bits and pieces all over the floor – we had assembled it while it had been too warm and the layers had slid apart. I looked at my mom and did the only thing that I could do at the moment. I sat on the floor and started eating.

It was delicious.

That’s the kind of magic that my granny’s cake had. I can’t think of the holidays without picturing her chocolate cake, sitting modestly on top of the freezer in the backroom, though it should have been issued a place of honor at the main table. Every time we gathered at her house, for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for birthdays, the cake would be waiting for us. We all had to pass through the backroom to enter our house (no one ever used the front door) so we all would feel a glimmer of excitement when we spotted that cake sitting there.

Even when arthritis crippled her hands, she pressed on, switching from homemade cake batter to one out of a box. She faithfully made her icing the same way, though at times my grandfather had to take over for her (under her watchful eye of course). Sometimes the cake would have 14 layers, sometimes closer to 19. It was always a game to see who could come the closest to guessing the number of layers before we counted, peeling off each layer to eat, line by line.

My granny passed away this past January, only a few brief months before I would find out that I’m pregnant with my first child. I’m looking forward to sharing the magic of this cake with my own child as he grows. Even though I might have learned my lesson to let the layers cool before assembling the cake, who knows, maybe I’ll let him help me and start a tradition of eating cake off of the floor.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

Even though my granny started using a box cake mix in her later years, I went with her original recipe. When Robb saw me unloading not just butter but margarine for this cake, he said that it HAD to be good with all of that fat in there.

The key is nice, thin layers. I made my layers just a little too thick but my body was just exhausted. Being 8 months pregnant would do that to you!

There is an ingredient in the frosting that doesn’t normally appear in most other boiled frosting recipes, an ingredient that I think turns this into an almost foolproof recipe – marshmallows. I’ve done a little digging around and it seems that adding in marshmallows became a thing in a few areas of the country back in the 1960’s. When I called my mom to ask if she remembered including marshmallows during our initial fateful recreation years ago, she said that it didn’t seem familiar to her but perhaps that was why her attempt failed.

After letting your frosting cool for just a few minutes – and be careful because it will be hot – start stacking your cake, pouring the frosting over layer by layer. Making this cake requires a tremendous amount of patience.  If you try to hurry through it, your layers will start to slip and slide just like ours did.

The worst part about making this cake is even after you get it all assembled – you still have to wait. Wait for it to harden and solidify. It’ll be well worth the wait, trust me.


Print Recipe
Granny's Old-Fashioned Multi-layer Cake with Boiled Chocolate Frosting
Don’t be ashamed if your first couple of attempts at making this cake come out less than spectacular. It took my granny years to perfect her cake and even then, she would occasionally put out a product that was, in her mind, “sub-par”. I simply called it rustic.
Course Dessert
Servings
1 12-layer(ish) cake
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 stick margarine room temperature
  • 1 stick butter room temperature
  • 2 c. white cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. self-rising flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
Frosting
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 1/2 c. white cane sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 12 large marshmallows
Course Dessert
Servings
1 12-layer(ish) cake
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 stick margarine room temperature
  • 1 stick butter room temperature
  • 2 c. white cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. self-rising flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
Frosting
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 1/2 c. white cane sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 12 large marshmallows
Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour your 9” baking pans (I used shortening and flour).
  3. Beat butter, margarine, and sugar together with an electric mixer until creamy.
  4. Add in your eggs, vanilla, milk, and flour, mixing until well combined.
  5. Using a measuring cup, measuring out just over ¼ of a cup of batter in each of your baking tins. Smooth out the batter using the back of a spoon.
  6. Bake each layer for 8-10 minutes until done - depending on the amount of batter you add to each tin will dictate how long it will take to cook. You’ll want the cake to spring back when touching lightly in the center. Remove from pans to the cooling racks.
  7. Wipe out cake pans, grease and flour the again, and bake the remaining cake layers as directed.
Frosting
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the cocoa powder, sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, margarine, and marshmallows over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful as the liquid will be hot.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Assemble your cake, pouring your frosting over each layer.
  5. Let sit for a and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Don’t be in a rush. If you notice that your cake is starting to slide after you begin frosting it, secure it with a few wooden dowels or skewers. Since the layers are so thin on this cake, you will notice that you can see the ridges through the frosting. That is okay!

Share this Recipe

Sleep.

It’s amazing how valuable sleep becomes when you are pregnant. It never seems like you are able to get enough of it, at least for me. Over the course of my pregnancy, I’ve discovered a few items that have helped sleep come a little bit easier. Hopefully some of these items will help you as well.

 

• Belly Butter – I apply a moisturizing belly butter to my skin every evening after my shower. This not only helps to reduce stretch marks but is a very relaxing ritual that helps to relax my body for bed. I have a recipe coming soon for my belly butter, but in the meantime, you can purchase it at my Etsy shop! I typically like to use an unscented belly butter but you can add a calming essential oil, such as lavender, to help relieve stress and reduce anxious feelings [check out my Lavender Linen Spray DIY as well].

 

PinkBlush Maternity Pants – I LOVE these pants. The fabric feels so soft against my skin and they are cozy enough for both the warm nights of summer all the way through a crisp winter evening. Though they have plenty of room for my expanding belly, they don’t look like maternity pajama pants so I also am planning to wear them post-pregnancy. PinkBlush Maternity is a dangerous website for me to visit as I love pretty much everything that they have to offer. A lot of the clothes, even if they say “Maternity” are styled in a way that you can wear them even after you give birth.

 

Tums – Before I became pregnant, I would get bad heartburn on occasion. Since becoming pregnant, I have experienced horrible heartburn during my second and third trimesters as I was trying to get to sleep. Some nights it would get to the point where I have to stuff so many pillows behind my head that I was basically sitting upright – and that is no way to catch some zzzz’s. After suffering through it for way too long, I finally broke down and picked some Tums up. It’s amazing the difference those chalky little tablets made.

 

Belle – Don’t laugh. A lot of pregnant women tend to use a body pillow of some sort to help support their hips, back, and stomach (like this one) when they are trying to get to sleep. I just use my dog. She is the perfect size and has this amazing ability to know exactly how I need her to lay. As the weather starts to cool off, she generates enough heat to keep me comfortable and provides the right amount of support for my body. Plus, I think it helps her to be so close to Lil Bean and feel him move around.

 

Hot Tea – Even before I found myself pregnant, I enjoyed a nice cup of hot herbal tea before bed. Now that I am pregnant, I have to be careful about what sort of herbs I’m ingesting as not all are pregnancy-friendly. I like to create my own blends but in a pinch, I enjoy the Peaceful Mama Tea from Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics. It contains lemon balm, calcium rich oat straw, calming Chamomile, red raspberry leaf and orange peel herbs traditionally used to help calm and relax during pregnancy.

What are/were some of your pregnancy nighttime essentials?



Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for a honest and unbiased review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I recently had the opportunity to review the Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook written by Miranda Couse of the popular blog Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt. I love cookies but typically find myself fixing the same ones over and over. This cookbook is amazing though. It includes 150 recipes for all-time classics and modern twists on not only cookies, but brownies, bars, and no-bake treats. The recipes include easy-to-find ingredients, many of which are already in your pantry (if they are somehow magically in my pantry, then I know they will definitely be in yours).

I couldn’t wait to try her recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. I LOVE anything with chocolate and even though I am trying to cut down on my sugar intake, I figured that I could allow myself to indulge in one or two.

The verdict?

Nom. Nom. Nom. I can’t wait to try out some of the other recipes.

It amazed me how quickly this recipe came together. It took no time for me to measure out all of my ingredients, mix them, and bake the cookies. The cookies all turned out perfect in my mind as well – deliciously fudgy without being overwhelmingly sweet. The cookies themselves looked lovely with the cracked topping and would be the perfect addition to your holiday table or potluck.

Instead of baking all of the cookies at once, I ended up splitting the dough into thirds, rolling them up, and freezing two batches (without rolling them in confectioner’s sugar). I figured that once our Lil Bean gets here, it’ll be nice to just pull out a few pieces of cookie dough when I need something to perk me up.

The Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook will be released on October 31st, but don’t wait – preorder yours now and get ready to do some baking!

Print Recipe
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Recipe posted with permission from the Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12-13 minutes
Servings
About 34 cookies
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12-13 minutes
Servings
About 34 cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a wooden spoon, beat together the butter, oil, and both sugars until light and creamy. This will take about 3 minutes if using an electric mixer or 5 to 6 minutes if creaming by hand. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed or by hand until the dough comes together.
  4. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl for rolling.
  5. Using a medium (11⁄2-tablespoon) cookie scoop, scoop the dough into balls, drop them into the confectioners’ sugar, and roll to coat. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are cracked on top.
  7. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.
Recipe Notes

Tip: You can roll the cookie dough first in granulated sugar and then in the confectioners’ sugar. This will help dry out the dough, giving your cookies even more of a cracked effect.

Share this Recipe

I’ve mentioned in a few of my recent pregnancy updates that I’ve been having trouble sleeping. While I have been sleeping better lately, I still haven’t been sleeping like I’m used to. Some nights I just can’t get to sleep (either sleep has escaped me or I start thinking about all the baby-related things I need to accomplish), other nights I wake up sweating or I’ll wake up and have to pee and simply can’t get back to sleep.

I need my sleep. When I don’t get enough sleep, the next day drags by and I find it tough to focus or get anything completed. It feels as if I’m having to mentally, and psychically, trudge through quicksand.

So I ended up throwing together a quick spray with lavender essential oil to use on my bed linens. I sprayed it on my mattress/mattress pad, sheets, and comforter but avoided spraying it on my pillows just because I didn’t want to overwhelm my sensitive pregnancy nose.

Lavender is a great essential oil to use to help you sleep and its calming scent also helps to relieve stress and reduce anxious feelings. It’s one of the oils that I keep on hand almost all of the time, not only for personal use, but for use in the products that I create for The Southern Belle’s Garden.

– For example, my Lavender and Calendula Hand Salve –

It’s commonly believed that some essential oils are safe to use (in moderation) during the second and third trimester but make sure to ask your doctor before using. Lavender is considered to be one of the more acceptable essential oils because of its gentle nature, but many avoid it during the first trimester. Also, avoid using essential oils in areas where pets are – cats especially can have adverse effects to some oils. Do your research!

Ready to give it a shot?

[color-box color=”]

DIY Lavender Linen Spray

makes about 4 ounces

  • 1 ounce witch hazel
  • 10-15 drops lavender essential oil (I tend to lean a little more to the 15 drops but for a lighter scent, use closer to 10 drops.)
  • 3 ounces distilled water

Combine all of the ingredients into a small spray bottle and shake well before using.

Spray on your pillows, sheets, towels – I’ve even sprayed this on our couch cushions when I thought that they needed a pick me up. This spray will keep indefinitely and I store mine in a small glass spray bottle either in the medicine cabinet or on my headboard for quick access.
[/color-box]