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The Relevance of Time

Annie MillerThe other day, I was enjoying a quiet moment at home. My 8-year-old son walked by. I grabbed him, tall as he is, and wrapped my arms around him pulling him down on my lap just like when he was little.

"Son," I said, "you must stop growing up. I don't want you to get big and leave me!"

He smiled and looked back at me with the reply, "Don't worry, Mom. I still have 10 whole years before I turn 18."

Thinking of how swiftly the first eight have passed and realizing my time with him is half gone, I told him that was just not long enough!

"But, Mom," he answered incredulously, "that's a decade!"

I couldn't help but laugh.

the relevance of time | Fotolia/Marek

Photo: Fotolia/Marek

How To Thread A Needle And Knot Your Thread

Annie MillerThese skills are very basic to hand sewing and among the first learned when beginning to sew. When a few mothers in our church asked a woman with years of sewing experience to teach our girls some beginning basics, she graciously agreed. I looked forward to learning from her as well. Sure enough, she taught me a couple “tricks of the trade” that have been a tremendous help to me. I would like to share them with you.

STEP 1: How To Thread A Needle

Unravel the thread from the spool and cut to desired length. Take a wax candle or beeswax and press the end of your thread onto the wax and hold it there for a few seconds. This will allow your body heat to slightly soften the wax. Then drag the thread across the wax a few times. This will coat the thread, keeping it from splitting and making it easier to thread your needle.

Picture with Candle

Proceed to send the thread through the eye of the needle.

Thread Pulled Through Needle Eye

To give your thread double strength, pull the top end down to meet the bottom end until they are matching lengths.

Thread With Matching Length On Ends

STEP 2: How To Tie A Knot

This may seem complicated, but bear with me. Follow these instructions, practice a few times, and you will see how truly simple it is.

Hold your needle perpendicular to the floor. Take the two matching length ends and bring them up to cross the needle like a “T.” Wherever that thread is on the needle is where your knot will end up. You only need a little bit of thread sticking up over the needle.

Thread Across The Needle Like A

Thread Across The Needle Like A T In Hand

Now, take the thread that is hanging down and begin to wrap it around the needle point several times. The fewer times you wrap it the smaller the knot you will have. The more times you wrap it the larger your knot will be.

Single Thread Wrap

Several Thread Wraps

Point the needle up to the ceiling and pinch the wrapped threads between your thumb and finger. Proceed to slide the wrapped threads down the shaft of the needle. You may need to use your other thumb to push the needle up from the eye end to get started.

Picture With Thumb Pushing Up The Needle

Once it has raised enough, you can use your other hand to pull up on the needle while your pinched fingers are pulling the thread down. Continue to pull the thread down over the needle eye and down the thread until the knot has reached the bottom.

Picture With Knot Sliding Down Thread

Picture With Completed Knot

When I was young, I learned that you rolled the thread between your thumb and finger until you had aggravated it into a knot. Having sustained a thumb injury a few years ago (my family was at a batting cage and I just happened to somehow catch my thumb between the bat and the ball), this motion is strenuous on my thumb joint. So learning to knot the thread this way has been a huge help. I hope it will be an asset to your sewing skills as well!

Wild Orange Apple Betty

Annie MillerOur family has a Valentine’s Day tradition. My husband and I “date” throughout the year. We choose to spend Valentine’s Day with our children. To make it special, we all plan the menu with input from each family member. We keep it simple so that prep time and clean up is easy and then enjoy the meal and family time together.

Since I have been making a tremendous effort to have our family eat healthy, I was a little stuck on what to have for dessert. Then my son mentioned Apple Betty. We had some organic apples and they needed to be used up, so I agreed.

I found this particular recipe in the "Lancaster County Cookbook" by Louise Stoltzfus and Jan Mast. The publisher included photographs of the area and also a brief synopsis of several towns located within Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Lancaster County Cookbook by  Louis Stoltzfus and Jan Mast 

The apples are the base for this recipe. There is a crumble topping and I used King Arthur flour for that, but I bet this would work just as well with any other flour. I am looking forward to experimenting more with that!

The recipe calls for an optional ingredient, orange juice. I have made it with and without but the orange juice adds definite flavor and sweetness. However, I didn’t have any and I was trying to think of a suitable substitute.

Wild Orange Essential OilWell, I happened to be sitting right beside my essential oils where they are stored on the counter and the one right on my end (since I am obsessed about keeping them alphabetized) was WILD ORANGE. So I grabbed it and gave it a few good shakes over the top. At which point my husband groaned and said, “Oh, no!  Now it will be too strong!” To which I replied, “Well, we’ll find out!”

Oh, the aroma as it was baking was “citrusy” and “cinnamony,” it was so delightful. Talk about a mood lifter. The smell alone was happiness. When it was done, I pulled it out and conducted a taste test as soon as I could without burning my mouth. Oh, let me tell you! Are you drooling, yet? The burst of flavor was, oh, how shall I say? Reminiscent of summer time, visionary of green grass, and warm as a June day! How’s that?

I don’t think orange juice will ever cut it for me again! I have renamed this recipe Wild Orange Apple Betty.

 Wild Orange Apple Betty

6 to 7 cups apple slices
6 tablespoons orange juice, or a few good shakes of doTERRA Wild Orange Essential Oil
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine

Fill a deep-dish pie pan or a 9-inch square pan with apple slices. Pour orange juice over slices or sprinkle Wild Orange Essential Oil across the surface of the apples.

Combine all remaining ingredients until crumbly. Spread over apples, covering as well as possible. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes.

A note on the crumb topping ~ I leave it all on top as directed to get crispy, but a lot of times the flour isn’t moist. So at the end, I stir it into the apples and let it bake just a few moments longer. You could use more butter, but I prefer to leave off the extra calories.

Be sure to use a quality grade essential oil that is labeled for internal use. You can visit my website if you are interested in ordering the same essential oils that I use. You can contact me via my website if you have questions or feel free to post a comment as well!

Garden Giddy

Annie MillerYes, I said giddy! Because that is how excited I get when I think of spring, planting seeds and warm weather. Of course, we are a ways off from that, but the seed catalogs are coming in and we are starting to make our garden plans.

We bought our first home about a year and a half ago. Last spring was our first one here and we “started from scratch” with our gardens. Our previous homes were rentals, and we had limited options so having our own land to work and experiment with was a dream come true.

We actually live right next door to a local greenhouse and although the owner carries a wonderful variety of the herbs, I was looking for some that he didn’t carry. By the time I realized he wasn’t going to be getting those in, it was too late to order. So this year, I am getting ready early to place my seed orders.

Pine Tree Seeds Catalog 

I am particularly fond of herbs. Pine Tree Seeds has a super selection of the herbs that I am looking for. It is a company based out of Maine, my home state. I am sure there are many other great companies out there, too.

My list includes herbs such as comfrey, calendula and cutting celery. I use these herbs medicinally as well as for culinary purposes. I really don’t like the texture of raw celery although I do enjoy the flavor. The cutting celery looks somewhat like parsley and cilantro, but it has all the flavor of the vegetable without the crunch. It is great in soups, stews, and in your raw dishes and salads as well.

Chives are super easy to grow and divide well. One plant will turn into several quickly. They are chockful of vitamins and nutrients. You can make Chive Blossom Vinegar and eat the blossoms raw in your salads.

You can do the same with nasturtium blossoms. Nasturtiums also make a great addition to homemade tonics. This year I will try the climbing variety.

One thing I will not do again and that is to plant oregano in the ground. I did that once and it took over my herb garden. It went in a pot last year.

My husband has several varieties of mint that he likes to plant: apple, chocolate, meadow, peppermint and spearmint to name a few.

Lemongrass is always planted around our sitting areas to keep insects at bay as well as lemon balm (leaves are great steeped with mint for a bonus lemon flavor).

Speaking of lemon, I finally got a dwarf Meyer lemon tree; I have wanted one for a few years and my husband surprised me with one on my birthday last August. We brought it inside for the winter and it is producing lovely blooms. The blossoms have a sweet, floral fragrance. Lemons have become expensive in the stores and I am looking forward to harvesting my very own!

Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree 

Lemon Tree Blossoms 

What are you getting Garden Giddy for? Let me know in the comments.

Grilled Applesauce Sandwiches

Annie MillerOur family homeschools, and we are always looking for quick, easy lunch options. We seem to get into a “food routine” just like we do our class time. In my quest, I rediscovered this recipe that I had found from Taste of Home a few years ago. We all liked it but for some reason had never made it again.

Since then, we have omitted cow dairy from our diet for health reasons. We ALL miss that comforting staple, the grilled cheese sandwich! This grilled applesauce sandwich really “hit the spot” and was a satisfying replacement for us.

This month, I have started a super health regimen called TERRAfit. It combines essential oil products, exercise, and a healthy diet for a 90-day schedule to get people into a routine of a healthy lifestyle.

I decided to “make over” this recipe even more to fit into my TERRAfit food plan. So I went to the store and came home armed and ready for a new, healthy lunch version of Grilled Applesauce Sandwiches.

The first item I bought was Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel bread. Made with sprouted grains and whole foods, this bread is a very healthy option to the standard supermarket versions.

You can’t have a grilled cheese sandwich without fat. Previously, I have used coconut oil just like butter but this time I decided to try this Earth Balance butter spread. It is vegan and non-GMO. They have a few different kinds to choose from and I selected one that was also soy free.

And last, but certainly not least – applesauce! Hands down, homemade applesauce is the BEST option here but I don’t have any (sigh) so I had to opt for an unsweetened variety from the store.

Grilled Applesauce Sandwiches

And you all know the rest! Butter your bread and lay it face down in the pan, top your bottom slice with applesauce, add your top slice and grill on both sides until it’s just the way you like it! 

Since I had already eaten a salad, a half sandwich was filling for me and I split the other half between my oldest two children who had already eaten theirs but were ready for more!

Now, my imagination tends the get the best of me and I must say I envisioned this with a slice of cheddar cheese as well. I read somewhere that some cultures traditionally eat a slice of apple pie with cheese and I found this quote on the web: "Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze."

So, to each his own! You can make this any way you like and I know you will enjoy. If you try it, leave a comment; I’d love to hear all the different ways you come up with to enjoy this classic sandwich!

And for more information on the kind of essential oils I like to use, visit my website.

Little House In The Big Woods

Annie MillerThree years ago, my parents sold their home in town and bought acreage in the Maine woods. Since then they have worked overtime building their log cabin home after coming home each day from their full-time jobs.


Log Cabin House

The knotty pine boards were all sanded and varnished by hand, mostly by my mom. I especially am attracted to the variations of installment. The boards on some walls are wide and installed horizontally. On other walls, the boards are thin and installed diagonally. Still others are variegated, alternating wide and thin. It adds visual interest.

part of the log cabin's living room 

There are two lofts connected by a catwalk, one on each end of the cabin. These are used for extra storage space and guest rooms. I love waking up surrounded by the warm glow of the knotty pine and the forest view from the window. It is a lovely experience.

one of the loft bedrooms 

the catwalk connecting the loft bedrooms 

the view from the loft into the living room

the forest view from the loft

All the cabinets and built-ins were handmade by my dad; a lot of the furniture, too. My mom sewed most of the curtains covering the windows.

the kitchen in the log cabin 

the laundry center is part of the bathroom

My parents have three different heat sources: a wood stove, a pellet stove, and a kerosene monitor. During the coldest part of the winter, it takes at least two of these sources to stay warm. The third source is available should one of these become unusable due to one reason or another.

another view of the living room, showing the wood stove that is the cabin's heat source 

Outside, the children enjoy playing in the woods and sledding in the snow. Dad has chickens and until recently "three little piggies" named for my children. We enjoyed eating them while we have been here – the piggies, not my kids!

The one-car garage is used to store equipment and the upper level is a woodworking shop for my dad. He just finished making and installing the barn-style doors on the upper level.

barn-style doors on upper level 

My parents have worked hard to build this cozy home. Although it isn't completely finished, it is a lot more of a reality today then when we helped clear the wooded lot for a space to build. I love coming home to what we affectionately call the "Little House in the Big Woods."

Holiday Stovetop Potpourri

Annie MillerThe smell of this simmering potpourri is amazing. I made it for the first time when I hosted our family Thanksgiving last year. It uplifted my spirits and made the home feel cozy. I was surprised when my two sisters-in-law and my mother-in-law all wanted to know how to do it. So I quickly made up a few take home packages and sent them along with the directions.

This year, I decided to make up a few holiday packages with the ingredients and instructions as a nice gift for my children’s Sunday school teachers. It only took a few minutes and it is a gift that can be used and enjoyed.

This recipe is a great way to use up oranges and cranberries before they go bad if you have more than you consume or if you have travel plans and won’t have time to consume them all be before you leave.


1 orange, tangerine or clementine
Divided if using for yourself or whole if packaging as a gift

4 small cinnamon sticks or 2 large ones, broken in half to release more fragrance
You could also substitute 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. But I think the cinnamon sticks add a special touch to the appearance, especially if you are giving it as a gift.

1 cup fresh cranberries
I love the red color!

1 teaspoon of ground cloves or a small handful of whole cloves
Again, I think the addition of whole cloves lends another special touch to the appearance, especially if you are giving it as a gift.

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

This is a very forgiving recipe, so use this as a guide and vary according to what you have on hand.

When giving as gift, include the following instructions:

STEP 1: Empty contents of package into a saucepan.
STEP 2: Remove the orange, divide into segments and return to pot
STEP 3: Add water to cover
STEP 4: Simmer and enjoy

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