Honey Tea Throat Drops

I have had a tickle in my throat and as much as I enjoy the sugary sweet cough drops I can get at the store, I wanted to make my own.... making my own means I can pick my flavor and my sugar content.. and know EVERYTHING that goes in. Oh, and I can pronounce all of the ingredients too.
I remembered pinning a cough drop recipe to my Stay Healthy board about 6 months ago then never did anything with it so I fished out the pin for some throat drop guidance. I referred to Sarah McGill's Honey Ginger Throat Drop recipe (you can find it here) as I made my own cough drops.

If you've ever made candy before this is a SUPER simple recipe... and if you haven't, it is still really easy, you'll just be getting a feel for candy making for the first time. It takes time,and attention, but is quite simple.

Simple Honey-Tea Throat Drops
* For my recipe, I used 4 bags of Gypsy Cold Care, 2 bags of Echinacea, and a tiny splash of honey. They taste very "herbal" with a dominant honey flavor. I can't wait to make these again with other teas and to try extracts and essential oils in them! *

Gather your ingredients:

4 to 6 bags of tea
2c of water
1/2tsp of honey
2c of sugar **
Shallow pan
1 bag of powdered sugar

** When I did this batch, I used 1c of sugar instead of 2c thinking it would be a good way to cut excess sugar. While my cough drops still taste yummy (kid-tested too!... my students all loved them) they never firmed up well and are not very sweet. I would suggest staying with the 2c of sugar... for my next batch I will use the 1:1 liquid/sugar ratio **

Steep your tea bags in 2c of water for 15 minutes... while your tea is steeping, pour your bag of powdered sugar into a shallow pan (I used a cake pan) and create a TON of small divots... I used the back of a wooden spoon to make my divots, but anything works.

Make more than you think you will need!
After your tea has steeped into a strong brew, add your honey and pour it into a a LARGE pot. Add your sugar to the pot and heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until all the sugar is dissolved. Once sugar is dissolved, bring to a boil and LET IT SIT... seriously, don't stir it. It will froth up a TON, hence why you need to use a large pot. 

Frothing to double in size!
While it is cooking, watch your candy thermometer closely.. you need it to reach Hard Crack stage, which is 302F. You need to be alert and ready because it will take awhile to get to the 250ish range, then suddenly it will just soar right up to hard crack... once it hits hard crack, remove from heat and immediately spoon into your powdered sugar molds. BE CAREFUL... it is HOT. Ridiculously hot. 

Pouring into the sugar molds is so neat to watch... it bubbles up perfectly!
Once it is in the molds, leave it alone to sit in a cool dry area. Since it has been rainy here, I put mine in my fridge for a few hours. Once your drops are hard to the touch, sift off the powdered sugar and put in an airtight container. Pop these sweet little treats whenever you're feeling a tickle in your throat! They also melt perfectly in your tea... I think I may make a lemon-honey batch to keep at work solely to pop in a cup of tea.

Have fun mixing different sugars (think raw sugar, honey, agave) and flavors combinations. You can also add in food coloring (mine are a dark brown from the tea & honey and other flavorings. Cooking extracts and even essential oils can be added to change the flavors. You can use different teas as well. It is all up to your flavor & taste preferences... the combinations are simply endless!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Yet another challenge!

I said I was going to only sign up for a few challenges this year... but I forgot to add to this one to my list.. total oversight! Ack!

Bonnie {The Bookish Ardour} is once again hosting one of my favorite challenges of the year: The Dystopia Challenge. I love this genre and enjoy learning about new to me dystopian reads through this challenge. She is super organized too, so perusing the past challenge and reviews is easy too. There is an abundance of dystopian love over there!

The fine print:
Dystopia Challenge 2013
January 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013
Any format is acceptable {audio, ebook, short story, graphic novels, etc.}
Crossovers are welcomed

This is a simple & straightforward challenge with multiple levels. Last year I picked Contagion {15 books} and ended up just shy of my goal, so this year I am scaling back and choosing the next level down, Asocial {5 books}. I wish there was a level between the two, but that's okay! If I wind up reading more than 5, I'll just keeping adding 'em in on the review site and sharing the dystopian love.

I hope you'll join in with this challenge if you haven't already!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Easy Peasy Bathbombs

There is nothing more relaxing then a lovely scented bath, glass of wine, and a good book. I absolutely love to read and relax in the tub.. it is one of my favorite little pleasures. The other night I ran out of yummy bath stuff... no bubbles, no bath salts, nothing! So, I figured that I might as well whip out my old stand-by bathbomb recipe and make a batch.

The recipe is VERY easy.... I leave out Borax and cornstarch, which many recipes call for. The Borax just simply isn't necessary and although cornstarch can help bind it all together, it can also cause yeast infections. Although cornstarch typically doesn't bother those of us who aren't prone to yeast infections, I figure why bother if the possibility is there?

Easy Peasy Bathbombs:
(yields 6 medium bombs)

1/4c pure Citric Acid
1/2c Baking Soda
2 tbsp Carrier Oil (I use organic Grapeseed oil) 
10 - 20 drops of your favorite Essential Oil
1 drop food coloring
Witch Hazel (in a spray bottle)

Mix dry ingredients
Incorporate your wet ingredients until evenly distributed
Spritz your mixture 5 - 6 times with Witch Hazel until it holds form
Pack your bath bombs TIGHTLY into your mold and allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours

Pop out your bathbombs and store in a pretty mason jar

Throw them in your next bath and watch them fizz and enjoy you sweet scented bath water

Enjoy your soak!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Homeopathic Cold Remedies

It's cold & flu season! Ick. Even though Barrett and I lead pretty healthy lives, we both sometimes come down with whatever is going around. Being teachers doesn't help either! I don't do flu shots and I try to stay away from store-bought cold remedies as much as possible.... so what DO I do?

I strongly believe in homeopathic methods of healing and have been a long time lover of aromatherapy & the many benefits of essential oils. Whenever I start to feel yucky, I rely on these stand-by recipes.

Homemade Throat/Cough Syrup:
(yields 1 jelly jar)

2 to 3 organic lemons
4 slices of raw ginger
(I slice my ginger fairly thick for this recipe, but you can also grate it, chop it, or slice it paper thin... whatever your preference!)
Local honey

Layer your lemon and ginger in your glass jar and cover with honey, repeat this layering process until your jar is full. Allow your syrup to cure in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours

To use your new delicious throat syrup you can:

Eat a spoonful
Add it to your tea
Add it to hot water and sip
Add a few spoonfuls to your Theraflu (Bear does this and loves it)

Another awesome home remedy is vapor discs in the shower. A ton of companies make these and the price tag is outrageous. Making vapor discs is so simple and only takes a few ingredients.

Cold-Busting Shower Discs
(yields 12 discs)

3c Baking Soda
30 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
15 drops Lavender Essential Oil
a bit of water

Mix your essential oils into your baking soda to fully incorporate
Add water by the tablespoon until your get a thick paste
Spoon your paste into a muffin tin
Bake at 350 for 25 mins or allow to sit out for at least 24 hours

Pop your discs out and place in your shower... and inhale the cleansing vapor!

Lastly, I found this recipe recently while browsing through an essential oil recipe book.... it smells great and certainly feels nice, time will tell whether it works or not though.

Cough Be Gone Massage Oil

3oz Carrier Oil (I used organic Grapeseed oil)
Eucalyptus Essential Oil (30 drops)
Lavender Essential Oil (15 drops)
Tea Tree Essential Oil (10 drops)
Peppermint Essential Oil (5 drops)
Clove Essential Oil (5 drops)

Combine all ingredients in a glass bottle
This stuff smells delicious- a deep inhale from the bottle brings instant cough relief!

 To use, massage the oil on your chest and back at bedtime for cough relief. I also recommend rubbing some on the soles of your feet and wearing socks to bed as well.

So, those are my homeopathic cold remedies. Along with the above remedies, I use a lot of essential oils for cold cures. 

Some of my favorite EO blends:

Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, and Lavender on a cotton ball is great for congestion
Tea Tree, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus in a steam pot does wonders at the first sign of a cold
Lavender Mint is excellent for bedtime cold treatment

Aside from those recipes and my EO mixtures, I swear by a few tricks:

Vicks on the feet at bedtime
Echinacea (both pills & tea)
Local honey
Garlic! Lotssss of garlic!
Frequent Neti Pot usage
Detox baths (baking soda, epsom salts, & a few drops of lavender mint EO)

And, as always when using EO's and when making your own home remedies, use a glass bottle/jar of some type. Healthier and safer... no seeping plastic in your cures!

Stay healthy, my friends!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Cemetery Girl

Cemetery Girl was a fluke grab at the Penguin Putnam Warehouse Sale last year... I remembering power-shopping the last aisle and saw the cover, thought it was cool, and snagged it. I didn't even read the back. I figured the cover drew me in and it was $1 so no biggie.
It sat collecting dust on my TBR shelf until last week when I grabbed it from my TBR, simply because it was on the top. My energy was low and I didn't feel like pouring over the shelf and choosing wisely. Now let me say that TWICE I just picked it up for the hell of it- when I bought it and last week when I decided to read it. Totally not me.. picking a book is always something I think about... but now I'm thinking that maybe I should do that more often because simply stated- I loved this book. Let me share my thoughts....

Four years after Tom and Abby's 12-year-old daughter vanishes, she is found alive but strangely calm. When the teen refuses to testify against the man connected to her disappearance, Tom decides to investigate the traumatizing case on his own. Nothing can prepare him for what he is about to discover.

Cemetery Girl by David Bell starts off with an explosion of emotional pull... Tom & Abby have lost their little girl Caitlin and fear the worst as their search for their daughter (and closure) wears on. Four years as she is still missing. Then a break in the case and Caitlin shows up. Silent and detached. She gives no indication of what happened or where she has been, but Tom feels he knows. No longer searching for Caitlin, Tom becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth behind his missing daughters last four years. The question is- will Tom's obsession with the truth help him find peace or drive him insane?

I was sucked into this book immediately. The story was haunting and just like Tom became obsessed with the answers, so did I. I turned each page just waiting to hear the next morsel of information about Caitlin and her disappearance. Instantly I was drawn to Tom- his hunger for the truth was compelling.. and just as instantaneously, I couldn't stand his wife Abby. I didn't like what she represented and I felt like she wasn't a mother. Abby gave up and I couldn't come to terms with that. The entire family dynamic was interesting because this novel placed the reader smack in the middle of mom and dad- you had to choose a side. Reading Cemetery Girl and not picking a side (at least a little bit!) is impossible. Bell also developed Caitlin in an interesting way- she was a precarious kid and then returned home as a sullen teenager. Is it because of what happened to her or because she is a teenager? We aren't exactly sure.

The overall story line was haunting. The entire idea of your child going missing is terrifying... but after reading this, the prospect of that child returning is ALSO scary. What happened in those years you missed with your child, do you ever really want to know, will your child ever be the same? Those questions arose in Cemetery Girl and it certainly gave me pause.
Bell constructed a haunting tale that kept me mesmerized  I did not want to put the book down, but there were moments when I was also sick with pain for the characters. Cemetery Girl deals with a tough subject in a page turning and compelling fashion. I highly recommend this book.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Blog Resolutions

I look at this blog and think about how much I enjoy being able to read & review, but then get supremely disappointed in my follow through. I suck as staying up to date and being a more social blogger. I kind of keep to myself, which in reality makes no damn since... blogging is about networking and having fun with other bloggers!!

So, I've decided to put together some New Year Resolutions for Little Bird Reads

  • Post at least once a week
  • Write my reviews within a week of finishing my book
  • Revamp my blog look
  • Start a blog binder to get organized
    • Plan posts
    • Schedule posts & tweets
  • Interact more
    • Tweet more (@LittleBirdReads)
    • Comment / comment back
    • Network within my challenges

Here's to a more organized, socialized, and committed blog!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Oh, Hello 2013.

Hello 2013. So far, you have greeted me with a bang.... and not necessarily a good bang. Right now I am in limbo as the future of my department is up in the air. My mind has been distracted since returning to work... because that first day back we were called into a meeting to be informed that there are no answers, but the possibility is there- our department may be laid off. So right now, we are all just waiting for an answer so we can figure out where to go from here.

As for everything else, things are good! I didn't meet my goal for 2012 (read 75 books) but I am okay with that... I didn't meet my goal because life was busy... mainly good busy. House hunting took up a LOT of my time last year, then finally buying my home, closing, and moving in during the summer took up most of my time. I feel that 2013 will be more settled.. and I plan to read more, craft more, and blog more. Even with my career up in the air, no matter what happens, I plan to make this year about things that make me happy. Those things are my family, reading, cooking, and crafting... that is my only "resolution"- to spend more energy on happy things.

Onward!... 2013 is the year of the challenge. 

First up, the KEYWORD challenge:
I don't have a book picked out just yet... but I have a few I am interested in:

Breathe by Sarah Crossan (tweak on 'breath')

Second, the COLOR coded challenge:
Again, I don't have one picked out... but a few book ideas are on my radar:

Little White Lies by Aimee Laine (crossover with keyword challenge)
Red Rain by RL Stine

And finally, the Mount TBR challenge:
This one I have started... I am reading The Host by Stephenie Meyer... this was on my digital library account wishlist for some time now and just came in through my holds as available.

Any other book suggestions for my Keyword and/or Color challenges would be helpful!
Hope everyone is kicking the new year off right and reading some great books!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


2013 Reading List

Books Read in 2013
goal: 75

70. Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex by Amy JL Baker
69. No Easy Way Out by Dayna Lorentz
68. No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz
67. The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin
66. Dare me by Eric Devine
65. Broken by Elizabeth Pulford
64. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
63. Darth Vader and Son by Jeffery Brown
62. Tinkerlab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors by Rachelle Doorley
61. Crazy Rich by Jerry Oppeheimer
60. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
59. The New Crown by Jason Sandberg
58. Projectkid: 100 Great Thigs to Craft with and for Your Kids by Amanda Kingloff
57. Introducing Freud: A Graphic Guide to the Father of Psychoanalysis by Richard Appignanesi
56. The Umbrella Conspiracy by SD Perry
55. The Panem Companion by V Arrow
54. The Mindful Way Workbook by John D Teasdale
53. A Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith)
52. The Transfer by Veronica Roth
51. The World of Divergent: The Path to Allegiant by Veronica Roth
50. the Four Virtues: Presence, Heart, Wisdom, Creation by Tobin Hart
49. Free Four: Tobias Tells his Story by Veronica Roth
48. The Initiate by Veronica Roth
47. Suburban Legends by Sam Stall
46. Papal Bull by Joe Wenke
45. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
44. Dracula: a Classic Pop-up Tale by Claire Bampton
43. Nick & Tesla's high Voltage Danger Lab by Bob Pflungfelder
42. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling
41. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
40. The Shining by Stephen King
39. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
38. Divergent by Veronica Roth
37. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan {review}
36. The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler {review}
35. Candy & The Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg {review}
34: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenni Torres Sanchez {review}
33. Winter at Death's Hotel by Kenneth Cameron {review}
32. Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown {review}
31. 100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts by Doogie Horner {review
30. Coraline: the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell {review}
29. Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus  {review}
28. William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher {review}
27. The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy {review}
26. Under the Dome by Stephen King {review}
25. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters {review}
24. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
22. Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings
21. I'm Nobody! Who are you? by Emily Dickinson
20. The Resurrectionist by EB Hudspeth {review}
19. A Dog's Journey by W. Bruce Cameron {review
18. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron {review}
17. These Things Hidden by Heather Gundenkauf {review}
16. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu {review}
15. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer {review}
14. Cinder by Marissa Meyer {review}
13. Lush by Natasha Friend {review}
12. Girl, Stolen by April Henry {review}
11. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder {review}
10. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling {review}
9. Chasing Rainbows by Kathleen Long {review}
8. Lockdown: Escape from Furnace 1 by Alexander Gordon Smith {review}
7. Trapped by Michael Northrop {review}
6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn {review}
5. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder {review}
4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen {review}
3. The Host by Stephenie Meyer {review}
2. Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler {review}
1. Cemetery Girl by David Bell {review}

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow