I don’t know about most of you but I associate certain foods with certain seasons.  This is not just for the obvious reason that fruits and vegetables have specific growing seasons.  Rather, food for me has memories and feelings associated with it specific to different times of the year.

For example, summer for me includes daily trips to the local Farmers’ Market for the makings of a summertime feast.  (Unless it comes from my own garden!) Give me a meal of mouth-watering slices of watermelon, silver queen corn, tomatoes fresh off the vine topped off with freshly made iced tea and cobbler and I’m a happy camper.  (You can find my recipe for cobbler on my post, Quick Summer Fruit Cobbler.) And, what summer doesn’t include outdoor barbeques?  Nothing beats the aroma wafting through the air of something on the backyard grill.  It signals summer for me just as much as the smell of freshly cut grass does.

For many of us, the autumn chill signals football and tailgating as Chef Ryan writes in his post, Tailgating- A Great American Tradition.  For me, the changing season signals pancakes.

The smell of pancakes cooking on a cool autumn morning does much the same thing for me as smelling a backyard grill in the heat of the summer.  For me, pancakes are a way to feel warm and cozy as the weather changes.

The tradition in my home is to have pancakes every Sunday morning.  It is something both David and I look forward to as it is really the only breakfast of the week that we actually sit down and enjoy together – the rest are eaten on the run or are eaten quickly to merely fortify our bodies and start the day.  Sunday morning pancakes are a total feel good experience for us!

Years ago I thumbed my nose at pancake mix in any pre-made form.  Seriously, what could be better than homemade pancakes?  I can whip up a batch in less than ten minutes using all organic ingredients that are better than any out of a box, can or bag. Last Sunday morning when David and I sat down to eat he looked at me and said, “Pancakes together on Sunday morning is my favorite time of the weekend”.   My David loves food but, this Sunday morning ritual is what he looks forward to as much as the yummy meal!

How to prepare pancake batter

Getting started

I do have one secret step in making my pancakes that I want to share.  It is a step that in my view absolutely, positively makes the lightest and fluffiest pancakes ever.  I witnessed this step years ago while I was in junior high school.  I had a friend whose mom was Swedish and so every Saturday morning she made Swedish Pancakes.  I was always thrilled to be invited to Laurie’s house, as I loved these pancakes.  I noticed one day that Laurie’s mom let the batter sit on the counter for a long time untouched.  Nosy me, I observed this and watched the batter actually rise up with tiny bubbles forming on the surface.  (I later realized this is what crepe recipes call for you to do.)  Once I began to make pancakes myself, albeit the traditional kind, I did this as well.  I soon learned that perfect pancakes are the result of letting the batter sit untouched for about 45 minutes.  So, every Sunday morning after I have started brewing a pot of coffee I make the pancake batter and let it sit.  David and I enjoy our mugs of coffee, play scrabble on our IPad and wait for breakfast.  This Sunday morning ritual of relaxing while the pancake batter rises gives us both warm fuzzies!

Here’s my recipe:

1 ½ c. flour                    1 egg, beaten

2 T. sugar                       1 ½ c. milk

3 t. baking powder      3 T. butter, melted

1 t. salt

Cooking homemade pancakes in an iron skillet

Cooking in the iron skillet

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Combine in a separate bowl egg and milk; blend well.  Add egg mixture and melted butter to the dry ingredients until the batter is stirred.  Be sure to leave it lumpy.  Let sit for 45 min. to an hour.  Cook preferably on a griddle or cast iron skillet.

Get creative:

Add any fresh berries or fruits you want.  You can also add nuts such as pecans or spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

Enjoy!

Best homemade pancakes

Mmm, Mmm good

Everything begins in the home.  How you live in your home, the way you interact with others in your home, the traditions and rituals in your home and the foods you eat in your home all evoke feelings in you.  Each part of the goings on in your space is vital to your essence.  Be cognizant of the importance of this!

Food does more than nourish our bodies. It nourishes our hearts and souls as well.

To living and loving life…

I know Chef Ryan is the resident foodie on this blog but every once in a while I feel compelled to share with you one of my own favorite food recipes that for me adds to making a wonderful recipe for life!  Look for Chef Ryan again soon!

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Peace Lily

Peace Lily

As the autumn season approaches, the days become shorter and the nights become crisper.  Most of us begin to think of moving indoors and spending less time in the fresh air.

If your home is old enough to be leaky and drafty,   you may not need to worry about the many pollutants that can become trapped indoors with us.  But, if you live in a newer, energy efficient home with windows and doors tightly sealed, or you work in a building where circulation is poor and the air is stale, these pollutants have less opportunity to move to the outside.

What NASA says about houseplants

Over the years our space program has led the way to an important discovery about the role of houseplants indoors.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been researching methods to cleanse the atmosphere in future space stations to keep them fit for human habitation.  In doing this research, NASA has found that many common houseplants and blooming potted plants help fight pollution that occurs indoors.

The science of plants

Snake Plant

Snake Plant

Plant scientists already knew this!  Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process.

Now researchers have found many houseplants can absorb benzene, formaldehyde and many other air pollutants that are created as gases when we install man-made materials such as carpets, laminates, paints, wallpapers and fabrics in our homes.

While saving energy and money is important to all of us, we must remember that it is crucial to our indoor environment to have clean, fresh air in our homes.  So, houseplants take on a larger role in our homes (and all interior environments for that matter) than merely providing beauty in the décor.  They contribute to balancing internal humidity and cleansing the air we breathe.

The top twelve air purifiers

‘Janet Craig’

‘Janet Craig’

Here is a list of houseplants that have been found to play an important role in removing air borne pollutants:

  1. English Ivy   (Hedera helix)
  2. Spider plant  (Chlorophytum comosum)
  3. Peace Lily  (Spathiphyllum)
  4. Pothos  (Epipiremnum)
  5. Bamboo Palm  (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
  6. Philodendron  (Philodendron scandens)
  7. Selloum  (Philodendron selloum)
  8. Dracaena  (Dracaena marginata)
  9. Corn plant  (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’)
  10. Janet Craig  (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’)
  11. Snake plant  (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  12. Weeping Fig  (Ficus benjamina)

Helpful tips to know

  • Studies by NASA have generated the recommendation that you use one 6-8” houseplant per every 100 square feet of living space.  Think about it.  This is probably more than you currently have in your home and it is time to add some.
  • Houseplants need dusting just like any other “accessory” in your home.  When you allow dust to accumulate on the leaves of your plants, they cannot do the work they are meant to do in helping to purify the air.  So, be sure to regularly clean the leaves of dust and debris from your plants.
Fall beauty

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Enjoy your home in every way possible.  Use houseplants to add beauty and nature to your space.  At the same time reap the benefits of what nature allows them to do for the air. Houseplants such as these top twelve are what can be called “natural clean air machines”.  You, your home and all your interior environments deserve to be healthy spaces – start now to clean up your air!

Happy Fall!!!

***A special thank you to Townside Gardens Nursery in Roanoke, VA for providing the plant photos! ***

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Tree changing colors in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

My David and I were taking an early morning walk in nature this morning.  The moon was spectacular and the breeze gave a slight chill to the air.  Awwwww, the hint of autumn!

I couldn’t help but be excited.  With my senses alive to this feeling of fall I said to myself, fall is the best season of all.  Then I laughed  because I say this at the beginning of each new season.  The truth is that I love each of the four seasons.  Each one carries with it special meaning, fond memories and a renewed sense of anticipation for things to come.

The first day of fall just happens to be tomorrow.  Let us all welcome the beauty that this season brings us by allowing it to restore our souls.

We can do this in many, many ways.  At the same time, we can bring autumnal feelings into our homes.

Letting nature restore you

I believe that nature has the ability to restore each of us time and again, season after season.  In my post, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things I quote one of my favorite Psalms from Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season.”

Autumn is the time to restore ourselves with feelings of warmth and comfort.  Autumn’s purpose is to ready us for the coming winter.  It gives us the chance to focus inward and prepare for the coming changes winter is sure to bring.

Beautiful tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

With autumn comes a myriad of opportunities to embrace the season.  For many people autumn is all about football.  Others explore the wondrous beauty of the changing leaves by hiking and biking in nature preserves and greenways.  Regardless of the activity, fall is a perfect time to be outdoors.

I have learned the medicinal properties of nature personally.  I call nature the best tonic on the market.  And, it’s free!

When David and I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago I found a lot of free time on my hands.  Plus, I didn’t know a soul so I had days to myself to explore.  Who would have guessed that moving to the city would produce so much nature for me to immerse myself in?  I began to walk, hike, bike and even snowshoe (now my favorite hobby for sure) by myself.  Slowly but surely I began to notice a change in my attitude.  (OK, David did first but so what!)  I began to let things go, calm down and relax.  What an amazing transformation!

I even noticed that my music choices I made on my IPod while walking and hiking changed.  For a while I listened daily to all my faves- from the 1950’s to today.  Before long I realized I was only listening to soothing selections that you would normally hear while getting a massage.  Now, more often than not I don’t take my IPod on my walks at all.  The only music I want to hear comes from what nature provides- birds chirping, frogs croaking and the ducks quacking to each other on the water creates an awesome symphony.  Walking in silence brings the music of nature to an incredible volume!

Brilliant red tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

To say that getting back to nature restored me just doesn’t do justice to the truth of it.  Getting back to nature has done so much more.  I am walking, talking proof of its tonic!

So, I challenge you to find ways to give yourself daily doses of the outdoors.  It could be as simple as eating lunch outside while at work, walking your dog, doing your exercising outside (instead of the treadmill) sitting on the porch or taking off to the woods.  A small dose of nature’s elixir will go a long way!

Nature has mental, physical and spiritual benefits just waiting for you!  Give yourself a chance to reap from it all!

Bring the glory of Autumn inside

I have espoused time and again in recent posts such as Two Colors Every Homespace Needs the importance of bringing nature inside.  As I have said before, we humans have distanced ourselves from nature and have created a false reality.  Our homes and offices are full of gadgets and gizmos that have nothing to do with nature.  What a travesty to ourselves!

Loving color

Photo Credit: Susan Muehl

By bringing nature inside we allow ourselves to stay connected to it.  It is that simple.  And, it is simple to do.  My “fall line-up” of posts will give you lots of ways to achieve this.  Look for Becky Balzer’s post on the best indoor plants for the home environment.  Chef Ryan will treat us to his idea of a great tailgating party.  Hector Benetiz will offer you suggestions on outdoor exercises to coincide with the season.  I will be sharing many different ways to infuse nature in your homespace through decorating.  And, that’s just the beginning.  Stay with us and enjoy the season of autumn!

Think color…

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