Pandemic, Hygge Dinner Therapy

Here we are. In the midst of another rise of the never-ending Covid19 pandemic cases. As you know, if you follow my instagram, I have gone through many ups and downs when it comes to being able to find joy during these unpredictable and tiring times. My lack of being able to remain “present” and finding a sense of purpose in the recent months has reached new levels of unattainability. And, lately, I find myself leaping from idea to idea; grasping at straws trying to keep my mind busy with anything and everything that I can fit into my schedule. Painting my bathroom, trips to isolated book stores far away, amusing myself with imagining and planning journeys to the hippie towns across America, random acts of kindness to friends and strangers, painting a ridiculously hard (and still incomplete) paint by numbers… you name it, it’s probably floated across my mind.

The point is, we all want to feel a little bit of completeness during a time when so little is certain. We want to feel whole where there are voids. And if we can find anything heartwarming, we’ll latch onto it. And what warms the heart more than having a meal with friends and family? Not much.

Unfortunately, at this time, getting together with other humans is discouraged because, well… COVID. Yes, we know it travels, it’s extremely contagious, and you have to move heaven and earth to get people to wear masks… So, dinner parties? Not really much of an option, unless you want to spend time with 15 people and have 72% change of contracting the virus. Or so said an article I read online today. Yet, I have/had been dying to just GATHER. Like, we used to. And it’s brought a number of tears to flow throughout the year, knowing that it’s just not possible. So, I decided to take matters in my own hands.

In the recent years, I’ve developed this attitude like ‘I’m not gonna wait around on other people. If I want to do something, I’m going to. Even if I have to do it alone.” Apparently, dinner parties are included. So, I informed my hubby that I was going to do a faux dinner party, just because and for my family. Decor and all. Just for some kind of therapy.

Now, at first, that was going to include lanterns and 150 paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. I was THIS close to ordering a massive amount of twinkle lights from Amazon and stringing them up. Nearly bought new dishes… Until, I realized that I might be getting a tad carried away.  I mean, we are legitimately just trying to get by in these awkward, socially distant times. So, instead, I resigned to save my really amped up ideas for when I can fill my home with more people I love. And, decided my main objective would be to just set up a budget friendly, cozy meal that would feel intimate and a little more rustic than say handmade origami ornaments at each place setting. Are you sensing a theme yet?

I’ve been craving Asian food for weeks and, specifically, missing a restaurant from our home in NC. My fave dish is served there and it’s flawless, along with their coconut cake for dessert. So I looked up some recipes on pinterest for what I wanted and found an overabundance of options. I decided to make the main course and dessert from scratch and accompany it with pre-prepped appetizers and sides. Yeah, I was going a real restaurant style dining here, and wrote up the menu on my dining room chalkboard a week in advance so I’d have something to look forward to. You could, of course, do this week any type of food.

Now let’s talk decor and place settings. I’d like to talk about this in case you are in a little bit of a slump and want to do something simple like this in order to bring yourself and family a little bit of cheer. I’ll go through what I threw together and what alternatives there are out there.

The tablescape, you’ll notice, was rather uncomplicated. I didn’t have time to get flowers or anything and my table is SO long that it’s very hard to find an inexpensive table runner or table cloth to cover it. So, I started thinking about how some restaurants cover their tables with butcher paper and thought, “HELLO, KID FRIENDLY & easy cleanup!” But, rolls of butcher paper were like 15 dollars! This craft paper, gift wrapping paper was $1 a roll at Dollar Tree. I could’ve used the underside if I had wanted it plain, but I really loved the fun polkadot playfulness it gave the table. They also have plain kraft paper available for just under $2 a roll at Dollar General.

I already owned the candle lanterns and candles, which I got from walmart at the beginning of fall from Walmart. I’m linking the candles (which smell divine!) HERE. I haven’t seen the the lanterns since, in-store or online, so HERE are some similar ones. And you could probably also look at places like Hobby Lobby or Old Time Pottery for something similar and inexpensive. As well as the candles.

I simply bought reindeer moss for $1 a bag from Dollar Tree and filled the bottom of my lantern with it, around the candle, for a more woodsy and homey look. And to avoid fingerprints on the glass, I maneuvered it around with a spatula.

I got my snowy trees on a log, tabletop decor from Walmart for like $6, but I can’t find it on their website anywhere. If you can’t find anything in your area similar, you could probably craft it pretty easily with supplies from a dollar store. Or you could purchase a set like THIS from Walmart (below) or THESE glittery gems from Target.

On either side of the trees, I places cutting boards to place appetizers on and flanked them on one side with a beaded garland I got from Amazon earlier this year. I also used four, mercury glass votive holders I found at Dollar General for $1 a piece on each corner. They are adorable and I’ll definitely be reusing them again and again. I found a similar set of 12 on Amazon HERE.

Now, let’s talk about dishes! Mine are by Magnolia (Hearth & Hand) from Target and I got them a little over a year ago as part of their fall collection. They are no longer available, but if you are in the market for new dishes, I strongly suggest checking out what they do have in stock. Such as the beautiful, red rimmed dishes they just came out with!

I used the mixed matched silverware that I already own (I’m due for a new set) and wrapped it with $1 white napkins from Dollar General & found red burlap ribbon on sale to tie it up with. Next time, I may go ahead and spring for some more expensive linen napkins like the ones I’ve found online (below). And if you are having a little fancier of an event with more extended family…etc, it would definitely be a nice touch. You could even do matching ones with your dishes like the photo above.

There are also plenty of nice biodegradable options online. Like these palm leaf plates! Which are a great, more natural, primitive choice.

That’s about it. I would’ve done placemats like these had I thought about it beforehand, so that’s also an option. I also, ordered chopsticks because of the nature of food, that only set me back $6.99. Plus, everyone loves chopsticks! Twinkle lights also came into play all over the room where I could hide the LED battery pack HAHA! Spent $5 on 5 packs of those at the dollar store and they were a nice addition to the cozy, hygge factor. And the candlesticks on the mantel + burning wood stove in my dining room didn’t hurt anything either.

Overall, I spent approximately $28 (not counting all the groceries for dinner) and repurposed a lot of things I already owned. I hope this gave you a lot of ideas of how you can easily create a comfortable, spruced up space for you and your loved ones to enjoy a special dinner despite everything going on in the world right now. You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy a nice, memorable evening together- even if you’ve already spent months in the same house. Take the time out to make your life extraordinary!

Bohemian Oil DIYs

I’m so excited about today’s post! I have loved essential oils for a few years now, and I’m (finally) taking big time advantage of using them again since we moved into this house. They were in a storage box for far too long!

My Aussie, insta-acquaintance, Sinead (who is AMAZING at essential oil DIYs, by the way) inspired me to do a few projects of my own. After seeing her pretty little posts and projects, I thought I’d come up with some new blends to bottle; for a few different uses.

Now, I admit that I am not an essential oils expert. It’s just something I enjoy and find helpful in my day-to-day. I also understand that what oils and brands people choose to use are highly personal, and sometimes controversial. So, I won’t delve too deeply into a spiel, trying to get you to use what I do.

I will only mention that I’ve been using Eden’s Garden oils forever and I LOVE them. I’ve found them to not only be affordable, but effective. I LOVE that the company doesn’t recruit distributors! They are a family/woman-owned business, and their products are 100% pure. That being said, I encourage you to use WHATEVER oils you are comfortable with. Every boho babe has her own groove!

Today, I’m going to be sharing five easy, oil “recipes” you can start with for these diy projects. But, if you’re familiar with, and love, oils already- feel free to experiment and add to what I’m blending here! I’d love to know about your fave oil blends and creations!!

Here’s what I used for these 5 projects, besides the oils themselves:

NOW Solutions Vegetable Glycerin

Thayer’s Witch Hazel Facial Toner (w/ Rose Water)- I chose this product knowing that it was alcohol free, it contained aloe, and I liked the added depth of the rose water component. I also will use this product alone in future. I also really like THIS brand that also comes in unscented.

Carrier Oil- Carrier oils are very important when it comes to formulating your oils for application to skin. Read this great article from HelloGlow, to find out more! I used this particular “coconut oil” product because it’s specifically formulated for skin + absorption, I’ve been using it for a long time and knew it wouldn’t cause irritation, and it also has percentages of safflower oil, jojoba oil, cotton seed oil, almond oil, argan oil, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, and avocado oil. Holy hydration!!

However, I can no longer find this one in stores or online. Therefore, no link available. But, I encourage you to use whatever you have handy and what works for you! It’s so important that you don’t feel pressured to go out and buy a bunch of fancy, expensive products to do this. Find what’s cost effective and easy to obtain, and what might be the best for your skin type. Not everyone will choose the same combination; that’s what makes it so fun & experimental!

Dried Flowers- This part is totally optional and unnecessary, but I love the way it looks! Adding dried flowers can help you identify which oil is which and add to the artsy vibe of the whole thing. You can get dried flowers in a number of places, online, or even dry your own! I got my lavender from Amazon and have been using it for everything imaginable. The lovely chamomile came from Sage Hill Botanicals via their etsy shop.

Vessels- Besides the blends themselves, choosing the vessels to put them into might be my favorite part. Sinead uses The Vessel Collection (as do I) because they have all beautiful, glass containers you could want. I went to place an order from them immediately, BUT then I saw the $40 shipping to the USA and knew I’d have to do something different. So, I searched for something I loved, US based, and found these gems from Karma & Cosmo. They are SO GOOD!!

I also have a monthly subscription to Grove Collaborative and received another one of their perfect, spray bottles in my box last month. Similar HERE. Or you could reuse/repurpose a container from home.

Funnels- I reccommend getting funnels for besically any project that requires dumping liquid from one container to another, but especially for small/narrow necked bottles like this. I got a pack from Amazon (linked), a lot of times they come with a bottle when you buy them, or you could probably find them at the dollar store.

If you are (and even if you’re not) new to essential oils, I HIGHLY recommend getting a book like “A Beginner’s Guide To Essential Oils”. It’s a helpful and quick reference to remember what each is helpful for, their uses, and what they blend well with…etc. I use this one regularly to maintain knowledge of what works well for me.

Let’s get down with the blends!

Cloud Nine Room Spray:

Unscrew the top of your glass bottle and add essential oils.

4 drops lemongrass

4 drops clary sage

4 drops patchouli

4 drops pine

Fill the glass halfway with distilled water, then fill the other half with witch hazel. replace the lid and shake the bottle to combine the witch hazel, oil, and water. (If your glass bottle is clear instead of colored, you could also add some dried flowers or greenery to add beauty and also- if desired- show the scent.)

This blend helps to energize, reduce anxiety, support mindfulness and concentration, as well as boost air quality. Perfect for literally any time of day and any room in your home.

*For the roller balls, drop essential oils in, fill the rest of the bottle with carrier oil. Be sure to leave a little space at the top so there is room to drop in any dried flowers and put the roller back on. My rollers here are 7.5ml.

Tranquil Slumber Roller

4 drops lavender

2 drops vetiver

2 drops ylang ylang

2 drops australian sandalwood

This roller recipe is great for treatment of insomnia or sleep disorders, promoting calm & relaxation, and overall easing restlessness. As someone who suffers from insomnia, I LOVE THIS BLEND! And can attest to it’s soothing qualities.

Lifegiver Roller

5 drops tangerine

1 drop spearmint

3 drops lemongrass

3 drops lime

This roller is designed to boost mood, refresh, and alleviate the blues! Everyone needs this one in their life. And all my kids even loved how it smelled (not that they need more energy lol). Eucalyptus would’ve been a great addition to this, even replacing the lime. (However, my 2 year old dumped out all I had left before I could make these!!)

Look Lively Roller

3 drops pink pepper

2 drops frankinsence

2 drop bergamot

1 drop rosemary

Loving this roller for those days when you just need a “pep talk” to get you through those late afternoons when you’re so badly craving a nap. Good for invigoration, emotional support, and increase alertness.

*For body spray, add your oils, then one tablespoon of vegetable glycerin, one tablespoon of witch hazel, and fill the rest with distilled water. The perfume bottle I’m using here is 50ml.

Nature’s Child Body Spray

12 drops patchouli

12 drops bergamot

10 drops myrrh

8 drops tangerine jasmine blend (if you don’t have this blend you can use 4 drops of each, separate oil)

8 drops australian sandalwood

6 drops lemon

This is a very subtle scent, but I love it for after the shower. It’s got a sweet, earthiness that’s extremely pleasant and uplifting. It improves feelings of contentment, enhances meditation, intensifies attentiveness, & supports overall well-being. Keep in mind though, it’s a body spray, not a perfume, so the scent does fade with time.

Okay, that it for me. I hope you guys try some of these out, or, as I mentioned, I would love to hear some of your creations you think I should give a whirl!

Stay groovy, friends,

Who Else Wants To Be Successfully Vulnerable?

You might’ve just read the title of this post and thought, “Successfully vulnerable? She’s gotta be kidding.” But, I can assure you, while I’m pretty sarcastic with my humor, I’m totally serious about this concept. C’mon! Aren’t you just a little curious?

Recently, when I wake up while the house is still quiet or I’m laying in bed before my meds knock me out, I have been listening to TED talks. Honestly, it’s a habit that I’m not sure why it started. My husband was really into them a year or two ago and I would try to just tune it out. Maybe, it’s because I’m running out of CV19 entertainment or because I’m looking for insight and perspective… either way, I’ve run across some pretty great ones. In particular, the one I’m sharing with you all today, featuring researcher/storyteller, Brené Brown.

First off, let me say- everyone wants their readers to blog to read fun content. But, sometimes it’s necessary to broaden your topic and find more depth in the story you’re telling. Color in more of the picture you’re painting of yourself. Given current world conditions and the emotions they can evoke- the emotions that I’m feeling more of lately- it seemed appropriate to post something relatable and relevant. Dare I say solemn?

I have struggled (and still do) with self-esteem and insecurity issues, as well as being an extroverted introvert. It’s messes with my human connections and relationships, as well as my mind and how I view my ability to be considered and loved. As you will see in the video, this is basically referred to as feeling a lack of worthiness.

While I suffer from bipolar disorder as well as anxiety (not to mention PMDD), COVID 19 has, at times, exacerbated my emotional state. Regardless of my status involving medication stability or visits with my therapist. Don’t get me wrong, though. There have been moments during this pandemic crisis that I have been extremely grateful. Especially for the safety of my family, and the higher level of togetherness we’ve achieved. However, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

The opposite, in my case, is having my short span of happiness or thankfulness replaced with phases of sorrow, longing, or angst. At times, I have felt as if I’m morning the loss of the life that was before Coronavirus. And I thought some of you might be feeling that too; in big ways or small.

Or maybe you haven’t been tossing and turning at night wondering if you’ll make it through this weird period of time. Have you enjoyed the slow down? The time to reconnect? But, maybe you’ve dealt with feelings involving your inadequacy, or heartbreak, shame…etc, because of some other reason. Perhaps, at times, it feels like it’s catching up with you.

A point I really appreciate from this talk is that life is messy. Spontaneity and fragility are a part of it. A lot of times they are the part we try to get rid of and hide away because they feel “bad” or make us anxious/uncomfortable. But, we fail to realize that we can’t shut out the bad without shutting out the good. And what consequences does it have for us to numb these parts of ourselves? Does it affect how you love and let others love you? Does it have a bearing on what kind of friend you are? The way you parent? The way you LIVE?

I don’t know about any of you, but it’s been incredibly hard for me to ask for any kind of help or encouragement when I have feelings like this. I feel embarrassment when it doesn’t seem like I “have it together”. If you’re anything like me, you probably want to have your life fit into a neat little package where everything is taken care of and no variables come into play. Unfortunately, (and with the help of a therapist), I’ve realized that that’s unrealistic. But, it doesn’t make the desire stop. Are you trying to fight these feelings alone?

If you have ever felt rejected, excluded, embarrassment about who you are, fear about who you should be, the need for affection and tenderness from those around you without knowing how to express that need, feeling like you don’t deserve a particular relationship or that you aren’t enough, lack of compassion…etc., then this talk might be for you.

We’re only human. We can only do the best we can with what we have. A lot of times that might mean exposing who we are on the inside, showing up unguarded, and finding/accepting the comfort and closeness we are worthy of. I’m working on this in my own life. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m learning.

I hope this finds you well. And I hope you know, you’re not alone.

Living A Farmed Life: Intro

Hi! I’m Quin and I’m the voice behind The Lone Birch. It’s a pleasure to have you here!

I grew up in an extremely small, rural town in Ohio and never wanted to know anything else. I was content as a child in a relatively untouched place. And, when I say, “untouched”, I mean there was no Walmart nearby. But, eventually, the path of life took a turn and I ended up in a city by the beach, hundreds of miles away, for almost 15 years.

Funnily enough, I met my husband and he, ironically, also grew up in a little area in Ohio. After we got married, we were very keen on the idea of moving back to a simpler place and transporting ourselves into a slower pace. It seemed, like it would never work out, though, due to multiple factors we faced over the years. Until one summer…

Suddenly, our circumstances changed in 2019 and we were able to, very quickly, make the transition from city dwellers to country residents. Foremostly, we wanted to be here to help out my in-laws. But, selfishly, we wanted to be here to raise our four children with a sense of peace surrounding them. To allow them a bit of the serenity of the childhoods we experienced. A chance to chase their dreams through open fields and sunbathed woods, without fear.

This brought with it, the challenge of trying to find a new home. Not just a house, but a place to really thrive. And, that’s when we happened upon our sweet, little 1940’s farmhouse.

It’s always been my dream to have a farm. When I was a little girl, my best friend and I would plan out all of the animals we would have and what we would name them. And, as I got older, that fantasy started to take the shape of a bohemian farmhouse haven. Somewhere special for me to unleash a little creativity and enjoy the absence of complication, I didn’t know then, that I wanted for my unborn children.

This all came to fruition when we found our current home. A quaint farm with a lone birch tree in the middle of the yard… surrounded by many other trees, unrelated. Five acres of green, surrounded by woods, complete with a big red barn. (Photos to come!) We visited this property once before we knew it was the definition of the home we were looking for.

As of now, we have been [officially] back in Ohio for about 10 months and in our fixer upper for about 8 of those. And, since things are beginning to feel more settled- despite these nasty, untold events of 2020- it seemed like a good time to take on documenting more of our adventures and what we are undertaking. I’ve also really been challenging myself, in the kitchen, with house projects, and hobbies, so I am hoping to share those with you. As well as all things #momlife, because navigating two boys and two girls (13, 7, 5, & 2) has me in my feelings!

I’d love to connect with other hobby farmers, mothers, self professed chefs, interior designers, fashionistas, writers, and readers from all walks of life. And, honestly, the connection with others and finding insight into other perspectives, trading ideas, and getting feedback is why I am endeavoring to blog publicly, instead of keep my thoughts to myself. I hope to hear what’s on your mind as well!

Let me know, in the comments, what kind of things you’d like to see included on the blog. Or if you have any questions you’d like me to address in a post.

Thanks for reading! More soon, xoxxo-