Our Gathered Cottage » Gathered home and family

Keeping 3 kids healthy during the winter is no joke. Last year we started started giving them elderberry gummies and syrup we purchased online. We saw immediate results by using elderberries and even with the flu going around, our kids have stayed healthy for the most part. We would still be purchasing the products online if they weren’t so expensive! It was costing us around $50 for a month’s supply which didn’t include being able to give them more if they started to get sick. The recipe below made 3 quarts which is a super large batch, but all five of us take it every day so we go through it super quick! The total cost for this recipe was $18 and we only used half our bag of berries so we can make more. This batch of elderberry syrup would have cost us $160 if we had purchased online like we had been doing. I swear by this stuff to keep us healthy and I’m so excited to share our recipe with you!

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Here’s the recipe!

2 cups of elderberries (linked here)

10 1/2 Cups of water

1 1/4 Cup of local honey

2 large pieces of ginger

10 drops of vitality orange oil

3 drops of Thieves vitality oil

3 dops of Nutmeg vitality oil

3 drops of Frankincense vitality oil

Cheesecloth

First up, bring the elderberries and sliced ginger to a boil, then let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until the water is significantly reduced.
Strain with cheesecloth into large pitcher.
Add in honey.
Let cool and add essential oils (optional).
Store in air tight containers in the fridge until served.  
Elderberry syrup will last 2-3 months in the fridge.  Our children typically get 1-2 teaspoons in the morning unless they are starting to come down with something or we know sickness is starting to go around – then we will double that. Curt and I take 1 tablespoon each morning and the same goes if we feel ourselves getting sick.  

I have a video tutorial saved in my highlights you can find here!  I hope you find this helpful and if you make our recipe, please tag me on Instagram @ourgatheredcottage!  

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We love hosting family and friends in our home whether it’s for a dinner party, game night, holiday event or just for the fellowship – we truly love having others over. Typically we start to prepare dinner a little before hand and then it finishes up while people start to arrive. We were so excited to team up with Harry and David to provide our guests some delicious appetizers.

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Food truly brings people together and we loved being able to serve beautiful and delicious food. When is your next dinner party? Have you ever thrown one? Maybe you are hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas this year? Here are a few things that have helped us each time we host an event at our house:

  1. Make the arrival time clear
  2. Have plenty of appetizers ready while guests arrive.
  3. Find out guest drink preferences before the event.
  4. Play background music on low during dinner.
  5. Add some candles to create ambiance.
  6. Greet each guest as they arrive and make them feel welcome.
  7. Add an interactive game or conversation to keep things rolling.
  8. Prep as much as possible the day before the event.
  9. Clean as you go.
  10. Enjoy yourself and try to be a part of the event.
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For this event we chose the Ultimate charcuterie and cheese collection, Pork and chicken mini pot pies, Pears, apples, and cheese gift with wine, and Dried fruit and nut wreath. Each item was delivered so beautifully and items that needed to be refrigerated arrived packaged in dry ice.

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From the incredible charcuterie board and fruit to the mini pot pies and sparkling wine, Harry and David provided a perfect amount of food to keep our guests full until the evening began. To find out more about Harry and David’s incredible selection visit the link below. https://www.harryanddavid.com

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Our living room wall has been the absolute trickiest spot in our home to decorate which is why in 2 1/2 years it has only changed 3 times. First it started with our ginormous American flag because something had to hang there and that’s all I had that would work. Then I found two gorgeous mirrors from Kirklands and until this week, those have been up there. My struggle has always been filling such a large space without making it too cluttered. Last week it just hit me like a ton of bricks…board and batten! It would give that wall some character and I could choose more minimal decor.

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I immediately looked it up on Pinterest to see just how easy it would be. Within a few minutes, I was sold on the idea that this project would by easy peasy and it would have a big impact on a small budget. Curt agreed it should be a pretty simple project and since we had the evening free, why not go for it?

Our total budget for this project was: $100 and we came in slightly under budget, closer to $80.

(We had a lot, if not most of these items already so our cost might be lower than yours.)

Here is what you need:

1 x 4 pine boards for top run (length is determined by width of the wall) *Ours was 14 feet long

1 x 3 pine boards for vertical boards for all other boards

Drill (Drill bits and phillips bit)

2 levels – Larger one for top run and small level for smaller sections

Caulk gun

Liquid nails

Tape measure

2 inch drywall screws

Dap drywall repair kit (to fill in screw holes)

Sandpaper

Miter saw (this is necessary to keep cuts perfectly square)

White Paint and brush

Painter’s tape

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Now I’m going to hand this blog post over to Curt since he constructed this project and knows the ins and outs much better than I do! Take it away, sweetie! 🙂

The first step in any project is the planning phase. I hate drawing, sketching, or anything that resembles art, but the sketch had to be done for this in order for me to know how much wood to buy. I’ve attached my sketch below.

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After getting the list of materials complete and making the infamous Depot run, we got to work. I tell Amy this on every project as she eagerly pushes me along…slow down and measure, measure, measure! On any project that involves cutting wood and keeping a perfect square, you want to make sure to measure more times than you think you need to or else you’ll get halfway done and look back to see crooked lines.

Once you’re sure the cuts of wood are square and to the right dimensions, start applying the strips with a coat of liquid nails and screws. Use the level to keep the boards straight. As you can see below, we tested the vertical boards out first to make sure how many we wanted before we began. This also helped us get a better idea of how far apart the boards should be.

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A pro tip from someone who has learned by mistake, pre-drill your screw holes with a smaller diameter drill bit so your screws go in effortlessly. As you apply more strips, you’ll be able to tell if your measuring payed off. Once all the boards are up, fill in all the holes created by the screws with DAP drywall repair putty. Let the product dry for an hour and run sandpaper over it to create a smooth surface for painting.

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Put on your favorite tunes and start what is my least favorite part of the project – painting. Lucky for me, Amy volunteered to do the first coat. This project came to life, from idea to finish in less than 6 hours (and that’s with 3 children running around, a depot run, and stopping to eat dinner).

My advice would be to not let it overwhelm you. This can be a pretty simple project if you have the right tools and board and batten can make a really big statement for a really low cost. Amy and I were really pleased how this project turned out. Amy recorded the step by step tutorial and saved in in her highlights here if you need additional help.

Until next time, Curt

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If you follow my IG stories, you know I have been using both an obedience chart and a chore chart for about a month now and I LOVE IT. Hang on, let me say that again, I L O V E I T. Game changer might not be quite the description, but they have worked wonderful for both our boys.

The Chore Chart –

One afternoon I pulled into the driveway with all three boys in tow. We had just made a grocery run to Walmart and I was mentally exhausted from our 30 minute trip to the store. When we arrived home, my 5 year olds hopped out and raced to the door while I was left with my 10 month old and a van full of groceries. My boys are sweet and kind but while I was standing there, frustrated neither of my strong and capable 5 year olds offered to help, I knew it was time for a change. We are a little over a month in now and it has been awesome to see them willingly do their chores each day and also more conscious about being helpful and teaching them to think of others.

Along with their new chore charts, we started implementing an obedience chart. If they can complete their set of morning chores or evening chores without a reminder and assistance (for the most part), they receive a star on their obedience chart. This has helped motivate them to do things more independently and earn up to 10 stars a week.

The Obedience Chart –

Honestly, I wish I would have started using an obedience chart two years ago when we first became parents. We have tweaked this chart multiple times and feel like we have finally come up with something that has worked very well for both boys. Children coming into foster care, no matter the reason or previous experience have suffered trauma. We have seen all ends of that spectrum in the last 2 1/2 years so we have to be very careful and specific with discipline in our home. Early spring of this year we came up with a “disobedience chart” which worked for a short time. We soon realized it still wasn’t encouraging positive behavior, it was only discouraging bad behavior.

This chart has not only promoted good behaviors but it has worked to eliminate a lot of disobedience because they know they will not receive a sticker. There have been a few times stickers have been taken off the charts, but not many. If one of the boys disobeys, we try to give a different punishment rather than let it interfere with the obedience chart. To each their own, we just like to keep this chart focused on good behavior for the most part.

The day we started these, I took the boys to pick out their own stickers so they would have more fun with it! At the end of the day, don’t stress over these – just enjoy it and your children will want to participate!

I’m so excited to make these available for you! I also have a really fun collaboration coming up soon that will tie in with these charts so stay tuned for that! I can’t wait to hear if these work for you and how they work in your home! To receive your free chore chart and obedience chart, please subscribe to the blog here and you will receive a link to download your own chart!

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May 22, 2017, the day we met our future son.

We had no clue what to expect from this day. At this point we had only seen one photo and a 30 second video of him so we were walking into this unprepared. Would we have a “moment” with him and feel overwhelmed with love and emotion? Would he say anything to us? Would we walk in and feel no connection? The last question was the one that kept haunting me. I tend to romanticise things sometimes so I was a “little” freaked out that it wasn’t going to be perfect..who are we kidding, my expectations were off the charts.

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The first two smiles we ever saw from our son.

We had gone to Target the day before and picked out a little Paw Patrol gift for him. I even bought a new shirt that had zebras on it so he would think my shirt was cool, I tried to think of anything and everything that would make him more comfortable around us. Truth is, the first meeting wasn’t as magical as I hoped for…it was kind of quiet. When we met Henry that day we learned he was non-verbal and wow, that was a hard pill to swallow. We knew from the mounds of paperwork we had read about him he was diagnosed with severe autism but I didn’t plan on him not being able to talk to us. He made little sounds here and there but he had a bottle in his mouth the whole time and barely made any eye contact. We followed him around Chuck E. Cheese for about an hour and tried to get to know him a little better. We left feeling a little defeated to be completely transparent, it was far from magical.

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Clearly I had to document everything

During that visit we met his foster mom, his social worker, and his case worker. They were all so kind and gave us as much information on “J” as they could. His case worker Emily was so helpful as we talked about his case and what was next for this little guy. It was during that conversation that I felt a fire lit inside of me to advocate for “J” but I also felt afraid that maybe we weren’t equipped to be his parents because of all he would need. The drive home was really quiet that day, I don’t think we said more than a few words for the next few hours. It felt like this boy we had dreamed up in our heads was much worse off than we had hoped. I knew this wasn’t the end though, I wanted to see him again. With Curt’s permission I am sharing this – he was VERY unsure about moving forward. That evening we finally opened the dialogue and started talking about our first visit with “J”. He couldn’t wrap his brain around parenting a severely autistic son right off the bat so our first conversation was me trying to convince him that he wasn’t “that” autistic. That conversation didn’t really end well and we needed more time to really come to terms with things.

Several conversations later, we came to the conclusion we should have another visit. Because we were selected as his adopted parents already, we were given the opportunity to do a series of visits with him before a decision was made. Our next visit would be one hour unsupervised which we both felt would be a much better gauge of how we felt about moving forward. On the drive up the second visit, I did most of the talking. I asked Curt to be open-minded and did more convincing that autism “isn’t that bad” because I had so much experience with it. Looking back, I wish I would’ve just trusted the process and not been so anxious to talk Curt into loving “J”. Within the following weeks, we saw God lead Curt to make the decision to adopt in a completely different way. If I could have done anything different throughout this process, I should have trusted that the Lord would work in Curt’s heart like He did in mine.

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Enjoying our first visit with “J”

Thankfully, our second visit was much better. We picked him up and took him to Chick-Fil-A because what kid doesn’t like chicken nuggets and french fries, right? During that visit we saw a new side to “J”, he started to open up a little. Although he wasn’t super interested in the nuggets and fries, he sat on my lap and snuggled into my chest while sipping on his apple juice. Remember that magical moment I was waiting for? Yeah, that was it for me. I looked at Curt from across the table and held back tears as I whispered, “Oh my gosh, I love him”.

You can find my other posts on our story with Henry and foster care here https://ourgatheredcottage.com/category/foster-care/

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  • LaDonna Sullivan

    Such a sweet story, just ripped my heart. I could practically feel the weight of your hearts after your first visit! So glad it worked out for you guys!❤❤ReplyCancel