Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

This is the Family Recipe day where two beautiful threads come together; my Amish-Mennonite heritage, and our family’s Ukrainian adoption story.

I’ll begin with the history of how Borscht would make its way into a cookbook found in my Amish grandmother’s home. It all began in the mid 1700’s, when Catherine the Great invited Europeans to “come settle various pieces of land in Russia”. Many Amish and Mennonite families responded to her offer, and moved their families to Russia and Ukraine. They lived in communities there, continuing to live out their faith, and speak their dialect of German. Both World War I and World War II brought devastation to the Anabaptist people, and thousands were granted refugee status, many moving to Canada, and some into the United States.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

As they came from the Soviet Union to North America from the early to mid 1900’s, they brought with them their Russian and Ukrainian recipes, which had become part of the “Russian Mennonite” culture.

These beloved recipes were selected to be part of the Mennonite Community Cookbook, which brings us to my family’s part of this Borscht story.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

If you’ve followed my blog, you know about our Ukrainian adoption. We first thought we would be adopting “Luba”. Although she was ultimately not the daughter we would bring home, she made an eternal imprint on our family’s heart. Her favorite food was Borscht, and I made it often during the time she spent with us!

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

The recipe I’m sharing today is a lighter version of Borscht, made with chicken broth. While we were in Ukraine we also enjoyed learning how to make Borscht with a beef or pork base, when the director of our daughter’s school there, prepared a delicious meal for us!

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

So, here it is; our family’s Borscht recipe. Enjoy!

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

My girls and I enjoy shopping for the beautiful ingredients. As with all vegetables, it’s a wonderful idea to find them at your local farmer’s market!

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

Wash the beets thoroughly, and place them in a large pot with water. Cook until tender.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

While beets are cooking, dice potatoes and onions, grate carrots and slice cabbage.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

When beets are soft, remove them from the “beet broth”, (water), and add potatoes. Cook them over medium heat.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

Grate beets, or slice into matchstick-sized pieces.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

Sauté onions and carrots in skillet with olive oil. When soft, add cabbage. Cook until cabbage is hot.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

Add all vegetables to pot with potatoes and beet-water. Add tomato purée and chicken broth. Then season. Cook for 20-30 additional minutes.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

While borscht finishes cooking, you may prepare your parsley garnish. When we were in Ukraine our hostess added minced garlic and lemon to her parsley garnish. It was delicious, and we now do the same!

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}

It’s time to enjoy your bowl of borscht! Top it with a dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle with dill and/or parsley.

Borscht {Amish Family Recipes}


  • 2 beets
  • 10 cups water
  • 6 potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 ounces tomato purée
  • 4-6 cups chicken broth
  • Dill (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Wash beets thoroughly, place in large pot with water. Cook for 1 a 1 1/2 hours, or until beets are tender.
  2. While beets are cooking, prepare other vegetables. Dice potatoes and onions, grate carrots, and slice cabbage into thin slivers.
  3. When beets are tender, remove from pan.
  4. Keep "beet broth"! Add potatoes to the beet-water, and cook over medium heat.
  5. Pour olive oil into large skillet. Add onions and carrots. Sauté until tender.
  6. Add cabbage to skillet with onions and carrots, and cook over medium heat until cabbage is hot.
  7. Grate or slice beets into matchstick size.
  8. Add cabbage, carrots, onions and beets to pot with potatoes.
  9. Add tomato purée and chicken broth, and bay leaves.
  10. Season with dill, salt and pepper.
  11. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes.
  12. Garnish with sour cream.

Sometimes You Need to Stop and Treat Your Feet {5 Relaxation Techniques from My Grandma}

Enamel Basin by Lehmans

Enamelware Basin by Lehman’s

I’ve talked much about my hardworking Amish family. But in this post I’d like to share a little something about some of my Grandma Lydia’s relaxation techniques.

First up is my favorite. After working hard in the garden or yard she often said it was time to “Treat Your Feet”. She would pull out a basin or bucket, fill it with warm water, sprinkle some Epsom Salts inside and then we’d sit down, put our feet in the bucket and relax for a while. I can’t help but smile when I think of a row of grandchildren on a bench, all sitting quietly with our feet tucked neatly in her hodgepodge collection of buckets and basins. My grandmother was brilliant! And guess what? Experts still tout the benefits of Epsom Salt foot baths today.

Playing beside Grandma's Table

My little brother Jonas, playing beside Grandma’s table

Next, there was “Warm Milk & Honey” at bedtime. Grandma would warm up a little farm milk, pour it into a special glass or mug then she helped us squeeze in a teaspoon of raw honey from the honey-bear. She let us stir it all up and then we’d sit next to her and Grandpa and sip on it slowly. I’m not sure if it was the milk & honey, or a placebo effect from the process of making & drinking it, but it worked like a charm!

Another one of her ways to relax was ReadingAfter the day’s work was done, you would often find my grandparents reading a good book, and they taught us grandchildren to do the same.

Grandma's Doily

A Doily Made by Grandma Lydia

Grandma was an avid crocheter. She especially loved creating beautiful and intricate doilies. This hobby of hers was something she loved to do in her downtime, and I believe it was one of the ways she would unwind from the stress of the day.

Last there was singing. As Grandpa and Grandma were New Order Amish, they had electricity and tape players. The tapes in their collection were those of groups who used no musical instruments. Grandma would turn on the tape-player and fill the room with quiet and beautiful acapella harmonies for us when it was time to relax. My favorite tapes at Grandma’s house were those from Gospel Express.

Grandma relaxing

Grandma relaxing outdoors with one of her grandbabies.

Next time I need to slow things down a bit, I believe I just may “Treat My Feet” and sip on some warm milk and honey. Grandma really did know best! I’d love for you to share some of your own grandparent’s relaxation techniques by commenting on this post.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number 22 in a series called “Lessons I Learned from My Amish Family. Thanks so much for following along. Click here to read more!

The Gift of Hospitality {Lessons From my Amish Family}

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

Grandma Lydia's Good Dishes

Grandma Lydia’s “Sunday Dishes”

HOSPITAL’ITY, noun [Latin hospitalitas.] The act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality. – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

When reflecting upon the valuable lessons my Amish family taught me, I have to put hospitality near the top of the list.

My grandparents welcomed guests into their home with a spirit of sincere love and generosity. Never to simply entertain or impress others, but instead to extend grace, comfort, and peace – through a delicious home cooked meal, thoughtful conversation and fellowship, lots of fun and laughter and, if needed, a comfortable bed and pillow for the night.

Mummy Stoltzfus's Visitor Dishes

The dishes my Great-Grandmother Esh (Rachel) used when family or company, visited during the week. My mother especially loved this set.

Both sets of my grandparents (Grussdaudy & Grussmommy Dienner, and Grandpa & Grandma Esh) sincerely loved having visitors in their homes, and welcomed people of many backgrounds and cultures. I very much enjoyed seeing them interact with people who were completely different from them – the most beautiful thing being their lack of judgement or pressing their own notions onto others, and the genuine interest they took in the things their guests had to say.

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”  – Henri J.M. Nouwen

Amish Table Linens

Some of my Amish grandparent’s personalized table linens, embroidered with their first initials. (“B” for Barbara, “I” for Isaac and “J” for Jonas)

My grandfathers always did whatever they could to make their guests comfortable, and my grandmothers outdid themselves in serving plenty of delicious food. There was never a lack of good conversation around the table.

“A compassionate open home is part of Christian responsibility, and should be practiced up to the level of capacity.” – Francis Schaeffer

Grussmummy's Good Dishes

My Grussmommy “Barbara’s” Good Dishes

Amish women may not prepare recipes from the pages of Bon Appetit, but their food is wholesome and delicious, and many times uses ingredients from their own gardens, orchards and pastures. They take great joy in preparing a beautiful spread for their guests, and will often bring out their “good dishes” when there is “company” sitting around their table.

Hospitality has never been about having House Beautiful with perfectly coordinated accessories and the most up-to-date equipment, nor is it dependent upon having large chunks of leisure time and a big entertainment budget to spend, nor does it require special training in the culinary arts or event planning. Hospitality is about a heart for service, the creativity to stretch whatever we do have available, and the energy to give the time necessary to add a flourish to the ordinary events of life. ~Dorothy Kelley Patterson

Grussmommy's mother Annie's Sunday Dishes

My great-grandmother Annie’s Sunday Dishes (She was my Grussmommy Barbara’s mother)

The culture of hospitality in the Amish community is cultivated by their intentional living style. The lack of “normal” modern hurriedness creates a space where there is time to simply enjoy being together – sharing, food, life, ideas, stories, and a place to put your feet up for a while.

“Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant and I use it as He desires.” Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.” – Karen B. Mains

Grussmommy's Grandmother's , Mrs. Jonas (Catherine) Stoltzfus

These dishes belonged to Grussmommy’s Grandmother’s , Mrs. Jonas (Catherine) Stoltzfus – (My great-great grandmother)

I love the lessons my grandparents taught me about hospitality. Most of all that serving our fellow man is a privileged act of respecting others, and worshipping God.

“A life of hospitality begins in worship, with a recognition of God’s grace and generosity. Hospitality is not first a duty and responsibility; it is first a response of love and gratitude for God’s love and welcome to us.” –  Christine Pohl

In closing I share one more quote – one that perfectly encapsulates the way I felt when I visited the homes of my Amish grandparents. May the same be said of our homes, by all guests who stop and spend time under our roofs:

“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.’ Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.” –  J.R.R. Tolkien

~ Justina Dee

This post is from a series I’m sharing called “Lessons from My Amish Family”. Click here to read more! 

One last quote on hospitality:

“There is a huge difference between “entertaining” and offering hospitality. Entertaining puts the emphasis on you and how you can impress others. Offering hospitality puts the emphasis on others and strives to meet their physical and spiritual needs so that they feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home.” – Karen Ehman

7 Things Every Amish Girl Knows How to Do

Amish Girls Holding Hands

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

It wasn’t until I was about 10 years old that I realized not every girl has the privilege of learning the homemaking skills I took for granted. My Mama wanted to share the things she knew with her daughters, and she enjoyed teaching us all she could. As a grown woman, I couldn’t be more thankful for the skill set she gave me! So, with no further ado, here are 7 (of the many) things every Amish girl knows how to do.

1) Wash Dishes

When I say wash dishes, I don’t mean just rinse them and put them in the dishwasher to unload the next morning. I’m talking wash cups, dishes, silverware, serving dishes, pots, pans, bowls, containers, cooking utensils, (you get the picture)…ALL by hand. And then you rinse the dishes, dry them, and put them away. Washing dishes the old-fashioned way is much better when working as a team. In fact, when there are lots of dishes (as is usually the case in an Amish home), it’s best when there at least five people to help with the chore. One person preps the dishes, one washes, one rinses, one dries and one puts them away. My Grandma said a girl is ready to get married when she can wash dishes fast enough to keep up with at least three people drying them.

Speaking of marriage preparedness: In addition to washing dishes at break-neck speed, Grandma said you had to be able to roll out your homemade pie crust in a perfect circle. Which leads us to skill number two:

2) Bake Pies

Amish girls learn early on how to make beautiful pies of all kinds. Apple Pie, Peach Pie, Custard Pie, Crumb Pies, Pecan Pie, Cherry Pie and many more. My Grandpa’s favorite was Shoofly pie, and Grandma always had one on hand. In addition to pies, they can make lovely bread from scratch and their cookies and cakes are marvelous. Holidays are an amazing culinary experience in an Amish home!

Making Chow Chow at Grandma's House

(Yours Truly) Making Chow Chow at Grandma’s House

3) Can & Preserve 

Applesauce, peaches, pears and cherries. Apple butter, pear butter,  jellies, jams and preserves. Grape juice and grape mush. Tomatoes, pickles, relish, beets,  ketchup and chow-chow. When it comes to canning and preserving, the Amish kitchen is unmatched in experience and expertise. Families have recipes and techniques they’ve passed down for generations. Their pantries and can shelves are a beautiful sight! My great-grandmother Fannie Stoltzfus enjoyed beautifying her canning shelves with delicate edging designed from folded newspaper. 

Little Seamstress

Sewing on my Mama’s machine at six years old

4) Sew & Quilt

Because the Amish make all their clothes (including boys and mens pants and shirts!), little girls quickly gain lots of experience in sewing. In addition, they learn beautiful embroidery skills, how to quilt and often how to knit and crochet as well. As a little girl I loved the adventure of going to the fabric store with Grandma! My favorite place was the second story of “Farmer Brown’s Market”, which was filled to the brim with all varieties of material for any kind of sewing project.

Amish Family

Amish Family | Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron

5) Hospitality & Cooking for Crowds

Amish homes are some of the most hospitable and welcoming spots on the planet. They’re always ready to accommodate their guests with delicious food – and plenty of it. Amish girls don’t just know how to quickly present a hearty meal (of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, homemade bread with butter & jelly, applesauce, and chocolate cake with some canned peaches for dessert), they can make this meal for a whole crowd of visitors!

Working in the Garden

Working in the Garden | Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron

6) Gardening & Yardwork

There’s something very special about working with the land, and Amish girls are talented gardeners. They grow much of their family’s food supply, then harvest and preserve it. Little girls help their mothers in the garden and learn how to plant and care for the family’s vegetable garden. In addition, many Amish girls enjoy doing yard work, and find great delight in creating a beautiful landscape for their family and friends to enjoy. Their yards are a picture of perfection.

My Grandma Esh working in her garden, in Lancaster County, PA

My Grandma Esh working in her garden, in Lancaster County, PA. We spent many happy hours helping her pick raspberries, harvest potatoes and gather asparagus. My parents now live on this property, and continue to maintain a beautiful garden!

Buggy Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Buggy Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

7) Drive a Buggy & Care for the Farm Animals

Men aren’t the only ones who drive those familiar buggies. Amish girls can handle the reigns too! They’re also very familiar with the inside of a barn, and know how to beautifully care for their livestock, run the farmyard and help in the fields. I only pretended to drive the buggy when it was parked in Grussdaudy’s barn, but I had plenty of experience in the barn when we visited Grandpa Esh’s farm. My favorite chores were bottle feeding the calves and helping with the milking.

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Amish girls may not be experts in pop culture, current fashion trends or fads. They may not have a clue whose songs are playing on top 40 radio, or what movies are in the theater. But I dare say the things Amish girls learn and know are far more beneficial to society (as they grow older and have influence of their own) than we give them credit for! I’m so happy I had a family who taught me these valuable skills that I use every day.

Thanks so much for following along as I share things I learned from my Amish Family here on my blog series 31 days of lessons from my Amish family! I’m having a great time reminiscing and reflecting, and it’s a joy to have you join me here.

~ Justina Dee


Life Without Electricity, Cars & Phone {How DO the Amish Do It?}

It’s remarkable to think that only one hundred year ago most people lived like the Amish do now – with no electricity, cars or telephone. Did you ever think about the fact that my Amish relatives didn’t appear so “quaint” back then? Things started to look a lot different between the Amish way of life and mainstream American culture in the early 1900’s, when the Amish people decided they would not join the power grid.

Spending time with my grandparents was an adventure, and I’d like to give you a peek into the way they lived without the things we feel are essential to everyday life!

The Amish and Technology

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

There’s a secret I want you to know and it’s this: the Amish people are full of ingenuity, creativity and enterprise, and they are certainly not living in the dark ages. Spend a day with them and you’ll realize there’s nothing lacking in their lives. Many of them use things such as wind and solar technology to power their daily living.

The Amish & Minimalism

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

If you were to make your way around the home of my Amish grandparents here are some of the things you’d see: (Note – there are many more advanced non-electric product options now available for most of these items, I’m just sharing the way I remember things at my Grussdaudy’s house.)

In the main living area was Grussmommy’s treadle sewing machine. These days there are much more advanced versions of non-electric sewing machines on the market for seamstresses! There were no light switches & fixtures, but instead gas lamps hanging from the ceiling, and glass kerosene lamps that were carried from room to room at night. We also used flashlights & battery-powered lanterns. There was no vacuum cleaner, but as their house had no carpet but only area rugs, a broom & dustpan, and good rug-shakings outside did the trick! My grandparents obviously had no TV, but instead entertained themselves and kept up to date with the news through books and newspapers.

“Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.” ~ Richie Norton

My grandparents had a gas refrigerator in the kitchen. There was no microwave, so planning meals ahead of time was always important. My Grussmommy used a handheld egg beater instead of a Kitchen Aid, and a potato ricer when mashing potatoes. There was no blender to be found in her kitchen, but a lack of such things never prevented her from preparing delicious meals! When making breakfast, toast was made in the oven, not a toaster. As my Grandparent’s home was in the Northeast, they had a cold cellar which provided cool storage space for vegetables, cheese, eggs and canned goods. I think my cupboards which are filled with all the gadgets and small appliances found in most modern kitchens would benefit greatly from paring back & minimizing things – and I sure wish I has a cold cellar like hers.

“We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply ous cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties.” ~ Anna C. Brackett

When grandchildren came to visit, there were plenty of toys to play with. Lincoln Logs, building blocks, small farm animals and games like “Dutch Blitz” & “Uno”. There were coloring books & crayons, puzzles, storybooks, and (the favorite for all of us), the marble roller, which provided hours of entertainment.

My grandparents used an old-fashioned style push-reel lawnmower, and hand-held “trimmers” for all the edging. And in Grussdaudy’s wood shop were compressed air and a diesel engine to power his tools. My grandfather  had a “phone shanty” outside the wood shop, away from the house, used for business calls, occasional communication with family outside the area, and of course emergencies.  And of course there was the horse and buggy for transportation. Trips away from home were always intentional and needed. You can draw the obvious conclusion that this forces families to interact more than the average “modern” household.

As we live outside of Houston, there is much talk of preparedness every year during hurricane season . The year “Ike” hit, we were without power for over a week. I was amazed at all the survival skills I “inherited” from my grandparents, and was again reminded what a treasure it is to know how to run a household without the usual niceties. I’ve always been thankful for the way my Amish grandparents demonstrated the ability to not only survive without depending on the grid as most of us do, but (through their hard work and ingenuity) live well and thrive, in both their home and business. So just how did my Amish grandparents live without electricity, phones and cars? I would say they did just fine! As the matter of fact, at times I wish I’d have the courage to do things a little more like them.

~ Justina Dee

This is post 15 of a 31 day series I’m blogging about my Amish family. Click here to read more!

Interesting Links:

Lehman’s Online Amish Store

Huffington Post: Myths About the Amish, by Kraybill

A difference between how Amish & “Minimites” use technology

DayOStar – an Amish-owned lighting company

The Amish & Technology

Amish Enterprise

Off Grid News post on the Amish

The Iowa Source – “Sustainable Amish”


Simplicity & Order {The Rhythms of an Amish Life}


Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus. ~ Ann Voskamp | #write31days #31AmishDays

Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron

I often hear myself and others saying “I wish life would just slow down. Everything’s just so complicated and chaotic.”

It’s one thing for us to decelerate life while on vacation. But freeing our lives of tumult and clamor in the everyday – that is entirely another story, and it can be exceedingly difficult to accomplish.

But if there’s anything thing the Amish people do abundantly well, it’s this. They’re masters of the rhythm of a simple and orderly life.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – E.F. Schumacher

Can you remember the last time you spent the day in a place still and quiet enough to hear the grandfather clock chime every hour, and the clip-clop of horses hooves on the road as a buggy passed by? Have you ever sat down at the kitchen table with your family to savor a home cooked meal for breakfast, lunch AND dinner every single day of the week? Or enjoyed the beauty of talking with your spouse, family or friends for the evening, without television, internet or telephone stealing away your focus from the people you love and care for? My Amish family can answer any of those questions with a hearty “yes”.

The goal is not to live poorly but to live richly in the things that really matter. | #write31days #31AmishDays

Photo credit Kathryn Dienner

So how do they do it?

Simplicity begets order. Take away the “need” and the desire to keep step with modern society, and things begin to look very different.

Simplifying life requires deep conviction, firm resolve, unyielding discipline, strength of character, and a decision to live intentionally. When these things are in place, we won’t be tossed to and fro with every gust of societal wind that blows our way.

Through their intentional lifestyle, the Amish people have removed the beast of consumerism from their homes and lives. And as a result, things are simplified and there is capacity for order.

Today, I want to learn from my Amish family by thinking about one step I can take in the direction of intentional living, and then act upon it.

~ Justina Dee

Thank you for joining me as I join the #Write31Days challenge, and share things I’ve learned from my Amish family. You can read other posts in my series by clicking here. 

Special thanks to Julie Lea Waldron and Kathryn Dienner for the beautiful photos from Lancaster County, PA!

Link: Thoughts from James Watkins on Living Simply & Richly 

The Reason I Won’t Quit Working Out

Why I Won't Quit Working OutI’ve been a personal trainer for nearly two decades, and serviced thousands of client sessions. People exercise for countless worthy reasons. To lose weight, lower blood pressure, gain strength, rehab an injury, train for a sport, look better in their clothes, increase their energy, lower their stress level…you get the idea.

As I’ve worked with clients in gyms and home workout rooms, I’ve had the privilege of training men & women I call “lifers”. These are the rare kinds of people who have learned to prioritize exercise in such a way that they never quit. Every minute of their schedules are packed full. They have no more hours in a day than anyone else on the planet, and they have more responsibilities than most. Yes, they may have an illness or injury that sets them back, or a family emergency which prevents them from sticking to their normal routine, but in spite of any obstacle, they continue to stay active. Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. These people astound me, and they provoke me to action. In watching and talking with them, I’ve learned they all have a big reason to work out. And whatever that reason may be, it is of such importance and purpose to them that it keeps them on track even on the days when they don’t feel like exercising.

Short term goals are magnificent. And quite necessary. But when they’re met (or NOT met), we tend to fall off the workout wagon. In order to stick with this thing we call exercise for the long-term, we must have a “WHY I’m exercising” that’s bigger than our “why I shouldn’t exercise”.

I challenge you to begin thinking about your “WHY”. And if you’d like a bit of fuel for your thoughts, here’s mine.

Our parents gave my siblings and me the delightful and rare opportunity of growing up on a little farm in East Texas. We were unusually active. We played and formed dams in the creek, built forts from scrap lumber, climbed trees and played kickball. We went horseback riding and walked, rode our bikes and raced down the long, 1/2 mile lane to our mailbox and back everyday. But there was one activity in particular that stands out in my mind, and has been a life-long inspiration of mine.

That strong recollection is of a man we called Grandpa Thomas. He was the ninety year old great grandfather of the neighbor kids who lived across the pasture, and he came from his home in Chicago to visit them every year.

I was accustomed to seeing people who were advanced in their years using canes, in wheelchairs, and even bedridden. Many of them were being cared for by family, or they were in nursing homes as their health had deteriorated to the point that their children & grandchildren could no longer care for them.

But 90 year old Grandpa Thomas shattered my definition of an “old man”.

He could do flips on a trampoline. He could speak several languages. (I still have the paper on which he wrote my name in Mandarin.) He went swimming and loved to dive off the HIGH dive. And when this remarkable, spunky man came to visit his great-grandchildren, he took them – and all of us neighbor kids – on long, exhausting hikes through the woods and outdoors. In fact, he would wear US out and he still had plenty of energy.

What a shocking contrast: Grandpa Thomas vs. the average person who was advanced in years. As a girl, I aspired to be like him when I was a great-grandmother some day, and be the one who was taking care of their great-grandchildren, instead of the other way around.

Deep inside of me there was (and remains) a God-given desire to serve others. And I believe a part of being equipped to help others is to be physically ready for whatever opportunities present themselves. If I am called to a remote part of the world, I want to be able to say “yes” and go, with no worry of not being fit enough for the task. Should a day come where caring for someone in need requires hard physical labor, I want to be strong enough to be able to do it. If danger presents itself and I need to run, I want to be able to run! Or if there is a rescue mission or emergency situation at hand, I want to be a person that is able to jump right in and help.

This is a real and broken world, and I know that circumstances and health problems arise which can prevent the ability to stay active and mobile. There are things that happen which are out of our control. And should a day like that come to my life, I will ask God for the strength of character to handle it beautifully and gracefully in a way that brings glory to Him.

In the meantime, my health and strength is a direct reflection of the choices I make. At times I have short-term fitness goals that are fun and rewarding to reach. But my long term goal is what fuels my passion for staying in shape. For me, exercise is about something greater than myself. And that is the reason I keep going.

I hope you’re able to find a “WHY” that’s large and beautiful enough to keep you going, even on the days you’d rather not move. Whether it’s helping your family build good habits, keeping your body healthy and strong in order to prevent disease, or to be like Grandpa Thomas someday, I know that when you discover that big reason, it will help you to have the courage and discipline to do what’s necessary to reach your goal.

Healthy blessings to you,

~ Justina Dee


Homemade Laundering Soap {Hand Selected Scents}

Laundry Soap Ingredients

A few months ago I shared a post about tackling the dragon in my life called LAUNDRY. I’ve discovered one reason this chore didn’t excite me. You see, I enjoy creativity, beauty and special moments. And although doing laundry certainly adds many desirable things to anyone’s character, it didn’t ignite the “artsy” side of me. So, it was boring.

Enter; Homemade Laundry Soap! Why do I get excited about this? Because I can create my very own, exclusive, hand selected laundering concoctions. For the 20 minutes or so that it takes to create this loveliness we call laundry detergent, my kitchen transforms into a perfume maker’s chemistry lab of creativity and scented delight. The excitement carries over into my laundry routine, as I can’t help but smell the soap and smile every time I wash a load of dirty clothes, linens or towels! And the bonus is a giant savings over supermarket “natural” detergents.

Laundry Soap Supplies

I modified a basic recipe I found on Pinterest, sourced from “The Frugal Girls”. I purchased a canning kettle which I use exclusively for laundry soap making, and then I store all my supplies in it when I’m finished. This recipe makes 2 gallons of beautiful, fresh, delicious-smelling homemade laundering soap. *Note I use this in my front-loading washing machine, and works beautifully.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundering Soap Recipe

1/2 bar castile soap, grated

1/2 cup borax

1/2 cup washing soda

Water: 6 cups hot water, then 6 cups hot water, then 1 gallon + 6 cups cold water


Grate your soap, place into large pot and combine with 6 cups hot water (from the faucet). Stir and heat until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and add washing soda and borax. Keep this mixture on the stove (low to medium heat) for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. After 5 minutes, turn off the burner. Add 4 cups hot water. Stir. Then add 1 gallon plus 6 cups cold water. Place in empty laundry detergent containers, a bucket, or you can do as I did, and purchase your very own special gallon jugs. Your laundering soap will thicken into a gel-like consistency in about 24 hours. That’s it! You made your own laundry soap. We use 1/2 cup per load, always shaking well before each use. 

Now comes the fun part; adding scents!

Homemade Laundering Soap

Our favorite are “Lavender & Rose”, and “Melaleuca & Citrus”.

For the first, I add 25 drops each of Lavender essential oil and 50 drops of Rosewater essential oil to one gallon of laundering soap. I also like to add a few drops of  Young Living’s “Thieves” essential oil. For the second, I use 25 drops each of Melaleuca (Tea Tree) essential oil, Lemon essential oil and Grapefruit essential oil per gallon. I also add “Thieves” to this mixture. Then I label the gallon container, and make sure to shake well before each use. (Note: I also experiment with different scents of castile bar soap. My favorites are Lavender, Tea Tree and Citrus.) There are many great brands and scents when it comes to essential oils, and you can certainly experiment with your own likes, preferences and ideas. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do.

Happy Laundering!

~ Justina Dee