DIY All-Natural Sensory Play Dough

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
Play dough is such a great learning activity for toddlers. Unfortunately, I am allergic to a lot of artificial dyes, and it appears that little E is allergic to some as well. I wanted to make him some homemade play dough with natural coloring so that he could play with it without any problems with allergic reactions. I used to buy natural food colors at Sur La Table (for cupcake frosting, etc.), but they have not restocked them in a really long time. Every time I asked about them, they just suggested that I order them online. I felt silly paying for shipping for something so small. Then I realized that the same natural food colors are available on Amazon.com, and they come with free shipping with our Prime membership (I cannot say enough good things about how much I absolutely love having that Amazon Prime membership…I use it for so many things)!

I was quite excited to get started with making some homemade play dough! I thought it would be even more fun to make a bunch of different scents with the dough, enhancing the sensory experience.

Here is the recipe I used:

2 cups flower
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup sea salt

1. Mix all of the ingredients above into a pot on the stove, over medium-low heat.
2. Cook while stirring frequently, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.
3. Let mixture cool, then divide into 6 equal sized chunks.
4. Each chunk of dough got a different color and scent for a fun, sensory experience. I kneaded 3-5 drops of food coloring and 3 drops of essential oil into each chunk of dough.

Here are the color/scent combos that I used:
1. purple – doTERRA lavender essential oil
2. yellow – doTERRA lemon essential oil
3. pink – rose essential oil (purchased at Sprouts since doTERRA does not currently sell rose oil)
4. greenish blue – peppermint doTERRA essential oil
5. green – oregano doTERRA essential oil
6. orange – 1 pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg, to smell like pumpkin pie

Between uses, each ball of dough is stored in its own ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.

*Important safety warning: Since this recipe contains a significant amount of salt, do not let your child play with the play dough around dogs. Salt is toxic to dogs, and most dogs love to eat anything they can get their paws on. Our dogs are especially good at making sad puppy dog eyes at our son, manipulating him into giving them whatever they want, even when they are locked out of the room behind a baby gate. When our son is having sensory dough time, I lock our dogs outside or in one of our bedrooms. One of our dogs has tried a few times now to get E to give him the dough.

E’s favorite scents are the three that he is most familiar with from our garden: lavender, lemon, and rose. The oregano and pumpkin pie scented doughs are not his favorite…sometimes he is in the mood for those, other times those two get pushed away. Here is a funny video of him having so much fun smelling his dough. 🙂

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

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Wellness Wednesday: Vegan Cold & Flu Blast Soup Recipe

Vegan Cold & Flu Blast Soup - aliciainwonderlandblog

I have been making this soup for years and it has always helped me recover from a cold or flu in a hurry. It was inspired by some of the advice my grandpa used to give when we were sick as kids (my grandpa was a D.O. and an M.D. and preferred to find more natural solutions for illness when possible, instead of taking things like cold medicine). Every time I have gotten sick in the past few years, I have asked my husband to go on my blog, find the recipe and make me some soup. I realized that I have never properly blogged the recipe, and the last thing I ever want to do when I am sick is stand in the kitchen and cook. When I got a particularly nasty cough/cold last week, I made a huge batch of this soup again. This time, I saved some in the freezer and made sure to get a picture so I can finally blog the recipe. 🙂

Ingredients (preferably all organic):
1 head of garlic cloves
2 yellow onions
3 lemons
approximate 3 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
4 carrots
2 bell peppers, varying colors
3 long pieces of celery
2 cans of cooked chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
1 package of mushrooms
4 tomatoes
leeks (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
water

1. Peel and finely dice all of the cloves of garlic on a head of garlic. I know it sounds like a lot of garlic, but this makes a lot of soup and garlic is great for beating viruses.
2. Peel and chop onions.
3. Place onions and garlic in bottom of large stock pot. Add olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until lightly caramelized.
4. Juice the lemons, and put lemon juice in pot, along with lemon rinds.
5. Drain cans of beans and add to pot.
6. Add whole piece of peeled ginger to pot.
7. Chop all remaining vegetables and add to pot. Fill up remainder of stock pot with water, and cook on medium heat until vegetables are cooked through (check carrots for softness).
8. Once vegetables are all cooked, remove lemon rinds and ginger from soup. Add additional salt & pepper to taste, and serve.

This recipe will make quite a few servings, probably at least 8-10 servings, which is great for a few days of servings, and freezing some for another time. I like to make sure all of the ingredients are organic so there aren’t any extra toxins for your body to cleanse out while getting rid of the virus in your system. This is a great vegan, gluten-free alternative to homemade chicken noodle soup! It should have you feeling better in no time and it tastes great. If you want to be super organized this fall and winter, why not make a batch now, put it in servings in the freezer, and that way you are already prepared for cold & flu season!

How Huggies “Natural Care” Wipes Burned My Son’s Skin

I have very sensitive skin. I know many of our friends and family probably thought I was being a bit nuts when everything on our baby registry was organic and for sensitive skin, but I knew there was a good chance that our baby would end up with sensitive skin like mine. So far, we have been very lucky that he hasn’t had too many strong reactions to anything we have used on him. Normally, we always use Earth’s Best Organic Chlorine Free Wipes for diaper changes (found here), and we have never had any problems. Recently, my husband noticed that we were running low on wipes in the diaper bag and picked up something at the grocery store. Since they didn’t carry Earth’s Best at that grocery store, he figured Huggies “Natural Care” wipes would be an okay option (they claim to be natural after all).

After using them a couple of times, I suddenly noticed a horrible rash all over our son’s crotch and thighs, everywhere I had used the wipes during a diaper change. It was diaper rash to the extreme, except it extended far beyond the reach of the diaper (we had a couple of pretty messy diaper changes that involved lots of wiping). By the next day, the rash had become raw and scabby. Whatever chemicals were in the wipes had literally burnt off his skin. Yesterday was absolutely awful…I wanted to get a picture of how bad it was, but that was impossible with the way he was wriggling and screaming from the afternoon all the way until bed time.

I am a huge proponent of natural health care and remedies, and have been making my own herbal remedies for us and our pets for years now. I am going to start a new series of blog posts about my recent journey into expanding my herbal remedy arsenal for our family’s health care. I happened to have just received my new shipment of dōTERRA essential oils yesterday, so I immediately started adding a few of the oils into the lineup to treat E’s raw, irritated skin. Within 24 hours, he is doing so much better. His skin has started healing up a lot. There is still a little bit of scabby area left, but yesterday his entire inner thigh looked raw like the small raw bit in the photo below.

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This is the arsenal of supplies that I have been using on his skin:
California Baby Calendula Cream (this is what I usually use if he has any diaper rash), Burts Bees Res-Q Ointment (has comfrey as the main ingredient, which is great for soothing and healing all kinds of bumps, scrapes, bug bites, etc.), fresh aloe vera, dōTERRA Lavender essential oil (for soothing the skin), dōTERRA Melaluca essential oil (for its cleansing and antibiotic properties), and dōTERRA Frankincense essential oil (for its healing properties).
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I have used lavender essential oil for many things over the years, but I started getting disgusted by the chemical processes most companies use to extract the essential oils. Most essential oils that you find in stores are actually extracted through chemical processes instead of steam or pressure extraction. Instead of getting a concentrated version of a plant with healing abilities, you end up with a concentrated amount of toxins. I discovered dōTERRA essential oils, and have become enthralled with the company the more I learn about them. They only use organic herbs and produce for their essential oils, and the oils are never extracted by chemical means. You know that you are getting the purest form of the plant essence available. I am really excited to start documenting our family’s journey with using dōTERRA essential oils, as well as some new fresh medicinal herbs that I recently added to my herb garden. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Some of the issues we have been tackling lately with herbal remedies (and will be coming to the blog soon) include extreme teething (getting the first set of molars), bug bites and prevention, digestive problems with one of our dogs and one of our cats, my journey with finding natural remedies for my severe and chronic muscle, bone, ligament, and arthritis pain, and other issues as well. For more information on dōTERRA, click here.

*Update: After I published this post, a friend sent me this news article link. Sadly, this is quite a common reaction to wipes in general. Be sure to check the ingredients on the wipes you use or make your own! The Earth’s Best wipes that we use thankfully do not have the chemicals that the article mentioned, which is why our son never had this problem before.

Valentine’s Day at the Queen Mary with Ehrmann Mixim Launch Party

Last week for Valentine’s Day, we had the honor of attending the Ehrmann Mixim Greek Yogurt launch party on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. The Queen Mary was transformed into the Love Boat for the event, all lit up in pink. After growing up in the Long Beach area, I have been to the Queen Mary many times in my life and I have never seen her look so beautiful as she looked all dressed up in pink!

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We started off the night in style on the pink carpet! So fun. 🙂
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Then we were brought up to the VIP lounge, where the tastings were held.

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If you read my blog regularly, you know that I have had to unfortunately cut dairy out of my diet temporarily while I am breastfeeding our baby since he was having an allergic reaction to cow’s milk proteins, even via my milk. We are hoping that this will only be temporary! So, until I can have dairy again, my husband was more than happy to be my taste tester. 🙂

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I actually remember that when we were on our vacation in Germany a few years ago, Ehrmann yogurts were part of our picnic lunches that we were packing up on most days (Ehrmann is a family owned company from Germany). It is so exciting to see them launch here in the U.S. My husband absolutely LOVED the Mixim yogurt! He said it was smooth and creamy, and not tart like some other Greek yogurts he has tried. We loved that there are two options for the toppings, each in their own individual compartments in the adorable heart shaped containers. I am allergic to artificial food dyes, so I was really happy that there are no dyes in any of the toppings! Before our son was born, I used to get so frustrated with constantly checking for artificial dyes in yogurt ingredients. Thanks for keeping things natural and healthy, Ehrmann!

For any fellow photographers who may be reading this…don’t freak out that something is wrong with the white balance of my photos. 🙂 The VIP lounge was all lit up with these pink lights, making it fun and festive.

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Later in the evening, Ehrmann made a donation to the Children’s Heart Foundation, $1 for every photo that was uploaded to social media with the hashtag #miximlove. I loved that they picked a great charity to help with this event!

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My silly guys had fun playing around with the Mixim staff with the lit up heart balloons! 🙂
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And then, the cutest thing happened! Recently, I did a birthday photoshoot for this adorable little baby girl, who is the daughter of my good friend. My baby boy E came along for the photoshoot and fell madly in love with the little girl that day, as you can see below (more at www.apluscphotography.com). 🙂

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My friend saw my posts that we would be attending and told me that they were going to come to the party as well. When I saw how many people were at the party, I thought there was no way that E was going to find his new little girlfriend for his first Valentine’s date. As luck would have it, as soon as we went down on the main deck for the Guinness World Record event, we ran into our friends! E was pretty excited that he got to spend Valentine’s Day with his new girlfriend. 🙂

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E was not too thrilled that she kept trying to steal his hat. He had to explain to her that they aren’t married yet so the whole “what’s mine is yours” thing doesn’t quite apply yet. 😉

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All of the couples at the event participated in a new Guinness World Record, of the most couples simultaneously feeding each other. 🙂 It was such a fun thing to participate in!

After the tasting, a Journey cover band, DSB, played. The music was great and some amazing fireworks followed the concert.

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E was in awe of the heart shaped fireworks. 🙂

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The party was so much fun! Definitely the best Valentine’s Day I have ever had. I was so happy that I got to go to such a fun event with my two handsome dates. The fireworks show even finished with my favorite song by Heart. 🙂

After the party was over, we decided to walk around the ship a bit. E is quite a night owl like his parents. The boys had fun playing some video games.

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Then they goofed around a bit inside a giant bell on the ship. 🙂

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Definitely a night to remember!
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Thanks so much for having us, Ehrmann! I can’t wait to be able to eat dairy again! Ehrmann Mixim’s six flavor combos can be found now in California, Arizona and Nevada in retailers such as Albertsons, Bashas and Safeway. For more information on Mixim, visit the Ehrmann website: http://www.ehrmann-usa.com/. You can also find them at the following links!
• Ehrmann MIXIM Love Boat Event Page: http://bit.ly/1f8bgQC
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/EhrmannUSA
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EhrmannUSA
• Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/ehrmannusa/
• Instagram: http://instagram.com/ehrmannusa/
• Valentine’s Day Sweepstakes:  http://tinyurl.com/psq3b87

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*This is a sponsored post.

My Guide to a Healthy, Toxin-Free Pregnancy

Alicia in Wonderland Blog - My Guide To a Healthy, Toxin-Free Pregnancy

If you read my previous post about my full pregnancy journey (seen here), you already know that it has not been easy for us to become parents. Since I knew that things would be difficult for me, I started early adjusting my lifestyle choices to try to get myself as healthy as possible to try to better my odds of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. The most important thing that I adjusted was with what we were eating. While I have pretty much always eaten healthy, I took extra efforts to eliminate toxins from our diet, keeping it as organic as possible.

There are a million articles out there of things you should avoid while pregnant. To err on the side of caution, I eliminated anything that may be potentially hazardous while pregnant. I did a lot of reading, and put together my own master list of things to avoid. Here is my own list of things that I eliminated throughout the course of my pregnancy to try to ensure the healthiest possible outcome for our baby.

1. The obvious things like sushi & alcohol. I even limited myself to only consuming the host when going to Communion at mass (during the phases of my pregnancy when I was allowed to attend mass).
2. Cheeses made from raw milk (I know there is some debate on this issue, but again, I didn’t want to take any chances).
3. Soft and unpasteurized cheeses (e.g. brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese, and Mexican-style cheeses).
4. Coffee, soda & other sources of caffeine. Once I started developing issues with my heart later in the pregnancy, I even had to completely cut out chocolate per my doctor’s advice.
5. Any foods with nitrates (e.g. lunch meats, hot dogs, etc.).
6. Any high mercury seafood.
7. Any raw seafood such as lox.
8. Eliminated sugar as much as possible.
9.  GMO’s and fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides, etc. I continuously snacked on organic fruit and veggies (made easier since much of it was growing in our garden).
10. Canned foods (since these contain BPA).
11. Water in plastic bottles (I started carrying around my stainless steel water bottle everywhere I go).
12. Food with large amounts of preservatives and additives.
13. Anything with MSG.
14. Any food with any artificial coloring. I am allergic to red food dye, and figured I might as well eliminate the others as well.
15. Processed and bleached starch options (e.g. white bread, white flour tortillas, etc.) – replaced with whole grain alternatives.
16. Any artificial sweeteners. I haven’t read anything in specific showing any issues that these might cause with pregnancy, but with my goal to cut out anything that isn’t natural and healthy, I eliminated these as well.

In addition to eliminating certain types of foods, I also eliminated a number of things in my beauty routine as well.
17. Any skin care products with salicylic acid.
18. Any skin care products with retinols.
19. Standard perfumes (since these contain surprisingly high levels of formaldehyde).
20. Standard sunscreens – replaced with natural, paba free versions without lots of chemicals.
21. My regular facial moisturizer – replaced with a natural version with SPF 30.
22. Standard nail polish and remover – replaced with natural versions without acetone, formaldehyde, or other strong chemicals.
23. All over hair dye.
24. Any of my “fancy” lotions – replaced with lotions with natural and organic ingredients, all paraben and phthalate free.
25. Any self tanners. Even though I wasn’t going anywhere most of the pregnancy, I was tempted to use some on a couple of occasions but refrained. After months of only getting sun exposure through a window, I have never been so pale and pasty in my life! I haven’t specifically read anything discouraging the use of these, but again…why bother with any extra unnecessary chemicals going into your system?
26. Any “regular” makeup – replaced with natural and mineral products (although most days I just went without makeup anyway).
27. Any whitening toothpaste or tooth whitening products.
28. Basically any other products with any artificial scents, etc. That was also largely driven by my sudden super sensitive sense of smell and never-ending morning sickness. Even the pets had to switch to hair care products without lots of artificial scents. 🙂

Also, this was already part of my normal routine, but if it hadn’t been, I would have switched out to all natural cleaning products as well. You can read more about my eco-friendly cleaning routine here. I also started myself on organic prenatal vitamins with probiotics and herbal supplements long before I got pregnant, as well as some DHA supplements as well. Also something I had been doing anyway…we made sure any paints being used in our house were zero VOC paints.

I am not trying to encourage paranoia about what you should or should not do while pregnant, nor am I trying to pass judgment on anyone who does not avoid everything on my extensive list while pregnant. I instituted these changes in order to feel as healthy as possible, and feel confident that I am giving this baby the best possible start to his life that I can.

Our Favorite Hybrid Diapering System: Gdiapers

When I was pregnant, I started looking into various cloth diaper brands. It saddens me to read how many regular diapers go into landfills each year, and my husband and I just could not stand the thought of being a contributor to that problem. I was a little overwhelmed by all of the different options out there and wasn’t sure how the whole concept would work for us. All of the babies that I used to babysit used only disposables, so cloth diapering was totally new to me. When my dad said that he would not do cloth diapers if my parents were babysitting E, I started looking into a hybrid diaper system. I discovered Gdiapers, and am so pleased with how they have been working for us.

We initially started with the Gdiapers newborn bundle, and I figured we would see how things went with that and one package of the cloth inserts before we invested too much more in the whole system. My initial plan was to start off using the biodegradable inserts and the cloth inserts once we returned home from the hospital and see what worked best for us. When we returned home from the hospital and I could not walk for a while without my crutches, we decided to just buy a couple of packages of regular disposable diapers like we had been given in the hospital for the time being, putting off the cloth diapers for later.  One night when we realized we were down to our last few disposable diapers, and all of the grocery stores were closed, I told my husband that we were going to start using the Gdiapers instead, despite everything else that was going on. I love the freedom that cloth diapers provide…no panicking when you are running low on diapers and the stores are closed. All you have to do is start a load of laundry and you are all set.

We quickly realized that we much preferred the Gdiapers over the regular disposable diapers anyway. The disposables we were using were leaking everywhere and just did not seem to hold enough. They were also starting to irritate his skin, despite being from a “natural” line of diapers. The newborn diaper shells are a little different than the ones shown below; the snap in liner is sewn into the diaper shell. Our baby quickly outgrew those and moved into the size small, shown below.

When I was researching Gdiapers online, it all seemed a little confusing to me at first. It seemed like there were a lot of things we would need to purchase to use the system. I decided to put together a step-by-step breakdown of how we use them, hopefully helping anyone else considering trying out cloth diapering.

Below: The various components we use. You don’t have to go with cloth and biodegradable inserts. You could use one or the other, but I like having both as an option for different times. We use the biodegradable inserts when we are out running errands since they absorb more, are less bulky in the diaper bag, and can be thrown away in a trash can. We also use the biodegradable inserts before bedtime at night since they hold more and we don’t wake up with the baby in a puddle of wetness. We use the cloth inserts the rest of the time, with a paper liner over it. The paper liner catches any poop so it is easily discarded, and makes washing the cloth inserts easier. To use the paper liner, you stuff in a cloth insert first, and then put in the paper liner over it.

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With wet diapers, the snap-in liner can usually be reused for another round. For poopy diapers, the snap-in liner is usually best removed and replaced with a clean one. They come out very easily as seen below. Bonus…After you take out the paper liner or biodegradable insert, removing the snap-in liner like this keeps you from having to deal with touching any more of the mess.
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The dirty, reusable parts of the diaper are tossed in the dirty bag. The paper liners and the biodegradable inserts are tossed in the diaper bin. When it is time to wash diapers, I just empty the bag into the washing machine, and toss in the bag, eliminating the need to touch the dirty diapers again. We also have a travel bag for dirty parts that is kept in the diaper bag, shown here.

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Diaper shells that are damp but not dirty are hung up to dry between uses.
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One other important thing: the diaper shells must always be put on so that the “g” is facing the back. 🙂

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I end up doing laundry about every 2-3 days, which is not so bad. This is the list of supplies that seems to work best for us: 6 cloth shells, 18 snap-in liners, 24 cloth inserts, a box of the paper liners, a dirty laundry bag, and a smaller travel wet bag.

Homemade Low-Sugar Lemonade Recipe

One of my husband’s friends from work has an amazing lemon tree that produces tons of mature, huge lemons. Our baby lemon trees cannot keep up with the volume that this mature tree produces. Luckily for us (and my crazy pregnancy citrus cravings), the owner of the lemon tree is very generous with the lemons and always sends some home with my husband for me. 🙂 One of my favorite things to do with all of the lemons is to make tons of homemade lemonade. I don’t like to use a lot of sugar when making lemonade, so I found a way to make it with just the tiniest bit of sugar.

I start with about 6 large lemons, and scrub them well to remove any dirt. This step is important since the lemon zest is an important part of the recipe. If you are using smaller lemons, you should increase the number of lemons that you use.

Alicia in Wonderland Blog - Homemade Low-Sugar Lemonade Recipe

Start by peeling the zest off the washed lemons using a vegetable peeler. Be sure to just peel off the zest, avoiding the white pith which is bitter tasting.Alicia in Wonderland Blog - Homemade Low-Sugar Lemonade Recipe

You will need approximately two cups of peeled lemon zest. Put the strips of lemon zest in a small pan along with 6 cups of water, and 6-10 tablespoons of sugar (adjust according to how sweet or tart you want it – add more if you want it really sweet). Bring to a low boil and cook covered on a medium-low flame for approximately two hours. After enough time has passed, the water will be infused with the natural sweetness from the lemon zest, and the water will be tinted yellow. Once finished, allow the syrup mixture to cool to room temperature before using.

Alicia in Wonderland Blog - Homemade Low-Sugar Lemonade Recipe

Juice the 6 lemons used above to use for the lemonade.

Alicia in Wonderland Blog - Homemade Low-Sugar Lemonade Recipe

Once cooled, pour the lemon syrup mixture into a large canning jar. This will make several batches of lemonade, and can be stored in the fridge for a few months. To make the lemonade, mix together 1/2 cup of the lemon syrup, juice from the 6 lemons, and approximately 6 cups of cold water. You can add more or less syrup and water to adjust to your own personal taste preference. That’s it! It’s really easy, and uses only a minimal amount of sugar for each glass of lemonade!

Alicia in Wonderland Blog - Homemade Low-Sugar Lemonade Recipe