Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Handmade Lavender Soap

I enjoyed the first attempt at soap-making so much that the boys and I made a second batch the very next day.
Lavender is one of my favourite scents so we used some lavender flowers with some lavender essential oils in this batch.  This time we made an all olive oil soap (the first batch was olive and coconut oil).
The longest part really is waiting for the lye to cool.  We waited...and waited...and put it outside to hasten cooling and waited some more.
Then it was ready to mix.  We used a stick blender and it quickly came to "trace".  We added the essential oil and mixed a bit more.
We poured some into our mold (a cardboard box lined with a plastic bag), added some lavender flowers then poured the rest of the soap mixture on.  The next day it was ready to cut.
I think that soap making may very well become an addiction for me. This seems to be an issue for me...although I have overcome my edging addiction (only by selling that home, mind, so I'm not sure that counts but still...). When my soap-making-guru friend emailed me yesterday to let me know that soap has a shelf life and that I might not want to make more than a year's supply I felt quite robbed - I'd just been enjoying sniffing this latest batch and was contemplating my next batch. What to do?  How many pounds of soap could my family actually use in a year?!?
I may have a plan that will support this new addiction  love, I think I might just sell any excess at the farm stand next year (big plans in the works for this!)...that way I can keep making new batches to my heart's content this winter and not have to worry about overwhelming my family by urging them constantly to "use more soap!!".

Monday, November 28, 2011

Handmade Soap

I can't quite recall for how long I have been wanting to make soap.  I've made all kinds of other goodies from scratch but never soap.  At long last I decided I Must Make Soap and it could not wait a moment longer.  A dear friend came over so that we could make it together (surely this must be the best way to make soap - or anything, for that matter - for the first time). 
Now, this friend and I both seem to be instructionally-challenged, by that I mean that we both find it difficult to follow (or stick with) directions of any sort, we both have a tendency to want to try something different.  We started off following one recipe and then, as we looked at our carefully measured ingredients and considered the amount of soap we though it would make, decided we need more.  Happily, I had a recipe from another friend on file and we were able to slightly change our proportions and continue on.
I had some spices another dear friend had passed on to me after her sachet making (when she was clearing out in preparation for her big move) and I ground some up to add to our soap.  We both were wanting our soap to look something like these beautiful bars.  We added a few bottles of our favourite scents - orange, clove, cinnamon and tangerine.
It was incredibly simple to make, the longest part was waiting for the lye/water solution to cool to the appropriate temperature.  So quick and easy!
What amazed me most is that one can take such simple, few ingredients and end up with something so beautiful and useful.  It's magical to me.  And actually, it is, to me, very much like gardening - take very little and with a touch of magic (and perhaps a bit of luck) you have such goodness.  I love it.
In fact, I loved it so much that the very next day, after slicing up these bars and phoning my friend to rave about them, I started another batch with my boys.  And now I can hardly believe I waited all these years to try it.  Hmmm, it seems I've many years of soap-making to catch up on...I could make calendula, comfrey, chamomile...even nettle!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snow, Pinecones, Knitting and Other Good Stuff

Our days lately have been a delightful mix of busy-ness and quiet times.  In theory this time of year is our "quiet time" - the time of year when the pace of our life slows down naturally due to the change of season and...I'm forced to admit, in large part, due to the shorter days - one just can't work as much outside when it gets dark so early.  For me this is a good thing,  I'm the sort of person who needs external forces to slow me down (I'm working at learning this on my own). I feel pretty much "done" at the garden for this year,  certainly there is more I'd like to do but I am content with what I managed to get done before the snow.
The garden is mostly all tucked in - some under fall rye, some with garlic planted and mulched, some with a blanket of chopped leaves and some, very sad indeed, with no covering due to lack of rain to sprout the rye seeds and very hungry birds (who ate up all the unsprouted seeds).  Still, I'm pleased with how it looks and I've still got lots more bags of leaves to compost with manure that can be added in the springtime
(or next week if the weather cooperates!).  I'm looking forward to seeing loads of worms under this leaf covering come spring and really realizing how much of my love of gardening comes from the joy of building soil.
So with gardening come to a close that leaves me with a lot more time for relaxation, rest, rejuvenation...OR...


And decorating for winter.  And baking!  Musn't forget baking.
(E finally got to make us some caramel apples - he has been wanting to do this for ages)

Actually I love all these things and find them very relaxing.  Over the years we've managed to whittle down our holiday preparations to the things that are most important to us and it makes this time of year much more enjoyable for us.
(E's first mini snowman of the year last week)

On our afternoon walk earlier this week we started collecting pinecones and greenery for our decorations - it wasn't quite the same as the last two years (where we lived in the woods) but I think we'll easily manage to find enough greenery in our neighbourhood to decorate our home.

Usually at this time of year I do a big clean up before decorating, this year I've been going a bit further than usual.  For several months (ahem) I've been working on the virtue of orderliness (you can read more about these virtues in Pace of Grace  or try doing some virtues picks on the right sidebar of this website - I love these cards and find them extremely inspiring ).  Orderliness does not come naturally to me and so what I had thought would be a 3 month virtues pick is still with me.  ;-)  At any rate, it means that my usual pre-holiday season clear out has taken on a deeper meaning.

I've been continuing my work on decluttering but also focusing on putting what's left (as well as my habits and our routines) in order.  And since I like to always include some fun in any project I take on, I'm making sure that decluttering remains interesting and leaves me with a feeling of being productive.  Hence...
trying to use up as much of my thrifted yarn stash as possible in each gift I make. ;-)
I also have plans to us up the rest of my felted sweater bits to make another one of these patchwork quilts.  This one gets used constantly and with four of us and a cat there is always someone wishing we had another.  And so this month is passing quickly as we work towards being Orderly before our busy time next spring.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What I Love About Right Now

Sunrises...that I don't have to get up super early to witness.

Pumpkin bars.

Erm...photo here if you'd like to see them...apparently these don't always last long enough in our home to have their photo taken.
Saving seeds from E's heirloom carrots - did I mention how good it feels to me to save seeds?
Burdock root and tincture.
(some dried, some frozen and some tinctured)
Scalloped potatoes made with our homegrown Kennebecs.
Rubber boots!
Rides in my car with bags of leaves for mulch! (sorry boys, no room...I'm taking the leaves to the garden)
Also loving having the floor of my laundry room back after months of stepping over flats of ripening tomatoes.  I'm down to two flats now and have put them on top of my freezer so that we could have the floor back.  And grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches made with the last of our German Stripe tomatoes.  Delicious!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumkin Tradition

Yesterday I turned one of these into this.
Such a lovely way to enjoy the pumpkin harvest. ;-)

(this was such a nice variety of pumpkin to grow - almost all flesh and seed but hardly any stringy bits)
Two and half years ago I came across this recipe and a new tradition was born - make pumpkin cinnamon buns out of one of our pumpkins.  This, for me, is what I love about tradition - they don't actually have to have been done for ages.   They are easy to start at any time - you simply find something you love...and then you continue to do it  regularly (although make no mistake - we don't limit these to only harvest time!).
(with cream cheese icing made from cream cheese and a touch of honey)
And what's not to love about pumpkin cinnamon buns!  We have giant  pumpkins from the garden again this year but we've decided not to cook them all up this year, rather to use all our smaller ones instead but I did get a good laugh remembering the year I did cook the giant ones.
Several more pumpkin recipes to work our way through (some on the sidebar) and always happy to hear any of your favourites. ;-)